The Lord Redeems His Covenant Children
Alma 1 -- Alma 44
Alma 22:3: I (King Lamoni) desire to know the cause why he (Ammon) has not come up (to Ishmael) out of Middoni with thee (Aaron)
Assumption: Ishmael might be higher than Middoni
Ishmael (Patzicia - Department of Chimaltenango) = Elev. 2131 m.
Middoni (Antigua) = Elev. 1530 m.
[Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]
Alma 22:13 The Plan of Redemption, Which Was Prepared from the Foundation of the World:
According to Jeffrey Marsh, it is more than coincidence that the word plan never shows up in the entire Bible one single time. It is possible to read the Bible cover to cover and never know there is a specific plan for our salvation. Satan is thrilled to keep God's plan a secret from us. But after we understand the plan from the perspective of latter-day revelation, portions of it can be seen clearly throughout the Old and the New Testaments. Nevertheless, it cannot be learned from the Bible alone. "The problem with the Bible is not one of language and translation--it is the absence of an adequate and complete manuscript. Hence we need latter-day revelation to teach us what we need to know."93 God and his plan for our happiness are either revealed from heaven or remain forever unknown (Jacob 4:8).
In the latter-day scriptures of the Restoration, the word plan appears thirty-two times. The phrases used by the prophets to describe the plan also bear witness of our Father's great love and concern for us:
"The merciful plan of the great Creator" (2 Nephi 9:6)
"O how great the plan of our God" (2 Nephi 9:13)
"The great and eternal plan of deliverance" (2 Nephi 11:5)
"The great plan of redemption" (Jacob 6:8; Alma 34:31)
"The plan of salvation" (Jarom 1:2; Alma 24:14; Moses 6:62)
"The plan of redemption, which was laid from the foundation of the world" (Alma 12:25)
"The plan of redemption" (Alma 12:26,30,32-33; 17:16; 18:39; 29:2; 39:18; 42:11,13)
"The great plan of the Eternal God" (Alma 34:9)
"The plan of restoration" (alma 41:2)
"The great plan of salvation" (Alma 42:5)
"The great plan of happiness" (alma 42:8)
"The plan of mercy" (Alma 42:15)
"The plan of happiness" (Alma 42:16)
"The great plan of mercy" (Alma 42:31)
[W. Jeffrey Marsh, His Final Hours, pp. 11-12] [See the commentary on 2 Nephi 9:13; Enos 1:27; Jarom 1:2]
Alma 22:22 He Put Forth His Hand and Raised the King from the Earth:
John Tvedtnes writes that twice in the Book of Mormon, when individuals fell as if dead under the influence of the Spirit of the Lord, someone raised them by grasping their hand. This happened to Lamoni and his wife (Alma 19:29-30) and later to Lamoni's father (Alma 22:18-22), each of whom came to know the Lord during the experience. While there are no exact parallels in the Bible, in Revelation 1:17 the apostle John falls down as dead before the risen Christ, who then lays his right hand upon him and tells him not to fear. Closer parallels to the Book of Mormon stories are found in various pseudepigraphic texts unavailable to Joseph Smith.
The Apocalypse of Abraham 10:1-5; 11:1 has Abraham reporting that when he heard the voice of God speaking to him, "my spirit was amazed, and my soul fled from me. And I became like a stone and fell face down upon the earth for there was no longer strength in me to stand up on the earth." Then God sent an angel who "took me by my right hand and stood me on my feet . . . And I stood up and saw him who had taken my right hand and set me on my feet."94
A similar story is told of Enoch, who is quoted as saying, "Then I fell upon my face before the Lord of the Spirits. And the angel Michael, one of the archangels, seizing me by my right hand and lifting me up, led me out into all the secrets of mercy; and he showed me all the secrets of righteousness" (1 Enoch 71:2-3).95
In 4 Ezra 10:25-30, we find Ezra, in vision, being frightened by a woman (the heavenly Jerusalem) whose face shone like lightning (like the angel at the tomb in Matthew 28:2-4). "I was too frightened to approach her, and my heart was terrified . . . I lay there like a corpse and was deprived of my understanding." Then the angel Uriel came and "he grasped my right hand and strengthened me and set me on my feet."96
In light of these and other accounts, the Book of Mormon stories of people falling into ecstasy and being raised by a handclasp fits quite well into the ancient world from which the Nephite record came. [John A. Tvedtnes, "Raised by a Handclasp," in The Most Correct Book, pp. 215-218]
Alma 22:23 And [the King] Did Minister unto . . . His Whole Household:
Kevin and Shauna Christensen note that given the growing recognition that Book of Mormon authors consciously selected stories that present archetypal patterns, it is likely that the stories of the Lamanite kings and queens attracted the attention of Mormon as significant type-scenes, and as such, they receive due attention and prominence in the text.
The prominence of type-scenes in the overall narrative suggests that we might gain insights into what was included in the Book of Mormon and the significance of those selections by reading them against larger contexts.
Robert Atler also suggests that variations in type-scenes are significant. That is, if a similar story is included, we should pay close attention to differences.97 The most conspicuous difference between the stories of Lamoni and his queen and the subsequent narrative of the father of Lamoni in Alma 22 is that the second queen acts out of fear and anger rather than faith. That is, the first queen inquires of Ammon before she takes action. The second queen acts with determination and initiative, but without making inquiries of Aaron. The narrator shows sympathy for her concerns. But even though the second queen's actions and commands trigger Aaron's successful response in raising Lamoni's father. Instead of having a direct witness from God like Lamoni's queen (she "fell to the earth" just like Lamoni--Alma 19:17), in the case of the second queen, she was only ministered to by her husband (the father of Lamoni "stood forth, and began to minister unto them . . . insomuch that his whole household were converted unto the Lord" (Alma 22:23) [Kevin and Shauna Christensen, "Nephite Feminism Revisited: Thoughts on Carol Lynn Pearson's View of Women in the Book of Mormon," in FARMS Review of Books, Volume 10, Number 2, 1998, p. 20]
Question: If the type and shadow of these events deals with the preaching of the gospel to the Lamanites, does it mean that those who receive it through "Ammon" will receive it readily and those who receive it through "Aaron" will be more stubborn? If "Ammon" represents God, then who does "Aaron" represent? [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]
Alma 22:27-34 (Note* Manuscript Punctuation, Capitalization, Etc.):
In the original form, the Book of Mormon manuscript appeared to the printer as "one big long sentence." From historical accounts we find that most all of the punctuation and capitalization was apparently done under the direction of the printer. It is unlikely that the printer fully understood at the time what his own peculiar punctuation and capitalization might do to the interpretation of the descriptive geographical phrases in the book. Verses were added many years later. Therefore, it is the responsibility of anyone who might interpret the geography of the Book of Mormon to fully explain the meaning of the geographical verses in terms of structure, punctuation, capitalization, and modifiers if need be. The reader should pay especially close attention to the manner in which the verses here in Alma 22:27-34 are quoted and explained in this section of commentary. Of necessity, the reader will find at this time only one particular manner of structure, punctuation and capitalization for Alma 22:27-34 in the companion text, The Covenant Story. Also of necessity, the commentary and illustrations for Alma 22:27-34 will be correlated according to only one manner of interpretation. The reader should note that other alternative interpretations will eventually be documented, explained, and illustrated in this commentary. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]
Geographical Theory Map: Alma 22:27 --Lamanite Land Bordered to the Sea on the East and on the West (4th Year)
Alma 22:27 Geographical Theory Map A Dividing Narrow Strip of Wilderness
Alma 22:27 [Lamanite land] Was Bordering Even to the Sea, on the East and on the West:
Alma 22:27 states the following:
And it came to pass that the [Lamanite] king sent a proclamation:
throughout all the land,
amongst all his people who were in all his land,
[amongst all his people] who were in all the regions round about,
which [land] was bordering even to the sea, on the east and on the west,
If the borders of the land of the Lamanites (the general land of Nephi) were "bordering even to the sea, on the east and on the west" (Alma 22:27), then according to the Mesoamerican map and David Palmer's model with solstice-oriented directions, the east coast borders of the general land of Nephi would be situated near the Atlantic Ocean and the west coast borders would be situated towards the Pacific Ocean. [See Geographical Theory Maps]
Alma 22:27 A Narrow Strip of Wilderness:
Alma 22:27 states the following:
and which [Lamanite land] was DIVIDED from the land of Zarahemla by a narrow strip of wilderness, which [narrow strip of wilderness]:
ran from the sea east even to the sea west, and
[ran] round about on the borders of the seashore and the borders of the wilderness
which [narrow strip of wilderness] was on the north [of the land of Nephi] by the land of Zarahemla,
through the borders of Manti by the head of the river Sidon,
running from the east towards the west,
and thus were the Lamanites and the Nephites DIVIDED.
