Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Things Near and Far

I was in north central Tennessee years ago looking for a gravel pit operated by one of my customers. Slightly disoriented, I stopped by a farmhouse where an older couple sat on the front porch. I asked them to please direct me to the mining operation. The fellow pointed down the road and said it was in that direction "a fur piece." His wife protested. "No," she insisted, "it ain't a fur piece, it's a short piece." When I finally found the quarry, it was about five miles down the road from the friendly farmhouse. To this day, I am unsure whether five road miles is generally considered "a fur piece" or "a short piece" in the vernacular of the Tennessee hills.

The Book of Mormon uses the terms "near" and "far" to describe comparative spatial relationships. This article will attempt to quantify what the Nephites meant when they used these terms in a geographic context.

1. After Lehi left Jerusalem, he and his family traveled near the shore of the Red Sea 1 Nephi 2:5. The Old World portion of the Lehite's journey has been studied many times by capable researchers (Aston, Brown, England, Hilton, Phillips, Potter, Wellington). Virtually all agree that the first leg of the eight year odyssey took the family from Jerusalem down the Great Rift Valley to the Gulf of Aqaba. That route is shown in white on the map below.
Lehite's Journey in White from Jerusalem to the Red Sea
Zooming in on the shores of the Gulf of Aqaba, we find a coastal plain seaward and a mountain range inland. Placing 4 transects at various points along the coastal plain, we measure the distance from sea level to 100 meters elevation. The results are 1.75, 2.5, 2.4 and .35 kilometers respectively. It is obvious why Nephi wrote the family traveled "near" the shoreline and when the mountains encroached they traveled "nearer" the shore 1 Nephi 2:5.
4 Transects Measuring the Width of the Gulf of Aqaba
Coastal Plain as it Rises to 100 Meters Elevation
In this case, near the shore of the Red Sea probably meant within 5 kilometers of the water.

2. After three days travel, Lehi and family camped in the valley of Lemuel near the mouth of the river Laman 1 Nephi 2:8. George Potter and colleagues have shown convincingly that the river Laman flowing through the Valley of Lemuel was probably a small perennial stream originating from a spring in Wadi Tayyib al Ism about 23 air kilometers north west of Al Bad, Saudi Arabia. See George Potter, "A New Candidate in Arabia for the Valley of Lemuel" in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Volume 8, Issue 1, Provo: Maxwell Institute, 1999. Their candidate for the river Laman is shown in yellow on the map below. The stream flow disappears into a gravel wash about 600 meters from the Gulf of Aqaba shoreline, but geological evidence indicates ca. 600 B.C. it may have reached the sea.
Proposed River Laman Flowing into the Red Sea
on the Western Coast of Saudi Arabia
Zooming in on the stream area, we see steep cliffs on either side of the likely narrow valley of Lemuel.
Closeup of the Proposed River Laman in Yellow
If Lehi's camp was at the place we have indicated on the map above, it was .75 air kilometers from the Red Sea shoreline. In this case, near the mouth of the River Laman probably meant within 3 kilometers of the sea.

3. Nephi found Laban in a drunken stupor lying on the ground near his (Laban's) house in Jerusalem 1 Nephi 4:7. We know from archaeological excavations that Jerusalem ca. 600 B.C. enclosed about 50 hectares within its city walls. See Margreet Steiner, Excavations in Jerusalem by K. M. Kenyon 1961 - 1967, Vol. III: The Settlement in the Bronze and Iron Ages (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2001). This means Laban was at most a few hundred meters from his house.

4. In Lehi's vision of the Tree of Life, he beheld a river of water flowing near the tree 1 Nephi 8:13. This verse makes no sense if the implied distance from the river to the tree exceeded a few hundred meters.

