Friday, November 27, 2015

Why Was the Narrow Neck Strategic? – Part II

Continuing from the previous post and our responses to the article George Potter wrote that was sent to us by one of our readers asking for our view on his work. In speaking of the narrow neck of land, Potter writes:
    Potter: The most commonly cited clues to its nature are found in the Book of Alma. ‘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”
    Response: Commonly means “ordinarily” and “frequently,” which in neither case would that be the correct word to use here. The point is, though, that the statement made is a simple explanation as to the width and/or length of the small neck of land. And that means that said distance would be about 25 to 30 miles, based on what a Nephite, or average man, could travel in a day and a half.
The Isthmus of Tehuantepec in Mesoamerica, the theorists’ narrow neck of land, is 144 miles wide according to information released by the Mexican government
    Despite Sorenson, and other Mesoamericanists, trying desperately to fit their 144-mile wide Isthmus of Tehuantepec into a day and a half journey and describing unusual and heroic individual effort, such as “small groups of Mohave Indians could cover nearly 100 miles in a day,” or Toltecs described as tlanquacemilhuique, meaning “they could run an entire day without tiring,” or describing “Toltecs in the Mexican chronicles, on dawn-to-dusk marches without animals along, averaged six leagues, somewhere between 15 and 24 miles.” Now if we were to take this last one, traveling 15 to 24 miles in a day, would mean 17 to 36 miles in a day and a half, which when comparing the meaning of league to current distances, probably talking about 20 to 30 miles—so  compare that to the 144 mile width Isthmus of Tehuantepec
    While Sorenson in his book (p9) says, “other data on travel rates fall within these established ranges,” the fact is that the only normal possibilities described by him are far closer to the 25 to 30 miles a modern man can walk in a day and a half than his 144-mile Mesoamerica narrow neck. Obviously, when Mormon is giving his future reader a way to determine a distance, he would not use some unusual or out of the ordinary example, like the Mohave Indians, but one that would hold true down through time, i.e., what a common man could do.
    Potter: “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.”
    Response: In all Mormon’s descriptions of this connection between the two lands, this is the only one he describes. Consequently, it is difficult to say there were multiple connections between the two lands when only one is singled out and mentioned. Therefore, it seems prudent to say that any movement or connection between these two lands (Land Northward and Land Southward) is connected with and within this small and narrow neck of land.
    Potter: “And it came to pass that the Nephites had inhabited the land of Bountiful, even from the east [Andes mountains] to 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.”
    Response: The Andes mountains had not risen when Mormon first describes the small neck of land, and that area was the East Sea. After the destruction and drastic land form changes described in 3 Nephi, with the Andes have then risen (Helaman 14:23), this area would have been between the West Sea and the Andes Mountains. It might also be of interest to realize that Mormon never mentions a narrow neck of land after the destruction in 3 Nephi, but only the narrow pass.
    Potter: “As important as what is written in this verse is what is not written.”
    Response: Again, this is where theorists go astray, trying to inject meaning into the written word that is not so described or mentioned in the actual scriptural record. It is as if they know  what Mormon meant to write but for some reason chose not to write.
    Potter: “The verse does NOT say the “small neck…ran from the east sea even to the west sea,” nor does it state that it ran between the east to the west seas (plural). Rather the small neck of land ran from the east to the west sea. Clearly, the phrase is only referring to one sea, the Pacific and a place called the east. A similar phrase would be “the Union Pacific railroad ran from the “east” to the Pacific Ocean.”
Driving of the Golden Spike, Promontory Point, Utah, May 10, 1869
    Response: First of all, the Union Pacific Railroad, created by the 1862 Pacific Railroad Act of Congress ran from Sacramento, California to Council Bluffs, Iowa—it did not run to the Pacific Ocean. It was at Promontory Summit, Utah, on May 10, 1869 that Governor Stanford drove the Golden Spike (or the Last Spike), that symbolized the completion of the transcontinental railroad, joining the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific railroads.
    Secondly, whenever theorists try to claim the scriptures do not mean what most would interpret them to mean, they tend to run into difficult ground, always thing to explain away what is reasonable and inserting what is unreasonable. In the English language, there is what is called an ellipsis, and is used in the economy of speech. It is like saying the “Pacific and Atlantic ocean,” rather than the longer “the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean,” or “She didn’t water the flowers, I did” (instead of "She didn’t water the flowers, I watered the flowers").
    While we do not know if that was what Mormon in his abridgement, or Joseph Smith in his translation, had in mind, it makes a lot more sense in translating than would Potter’s comment about “a place called ‘the east’.” The problem is that theorists often forget why Mormon is writing and to whom he is writing. In this case:
1. Why: Mormon is describing the Land of Promise and its various parts and their locations along with the separation between the Lamanite and the Nephite lands (an ellipted statement, meaning Lamanite lands and Nephite lands).
2. Whom: His future readers. Therefore, his intention would have been for simplicity and clarity.
    Consequently, it should not take a complicated or unreasonable answer to make his meaning clear. It should be clear in the simplest and clearest manner.
Generally speaking, in English, an ellipted statement (meaning something is left out; marked by extreme economy of speech or writing, also refers to merismus and brachylogous writing), the ellipted part is clearly understood and does not allow for making up something not implied. Ellipted statements are used primarily for the purpose of using fewer words to convey much information or meaning. It is far more understanding that East and West Sea would refer to two seas since those two seas are constantly used within the scriptural record. To claim it means some point to the east that has never been established in unreasonable and without merit.
    Potter: “Two reasons can be cited for believing that there was no sea on the east side of the small neck of land. First, a Nephite could cross the “line” on the small neck of land in one and one half days. There is nowhere in the Western Hemisphere where one can start at the Pacific Ocean and walk to another separate large body of water (sea) in one and a half days.”
    Response: While that is true, the problem is that theorists forget Jacob said and Nephi wrote that they were on an island. There is no island now, but there was in B.C. times, and, no doubt, was altered at the time of 3 Nephi by mountains that rose “whose height is great.”
    Potter: “Second, what was being traversed in a day and a half was not a crossing between two bodies of water, but a “line” between two lands: “yea, to the line which was between the land Bountiful and the land Desolation” (3 Nephi 3:23) and “it was only the distance of a day and a half’s journey for a Nephite, on the line Bountiful and the land Desolation” (Alma 22:32).”
The Line (yellow arrow) between the Land of Bountiful and the Land of Desolation was a border, or separation of the two lands, and also marked the narrow neck of land or the boundary between the Land Northward and the Land Southward, and like many modern lines used on maps as borders, it was not a physical line, but a “political” line
    Response: The line was the border between the Land of Bountiful and the Land of Desolation that was within the small neck of land. The small neck marked the line, or boundary, and walking across that small neck took a day and a half for a Nephite as Mormon writes.
(See the next post, “Why Was the Narrow Neck Strategic? – PtIII,” 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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