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

Friday, May 23, 2008

Book of Mormon Geography: Moroni, Nephihah, and Aaron

Alma 50 describes Moroni’s four-point effort to protect ZARAHEMLA from Lamanite invasions: 1) he fortified the cities, 2) he drove the Lamanites out of the east wilderness and into the south wilderness, 3) he built and fortified cities in the former east wilderness, and 4) he placed armies and built fortifications along the south wilderness (6-11).

Mormon provides the general location of 2 of these new cities, which were capital cities of lands by the same names. The city Moroni was “by the east sea; and it was on the south by the line of the possessions of the Lamanites” (50:13). This places the land Moroni bordering the south wilderness. The city Nephihah was built “between the city of Moroni and the city of Aaron, joining the borders of Aaron and Moroni” (14).

Alma 51:26 suggests Nephihah is also along the east sea, which would place it directly north of Moroni: “And thus [Amalickiah] went on, taking possession of many cities, the city of Nephihah, and the city of Lehi, and the city of Morianton, and the city of Omner, and the city of Gid, and the city of Mulek, all of which were on the east borders by the seashore.”

However, including Nephihah in this catalog of captured cities probably was a slip of the pen—Mormon should have said "the city of Moroni," not "the city of Nephihah." In verses 22-24, Mormon describes Amalickiah’s defeat of Moroni and Nephihah being the city of refuge for those fleeing from Moroni and Lehi. Amalickiah “would not suffer the Lamanites to go against the city of Nephihah to battle, but kept them down by the seashore” (24-25). Amalickiah’s design is to capture and occupy the fortified Nephite cities along the east coast, making his way to the land northward. Using his forces at this time to occupy Nephihah, which is inland, would be counterproductive. It’s not until Alma 59 that the westcoast-front of the Lamanite invasion captures Nephihah after Helaman’s stripling warriors and other Nephite armies successfully drove them out of Manti. Thus, Alma 51:26 is not evidence that Nephihah is along the east sea.

Furthermore, Nephihah lies between Moroni and Aaron, and Aaron is never associated with the cities along the east sea. The only other time Aaron is mentioned is in Alma 8:13. Alma, failing to make any converts in Ammonihah, “departed thence and took his journey towards the city which was called Aaron.” Mormon provides no other description of Aaron’s location, except its border relationship to Nephihah.

Is the city of Aaron mentioned in Alma 8:13 in the land Aaron mentioned in Alma 50:14? We have no reason to conclude that it is not. Alma 8:13 does not require that the cities of Ammonihah and Aaron be neighboring lands. We frequently say that we are going from one place to another that may be very many miles away with very many other cities and states in between. In D&C 52:3, Joseph Smith and Sidney Ridgon, living in Kirtland, Ohio, were told to “take their journey as soon as their preparations can be made to leave their homes, and journey to the land of Missouri.” Of course, Ohio and Missouri are not neighboring states and Kirtland is separated from Jackson County by a thousand miles.

Finally, the 1828 Webster’s dictionary says the original meaning of journey, “the travel of a day,” was obsolete. The current meaning was “Travel by land to any distance and for any time, indefinitely; as a journey from London to Paris, or to Rome; a journey to visit a brother; a week's journey; we made two journeys to Philadelphia” and could “include a passing by water.”

Assuming the city of Aaron which Alma intended to visit is the same city as the one in the land of Aaron is very consistent with the common meaning of the word journey at the time Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon.

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