Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Nearly Surrounded by Water – Part I

It is interesting how often some theorist or another comes up with an idea that they think is valid and, at least to them, sounds plausible, but in reality either does not agree with the scriptural record, or the science of the period, or usually both. Unfortunately, because they are unaware of the glaring fault(s) of their theory, or ignore them in favor of their opinions, they promote it, sometimes with such vigor, as to convince others of the error or fallacy who expect scholars to write accurately about the scriptural record.
    As an example, take the Mesoamericanist Jonathan Neville’s response to Mormon’s comment that the border between the Nephites and the Lamanites being the “narrow strip of wilderness” and both the land of Zarahemla (Nephite territory), and the land of Nephi (Lamanite territory) were “nearly surrounded by water.”
A tiny island, surrounded by water. According to the 1828 dictionary, “island” is an absurd compound of “isle” and “land,” that is, “land-in-water land,” or “ieland-land.” There is no such legitimate word in English—the word was “isle,” meaning “A tract of land surrounded by water”

However, despite the word being defined in the 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language as “a tract of land surrounded by water,” Neville makes the absurd comment: “It says water, not ocean or sea. Therefore, the border between them had to be water, with a “small neck of land” between them.  Only a river can be both “water” and a “narrow strip of wilderness.”
    Now, all isles or today “islands” are surrounded by water, the idea that the word “water” signals a small river instead of a sea or ocean is downright erroneous and shows a lack of knowledge. This is especially true when considering Jacob’s statement: “we have been driven out of the land of our inheritance [Palestine]; but we have been led to a better land, for the Lord has made the sea our path, and we are upon an isle of the sea” (2 Nephi 10:20, emphasis added).
An island surrounded by water,which is an ocean: on a large scale, Greenland is surrounded by water, as is New Guinea, Borneo, Madagascar, Baffin and Sumatra; on a less grand scale, an island is Honshu, Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales), Victoria, Ellesmere, and Sulawesi; on an even smaller level, an island is Hokkaido, Sakhalin, Hispaniola, Banks, Tasmania, Sri Lanka, and Devon—which are all islands of varying sizes (Australia, of course, is not an island but a continent), and they are in the midst of the sea or ocean, not connected with a river
Therefore, it is crystal clear that the water Mormon tells us surrounds the Land Southward except for a narrow neck of land (Alma 22:32), was a sea as Jacob informs us (2 Nephi 10:20).
    However, Neville goes on to claim: “The rivers in North America (the Missouri, Mississippi, Ohio, and Allegheny Rivers) are a perfect fit. And the small neck of land between them—where the river border ended—is not far from Cumorah, which helps explain why Cumorah was strategically important.”
    In fact, there are other glaring errors in Neville’s brief statement (seven in all), but before breaking down Neville’s errors, let’s take a look at Mormon’s comment about this, which is: “nearly surrounded by water,” that he inserted into Alma’s record as part of describing for his future reader the appearance and outline of the Land of Promise.
    In the 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language, the word “surround” means “to encompass, to environ, to inclose on all sides.” Environ means “to surround, to encompass to encircle, to inclose.” Encompass means “to encircle, to surround, to inclose.” Inclose (enclose) means “to confine on all sides, to encompass.” Consequently, if the land was completely surrounded by water, it would have been encompassed all around by water; the water would have enclosed, cut off, been a barrier, to the extension of the land.
    Rivers do not surround land, they cut through land. As an example, despite all the inland waterway systems in the U.S., the only state surrounded by water is Hawaii—and not by rivers, but by an ocean. The great Mississippi River does not enclose land, it runs through the land. Rivers can be easily crossed and seldom provide an impassable barrier, which is the meaning of being surrounded. And in this case, the only thing that kept the entire Land Southward from being completely surrounded, was the small or narrow neck of land (Alma 22:32).
    This is consistent with Jacob’s comment made in (2 Nephi 10:20), which in turn is consistent with the statement made in Helaman as he described the seas surrounding the entire Land of Promise: “they did multiply and spread, and did go forth from the land southward to the land northward, and did spread insomuch that they began to cover the face of the whole earth, from the sea south to the sea north, from the sea west to the sea east” (Helaman 3:8, emphasis added).
    With this is mind, let us take a look at Neville’s earlier statement, one part at a time:
1. It says water, not ocean or sea.
    This is an erroneous comment, leading one to think inaccurately of the scriptural meaning involved. In the 1828 dictionary, using the word meanings known to Joseph Smith within New England at the time, we find this about the definition of water: “the ocean, a sea, a lake, a river (any great collection of water).” Note that the first two definitions are “ocean” and “sea,” making these two definitions the preferred explanation of the word “water.”
Top: Neville’s Land of Promise he claims is surrounded by water; however water does not nearly surround the Land Southward, or any other major land mass; Note: Neville has enlarged the Mississippi by rate of flow, not by size, to make it look like it is a larger body of water and is quite misleading; Bottom; A normal map of the Mississippi River Drainage Basin, showing the relative size of the rivers. Note the difference between the actual map (bottom) and Neville’s inflated map (top) which is totally misleading in the size of the Mississippi River to support his point of being surrounded by water

