Monday, October 30, 2017

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

Continuing with George Potter’s article on the Narrow Neck of Land with his next comment: “Careful analyses of all the references in the text to this topographic feature fails to identify the presences of two seas flanking the transportation corridor. The west sea is clearly evident in the descriptions given in the text, but the east sea is never specifically mentioned as being associated with the narrow corridor.” 
     Response: This stance is only possible after a theorist convinces himself that Mormon was in error when he said that the land Southward (Nephi and Zarahemla) was nearly surrounded by water except for a small neck of land (Alma 22:32). Because this narrow neck of land, if it was all that kept the Land Southward from being surrounded by water, then it was the only stretch of land between the two land masses of the Land Southward and the Land Northward, and thus, any narrow passage leading into those two lands would have to be part of, and within, that narrow neck of land—the so-called transportation corridor. Thus, when Mormon tells us that “the narrow pass which led by the sea into the land northward, “ (Alma 50:34, emphasis added), then he is telling us that this narrow neck of land had a sea on either side, i.e., the Sea East and the Sea West.
    Potter Comment: “Since two bodies of water flanking a narrow strip of land create an isthmus, the “narrow neck of land” as described in the Book of Mormon, does not qualify as an isthmus.”
According to Diffen Comparison Charts, an Isthmus has water on two sides, with the other two sides being land that the narrow isthmus connects; is not very long when compared to the land mass it connects to, and are formed via a series of events like a shift in the tectonic plates and volcanic eruption

Response: Of course it does! We have just shown that it does in the proceeding two comments and responses, based on clear and simple evidence in the scriptural record. The problem is, that Potter needs it not to be an isthmus, or neck of land with water on both sides, since that description does not match his pre-determined model in Peru. The funny thing is, when one of the two land masses of the Land of Promise, i.e., the Land Southward, made up of the Land of Nephi and the Land of Zarahemla (in this case, Zarahamla is all inclusive of the Nephite lands in the Land Southward, as shown in the comment made by Mormon when he said:
    “And it came to pass that I, being eleven years old, was carried by my father into the land southward, even to the land of Zarahemla” (Mormon 1:6), skipping the Land of Bountiful, which he would have had to pass through coming from the Land Northward, where Ammaron was when he told Mormon about the land of Antum and the hill Shim, which are in the Land Northward where he hid up the plates for Mormon to retrieve when he turned twenty-four (Mormon 1:3).
    When it says that this Land Southward was “nearly surrounded by water, there being a small neck of land between the land northward and the land southward” (Alma 22:32), it can only mean that the narrow neck of land had water on both sides, since that was what kept the entire Land Southward from being surrounded by water. And we can verify this with Hagoth’s shipyard being along the West Sea, by the narrow neck (Alma 63:5), and that the Jaredites built a city by the narrow neck of land “where the sea divides the land” (Ether 10:20).
    Potter Comment: “The description of a transportation corridor narrowly constricted on the west flank by the sea and on the east flank by a possible mountain barrier does, however, qualify as a land bridge.”
    Response: No doubt. However, there is no mention of such a geographic location of either a "transportation corridor" or a "land bridge" in the entire scriptural record—and certainly not regarding the narrow neck of land, at least not before the destruction in 3 Nephi at the time of the crucifixion. What existed after that destruction, we are not informed.
    Potter Comment: “The question remains. “What was on the ‘east’ of the line?” It appears to have been a highly secured mountain pass that was a strategic gateway between the northward and southward lands.”
    Response: This merely shows what happens when a Theorist wants to further his own personal views of a pre-determined location—first, he makes up a problem that does not exist (creating an unknown eastern point instead of the recognized Sea East), then solves it with his personal view (a highly secured mountain pass). While it is true there was a pass or passage through the narrow neck of land (Alma 50:34; 52:9), that pass is clearly stated to have seas on each side: “by the narrow pass which led by the sea into the land northward, yea, by the sea, on the west and on the east” (Alma 50:34). That is about as clear as any statement can be, yet Potter, like many theorists, wants to change that simple statement because it does not agree with his pre-determined view.
    Potter Comment: “We learn in Chapter 52 of Alma that the narrow entry or neck leading from the land of Bountiful into the land northward was a “pass,” i.e., presumably a narrow mountain pass through the Andes.”
    Response: Not what the scriptural record says. As stated above, we learn from Alma Chapter 50, that this pass runs between the Sea East and the Sea West! The pass mentioned in Chapter 52, is merely a continuation of that storyline regarding the pass that led between the seas into the Land Northward. What caused it to be a pass is unstated. It could have been a mountain pass, a canyon, gorge, or, as shown in the last post at Thermopalae, merely a flat narrow strip of land.
    Potter Comment: “The narrow pass or neck is described in the Book of Mormon as a “point” (Alma 52:9).”
    Response: That is not what the cited scripture says at all. “And he also sent orders unto him that he should fortify the land Bountiful, and secure the narrow pass which led into the land northward, lest the Lamanites should obtain that point and should have power to harass them on every side” (Alma 52:9). The word “point” in this case, means (from the 1828 dictionary) “Exact place,” “To direct towards an object or place,” “a spot,” “The place to which any thing is directed,” and “A thing to be reached or accomplished.” Stated differently, the comment in Alma 52:9 means the same as: “…lest the Lamanites should obtain that place (that position) and should have power to harass them on every side.”
    Potter then goes on to claim one of the 43 definitions Webster lists for point as: “a geometric element determined by an ordered set of coordinates;  b (1): a narrowly localized place having a precisely indicated position  (2): a particular place.”
    However, though he lists Webster’s 1828 dictionary as the source, he actually obtained the definition from a current Merriam-Webster dictionary (An Encyclopaedia Britannica Company), but not the original 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language, which he then uses to list other definitions.
    For the sake of comparison, the 1828 dictionary definition of “point” regarding geometry is: “In geometry, that which has neither parts nor magnitude: 1) A point is that which has position but not magnitude; 2) A point is a limit terminating a line. Stated differently, Potter made up the part about the Webster 1828 dictionary definition! 
(See the next post, “Is the Small and Narrow Neck of Land Misunderstood? Part V,” 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. I was looking at the narrow neck today and noticed a name near the town of El Oro kind of on the south end of the narrow neck. There is a town called Pasaje Canton. Pasaje means Passage. I'm sure this is referring to a low point or pass into the Andes at this point. But I would like to point out that looking at the topography it appears that the Pacific would have come quite a ways inland at this point. The coastline would likely have been near Pasaje. When I measure to the other side of the Andes beginning at this point to Nabon Canton I get 35 miles. The coastline on the East side is not too clear.