For a moment here, we might consider what our modern culture has done to our perspective of viewing geographical information. Most all of our geographical maps tend to view things from above, or from an aerial view. It seems that when we read the phrase "narrow strip" we automatically switch to an aerial perspective of the Book of Mormon lands and define the word "narrow" in terms of distance across. Mormon never had an airplane and he never viewed anything from anywhere except ground level, even if that ground might have been at the tops of mountains. Thus he might have had a different perspective. It is interesting to note that a "narrow strip" of wilderness is not mentioned until after the Nephites have moved to the land of Zarahemla. It is also worthy of note that after mentioning the phrase "narrow strip" here in Alma 22:27, Mormon apparently never uses it again. Taking a look at travels through this same area, we find that it took Ammon forty days of wandering in the wilderness to find his way from the land of Zarahemla to the land of Lehi-Nephi (see Mosiah 7:5). It also took the sons of Mosiah "many days" of journeying just to reach the "borders of the Lamanites" from the land of Zarahemla (see Alma 17:9,13). We might ask ourselves then, What does "narrow strip" mean? If we assume a Mesoamerican setting, one observation is that the area between and including Guatemala city (the proposed local land of Nephi) and the Chiapas Depression of Mexico (the proposed land of Zarahemla) is made up of multiple mountain ranges. After descending down from the mountains of Guatemala into the Chiapas Depression, as one looks back around in the general direction of where he has just come from (the general land of Nephi), one can see in a most striking manner a strip of mountains (a narrow strip of wilderness) against the horizon that borders the depression apparently "from the sea east even to the sea west" or at least as far as the eye can see. This strip of mountains represents to the viewer a very visual demarcation line between one land and another. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See Geographical Theory Maps]
Alma 22:27 A narrow strip of wilderness (Illustration): A Perspective on the Narrow Strip of Wilderness. [Clate Mask, "New Insights into an Old Problem: The Land of Bountiful," p. 2, unpublished]
Alma 22:27 Through the Borders of Manti, by the Head of the River Sidon:
We are told in this verse and by the events that happened in Alma 43:39-42 that the land of Manti was probably located on the west of the river Sidon and somewhat by the head waters of that river, and that at least some of the borders of the land of Manti and also the head of the river Sidon were probably located near or in an elevated (mountainous) strip of wilderness that represented the separation of the land of Zarahemla and the land of Nephi. [See the commentary on Alma 2:15]
According to David Palmer, the exposition of arguments for the one-Cumorah view in Doctrines of Salvation, includes several references to the march of Zion's Camp. Zion's Camp was an expedition led by Joseph Smith from Kirtland, Ohio, to western Missouri in 1834. During the march, one of the mounds observed was identified as the ". . . ancient site of the City of Manti, which is spoken of in the Book of Mormon. . ." This incident was cited to substantiate the idea of Book of Mormon cities in North America. Aside from the fact that such statements were completely unsubstantiated, it is instructive to consider that the idea appears unfeasible. There is only one City of Manti referred to in the Book of Mormon. It was by the "head of the river Sidon," which was near the strip of "wilderness" separating the Nephites from the Lamanites. (Alma 22:27) That strip . . . divided the land of Zarahemla from the land of Nephi. Both of those lands were southward from the narrow neck of land. [David A. Palmer, In Search of Cumorah, p. 74]
Geographical Theory Map: Alma 22:27 A Narrow Strip of Wilderness (4th Year)
Alma 22:27 A narrow strip of wilderness (Illustration): The Sierra Los Cuchumatanes mountain range in Guatemala is a formidable boundary running from the Bay of Honduras (the Caribbean Sea) on the east to the Sierra Madre range and the Pacific Ocean on the west. The rugged, steep Cuchumatanes soar over 10,000 feet above sea level. It is easy to visualize the similarities between this and the narrow strip of wilderness that separated the Nephites on the north from the Lamanites on the south. Only a few passes cross this range, all of which could have been strategic military defense positions for the Nephites. [Scot and Maurine Proctor, Light From the Dust, pp. 68-69]
Alma 22:27 The Borders of Manti and te Head of the River Sidon Fig. 17-3 Head of River Sidon, running from the east toward the west: borders of Manit.
Fig. 16-12 Hauck favors the Usumacinta river as the River Sidon: Allen and Sorensen propose the Grijalva River
Alma 22:27 Fig 17 5 Lamanites were spread through the wilderness. East by the seashore; Nephites nearly surrounded by Lamanites
Alma 22:28 The More Idle Part of the Lamanites:
According to Alma 22:28, there was a "more idle part" of the Lamanites. We might assume then that there was a part of the Lamanites that were considered "less idle." If so, that part of the land in which the "less idle" Lamanites lived was apparently located near where the land of Nephi had been built up by the Nephites and where the Lamanite king now resided.
If the "idle" part of that term pertained to their political and military activity, or in other words, if by "idle" they were "non-productive" both politically and to some extent militarily (see Mormon 3:14-16), then it is possible that these Lamanites had always been part of what is termed by Mormon "the land of Nephi," and to a large extent had been controlled by the Nephites. And perhaps some still were, although to a lesser extent, in certain locations within that "land of Nephi."
However, we find another definition for the word "idle" in Alma 1:32: "For those who did not belong to the church did indulge themselves in sorceries, and in idolatry or idleness, . . ." (emphasis added). Here the word "idle" is associated with idolatry. The reader should note that in all three references (Alma 22:27-34, Mormon 3:14-16, and Alma 1:32) it is Mormon who is speaking, so both of his definitions for the word "idle" might apply. Both definitions would be perfectly acceptable for the Lamanites which were occupying the lands on the west in the land of Nephi (on the Pacific coast of Guatemala) by the time of the events in Alma 22. It is not hard to imagine how idolatry (whether by true Lamanites or apostate Nephites) could have evolved from (and even been concurrent with) true Nephite worship (see Enos 1:20). [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]
Alma 22:28 The More Idle Part of the Lamanites:
In Alma 22:28 we read that "the more idle part of the Lamanites lived in the wilderness, and dwelt in tents." According to Joseph Allen, this scripture is probably describing the Lamanites who lived west of Guatemala City in the highlands. So what might be meant by the term "idle" Lamanites? Perhaps a view of present-day highland Guatemala Indians might provide a window into the times of the Book of Mormon.
From one perspective, in the highlands of Guatemala, "idleness," as we understand the word, may be appropriate during the dry season and prior to the spring burning of the fields and planting of the crops. There may even be reasons for being idle during the rainy seasons as all that needs to be done, with the exception of keeping the weeds hoed, is to watch the crops grow. Indeed, the story is told about the typical Veracruz, Mexico farmer whose daily work consisted of waking up and picking the new fruit from his trees.
However from another perspective, although the rainy season from May to October is conducive for breaks in the agriculture working schedule, it might be unfair to confuse the term "idle" with the term "lazy." It would be quite a challenge for anyone to last just one day with the Guatemala farmer who, for $2.00 a day, leaves his home at daybreak and walks up those steep mountain slopes with his heavy, wide-bladed hoe and machetes to work twelve hours. [Joseph L. Allen, "Eating Breakfast With the Lamanites," in The Book of Mormon Archaeological Digest, Vol. II, Issue I, 1999, p. 4]
Alma 22:28 On the West:
Alma 22:28-29 states the following:
Now, the more idle part of the Lamanites lived in the wilderness, and dwelt in tents; and they were SPREAD THROUGH THE WILDERNESS:
1. on the west, in the land of Nephi; yea, and also
2. on the west of the land of Zarahemla, in the borders by the seashore, and
3. on the west in the land of Nephi, in the place of their fathers' first inheritance, and thus bordering
along by the seashore.
4. And also there were many Lamanites on the east [of the land of Zarahemla] by the seashore,
whither the Nephites had driven them.
And THUS the Nephites WERE NEARLY SURROUNDED by the Lamanites.
In Alma 22:28-29, apparently three segments of the lowland west wilderness are distinguished. The reader should note that statement #1 and #3 are both "in" the land of Nephi; however, statement #2 is "on the west OF the land of Zarahemla." The fact that three segments of western coastline are listed here raises the question as to how much coastline on the west we are dealing with. One clue is that when Nephi fled from the land of first inheritance to the land of Nephi, he traveled "many days." (2 Nephi 5:7) [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See Geographical Theory Maps]
Alma 22:28-29 (Reasonable Geographical Assumptions):
At the time of the missionary travels of the sons of Mosiah to the Lamanites ("From about 91 to 77 B.C."--chronological footnote), Mormon inserts a commentary (Alma 22:27-34) into the text concerning the extent of lands then ruled by the converted Lamanite king. In this commentary Mormon says:
Now the more idle part of the Lamanites lived in the wilderness and dwelt in tents, and they were spread through the wilderness on the west in the land of Nephi, yea and also on the west of the land of Zarahemla in the borders by the seashore, and on the west in the land of Nephi, in the place of their father's first inheritance, and thus bordering along by the seashore. And also there were many Lamanites on the east [east in the land of Nephi and/or east of the land of Zarahemla] by the seashore whither the Nephites had driven them." (Alma 22:28-29)
From this commentary, one might make some reasonable internal assumptions:
(1) Although from their landing site on the coast, Nephi and his followers went inland and "up," the term "land of Nephi," as used in Alma 22:28-29, seems to imply a land which extended beyond a local highland area.
