Friday, September 14, 2018

Dividing the Lamanites and the Nephites

There is no question that the Land of Promise had been so designed by the Lord and thus configured to separate the Lamanites from the Nephites once Mosiah left the city of Nephi in the highland valley and traveled northward into the uninhabited lands and made his way down to the lowlands where he discovered an occupied settlement along the coast where a vast people had once landed and built their city (Omni 1:16). These were the People of Zarahemla, known later as those who came with Mulek, and called loosely today the Mulekites.
    This division or separation was a natural part of the physical topography of the land, which Mormon called a Narrow Strip of Wilderness that separated the Land of Zarahemla and the Nephites from the Land of Nephi and the Lamanites, of which we have often written. And it will be recalled that a “wilderness” in 1828 meant “a tract of land or region uncultivated and uninhabited by human beings, whether a forest or a wild, barren plain.” Thus, we cannot arbitrarily say that this Narrow Strip of Wilderness was a desert, range of mountains, a series of deep canyons, or simply impassable land. Whatever it was, it was designed to keep people out of it and, more-or-less, be an obstacle to northward movement.
Several different topographical features could be shown that would have impeded movement across the Narrow Neck of Land

Over the years, theorists have commented much about the surrounding lands, forts Moroni built, driving the Lamanites out of its eastern and western boundaries, and its purpose and physical location; however, little has been written about its appearance and hindrance to north-south travel, and how it limited the Lamanite approaches into the Nephite lands to the north.
   Based upon Mormon’s description, it might be understood that this strip of wilderness posed some type of impediment or obstacle, a physical barrier, separating these two lands. To augment this natural constraint of northward movement, Moroni erected “fortifications that they might secure their armies and their people from the hands of their enemies” (Alma 50:10), and thus he fortified “the line between the Nephites and the Lamanites, between the land of Zarahemla and the land of Nephi” (Alma 50:11).
    Now this “line” or “strip of wilderness” must have been of some width, in order for there to be sufficient terrain or natural features that hindered or obstructed movement through it at will, restricting where the Lamanites could cross through this wilderness. It seems likely these were steep canyons, such as river gorges, or high mountains with steep sides or cliff faces, or impassable rivers except, perhaps, at certain fordable locations.
    In addition, while this 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), was free of occupation, except where the wilderness ran “round-about on the borders of the seashore”—that being an area that was occupied by Lamanites “living in tents” along both the east and west coasts. That is, this narrow strip was an unoccupied and unimproved tract of land, containing canyons, mountains or other topographical hindrances, at either end where the wilderness strip curved upward and ran along the seashore of both the Sea East and the Sea West, creating what Mormon refers to as an East Wilderness and a West Wilderness. Both of these wilderness along the seashore occupied sporadically occupied by Lamanites who lived in tents.
Lamanites living in tents in the East Wilderness

These were the Lamanites who Mormon described as being “the more idle part of the Lamanites [who] lived in the wilderness, and dwelt in tents; and they were spread through the wilderness on the west, in the land of Nephi; yea, and also on the west of the land of Zarahemla, in the borders by the seashore (Alma 22:28); and of whom Jarom said they “were scattered upon much of the face of the land” (Jarom 1:6), and Enos said of them that they were “wild, and ferocious, and a bloodthirsty people, full of idolatry and filthiness; feeding upon beasts of prey; dwelling in tents, and wandering about in the wilderness with a short skin girdle about their loins and their heads shaven…and many of them did eat nothing save it was raw meat; and they were continually seeking to destroy us” (Enos 1:20).
    It was these in this wilderness along the seashores that Mormon said “there were many Lamanites on the east by the seashore, whither the Nephites had driven them” (Alma 22:29); and that “Moroni caused that his armies should go forth into the east wilderness; yea, and they went forth and drove all the Lamanites who were in the east wilderness into their own lands, which were south of the land of Zarahemla” (Alma 50:7).
    It was in this East Wilderness, or extension of the Narrow Strip of Wilderness that curved upward (roundabout) along the east coast where Mormon said Moroni, “caused that the inhabitants who were in the land of Zarahemla and in the land round-about should go forth into the east wilderness, even to the borders by the seashore, and possess the land” (Alma 50:9); and he also wrote; “the Nephites began the foundation of a city, and they called the name of the city Moroni; and it was by the east sea; and it was on the south by the line of the possessions of the Lamanites” (Alma 50:13).
    To make certain this was completely understood, Mormon added that Moroni, in his wisdom and military acumen, “cut off all the strongholds of the Lamanites in the east wilderness, yea, and also on the west, fortifying the line between the Nephites and the Lamanites, between the land of Zarahemla and the land of Nephi, from the west sea, running by the head of the river Sidon -- the Nephites possessing all the land northward, yea, even all the land which was northward of the land Bountiful, according to their pleasure” (Alma 50:11).
    So from this, we get the picture, that in the design of the Land of Promise, at least in the first half of occupation, the Lord planned a division between these two peoples, the descendants of Nephi, Sam, Jacob, Joseph and Zoram, from the descendants of Laman, Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael.
Lamanites lounging around campfires after a day’s hunting

Evidently, once the Lamanites took over the city of Nephi and adjoining region, except for the three generations of Nephite who temporarily returned there, they seemed somewhat mollified with their place and circumstances. They seem not to have mounted any serious attack on the lowlands of Zarahemla more than every few years, except when they were whipped into a frenzy by either one of their kings, or more often an unrighteous Nephite defector who cared nothing for the Lamanites, but wanted to either punish or control the Nephites.
    Thus, we should see this Narrow Strip of Wilderness as a distinct division in the land, presenting a difficult approach from the highlands down into the land of Zarahemla, and without serious cause, the Lamanites seemed to have given their enemy, the Nephites, little thought.
    This area of the narrow strip also allowed, for the most part, a separation of time from when the Lamanites were first spotted coming down and across or through a passable area of the narrow strip and into the land of Zarahemla, for the Nephites to prepare to meet them for battle, mostly it seems, along the eastern coastal area, which included the cities of Moroni, Lehi, Morianton, Nephihah, and others.
    We recently wrote about the topography of the actual narrow strip. Once again, we are here stating the purpose of the narrow strip, and not only its division of the peoples, but as a marked separation of the two, evidently limiting contact between them except for the periodic intrusion of the Lamanites to come own to battle. The reason for this was spelled out at the end of the second chapter of the Book of Mormon, when the Lord gave Nephi this sober warning: “If it so be that [thy seed] rebel against me, [the seed of thy brethren] shall be a scourge unto thy seed, to stir them up in the ways of remembrance” (1 Nephi 2:24).
    This was evidently meant to be periodically, thus the narrow strip limited access and undoubtedly made such a Lamanite incursion a major effort and one not always of interest to the main body of Lamanites.

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