Sunday, October 29, 2017

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

Continuing with George Potter’s article on the Narrow Neck of Land with his next comment: “Furthermore, the Book of Mormon tells us that the Nephites fortified this line (3 Nephi 3:23,25). 
     Response: It is always interesting that people try to combine separate incidents together as though they complimented one another. In the case in 3 Nephi cited, it has to do with the time the Nephites all gathered together in the middle of their land to fight the Gadianton Robbers, and has nothing to do with the narrow neck of land, except that the area the Nephites gathered into had its northern terminus along this line or border between  Bountiful and Desolation, but included southward the Land of Bountiful, the land in between Bountiful and Zarahemla, and the Land of Zarahemla (3 Nephi 3:23), and “they fortify themselves against their enemies; and they did dwell in one land, and in one body” (3 Nephi 3:25).
    That is, though this was a large territory, they were together, in one body and filled up this area completely, and fortified it against their enemies. The event is not talking about fortifying the line between the Land of Bountiful and the Land of Desolation, but the entire defensive line around their entire position across three separate lands where they dwelt together in one body.
In the center of the land, the entire perimeter of this large territory was fortified by the Nephite Army with everyone inside that perimeter. The line to the left was further northward, including Bountiful to the line separating Bountiful from Desolation
Potter Comment: “It would appear then that the “line” was a fortified border line, a road or a defensive line which must have had a length of no more than 30-40 miles.”
    Response: It is doubtful that it would have been a road. This was virgin territory when the Nephites moved into it, and probably had no reason to create a road from east to west. On the other hand, it was likely a natural barrier of some type, such as a canyon, ridge, forest, etc. Depending on the terrain to be covered, 25 to 30 miles might be as good a guess. On the other hand, with a narrow pass running from the Land Southward to the Land Northward through this narrow neck of land, it might be that crossing this pass from east to west might have been more difficult.
    Potter Comment: “One definition Webster’s provides for a “line” is “6 b – disposition made to cover extended military positions and presenting a front to the enemy.” The Noah Webster’s original 1828 American Dictionary of English Language defines a line as “a trench or rampart; an extended work in fortification.”
    Response: First of all, the definition Potter gives is one of 30 separate definitions, with the military definition No. 10 and right with it is the definition that a line is "a limit, a border." It is also always interesting how people interpret military matters. Obviously, they were not in the military. A military line, even a line of defense, is rarely, if ever a straight line. The famed Maginot Line of World War II winds from across Belgium and German borders with France, covering several different angles, peaking in places to the north, others to the south, meandering here and there. On the other hand, the political 38º parallel border in Korea is a straight line. But defensive lines usually follow the best terrain for a defensive position, and since World War I, “a trench or rampart; an extended work in fortification,” is not only impractical, but would seldom, if ever, be found. In the Nephite period, a defensive line would have been high walls to keep the enemy from advancing, since bullets, bombs, and rockets were not available at the time, and hand-to-hand combat was the method of the day.
    Potter Comment: “Again, it is important to remember that whenever the small neck of land is mentioned in the Book of Mormon, it is specifically in reference to military defenses needed to protect the land northward from the Lamanites in the south.”
    Response: This is simply not true. The narrow neck is mentioned in conjunction with location, i.e., where Hagoth built his shipyard, where the Jaredites built a city, where Mormon and the Lamanites signed a treaty, or divided up the land. Mormon mentions it several times in conjunction with how the lands in the Land of Promise joined one another moving from south to north.
    Potter Comment: “This is probably a new notion to readers of the Book of Mormon; however, two decades prior to my analysis, F. Richard Hauck (M.A. degree in Anthropology from Brigham Young University and a Ph.D in anthropology from the University of Utah) formulated the same conclusion in his book, Deciphering the Geography of the Book of Mormon. Hauck writes: “One of the traditional assumptions of Book of Mormon scholars and casual readers alike has been to equate the “narrow neck of land” with an isthmus. Because this assumption has been widely accepted without careful examination.”
    Response: Hauk’s book has been on my shelf since it was first published. His comment about the narrow neck is as erroneous as Potter’s. The narrow neck is defined by Mormon, who saw it, walked over it, passed through the narrow passage, and used it as a basis of his treaty with the Lamanites, and describes it as a geographical feature of the land:
