Thursday, August 11, 2016

Omer’s Journey

During one of the periods of civil unrest and war among the Jaredites, when the secret combination of Akish and his friends overthrew the kingdom of Omer (Ether 9:1), the Lord warned Omer in a dream that he should depart out of the land (Ether 9:3). In his travels in the Land Northward, Omer came over and passed by the hill Shim, which was near where the Nephites were destroyed and the location Ammaron had hid up the records for Mormon to later obtain (Mormon 1:3).
It seems likely, for his safety and that of  his family, Omer did not follow the natural or common route from Manta to Guayaquil-Guaranda, near Mount Chimborazo, to Quito, which was later judged to be an eight-day journey on horseback by Victor von Hagen, and considered by him the only route to the cordillera and the city of Quito (South America Called Them, Knopf, New York, 1945), though he later discovered another route north of Manta along the Rio Esmeraldas and over the Andes, but it was the former route that was the best known and used during the days of the Spanish conquerors and dated long before them, and even long before the Inca. 
    For interest sake and being able to visualize this overall route by horseback or foot of about 270 miles (167 miles as the crow flies), in which the traveler climbs from sea level to well over 9,000 feet, it should be kept in mind that Guayaquil and Quito are a complete contrast to one another. Quito is a city of sun and sky, set in agricultural highlands and surrounded by high mountains and snow capped volcanoes. With a balance of equatorial sunshine and mountain chill, the climate varies little throughout the year. Some find it difficult to adjust to the thin air and burning sun at this altitude and even the most athletic need to wait as much as a week before undertaking any strenuous activity upon first arrival. It has always been known as a city of culture, even before the Inca conquered it (a fete that took many years).
    Guayaquil (originally Santiago de Guayaquil) on the other hand is a busy, noisy tropical town, located on the Guayas River and is a large, deep-water seaport on the saltwater estuary eight miles south of the center of town, where the natives are both more aggressive and more openhanded than the reserved inhabitants of the Sierra, and far more likely to cause travelers difficulties. Unlike the sophisticated mountainous region of Quito, Guayaquil, lying about 30 minutes south of the equator, is more cosmopolitan and even before the Inca was an area of ruffians and hard-to-control mariners. Except for a few small hills that rise abruptly in the northern section, the city is flat as beach and coastal cities tend to be. It has a pleasant climate, but is plagued with mosquitoes during the rainy season from January to May. There are two very nice beaches to the west of Guayaquil that offer cooler climate, swimming fishing and boating, and a slower and more relaxed atmosphere.
When Omer was directed northward by the Lord, he and his large, extended family climbed some 9,000 feet in less than 275 miles during his “many days” travel. Rather than going directly north from the area of Guayaquil, Omer evidently went east through the heavy rain forest to emerge in the inter-Andean highlands near Mount Chimborazo and the modern Ambato. The more than 20,000-foot peak of Chimborazo would have been an excellent guide, even as it is today with modern travelers. This route would have provided Omer and his family the most secure route and the least likely one to be followed by Jared or later Akish, or anyone who sought him.
    It may be of interest to know that in the early sixteenth century, Pedro de Alvarado marched due east from the coast near Manta, through the heavy rain forest on the western flanks of the Andes, and over the sky-high paramo to reach Riobamba, south of Quito. For Alvarado, unused to the climate and elevations, while his trip lasted “many days,” it was a terrible venture in which he lost many of his men. It is interesting to know that Omer’s trip, before he passed by the hill Shim, also lasted “many days” (Ether 9:3).
It was while Omer and his family settled along the eastern seashore that Akish and his sons began a civil war between them that lasted many years and resulted in the destruction of nearly all the peopel of the kingdom, even all but thirty souls (Ether 9:12), besides the house of Omer which had fled much earlier. After the war, Omer was restored again to the land of his inheritance (Ether 9:13).
Top: The land through which Omer would have traveled northward; Bottom, the Rio Mira as it passes between the seashore and Ibarara in northeast Ecuador 
    In the centuries that followed, of course, the hill Shim became an important Nephite landmark, where Ammaron deposited the sacred records and from which Mormon later claimed them. In showing the route Omer traveled, Moroni later in his abridgement made the connection between the hills Shim and Cumorah. From the hill Shim, in the east, Omer evidently traveled north from there and reached the area of Cumorah “where the Nephites were destroyed” (Ether 9:3) at the hill today called Imbaburo near the area of Ibara, and then eastward from there and across the Mira River, to a place called Ablom, by the seashore.
    Venice Priddis, in her work The Book and the Map, suggests that the Indian’s legends and traditions passed down through time among the Inca’s official “rememberers of history” were reported as saying that the treasures of the Incas were buried on the slopes of the 15,216-foot cerro Hermoso (“Hill Beautiful”), about seventeen miles northeast of Ambato in the Cordillera Oriental or east Andes. While not all histories the “remembers” knew might have been one-hundred percent adccurate, for on the death of a ruler, a council would decide which version of his reign they wished to preserve, with quipu-camayocs committing it to strong for storage in graves and archives. Still, a history was preserved, in a written format of the quipu, with “rememberers” knowing how to interpret or read the string histories.
    It might be of interest to know that the Spanish were so fearful of the Inca and what to them was the Inca mysticism, especially in the amataus reading the quipo, that they killed all these “rememberers of history,” and burned every record of the Inca they could find—it is a wonder that any of the quipo survived, and had it not been for a few chroniclers, none of the stories and histories of the “rememberers” would exist nor any of the old stories and legends. Though some of the quipo still exist today, the knowledge of how to read them died with the rememberers, killed by the Spanish before much of their knowledge could be written down by the chroniclers (Sylvia Fraser, The Green Labyringth, Thomas Allen, Toronto, 2003, p192).
    In the case of Omer, we have a history based in part on the scriptural record, as brief and abridged as it is, coupled with written history of the locations and routes of the Peruvian, Inca and Spanish, who trod the land, and an understanding of the topography which, at best, allows for extremely limited egress through the mountains and passes, to allow the creation of routes and events that are most likely to be quite accurate. For anyone who has ever trekked the Andes, they know that routes are extremely limited, passes few and far between, and routes of today are the routes of the past, and roads of today, are the roads of the past.
Omer had, perhaps two or possibly three routes he could have taken northward across the Land Northward, from the west seashore to the east seashore, and those have been dutifully outlined here to suggest how they interacted with known sites that provide us with an understanding of the Hill Shim, Hill Cumorah, and where both the Jaredite Kingdom and the Nephite Nation were wiped out.
    It is not that this is important to know, but it does shed some solid proof and evidence of the events Mormon and Moroni left us of this land and the modern interpretation we have of that writing.

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