If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome. Anne Bradstreet

And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them. Ether 12:27

Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season therof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart; Yea, for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul. And it pleaseth God that he hath given all these things unto man; for unto this end were they made to be used, with judgment, not to excess, neither by extortion. D&C 59:18-20

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Book of Mormon Geography: Capital Parts of the Land

Previously, the Lamanites have invaded ZARAHEMLA along its West and East coasts, with very limited and short-term success because of the series of fortified cities. In the 41st year of the reign of the judges, the Lamanites tried a new and unexpected tactic -- they invaded ZARAHEMLA by going directly for the land Zarahemla and the capital city, the “heart of their lands” (Hel 1:18). The Lamanites probably came into ZARAHEMLA through Minon, along the same route they followed when they invaded that land and then headed for Zarahemla in Alma 2.

After taking the city Zarahemla, the Lamanite leader Coriantumr marched his army “towards the city of Bountiful,” through “the center of the land” (24). Mormon mentions “center of the land” in four consecutive verses, verses 24 through 27, and then adds the descriptive “capital parts of the land” in verse 27. In verse 26, Mormon definitively distinguishes between the “center of the land” and the “cities round about in the borders,” which had previously borne the brunt of the Lamanite attacks.

Coriantumr, being a “descendant of Zarahemla” and “a dissenter from among the Nephites,” would know the road system in ZARAHEMLA and the best route from Zarahemla to Bountiful. He may have been one of the dissenters Mormon mentions in Alma 63:14. Coriantumr’s task was made much easier because of the “contention and so much difficulty in the government” caused by the murder of Pahoran and the rise of the Gadianton robbers (Hel 1:18).

Mormon says Coriantumr's march through the capital parts of ZARAHEMLA was so speedy that it gave the Nephites “no time to assemble themselves together save it were in small bodies” (Hel 1:24). Moronihah had not anticipated such a bold move and had his “strong armies” in the border lands (Hel 1:26). Mormon doesn’t name any of the lands or cities in this center part of the land, but he does say the Lamanites took “possession of many cities and of many strongholds” (Hel 1:27).

Those “many cities” and “many strongholds” lay between the city of Zarahemla and the land Bountiful, because Lehi headed off the advancing Lamanite army “before they came to the land Bountiful” (Hel 1:29). What can’t be determined is the route taken by Lehi as he marched with his army “round about to head them before they should come to the land Bountiful” (Hel 1:28) because we simply don’t know where Lehi was with his army, whether in one of the fortified cities along the west coast or along the east coast. Nor do we know where Moronihah was stationed with his army and how he positioned himself to thwart Coriantumr’s retreat back to Zarahemla.

The Joseph Smith model claims that the ancient Mayan cities, which Stephens described in his Incidents of Travel, were locations of the great Nephite cities. Quirigua and Palenque were particularly of interest. Neither of these two Maya ruins work as a site for one of the named cities in ZARAHEMLA, but Maya ruins cover much of the area of this march. These Nephite cities aren’t named, but their importance to the Nephite culture is no less important. The very fact that Mormon describes these cities as "the capital parts" of the land indicates their importance.

In another general description, Mormon tells us that lands separate Zarahemla and Bountiful, not just cities and strongholds, in his account of the Lamanite invasion of ZARAHEMLA in the 56th year of the Judges. Nephite dissenters stirred up the Lamanites against the Nephites, and the Lamanites spent a year preparing for war (Helaman 4:4). The Lamanites began the invasion in the 57th year, and in the 58th year "they succeeded in obtaining possession of the land of Zarahemla; yea, and also all the lands, even unto the land which was near the land Bountiful" (Helaman 4:5). The plural "lands" and the phrase "even unto" should leave no doubt that more than one land sat between Zarahemla and Bountiful.

In 3 Nephi 3:22-24, Mormon describes the gathering together of the Nephites in response to the threat of the Gadianton robbers. The place appointed for the gathering "was the land of Zarahemla, and the land which was between the land Zarahemla and the land Bountiful, yea, to the line which was between the land Bountiful and the land Desolation" (v. 23). Isolated, this description suggests only one land sat between Zarahemla and Bountiful.

However, collectively defining all the lands that sat between Zarahemla and Bountiful as a "land" is within a definition of land common during Joseph Smith's day: "Any portion of the solid, superficial part of the globe, whether a kingdom or country, or a particular region" (see Webster's 1828 Dictionary). "Land" as a particular region, not a single land, is in harmony with the rest of Mormon's description in 3 Nephi 24: "And there were a great many thousand people who did gather themselves together who were called Nephites, who did gather themselves together in this land. Now Lachoneus did cause that they should gather themselves together in the land southward, because of the great curse which was upon the land northward" (emphasis added) We see that Mormon again used the singular "land" to mean a region, and also points out that the gathering together included not only the Nephites living in the land southward (ZARAHEMLA) but also the Nephites living in the land northward.

This land or region between Zarahemla and Bountiful is obviously identical with the capital parts of the land Mormon described in earlier references.

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