Sunday, November 22, 2015

What Did Mormon Mean “On the Line Bountiful and the Land of Desolation”?

Continuing with our series on “What Did Mormon Mean” and the previous post regarding the boundary or border between the Land of Bountiful and the Land of Desolation, we need to understand what the line means and how it affects the following statement of a Nephite’s journey. Obviously, when Mormon, Nephi, and Moroni used certain words or phrases in their abridgement of the scriptural record, there was a reason for using them and a meaning behind them and it is important for us to understand those meanings and what and why they wanted us to know certain things. If we do not look for the purpose, we often bypass the very thought Mormon is trying to convey. 
With the Land of Desolation north of the Land of Bountiful and a line in between them marking the boundary of the two lands, we can clearly see where “to the line which was between the land Bountiful and the land Desolation” (3 Nephi 3:23) would be located
    And when it comes to recognizing the location of the Land of Promise, often this understanding helps us better place the location. All we need to do is give some serious thought to reason and meaning as we read over the words and phrases, in this case, that Mormon used to describe his view of the Land of Promise.
    In the previous post we discussed Mormon’s use of the wordage: “to the line which was between the land Bountiful and the land Desolation” (3 Nephi 3:23) as meaning the boundary or border between northern Bountiful and southern Desolation. Now we also find this same wordage as part of another phrase: “And now, it was only the distance of a day and a half's journey for a Nephite, on the line Bountiful and the land Desolation, from the east to the west sea; and thus the land of Nephi and the land of Zarahemla were nearly surrounded by water, there being a small neck of land between the land northward and the land southward (Alma 22:32).
Since Mormon is discussing the border between northern Bountiful and southern Desolation, he proceeds to tell us how long that line is, i.e., its distance as being how long it took a Nephite to journey or walk in a day and a half.
    Since Mormon is writing to a future reader, he knows that his distances, that is the words and terms the Nephites used to state distance, may not be understood in the future. After all, every society over a period of time uses specific language to describe distance.
    When the Spanish conquered the Americas, they used a term called “league” as a distance measure. The league originally referred to the distance that a person could walk in one hour, and though there was no global standard, the English league is defined as being three miles. When the Romans adopted the league, as their distance measurement, it became a common unit of measurement throughout western Europe and Latin America, and defined as being 1.5 Roman miles (leuga): Argentina 5 km, Brazil 6 km, France, 4.68 km, Mexico varies according to terrain (shorter over rough terrain, longer over smooth terrain), and Spain 4.2 km.
    Another series of measurements used were:
  3 barleycorns =1 inch
  4 inches = 1 hand
  12 inches = 1 foot
  3 feet =1 yard
  5½ yards =1 perch, pole or rod
  40 poles =1 furlong
  8 furlongs =1 mile
  3 miles = 1 league
  1 link = 7.92 inches
  25 links = 1 rod (pole or perch) or 16½ ft
  100 links (4 poles, 22 yards or 66 feet) = 1 chain
  10 chains =1 furlong
  80 chains =1 mile
  1 link = 7.92 inches
  25 links = 1 rod (pole or perch) or 16½ ft
  100 links = 1 chain or 66 feet/22 yards
  10 chains = 1 furlong or 220yds
  80 chains = 1 mile or 5,280ft/1,760yds
  10 square chains = 1 acre
    The point is if Mormon’s measurement had been one mile equals one “chain,” or “link,” or “perch,” (actual distance terms in history), we would not have known how long that was without some measurement legend attached.
What if this road sign was found along the trail in the narrow neck of land. Could it be understood? 
    As an example, at one point in time, an “Imperial” mile made up 8 furlongs, and could further be subdivided into chains (surveyor chain), perches, yards, feet and inches, such as 40 inches to one rood.
    In all reality, a correct statement for the narrow neck of land and the distance a Nephite could walk in a day, using the Spanish legua, would be “the distance a Nephite could walk in a day, or 11 leagues.” This would be exactly 28.51miles, or 51,000 varas. Of course, if Mormon had written “And now, it was only the distance of 51,000 varas on the line Bountiful and the land Desolation, from the east to the west sea,” would that have cleared it up?
    Or just over 11 lieue (27 miles); or 3 toise (27 miles); or 25,500 braza (28 miles).
    The point is, Mormon had to use a measurement term that we would understand at some point in the future and he chose the distance a common man (a Nephite) could walk in a day and a half on a casual journey over average to semi-rough terrain. That distance, by the way, as we have pointed out numerous times in these posts would be around 26 to 28 miles.
    Now we come back to the “line.” That line is the border between two lands, and those lands are north and south of one another—“thus the land on the northward was called Desolation, and the land on the southward was called Bountiful” (Alma 22:31). Consequently, a line running between these two lands would, out of necessity,
1) Run in a straight line
2) Run east to west
3) Making it the distance of the narrow neck of land, since it was the only connection between these two lands (“there being a small neck of land between the land northward and the land southward”).
    Thus, the distance from the east sea to the west sea, at the narrow neck of land where the narrow passage ran between the two lands, was only about 26 to 28 miles in distance.
Sorenson, out of necessity (having 144-mile wide Isthmus to deal with in his model) tries to elongate that width by claiming that it doesn’t say “sea to sea,” only from the east to the west sea. On the other hand, since there is only one land bridge or connecting land (narrow or small neck) between the two (Alma 32:22) and that narrow passage is described as going: “by the sea into the land northward, yea, by the sea, on the west and on the east” (Alma 50:34), we see that all of this shows us that the line (border) between the Land Northward and the Land Southward (between Bountiful and Desolation) which was the length it took a Nephite to journey a day and a half was actually about 26 to 28 miles apart.
    This was the reason for the explanation, to show us how wide the narrow neck of land was, and Mormon did so by showing us how long it took a common man to walk in a day and a  half--a fact he figured would not change over the centuries or from his time to a future time. He must have felt this explanation was important so we could later understand the different activities that took place in this narrow neck all the way up to it being the last line of defense for the Nephites against the Lamanites after the treaty Mormon made with the Lamanites on behalf of the Nephites around 350 A.D.


  1. I just got through reading your book Lehi Never Saw.... It is very good and I see that this is the place where they lived. Years ago I read The Book and the Map by Venice Priddis and was sold on South America after that. I was curious as to why you don't ever quote her in your books? I may have missed the citation of course but I never see it. Her book is excellent and goes right along with what you've found. Did you find the narrow neck on your own or did you get it from her? She and Verla Birrell were the first that I can find that discussed the location of the narrow neck. Good stuff! keep up the good work. IT

  2. In my own book, "Finding Zarahemla" available on Amazon, I explain how the Mesoamerica theory can't possibly be right. The land southward exists on the east coast of the it is described by Mormon in Alma 22:32-33. He describes it is a peninsula, with no land bridge to the south.

    Looking at a modern map, this peninsula is about the size of Palestine and has a sea east and a sea west with a narrow neck (12-15 miles) at the north end. It was important that the Lamanites be "hemmed in" in the south with no place to go according to verse 33.

    Our problem is that most LDS people in the U.S. are westerners and know little or nothing of east coast geography. ~Franklin Reid

    1. Franklin - where do you think Zarahemla is located? I think Del and earlier Venice Priddis have it right that it's the ruins of Pachacamac in Peru. Everything in the South American model fit perfectly. What say you since you wrote a book on the subject or do I need to buy it? Thanks IT

  3. In order to do justice to the answers to these comments, it would take more than a simple paragraph or two here in reply. Look for a full post(s) on these comments in the near future in this blog.