Wednesday, June 6, 2018

How Important Was the Narrow Pass or Passage? – Part II Mesoamerica

Continued from the previous post regarding the importance of the Narrow Neck of Land. Following is the importance of the Narrow Pass or Passage that ran through the Narrow Neck of Land between the Land Northward and the Land Southward.
    First of all, the entire small or narrow neck of land obviously marked the physical appearance of this area. However, its full importance seems lost on many theorists. To best understand this, we need to keep in mind that the narrow pass was the only means of ingress from one land (Land Southward) into the other land (Land Northward). As long as that pass was held, the Lamanites or Nephite defectors could not take possession of the Land Northward and create a Second Front, which Mormon feared and is shown in the incident with the defector Morianton who Moroni thought might obtain possession of those parts of the land northward, which would lay a foundation for serious consequences among the people of Nephi, that would lead to the overthrow of their liberty (Alma 50:32).
    It was so important to keep Morianton from reaching the Land Northward, that Moroni dispatched one of his top lieutenants, Teancum, with an army to head off Morianton’s flight toward the Land Northward (Alma 50:33), and before he and his people reached the narrow pass (Alma 50:34) that led into the Land Northward. Moroni well knew that if Morianton reached the Land Northward, he would unite others to his cause and obtain possession of those parts of the land (Alma 50:32), thus threatening the Nephites from that northern quarter, compelling Moroni to keep troops posted there that were needed to repel continual Lamanite attacks in the south.
    Thus, the importance of the Narrow Pass or Passage cannot be understated. Obviously, in considering the purpose of a military strategy for the narrow pass can be summed up in two all-important points; 1) Who has control of it, and 2) Are there any other means of egress other than the pass.
    The importance of the second point should be obvious, since if there were other means of getting past the point the narrow pass involved, then the pass as a strategic military value would be highly limited. Stated differently, if a pass guards an egress into a land beyond, and is the only means to get from one land to the other, then its military value is extremely important; on the other hand, if there are other means, even if more difficult to traverse, an invading force can bypass the passage between and invade through another area, then the narrow pass loses most of its value in deterring a force from obtaining the ground beyond.
The value of the famed narrow Pass at Thermopylae was circumvented by a foot path that led around the mountain so the Persians could attack from the rear

Even the all-important narrow pass at Thermopylae was bypassed by the Persians who took an unknown foot path up over the hill to the west and around to attack the Greeks from the rear, robbing the much smaller Spartan force from their earlier advantage in the Pass.  In fact, Mormon himself describes the value of this narrow pass as being the only way to get form the Land Southward into the Land Northward after the treaty that separated the Nephite-Lamanites lands. He states: “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. And there we did place our armies, that we might stop the armies of the Lamanites, that they might not get possession of any of our lands; therefore we did fortify against them with all our force” (Mormon 3:5-6, emphasis added).
    Now consider the importance of Mormon’s comments:
1. The area of defense was at the Narrow Pass;
2. Mormon placed all his armies there in order to stop the Lamanite invasion;
3. The objective was to keep the Lamanites from getting beyond them into their lands to the north;
4. They fortified this area of the narrow pass with all their force.
    Now, if there was another way to get from the Land Southward into the Land Northward, it would seem that the Lamanites would have taken a route not fortified against them. If there was another way through or around, then Mormon would not have committed all his forces at this one strategic location.
    Since Mormon tells us that the narrow neck of land was the only land connection between the Land Southward and the Land Northward (Alma 22:32), then we also must conclude, at least from a military viewpoint, that this narrow passage was the only way to get through the narrow neck of land from the Land Southward into the Land Northward. This means that the narrow passage was a singular egress point between the two lands. It also means that this narrow neck of land, through which the passage had to be located since both were the only means to get from the southern land to the northern land, had to be narrow enough to defend against, and with no other means to get around it.
    Thus we see that if one is going to claim an area or model as the location of the Land of Promise, it not only must have a “narrow neck of land,” but that narrow neck must have a “Narrow Pass or Passage” through it, and be the only route between the Land Southward and the Land Northward. If this were not so, Mormon would not have told us it was, and would not have placed so much emphasis on its importance, even to his final dividing of the Nephite lands with the Lamanite at this “narrow passage which led into the Land Southward” (Mormon 2:29).
    With all this in mind, we can automatically eliminate the several narrow necks and narrow passages that have been submitted by various theorists in their models, and unless a truly narrow neck and a singular entry passage is found by them, their entire models must be rejected.
    Now, let’s take the two major theories and their narrow necks of land and narrow passages:
The standard Mesoamerican map showing a theorists’ Narrow Pass and Defensive Gate along the southern Coastal Route; a Narrow Pass in the northern Coastal Route that is a ford across the narrow Coatzacoalcos River and the Chivela Pass through the central mountains of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. Note the yellow arrows showing three major egress avenues from their Land Southward into their Land Northward. Hardly a strategic defensive location