    Of course this doesn't mean too much but I'm just thinking that there is a reason for the naming of this town Pasaje Canton. Not sure what Canton in Spanish means. But this particular canyon would not be that difficult to travel from west to east. Perhaps this is close to the place where a Nephite could travel in a day and a half from the west to the east sea.

  2. Ira- I've also been on google earth trying to identify the narrow pass and wondered about Pasaje Canton. I think Canton means a small territory or district. I also found this: The canton of Pasaje was formed on 1 November 1894. The place is named after the nickname of the Royal Road ("Camino Real"), the Passage ("Pasaje"). Marshal Antonio José de Sucre once said there "Oh! éste es Pasaje de las Nieves!" (This is the Passage of the Snows). Whether pasaje canton has anything to do with the narrow pass or not I don't know.

    To me it looks like from around pasaje canton on the south for around 100 miles north to the north east tip of the bay, you have what would have been a narrow neck of land about 25 miles wide. Now it is still about 25 miles across but has the base of the Andes mountains as the east edge. But that whole area from pasaje canton north looks to me to be very flat near sea level. I'm not seeing any barriers that would require a narrow pass to get through (beyond the narrowness of 25 miles across).

    There is a narrow pass / canyon from Cuenca for about 10 miles toward Guayaquil and I think I read that may have been part of the manco (I forget the name) pass. But I don't see how that would be the narrow pass leading into the land northward when it seems you could easily just go along the west coast. So I haven't quite made sense of it yet.

    1. Thanks Dave, I haven't quite make sense of it myself. I do think the old coastline is near the mouth of the Pasaje Canton. The former East coast is not so clear.

      I was wondering about where they got the name Pasaje so clears that up. I do agree that the length North to south of the narrow neck is about 100 miles. If I had some aerial photos or stereopairs of the area perhaps it could be resolved.

      So the question is. Did the landmass rise near the narrow neck as a unit without mountain building. Simply the area raised out of the ocean. Or was there there both a raising and mountain building on the east side. Don't know.

      The Bom did say that the North country was changed greatly.

      Interesting problem to be sure.

  3. The word "canton" is not Spanish. If "canton" is from the Latin "cantus" it means "corner." From Old French, also means "corner," from which comes the Old English "cant," basically a "slang" word denoting a phrase or catchword that was once in fashion, meaning uncaring, or to talk hypocritically and sanctimoniously about something. Cant (from Medieval Latin and Middle Low German) can also mean to have a tilt, slant, incline or slope, as in "the outward cant of the curving walls," or "point," "side," "edge." It also has an etymology to country division, partition and subdivision, etc.

  4. Thanks Del, the word canton is found in Switzerland as the counties such as Bern Canton. So I was curious about it being a Spanish word and clearly it is not.

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  6. Ira- why do you think the west coastline prior to 33 AD was further east? (near pasaje canton- if I'm understanding you correctly).
    You may be right; I don't know. I've been thinking the old east coast was where the base of the andes now are- near the mouth of pasaje canton-. I was thinking the sea was replaced by the andes and pushed east.

  7. Dave, it's just a guess but if you look at the west side you see that where the mountains rise near Pasaje is quite flat which is likely do to wave erosion. The coast line would be quite irregular. In fact pasaja canyon might even have been a small bay at the time

    The east side is much less clear. The Google Earth photos are too poor to make a definitive identification though.

