Saturday, August 11, 2018

Things That Are Known – Part I

In reading a blog recently, we came across the statement in one article, “Here are some of the facts that we can easily deduce” regarding the Book of Mormon, in which the author proceeded to list these nine items, such as 1) “Lehi’s family arrived on the west coast,” 2) “The land of Nephi is south of the land of Zarahemla,” 3) “The River Sidon flows from south to north.”
The rest, which are questionable, or far less accurate, are listed below, which give pause to consider, that if we accept arguable surface information as fact, then indeed we will likely have difficulty understanding the words of Mormon and others in the scriptural record:
4. Zarahemla is west of the river Sidon.
5. The head (source) of the river Sidon is in Lamanite territory.
6. The narrow neck of land is toward the north.
7. There are seas on both the east and the west of the land.
8. Wilderness as used in the Book of Mormon usually refers to mountainous areas and lands higher in elevation.
9. The overall size of the lands around Zarahemla can be approximated.
• Let’s take the last (#9) of these first, for this is an area of guesswork that permeates its way through most theorists’ views and forces one’s thinking into limits that may be far from accurate. As an example, all theorists’ views of creating distances in their models for the places mentioned in the Land of Promise, are dependent all or in part on the events describing Alma, and his 450 converts, eventually escaping to Zarahemla from the Land of Nephi.
    This event is shown in the scriptural record as taking 21 days of actual travel. Consequently, it is believed that if the distance from the City of Nephi to the City of Zarahemla can be deduced by Alma’s 21-day travel experience, then other dimensions can be deduced in distance and/or time. Of course, it is never mentioned that if Alma’s travel experience does not really tell us the exact amount of days, and therefore assumed miles, then other distances cannot be determined in this manner.
    So the importance of this is to determine whether or not the 21 days represent a “known” distance, or one that can be deduced. As John L. Sorenson stated in his book An Ancient American Setting for the book of Mormon, under the heading of “The Book of Mormon Mapped,” p 8, “The crucial information in the record for determining dimensions is how long it took people to get from one place to another.” He then goes on to say, “Consider the distance between the city of Nephi and the city of Zarahem.”
    This is where the difficulty begins since the scriptural record states that Alma and his party did not begin their 21-day trip from the city of Nephi, but from the “the waters of Mormon, the forest of Mormon” (Mosiah 18:30), which were in the “borders of the land” (Mosiah 18:31).
The problem lies in the fact that we do not know how far away, or in what direction, this area (the Waters of Mormon) were from the city of Nephi. This area, which “was called Mormon, having received its name from the king, being in the borders of the land having been infested, by times or at seasons, by wild beasts” (Mosiah 18:4), would not have been too close to the city of Nephi, being infested with wild beasts. Since “many as believed went thither to hear his words” (Mosiah 18:6), suggesting that people in the city of Nephi went to the Forest of Mormon to hear Alma’s preachings (Mosiah 18:7), where they were eventually baptized in the Waters of Mormon  (Mosiah 18:16). A Church was set up (Mosiah 18:27), ordained priests (Mosiah 18:24), which all was done at Mormon (Mosiah 18:30).
    Now, while Alma and his 450 converts were at Mormon, or the Waters of Mormon, king Noah sent an army to destroy them (Mosiah 18:33), but Alma was apprised of the coming of the army and he with all his flock took their tents and departed into the wilderness (Mosiah 18:34).
    This began the 21-day journey that ended up in Zarahemla, and it began here at the Waters of Mormon, in the borders of the Land of Nephi, an unknown distance, and in an unknown direction, from the city of Nephi. Yet, theorists have loosely or specifically said, that this journey began from the city of Nephi. Thus, the rationale for this type of thinking is based on an erroneous understanding of Alma’s list of travel days when he and his converts escaped from king Noah and the Lamanites and the place of its beginning.
    However, that is not all. The scriptural record also tells us that Alma and his people “arrived in the land of Zarahemla” (Mosiah 24:25). It does not say they arrived in the city of Zarahemla, but in the land of Zarahemla, which might well be some distance from the city, since the land of Zarahemla covered a large area as the scriptural record clearly shows. Thus, Alma’s 21-day journey began at a location an unknown distance from the city of Nephi, and arrived at a location in 21 days that was an unknown distance from the city of Zarahemla. Consequently, any measurement between two unknown points is suspect to begin with, let alone should be the basis of an overall mileage and therefore distance understanding of the Land of Promise.
Note that the 21 days begin at the Waters of Mormon, not the City of Nephi, and end at the Land of Zarahemla, not the City of Zarahemla

