Tuesday, November 8, 2011

What is Behind the Compromise of 75 to 125 Miles Part II

Continuing with John L. Sorenson’s lengthy comments about why the narrow neck of land had to be quite wide, the last post covered several of his justifications. But quite often, Sorenson clouds the issue of simple language with information that is neither pertinent nor helpful in understanding Mormon’s description of the distance across this “small” and “narrow” neck of land. Take a look at these complex argument meant to confuse the simple issue of Mormon’s description in Alma 22:32:

3. “Of course we don't know how long the "day's travel" might have been. References given earlier illustrate how wide a range of distances might be meant by this term. Interpretations of the expression could also vary. Possibly "the distance of a day and a half's journey" was a standard length. The Nephites may have understood that a "day and a half's journey" meant so many miles.

It is a little far-fetched that the Nephites would have some type of pre-determined measurement called “a day and a half journey.” Distance is typically measured by some type of length, i.e., a foot, meter, yards, miles, kilometers, leagues, furlong, or fathoms (depth), More importantly, what was Mormon trying to convey to his future reader. Would he know of any of our types of measurement terms? Would the Nephite terms be known to us? Consequently, the only measurement of distance that he could convey was in time, since it would not change—how long it took to travel from point A to point B, and that was seldom used. Mostly the term “many days” is used to suggest a length of time. Thus, when Mormon inserted his description of the Land of Promise in Alma 22 into Alma’s story of the proclamation sent by the king, Mormon came to a point where he thought his future reader should understand how “narrow” or “small” this neck of land between the Land Northward and the Land Southward actually was. So he chose to use the only measurement available to him for his future reader—how long would it take to cover that distance. Thus, he used the term “a Nephite” to show us that no special person, prowess, or ability was needed. Just a Nephite, as opposed to a person which could have included a Lamanite who, as a hunter, may have possessed greater skill and speed. So he used a “Nephite.”

4. “In parallel fashion the Spanish legua (league) meant the distance a loaded mule could travel on the average in an estimated hour; the term said nothing about any particular mule or route or number of hours of consecutive travel.”

The Nephites had horses and chariots (3 Nephi 3:22), as did the Lamanites (Alma 18:9). However, except for King Lamoni giving Ammon a ride in his chariot, these are never mentioned in connection with travel. Obviously, they were used for such, but if any of the distances covered involved horseback or by chariot, one would think it might be mentioned at least once by the Nephites. In any event, the most likely mode of travel would be by foot, and for a future reader to understand, it is the only mode of travel that would make sense.

5. “If we assume foot travel -- probably the normal mode -- we can work toward an estimate of the width of the isthmus. As we have already calculated, the rate for "a Nephite," a single individual, could potentially be up to six miles an hour for as long as 24 hours within the "day and a half."

Go out and try to walk at 6 miles per hour for more than a couple of hours—you would be winded by the first hour. By contrast, the highly acclaimed Roman Army, which marched all over the known world, had a requirement that a legionnaire must be able to march at the rate of “20 Roman miles in 5 summer hours.” That is, they must walk 18.4 (U.S.) miles in five hours during the heat of the summer—that is at the rate of 3.68 miles per hour for five hours. The legionnaire also had to fast march at the rate of 22 miles in 5 hours, which is 4.4 miles per hour. Thus, six miles per hour for 24 hours is ridiculously out of the question for a normal man. In fact, the average man walks for a prolonged length of time at about 2.5 miles per hour, but certainly not for 24 hours.

6. “The phrase, ‘a Nephite’ might imply that a special messenger was the one doing the traveling, for the statement occurs in the context of military defense.”

Two points are covered here. 1) a Nephite would not mean someone special, or what good would it do a future reader if that was someone special that we would have no idea about—it would be like Mormon saying “The narrow neck was 7 dactuns across.” No one not knowing what a dactun was would know how far across it would be. Obviously, the Nephite had to be a normal man for it to mean anything to a future reader; 2) the term “military defense” is a disingenuous approach here to change the subject of Mormon’s writing. The subject at hand in Alma 22 is one of the king sending a proclamation throughout all his land (Alma 22:27) to tell his people to let Ammon, Aaron, Omner and Himni preach throughout the land (Alma 23:1). Everything in between is given as an understanding of how the Nephites and Lamanites were arranged in the land (Alma 22:28-32), which also showed how the Nephites had kept the Lamanites from gaining more territory in the land (Alma 22:34). There is absolutely no military context involved in this description.

(See next post, “What is Behind the Compromise of 75 to 125 Miles? Part III,” for more on this issue)

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