Saturday, June 29, 2019

The Land of Promise – Part II: An Understanding of the Land

Continued from the previous post regarding why we need to understand the writings of the early prophets regarding the geographical setting of the Land of Promise to better understand the application of the scriptural record today.
    As covered in the last post, the word “land” should be understood as “the part of the earth's surface that is not covered by water, as opposed to the sea or the air,” and when Moroni used the term, he was referring, as his statement implies, to the entire connected land mass which was being uncovered by the water. As Moroni wrote: “off the face of this land” (Ether 13:2) regarding the land exposed after the waters of the Flood had receded. However, when Lehi refers to his land of promise, as “a land of promise” (2 Nephi 1:5) he was referring to an isolated area or portion within the overall land. It might also be noted that when Nephi used the term when seeing his vision of the Gentiles arriving, he stated: “who were in the promised land” (1 Nephi 13:12), referring to a land separate from where he was located (in North America).
As the waters receded, cutting canyons and channels on the way down to low ground and the newly formed oceans, the land was revealed

Obviously, when the waters of the Flood receded from off the face of the earth, the world was broken into continents. The continent of the Americas was isolated from the rest of the world, which was clustered into one continuous land from north to south and east to west. More importantly, this new land was not connected in any way with the Old World, or the lands which are covered in the Bible. This was a new land, and unoccupied land, a land separate from the rest of the Earth’s land mass.
    Thus, Lehi could say that “behold, it is wisdom that this land should be kept as yet from the knowledge of other nations; for behold, many nations would overrun the land, that there would be no place for an inheritance” (2 Nephi 1:8, emphasis added). Which is also a confirmation that the land promised to Lehi and his posterity, was only a part of the overall land, for when the other nations learned of it, and over ran it, there would be no portion or place for an inheritance—which is exactly what happened after Columbus discovered the Western Hemisphere.
    Theories, like the Heartland Theory, or the Great Lakes Theory, simply do not allow for such conditions. Each, and almost all other theories, claim that only a portion of the land was the Land of Promise, i.e., that area of the United States surrounding the Mississippi Valley or the Great Lakes region, being meant by the “Land of Promise.”
    As an example, some of the works often cited regarding support of the so-called “Heartland Theory,” or the “North American theory,” are the books Hagoth, by Wayne May, Moroni’s America, by Jonathan Neville, and the seminars, tours, and writings of Rod Meldrum, as in Exploring the Book of Mormon in America’s Heartland.” The entire common thread of these and other North American claims, theories and writings is they center around the Mississippi River Valley to Western New York state. They also tend to use watercourses, such as the Mississippi River, St. Lawrence River, and other inland water ways to travel from the ocean (Atlantic or Gulf of Mexico) to get to their inland areas of settlement, such as Tennessee, Illinois, and Ohio/Pennsylvania/New York areas. And as we have pointed out numerous times, none of these waterways were sufficiently deep enough for any deep sea ocean vessel to ascend upriver against the currents, especially one “driven forth before the wind” as was Nephi’s ship.
    Of course, all of these locations require an Atlantic Ocean crossing for Lehi and the ship Nephi built. It is interesting that just recently a lengthy article appeared entitled “Hagoth and Polynesia” outlining much of this thought surrounding the ship builder Hagoth. Since one of the features Mormon tells us separated the Land Northward from the Land Southward, was a narrow pass or passage (Alma 50:34; 52:9; Mormon 2:29; 3:5), these theorists try to create narrow passes where no such pass exists, then or now.
    Take the area between the southern end of Lake Michigan and the western end of Lake Erie, a distance of about 215 miles. Now anciently, there was an extension of Lake Michigan, in what was called Lake Chicago. There was also an area from Fort Wayne to Toledo referred to as the Great Black Swamp.
View of the Great Black Swamp from the old settlement in Hancock County, Ohio, just West of Findlay, about 65 miles southwest of Lake Erie, along the southern demarcation of the former swamp and ancient Lake Maumee. In the distance, a completely flat expanse of agricultural land extends to the horizon where the swamp once stood

In viewing the area of the Black Swamp, in the distance is a completely flat expanse of agricultural land extending to the horizon. In the foreground a ditch used to drain the swamp is visible. This ridge was formed at the southern shore of the ancient lake, whose narrow area between Lake Michigan and Lake Erie is believed to have existed 14,000 years ago, but by 9,000 years ago had completely disappeared.
Theorists claim the distance of the narrow pass is 25 miles wide, however the distance between the two edges of the lakes from east to west in Indiana, between the claimed extended Lake Maumee and Lake Chicago is actually 40 miles as the crow flies.
The Width of the area between the two marshes or swamp lands was 40 miles

