Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Why Mormon Gave So Many Geographical Details – Part II

Continuing from the previous post regarding what Mormon meant in Alma 22:32, and why these Mesoamerican theorists simply do not agree with Mormon’s descriptions and, therefore, his location of the Land of Promise. 
    First of all, the purpose of Mormon writing this insert is not only in explanation or description of the Land of Promise relating to where the Nephites and Lamanites were and the lands they occupied, but what separated them and how they were divided in the land. The purpose of his doing so seems clear—he was about to embark on a lengthy description of the wars and interactions between the Nephites and Lamanites (as found in Alma and Helaman) and wanted his future reader, who would not be well acquainted with the land like he was to be able to relate to the information, battles, journeys and missionary efforts that would be involved. After all, it is always easier to picture events in your mind’s eye if you have an understanding of the area, terrain and geography in which they take place, and how one event relates to another.
    Therefore, we need to keep in mind that since much will take place around this land between the narrow neck of land to the north and the narrow strip of wilderness in the south, Mormon gives us a complete rundown on where everyone was and how these different areas related to one another—he was in reality drawing a mental map for us.
The Line between Desolation and Bountiful

First of all, let’s restate the scripture Mormon wrote, and then respond to the questions this scriptural reference elicits:
1. Distance of a day and a half journey—How far is a day and a half journey?
Response: The width of the narrow neck of land is of critical interest to the reader as battles not only take place there, it marked the location of a future treaty that Mormon makes with the Lamanite king, but also is the single piece of land between the Land Southward and the Land Northward. Now since the Nephites made a special effort to keep both defectors and Lamanites out of that area, Mormon shows us the width of it as to how this was done, which also makes more sense to us when we get into the future event when Moroni sends Teancum to head off Morianton’s attempt to reach the neck and pass and obtain egress into the Land Northward.
    Knowing that a future generation, and likely with another language (“No man knows our language”), Mormon is faced with using terminology that will be known to the future reader in relationship to distance. Obviously, whatever the Nephites used for “mile” would not be known to us, so he chose to use a person walking to illustrate the distance.
    So that distance can be figured by us to be the distance an average man would cover walking through wilderness in a day and a half—or about 18 hours. Which, by all reasonable estimates would be between 25 and 30 miles distance as we have detailed in numerous earlier occasions.
In the Book of Mormon time, a Nephite was what we would call today the Common Man

2. For a Nephite—why is Nephite here used and not Lamanite or person?
Response: In trying to tell us a distance, would Mormon have chosen a marathon runner? An athlete? A special dispatch courier? It makes more sense that he would choose a normal person—that could be compared against a future normal person. In this case, he chose a Nephite and not a Lamanite, who in his day the Lamanite would have been used to travel on foot and covering long distances such as the American Plains Indian of the late 1800s in the western U.S. Nor would Mormon have chosen someone on horseback or traveling in some unknown conveyance since a future people might not relate. It would have been a typical man, walking, on a typical trip—a journey. Again, in our day and age, a typical man could cover upwards of 30 miles in a day and a half over rough, uneven ground.
The border between Utah and Nevada is an imaginary line across this open area just west of Ibapah and a little north of the Old Lincoln Highway. There is no marker, no line in the ground, yet it is a line (border) between these two states