5. As the houses of Lehi and Ishmael journeyed down the western coast of what is today Saudi Arabia, they followed the most fertile parts of the land in the borders near the Red Sea 1 Nephi 16:14. When the Book of Mormon text uses the term "borders" in conjunction with a body of water, it means the waterline as in Alma 51:32. So, the most fertile parts of the land were on the coast. We would expect to see concentrations of people living along the coast south southeast of the place the Nephites called Shazer which itself was four day's travel south southeast of the valley of Lemuel. The valley of Lemuel was three day's travel south of the area around the modern city of Aqaba at the northern tip of the Red Sea. Using George Potter's Valley of Lemuel location to calibrate distance, we estimate 1 day's travel = approximately 36 air kilometers, a little over twice the distance we expect in heavily-watered southern Mesoamerica. See the article "Land Southward Travel Times." This map shows our projected location of Shazer relative to Jerusalem, the northern tip of the Gulf of Aqaba, and the likely valley of Lemuel.
Probable Shazer in Context
A striking feature of this text is Nephi's degree of directional precision. He said from the valley of Lemuel they traveled in "nearly a south-southeast direction" 1 Nephi 16:13 to Shazer. We set some cardinal direction   lines to test the prophet's accuracy.
Testing the Directionality of Shazer From the Valley of Lemuel
Nephi was spot on as they say in Britain. Do we have any reason to mistrust the Book of Mormon when it says north, south, east or west? No. Google Earth confirms the accuracy of the Nephite text 100% of the time. See the article "Plainness" for perspective.

While camped at Shazer, the party sent out hunters who brought back wild game 1 Nephi 16:14, probably ibex. The Nubian Ibex, capra nubiana, is a desert goat that grows to 50 kilograms (110 pounds). Our proposed location for Shazer is only 10 kilometers from Duba, a city of 22,000 known as "the pearl of the Red Sea" where the Saudi royal family maintains a palace. Scholars of the Quran consider Duba the southern boundary of the ancient land of Midian noted for the relationship between Moses and his father-in-law, Jethro. The image below is from NASA's Earth City Lights series.
Proposed Shazer 10 Kilometers North of Duba, Saudi Arabia
This image shows the location of ibex habitat near Duba.
Nubian Ibex Habitat near Duba, Saudi Arabia
From their camp at Shazer, Nephi and his brothers would have traveled about 20 kilometers inland from the coast to reach herds of ibex. Continuing on their journey south southeast from Shazer, they stayed near the Red Sea and followed the directions on the Liahona to find the most fertile parts of the wilderness. They probably passed through some of the sites indicated on the map below. These are modern population centers, most of which were also ancient oases along the coastal caravan route. The base map is NASA's land cover classification system where urban areas show red.
Modern Cities and Ancient Oases Along Lehi's Coastal Route
Showing the same area with a shaded relief base map, the Red Sea coastal plain is obvious.
Lehi's Coastal Route Showing Red Sea Coastal Plain
In the case of 1 Nephi 16:14, near the Red Sea probably meant within 5 kilometers of the coast. Almost all population centers along this coastal plain are right on the water.

6. Ammon and his brethren met King Limhi and his guards near the walls of the city of Nephi Mosiah 7:10. Our best candidate for the city of Nephi is John L. Sorenson's suggestion - Kaminaljuyu currently surrounded by metropolitan Guatemala City. I advise everyone to purchase a copy of Sorenson's Mormon's Codex when it becomes available through Deseret Book and the Maxwell Institute in September, 2013. John's magnum opus contains exciting new details about the Nephi - Kaminaljuyu correlation. In this case, the chance encounter between Ammon and King Limhi was probably less than 1 kilometer from the city walls and certainly no more than 2 - 3 kilometers.

7. Zeniff and his followers, up from the land of Zarahemla, camped on a battlefield near the local land of Nephi Mosiah 9:4. This map represents our best current thinking about the local land of Nephi and environs.
Proposed Local Land of Nephi and Lands Round About
Much more work remains to be done to understand Lamanite lands and cities in detail, but some relationships are clear. First, Kaminaljuyu (likely city of Nephi) was right on the continental divide, the reason King Noah from his tower could overlook the lands of Shilom and Shemlon Mosiah 11:12. Second, the hill north of Shilom was enroute for travel either direction between the city of Nephi and the land of Zarahemla Mosiah 7:5, Mosiah 11:13. Third, people who wanted to get out of the city of Nephi undetected did not go through the land of Shilom - they skirted around Shilom probably going through the land of Mormon Mosiah 22:8, Mosiah 22:11. Fourth, the land of Mormon had some wilderness characteristics Mosiah 18:4. Fifth, Mormon was a place where hundreds of people could hide from suspicious authorities in the city of Nephi Mosiah 18:5, Mosiah 18:31.

