Monday, November 23, 2015

What Did Mormon Mean “And They Took Their Course Northward”?

Continuing with our series on “What Did Mormon Mean” and the previous posts regarding the meaning and purpose of such entries in the scriptural record. This article is the 21st different subject, covering 25 actual posts, all meant to show why the wordage chosen was used by Mormon, or Nephi, or Moroni, in their abridgements or writings. It seems quite appropriate to ask the question and expect the serious student of the Book of Mormon to answer as to the meaning of the phrase, what it signifies and how it fits into the rest of the scriptural record.
As an example, Mormon, in abridging this portion of the record, which begins in 57 B.C., notes that both Helaman and Capt. Moroni died (Alma 63:1,3), and that the record was given to Shiblon (left). As the second son of Alma the Younger and the first chief judge, earlier, in 74 B.C., Shiblon had gone on a missionary journey with his younger brother Corianton and his father, Alma, along with five others to teach the gospel to the apostate Zoramites in the land of Antionum, while his older brother, Helaman, who was in possession of all the records, stayed behind.
    Howard W. Hunter, in a BYU speech entitled "No Less Serviceable," said of Shiblon: "Many make their contributions in unsung ways... We don't know much about Shiblon, the faithful son of Alma who is sandwiched between Helaman, the future leader, and Corianton, the transgressor; but it is significant that he is described as a 'just man, and he did walk uprightly before God'" (Alma 63:2). And it was to this Shiblon, who had been held in bonds and stoned for the Word’s sake, and bore all things with patience because the Lord was with him, and of whom numerous strengths are attributed to by his father Alma, the records were given and who engraved the closing account of Helaman and the Book of Alma.
Left: Many went into the Land Northward to inherit the land; Right: Many went to a “land which was northward” far beyond the Land of Promise
    He begins by discussing an emigrant movement from as far south as the Land of Zarahemla, into the Land Northward both by land and by ship—in fact, those going by ship went into “a land which was northward,” a rather unusual description used only three times in the entire record, and would appear used here to separate these two movements—one by land and one by sea, evidently each with a different destination.
    These emigrants that went by sea left the area of a shipyard run by a master craftsman and shipwright, named Hagoth, who according to the scriptural record, never sailed in his own ships and never went anywhere. We know little abut him other than he was a “an exceedingly curious man” (Alma 63:5), meaning a capable, imaginative and creative individual who evidently loved to build “exceedingly large” ships (Alma 63:5) and was also evidently very good at his craft.
    These ships were launched into the West Sea, by the narrow neck of land which led into the land northward; therefore, we can say the ships were either built in Land of Bountiful, or along the border of Bountiful and the narrow neck of land, which separated the Land of Bountiful from the Land of Desolation (Alma 22:31)
Some went by land some went by sea
    In the 37th year of the reign of the judges, that is in 55 B.C., “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). That is, in that year, some 20,000 to 25,000 Nephites left the Land Southward—how many of these went by ship is not known; however, that they sailed to a far off land, “a land which was northward” and “were not heard from again,” suggests that these emigrants ended up somewhere out of contact with the Land of Promise.
    Of course, this type of thinking is not acceptable to Mesoamericanists since it does not fit into their scenario and land model because there is no such Nephite-type development far to the north of their Isthmus of Tehuantepec. In fact, beyond Mexico City, development is sparse and no monumental buildings or other indications of an advanced civilizations like the Nephites can be found anywhere.
    But when your model is an island, like the scriptures say the Land of Promise was (2 Nephi 10:20), then it is understandable that Hagoth’s ships went far to the north from Andean Peru and settled in what is today Central America and lost contact with their homeland in the Land of Promise, settling in an area that today has their ruins found from northern Panama, through Nicaragua and into Guatemala and especially throughout Mesoamerica of a like nature to those in Andean Peru, showing the similarity of these two Nephtie groups cultures or civilizations.
    It is too bad that Mesoamericanists will not take the time to reevaluate their Mesoamerican model and place it in a secondary or follow-up reference to the Land of Promise, as it so obviously is, showing that Andean Peru as the one-time island west of the Andes from which Hagoth’s ships sailed northward into the lands of Central America as the record suggests in 55 B.C., and onward showing all the remarkable accomplishments those Nephites made. However, that is just another irreconcilable difference that will never be dealt with as long as Mesoamericanists insist that the Land of Promise was in southern Mexico, Yutcatan and Guatemala.
    The point is, that when Hagoth’s ships sailed northward, with large numbers of emigrants and their families, possessions and supplies, they went northward—not a possible direction to sail from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in Mesoamerica.
Hagoth’s shipyard where he built other ships while the first ones were taking emigrants northward
    Meanwhile, Hagoth “built other ships” (Alma 63:7), and one can only imagine at the size and depth of this emigration project that began 1) pouring Nephites into the Land Northward to “inherit” that northern land, and 2) sending Nephites into a “land which was northward,” to settle far off lands we know today as Mesoamerica, to eventually move northward still and settle those portions of North America where Nephites have been said to have occupied.
    It should also be kept in mind that at least one more ship set sail for an unknown destination and that was one that would have sailed westward, since the others went north and to the south would have been toward Lamanite lands. Thus westward, which would have been with the same winds and currents Thor Heyerdahl in Kon-Tiki traveled and sailed down into Polynesia, which Hagoth’s emigrants have long been claimed to have settled.
    Therefore, how much Shiblon wrote down in the record as a new custodian of the plates, is not known. What was available that Mormon neglected to include is also not known, but some fascinating stories and experiences must have been involved, since beside those going north by ship, there were “many people who went forth into the land northward. And thus ended the thirty and eighth year” (Alma 63:9). But of these last emigrants that went overland five years later in 50 B.C., they went to “inherit” the land, which is an obvious difference than those earlier ones, and a definite reference to the current area of the Land of Promise the Lord gave tro Lehi, who may well have gone to a land laying somewhere else and not part of this Land of Promise the Lord had set aside for Lehi’s posterity. Or, at least the people of the time did not consider it a land they had a right to inherit as they felt about the Land Northward in the Land of Promise. As Mormon records it: “many people who went forth into the land northward. And thus ended the thirty and eighth year” (Helaman 3:3).
Thus, going back to the original question, what was meant by “they took their course northward”? Exactly what is northward from the narrow neck of land? If you are in Mesoamerica, that northward from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec would not be possible for approximately 1000 miles of sailing. That is, to leave the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, one could only sail southwest for 120 miles, then west for 25 miles, then west by northwest for 750 miles, before they could actually take a true "northward" heading. Thus, once again, we have to eliminate Mesoamerica as the Land of Promise mentioned in the Book of Mormon and look elsewhere for where Lehi landed. And that would be to the South, which brings us back to Andean Peru, the only other location in the Western Hemisphere that matches the building and development and advances found to the South of Mesoamerica.

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