Tuesday, November 29, 2011

What the Story of Hagoth Tells Us Part II – The Land Which Was Northward

Mormon uses a completely different terminology to tell us about where the 5,400 emigrants in Hagoth’s several ships went. Mormon wrote and they “departed out of the land of Zarahemla into the land which was northward.” (Alma 63:4)

The words describing a land “which was northward” is used nowhere else in the scriptural record. In every other instance, any land to the north was referred to as “the Land Northward.” In the same writing about Hagoth’s ships, Mormon writes: “many people who went forth into the land northward” (Alma 63:9) as he did later in Helaman: “went into the Land Northward to inherit the land” (Helaman 3:3).

So why the difference in language?

First, we have to keep in mind that in Mormon’s day, settled lands had names, typically after the major city of that land, such as the Land of Nephi and the Land of Zarahemla, etc.; however, unsettled lands were typically called “wilderness,” or collectively in a large area called “the Land Southward” or “the Land Northward.” Thus, around the time of Hagoth, Nephites were moving northward into the Land Northward, in large numbers, and soon filling up the Land Northward (Helaman 3:8).

However, if a large group of Nephites decided to go to a land that was not part of the Land Northward, what terminology would Mormon use? Would he say, “to a land which was beyond the Land Northward”? or “to a land across the sea?” or “to a land not connected to the Land Northward”? Certainly, he would have no name to call it, like “the Land of Smallwood” or “the land of Cezoram.” So, since this land far to the north had no name, had evidently not seen people (Nephites) or been populated before, Mormon simply used a term that described the unknown land—“to a land which was northward.”

As an example, in the Andean area, there are hundreds of valleys formed by the cross ranges of the mountains criss-crossing the main cordilleras. That is, the mountain cordilleras run north and south (three ranges forming the Andes), but frequently there are cross ranges of mountains and hills, which form valleys in between, somewhat like a stepladder. These valleys, where people would have dwelt in the Nephite era (as they exist even today) , were separate lands, and to move from one valley to another, or from one land to another, a person had to “cross over” some hill system or low-lying mountain to get there. Obviously, not all these separate lands would have been occupied in the time of the Nephites, and would have been unnamed—called wilderness by them. In the north, especially in the Land Northward, these many lands were unnamed, so when Mormon wrote about the Nephites moving into the area, he had few descriptive nouns to use regarding the land, so mostly it was simply called “the Land Northward.”

Thus, the term “land which was northward” differentiated another area from the already “in use” term “Land Northward.” This lack of terms is also seen in Mormon’s description of the Land Southward when Captain Moroni talked about the land southward as “a land of liberty, on the north and on the south” (Alma 46:17) to describe the separation of the Land Southward into the Land North (Mulek) and the Land South (Lehi), the separation between the narrow strip of wilderness between the Land of Nephi and the Land of Zarahemla, for “the Lord brought Mulek into the land where Mosiah found them------“ (Omni 1:16), which was Zarahemla.

Thus, somewhere to the far north, beyond the Land Northward in the Land of Promise, lay a land to which Hagoth’s ships sailed with boatloads of emigrants—5,400 men, plus their wives and children (Alma 63:4).

So where was this “land which was northward”?

To locate such a land, we need to find an area where the accomplishments of the Nephites were duplicated. After Nephi and “those who would go with him” settled a land they called “Nephi” (2 Nephi 5:8), they were taught by Nephi how to “build buildings” and “all manner of wood, and of iron, and of copper, and of brass, and of steel, and of gold, and of silver, and of precious ores” (2 Nephi 5:15). Before Nephi’s death, they built a temple, similar in design and construction to that of Solomon’s Temple (2 Nephi 5:16). Before the Nephites, the Jaredites built buildings of all types (Mosiah 8:8). Thus, in another land like that of the scriptural record Land of Promise, we should find the ruins of buildings, temples, and cities.

In fact, there are really only two such areas in the entire Western Hemisphere—that of the Andean area of South America (Ecuador, Peru and Chile), and that of Central America, (Guatemala, Mexico and the Yucatan).

Thus, the land to which Hagoth’s emigrants sailed in the ships he built would be to the area we now call Mesoamerica. This is where the Nephite and Lamanite emigrants in Hagoth’s ships sailed, where they landed, and where they built up a magnificent empire similar to that of the original Land of Promise.

(See the next post, “What the Story of Hagoth Tells Us – Part III,” to see why these emigrants “were never heard from again.”)

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