2. How Does Your Concept of Book of Mormon Lands Differ from Maps Drawn by Others?
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Copyright © 2015 by Jerry L. Ainsworth
Two Book of Mormon geographical markers are either ignored or misinterpreted by nearly all current cartographers:
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; and thus the land of Nephi and the land of Zarahemla were nearly surrounded by water, there being a small neck of land between the land northward and the land southward. (Alma 22:32; emphasis added)
And they built a great city [San Lorenzo, in my opinion] by the narrow neck of land, by the place where the sea divides the land. (Ether 10:20; emphasis added)
A Place “Nearly Surrounded by Water”
Alma 22:32 says that if it were not for the narrow neck of land, the lands of Zarahemla and Nephi would have been completely surrounded by water. That means there was water on the east, south, and west sides of these lands.
And then to the north, there was a narrow neck of land connecting to a mainland, which prevented the lands of Zarahemla and Nephi from being completely surrounded by water.
I suspect that virtually all Book of Mormon mapmakers accept that the Atlantic Ocean (east sea) and the Pacific Ocean, (west sea) are part of the waters that Alma is referring to. But that leaves a body of water that must be south of the land of Nephi (Lamanite territory); otherwise, these lands would not be completely surrounded by water (except at the narrow neck).
To currently find a body of water south of these lands, Book of Mormon analysts must go to the tip end of South America, Tierra del Fuego. Indeed, in earlier days of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the content of Alma 22:32 led analysts to believe that the Book of Mormon took place throughout all of South, Central, and North America.
On page 69 of my book, The Lives and Travels of Mormon and Moroni, I suggest how Book of Mormon lands would have looked during the time Alma wrote this description. I believe that the two oceans actually converged, indeed surrounded the southern part of the land of Nephi. Today, we would say that these waters (the two oceans) “join one to the other,” forming a water boundary between the countries of Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Further geological research is needed to test my idea, but at least it offers an explanation of Alma 22:32.
Doug: Please insert here the map from page 2 of the Word file for the article.
The authors of the maps I have been studying do not address this scripture. They propose a Book of Mormon map with no accommodation for this description of Alma. I think this is a major mistake, one that calls into question other conclusions reflected in these maps.
A Place Where “The Sea Divides the Land”
The second scripture, Ether 10:20, states that very close to the narrow neck of land, there was an area where the “sea divides the land.” Two of the maps that I have in my possession simply ignore this scripture, offering no place where the sea divides the land close to the narrow neck. Other maps offer the explanation that the Gulf of Mexico, with the Yucatan on the east side and the mainland of Mexico on the west, is “the place where the sea divides the land.”
Mexico is essentially shaped like a fishhook, with the Gulf of Mexico sitting in the bowl of the hook. Yet I doubt that anyone would say that a fishhook is divided. If we take a small, thin piece of metal and bend it into the shape of a fishhook (as in the case of the shape of Mexico), no one would say we have “divided” the piece of metal. Nor do I think a persuasive case can be made for the Gulf of Mexico being what Ether is describing in Ether 10:20, “the place where the sea divides the land.”
When I read the proposed explanation that the Gulf of Mexico is “the sea that divides the land,” I took out my Webster’s dictionary, which I often do when reading the Book of Mormon. These are the definitions I found for the word divide:
- To separate into parts
- To sector into units
- To disunite
- To cut off
- To separate from
- To become separated into parts
- To separate into pieces
I read Webster to say that if we divide something, we end up with at least two separate pieces. Indeed, that is what the term division means. It does not mean to indent, to gap, or to bend. The dictionary makes it clear that the term means to completely divide into two (or more) separate pieces. Once again, the authors of these maps do not have a place—close to the narrow neck of land—that is divided from the mainland.
I once again propose an explanation of this scripture, as shown on page 66 of The Lives and Travels of Mormon and Moroni. My view may be incorrect, but it does offer an explanation for this scripture, one where the sea actually separates two sections of land.
As my research progressed, I could see that I did not make the separated land (the island) large enough. When I do the second edition of my book, I will make a modest change in the size of the island, making it larger to accommodate some of the ancient ruin sites that are currently excluded with the proposal as it exists. Having said that, I still do believe that the sea did divide the land in this area of Mexico, just as Ether 10:20 indicates.
In my opinion, these two scriptures are either ignored or misinterpreted in the recent Book of Mormon maps I have in my possession.
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