Saturday, October 28, 2017

Is the Small and Narrow Neck of Land Misunderstood? Part II

Continuing with George Potter’s article on the Narrow Neck of Land, in which he states:  “As with all the Book of Mormon sites, we have very limited information available to identify it. Readers of the Book of Mormon usually assume that the “narrow neck of land” defines a geographical feature.”    
    Response: Now why wouldn’t the reader of the scriptural record define the narrow neck of land as a geographical feature—it is a narrow neck of land! That is geographical.  However, Potter has something else in mind since he does not have a narrow neck of land in his model, he has to deflect or change the meaning of the scriptural record to suggest something else.
    Potter: “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.”
The Battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C. with 7,000 Greeks against 100,000 Persiands

Response: It was still, and only, a geographical feature. After all, the Pass of Thermopylae where the famed 300 Spartans under their king Leonidas stood off Xerxes I and his Persian army of thousands, was not a “fortification,” but a natural narrowing of land between the mountains and the sea. And the same can be said about the narrow passage in the narrow neck of land separating the Land Southward from the Land Northward.
    In fact, we are unaware that the Nephites even understood the value of this narrow neck until the last century B.C., when the Nephites moved northward into the Land of Bountiful, probably saw the narrow neck and pass for the first time, and realized there was more to their Land of Promise than they had imagined. As for its military value, Moroni realized this and started to lay early plans to keep the Lamanites far to the south with his extensive defenses described through the latter part of Alma.
    However, when we read “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. 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 22:33-34), we are reading Mormon’s words, written in the mid to latter half of the 4th century A.D., almost 600 years after the period of time we are reading about in Alma.
    Mormon, of course, in 350 A.D. well understood the value of that narrow neck and pass from a military point of view and its strategic value. By the time he wrote this, he had already made the treaty with the Lamanites for the Land Northward to be ceded to the Nephites and the Land Southward to the Lamanites.
    The point is, the geographical feature of the narrow neck is obvious in the writings of Mormon and his descriptions as outlined in the previous post. To say that “Readers of the Book of Mormon usually assume that the “narrow neck of land” defines a geographical feature,” is not only correct, it is the only thing one would think about up until Moroni lets us know that he “dare not let defectors get into the Land Northward” since that would cause the Nephites to fight a two-front war and eventually spell their doom.
    Potter: “John Sorenson notes of the narrow neck of land: “Mormon was speaking of a fortified line of defense.” The most commonly cited clues to its nature are found in the Book of Alma.”
    Response: Actually, it is unlikely that the Nephites had fortified this narrow neck and pass before the time Moroni’s army under Teancum was sent to head off Morianton’s bid to gain the Land Northward. In fact, at no time in the scriptural record do we ever hear of any defenses built, staged, or stationed in that area until after the treaty and Mormon spends the next ten years having his army and people defend in case of a probable future attack (Mormon 3:1).
    Potter: “As important as what is written in [Alma 22:32-33], it is what is not written. 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.”
    Response: This is an old argument we have written several posts about. There is what is called ellipsis (elliptic writing), where words are omitted for the sake of brevity when those words are understood. As an example, “from sea to shining sea” to Americans is clearly understood to mean the Atlantic to the Pacific. As an example, “my wife likes fish more than I,” is an elliptical sentence with the implied “more than I like fish.” Or, “Nephi wrote two books and Jacob one.” That is, Nephi wrote two books and Jacob (wrote) one (book).” Or, “Nephi went north, and Sam, too.” That is, Nephi went north, and Sam (went north), too. Or “One of Ishmael’s daughters favored Nephi, and another Sam.”  That is, One of Ishmael’s daughters favored Nephi, and another (favored) Sam. Or “Moroni built many walls and fortifications and his soldiers, too.” That is, Moroni built many walls and fortifications, and his soldiers (built many walls and fortifications), too. Obviously, this last example shows why elliptical writing and speaking is necessary and preferred, especially to the Nephite record keepers since scribing on metal plates was difficult and time consuming.
    In the case of the scriptural record, there are several cases where ellipsis is used, especially in not having to repeat east sea and west sea, etc. It is also found in the following: “For the time cometh, saith the Lamb of God, that I will work a great and a marvelous work among the children of men; a work which shall be everlasting, either on the one hand or on the other—either to the…” (1 Nephi 14:7), meaning of course, “either on the one hand or on the other hand.”
    However, Potter, like most theorists, has an ulterior motive in mind, since the two seas do not match his model, he must eliminate one of them and fails to understand elliptical writing, since Mormon also tells us the Land Southward was surrounded by water except for the narrow neck, telling us there were two seas at the narrow neck, one to the east and one to the west.
    Potter: “A similar phrase would be “the Union Pacific railroad ran from the “east” to the Pacific Ocean.”
    Response: Actually, it is not the same. In fact, Potter’s example is very poor writing, since “the east” in this case is not mentioned or inferred, so the reader is faced with having to guess at what was meant. Correctly, his statement would need a reference, such as “from the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans,” or “from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean,” or “from Topeka to the Pacific Ocean.” On the other hand, “From the east to the West Sea,” is inferred since there is a known East Sea.
    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: Another problem theorists make is in expecting the Land of Promise to look exactly the way now, that it did in B.C. times, especially the Land of Promise which underwent such tremendous changes described in 3 Nephi at the time of the crucifixion. When mountains tumbled to the ground to become valleys and valleys rose up to become mountains, whose height was great, one has got to understand these changes were extensive, especially when we are told the destruction "changed the entire face of the land." Thus, this entire argument is without merit!
    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 between the Land of Desolation and the Land of Bountiful was a boundary or border, marking the separation of the Land Northward from the Land Southward

Response: Here we go again, trying to cloud issues and make scriptural language mean something it does not say. The scripture quoted is: “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” (Alma 22:32, emphasis added to show what Potter left out). The point is, the traversed line is from the east to the west, not north to south, yet to go from Bountiful to Desolation would have to go from south to north. Even using his words that a “line” is a boundary, which is exactly correct, the sentence would read “And now, it was only the distance of a day and a half's journey for a Nephite, on the border of Bountiful and the land Desolation, from the east to the west sea,” that is, on the border between Bountiful and Desolation, which border would run east and west since Bountiful and Desolation were north and south of each other, the sentence says exactly that when you include what Potter left off: “from the east to the west sea.”
(See the next post, “Is the Small and Narrow Neck of Land Misunderstood? Part III,” for more of George Potter’s comments about how one theorist twists the scriptural record to meet his own pre-determined location for the Land of Promise)

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