Saturday, February 10, 2018

What Military Line? – Part I

It is interesting how theorists argue among themselves, and disagree over statements they neither seem to understand nor with which they can identify since often such statements show a complete disregard for their pre-determined point of view. 
   Take Dr. Ted Dee Stoddard, Professor Emeritus of Management Communication in the Brigham Young University Marriott School of Management, in his critique of John L. Sorenson’s Book of Mormon Directional Statements, when he starts out saying: “The error committed here by Sorenson is in misreading Alma 22:32 and then trying to determine the distance across the narrow neck of land from the content of the Book of Mormon. That content simply does not exist. What a shame to spend so much time and attention on ‘the distance of a day and a half’s journey for a Nephite, on the line Bountiful and the land Desolation’ without realizing that the phrasing merely describes one period-of-time defensive line rather than the distance across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.”
    Really? One might wonder how any military group would be able to string a defensive line across 144-miles of Mesoamerica’s shortest distance. But that is another matter.
A defensive line by its very nature take a lot of men and are seldom very long since a single breakthrough negates the entire linefor one to be effective it needs to be an impenetrable wall

It is also interesting that Stoddard claims this divisional explanation of the placement of lands that Mormon inserts into Alma’s account when no such reference to military is given, or that any reference to a portion of an area is suggested. As we have pointed out many times before, Alma was covering Aaron’s conversion of the Great King of the Lamanites who then fell into a “coma.” After the king’s recovery, he vowed to aid Aaron’s missionary work and that of his brethren by sending a proclamation among all his people in all his lands. At this point, Mormon interrupts Alma’s account to insert his own explanation of these lands and how they related those areas of land controlled by the Nephites.
    During Mormon’s insertion, he tells his future readers that the Lamanites were in the south, beyond a narrow strip of wilderness that ran from the Sea East to the Sea West, effectively creating a border between Lamanite and Nephite lands (Alma 22:27). He then describes the Nephite lands that were northward of that narrow strip of wilderness, and included the lands of Zarahemla, Bountiful, and Desolation, with the latter two separated by a narrow neck of land (Alma 22:32).
    Now within that narrow neck, either in the middle, or at one end or the other, a boundary line was configured by the Nephites, either at that time, or later of which Mormon knew, which he inserted here to differentiate the Land of Bountiful from the Land of Desolation, in which he said, “Thus the land on the northward was called Desolation, and the land on the southward was called Bountiful” (Alma 22:31), adding “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; 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).
A “line” is a border, limit of a tract of land or region. In this case, Mormon is describing the point of land that separates two areas: the land of Bountiful from the land of Desolation

What is absolutely amazing, though the above shows Mormon was talking about a boundary line dividing the lands of Bountiful and Desolation, that Stoddard goes on to state: “How else would Mormon depict the lengths of the defensive lines in Alma 22:32 and Helaman 4:7?” Again, what defensive line is he referring to in Alma 22:32? There is no defensive line, line of defense, military motif or any other comment that would lead one to believe Mormon was talking or referencing the Nephite military at this point—he was discussing two lands and their width.
    On the other hand, Helaman 4:7 is clearly a defensive line, or at least a fortified line that was the length of a day’s journey for a Nephite—obviously different from the distance of a day and a half of the width of the boundary line or border mentioned in Alma 22:32. Note, that this Helaman description of land is from the south, i.e., the Nephites were pushed back to “the land which was near the land Bountiful,” meaning from Zarahemla northward, and then they were pushed back “even into the land of Bountiful” (Helaman 4:5-6), where they dug in and created a defensive or fortified line “from the west sea, even unto the east,” which was a distance of “a day’s journey for a Nephite” (Helaman 4:7). Note that they are not to the far north of Bountiful where the narrow neck of land is located, but just “into the land of Bountiful.” Clearly, these are obviously two entirely different areas, different lines, and different descriptive meanings.
    Undaunted by this obvious fact, Stoddard goes on to say, regarding the comment about the journey of a Nephite across this narrow neck: “He (Sorenson) is writing around AD 400 about incidents that occurred in the first century BC. Rather than say “for a Nephite,” should he have said “for a Lamanite”?” Stoddard then goes on to answer his own question with: “Obviously not because the defensive line was that of the Nephites—not the Lamanites.
    Actually, that line marked the boundary (Alma 22:32) between the Land Northward and the Land Southward, between the Land of Desolation—on the north—and the Land of Bountiful—on the south (Alma 22:31), and was the division line for a treaty entered into between Mormon and the Lamanite king in 350 A.D. “And the Lamanites did give unto us the land northward, yea, even to the narrow passage which led into the land southward. And we did give unto the Lamanites all the land southward” (Mormon 2:29).
    What it clearly is not, is a military line or boundary. Thus, Stoddard completely misses the point of Mormon’s measurement example by claiming the line Mormon stated was actually a defensive line for the Nephites, rather than understand that the pace or ability of a city-dwelling Nephite would have been different than that of a hunter-gatherer Lamanite, to give us a clearer idea of that distance across the narrow neck.
(See the next post, “What Military Line? Part II,” in his trying to combine the different meanings of Alma 22:32 and Alma 4:7, showing how theorists often miss the mark in their discussions and beliefs.)

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