“And That He Would Fortify and Strengthen the Cities Round About”

Brant Gardner

Teancum is given military command over this “quarter of the land.” I hypothesize that this expression reflects the Mesoamerican concept that the world is divided into four parts. The four world-directions were created by two intersecting lines, but not the “plus sign” of vertical and horizontal lines with 90-degree angles at the intersections familiar to modern readers. Mesoamerican “quarters” were considered the markers of the directions, and the dividing lines were more like an “X,” with the degrees divided unequally based on the range of the rising and setting of the sun. Of course, Mesoamericans were fully aware of the directions and aligned buildings according to the cardinal directions, but their model provided a “north quarter” that encompassed areas that we would consider both northwest and northeast. (See “Excursus: Anthropology and the Book of Mormon,” following 1 Nephi 18.)

As commander of this sector, Teancum’s military responsibilities are to hold the territory, “scourge the Lamanites,” retake what cities he can, and “fortify and strengthen the cities” still in Nephite hands.

Second Witness: Analytical & Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 4