Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Travel in the Land of Promise

One of the interesting things about language is the fact that people talk and write in such a way as to inform, either on purpose or accidentally. In any conversation there are tell-tale words that aid in understanding. As an example, the word “down,” which signifies a movement in a direction, either downward in elevation, i.e., from a higher level to a lower level, “The family traveled down to St. George from Provo,” or downward in station, “he was far down the chain of command,” or “turn the TV down,” or “he will be remembered down through time.”
Obviously, such a word or clue is dependent upon how the word is used in context, meaning in conjunction with other words, in a sentence, thought, or idea. Many times words are injected without thought at all simply because they are unconscious expressions of the idea being articulated.
    As an example, when Mormon writes: “And it came to pass that when Lehonti had come down with his guards to Amalickiah, that Amalickiah desired him to come down with his army in the night-time, and surround those men in their camps over whom the king had given him command, and that he would deliver them up into Lehonti's hands, if he would make him (Amalickiah) a second leader over the whole army. And it came to pass that Lehonti came down with his men and surrounded the men of Amalickiah, so that before they awoke at the dawn of day they were surrounded by the armies of Lehonti” (Alma 47:13-14).
    Obviously, we can accurately conclude that Lahonti was located at a higher elevation—mount Antipas (Alma 47:10)—and came down to a lower elevation—foot of the mount (Alma 47:10) to meet with Amalickiah.
    So when Mormon writes that “And also in this same year they [Lamanites Alma 63:14] came down with a numerous army to war against the people of Moronihah, or against the army of Moronihah, in the which they were beaten and driven back again to their own lands, suffering great loss” (Alma 63:15), we can conclude that the Lamanite lands were at a higher elevation than where the army of Moronihah was stationed.
Thus, from the following we can conclude that the City of Nephi, or the Land of Nephi, was located at a higher elevation than the city and land of Zarahemla: 
    “Let us gather together this people of the Lord, and let us go down to the land of Zarahemla to our brethren the Nephites, and flee out of the hands of our enemies, that we be not destroyed” (Alma 27:5); 
    “Let us gather together this people of the Lord, and let us go down to the land of Zarahemla to our brethren the Nephites, and flee out of the hands of our enemies, that we be not destroyed” (Alma 49:10); 
    “Now his armies were not so great as they had hitherto been, because of the many thousands who had been slain by the hand of the Nephites; but notwithstanding their great loss, Amalickiah had gathered together a wonderfully great army, insomuch that he feared not to come down to the land of Zarahemla” (Alma 51:11); 
    “and they had been brought down into the land of Zarahemla, and had ever since been protected by the Nephites”(Alma 53:10, 12);  
    “two thousand of the sons of those men whom Ammon brought down out of the land of Nephi” (Alma 56:3); Neither durst they march down against the city of Zarahemla” (Alma 56:25); 
    ”Therefore it became expedient for us, that we should put an end to their lives, or guard them, sword in hand, down to the land of Zarahemla” (Alma 57:15);  
    “we did resolve to send them down to the land of Zarahemla; therefore we selected a part of our men, and gave them charge over our prisoners to go down to the land of Zarahemla” (Alma 57:16); 
    “and did cause that they should march down to the land of Zarahemla to battle against the Nephites” (Helaman  1:17); 
    “they did come down against the Nephites to battle” (Helaman 4:5); 
    “many of the Lamanites did come down into the land of Zarahemla” (Helaman 6:4); 
    “Go down upon the Nephites and destroy them” (3 Nephi 3:3,8,17).
    The seashore was even lower in elevation than the Land of Zarahemla: “Therefore he caused that Teancum should take a small number of men and march down near the seashore” (Alma 52:22). And the city of Nephi was at a lower elevation than the hills surrounding the valley (Mosiah 7:6).
    It also seems apparent that the Land Southward between Bountiful and the narrow neck of land was at a higher elevation than the Land of Desolation, for the city of Desolation that was built there, which the Nephites occupied after the treaty in 350 A.D., was at a lower elevation, no doubt at sea level, for the Lamanites, coming out of the Land of Bountiful, “did come down to the city of Desolation to battle” against Mormon and the Nephites (Mormon 3:7,8).