Soon after leaving the land of Nephi and going with Mosiahdown to the land of Zarahemla Omni 1:12-13 via the hill north of Shilom Mosiah 11:13 Zeniff returned up to the local land of Nephi as part of a military expedition Mosiah 9:1. We have elsewhere explained the likely reason (climate) why large numbers of Nephites, once in the relative safety of the local land of Zarahemla, quickly returned to an uncertain future in their previous homeland in the land of Nephi. See the article "Asking the Right Questions" Question #12. See also the articles "Water Fight on the River - Round Twelve" and "The Usumacinta/Sidon Correlation" Point 12. Key details from the record of this military expedition and Zeniff's subsequent mass emigration include:
  • A large number of Nephites returned from Zarahemla up to Nephi Omni 1:27
  • Once near the local land of Nephi, they sent out spies to determine Lamanite fighting strength. Zeniff was one of those spies. Mosiah 9:1.
  • Seeing admirable qualities among the Lamanites, Zeniff tried to convince his comrades and commander to make peace rather than war Mosiah 9:2.
  • The Nephite military commander ordered Zeniff's execution.
  • This order for a military death penalty sparked armed rebellion in the ranks.
  • Most of the men in the expedition, all except 50, were killed Omni 1:28, Mosiah 9:2. Zeniff was one of the survivors.
  • This Nephite on Nephite battle happened in the wilderness Omni 1:28, Mosiah 9:2.
  • Zeniff and the other 49 men returned to Zarahemla.
  • Zeniff immediately recruited a "considerable number" and led them back up to the land of Nephi Omni 1:29, Mosiah 9:3. For perspective on why 10,000 is probably a reasonable estimate of the number of people in Zeniff's colony, see the discussion of Mosiah 19:2 in the article "Narrow and Small Things."  
  • After many days wandering in the wilderness, this second group of emigres reached the land of Nephi and camped on the same battlefield where the military expedition had self-destructed only a short time before. This battlefield was near the local land of Nephi Mosiah 9:4.
An important fact emerges from this analysis - a wilderness, not yet integrated into the security apparatus of the Lamanite polity ca. 200 B.C., was near the local land of Nephi. This wilderness harbored a Nephite fighting force while Zeniff and others gathered military intelligence. This wilderness later sheltered a large Nephite emigrant population while Zeniff and four of his associates visited king Laman in his capital city of Nephi Mosiah 9:5. The logical candidate for this wilderness is the land of Mormon which approximately 50 years later shielded Almaand his converts from wicked King Noah. In our correlation mapped above, the land of Mormon immediately adjoined the land of Shilom and the local land of Nephi on the west. In this case near the local land of Nephi probably meant immediately adjacent - sharing a common border. 

8. King Noah built a very high tower in the city of Nephi near the temple Mosiah 11:12, Mosiah 19:5. Given the estimated size of the site of Kaminlajuyu ca. 160 B.C., the distance from the temple to the tower was probably less than 1 kilometer and certainly no more than 1 - 2 kilometers.

9. In the waters of Mornon a thicket of small trees grew near the water Mosiah 18:5Mosiah 18:30 says a forest grew near the waters of Mormon. Where might we find the storied waters of Mormon? Tour operators for decades have been taking LDS travelers on boat rides across magnificent Lake Atitlan, often called "the most beautiful lake in the world." Located in the Department of Solola in western Guatemala, Lake Atitlan is a candidate for the waters of Mormon in many Book of Mormon New World geographic correlations. If we correlated the city of Nephi with Solola or even Patzicia, Lake Atitlan would make some sense. If the city of Nephi was ancient Kaminaljuyu in metro Guatemala City (the correlation we support), then Lake Atitlan is much too far away. Mosiah 18:23-25 makes it clear that Almafounded a typical church  with Sabbath day observance and people working at their day jobs six days a week. Mosiah 18:30-31 makes the land of Mormon the blessed location for all this religious activity. So, Nephites were leaving their homes and labors in the local land of Nephi and the land of Shilom and making day trips to the land of Mormon.