3. On the line between the land of Bountiful and the land of Desolation—what is meant by “on the line”? What line?
Response: This is a figurative statement, it is not meant to convey a physical line, or even a line of terrain, such as a canyon, or mountains, or river, etc., though, of course it might have been such, but Mormon’s “line” is here stated as a boundary, like a border, between the Land of Desolation and the Land of Bountiful and within the narrow neck of land.
    “On the line” has reference to movement along that line, boundary or border. In the case of the photo above, this stretch of border between Utah and Nevada runs about 45 miles between the Old Lincoln Highway northward to West Wendover and Interstate 80. In terms of walking in the early frontier days, it would have been stated as “two days and a bit.”
    Thus, the measurement of a day and a half journey would mean along this line, or border, between these two lands (Desolation and Bountiful).
4. From the east to the west sea—what point in the east?
Response: Most theorists try to confuse the issue here by saying Mormon did not say “from the east sea to the west sea,” but said instead “from the east to the west sea.” Now if that was Mormon’s meaning, his overall statement and purpose would be rendered meaningless, since “from the east,” would have no meaning to a future reader. Where in the east? At what point in the east? Some theorists have claimed it must have meant a fort of some type, or a mountain, or some other physical point. However, Mormon is attempting to give his future reader a reference to measure this distance—an ambiguous eastern point negates that attempt.
In an elliptical statement, the word "Sea" is understood since it has been introduced ealier and is not necessary to repeat or state again
Thus, Mormon is simply using what is today called in English, elliptical writing, which is refraining from superfluous writing, and instead writing with economy, i.e., tending to be cryptic, which is grammatically correct only if the necessary information to understand the sentence has been supplied previously or is clear from the context of the sentence. So if we go back to Mormon’s initial intro into his inserted statement, it reads: “And it came to pass that the king sent a proclamation throughout all the land, amongst all his people who were in all his land, who were in all the regions round about, which was bordering even to the sea, on the east and on the west, and which was divided from the land of Zarahemla by a narrow strip of wilderness, which ran from the sea east even to the sea west…”
    As we see, in two instances, in his first statement of his insertion (Alma 22:27), Mormon informs us that he is talking about land between the two seas, i.e., the Sea East and the Sea West. Consequently, in his later statement (Alma 22:32), he condenses this to read simply “from the east to the west sea,” having already introduced his meaning as “from the east sea to the west sea.”
    So the distance of the narrow neck of land, along a line (border) between Desolation and Bountiful, was the distance of a day and a half journey, or about 25 to 30 miles.
5. Thus the land of Nephi and the land of Zarahemla were nearly surrounded by water—nearly surrounded? What does that mean?
Response: First of all, “surrounded” means “encircle,” “encompassed,” “inclosed,” “confined on all sides,” and “nearly surrounded by water” means a piece of land nearly surrounded by water and attache3d to a larger area of land or the mainland by an isthmus.” And “nearly” means “almost,” “closely,” “at no great distance,” “within a little.”
    Thus, the Land Southward was surrounded by water except for a little area. And in the following words, Mormon tells us what kept that land from being entirely surrounded.
An isthmus can be any size, so long as it is narrower than the two bodies of land it connects; however, a narrow neck is by definition, "narrow" and a small neck of land between two other tracts of land (the word Isthmus is never mentioned in the scriptural record)
6. There being a small neck of land—what is a “neck of land”? What is “small?
Response: Thus, there was a small neck of land that kept the Land Southward from being completely surrounded by water. A small neck of land is defined as “a narrow tract of land connecting two larger tracts.” Mormon tells us that tract of land, or small neck, was between the Land Northward and the Land Southward.
7. Between the land northward and the land southward”—what is meant by “between”?
Response: Between means “from one another; passing from one to another,” “area between and connecting two points.”
    Thus, we find that the “small neck” or “narrow neck” was a small and narrow tract of land between and connecting two larger tracts of land, i.e., connecting the Land Southward to the Land Northward. Not only did Mormon tell us that this neck of land was both small (Alma 22:32) and narrow (Alma 63:5), but that it was the width that a Nephite could cross in about a day and a half, while walking along on a normal journey. He also told us it was the only point of connection between the Land Northward and the Land Southward.


  1. When I try to imagine and measure the narrow neck today I get a distance of about 75 miles. That has to be incorrect by your estimation. The land around the narrow neck was uplifted as well as draining the sea East.

    Good thoughts and something to ponder.

  2. If you measure from the water in bay of Guayaquil on the west to the beginning of the Andes Mountains on the east, you get about 26 miles. Del explained in a prior post: "The Bay of Guayaquil in southern Ecuador divides the western coast of Andean South America, today leaving about a 25 mile wide corridor, or neck, between Peru (south) and Ecuador (north), blocked on the east by the sheer height of the Andes Mountains, and on the left by the sea; Right: In Nephite times, the Andes had not yet risen and this area on the east was a sea, referred to as the Pebasian Sea (See the post “The Rising of South America—Part III,” dated September 7, 2012)"

    Here's a link to that post:

    1. I looked at the area where the Andes abuptly rise and there is something odd. I would have expected more of a lenticular feature along a fault. The area looks quite eroded along the mountain front. I admit though that the picture isn't very good and I might be a fooled by what I'm looking at. I would love to have some good areal photos of the narrow neck.

      The Wasatch front would be a pretty good example. You see a nice lenticular feature at the mountain front. Anyway, it would be nice to pin down the width of the old narrow neck.

    2. In looking at the narrow neck again. If you start at the beginning of the Gulf you know that it is relatively flat and low in elevation. At about 20 miles or so inland the Andes rise. The edge of the Andes look eroded to me and therefore I think that this is where the old shore line actually is located. Then if you measure over about 35-40 miles you find that the Andes drop off into the Amazon basin. I notice there the lenticular feature that I mentioned in the other post. So I think that is likely the place of the narrow neck. Look inland 20 miles at the rise and that is the old shore line. Can't be absolutely sure about this but looking at it from a geologic stand point it makes sense. I believe now I can actually see the narrow neck in the geographic features even though the resolution isn't all that great.

  3. I've often tried to understand better - where exactly was the eastern boundary of the nephite lands prior to 33 AD. Most modern maps flatten everything and make it hard to see where the Andes rose. To me, even satellite maps are a little hard to distinguish. Today I happened across a "terrain view" by mapcarta that makes this easier to visualize.

    If you open this link to mapcarta, make sure you are in "terrain view" (options are in the upper left corner) then zoom out far enough to see lake Titicaca south of Peru. We know from Del's prior posts that Lake Titicaca used to be ocean and the Andes rose and trapped some ocean water to the west which became lake Titicaca. On this terrain map, you can clearly see the line across where the Andes rose just east of lake Titicaca. Then, you can follow your map to the North and see the Andes eastern highest peak line all along the east side. You can follow this all the way to the top of ecuador (and beyond if desired). (The reason I have you start at cusco and zoom out until you can see lake Titicaca instead of just starting at lake Titicaca is so you are zoomed out about the right distance to see the mountains the best- a hyperlink does not save zoom settings).

    For anyone struggling with the eastern part of south america being underwater, zoom out further on this terrain map and it's clear that everything east of the andes is still barely above water- it again makes it easier to visualize.

    Another fun way to visualize the locations is the following map of incan roads. You just have to remember that some of the incan roads were built after 33 AD.