1. “…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; and 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” (Alma 22:32). This is obviously a geographical feature, describing a small neck of land between two larger land masses.
2. “…he went forth and built him an exceedingly large ship, on the borders of the land Bountiful, by the land Desolation, and launched it forth into the west sea, by the narrow neck which led into the land northward” (Alma 63:5). This is obviously a geographical feature, i.e., a narrow neck of land between two land masses, which leads into the Land Northward.
3. “And they built a great city by the narrow neck of land, by the place where the sea divides the land” (Ether 10:20). A narrow neck of land is a geographical feature.
    Now the definition of a narrow neck in the 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language states: “a narrow track connecting two larger tracts of land.” Today, the words narrow neck or “isthmus” are defined as “a narrow strip of land with sea on either side, forming a link between two larger areas of land. The word “isthmus” is taken from Ancient Greek “isthmos” meaning “neck,” and was defined anciently as “a narrow piece of land connecting two larger areas across an expanse of water that otherwise separates them.”
    Thus a small and narrow neck of land would be a small and narrow isthmus, or stretch (tract) of land connecting two larger land masses, exactly what is described in the scriptural record. The point of all of this is to show that a “narrow” or “small” neck of land is like an “isthmus,” in that it is a description of a geographical feature of land, "a bridging neck between two larger land masses." Consequently, both Potter and Hauk are incorrect in their assessments.
    Potter Comment: Quoting Hauk: “[the narrow neck] has complicated and confused the numerous attempts made to identify the setting of the book, for the identification of the proper isthmus is frequently the primary focus of attempts made to identify the Book of Mormon geography.”
    Response: This is exactly why every theorist comes up short in discussing this location subject. They try to identify physical features of the land to existing land features on a current map. The method to be used is not looking at a map and trying to determine an area to champion as the Land of Promise. The answer is to start in 1 Nephi and follow his descriptions of the land, where he went, what he did, where he built his ship, how the ship sailed, along what currents and winds would he have been “driven forth before the wind to the promised land,” and continue with what he found where he landed; then through 2 Nephi and Jacob’s statement that “we are on an island in the midst of the sea,” to Nephi’s description of traveling to a new area and what he taught his people to do, etc., to Mormon’s many descriptions of the Land of Promise. Any other approach is bound to fail—as would be any attempt to change the meaning of the scriptural record, ignore statements about the Land of Promise, like (2 Nephi 10:20) and Alma 22:27-34), etc.
    Most importantly, one needs to use every description, every part of the scriptural record that discusses what is and was found in the Land of Promise. And equally important, do not ignore, change, alter, or try to clarify what the scriptural record says—use what is exactly written there, but do not assume you know more about what the descriptions means or should mean. You did not live there, you did not walk the land, you did not move about the many lands and cities, you have no experience in the Land of Promise, so do not try to make the words used mean something other than what they clearly mean. North means north, narrow means narrow, island means island, head means head (of a river), North Sea means North Sea, as does South Sea mean South Sea, a day-and-a-half journey for a Nephite means exactly that (not the distance a Mohave Indian can run in a day), when the narrow neck of land is the only stretch of land between the two larger land masses, accept that, when there is a narrow pass that runs between the two larger land masses, accept that it must run through the only land that stretches between the two land masses—the narrow neck of land.
(See the next post, “Is the Small and Narrow Neck of Land Misunderstood? Part IV,” 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)


  1. Del- I love your last two paragraphs of this post. The only way to identify Book of Mormon lands is to start with the text of the Book of Mormon,stick with the text-the whole text, and don't change the text.

  2. In the spirit of sticking to the scriptural text: A prophet, Samuel, prophesied that new mountains would be formed in 33 AD. This prophesy was documented in our canonized scripture.
    Then, another prophet, Mormon, documented in scripture that Samuel's prophecy was fulfilled.
    Any model that does not claim that new mountains came up in 33 AD should be ruled out.

    Helaman 14:23 ...there shall be many places which are now called valleys which shall become mountains, whose height is great.

    3 Nephi 9:10 And the earth was carried up upon the city of Moronihah, that in the place of the city there became a great mountain.

  3. Right on! The scriptural record certainly doesn't leave any wiggle room. Too bad theorists don't see it that way.