Sunday, June 10, 2018

How Important Was the Narrow Pass or Passage? – Part VI Heartland

Continued from the previous post regarding the importance of the Narrow Neck of Land as the only land connection between the Land Northward and the Land Southward, and of the Narrow Pass or Passage that ran through the narrow neck. Below we continue with the Narrow Pass in the North American area and specifically within the Heartland area of the United States. The passes recommended by theorists for #1 Mesoamerica was discussed in the second post, and for #2 the Great Lakes was covered in the third post, and the #3 Heartland was covered in the last two posts and we conclude here with the last part of the Heartland theory regarding the Narrow Neck and Narrow Pass.
    However, before continuing with the Heartland, perhaps it might be of value to define the meaning of the Narrow Pass or Passage, since several theorists want to claim these two references: 1) Narrow Pass (Alma 50:34; 52:9; Mormon 3:5); and 2) Narrow Passage (Mormon 2:29), are two entirely separate areas.
Two examples of a narrow pass: Top: a narrow passage with semi-high cliff walls on either side not necessarily in mountainous country; Bottom: a narrow pass through a larger, deep canyon with mountains on either side

First of all, the Hebrew word for the “narrow pass” can be translated to the “narrow passage” and Mormon cites two uses of the phrase to indicate it is the same place. These first two references show that the pass was between the Land Northward and the Land Southward, and led form the north into the south.
    He also discusses the Narrow Pass as the major division between the Nephites and Lamanites once he and the king of the Lamanties enter into a treaty 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). He further said of this location: “And 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).
    In addition, when abridging the record of Alma, he uses the term “Pass” in two instances to show that the pass was between the Land Northward and the Land Southward, and led form the south into the north: “And it came to pass that they did not head them until they had come to the borders of the land Desolation; and there they did head them, by the narrow pass which led by the sea into the land northward, yea, by the sea, on the west and on the east” (Alma 50:34). And added that “he also sent orders unto him that he should fortify the land Bountiful, and secure the narrow pass which led into the land northward lest the Lamanites should obtain that point and should have power to harass them on every side” (Alma 52:9).
    To substantiate this, that the words “Pass” and “Passage” in the Book of Mormon are the same word, we turn to the Hebrew, which word מעבר “ma’abar,” literally means “ford,” as in “to ford a river,” and is so used in the Old Testament: “and passed over the ford Jabbok. And he took them, and sent them over the brook” (Genesis 32:22-23). However, like many Hebrew words, there are other words that mean “ford” as in “to ford a river,” such as “abar,” meaning “a crossing place,” (also a “ferry” and a “plain”), and “abarah,” used twice in the Old Testament, both meaning “ford” as in “to ford a river.” But the most common is “ma’abar,” which is used eleven times in the Old Testament, and translated as “ford” five times, but also as “passage” five times, and once as “pass.”
    In Genesis we see the usage of “ma’abar,” which translates to: “He rose up that night, and took his two wives, and his two handmaids, and his eleven sons, and passed over the ford of the Jabbok (Yabboq meaning “luxuriant river”). Now, the Jabbok, rises 25 miles to the northeast of the Dead Sea, and flows easterly at first around in a great circle to the West. It is about 75 to 80 miles long, and is now called the Zerka, or “Blue,” and flows perennial near the Jordan. The river bed lies in a deep gorge with steep, and in many places precipitous, banks, creating a great cleft, cutting the land of Gilead in two. The river runs with its innumerable windings, from the east to the west, and joins the Jordan River in the valley. The Jabbok is fordable at many points, except when in full flood, but the particular crossing referred to in Genesis cannot now be identified; however, circumstances tell us that it would have been near the valley of the Jordan, where sandy gravel allows for footing across a ford or river crossing.
Left: The Jordan River near Jabbok, which served as a geographical marker, whether about conquest, distribution, or conflict; in the New Testament it is the place of baptism. Note how flat the valley is where the rivers flow between the surrounding mountains; Right: The Jabbok River in Transjordan (“across the Jordan”) where Reuben, Gad, and half of Manasseh settled