(2) According to Alma 8:7, "it was the custom of the people of Nephi to call their lands, and their cities, and their villages, yea, even all their small villages, after the name of him who first possessed them . . ." Thus the term "land of Nephi" as found in this Nephite record tends to be associated with an area that was apparently first "possessed" (ruled over?) by Nephi1 (or possibly by future Nephite kings who took upon themselves the name Nephi--see Jacob 1:11).
(3) If the Nephites drove the Lamanites all the way to the eastern shore, then surely the Nephite lands extended almost that far. Just when the Lamanites were "driven" is not mentioned, but what is more important here is the idea that the Lamanites were "driven" and the Nephites apparently took what land they desired. In Jarom 1:7 we apparently find the same situation. There it says that the Nephites "withstood the Lamanites and swept them away out of our lands . . . or whatsoever place of our inheritance."
(4) If the "idle Lamanites" resided "on the west in the land of Nephi" . . . "in the borders by the seashore," then the "land of Nephi" apparently included the "borders by the seashore."
(5) If the place described as "the place of their father's first inheritance" was "on the west in the land of Nephi" and "bordering along by the seashore," then one might reasonably presume that "the place of their father's first inheritance" was located in the land of Nephi and also "by the seashore."
Mormon's commentary on the Lamanite occupation of "the land of Nephi" also begs the following questions:
(1) Is it possible that after Mosiah's departure the Lamanites took over the rule of lands which had previously been ruled over by Nephite kings?
(2) If Lamanites took over the rule of Nephite lands, can one say that they began to rule over "the land of Nephi"?
(3) Since "the land of their father's first inheritance" was "in the land of Nephi," did the Lamanites begin to rule over a "land of Nephi" in which they had always been living?
As far as I am concerned, part of the answer to these questions might lie in how we define "idle Lamanites." If the "idle" part of that term pertained to their political and military activity, or in other words, if by "idle" they were "non-productive" both politically and to some extent militarily, then it is possible that these Lamanites had always been part of what is termed by Mormon "the land of Nephi," and to a large extent had been controlled by the Nephites. [Alan C. Miner, "Izapa: A Response to the Question of Geography," Unpublished]
Alma 22:28 On the West of the Land of Zarahemla:
The reader should note that there was a population of more idle Lamanites "ON the west of the land of Zarahemla," not "IN" that land; therefore, the general land of Zarahemla was not thought to reach the west coast at this time. The Lamanites might have formally controlled this west strip at this time, controlling travel through the area. Or as the verse suggests, "idle" Lamanites might have just occupied this area which politically might have been neutral, with possible Nephite settlers or other settlers living there also. Whatever the case, it appears that the area would soon be realized to have great military significance. This lane of travel might explain how the Lamanite armies could have moved to attack Ammonihah apparently unhindered in Alma 16:2 and 49:1. It was apparently here that Moroni chose to establish an important part of his military defense line (Alma 50:11). It was apparently here that Helaman and his 2000 stripling warriors fought courageously in battles for the defense of the land of Zarahemla in the first century B.C. (Alma 56) And it was apparently here (possibly more on the north ) that the Nephites occupied Joshua in the final series of their battles with the Lamanites in the 4th century A.D. (Mormon 2) [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See Geographical Theory Maps]
Alma 22:28 In the Place of Their Fathers' First Inheritance:
Alma 22:28 states:
Now the more idle part of the Lamanites lived in the wilderness, and dwelt in tents; and they were spread through the wilderness on the west, in the land of Nephi; yea, and also on the west of the land of Zarahemla, in the borders by the seashore, and on the west in the land of Nephi, in the place of their fathers' first inheritance, and thus bordering along by the seashore.
In an article analyzing Book of Mormon geography through internal reasoning, John Clark notes that "The area of first inheritance was south of the land of Nephi. (emphasis added) Given Nephi's many days' journey to the land of Nephi, [that land] was probably mostly northward [of the land of inheritance]." Clark also states that "the western wilderness stretched from the Nephite lands southward to the place of the Nephite's landing on the western coast, a place south of the land of Nephi" (Alma 22:28). (emphasis added) [John Clark, "A Key for Evaluating Nephite Geographies," in Review of Books on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 1, 1989, pp. 55, 59]
Note* A different location for "the place of their fathers' first inheritance" might be proposed because of the following logic. Lehi landed in the promised land (1 Nephi 18:23). Nephi fled from that landing place to the land of Nephi (2 Nephi 5:6-7). Eventually, Mosiah1 led some Nephites to the land of Zarahemla (Omni 1:12-13) and the land of Nephi was taken over by the Lamanites. After some years, the sons of Mosiah2, embarked on a mission back to the land of Nephi. Alma 22:28-29 describes the dimensions of Lamanite occupation at the time of the missionary journeys of the sons of Mosiah and mentions the Lamanite "land of first inheritance." According to Mosiah 10:12-13 and Alma 22:28, the place of the Lamanites' first inheritance was apparently where Lehi originally landed, which was along the seashore west and in what by then (over 400 years after Lehi's landing) was considered the general land of Nephi by the Nephite recordkeepers:
". . . they [the Lamanites] were . . . a blood-thirsty people, believing . . . that they were wronged in the wilderness by their brethren, and they were also wronged while crossing the sea; And again, that they were wronged while in the land of their first inheritance, after they had crossed the sea . . ." (Mosiah 10:12-13)
"Now, the more idle part of the Lamanites lived in the wilderness, and dwelt in tents; and they were spread through the wilderness [A] on the west, in the land of Nephi; yea, and [B] also on the west of the land of Zarahemla, in the borders by the seashore, and [C] on the west in the land of Nephi, in the place of their fathers' first inheritance, and thus bordering along by the seashore." [D] And also there were many Lamanites on the east by the seashore, whither the Nephites had driven them. And thus the Nephites were nearly surrounded by the Lamanites . . . " (Alma 22:28-29)
Alma 22:28 involves a series of locations "A-B-C-D," all apparently associated with idle Lamanites who lived in the wilderness. Locations "A-B-C" are apparently all by the western seashore. Clark declares that the solution to the order of these locations is "B-A-C" (from north to south). His reasoning is "based upon the logical progression of the narrative." The same order of reasoning is apparently assumed in Sorenson's Setting (pp. 138-139), and his Source Book (p. 367). On page 139 (Setting), Sorenson says the following: "The only geographical alignment that will accommodate both 2 Nephi 5 and Alma 22 is something close to what is shown on map 5" (which shows the same order that Clark has come up with--the land of first inheritance being south of the local land of Nephi).
Let me first deal directly with their reasoning. Perhaps these verses become clearer by imagining the wilderness areas as mountain ranges which parallel the west coast. Imagine also that there is a ridge line running parallel to the coast and right along the highest peaks. On the west side of this ridge line lies the seashore, and on the east side of this ridge line lie the lands of Zarahemla and Nephi. Statement (A) only mentions the area on the west in the land of Nephi. I interpret that to mean the areas on the east of the ridge line. Statement (B) mentions the area "on the west of the land of Zarahemla, in the borders by the seashore." Thus, this area would be on the west of the ridge line (the area on the east being occupied by Nephites). Statement (C) describes the area on the west in the land of Nephi, in the place of their fathers' first inheritance, and thus bordering along by the seashore." This area would be on the west of the ridge line, along by the seashore; however, there is a distinction being made here. The western borders of the general land of Nephi go all the way to the west coast. The western borders of the land of Zarahemla do not. The textual flow is towards the coast and not from north to south.
Let us examine this concept in more detail. In Alma 17 we find an account of the missionary journeys of the sons of Mosiah from the land of Zarahemla to the land of Nephi:
And thus they departed into the wilderness with their numbers which they had selected, to go up to the land of Nephi, to preach the word of God unto the Lamanites. And it came to pass that they journeyed many days in the wilderness . . . And it came to pass when they had arrived in the borders of the land of the Lamanites, that they separated themselves and departed one from another . . . And Ammon went to the land of Ishmael, the land being called after the sons of Ishmael, who also became Lamanites." (Alma 17: 8, 9, 13, 19--emphasis mine)
Alma 17:19 tells us that the land of Ishmael was called "after the sons of Ishmael, who also became Lamanites" (Alma 17:19). While some of the daughters of Ishmael married Nephi, Sam, and Zoram (1 Nephi 16:7), there is no definite record of any sons of Ishmael leaving the land of first inheritance when Nephi fled to the land of Nephi (2 Nephi 5:5-6):
"And it came to pass that the Lord did warn me, that I, Nephi, should depart from them and flee into the wilderness, and all those who would go with me. Wherefore, it came to pass that I, Nephi, did take my family, and also Zoram and his family, and Sam, mine elder brother and his family, and Jacob and Joseph, my younger brethren, and also my sisters, and all those who would go with me. And all those who would go with me were those who believed in the warnings and the revelations of God; wherefore, they did hearken unto my words.
