Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Face of the Land

This article will investigate meanings behind the Book of Mormon terms "face of the land" and "face of the earth" that occur over 125 times in the text. Virtually everyone who closely reads the Nephite record realizes it is highly consistent. Respecting that consistency, we will determine these phrases' semantic range of meaning.

First, the variants. In the text we find:
  • the face of the land
  • the whole face of the land
  • all the face of the land
  • the face of the earth
  • the face of this land
  • the face thereof
  • the face of all the land
  • the face of the waters
  • much of the face of the land
  • the whole face of the land northward
  • the face of the whole land
  • all the face of this land
  • the whole face of this land
  • the face of the land of promise
  • the face of the whole earth
  • all the face of the earth
  • the face of this earth
  • the face of all the earth
Three senses permeate the usage of these phrases in various contexts. 1) We are dealing with the natural earth rather than man-made entities demarcated by political boundaries, 2) large extensions of territory up to continental or even planetary scale and the implication of wholeness, completeness, and totality, and 3) the land of the living on the surface of the planet rather than the heavens above or the underworld of the dead beneath.
NASA Composite Image of the Western Hemisphere
Examples of the natural earth rather than polities:
  • darkness for the space of three days over the face of the land 3 Nephi 8:3.
  • the whole face of the land was changed 3 Nephi 8:12.
  • no rain upon the face of the earth Ether 9:30.
Examples of large extensions of territory up to continental or even planetary scale:
  • And the people had spread again over all the face of the land Ether 9:26.
  • carnage spread throughout all the face of the land, both on the part of the Nephites and also on the part of the Lamanites Mormon 2:8.
  • the Jews who were scattered upon all the face of the earth 1 Nephi 13:39.
Examples of the land of the living as opposed to other realms:
  • the power of the evil one was wrought upon all the face of the land Mormon 1:19.numb
  • the Lord did pour out his Spirit on all the face of the land Alma 16:16.
  • the Son of God cometh upon the face of the earth Alma 7:9.
With these meanings in mind, we are prepared to interpret passages in the text containing variants of the phrases "face of the land" and "face of the earth." This will allow us to publish Prophecy Fulfilled 016.