In addition, the scriptural record lists twenty-one days of travel, scattered over an extended period of time, for Alma and his people in traveling from the area of the land of Mormon—which is located at an unknown distance from the city of Nephi (Mosiah 23:1) and Zarahemla, at which the author figures would be 500 miles distance, traveling at 24 miles per day (actual distance, 504 miles). Sorenson, on the other hand, figures 21 days at 11 miles a day or 231 miles. However, Sorenson suggests that they went “at ordinary speeds” (p9).
Yet, the scriptural record tells us that Alma was told by the Lord to “haste thee and get thou and this people out of this land, for the Lamanites have awakened and do pursue thee, therefore, get thee out of this land” (Mosiah 24:23)—so we might assume that these last twelve days (Mosiah 18:25) were spent traveling in haste, not at an ordinary speed.
It should also be understood that Sorenson judges his eleven miles a day based on “Mormon pioneers driving ox teams across flat Nebraska who averaged 10 to 11 miles a day, and also that Guatemala drovers traveled 90 miles in 8 days taking a herd of pigs to market” (p8). The problem with both of these figures is that there was no motivation in either case for speed from fear of capture and death.
    However, Alma and his people are hiding and running during these actual travel days that were taken in three specific times with weeks, maybe months or a year or more between rest stops. First of all, this fact alone would throw off any general mileage assumption, since lengthy travel (21 days straight) is not going to cover the same distance as reinvigorated people after a very length rest, and also probably cause people to move quicker (cover more distance) when escaping from an immediate threat rather than a long-term threat.
    As an example, when traveling from San Diego, California, to Parowan, Utah, a near equivalent distance of 518 miles, let’s put this in modern circumstances. And let’s say that the boundary of Utah represented a safety goal (net) as surely the Land of Zarahemla border did to Alma upon reaching it. Now, if someone was to say that on the eighteenth day they reached Utah, a travel distance of 438 miles, we can either interpret that as meaning they reached their destination (Parowan) or reached the border (Virgin River Gorge).
    In the scriptural record, Alma’s arrival in Zarahemla is listed only as: “And after they had been in the wilderness twelve days they arrived in the land of Zarahemla; and king Mosiah did also receive them with joy” (Mosiah 24:25). Now this does not tell us that 1) Alma arrived in the City of Zarahemla—but that he arrived in the Land of Zarahemla, nor does it tell us 2) King Mosiah welcomed them on the 21st day of travel. This welcome could have been days later or at any time. Remember, this is an abridgement of Mormon of the original record written by Alma.
    In our scenario, the distance from the Virgin River Gorge border of Utah to Parowan is another 78 miles, or at least three more travel days of 24 miles per day. Now we know that the River Sidon in the east is located along the borders of the Land of Zarahemla and evidently the Land of Gideon. But we have no idea how far in distance that is. In fact, we have no idea where in the Land of Zarahemla Alma entered that land, or crossed the borders out of the Land of Nephi and entered the Land of Zarahemla, or how long it takes to traverse the narrow strip of wilderness situated between these two lands (Alma 22:27).
(See the next post, “Things That Are Known – Part II,” for more on the distances involved in Alma’s escape and how theorists use this erroneous information as their basis for determining overall distances for the Land of Promise)

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