The idea that the "sisters" mentioned as accompanying Nephi were married to some sons of Ishmael seems doubtful in view of not only the previous rebellion of the sons of Ishmael (see 1 Nephi 7:6), but the wording in Alma 17:19, "the sons of Ishmael, who also became Lamanites." This is significant, because in Jacob 1:13 we find the following:
"Now the people which were not Lamanites were Nephites; nevertheless, they were called Nephites, Jacobites, Josephites, Zoramites, Lamanites, Lemuelites, and Ishmaelites.
According to Nephite custom, they called their lands and cities "after the name of him who first possessed them" (Alma 8:7). Thus, because what we are reading in Alma 17:19 comes from Nephite record keepers, the land of Ishmael was apparently first occupied by the sons of Ishmael. Somehow, the sons of Ishmael must have spread outward from the Lamanite land of first inheritance which was located "on the west in the land of Nephi" . . . "bordering along by the seashore" (see Alma 22:28). Nephi, after having fled to the local land of Nephi, states the following: "And it sufficeth me to say that forty years had passed away and we had already had wars and contentions with our brethren." Thus, the spread of the Lamanites (including the sons of Ishmael) somehow encroached on the Nephite interests. From this we might surmise that the land of Ishmael was located somewhere in the general area between the Lamanite land of first inheritance (on the west coast) and the local land of Nephi (somewhat inland).
After traveling "many days" from the land of Zarahemla (Alma 17:9) and arriving in the "borders of the land of the Lamanites" (Alma 17:13) the sons of Mosiah separated and Ammon entered the land of Ishmael:
"And as Ammon entered the land of Ishmael, the Lamanites took him and bound him, as was their custom to bind all the Nephites who fell into their hands, and carry them before the king; and thus it was left to the pleasure of the king to slay them, or to retain them in captivity, or to cast them out of his land, according to his will and pleasure." (Alma 17:20). (emphasis added)
This might imply a fairly definite boundary with fairly definite political power. It might also imply that the sons of Mosiah could not have traveled an extensive distance into Lamanite territory without encountering trouble (the first time Ammon saw his brethren again they were in prison--Alma 20:2). Thus, the land of Ishmael where Ammon traveled to was probably near to the land of Jerusalem, the land where Aaron and his brethren first traveled to from the point of separation "in the borders of the land of the Lamanites" (Alma 21:1--Alma 21:1 also says that Jerusalem "was away joining the borders of Mormon." Alma 5:3 says that Alma the elder "began to establish a church in the land which was in the borders of Nephi; yea, the land which was called the land of Mormon).
In later travels, after Aaron and his brethren were freed from prison, and after the king over all the Lamanites had given permission to Ammon that "thou and thy brethren may come unto me, in my kingdom" (Alma 20:27), Aaron was able to reach the local land of Nephi where the king resided. Thus, we can assume that the land of Ishmael was located somewhere between the northern "borders of the general land of Nephi" (Alma 17:9,13) first reached by the sons of Mosiah in the journey from Zarahemla, and the local land of Nephi on the south where the king "over all the land save it were the land of Ishmael" resided (Alma 22:1).
Merging both lines of reasoning (west--east, north--south), we can place the land of Ishmael somewhat to the west and north of the local land of Nephi, on a general path between the local land of Nephi and the land of Zarahemla. We would not expect the sons of Ishmael, who apparently stayed behind when Nephi fled (see reasoning above), to occupy land beyond the site and in the direction of where Nephi fled to from the first landing site. Thus, we might assume, with reasonable textual justification, that the Lamanite land of first inheritance was by the seashore in the northwestern part of the general land of Nephi. Textually, we find this assumption backed up by the lack of mention of any lands "south" of the local land of Nephi.
Assuming a Mesoamerican setting and in accordance with the geographical theories of Allen and Hauck, the archaeological ruins of Izapa near Tapachula, Mexico might correspond to this orientation for "the place of their father's first inheritance." [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See the commentary on 1 Nephi 18:23; Mosiah 10:12; and Alma 17:19] [See Geographical Theory Maps]
Geographical Theory Map: Alma 22:28 Lamanites Were Spread Through the Wilderness (4th Year)
Alma 22:29 There Were Many Lamanites on the East by the Seashore, Whither the Nephites Had Driven Them:
In order to more fully appreciate what Alma 22:28-29 might be saying, we should review for a minute the meaning of the term "Lamanite." In 2 Nephi 5:6, speaking of those people who followed him (Nephites), Nephi said: "And all those who would go with me were those who believed in the warnings and the revelations of God; wherefore, they did hearken unto my words." Therefore, we can consider as "Lamanites" all the people existing at that time that didn't follow Nephi. This could have included the remnants of the Jaredite nation, the apostate Mulekites, the people who followed Laman and Lemuel, plus any other people native to the American continent at the time.
We are not told anything about this "drive" to move the "Lamanites" into this area "on the east by the seashore." In the general land of Zarahemla, this "drive" might have been due to the cultural pressures of having the Nephites under Mosiah1 migrating into the land of Zarahemla. The reader should note that later we see that Moroni drove the Lamanites completely out of this area on the east! (see Alma 50:9). But, in order to paint a picture of what Nephite lands were like at this particular time, Mormon states the following here in Alma 22:29:
. . . And thus the Nephites were nearly surrounded by the Lamanites; nevertheless the Nephites had taken possession of all the northern parts of the land bordering on the wilderness, at the head of the river Sidon, from the east to the west, round about on the wilderness side; on the north, even until they came to the land which they called Bountiful.
[Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See Geographical Theory Maps]
Geographical Theory Map: Alma 22:29 The Nephite Possessions (4th Year)
Alma 22:30 It . . . They . . . Which . . . Their . . . There (Modifiers):
In the original form, the Book of Mormon manuscript apparently contained very little capitalization and punctuation. The Book of Mormon also contains geographical verses with many pronouns, adjectives, and adverbs where the antecedent is difficult to ascertain. Therefore, it is up to any theorist to fully explain each phrase of scripture in detail that refers to geography. One example of the dilemma is found in Alma 22:30-31:
and it bordered upon the land which they called desolation it being so far northward that it came into the land which had been peopled and been destroyed of whose bones we have spoken which was discovered by the people of Zarahemla it being the place of their first landing and they came from there up into the south wilderness. (Alma 22:30-31--emphasis mine)
In order to interpret what this scripture is saying, we not only have to deal with punctuation, but the words "which," "their," "they," "it," and "there" must be linked with the proper noun. One must also decide whether to capitalize "desolation" and "south wilderness." These steps are critical to interpretation. Confusion can result when some theorists assume as correct what past Book of Mormon writings have given us in the way of punctuation, capitalization, or pronoun and adjective interpretation, and when some theorists don't. Therefore, we should be explicit in these matters. Let me demonstrate:
And it [Bountiful] bordered upon the land which they [the Nephites] called Desolation,
it [the land Desolation] being so far northward that it [the land Desolation] came into the land which had been peopled and been destroyed, of whose bones we have spoken, [see Mosiah 8:7-8; 21:25-26]
which [peopled and destroyed land] was discovered by the people of Zarahemla, it [the peopled and destroyed land] being the place of their [the people of Zarahemla's] first landing.
And they [the people of Zarahemla] came from there [the peopled and destroyed land] up into the south wilderness.
Thus the land on the northward was called Desolation,
and the land on the southward was called Bountiful,
it [Bountiful] being the wilderness [of the the destroyed people--the Jaredites] which is filled with all manner of wild animals of every kind, a part of which had come from the land northward for food. [all of which is described in Ether 9:30-32]
[Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]
Alma 22:30 The Land Which They Called Desolation:
According to an article by the staff of the Zarahemla Research Foundation, the Hebrew word samem and its derivatives are translated "desolate" or "desolation." The meaning is "a barren, empty land, wasted and made bleak by some disaster. The disaster may be natural or a result of war. But usually this word group is associated with divine judgment." It usually applies to places and things (Lawrence O. Richards, Expository Dictionary of Bible Words, p. 222). [Zarahemla Research Foundation Staff, Zarahemla Record, Issue 52, December 1990]
According to Hugh Nibley, before a war the priests of Israel would stand out before the army in the Battle Scroll, point to the enemy's land and curse it as desolation, as hormah or horeb. They would bless the land of Israel as the land of plenty, the blessed land, and the land Bountiful. So you have Bountiful and Desolation right together here. [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 3, p. 195]
Alma 22 30 (a) The Land Which Had Been Peopled and Destroyed. (Illustration)
Alma 22 30 (b) The Land Which had Been Peopled and Destroyed (Illustration)
Alma 22:30 Bountiful (Illustration): Tulan on the Gulf Coast [Clate Mask, "New Insights into an Old Problem: The Land of Bountiful," p. 13, unpublished]
Alma 22:30 Bountiful (Illustration): Many "Bountifuls" [Clate Mask, "New Insights into an Old Problem: The Land of Bountiful," p. 15, unpublished]
Alma 22:30 Bountiful (Illustration): Places in Chiapas Ending in "Tlan" or "Tan" [Clate Mask, "New Insights into an Old Problem: The Land of Bountiful," p. 16, unpublished]
Alma 22:30 Bountiful (Illustration): The Soconusco. [Clate Mask, "New Insights into an Old Problem: The Land of Bountiful," p. 17, unpublished]
Geographical Theory Map: Alma 22:30 The Land Bountiful and the Land Desolation (4th Year)
Alma 22:30 It Being the Place of Their First Landing:
According to Joseph Allen, the phrase "it being the place of their first landing" (Alma 22:30) has reference to the Mulekites' [the people of Zarahemla's] arrival in the land northward. Allen says that Mulek landed in the Land Northward, which was the area of the heartland of the Jaredites. Sometime later (the Book of Mormon record does not say what year), a group of descendants of Mulek went into the wilderness in the Land Southward and settled in a place they called Zarahemla. Zarahemla was located on the west bank of the River Sidon.
