A DAY AND A HALF'S JOURNEY FOR A NEPHITE
The narrow neck of land is an important geographical feature in the Book of Mormon. For many years people have debated whether the narrow neck was the Isthmus of Panama, the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in Southern Mexico, or somewhere else. Some have argued that the neck must have been very narrow, because Alma 22:32 says that the distance across the "narrow neck" of the promised land from the east to the west sea was "a day and a half's journey for a Nephite." But how wide could this distance have been? Recently analyzed information suggests that it could have been quite wide indeed.
First, since the Limhi explorers (Mos. 8:7-8; 21:25-26) passed through this narrow neck without knowing that they had done so (they thought they were still in the Land of Zarahemla), this warns us that it must be of some substantial width.
Second, we also know that some people can go a long way in a day and a half. For example, a new BYU Media Productions film "Tarahumara: Footrunners Live On," describes a northwest Mexican Indian group who call themselves the Ramamuri (footrunners). Some of them have been known to run 500 miles in six days, and to return that distance after a day's rest. Even more, the book Ultra-Marathoning, the Next Challenge (by Tom Osler and Ed Dodd, Mountain View, CA: World Publications, Inc., 1979) documents such accomplishments as Captain Barclay's covering 100 miles in 19 hours in 1806, and Edward Weston's walking 500 miles in six days. The record for the greatest distance traveled on foot in 24 hours was set in 1973 by Ron Bentley of Great Britain--161 miles. Since the Nephite record says that it was a day and a half's journey for a Nephite, we might infer that this was a significant feat and that it would have taken longer for someone else.
Moreover, the isthmus itself may have been wider than the "day and a half's" distance since we cannot be sure that the measuring point began on the east at the sea. Alma says that it was a day and a half's journey from "the east" to the west sea. The journey may have begun some distance inland.
Obviously, we don't yet know how wide the narrow neck was, but these figures show that it could have been a substantial distance. 120 miles is the width of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, which is now accepted by almost all Book of Mormon scholars as the Nephite narrow neck of land.