1. Mesoamerica as the Land of Promise: We find the majority view of Mesoamericanists, such as John L. Sorenson, John E. Clark, Matthew Roper, David A. Palmer and numerous theorists and other modern researchers holding that their narrow neck is the 140-mile-wide Isthmus of Tehuantepec. Despite the fact that this location is far too wide to meet Mormon’s description and oriented in the wrong direction (west to east rather than Mormon’s south to north), nor does the narrow neck have an east and west sea, but actually a north and south sea.
    Also, while there are two mountain chains that run through this area, there are three distinct areas of egress through it—one along the north coast toward Vera Cruz and the Tuxtlas mountain region of their East Sea (Bay of Campeche in the Gulf of Mexico), one in the center between the mountains and along the north foothills of the Sierra Madres, and one along the south coast of Oaxaca of the West Sea (Gulf of Tehuantepec of the Pacific Ocean). In addition, there is the Chivela Pass, which is usually thought of movement from the south coast to the north coast across the width of Sorenson’s narrow neck, but this pass allows for movement within the Sierra Madre mountains and into the flood plains of the north.
A typical ford across a river where the water is shallow and secure footing is available. However, it is generally not a defensible area and numerous other areas of crossing are likely to exist up or down the river

These theorists then claim this location has the Narrow Pass or Passage along a gravely ridge crossing a swampy area and ending at the major ford on the Rio Coatzacoalcos (ko-at-saw-ko-’al-kos, a Nahuatl word meaning “the place where the snake hides”). This ford, just below Minatitlan along the Coatzacoalcos River in the lower river basin of the northern coast is not really a Pass or Passage, but merely a shallow crossing or ford in the river. And like any river ford is merely an area for wading across, fords are generally not the only area where a river can be crossed.
    This entire coastal route or region consists of low, sandy strips interspersed with tidewater streams and lagoons, with the coastline as wide as 62 miles between mountain and coast, and as narrow as 22 miles, is sandy and dotted with dunes, small shifting lagoons and points. Anciently, this area was covered with native forest, now replaced by scrub and secondary communities of trees.
Top: The Coatzacoalcos River; Bottom: The Jamapa River. These are among the 40 or more small and narrow rivers in the Isthmus and Vera Cruz area that neither block nor particularly hinder foot traffic, especially military movement

One of the problems with a northern location for a narrow passage, as Sorenson and others claim, is that there are no mountains or significant elevated areas within more than sixty miles to this sandy ridge, which seems in disagreement with Mormon’s description that “the Lamanites did come down to the city of Desolation to battle (Mormon 3:7,8), and later, the Nephites “did go up with their armies to battle against the Lamanites” (Mormon 4:1,4). This going up and down from a point close to the narrow passage simply does not fit the ford area over the Coatzacoalcos River Sorenson claims was the Pass Mormon described. As a result, Joseph and Blake Allen and some other theorists place their narrow neck along a southern route to the south, along the Gulf of Tehuantepec through the narrow, low-relief Pacific coastal plain. Because of the Sierra Madre Mountains along this coastal region, Allen and others have placed their Narrow Neck, Narrow Pass and even the “line” between Bountiful and Desolation to the south of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.
The south Coastal Plain along Chiapas in Southern Mexico, the location of Allen and that of other theorists’ placement of their narrow neck of land and narrow passage

(See the next post regarding “How Important Was the Narrow Pass or Passage? Part III Great Lakes and Heartland”)


  1. Excellent! This is one of the major problems with the Meso and North American models. They simply do not match the scriptural record. The narrow neck is a big problem for them.

  2. Why was the narrow pass still a strategic pass over 300 years after the Andes mountains rose and the Amazon basin came out of water?

    1. It was probably not as critical to the Lamanites at the time of Mormon as it was to them at the time of captain Moroni but, the narrow pas would probably have been the ideal place for troop movement. With the rise of the Andes and disappearance of the Sea East the Lamanites would have had more options albeit difficult ones (mountains and steep canyons to cross). Just my thoughts looking at this map:

    2. Harry, that makes sense. The thing that is interesting is that none of the other models ever mention the other options that were available for troop movement. None of the other models also believe that the earth was altered significantly at the time of Christ. This is a very important detail of the South American model.

  3. I think it is important to keep in mind that in 350 AD, when the treaty was arranged, the narrow neck of land was the dividing point between the Nephites (north) and the Lamanites (south). Mormon writes: "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). So the narrow passage was not only still there, but a significant feature, and during the 10 year peace that followed, the Lamanite king sent "an epistle" letting Mormon know they were coming down to battle (Mormon 3:4), and Mormon gathered his people to ONE location--"the land Desolation, to a city which was in the borders, by the narrow pass which led into the land southward" (Mormon 3:5), and there, in that single place, Mormon "place[d] our armies that we might stop the armies of the Lamanites, that they might not get possession of any of our lands; therefore we did fortify against them with all our force" (Mormon 3:6). Obviously, two things are apparent here: 1) Mormon placed ALL his armies in ONE location, at a single city in the Land of Desolation at the location of the narrow pass or passage; and 2) the Lamanite king had no other way to get into the Land Northward and behind the Nephites "into the lands of their possession" than the narrow pass.
    Evidently, when the Andes came up, there were no other passes into the north that either existed or were known to anyone.