Thursday, May 3, 2018

The City of Desolation - Part I: Why the Jaredites Did Not Move into the Land Southward

Not long ago a Reader took exception with where we placed the City of Desolation and with our accompanying statement: “The northern end of the neck or pass was at a lower elevation than the higher land to the south (Mormon 3:7-8; 4:1,19).”
    In support of both the statement and the placement of the City of Desolation, we turn to the scriptural record as the first and final reference in the matter. Before discussing Mormon 3:7-8 and 4:1,19, let’s back up a moment and look at Mormon 2:28-29 where in the 350th year Mormon says: “we made a treaty with the Lamanites and the robbers of Gadianton, in which we did get the lands of our inheritance divided.” Mormon then states what that division was: “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.”
We need to keep in mind that the Book of Ether was written by Jaredites and their point of view of the Land of Promise was the Land Northward—other than hunting, they never went south of the narrow neck or even into that area. Their reserve hunting lodge would have been on the north of that narrow neck, within their own lands. Their hunting excursions would have been thru the narrow passage and into the Land Southward

Now the term “the land northward,” is well known to us, for the Nephites had been calling that land the Land Northward since its first mention around 130 B.C. when Amalecki talks about the demise of the Jaredites (Omni 1:22), then mentioned again in about 73 B.C. (Alma 46:22), meaning the land north of the narrow neck, which is then referred to 12 times after that just in Alma, and nine more times in Helaman. In fact, Mormon goes on to say that in the next sentence: “yea, even to the narrow passage which led into the land southward.” Thus, we find that the land the Nephites occupied after this treaty is the entire land northward down or southward to the narrow passage. This narrow passage, of course, is the pass that led into the land southward, as Mormon states.
    So the Nephites occupied the land in the north from the narrow passage northward. It stands to reason that their stronghold (the city discussed in “I did cause my people that they should gather themselves together at the land Desolation, to a city which was in the borders, by the narrow pass which led into the land southward” [Mormon 3:5]) would have been northward of the narrow neck, or north of the north end of the passage. This location on the north of the narrow passage would have provided them the greatest protection and where they could mount the best defense, i.e., by keep the Lamanites from entering the Land Northward through the narrow pass.
    Naturally, it is easier for a large army to defend a small opening or passage since that small opening would preclude the enemy from benefiting from their strength and size because of being bottled up within the pass. We can also see this by the words Mormon used to describe it: “to a city which was in the borders, by the narrow pass which led into the land southward” stating that the city they occupied was in the borders of the Land Northward, by the pass that led from the Land Northward into the Land Southward.
    Thus, the Lamanites came from the Land of Bountiful in the Land Southward, entered the narrow pass, and battled the Nephites at the opening of that narrow pass into the Land of Desolation in the Land Northward, where the city of Desolation was located at the mouth or entrance to the narrow pass from the north. If this was not the case, then Mormon mis-spoke and described his defense and the battle in inaccurate terms.
It is much simpler and far smarter militarily to defend a small opening through which the enemy can flow, when you defense is on the open land beyond. In that way you can bottle up the enemy approach