This appears to be consistent with what we see in both the Book of Mormon and Mesoamerica. If the Jaredites of the Book of Mormon are the same people as the Olmecs of Mesoamerica tradition, then the landing of the Mulekites would be along the Gulf of Mexico. If that is the case, then the following from The Lords of Totonicapan may indeed be referring to the Mulekites. This document was written in A.D. 1554 and contains a brief history of the Quiche people and their legendary origins: ". . . they came from where the sun rises, descendants of Israel, of the same language and the same customs." (Recinos and Goetz 1953:170)
This document goes on to relate that the tribes tarried for a time on the shores of a lake, where they built houses; but that did not suit them and they continued their journey. The wording of all the documents mentioned appears to localize these states of the Indian peregrination in the regions of the Laguna de Terminos (Bay of Campeche, Mexico). From there, compelled by the necessity of establishing themselves in a propitious spot and perhaps harried by their enemies, the tribes once more went up the Usumacinta and the Tabasco (Grijalva) Rivers and their tributaries and penetrated into the territory of present-day Chiapas, Mexico, and Peten, Guatemala. After a long journey, they found themselves in the hills and valleys of the interior, the land of Mam and the Volcano of Tacana, on the frontiers of Guatemala and Chiapas. (Ibid, p. 39) [Joseph L. Allen, Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon, p. 25] [See the commentary on Omni 1:13-16; Mosiah 8:8-11, 25:2]
Alma 22:30 It being the place of their first landing (Illustration): The proposed area settled by the people of Zarahemla. [Joseph L. Allen, Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon, p. 26]
Alma 22:30 It being the place of their first landing (Illustration): Map illustrating Jaredite and Mulekite movement from the Land Northward up into the South Wilderness as they correlate with the archaeological movements of the Middle Preclassic Maya from 600 B.C--300 B.C. The map also illustrates the possible movement of Mosiah from the Guatemala Highlands to Chiapas. [Joseph L. Allen, Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon, p. 77]
Alma 22:30 It being the place of their first landing (Illustration): Location of Potonchan. Potonchan is near the present-day City of Veracruz, Mexico. It is the same place where the Spanish conquerors landed in the 16th Century A.D. Disagreement exists among LDS writers as to whether the above-mentioned people who landed at Potonchan were the Jaredites or the Mulekites. LDS writers commonly agree that the Mulekites came from the east across the Atlantic in the 5th Century B.C. and landed among the Jaredites in the Land Northward, or the Gulf of Mexico. (Alma 22:30; Palmer 60) The Mulekite time period correlates to the third age. Those who possessed this New World in this third age were the Ulmecas and Xicalancas; and according to what is found in their histories they came in ships or boats from the east to the land of Potonchan, and from there they began to populate the land. [Joseph L. Allen, Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon, p. 144]
Alma 22:31 The Land Was Called . . . Desolation . . . The Land . . . Was Called Bountiful:
Alma 6:8 states the following, "Now it was the custom of the people of Nephi to call their lands and their cities and their villages, Yea, even all their small villages, after the name of him who first possessed them" Strangely, there is no evidence of this Nephite practice in the names "Desolation" and "Bountiful." Does this present an internal dilemma? We are told that the Nephites named a land in the Old World "Bountiful" because of the abundance of fruit and also wild honey" (1 Nephi 17:5). In the New World, the Nephites referred to a land as "Bountiful" because of the abundance of wild animals (Alma 22:31--emphasis mine). Nephi mentions that where they first landed in the promised land, the people of Lehi planted seeds and "they grew exceedingly; wherefore, we were blessed in abundance" (1 Nephi 18:24--emphasis mine). The Nephites referred to a land as "Desolation" because the people of that land had been destroyed (Alma 22:30). They also referred to another place as "Desolation of Nehors" because of the destruction of that people (Alma 16:11). According to Hugh Nibley, Near Eastern scholars have stated that the ancient Semites denoted any scene of defeat with the name Hormah, which translates as "Destruction" or "Desolation". (Hugh Nibley 1976:195) Additionally, the Zarahemla Research Foundation Staff has published the following:
"The Hebrew word samem and its derivatives are translated "desolate" or "desolation." The meaning is "a barren, empty land, wasted and made bleak by some disaster. The disaster may be natural or a result of war. But usually this word group is associated with divine judgment." It usually applies to places and things (Richards 1985:222). This is a perfect description of the land of Desolation in the Book of Mormon. (ZRF Staff, "Why Bountiful? Why Desolation?," in Recent Book of Mormon Developments, Vol. 2, p. 148)
Perhaps some references to the land Bountiful or the land Desolation, imply that the lands Bountiful and Desolation were not "possessed" by a people in the usual sense. Perhaps the regions extended over specific "possessed" lands or boundaries rather than being specific boundaried lands. It is hard to tell. The situation of regions extending over specific "possessed" lands or boundaries rather than being specific boundaried lands is similar to national parks, or the "plains area," or even the "desert Southwest" in the United States which spreads across state lines. [See "Why Bountiful? Why Desolation?," in Recent Book of Mormon Developments, Vol. 2, p. 148)
Alma 22:31 Bountiful:
One might wonder if the place name Bountiful is found in Mesoamerica (the area most scholars associate with the lands of the Book of Mormon)? Hunter and Ferguson write:
According to Ixtlilxochitl, the name for "the seat of the kingdom" as of 132 B.C. was Huehuetlapallan, which means "ancient Bountiful land." Hue-hue is from the Nahua (Mexican) tongue and means "old, old" or "ancient." Tlapallan (Tula-pallan) is derived from the primary Maya root Tul, meaning "bountiful or abundance."
They cite Dr. Marcos E. Bercerra of the Mexican Society of Geography, who wrote on the native geographical names of the state of Chiapas (where Izapa is located). In his writings Bercerra shows that many of the place names of Chiapas include the important root-name Tula or Tulan or Tlan, meaning "bountiful" or "abounding." He uses the Spanish word abundancia to define it. Some 19 place names in which tula appears are listed. [Milton R. Hunter and Thomas Stuart Ferguson, Ancient America and the Book of Mormon (1950), pp. 149-150]
Alma 22:31 Bountiful:
According to Clate Mask, several primary historical documents, The Popol Vuh, The Annals of the Cakchiquels, The Title of the Lords of Totonicapan, as well as the historian Ixtlilxochitl spoke of "Tullan," or "Tulan" which both mean "bountiful" or "abundance." Because the Maya root word "tul" means bountiful and the ancients landed at Tulan, some claim that Tulan was on the Gulf Coast. [See illustration] Some place Tulan on the west coast. Others claim that the archaeological site of Tulum on the Caribbean east coast of Mexico is the city of Bountiful. Still others, like Hauck, maintain that the Izapa area, or the fertile Soconusco, was the land of Bountiful. Teotihuacan near Mexico City was anciently called Tulan (there were many places named after Tulan, the first seat of power). There is as much confusion on this complex issue as there are "Bountifuls."
How many locations are there in our country named Green Valley or Pleasant View? Why are they called that? Obviously, there are many place names that are derived from a descriptive term. There are many areas of Mesoamerica that are "bountiful," "abundant" or "abound with" something. Dr. Marcos E. Bercerra of the Mexican Society of geography, wrote on the native geographical names of the state of Chiapas, Mexico (where Izapa is located). In it, he shows that many of the place names include "tula," "tulan," "tlan," and "tan," all of which come from the Maya root "tul" meaning "bountiful" or "abounding." Six locations within a 30 mile radius of Izapa end in "tlan" or "tan": Comaltitlan, Malacatan, Mazatan, Tuzantan, Cacahoatan (where the cacao trees abound), and Huehuetan (Bountiful place of the ancients). . . . [See illustration]
Izapa is located in the fertile tropical piedmont zone known as the Soconusco. [See illustration]
It is rich with volcanic soil and its year-round rainfall has been renowned since pre-Hispanic times. . . . I have searched detailed maps of El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico and have found scattered locations with this Maya suffix "tan" but, curiously, only near Izapa on the Pacific west coast have I observed such a heavy concentration of "bountiful" used in the place names. [Clate Mask, "New Insights into an Old Problem: The Land of Bountiful," pp. 15-17, unpublished]
Geographical Theory Map: Alma 22:31 (Illustration) The landing and migration of the people of Zarahemla
Geographical Theory Map: Alma 22:31 The Landing & Migration of the People of Zarahemla (Year ???)