Lake Amatitlan, only 18 air kilometers from Kaminaljuyu, is a possibility for the waters of Mormon, but there is intriguing textual evidence that the waters may have been a river rather than a lake. Here is the line of reasoning:
  • Almabaptized in the local land of Zarahemla following the pattern he had pioneered in Mormon Mosiah 25:18. Where did he baptize in Zarahemla? The only water mentioned in the local land of Zarahemla is the river Sidon. The Sidon formed the eastern boundary of the local land of Zarahemla Alma 2:15, Alma 6:7.
  • Almain his role as high priest consciously emulated his illustrious father and established his own bona fides by referencing his relationship with Alma1 and recounting his father's history Alma 5:3.
  • Almabaptized specifically in the waters of Sidon Alma 4:4. In this verse, Mormon purposely links Almawith Alma1.
  • The term "waters of Mormon" appears 6 times in the text e.g. Mosiah 18:8. The term "waters of Sidon" appears 7 times e.g. Alma 2:34. Clearly, the phrase "waters of" can refer to a river.    
If the waters of Mormon were a river and if the land of Mormon was west of Kaminaljuyu as we have proposed, then this is about what a thicket of small trees would have looked like from the air.
Thicket of Trees at the Confluence of the Sacsi with the Pixcaya
Northwest of Guatemala City 
According to NASA's forest canopy imagery, the trees above average less than 10 meters in height. Those are small trees by Guatemalan standards. Trees grow along stream beds at the water's edge. The thicket and forest of trees near the waters of Mormon probably grew right to the water line.

10. The people of Ammon with their flocks and herds waited just south of the line that separated the land of Zarahemla on the north from the land of Nephi on the south. They camped near the borders of the land of Zarahemla Alma 27:14. We have previously determined that the narrow strip of wilderness separating the greater lands of Zarahemla and Nephi probably averaged about 3.3 kilometers in width. See point #27 in the article "The Narrow Strip of Wilderness." So, in this case, near the borders of Zarahemla probably meant no more than 5 kilometers distant.

11. Captain Moroni hid his army in a valley west of river Sidon, near the river bank Alma 43:27. The context of the battle that followed indicates this valley could not have been more than 1-2 kilometers from the river, probably less. Views of our candidate for the valley west of Sidon where Moroniconcealed his troops are in the article "Manti."

12. Amalickiah camped with his army in a valley near mount Antipas Alma 47:9. Emissaries shuttled back and forth between Amalickiah and Lehonti Alma 47:12. The entire army of Lehonti came down from the mountain and surrounded the men in the valley in the middle of the night Alma 47:14. The valley was clearly right at the foot of the mountain.

13. Captain Moroni's fortifications included towers from which defenders could hurl stones at attackers who approached near the walls of a city Alma 50:5. The implied attackers could not have been further than 10 - 20 meters from the walls of a given city.

14. Teancum led a small force on a march near the seashore to lure Lamanites out of the fortified city of Mulek Alma 52:22. We correlate Mulek with the site of Cerros, Corozal District, Belize. Thisis  map shows our model of the major troop movements involved in the battle of Mulek. Teancum's march near the sea is in magenta. Jacob's pursuit is in blue. Lehi's army coming south from the city of Bountiful is in red. Moroni's army coming north from the wilderness west of Mulek is in white.
Model of the Battle of Mulek ca. 64 B.C.
If Cerros really was Mulek, this was an impressive battle plan making brilliant use of the local terrain and demonstrating yet again Captain Moroni's military genius. See the article "Captain Moroni in Space and Time." In this case, near the seashore probably meant Teancum marched right along the beach to ensure the pursuing Lamanites were as fatigued as possible before they engaged the primary elements of the Nephite army.

