Monday, December 25, 2017

Limhi’s Expedition Passing Through the Narrow Neck of Land

Certain attitudes of theorists often amaze us as to how they arrive at non-scriptural support of their of pre-determined locations for the location of their Land of Promise. One, which occurs from time to time, is this belief that Mormon’s “small” and “narrow” neck of land must not have been as narrow as stated in the scriptural record since Limhi’s 43-man expedition (Mosiah 8:7) to find Zarahemla ended up in the Land Northward among the remains of the kingdom of the Jaredites (Mosiah 8:8). Obviously, in traveling that far, they would have passed through the Narrow Neck of Land (Alma 63:5; also 50:34; 52:9).
When entering into a restricted line-of-sight area, such as a canyon, mountain pass, etc., one’s view to right and left is considerably restricted and often it cannot be determined what is beyond what can be seen

However, as David A. Palmer (In Search of Cumorah, Horizon, Springfield, Utah, 1981, p50) states that in this expedition reaching “Ramah/Cumorah, they must have been unaware that they passed through the isthmus,” meaning through the narrow neck. John Clark, discussing John Sorenson’s Tehuantepec theory, says that, “the narrow neck had to be wide enough that people on the ground such as Limhi’s group could pass through it without realizing it” (FARMS Review:  Vol 16, #2, p1-54). Sorenson himself wrote of “their route…took them through the ‘narrow neck of land’ without their even realizing it, and brought them to the final battleground of the earlier people, the Jaredites,” and also that the narrow neck “had to be wide enough that Limhi’s explorers could pass through it without even realizing that it was an isthmus” (An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, Deseret Book, Salt Lake City, 1985, p14; 16-17).
    Another point to make is that Sorenson argues that “it would be unreasonable for Limhi’s explorers, desperately searching for rescue for their enslaved people, to continue far beyond where they thought Zarahemla would be,” and also states: “so by the time they had gone, say, twice as far as the normal distance to Zarahemla, they must have wondered about their position and probably would not have gone much farther.” Now, this leads to a total misunderstanding on the part of Sorenson, as it does with numerous other theorists, and that is this expedition was not moving in a more or less straight line away from the city of Nephi, nor did they know how far they had traveled since they were lost and were wandering about as it is stated: “And they were lost in the wilderness for the space of many days” (Mosiah 8:8). When people are lost and wandering around, they do not know how far they have traveled, other than in time, and have no knowledge of the distance they had gone away from their starting point, obviously because they do not know where they are.
    Yet, as though trying to tell us that lost people knew where they were, Sorenson goes on to claim: “If it is on the order of 180 miles from the city of Nephi to Zarahemla, it would be strange if the explorers pressed on for hundreds or thousands of miles beyond that. Sorenson suggests that at most they would have gone about twice again as far—say around 200 miles north of Zarahemla. Even if we double this estimate again (likely a huge overestimate), it leaves the land northward only 400 miles north of Zarahemla.”
    Again, the point is, these people did not know where they were, did not know how far they had traveled from the city of Nephi, did not know if they were in the realm of the Land of Zarahemla, etc., etc., etc. In fact, when they finally reached the Land Northward and found the Jaredite remains, they thought they had finally reached the city and area of Zarahemla. As it states: “Now king Limhi had sent, previous to the coming of Ammon, a small number of men to search for the land of Zarahemla; but they could not find it, and they were lost in the wilderness. Nevertheless, they did find a land which had been peopled; yea, a land which was covered with dry bones; yea, a land which had been peopled and which had been destroyed; and they, having supposed it to be the land of Zarahemla, returned to the land of Nephi, having arrived in the borders of the land not many days before the coming of Ammon” (Mosiah 21:25-26, emphasis added).
    The point is, theorists forget or overlook what the scriptural record tells them and begin making up their own understanding and definition of events, typically to fit their own ideas of distances, to which Sorenson’s entire ten pages on this matter are devoted as he tries to justify an extremely limited Land of Promise when the scriptural record does not validate his speculations.
    However, the major point here is that all these theorists want to use this expedition to prove their point about the width of the narrow neck and the impossibility of Limhi’s forty-three men rescue mission not knowing they had passed through the narrow neck of land in their lengthy trek and thus, according to them, the narrow neck could not have been very narrow.
    The problem is at least two-fold: 1) Assuming the Limhi expedition did not know they were traveling through a narrow neck of land, and 2) Assuming the Limhi expedition would have seen that they were traveling through a narrow neck of land. That is to say, first, the scriptural record does not tell us whether or not they traveled through a narrow neck, whether or not they saw they were traveling through a narrow neck and knew it, or whether they were totally unaware that they had traveled through a narrow neck, which they would have had to do twice to get into the Land Northward and then travel back into the Land Southward. Thus, an assumption is made about the narrow neck the scriptural record does not answer or suggest.
    Second, the scriptural record does not provide us with enough information to know whether or not when one, not knowing there is a narrow neck of land, passes through the narrow neck that they would know it from sight, i.e., actually be able to see and know that they were doing so. Thus, an assumption would have to be made that if they had no prior knowledge of a narrow neck, and their view of the terrain to east and west was impaired that they would still know they were passing through the narrow neck.
    By way of a personal example, 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 several miles, and when I had passed through, had no idea what was to the right and left beyond my line of site.
When passing through areas where vision is restricted to right and left, it is not always possible to know what lies beyond one’s line of sight; in such cases, vision can be restricted to anywhere from a few hundred yards to a mile or two and no further

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 (Zarahemla) that could be reached along their line of march. As an 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).
Left: Original roadwork through the gorge in the early 1970s; Right: the road today. Note how difficult it is to see to the right and left of the road since vision is blocked by the surrounding cliffs and mountains
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 was 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. There could be a deep canyon, a winding river, an ocean, a valley, or just a long series of mountain peaks, and I would not know it since there is no possibility of a line of sight view of what lays beyond the cliffs along the road.
Left: DeBoque Canyon; Right: Glenwood Canyon; both in Colorado along I-70). Note the lack of line of sight to either side of the road

The same might be said of both 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.
    There is no 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, or even where the place was they were trying to reach--after all, it had been three generations since Zeniff led his colony out of Zarahemla to the City of Nephi. 
    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.
    To believe someone traveling through a narrow pass (Alma 50:34; 52:9; Mormon 2:29; 3:5) is automatically going to be able to see in both directions to right and left is typically unrealistic as is knowing they were traveling through a narrow neck of land without prior knowledge of the terrain.

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