11. CARDINAL DIRECTIONS
Geographers are not respecting the cardinal directions. Part of that problem is due to their lack of respect for how the record was written. The record was previously translated into English before Joseph dictated it to his scribes. The translator(s) did everything they could to make the writing congruent with our understanding. For example, “Bible” means Bible, and “North” meant North.
Mizrach is translated “east” “eastward” and “sunrise” (Deuteronomy 3:27).
Ma`arab is translated “west” “westward” and “sunset” (Isaiah 45:6).
As followers of the Law of Moses, they followed the rising and setting of the sun for what was east and west. That did not change in the new world.
Some have mistaken verses like “they began to cover the face of the whole earth” (Helaman 3:8, 11:20; Mormon 1:7) to mean the Nephite population was exceedingly large, and that their land was exceedingly large. In reality, it only means their land was small.
After the Nephites joined with the Mulekites in Zarahemla (The largest city ever.) they set up churches. It says that after their largest conversion ever, there were only seven churches in all of the Land of Zarahemla (Mosiah 25:23), and their total population was half that of the Lamanites. (Mosiah 25:3) When King Benjamin gave his famous speech, the announcement went out “to all the people” only one day before his speech. That meant there was a. time to spread the word everywhere within one-half a day’s time, and then people to get there for another one-half day time.
1 And now there was no more contention in all the land of Zarahemla, among all the people who belonged to king Benjamin, so that king Benjamin had continual peace all the remainder of his days.
10 Therefore, he had Mosiah brought before him; and these are the words which he spake unto him, saying: My son, I would that ye should make a proclamation throughout all this land among all this people, or the people of Zarahemla, and the people of Mosiah who dwell in the land, that thereby they may be gathered together for on the morrow I shall proclaim unto this my people out of mine own mouth that thou art a king and a ruler over this people, whom the Lord our God hath given us.
18 And now, it came to pass that Mosiah went and did as his father had commanded him, and proclaimed unto all the people who were in the land of Zarahemla that thereby they might gather themselves together, to go up to the temple to hear the words which his father should speak unto them. (Mosiah 1)
1 And it came to pass that after Mosiah had done as his father had commanded him, and had made a proclamation throughout all the land, that the people gathered themselves together throughout all the land, that they might go up to the temple to hear the words which king Benjamin should speak unto them.
2 And there were a great number, even so many that they did not number them; for they had multiplied exceedingly and waxed great in the land.
3 And they also took of the firstlings of their flocks, that they might offer sacrifice and burnt offerings according to the law of Moses; (Mosiah 2)
Not only did families of all ages presumably travel for this momentous event, but they brought their animals with them to be offered in the temple—in less than a day’s time.
It is irresponsible for geographers to base their models on isolated instances of travel times. In every case where distances are stated, they are stated in time not miles.
Without knowing the following factors:
- The terrain (hills or ground cover)
- Time of the year (number of daylight hours)
- The traveling party (total number, number of sick, aged, maimed, infants and small children)
- Animals (their number, flocks, herds)
- Belongings (clothes, utensils, tools)
- Supplies (food, water, seeds)
- How many times they had to backtrack
Any guess would be unreliable.
Variables not considered:
- No travel on the Sabbath – an eight day journey was actually seven; a 21 day 18.
- Food. In large groups (450), a single meal would have required a considerable amount of time to find, kill and prepare.
- Setting up and taking down of tents
- Scouts. It took time for scouts to look ahead, then return and report – all day.
- Waterways were likely followed as sources of water, the ground cover along thick in parts
- Construction of creek or river crossings
- How often did they readjust their course and have to backtrack? If they went x days the wrong direction, it would require an additional x days to correct with a total loss of time 2 times x.
Here’s an example of a prepared group:
Early in October, the troops left Fort Pitt, and began their westward march into a wilderness which no army had ever before sought to penetrate. Encumbered with their camp equipage, with droves of cattle and sheep for subsistence, and a long train of pack horses laden with provision, their progress was tedious and difficult, and seven or eight miles were the ordinary measure of a day’s march. The woodsmen of Virginia, veteran hunters and Indian-fighters, were thrown far out in front, and on either flank, scouring the forest to detect any sign of a lurking ambuscade. The pioneers toiled in the van, hewing their way through woods and thickets, while the army dragged its weary length behind them through the forest, like a serpent creeping through tall grass (By Francis Parkman Jr., History of the conspiracy of Pontiac, and the War of the North American Tribes Against the English Colonies, 1851 p. 485) .
To visualize the lay of the land, we must see it as the writer saw it – from eye level. There are many clues:
- They believed they were on an isle of the sea (2 Nephi 10:20; 29:7)
- The Land Northward was completely surrounded by water (Helaman 3:8)
- The Land Southward was nearly surrounded by water (Alma 22:32)
- The width of the land, from the East Sea to the West Sea was 1.5 days wide (Alma 22:32)
- The length of the land (Alma 22:29) from Bountiful on the north (Alma 27:22) to Manti on the south (Alma 16:7; 22:27) was a day (Alma 43:18-24)
- The width from Zarahemla to the East Sea less than a day (Alma 58:14, 24-25)
- The length of the Jaredite Land Northward was less than a day (Ether 15:8-11)
The reason it was easy to get lost or take forever to find Zarahemla was due to the fact it was surrounded by TEN PARALLEL hills and valleys (MAP), NOT because it was a far distance. Unless they took the correct hill/valley course they would miss it. They could try TEN TIMES (or zig-zag through half of them) before finding the correct hill and valley.
The only distance we are told that was not random, was the route east to west “on the line Bountiful.” It was a day and a half’s journey for a single person to cross this flat plain (Alma 22:32), which distance covered the combined width of the lands Nephi and Zarahemla, not the Narrow Neck only (details are on the Narrow Passage page).
Examples of distances and travel times:
- Andrew Jackson traveled 500 miles with 2000 soldiers – 3 months (Winter)
- Sullivan Expedition of 4000 soldiers averaged 3 – 22 miles a day (Summer)
Some modelers (particularly those for Mesoamerica) seek to prove the geography of the Book of Mormon by cultural parallels. They overlook a most important dynamic – Nephi were exterminated and defeating parties rarely propagate the traditions/culture of their foes. The Lamanites swore with an oath they would exterminate all traces of the Nephites AND, they were educated on “why” the Nephites were keeping records in the first place – which was to convert their people in some future generation:
14 They swore in their wrath that, if it were possible, they would destroy our records and us, and also all the traditions of our fathers. (Enos 1)
5 And thousands were brought to the knowledge of the Lord, yea, thousands were brought to believe in the traditions of the Nephites; and they [Lamanites] were taught the records and prophecies which were handed down even to the present time. (Alma 23)
The requirements put forth by proponents of the Mesoamerican model[s] of a written language or cultural parallels are being disingenuous and unprofessional. No one would expect to find such evidences after 1600 years, let alone after a war of extermination.
As we document on our West Sea page, a great many Book of Mormon cities were on or near seashores, whether they were on the north, east, or west. Though they crossed the “great deep” to come to the Promised Land, the “great deep” does not border Book of Mormon lands. Unless geographers can show fresh water sources that parallel ALL three seashores, their models won’t work. This is another real life dynamic that has been purposely ignored.