15. Teancum's decoy march led the Lamanites near the city Bountiful Alma 52:27. In our correlation, the city Bountiful was one of a cluster of sites now overspread by the large city of Chetumal, Quintana Roo. Teancum probably led the Lamanites under Jacob to the Rio Azul (Rio Hondo), our candidate for the boundary between the greater land of Zarahemla and the land Bountiful and the current border between Belize on the south and Mexico on the north. At the northernmost extent of their march, when they suspected a trap and turned around to return to Mulek as quickly as possible, the Lamanites would have been 2 - 4 kilometers from our proposed city Bountiful.

16. Helaman led his army of 2,000 stripling warriors on a march near the city Antiparah Alma 56:31, Alma 56:33. The purpose of this march was to lure the Lamanites out of their fortified stronghold and lead them on a northward chase. To accomplish his purpose, Helaman would have had to pass within at least 5 kilometers of Antiparah, probably closer.

17. Manti had a wilderness side near the city proper Alma 58:13, Alma 58:14. We have a high degree of confidence in our correlation of the city Manti with the site of Chama, Alta Verapaz. See the article "Plainness." Uplands north of Chama are heavily forested. Looking at a base map of NASA's forest canopy height imagery, we see a definite line immediately north of the site. Tracing that line in green gives us a visual representation of the wilderness side of our proposed city of Manti.
Tall Forest Canopy Near Proposed City Manti
The Chixoy River (Sidon) is shown in red with tributaries. The river shown in yellow is the Cahabon that flows past Coban, Alta Verapaz. In this case, the tall tree line is a mere 500 meters from the archaeological site of Chama and the heavily forested uplands begin 2 kilometers away.

18. When the Lamanites who had been lured out of Manti returned near the city they saw the men of Helaman inside the fortifications Alma 58:29. The Lamanites must have been within 1 or 2 kilometers of the city to see men inside the defensive walls.

19. The plains of Nephihah were near the city of Nephihah Alma 62:18. We correlate the city of Nephihah with the site of La Reforma near the town of El Prado in the Department of Peten, Guatemala. This map shows the region around our Nephihah with a terrain plane set to 190 meters absolute altitude. Elevations lower than 190 meters are in white. Higher ground shows through in natural colors. Notice that La Reforma is in a basin, rimmed by uplands on all sides.
Region Around Proposed Nephihah Surrounded by Higher Ground
Zooming in, we set the terrain plane at 150 meters absolute altitude and notice a 50 square kilometer area that is very level surrounded on all four sides by more hilly, broken country. We highlight this area with a green polygon representing our candidate for the plains of Nephihah.
Proposed Plains of Nephihah
The distance from our candidate city of Nephihah (La Reforma) to the edge of the flat lands is 2.88 kilometers.
Distance from Flat Lands to the Site of La Reforma
In this case, the city of Nephihah being near the Plains of Nephihah probably meant a distance of less than 5 kilometers from city center to level ground.

20. A Nephite land, unnamed at ca. 35 B.C., was part of the greater land of Zarahemla, and near the land Bountiful Helaman 4:5. Some Nephite lands were clearly contiguous with other lands, while some were isolates. The local land of Zarahemla, for instance, shared a common border (the river Sidon) with the land of Gideon Alma 6:7. The lands of Melek and Manti, on the other hand, were probably stand alone outposts since no near neighboring lands are ever mentioned in the text. The unnamed land near the land Bountiful probably shared a common border with west coast Bountiful Helaman 4:7. (The land Bountiful had a west coast Alma 63:5, central [north of Zarahemla] Alma 22:29 and east coast component Alma 27:22.) This common border is implied in Helaman 4:6 when the Nephites fled into the land Bountiful, leaving all of the greater land of Zarehamla under Lamanite control Helaman 4:8. The land near the land Bountiful probably shared a common border with the land Bountiful like the land of Lehi did with the land of Morianton Alma 50:26.

