Thursday, November 26, 2015

Why Was the Narrow Neck Strategic? – Part I

A reader sent in a lengthy article by George Potter about the Narrow Neck of Land and requested we respond to his views. We are doing so in this post.  
     Potter: Along the border that separated the Book of Mormon land northward from the land southward and the land of Bountiful was a feature referred to as a “small neck of land.”
Response: Mormon referred to this neck as both a small neck (Alma 22:32) and a narrow neck (Alma 63:5). Since he used both these terms, then we should put them together to describe:
1. Neck: Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language describes a neck of land as “a narrow tract connecting two larger tracts”
2. Small: 1828 dictionary: “Slender, thin, of little diameter” and “little in size”
3. Narrow: 1828 dictionary: “Of little breadth, not wide or broad, of little extent, very limited” and “a narrow passage through a mountain, or a narrow channel of water between seas”
    Thus, Mormon is describing a section of land that is small (not long) and narrow (not wide) between two larger land masses. Elsewhere, we find that this narrow neck is the only connection link or land  between the Land Northward and the Land Southward of the Land of Promise, i.e., “there being a small neck of land between the land northward and the land southward” (Alma 22:32).
    We need to keep in mind that Mormon’s description of this small neck in Alma 22:32 is specific and requires no additional knowledge or information to describe its overall land mass. To add to or subtract from is merely an attempt to change or alter the scriptural meaning of Mormon’s specific description (that does not mean that Mormon elsewhere does not give us more information about how this neck fit into the Nephite plans and the overall Land of Promise).
    Potter: “This feature is one of the most misunderstood features of Book of Mormon geography. As a result, there have developed over time many popular misconceptions about its nature and location. As with all the Book of Mormon sites, we have very limited information available to identify it.”
    Response: While it is true that many theorists have stated misconceptions about its nature and location, we have sufficient information from Mormon to describe its appearance, location and purpose
    Potter: “Readers of the Book of Mormon usually assume that the “narrow neck of land” defines a geographical feature, but a closer examination of its context in the Book of Mormon shows that it describes an important military fortification that must be defended to stop a Lamanite invasion.”
    Response: Here is where Potter goes astray in his thinking. There is no assumption about the small or narrow neck being a geographical feature—Mormon carefully and succinctly describes it as such: a narrow neck of land separating the Land Northward from the Land Southward (Alma 22:32). In fact, he makes it quite clear that “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).
 An example of an island with two major land masses and a narrow neck of land in between. The circle in the southern land shows “nearly surrounded by water” except for the narrow neck of land as Mormon describes
    Obviously it is a geographical feature—it is a small neck of land that exists between two larger land masses, and so far as the entire scriptural record states, is the only parcel of land lying between the Land Northward and the Land Southward. That is geographical! Now, we can go on to suggest, as Potter states, that it held an important and strategic position to the Nephites, but not for the reason Potter states. There was no likelihood that the Lamanites could have invaded the Nephite territory by coming through or using the narrow neck of land. After all, it was to the far north of the Land of Nephi that the Lamanites controlled and inhabited. In fact, the entire Land of Zarahemla and the Land of Bountiful lay between the Land of Nephi and the narrow neck of land (Alma 22:27-32), and Mormon makes this quite clear when he said, “And it came to pass that the Nephites had inhabited the land Bountiful, even from the east unto the west sea, and thus the Nephites in their wisdom, with their guards and their armies, had hemmed in the Lamanites on the south, that thereby they should have no more possession on the north, that they might not overrun the land northward” (Alma 22:33, emphasis mine).
    The fear was not of an invasion as Potter claims, but that somehow the Lamanites (or the defector Morianton or others unfriendly to the Nephites) might get through the narrow neck into the Land Northward and in someway make an alliance with the Lamanites, to have an attacking force on the north while the Lamanites had their attacking force on the south of the Nephite lands. However, throughout the scriptural record until the last final series of battles in the third century A.D., the Nephites had restricted the Lamanites from gaining ground in the Land of Zarahemla or the Land of Bountiful. Of this, Mormon said, “Therefore the Lamanites could have no more possessions only in the land of Nephi, and the wilderness round about. 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).
Showing  how the narrow neck of land, about 26 miles across, could be defended against a pursuing army, allowing the Nephites to escape into the Land Northward, if that was their desire
    This country to which they could flee, obviously, is the entire Land Northward, which lay beyond or to the north of the narrow neck of land. Not until the final battles, did the Lamanites ever gain access to the Land Northward. In fact, in 350 A.D., after the Lamanites had overrun the Land of Zarahemla and the Land of Bountiful, they entered into a treaty (Mormon 2:28) with Mormon and the Nephites in which the narrow neck of land became the new southern boundary of the Nephite people (Mormon 2:29) and the Lamanites controlled everything south of that.
    Potter: “John Sorenson notes of the narrow neck of land: “Mormon was speaking of a fortified line of defense.”
    Response: The narrow neck of land was not a line of defense. It was simply a piece of land between the Land Northward and the Land Southward. However, because of its narrow and small size, it served as a line of defense, and was easily defended by the Nephites. As an example, when Morianton fled northward with his rebellious followers, Moroni feared he would gain the land Northward and set up a “second front” against the Nephites. While the narrow neck at that time may not have been guarded, or at least sufficiently, to withstand an attack, he dispatched Teancum with an army to “head them by the narrow pass, which led by the sea into the land northward” (Alma 50:34).
The mistake so many people make is to try and separate this narrow passage from the narrow neck of land; however, both of them led from the Land of Bountiful into the Land Northward—the narrow neck being the only parcel or tract of land between the two larger land masses. In fact, Mormon makes this clear when he shows in this instance with Teancom and Morianton that the Land of Bountiful was to the north, then the narrow neck and passage, and then the Land of Desolation, which is in the Land Northward (Alma 50:32-34, compare with Alma 22:32).
(See the next post, “Why Was the Narrow Neck Strategic? – PtII,” to see not only why the narrow neck was strategic, but also to see how theorists get so many wrong ideas about Mormon’s many descriptions when they try to alter or change his meanings that are clearly stated in his writing)

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