  8. Gentlemen: In discussing the change in the west coast of South America, you might want to consider the Peru-Chile Trench (Atacama Trench) off the coast of Peru and Chile at 26,460 feet below sea level (5 miles, about 3 miles below the ocean floor), and 3,666 miles long and 40 miles wide covering 228,000 square miles. This huge trough is the convergent delineation boundary between the dropping lithosphere of the subducting Nazca Plate and the overriding South American Plate, and includes two seamount ridges (Nazca Ridge and the Juan Fernández Ridge), thus establishing a deep trench that is one of the deepest parts of the ocean floor. The trench marks the position at which the flexed, subducting slab begins to descend beneath another lithospheric slab.
    Deepwater sediments along the abyssal depths (deep benthic zone) creates a flat bottom topography of a turbidity current (sediment gravity flow). These turbidites provide a mechanism for assigning a tectonic and depositional setting to ancient sedimentary sequences as they usually represent deep-water rocks formed offshore. The point is, because of this extreme depth, and earthquake activity resulting from tectonic subduction, it would be unlikely that the west coast of this region would have been uplifted, since such a steeply sloping inner shelf lends itself more to tectonic avalanches than to uplift.
    Much further to the south, along the southern Chilean coastal area is the Patagonian Shelf, past which flows the upwelling Humboldt Current (also called the Peru Current); however, as the current flows northward along the west coast, it flows deeper because of a much narrower shelf along Peru and Ecuador coasts. In addition, this upwelling results from the trade winds that blow the surface waters, pushing the water away and allowing deeper water to rise, creating a nutrient rich coastal water because of this deep trough. This results in the fast-moving current and upwelling to keep the trench free of accumulating sediment and thus remain deep.

  9. Interesting Del, When Darwin examined the coral beds in Argentina was that along the west coast? I agree that there would not have been much uplift but the thing that bothers me about this is the fact that the narrow neck was quite narrow. Yet at the time of Limhi in Mosiah 8 a group of men were sent to find Zarahemla and were not able to find it. They somehow made it across the narrow neck to the North country without figuring out that they had gone too far North. So if the Limhi party knew about the narrow neck they should have known they were crossing the thing into the North country. Or perhaps at that time they didn't know about the narrow neck. That likely is the explanation.

    When I look at the map the distance between the ocean and Pasaja Canyon is about 10 miles. The terrain is kind of flat through that area. So if there was any uplift it would not have been much elevation difference. Therefore if the narrow neck is only about 25 or 30 miles wide then 15 or 20 miles of it was mountainous and the other 10 was relatively flat.

    So that is one reason I was thinking that perhaps there was some uplift along the west coast. That would make the entire distance quite hilly or mountainous. Your research is compelling however that there wasn't any. I believe you mentioned that the South American plat rotated to the west but at the same time there was considerable mountain building along the Andes.

    This is an interesting problem to figure out. It likely is beyond our ability to do so at this time.

  10. iterry: Actually, I have driven all over this country and elsewhere, and often in areas I have never before been. Without consulting a map of a larger area, I have often driven through areas with mountains, cliffs, uplifts, etc., on both sides of the road that did not afford a view to right or left, sometimes for a few miles, and when I had passed through, had no idea what was beyond my line of site.
    When Limhi's expedition passed through the narrow neck, it is far more likely they could not see beyond their line of march, since they were not looking for view of the topography, but were seeking a pass or opening through which they could travel toward what they would have thought was a known area that could be reached along their line of march.
    By way of example, southwest of St. George, is an area called the Arizona Strip through the Virgin River Gorge (called the Veteran’s Memorial Highway today) that takes U.S. Route 91 (Interstate I-15) from Utah through to Nevada on the way to California. It is 29 ½ miles long (with about 12 of those miles in canyons where cliffs rise on both sides of the highway). It was originally built in 1973 through roadless terrain, however, it was always passable on foot through a winding gorge area, paralleling where the Virgin River flowed southwestward (this was originally one of the two routes along the Old Spanish Trail from Southern California to the Four-Corners area, and called the Arrowhead Trail until the 1920s). At the Nevada side of the gorge, is an area called “The Narrows,” with limestone cliffs on both sides as high as 500 feet above the highway, and on the Utah side is an area called Black Rock Gulch before breaking out into a flatter area (to give you an idea of the rugged terrain, this 12 mile stretch is the most costly rural construction of the entire interstate road system in the U.S., costing $49 million per mile).
    I have traveled through this Gorge at least fifty times, and though it is considered the most scenic route in all the state and region, I still have no idea what lies just a scant mile or two on either side of the route beyond the cliffs since there is no way to glimpse it during those 12 miles. The same might be said of DeBegue Canyon and Glenwood Canyon in Colorado, which when driving through these canyons along the Colorado River, it is almost impossible to know what is beyond the cliffs and mountains on either side of I-70.
    I do not see a mystery in this, merely a lack of knowledge on the traveles’ part as to where they were and how they were going to get where they wanted to go. When Ammon, taking a different route, traveled from Zarahemla to the city of Nephi, he was lost and wandered about for forty days, the same for Zeniff and his group originally. When you are reliant upon finding a pass to get through mountains, etc., it is not always a simple matter. Travel in virgin lands is more of a happenstance than planned achievement, as most explorers report. It is far different than our form of travel today. They didn’t have topical maps, aerial views and satellite photos to consult to know what was around them.