Alma 22:31 They Came up into the South Wilderness:
According to Alma 22:31, "they came up into the south wilderness." The first thing that might come to our attention is the use of the word "up" to describe movement "south." If we were to follow our modern cultural ways of reading a map, we would say, "down south." Thus we might conclude that when Mormon used the word "up" in relation to a "south wilderness," he was referring to elevation. The second thing that comes to our attention is the word "came," which seems to imply that the point of reference here was the land of Zarahemla. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See Geographical Theory Maps]
Alma 22:31 They came from there up into the south wilderness (Illustration): Land Southward/Bountiful: Land Northward/Desolation: South Wilderness. [Joseph L. Allen, Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon, p. 205]
Alma 22:31 Northward:
In Alma 22:9 we find reference to a "land on the northward" and a "land on the southward." According to Verneil Simmons, the terms "northward" and "southward" are always used in reference to the lands that lay on opposite sides of that narrow land connection. A definite "north" and "south" is used when reference is to specific lands or cities, but when writing about the land of Desolation it is always "northward," possibly referring to the fact that it lay to the northwest. Neither Egyptian nor Hebrew had a word for such a direction. They had to use the expression "north and west" or conversely, "south and east." Perhaps the Nephites had coined a term which could be expressed in English as "northward" or "southward." The terms do not occur on Nephi's Small Plates; presumably the writers had no need for such a term while in the land of Nephi. But Mormon, in his abridgment, uses the terms consistently to refer to the lands lying north and south of the "narrow neck." [Verneil W. Simmons, Peoples, Places And Prophecies, p. 111]
Alma 22:31 Thus, the land on the northward was called Desolation, and the land on the southward was called Bountiful (Illustration): Land of Desolation. Site of Mulekite first landing. [Joseph L. Allen, Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon, p. 204]
Alma 22:31 A Part of Which Had Come from the Land Northward for Food:
In Alma 22:31, Mormon states: "the land on the northward was called Desolation, and the land on the southward was called Bountiful, it being the wilderness which is filled with all manner of wild animals of every kind, a part of which had come from the land northward for food." One might notice that Mormon apparently speaks as if the reader is familiar with the wilderness spoken of here. Indeed, the geographical phrasing is very similar to that in Ether 9:30-35. In speaking of a drought and plague of serpents among the Jaredites, Moroni says that animals and everyone did flee "towards the land southward, which was called by the Nephites Zarahemla." Then, after the drought and plague, in Ether 10:21 Moroni says "they did preserve the land southward for a wilderness to get game". Thus here in Alma 22:31, Mormon might be referring to that portion of Jaredite history and trying to tie it in with the Nephite culture. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See Geographical Theory Maps--also those for Ether 9:30-35]
Geographical Theory Map: Alma 22:30 The Land Bountiful and the Land Desolation (4th Year)
Alma 22:32 A Day and a Half's Journey for a Nephite:
Alma 22:32 states the following:
And now, it was only the distance of a day and a half's journey for a Nephite, on the line Bountiful and the land Desolation, from the east to the west sea
And thus the [general] land of Nephi and the [general] land of Zarahemla were nearly surrounded by water, there being a small neck of land between the land northward and the land southward.
In an article using some basic assumptions and analysis to construct an internal model of the Book of Mormon, John Clark says:
The Book of Mormon apparently specifies precise travel times for this area [the small neck and the narrow neck]. But the short distances involved (one to one-and-a-half days) cannot be squared with any known isthmus (without special conditions or travel rates being specified).
Clark solves the dilemma by making assumptions based on variable travel speed and terrain concluding with the statement, "The short travel times ['a day and a half's journey for a Nephite'--Alma 22:32; see also 3 Nephi 3:23] for what apparently was a significant distance suggest travel over relatively flat terrain." [John Clark, "A Key for Evaluating Nephite Geographies," in Review of Books on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 1, pp. 27-29]
However if, according to Clark, there is a major pass (the narrow pass) running north-south right in the middle of his small (narrow) neck of land, one might wonder how travel could be facilitated from west to east (the width of the narrow neck)? By definition, what defines a "pass" is the inability or obstruction of travel on either side of the "pass." If this pass was of such major importance that it needed to be fortified, and it led into the land northward (rather than leading into the narrow neck), and if the small neck was between the land northward and the land southward, then this implies at least in my way of thinking that there was no easy way around this narrow pass. If such was the case, then in the exact opposite manner of thinking than Clark, I would internally suppose that a day and a half's journey (from the west sea to the east) would be long travel time for what apparently was a minimal distance.
In addition, according to Alma 63:5, not only the narrow pass but the narrow neck "led into the land northward." (emphasis mine) The reader should notice that there is no mention of any restrictions on travel or any internal blockage as there would be if traffic had to channel through a pass. While it is not too far out of line to assume that travel speeds were variable, lacking specific textual notation, who is to judge? Clark can assume "It was flatland" and therefore presume easy travel; yet, it took Balboa and his men 26 days to travel the 50 miles from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific shores of Panama, an average of less than 2 miles per day. Cortez and his men averaged only 10 miles per day in traveling the flat terrain of the Yucatan peninsula. Perhaps an external setting might help tremendously in interpreting the phrase "a day and a half's journey for a Nephite." [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See the commentary on Alma 22:32 "A small neck of land"]
Alma 22:32 A day and a half's journey for a Nephite (Illustration): Nahua Couriers or Runners. "The couriers of the ancient Nahuas were tall and well formed and of light complexion. Couriers were exercised in running from childhood and as they grew to manhood their endurance was wonderful and they could run at the greatest speeds for hours." (History of Mexico, Clavigero 1804, 2:235) [Glenn A. Scott, Voices from the Dust, p. 154]
Alma 22:32 A Day and a Half's Journey for a Nephite:
Matthew Roper writes that while John L. Sorenson has documented examples of native Mexican runners traveling distances of up to 100 miles in a day,98 we need not assume that the entire journey was by foot. Assuming that the "narrow neck of land" mentioned by Mormon is the Mexican Isthmus of Tehuantepec, more than half of this distance could have been traveled by water along the Coatzacoalcos River, speeding up the journey considerably.
Mesoamerican historian Ross Hassig notes that in travels by sea from Veracruz to Coatzacoalcos, "canoes were employed to go up the Coatzacoalcos River to Antigua Malpaso, where land transport was employed for the remaining 12 leagues to Tehuantepec. This route was also employed in travelling between Mexico City and Tehuantepec, [because] water transportation was easier than overland travel."99
In the mid-19th century, "the products of the Pacific side, destined for the Gulf Coast, [were] first brought down to this place [Antigua Malpaso] for embarkation; and occasional cargoes of goods from Vera Cruz ascend[ed] the river to this point, from whence they [were] carried to the Pacific plains on mules."100 A similar route used during the same time period followed this route to Suchil at the head of the Coatzacoalcos River and from there down to the city of Tehuantepec along the Pacific coast.101
In the Tehuantepec region, light balsa wood rafts are frequently hewn out of trees and used for transportation along the local water routes. "The dexterity with which the Indians manage these balsas (often heavily laden), in passing over terrible rapids and through narrow passages filled with rugged rocks, where even a canoe could not possibly live, is truly surprising."102 Kamar Al-Shimas notes that various kinds of canoes are also used in this region: When ascending the river the boat is kept within arm's length of the bank, and fifteen miles with a heavily loaded canoe or thirty miles with a light traveling-canoe is accounted a good day's work. In descending the stream, paddles are used, the canoe is kept to the center of the stream to take advantage of the current, and fifty miles is easily accomplished between daylight and set of the sun."103
While it was a day and a half journey on the defensive line "from the east to the west sea" (Alma 22:32), it was apparently only a day's journey "from the west sea unto the east" (Helaman 3:7). Although other interpretations are possible, these two passages would make sense if part of that journey was by water, since those traveling eastward would be going downstream and could presumably move much faster with the current than could those journeying upstream. [Matthew Roper, "Travel across the 'Narrow Neck of Land'" in FARMS Update, Number 134, Insights, May 2000, p. 2]
Note* While fifty miles is significant, it is not equal to 130 miles, the distance across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec from sea to sea. Some might counter with the fact that the verse in Alma 22:32 says, "from the east to the west sea." However, the Coatzacoalcos River does not even begin until one is midway through the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, and then it flows toward the north or Gulf coast, not the "west sea." Mormon does note travel by boat in Alma 63:5, and even locates the launching into the west sea "by the narrow neck which led into the land northward." On the other hand, if travel by boat is significant enough for Mormon to mention with respect to Hagoth, one might wonder why Mormon is silent in connecting it with "a day and a half's journey for a Nephite." The only other mode of travel mentioned, other than by foot, has to do with "chariots" and "horses" and is found very close in the text at Alma 18:9. As long as a person is going out on a limb for an explanation, why not propose travel by horseback, even to the point of a "pony express" style journey? While the city of Tehuantepec is not situated on the coast, the "12 leagues" distance from the Coatzacoalcos River which Roper cites would be equivalent to about 36 miles. Such a distance, plus the distance to the Pacific Ocean or "sea," would be quite a journey by foot in half a day. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See Volume 2, Appendix B]
Alma 22:32 And Now, It Was Only the Distance of a Day and a Half's Journey:
Joseph Allen notes that Alma 22:32 states that "it was only the distance of a day and a half's journey for a Nephite on the line Bountiful and the land Desolation, from the east to the west sea. And thus the land of Nephi and the land of Zarahemla were nearly surrounded by water, there being a small neck of land between the land northward and the land southward." Since it was "only," we may assume that it was not a huge distance. In order to make some maps work which propose the "small neck of land" to be an isthmus (and more especially to be the Isthmus of Tehuantepec) we would have to believe that the Nephites possibly traveled a distance of 175 miles (see illustration), in one and a half days. This would certainly be regarded as a superhuman feat by anyone seriously considering the distance.