So if that is the location of the City of Desolation, and it seems to be so, then what was the Great City the Jaredites built near this narrow neck and pass that led into the Land Southward? Some might claim this is separate from the City of Desolation the Nephites occupied in 350 A.D. after Mormon entered into a treaty with the Lamanites about their land division. However, the importance of this city before the final wars that destroyed the Nephite Nation is apparent when it was occupied by the Nephites and was the center of their defensive battles with the Lamanites once they began attacking the Nephites in the Land Northward.
    This City of Desolation obviously seems to have been near the opening of the narrow pass the led into the Land Southward. And Moroni tells us that the Jaredites “built a great city by the narrow neck of land, by the place where the sea divides the land” (Ether 10:20). Since this was a “great city,” and the only one so identified of the cities in the Land Northward, it seems that this “great city” would have been the city the Nephites would have settled and moved into as their new home after the treaty, and the place from which they would best be able to defend the narrow neck area/narrow pass opening into the Land Southward.
    It also seems prudent that we need to pay attention to Mormon’s words that he uses in understanding this city, i.e., “led into the land southward.” The word “led” is the preterit tense and participle passive of “lead,” which means to “precede, to guide, to go before, to follow where it leads, to begin.” Stated differently, the pass that “led into the land southward” was the beginning of the pass, where it began in the Land Northward, and traveled to the south into the Land Southward. The city of Desolation, or the city where the Nephites defended, was not in the Land Southward or at the southern terminus of the narrow pass, but in the Land Northward, at the beginning of the pass that went into the Land Southward.
    Thus, when Mormon wrote: “And it came to pass that I did cause my people that they should gather themselves together at the land Desolation, to a city which was in the borders, by the narrow pass which led into the land southward” (Mormon 3:5, emphasis added), he is not talking about the southern end of the pass or neck of land, but the northern part. In fact, “at the land Desolation,” means near or toward, which places the Nephites near or toward the narrow pass entrance into the Land Southward. And when he states that the city was in the “borders” of the Land Desolation, we can again place the city along the southern border of the Land of Desolation, at or near the pass, that led into the land Southward.
    As for this city the Jaredites built by the Narrow Neck of land, it seems most likely that it was the same as the City of Desolation, though we cannot know for certain. Yet, it stands to reason that is the case. That is, “And they built a great city by the narrow neck of land, by the place where the sea divides the land” (Ether 10:20). In this, we need to keep in mind that this is the Jaredite record. Their orientation or viewpoint is from the Land Northward, and even Moroni, when he is in the Land Northward and abridging the Jaredite record, calls it “this North Country“ (Ether 1:1), so when they mention a “sea that divides the land” they are talking about a location at the beginning of that sea, i.e., from the north looking south—they are not talking about it dividing their land, but dividing the land.
The Land Southward for some distance south of the narrow pass was a wilderness where wild animals roamed, with a scrubland and desert interspersed in this area—there was no appeal to the Jaredites to move in that direction since to the north it was lush and green

Nor did they have anything to do with the Land Southward. There were wild animals in this south land—driven there by the poisonous serpents (Ether 9:31-33), but nothing else would have drawn their interest. Certainly not settlement or migration, since south of the narrow neck area is the savanna-like scrub covered Tumbes-Piura desert along the coast and the Tumbesian Desert in the Southwest, filled with cacti, semi-desert shrub and large deposits of petrified wood.
Land just south of the narrow neck of land in southern Ecuador. Referred to as a dry desert it is the largest such remnant in western South America covering 15,900 square miles, and still a wilderness

The area is very hot and sunny and unbearable during the summer months with 94º to 104º F. temperatures. The climate is dry with a short wet season and a long, well-defined dry season. The region is generally flat with plains and low hills in coastal areas and small mountain chains toward the interior. The area is composed of shrubs, thorny trees, scrub and chaparral woodland as well as carrob, faique, huayacan, hualtaco, palo santo, and ceibo trees, along with coastal mangrove forests.
    To the north along the rocky coast are lagoons and semi-humid mangrove forests that flow into the ocean, and to the south is the encroaching, highly arid Sechura tropical desert, a narrow strip along the sandy and rocky coast with migrating barchan chains and shifting sand dunes extending across the Bayóvar Depression—the lowest point in Peru at 111 feet below sea level—from the coast inland to the secondary ridges of the Andes that is crossed by numerous short rivers.  Much of this area is phosphate rock ore and phosphorite beds and is today mined extensively.
    The terrain also becomes rougher with canyons and cuts as it moves away from the coast, and is so dry, not even cacti grow there, other than the unique Puyy de Raimondi which flowers only once in forty years.
The coastal deserts and inland of the Land of Promise area, including the cities of Bountiful, Zarahemla and Nephi

The land just south of the narrow neck is a desert wasteland compared to the lush forests in the area north of the narrow neck and pass. There was nothing appealing to the Jaredites below the narrow neck of land, and nothing to draw them there other than to hunt the wild animals. It is obvious, once seeing that area, to understand why it was not settled by the Jaredites and why the Nephites didn’t build much north of the city of Bountiful until they made their way into the Land Northward.
    There would have been little reason for the Jaredites to go southward other than for the sport of hunting. As Moroni wrote: “And they did preserve the land southward for a wilderness, to get game. And the whole face of the land northward was covered with inhabitants” (Ether 10:21).
(See the next post, “The City of Desolation – Part II, and Where Were the Cities of Teancum and Boaz?” for more information on these Land Northward cities as well as the Nephite-Lamanite battles there)

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