21. Nephihad a tower in his garden near the garden gate which fronted one of the major roads in the city of Zarahemla Helaman 7:10. This tower was probably no more than 30 or 40 meters from the garden gate because passersby walking along the road could understand what Nephiwas saying in his prayers atop his tower Helaman 7:11.

22. The city of Jashon was near the land where Ammaron had deposited the Nephite record archive Mormon 2:17. We know from Mormon 1:3 that Ammaron hid the Nephite records in the hill Shim in the land Antum. We also know from Mormon 2:16 that the city Jashon was in the land Jashon. So, the land Jashon was near the land Antum. The land Jashon probably shared a common border with the land Antum like the land of Moroni did with the land of Nephihah Alma 50:14.

23. The city Teancum, by the seashore, was near the city Desolation Mormon 4:3. We correlate the city Desolation with the site of Paredon on the eastern shore of Mar Muerto in Chiapas. We do not at this time have a viable candidate for the city Teancum. It was probably northwest of the city Desolation, also along the Mar Muerto coast. The Nephites recognized many different political entities. See the article "Nephite Political Geography." The two most prominent Nephite polities were cities and lands. In the typical pattern, a city with its surrounding agricultural or wilderness area was in a land with the same name Mosiah 23:25. Most Nephite lands were federated city states. In this blog, for example, the term "local land of Zarahemla" refers to the city Zarahemla and the surrounding cities, towns, villages, agricultural areas, natural features such as mountains and wilderness areas, etc. that were closely associated with the city of Zarahemla for trade, civil functions and religious ritual. See the article "Zarahemla" for other meanings the term "land of Zarahemla" carried in Nephite times. The city state, sometimes compared with similar patterns in ancient Greece and renaissance Italy, was also the dominant polity in Maya society. See Robert J. Sharer and Loa P. Traxler, The Ancient Maya, 6th Edition, Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2006.

Like the term "Zarahemla," the topynym "Desolation" has multiple meanings in the text. There was clearly a city Desolation on the west seacoast just north of the east west Bountiful/Desolation line, in the land Desolation Mormon 4:2. See the article "The Narrow Pass and Narrow Passage." In that article, we coined the term "greater city of Desolation" to describe the area around our proposed city of Desolation (Paredon). The city Desolation was the Nephite capital from ca. A.D. 360 to A.D. 363 and therefore must have included some ambient agricultural territory. We couldn't simply call the area around the city the "land Desolation" because the land Desolation was a very large territory that extended northward to the land of Ramah - Cumorah Alma 22:30. In fact, there is even one phrase in the text that applies the term "Desolation" to the entire land northward Alma 22:31. Teancum was probably similar to Desolation - a coastal city with environs in the extreme south eastern corner of the large land Desolation. This map shows our current view of the cities Desolation and Teancum in context.
Proposed Greater Cities of Teancum & Desolation
In this correlation, the greater cities of Teancum and Desolation shared a common border (the Tiltepec River) and the cities proper were about 4.5 kilometers distant. This association remains highly speculative because unlike Desolation, an archaeological site suitable for Teancum is not yet known to science (and could even be underwater if the shoreline of Mar Muerto has changed significantly in the last two millenia.
So, in this case, the city Teancum near the city Desolation probably meant within 5 kilometers of each other.