Some have suggested that water covered some of the area which is now dry land, thus making the distance across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec less than it is today. This theory, however, must find an explanation for the archaeological sites bordering the seas on both sides of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. Sites such as La Venta on the Gulf of Mexico and Juchitan on the Gulf of Tehuantepec predate the statement in Alma 22. From what we know from the culture of the Maya, we can deduce that a day's travel is approximately 10 miles. That would make a day and a half's journey more in the range of about 15 miles.
The "small neck of land" represented a location for a division ("line"?) "between the land northward and the land southward." Both from a Mesoamerican perspective and a Book of Mormon view, we know that major division lines consisted of high mountain peaks. Even today Mexico and Guatemala, and Guatemala and Honduras and El Salvador, and the Mexican states of Oaxaca and Chiapas all divide their boundaries by a mountain peak or a mountain range. One side of the volcanic peak or mountain range beginning at the top belongs to one and the opposite side from the top down belongs to the other. As we trace the division between the Mexican states of Oaxaca and Chiapas, we see that we are following the top of a mountain range. One possibility for the "line" dividing Bountiful and Desolation is along the Pacific coast of southern Mexico at the southern end of the division between Oaxaca and Chiapas (see illustration). Here we find on the east a pre-classic archaeological site called Perseverancia. We can then travel 15 miles directly west to the Pacific Ocean (Gulf of Tehuantepec) and we come to a town called Paredon. The word "Paredon" means "big wall." To this day, there exist the remains of an ancient wall or fortification coming from the ocean near the cemetery at Paredon, extending in an eastern direction. Today the Mexican army is stationed in a position between the mountain range on the east and the ocean on the west, thus allowing them to control the area as a legal checkpoint for people coming from Central America to Mexico. Mormon stated that "the Nephites in their wisdom, with their guards and their armies, had hemmed in the Lamanites on the south, that thereby they should have no more possession on the north." (Alma 22:33) [Joseph L. Allen, "How far was 'a day-and-a-half's' journey for a Nephite?" in Book of Mormon Archaeological Digest, Vol. 1/1, Spring 1998, pp. 6-8]
Alma 22:32 And now, it was Only the distance of a day and a half's journey (Illustration): Figure 2: This map illustrates the trail between the Gulf of Mexico and the Gulf of Tehuantepec. The trail covers approximately 175 miles as it weaves between the Tehuantepec Mountains. [Joseph L. Allen, "How far was 'a day-and-a-half's' journey for a Nephite?" in Book of Mormon Archaeological Digest, Vol. 1/1, Spring 1998, p. 6]
Alma 22:32 And now, it was Only the distance of a day and a half's journey (Illustration): Figure 3: It is 15 miles from the pre-classic archaeological site of Perseverancia to Paredon. This is the proposed fortification line that made up the "day and a half journey" in the Book of Mormon. [Joseph L. Allen, "How far was 'a day-and-a-half's' journey for a Nephite?" in Book of Mormon Archaeological Digest, Vol. 1/1, Spring 1998, p. 7]
Alma 22:32 It Was Only the Distance of a Day and a Half's Journey for a Nephite:
Mormon relates a "small neck of land between the land northward and the land southward" with "the distance of a day and a half's journey for a Nephite" from "the east to the west sea" (Alma 22:32). According to Jerry Ainsworth, the "small neck of land" was also called the "narrow pass." The pass did not run from the east sea to the west sea, but from the east to the west sea. The pass did not extend the entire length of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, which would be from north to south, not from east to west. The narrow pass ran from the direction east, then made a turn and ended up at the west sea (see illustration). Interestingly, a city located at the center of this pass today is called Paso Real--the "Royal Pass." Ainsworth notes:
I always asked myself why Alma said in his day that "a Nephite" could walk the narrow pass in a day and a half. That implies a Lamanite could not. The answer came to me many years after reading Alma's description. In 1993, Esteban and I attempted to walk the narrow pass. Once you try it, it becomes obvious why only "a Nephite" could walk it in a day and a half. The pass runs between two small mountain ranges and is entirely at sea level. It is also one of the hottest parts of Mexico. To walk such a distance in such oppressive climate, a person would have to be acclimated to laboring in temperatures of 90 to 100 degrees. In Alma's day, the Nephites had lived in the lowlands. . . . When one is accustomed to working in 65 degree temperatures [as the highland Lamanites were], one cannot walk, carrying all essentials, at the same rate as one who is used to the hotter climate.
[Jerry L. Ainsworth, The Lives and Travels of Mormon and Moroni, p. 168]
Alma 22:32 It was only the distance of a day and a half's journey for a Nephite (Illustration): Map 30. Narrow Pass Runs from the East to the West Sea. [Jerry L. Ainsworth, The Lives and Travels of Mormon and Moroni, p. 169]
Alma 22:32 And Thus the Land of Nephi and the Land of Zarahemla Were Nearly Surrounded by Water:
[See the commentary on 3 Nephi 3:23]
Alma 22:32 The Land of Nephi and the Land of Zarahemla Were Nearly Surrounded by Water:
According to Jerry Ainsworth's interpretation of Alma 22:32, the only thing keeping the lands of Nephi and Zarahemla from being completely surrounded by water was the small (narrow) neck of land (the Isthmus of Tehuantepec), which led to the land northward. Mormon comments: "The land of Nephi and the land of Zarahemla were nearly surrounded by water, there being a small neck of land between the land northward and the land southward" (Alma 22:32).
A possibility for the water surrounding the southernmost part of the land concerns the boundary between Nicaragua and Costa Rica (see illustrations). In Nephite times, that area might have been mostly under water. Almost half of the boundary between the two countries today consists of water--lakes Managua and Nicaragua. The borderland between Nicaragua and Costa Rica is the only place adjacent to, and south of, the "land of Nephi" that is devoid of mountain ranges. That area was also considered as a site for the Atlantic-Pacific canal that was ultimately built in Panama. [Jerry L. Ainsworth, The Lives and Travels of Mormon and Moroni, pp. 68-69]
Alma 22:32 The land of Nephi and the land of Zarahemla were nearly surrounded by water (Illustration): Map 5. Political Boundaries from 130 B.C. to A.D. 350. Map 6 Alma 22:32 "The land of Nephi and the land of Zarahemla were nearly surrounded by water, there being a narrow neck of land between the land northward and the land southward." [Jerry L. Ainsworth, The Lives and Travels of Mormon and Moroni, pp. 68-69]
Alma 22:32 [The Land Southward Was] Nearly Surrounded by Water:
J. M. Sjodahl writes that for what it is worth, in the Troano manuscript there is a remarkable glyph, which Dr. Augustus le Plongeon says, if read phonetically, means "The Country of the King, Surrounded by Water." The upper circle, he informs us, stands for Ahau, "king," and the lower, for Luumil, a country in the water; while the feather, the symbol of royalty, indicates that that is the name of the country. And this "Country of the King, Sourrounded by Water" is, he tells us, the old Maya domain in Central America. But from the Book of Mormon we know [of the Land Southward] . . . It was also, as we have seen, "nearly surrounded by water." It appears, then that we have, in the Book of Mormon a geographical name identical with one in the Toano manuscript, and the inferences is natural that both stand for the same portion of Central America. [J. M. Sjodahl, An Introduction to the Study of the Book of Mormon, p. 429]
Alma 22:32 Thus . . . Nearly Surrounded by Water:
Perhaps the fault is with me, but I fail to see how "internally" (or within the scope of the scriptures cited here), the writer Mormon has demonstrated (notice he uses the word "thus") that the land of Nephi and the land of Zarahemla were nearly surrounded by water. However, if the reader has been comparing the descriptions made by Mormon in this section with a Mesoamerican setting, he should find that they fit quite adequately for reasons that go beyond dots and lines. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]
Geographical Theory Map: Alma 22:32 Nearly Surrounded by Water (4th Year)
Alma 22:32 A Small Neck of Land:
In our geographical studies of the Book of Mormon, we encounter the terms "small neck of land" (Alma 22:32), "narrow pass" (Alma 50:34, 52:9), "narrow neck" (Alma 63:5, Ether 10:20), and "narrow passage" (Mormon 2:29). Are the terms synonymous or different? Do these terms refer to the same geographical landmark? Let us examine them:
(A) Small neck of land: "And now, it was only the distance of a day and a half's journey for a Nephite, on the line Bountiful and the land Desolation, from the east to the west sea; and thus the land of Nephi and the land of Zarahemla were nearly surrounded by water, there being a small neck of land between the land northward and the land southward." (Alma 22:32)
(B) Narrow pass: "The narrow pass which led by the sea into the land northward, yea, by the sea, on the west and on the east" (Alma 30:34). "The narrow pass which led into the land northward" (Alma 52:9).