    All of these areas paint a clear picture of a Land of Nephi up in the mountains to the south of the Land of Zarahemla. At the same time, not only was the Land of Nephi at a higher elevation, but so was the Jaredite Land of Moron, for Ether writes of “up unto the land of Moron” (Ether 7:5; 14:11) from the coastal area. This Moron was considered their Land of First Inheritance (Ether 7:16-17).
    What about other phrases: 1. Came over; 2. Went over; 3. Crossed over; 4. Came and dwelt; 5. Depart out of the land; 6. Traveled many days.
    As an example of #1 above, “after Omer passed by the hill Shim he “came over by the place where the Nephites were destroyed” (Ether 9:3), obviously placing the hill Cumorah beyond the hill Shim and to its east, closer to the Sea East, since it goes on to say, “and from thence eastward and came to a place which was called Ablom by the seashore.”
The question should arise in reading this from a geographic sense, “what did he travel over”? The word over in 1828 meant: “Across, from side to side,” suggesting crossing over the land. It also meant, “Above the top,” or “over the surface” such as over a lake or sea, or over a hill or mountain. It is also the past tense (preterit tense) of “come.” Thus, he came from one point to another point, a specific place, a pre-determined destination. In other words, Omer was not simply wandering in the wilderness, but had a destination to which he arrived after coming over the land or water on the way. However, it does not necessarily mean he traveled in a straight line, i.e., say from the Sea West directly eastward across the land; or due west from the city of Moron, since the wordage or travel is broken up into two sequences: 1. Came over to the Hill Shim, then 2) from the Hill Shim eastward to the area of Ablom, which was near the seashore.
    This latter should then suggest that the travel was not basically a straight line, even though he had a specific destination from the beginning, which suggests that he possibly had to alter his course because of the topography of the land.
    It should also be noted that “the land” or “the land of,” generally referred to the land surrounding a particular village or city, i.e., the Land of Gideon, the Land of Minon, Land of Mormon, Land of Shemlon, etc. At the same time, the Land of Zarahemla not only included the city of Zarahemla, but could also include the land of Gideon, the land of Moroni, the land of Minon; while the Land of Nephi, which included the city of Nephi, could also include the Land of Jerusalem, Land of Shemlon, Land of Shilom, Land of Amulon, Land of Helam, etc. In addition, the term “land of” could also include a much larger area, such as the Land North and the Land South, or even larger, as the Land Northward or the Land Southward, or the entire land, as the Land of Promise. Thus we see (using modern terms):
1. City of Zarahemla
2. County of Zarahemla (including other cities and lands)
3. Region, such as the Land North or Land South, i.e., two divisions of the Land Southward;
4. State, such as the Land Northward or the Land Southward;
5. Country, as the Land of Promise.
    The important thing is, that we need to realize that every word and every phrase in the Book of Mormon has its own meaning(s) and those meanings often determine answers to situations that otherwise we often bypass or overlook.
As an example, the word “at” used by Nephi to describe that his father “lived at Jerusalem all his days,” tells us that Lehi lived outside the city walls, not within the city itself; this in turn could suggest he lived on a farm, had servants, farm hands, even slaves; it also could lead to what type of occupation he had, and why he might have “went forth…” and “returned to his own house at Jerusalem,” an explanation of which we do not have. 
    Nor do we know how he accumulated his vast wealth of gold and silver and many precious things (1Nephi 2:4). As Nephi wrote: “And now I, Nephi, do not make a full account of the things which my father hath written, for he hath written many things which he saw in visions and in dreams; and he also hath written many things which he prophesied and spake unto his children, of which I shall not make a full account” (1 Nephi 1:16).
    It would be nice to know what was actually contained in the 116 pages first translated by Joseph Smith, which Martin Harris then lost, for those pages were taken from the Book of Lehi, or his own writings and very possibly contained many important things about the man that Nephi, in his abridgement of that record onto the Small Plates, which is what we now have translated at the first several chapters of 1 Nephi, overlooked or did not list. Very likely we would know what Lehi’s occupation was, how he amassed his wealth, why he had donkeys, tents, seeds, etc., when told to flee into the wilderness—items that most Hebrews living in Jerusalem would not have owned.
    However, we still have enough to gain certain knowledge of Lehi and his life before the Lord called him as a prophet. We just have to search the scriptural record more diligently to find them, and recognize that every word in the scriptural record conveys some meaning and should not be passed over and missed.

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