It should be kept in mind that the Mississippi River has always been basically the same size though it has slightly changed course numerous times. It should also be noted that Neville’s graph shows flow rate (8500 m3/s equals eight thousand five hundred cubic meters per second [593,000 cubic feet], making it the 15th largest flow rate in the world [Amazon River flows 7,380,765 feet per second or about 14 times greater than the Mississippi]. The point is, both his map and his statements are totally misleading and not at all accurate.
2. Therefore the border between them had to be water.
    The border between the Land Northward and the Land Southward was land—a narrow neck of land. The “narrow strip of wilderness” (water is never considered “wilderness”). There is no mention that the “border between them” was water. The scriptural record states: “the king sent a proclamation throughout all the land…which was bordering even to the sea, on the east and on the west, and which was divided from the land of Zarahemla by a narrow strip of wilderness, which ran from the sea east even to the sea west, and round-about on the borders of the seashore” (Alma 22:27). In describing this land the Lamanite king controlled (the Land of Nephi), it was divided from the Land of Zarahemla, by a narrow strip of land—not a narrow strip of water or river.
    Later, when talking about the Land Southward (Land of Nephi and the Land of Zarahemla), Mormon states: “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). That narrow neck 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” (Alma 22:32).
    In neither case, the narrow neck or the narrow strip of wilderness is there any water involved, thus there are no rivers, and Neville’s comment about “Therefore the border between them had to be water” is meaningless and totally misleading.
The (green circle) narrow neck of land was only about a day-and-a-half journey for a Nephite to cross

3. Only a river can be both “water” and a “narrow strip of wilderness.”
    Water is simply never referred to as a wilderness, nor specifically as a narrow strip of wilderness, such as a river. In the 1828 dictionary, wilderness is defined as “a desert; a tract of land or region uncultivated and uninhabited by human beings, whether a forest or a wide barren plain. In the United States, it is applied only to a forest. In Scripture, it is applied frequently to the deserts of Arabia. The Israelites wandered in the wilderness forty years.”
    A river cannot be both a waterway and a narrow strip of wilderness. There was a narrow strip of wilderness—land—between the Land of Nephi and the Land of Zarahemla, not a river or waterway. Even today, “wilderness” means “an uncultivated, uninhabited, and inhospitable region,” which does not describe a sea or river, but a wasteland such as bush country, outback or hinterland, and could include desert, forest, mountains, jungle or badlands.
    In the Book of Ether, wildernesses and areas are referred to specifically: Wilderness of Akish, Plains of Agosh, Plains of Heshlon, Valley of Gilgal, Valley of Corihor, Valley of Shurr; in the rest of the book, wildernesses are either given a name (Hermounts), or a directional designation (East Wilderness, West Wilderness or South Wilderness).
    Now it also might be of interest to know that the word “waters” is used 8 times in Ether, and the word “water” is used 10 times, and in every single case, the word “water” or “waters” refers to the ocean or sea. In addition, there is a single instance where the word “waters” is associated with a name, “the Waters of Ripliancum” (Ether 15:8), but it is unknown what this was other than what the word means “large, to exceed all.” Thus it might be concluded that the word “water” or “waters” is not used in connection with a river anywhere in the book of Ether.
    The word “water” or “waters,” not counting baptism and spiritual examples, is mentioned 78 times in the Book of Mormon: 45 of those refer to ocean or sea; 3 times to the Flood, for a total of 48 regarding oceans or seas. 9 times as the Sidon River and 9 times for “river of water,” making 18 overall with the word “river” describing the water, making 66 overall. 5 times for the Land of Many Waters, which was lakes, rivers and fountains. 6 times for waters of Sebus, which is an area for watering animals, and once for “land of pure water.” In all, then, referring to the use of the words “water” or “waters” that are not also described, all 48 usages refer to sea or ocean. Never once is the word “water” or “waters” used to denote a river without also mentioning either the name of the river or calling it a river.
    Thus it cannot be concluded that when a word (water, waters) is used, that it can be applied to whatever a theorist wants it to be, but has to be applied to how it is used and its main reference throughout the scriptural record. Consequently, it should be concluded that the use of the word “water” or “waters” is meant in the Book of Mormon to mean ocean or sea.
(See the next post, “Nearly Surrounded by Water – Part II,” for more on the Land of Promise being nearly surrounded by water except for a narrow neck of land, and how theorists ignore the plain and simple language of the scriptural record or try to make Mormon’s words mean something other than what they do)


  1. Question: It was said: "we discussed Mesoamericanist Jonathan Neville’s response to Mormon’s comment...

    Is he a Mesoamericanist? Or North American theorist?

  2. MrNirom: He is definitely a North American theorist and is avidly opposed to Mesoamerica. He has recently moved to Africa, though I do not know why. He is a staunch supporter of Oliver Cowdery's Letter VII, and the (erroneous) explanation that Cowdery gives of the last battle at Cumorah--if you ever get to Palmyra, go up on the small hill near Moroni's statue and look west into the West Valley and see if you can visualize a battle between at least 230,000 Nephites and probably 350,000 to 400,000 Lamanites in that small area--there wouldn't be standing room only for them, let alone space to swing a sword. Cowdery got carried away with his flowery rhetoric and lost sight of reality, though it is the basis of his argument for North America. A good example of Todd Durrant's "Irreversible Conviction Blindness (ICB)." Anyway, thanks for catching my slip.