Now it was through this narrow pass that people had access to the Land Northward, and it was this pass the Nephites guarded against to keep Lamanites or dissenter groups from passing through into, and then controlling, the Land Northward (Alma 50:33).
    The problem with the theorists’ location is that beyond their narrow pass, there is no land mass to speak of, i.e., it is the lower peninsula of what is now the State of Michigan, which flat lands of the lower peninsula are completely surrounded by water on all sides except its southern border.
    It is only 195 miles wide from east to west, and 277 miles long and ranges from 571 feet in elevation (the level of Lake Erie) to 1705 feet (Briar Hill), or a difference in land form of only 1201 feet overall height. Thus the area is smaller than Southern California, yet was home to the entire Jaredite kingdom of millions of people scattered over the land. Nor was there any West Sea nearby from which Hagoth could have launched his ships. To compensate for this, the Theorists moved Hagoth’s shipyard and launch area to Southern Lake Michigan, which is the nearest area of actual water to their narrow pass, 75 miles away—about the distance from Provo to Ogden; or 85 miles skirting the Grand Kankakee Marsh.
The area north of the theorists’ narrow pass, leads into a land-locked area surrounded by lakes and water ways with no reason to enter into in the first place

In addition, Mormon tells us that Hagoth’s shipyard was “on the borders of the land Bountiful, by the land Desolation” (Alma 63:5, emphasis added); however, these North American Theorists have Alma’s shipyard 50 miles from their border for Bountiful, or over 100 going around the Kankakee Marsh, and within the land of Desolation.
    Now the word “on” means “being in contact with, placed or lying in contact with; upon,” not a hundred miles away. And the word “by” means “near, close, nearness, closeness or presence.”  
    As for the Grand Kankakee Marsh extending along the southern edge of Lake Michigan, for thousands of years, the Kankakee River meandered from the area that would in time become South Bend across the northwest corner of Indiana and into Illinois. This lazy river nurtured the largest inland wetlands in the United States—the Grand Kankakee Marsh. Before European settlement, local peoples enjoyed its bountiful resources and shelter. It contained a hardwood forest fed by seasonal rains that caused the Kankakee River to overflow and seep into the surrounding lowlands, creating the marsh, which began near South Bend, sprawling westward for miles on either side of the meandering Kankakee River, before finally petering out at the eastern edge of Momence, 20 miles south of Gary at the southern edge of Lake Michigan.
A marsh along the edge of a small river. As can be seen, a marsh is hardly a deterent to a military movement or even individuals who want to cross the area

Tangled skeins of shallow waterways threaded their way through sandy islands covered with vegetation. Thousands of muskrat mounds and beaver lodges rose out of bogs and ponds. At times, huge flocks of birds rose into the sky, blotting out the light of the sun. It was a paradise for trappers and hunters, and a hideout for those hunted by the law.
    The point is, it was not a deterrent to northward movement and allowed for easily bypassing the narrow pass of these North American Theorists, negating this area as a match for Mormon’s “narrow pass” (Mormon 50:34) or “narrow passage” (Mormon 2:29). In fact, when Mormon wrote “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, emphasis added), it is obvious this area claimed by theorists could not have been the area Mormon described.
    Now a “sea” is not a wetlands, i.e., “marsh” or “swamp,” which were the two areas on either side the theorists’ narrow pass. That is, the word “swamp” is defined as “an area of low-lying, uncultivated ground where water collects; a bog or marsh,” it cannot be described as a “sea.” The same is said of the word “marsh,” which is defined as “an area of low-lying land which is flooded in wet seasons or at high tide, and typically remains waterlogged at all times.”
     In Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language, the word “marsh” was defined as “a tract of low land, usually or occasionally covered with water, or very wet and miry, and overgrown with coarse grass or with detached clumps of sedge; a fen. It differs from swamp, which is merely moist or spungy land, but often producing valuable crops of grass. Lowland occasionally overflowed by the tides, is called salt marsh.” At the same time, “swamp,” is defined as “spungy land; low ground filled with water; soft wet ground.”
    Clearly, there was no sea on either side of the narrow pass which Mormon describes, though claimed by these Theorists. This obviously negates their entire concept of this land for their map
(See the next post, “The Land of Promise: An Understand of the Land – Part II,” for more on why we need to understand the writings of the early prophets regarding the geographical setting of the Land of Promise to better understand the application of the scriptural record today)

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