Thus, the area in question, being flat in the area of the Jabbok and Jordan confluence, invites numerous paths and ancient roads through the area, and was a popular meeting place from people coming from either side of the Jordan River as several Old Testament passages indicate. Therefore, we can conclude that the Narrow Pass and the Narrow Passage are one in the same, no matter what model one is using. For those theories that include two separate areas because of this, they would need to be reevaluated by their proponents and altered to match Mormon’s description and meaning.
    Back to the Narrow Pass and Narrow Neck of the Heartland theorists, it seems evident that the place they have chosen for such geographical setting of these features simply does not fit the basic understanding Mormon gives us as to the purpose and value of these two areas. Both Rodney L. Meldrum and Bruce H. Porter use the Niagara Peninsula as their Narrow Neck of Land. In addition, so does both Duane R. Aston and Delbert W. Curtis, as well as several others who identify this straight between lakes Ontario and Erie as the narrow neck. In addition, Carol Phyllis Olive and W. Vincent Coon place their Narrow Necks crossing the ancient Lake Tonawanda to the east of the Niagara Peninsula.
    Aston states about the narrow neck: “If the ‘north countries’ were above the narrow neck of land as is typically believed, then why do Book of Mormon accounts not give even the slightest hint that Mormon and his armies crossed the narrow neck of land, coming over to the known location of the Hill Cumorah for their last battles? The record is silent on such a possibility.”
Mormon’s description of the various lands and their relationships as he describes them in his insertion in the Alma record, vs 27-34 on his south-to-north descriptions

However, the scriptural record is not silent about this, though it does not address the situation directly. On the other hand, Mormon tells us that not only did they get their lands divided by a treaty with the Lamanites, but that 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”( 2:28-29). Now that division is the Narrow Neck of Land (Alma 22:32), and in order to be in the Land Northward, north of the Narrow Neck and Narrow Pass, they had to have crossed the neck into the Land Northward since these wars broke out in the south in the Land of Zarahemla near the waters of Sidon (Mormon 1:10).
Heartland Theorists Narrow Neck runs east and west, is not aligned with the right seas, and does not fit Mormon’s descriptions

Unfortunately, these descriptions that Mormon give us do not meet the models that these Heartland (and Great Lakes) theorists claim when they call the Niagara Peninsula their Narrow Neck of Land.
    In addition, Carol Phyllis Olive has fabricated a narrow neck of land southeast of Niagara River between an expanded river around Grand Island—which she calls the West Sea, that flows into Lake Erie and her West Sea South—and the “Sea that divides the land” which Olive claims is the old Lake Tonawanda (a remnant of a much greater lake called Lake Dana-Lundy: Dana was a sea that filled the Mohawk Valley and the eastern portion of the present Lake Erie basin, and Lundy refers to the waters that filled the western portion of the lake) between the Onondaga and Niagara escarpments. According to Olive, when this huge lake lowered to expose the escarpments, it formed three different lakes: Lake Iroquois (which at its lower level became Lake Ontario); Lake Erie, to the southwest of Lake Ontario, and Lake Tonawanda which ponded in the Huron plains just to the south of Lake Ontario (John Peter D’Agostino, Lake Tonawanda: History and Development, University of Buffalo, 1958). Lake Tonawanda was a very shallow pond about two miles wide and extending about 58 miles from Lewiston in the east to the Niagara River along the east of Grand Island in the west (today there is a Lake Tonawanda in the northwest corner of northern Michigan just east of Lake Michigan).
Olive’s Lake Tonawanda and her Narrow Neck of Land from the Niagara Escarpment to the Onondaga Escarpment, dividing her Land Northward from her Land Southward, which is nothing more than a narrow moraine about 50 to 60 feet across and would not provide a defensible pass or neck since Lake Tonawanda is considered to have been a large swampy area with numerous small islands about that would have made crossing the area a rather simple matter