24. The Jaredite land of Moron was near the land the Nephites called Desolation Ether7:6. We know from the text that many Nephite lands bounded a river. For example, the local land of Zarahemla Alma 2:15 and the lands of Gideon, Minon, Melek and Manti all bordered the Sidon. See the articles "Gideon," "Minon," "Melek," and "Manti." In our correlation, the lands of Ammonihah and Sidom bordered the San Pedro and the lands of Noah and Nephihah bordered the Pasion. See the articles "Ammonihah" and "Sidom" and the various maps in the article "Book of Mormon Map." So, it is likely that the Nephite land Desolation bounded a river as well. (The text describes only two lands whose border was clearly not a river - the lands of Lehi and Morianton on the east coast. Cross claims for the same territory Alma 50:26 imply a political construct rather than a natural feature boundary.) If the Jaredite land Moron also bordered a river, it is likely that the lands Moron and Desolation shared the same river as a common boundary. We like John L. Sorenson's correlation of the land Moron with the highland valley of Oaxaca where the famous site of Monte Alban is located. This map shows a possible correlation for the lands of Moron and Desolation sharing the Tehuantepec River as a common border.
Possible Lands of Moron (Jaredite) and Desolation (Nephite)
We have not yet analyzed the textual references to Moron and Desolation in depth, so this correlation is tentative. Furthermore, it is possible that the Jaredite land of Moron was only "near" the Nephite land Desolation in one or two places rather than sharing a common border along 200+ kilometers as the map above shows. In those places where the two lands were near each other, is it likely they were contiguous as we have seen with land pairs.

25. The valley of Shurr was near the hill Comnor Ether 14:28. This probably means the valley was at the base of the hill as we saw earlier with the valley where Amalickiah camped at the foot of Mount Antipas (point #12 above).

26. Coriantumr and his army pitched their tents at the waters of Ripliancum. Shiz and his army pitched their tents near Coriantumr. Ether 15:8. The narrative in Ether 15 describes two armies engaged in irrational hand to hand combat to the death. On the field of battle, they were directly facing each other. Ether 14:24 explains Shiz' motive for relentlessly pursuing Coriantumr. On the day of battle, no significant travel is implied. The phrase "come to battle" is a stock phrase in Nephite usage Alma 62:19, Mormon 6:8 that simply meant the two antagonists began to fight. In this setting, the armies of Shiz and Coriantumr camped near each other probably meant they were not more than 2 - 3 kilometers distant.
27. Isaiah addressed the scattered tribes of Israel as people from far 1 Nephi 21:1, Isaiah 49:1. In this case, far clearly means thousands of kilometers.

28. When the scattered tribes of Israel return, they will come from far 1 Nephi 21:12, Isaiah 49:12. Ditto. Thousands of kilometers.

29. When the Israelites return to their original lands of inheritance, the Assyrians and Babylonians who once despoiled them will be far away 1 Nephi 21:19, Isaiah 49:19. The Assyrians inhabited the upper Tigris river in what is today northern Iraq. The Babylonian capital was on the middlle Euphrates river in what is today central Iraq. This map shows the distance from the Old City, Jerusalem to the ruins of ancient Babylon.
Old City Jerusalem 871 Air Kilometers from the Ruins of Ancient Babylon
So, in Book of Mormon and Biblical parlance, 871 straight line kilometers is considered far.

30. In the last days, an ensign will be raised to the nations from far as part of the gathering of Israel 2 Nephi 15:26, Isaiah 5:26. We know where that ensign was raised - on Ensign Peak overlooking Salt Lake City. In this case, far means thousands of kilometers.

31. At the scattering of Israel, the Lord removed men far away 2 Nephi 16:12, Isaiah 6:12. Thousands of kilometers.

32. Isaiah addressed scattered Israel as ye of far countries 2 Nephi 18:9, Isaiah 8:9. Ditto. Thousands of kilometers.

33. Isaiah said the Assyrian depredation of Israel would come from far 2 Nephi 20:3, Isaiah 10:3. The capital of the Assyrian empire was Assur on the upper Tigris in modern Iraq. The capital of the Northern Kingdom of Israel was Samaria, northwest of the modern city of Nablus in the Palestinian West Bank. This map shows the distance from the ruins of Samaria to the ruins of Assur.
Ruins of Samaria 819 Air Kilometers from the Ruins of Ancient Assur
So, in Book of Mormon and Biblical usage, 819 air kilometers is far.

34. Isaiah describes Babylon as a far country relative to the kingdom of Judah 2 Nephi 23:5, Isaiah 13:5. See point #29 above. 871 air kilometers is far.

35. At the gathering of Israel, people will be brought from far 2 Nephi 24:2. Note: this is one verse where the Book of Mormon version of Isaiah differs significantly from the King James text. In this case, far means thousands of kilometers.

