Wednesday, July 3, 2019

The Land of Promise – Part VI: Another Land Which Was Northward

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.
• Neville: “Why did all these people go northward? One reason could be natural expansion; i.e., and the east (Bountiful) was already populated. The west may have been less appealing.”
Response: First of all, Bountiful was not only in the East. It extended from the West Sea to the east. As Mormon describes it: “And the Nephites and the armies of Moronihah were driven even into the land of Bountiful; And there they did fortify against the Lamanites, from the west sea, even unto the east; it being a day’s journey for a Nephite, on the line which they had fortified and stationed their armies to defend their north country” (Helaman 4:6-7, emphasis added). Again, “And now, it 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, emphasis added).
Land of Promise was long and narrow as Mormon’s descriptions suggest

Second, the Nephites occupied a long, narrow land, with the north-south line much longer than the east-west line. The Land Northward was mostly unoccupied at this time, and when the lengthy war between the Nephites and Lamanitres ended around 49 BC, and during the few years following, some Nephites chose to relocate and there was only one direction in which they could do that, which was northward. In the meantime, ships had been sailing the waters to the north, for the Nephites were a ship building people involved in shipping (Helaman 3:14), which no doubt meant trade as well as transporting of people and goods.
    Evidently, in some of these ocean journeys, they discovered a land “which was northward” (Alma 63:4) and not connected to the Land Southward and the Land Northward. Hagoth, in anticipation of a large number of people wanting to travel to that land “which was northward,” built exceedingly large ships to carry migrating families out into the deep waters of the sea carrying sufficient supplies to start a new life in an unknown and evidently unoccupied land to the north (Alma 63:6,7).
    In addition, there were others that wanted to move into the sparsely occupied Land Northward and went overland, traveling through the narrow neck of land into the Land Northward (Alma 63:9) to “inherit the land” (Helaman 3:3), in which they traveled so far northward “an exceedingly great distance…they came to large bodies of water and many rivers” (Helaman 3:4). This was the same land that Mormon described as “a land of many waters, rivers, and fountains” surrounding the area of the hill Cumorah (Mormon 6:4).
    Now, the word “inherit” has a specific meaning, i.e., “to possess; to enjoy; to take as a possession, by gift or divine appropriation,” which suggests that those who went into the Land Northward “to inherit the land” were referring to a portion of the land that was promised to Lehi and his descendants (Helaman 3:3), which over time “spread forth into all parts of the land” (Helaman 3:5), eventually “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).
Thus, the word “inherit” is shown to apply to the Land Northward in a separate sense than those who went “to a land which was northward” about the same time (Alma 63:4), where no intent to inherit the land is mentioned or suggested.
• Neville: “The text says Hagoth built his ship “on the borders of the land Bountiful by the land Desolation.” This implies he constructed it inland, presumably in a protected area that would be deep enough, like on a river or inlet. From the construction site, he “launched it forth into the west sea by the narrow neck which led into the land northward.”
Response: In the 1828 dictionary, we find: “Neck: A long narrow tract of land projecting from the main body, or a narrow tract connecting two larger tracts.” The fact that Hagoth’s shipyard was along or very close to the narrow neck of land, which also contained the border or boundary of the Land of Bountiful and the Land of Desolation is clear from Mormon’s descriptions of this area. Like any shipwright, his ship building yard would have been off the coast, in a cove or inner waterway, but with direct access to the sea.
• Theorist: “In the story of Hagoth, a common interpretation treats “by” as a synonym of “near”; i.e., Hagoth launched his ship into the west sea near the narrow neck, and the narrow neck leads into the land northward.”
Response: The problem with this is first, it requires changing the language of the scriptural record from “by” to “near,” which presupposes that Mormon wrote it wrong, or Joseph Smith mistranslated it. Third, the word “by” in 1828 meant “near” or “close.” It is also defined meaning “on” as in “he passed by on land or water.” Overall, it signifies a sense of “nearness” or “closeness.”
• Neville: “This interpretation assumes the neck was a neck of land, but it’s not clear how a neck of land would lead into a larger land mass. A neck of land would lead to a larger land mass, but not into one.”
Response: Another inaccurate and misleading interjection that does nothing but cloud the issue. As an example, the 1828 dictionary has as its intended definition of “into”: “Noting entrance or a passing from the outside of a thing to its interior parts.” Thus, the narrow neck of land left the Land Southward and ran to the Land Northward, the actual passage area ran into both lands. The scriptural statement is accurate. As for being a neck of water, a “neck” is a stationary object, like land, not moving like “water.”
An aerial view of the Strait of Gibraltar, showing a narrow passage of water between two land masses

The use of “neck” cannot signify a body of water, which narrowness is called a channel, or a strait, being two bodies of water connected by two larger bodies of water. Specifically, “a strait is a naturally formed, narrow, typically navigable waterway that connects two larger bodies of water. Most commonly it is a channel of water that lies between two land masses.”
In addition, a “sound” in geography, is a large sea or ocean inlet, deeper than a bight and wider than a fjord; or a narrow sea or ocean channel between two bodies of land. See also strait.
    Thus, the term “neck” or “narrow neck” applies only to land, not to water.
• Neville: “This passage is susceptible to more than one meaning. Of course, a “narrow neck” can be either water or land, and the text doesn’t explain which it is in this case (unlike Ether 10:20, which specifies a “narrow neck of land”).
Response: Using a narrow neck of sea or ocean would be an inaccurate usage, as stated above. If a narrow sea is meant, the terms would be “a narrow channel of water (or sea)” or “a narrow sea,” or (sound), but never “a narrow neck of water (or sea).”
• Neville: “The Oxford English Dictionary includes these definitions of neck: a. A pass between hills or mountains; the narrow part of a mountain pass; b. A narrow channel or inlet of water; the narrow part of a sound, etc.; c. A narrow piece of land with water on each side; an isthmus or narrow promontory; and d. A narrow stretch of wood, pasture, ice, etc.”
Response: Joseph Smith never had the Oxford English Dictionary in 1829 when translating the plates. His resource dictionary was Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language (which he included in the reference material for his School of the Prophets), in which the definition does not include anything about water being called a neck, only land.
    In addition, the Oxford English Dictionary was not begun until 1857 and not published until 1888, 70 years after Joseph Smith translated the plates. Any definition in the OED would have two problems applying this to the words Joseph Smith used in translating: 1) the Dictionary did not exist in published form in Joseph Smith’s lifetime, and 2) New England, where Joseph grew up and where he developed his knowledge of the English language, was quite different from British English. In fact, to maintain this difference is the reason given by Noah Webster for creating his 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language—to preserve the American way of speaking the English language as opposed to how it was rendered in Britain.
(See the next post, “The Land of Promise: An Understand of the Land – Part VI,” 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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