It is obvious from the scriptural record that the major descriptions Mormon gives us of this narrow neck is that it lies between the Land Northward and the land Southward (Alma 22:32); is the only land between these two major land masses since it is all that keeps the Land Southward from being surrounded by water (Alma 22:32); divides the Land of Bountiful, to the south, and the Land of Desolation, to the north (Alma 22:30-31); where the East and West seas come closest together (Alma 50:34); and has the Sea East on one side and the Sea West on the other (Alma 50:34); and can be crossed by a Nephite in a day-and-a-half (Alma 22:32).
    It is also important to know that when someone places the Narrow Neck between a land to the east and a land to the west (rather than north and south), we need to recognize the fallacy of their view, for Mormon never describes the land in that manner, but just the opposite (Alma 22:27-33).   
(For additional information on these subjects, see our 8-part series about the various theorists models of the Narrow Neck and whether they match the scriptural record on this blog from Wednesday, March 5, 2014, through Thursday, March 13, 2014)


  1. So in the Niagara Peninsula version of the narrow neck of land Hagoth built ships near there and they sailed into Lake Ontario and immigrated somewhere in Canada and were never seen again. Hmm. Anti-Mormons would roll on the ground laughing at that.

  2. Alma 50:34 is interesting. It seems to be saying that the actual narrow pass was by the sea for both East and West seas. Today we can see a relatively flat area on the west by the Pacific, but only mountains going east for many miles. So I wonder where the narrow pass actually was anciently. Alma seems to indicate that it was along or near the sea coast. That would be a logical place to travel into the north countries because it is relatively flat.

    Perhaps the one referred to before the time of Christ is located by the west sea. The East sea pass disappeared 2,000 years ago. Any thoughts on where the narrow pass is now located today? Mormon does mention the Narrow Pass in Mormon 2:29 and 3:5. So it still exists today. Perhaps the narrow pass at the time of Mormon and today is located on the Pacific ocean side.

    Today there is a place called Pasaje near the west sea. Could this be a name given in remembrance of the ancient pass connecting the north and south countries?

    Again, the North and Meso American models completely fail when compared to the scriptural record.

  3. erichard: They would especially roll on the ground when they realize that there is about a 274-foot drop between Lake Erie (where Hagoth is supposed to have built his ships) and Lake Ontario. Maybe his ships had wings???

  4. iterry: It is my opinion that the narrow pass is in this same area. Anciently, the mountains were the sea, when the Andes came up, they created an eastern block upward, where the sea had downward, but the result would be the same, creating a narrow neck through this area. Mormon's only comments in his time (after the destruction period and the rising of the Andes) is that the narrow pass or passage led into the Land Southward (Mormon 2:29 and 3:5). It is before that time that he mentioned the pass running by the sea on the east and on the west (Alma 50:34).

  5. Just for kicks, I took the coast of the west sea and considered the difference in topography if the elevation were a mere 70 feet lower before the cataclysm. Considering the east sea rose significantly, the shores of the west sea might have changed configuration slightly. The map with 70 foot drop cuts 10-20 miles off the land west of the mountains and a big chunk up the Rio Guayas area. Measuring from that adjusted coast across the mountain range is 50-70 miles for a good stretch along those mountains (though where the east coast boundary was exactly is hard to know). Anyway, it is possible that the old pass was through those higher, mountainous areas rather than the coast, if the west coast had even a slight change in elevation. The mountains were smaller, but the ancients had no qualms about roadways through hills and mountains. The narrow pass may have become harder to defend post cataclysm, with a flatter western shore area and a mountainous approach. Anyway, it was a fun hour spent on Google Earth making a new shoreline based on an elevation change of 70 feet. Good times. Not particularly scientific, but fun.

    1. Todd, good observation. If as you've analysed is the case, then the western sea coast would have been near the western mountain front. There must have been a little bit of a beach area however because I think that is what is indicated by Alma 50:34. Your point is well taken however. Perhaps there was a narrow passage though the lower mountains before Christ. And that pass would be the one they defended anciently. Hard to know for sure.

  6. So, is there a Facebook group or forum where Andean Land of Promise proponents can interact and share information or ideas? I like chatting with regulars here but don't want to clutter Del's comments sections and jump topics. Just wondering. You may delete if my query is unwelcome.

  7. Here is a link for a group I created to share things from this blog & to have discussions on the Andean model

    Feel free to join or message me on Facebook

    Adam Willson