36. The Nephite land Desolation extended so far northward it came into the land Ramah-Cumorah where the Jaredites met their demise Alma 22:30. We accept the standard LDS Mesoamericanist correlation of Ramah-Cumorah in the Tuxtla  Mountains of southern Veracruz. The point of view in Alma 22:27-30 is the narrow strip of wilderness border between the greater land of Zarahemla on the north and the greater land of Nephi on the south. We correlate the narrow strip of wilderness with the North American Caribbean tectonic plate boundary that has created an east west line of cliffs along the fault. See the article "The Narrow Strip of Wilderness." The map below shows a distance ruler between our narrow strip of wilderness and Cerro Vigia, the peak often correlated with the hill Ramah-Cumorah.
Distance from the Narrow Strip of Wilderness to Cerro Vigia
Two things are obvious on the map above. A) It is 459 air kilometers from our narrow strip of wilderness to our Hill Ramah-Cumorah. This means 459 kilometers was considered far in the Nephite worldview. B) The place where the Jaredites were annihilated is truly northward. Our line is on a heading of 319.81 degrees where 360 is due north and 315 is due northwest.

37. In the battle of Mulek, the distance the Lamanite forces retreated from near the city Bountiful until they met Captain Moroni's army was not far Alma 52:31. We have correlated the battle of Mulek with the area around the site of Cerros, Corozal District, Belize. See point #14 above for our map of this military engagement. In our reconstruction of the battle, Lamanite forces under Jacob had retreated no more than 8 kilometers from the northernmost point in their march when they encountered Captain Moroni and his forces waiting for them. In this case, a distance on the order of 8 kilometers was not far in Nephite terms.

38. Helaman and his 2,000 stripling warriors lured a large Lamanite force out of the city of Antiparah and led them on a 3 day chase northward. On the 3rd day, the Lamanites did not pursue Helaman and his men far before they stopped, turned around, and began to engage Antipus. Alma 56:42. The context of this verse indicates Helaman and his men had traveled a few kilometers at most when they determined they were no longer being followed. So, a distance of perhaps 5 kilometers was not far in Nephite usage.

39. In the days of Nephica. 1 B.C., unbelievers mocked prophecies of Christ saying the Jewish nation was in a far distant land where Nephites could not witness the events firsthand Helaman 16:20. In this case, far clearly meant thousands of kilometers.
Precis of our analysis of the terms "near" and "far."
A. Any distance less than 5 kilometers could reasonably be considered near in Nephite terminology. This agrees precisely with the results of our analysis of the terms "narrow" and "small." See the article "Narrow and Small Things." Lands near each other typically shared a common border. Places near the sea were typically close enough to the shoreline to smell the salt water.
B. Distances in the 5 - 8 kilometer range were not far in the Nephite worldview.
C. Distances in the 400+ kilometer range were considered far in Nephite usage.
What about a distance of 200 kilometers? Would the Nephites have called that far? We don't know. We simply lack data from the text to test that question. We do have the negative evidence that there are no occurrences of the word "far" in the Book of Mormon that we have correlated with a real world distance less than 400+ straight line kilometers. On that basis, our best current judgment is that 200 kilometers was a normal, routine, typical distance in Nephite affairs, neither near nor far.

As a point of comparison, the Old Testament has many references to "near" and "far" in geographic contexts e.g. Jeremiah 48:24. The whole of the Israelite nation resided in the land between Dan on the north and Beer-sheba on the south. The phrase "from Dan to Beer-sheba" occurs 10 times in the Biblical text e.g. 1 Samuel 3:20 where it is synonymous with "all Israel." The distance from Dan to Beer-sheba is 235 air kilometers as the map below shows.
Dan to Beer-sheba 235 Air Kilometers
 In the Old Testament the distance from Dan to Beer-sheba was never called far. It was a comprehensive distance, representing the entirety of the united kingdom of ancient Israel, but it was considered a normal, routine, typical distance in Israelite affairs, neither near nor far.