(C) Narrow neck: "The narrow neck which led into the land northward" (Alma 63:5).
(D) Narrow passage: "the narrow passage which led into the land southward" (Mormon 2:29).
Three of the terms (B,C,D) imply a geographical entity which leads between a land southward and a land northward, while the fourth (A) is described as being located "between" a land northward and a land southward. Thus we might say: B = C = D or at least they are similar. We can also say that A is similar to B, and A is similar to C, and A is similar to D, or perhaps they might all be equal.
The small neck of land (A) was bordered on at least on one side and maybe two sides by a sea. The narrow pass (B) also "led by the sea . . . on the west and on the east" which implies that a sea (the west sea) bordered it on the west, and a sea (east sea) bordered it on the east. Thus we might say: A is similar to B, or perhaps A = B.
We have three equations: A is similar to B (maybe equal), B = C = D (maybe similar); and A is similar to B (maybe equal). Therefore, do we conclude A = B = C = D (one small-narrow-pass-passage), or do we separate these four descriptive terms into two entities (1. a small-narrow neck of land; and 2. a narrow pass-passage), or do we keep them as four separate entities? I would think that the answer to this question has a lot to do with our theoretical model.
Clark has made one of his rules: "Assume no duplication of place names unless the text is unambiguous on the matter. Yet has he followed his own rule in relationship to the small neck, narrow neck, narrow pass, and narrow passage? It is not very clear. The logic of the scriptures quoted above could lead to a number of things: (1) Logic could consolidate all of the terms into one isthmus; (2) Logic could make two entities, a small/narrow neck of land and a narrow pass/passage; (3) Logic could make a narrow corridor (1-1.5 day's journey in width) running north along the west coast of Zarahemla, then have it move eastward between the land northward and the land southward through a much broader and longer isthmus, and then have it run northward and parallel to the east coast. If this corridor was referred to both as a "narrow passage" and a "narrow neck," then my narrow neck (passage) would not be an isthmus, it would be a travel corridor through an isthmus. It would also be a consolidation of terms; or (4) Logic could make 4 or more separate geographical entities. Thus we see that the interpretation of the terms "small neck," narrow neck," "narrow passage," and "narrow pass," is not a simple task.
Since I can be biased in this section, I will start by assuming a Mesoamerican setting. Much has been written in the way of interpretation concerning this verse. Many maps have taken this verse to mean the total distance "from the east (sea) to the west sea. However, the verse does not say that. It says from the east (not east sea). By referring to the Mesoamerican map, we see that to those travelers trying to go along the Pacific coastal plain of Guatemala northward towards Mexico City, there is a rugged set of mountains that block travel along the Pacific coast of Mexico. Indeed, from ancient Jaredite (Olmec) times until the present, it seems that most all traffic going from the Pacific coast of Guatemala, when confronted with these rugged mountains, moved instead through the Isthmus of Tehuantepec on relatively flat ground and thus moved toward the Atlantic coast and the Veracruz area in its course northward. The dilemma that Mormon might have been trying to explain here is that Bountiful and Desolation had a boundary line separating the two lands ("north" of the line was Desolation and "south" of the line was Bountiful). This boundary line might have been located within this ancient travel corridor or "small neck of land" (verse 32). Now this "small neck" apparently separated (or connected) the total "land northward" from the total "land southward". Could the day and a half's journey or the small neck of land be a description of the width of the coastal travel corridor from the Pacific Coast through the Isthmus of Tehuantepec? [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]
Alma 22:32 A Small Neck of Land between the Land Northward and the Land Southward:
J. N. Washburn writes: Is it not altogether likely that the limited distances of Central America have given us who are unacquainted with the country a wrong idea of the time requiried to traverse it? Should we be surprised to learn that it is no small matter to cross the Isthmus of Panama? In times past many have found to their dismay that a few miles could easily constitute a journey of no mean proportions. . . Writing of Panama, Harold Rugg (A History of American Civilization, p. 47) says, in connection with the Spaniards: "It is a difficult trip of 45 miles through the tropical forests, those dark forests of high trees festooned so thickly with vines and creepers. Even with the ax the Spaniards can hardlly break thorugh."
Another illustration from William Robertson (History of America, p. 203) is more to the point. He tells that in 1513 Balboa landed on the east coast of Darien. He had 190 men and one thousand Indians to carry his provisions. But he found that his progress was impeded by many obstacles. There were, of course, human enemies. But whereas the guide had represented to Balboa that the isthmus could be crossed in six days, the company spent more than twenty-five. Thus they made little more than two miles a day. [J. N. Washburn, An Approach to the Study of Book of Mormon Geography, pp. 110-111]
Alma 22:32 A Small Neck of Land between the Land Northward and the Land Southward:
According to Verneil Simmons, as for the "small neck of land" being Panama, though Panama is only thirty-six miles wide at one point, the actual isthmus is more than 400 miles long, much of it too swampy to be utilized even today. One author has referred to the area in these terms:
An examination of the topography, vegetation and climate of Panama and the adjacent territory reveals a singularly and surprisingly difficult approach to South America today. Dire necessity alone would force primitive people to attempt the passage of such regions, especially if the difficulties of travel were enhanced by lack of geographical knowledge.104
The 1971-72 Trans-America expedition Operation Darien made an attempt to cross the Darien Gap. On December 9, 1971, the Kansas City Times published an article about this expedition under the title "Alaska to Chile -- by Land." The following are excerpts from the article:
What makes a relatively simple, if extended, drive into an epic journey is El Tapon (the stopper), a 250-mile stretch of swamp and jungle, ravine and mountain from Canitas in Panama to Rio Leon in Colombia. This is the Darien Gap, part of the Isthmus of Panama. . . . No vehicle has ever crossed this hot and humid land. . . . This second phase of the journey, the real part of the expedition, is scheduled to take 12 weeks. The group is expected to average about two miles a day for most of the trek. Earlier this year a joint air-land reconnaissance trip revealed vertical ravines, streams and swamps mixed with steep ridges. It is estimated that 125 bridges will have to be built.
The United States Congress voted $100 million for completion of the Pan American Highway through this Darien Gap but that hope is still probably years away at best [as of 1996]. [Verneil W. Simmons, Peoples, Places and Prophecies, p. 112]
Alma 22:32 There being a small neck of land between the land northward and the land southward (Illustration): The Isthmus of Tehuantepec showing the Narrow Pass dividing two mountain ranges. [Joseph L. Allen, Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon, p. 281]
Alma 22:32 A small neck of land (Illustration): A narrow neck of land runs nearly two hundred miles along the Pacific coast of Guatemala and Mexico and has served as the primary north-south corridor of travel for millennia. It is bordered on the west by the Pacific and on the east by a formidable mountain land barrier--the Sierra Madre mountain range. In the area shown, the neck narrows, and there is a natural pass that leads into the land northward. Heavy fortifications have been discovered at this site just south of Tonala, Mexico. Just to the north of this pass the land is dry and desolate---to the south it is rich and verdant. Because of all the natural defenses here and the archaeological evidences in the area that match the descriptions from the Book of Mormon, some scholars believe this may be the region where the people gathered together to stand firm against the Gadiantons The references in the Book of Mormon do not give a clear indication that the narrow neck of land is surrounded by water, only that there is a sea on the west. The distance across this line between the two ecosystems at the north end of this narrow neck of land is about a day and a half's journey.
The descriptions given in the Book of Mormon of the narrow neck of land and the narrow pass that led into the land northward so perfectly match this region that it is hard not to recognize this area as being the most probable candidate. Space does not allow the verification of sites fortified not only during the 73 B.C. wars, but also during the last series of battles with General Mormon leading up the narrow neck and into the land northward. Years of tradition have pointed to the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in Mexico as being the narrow neck of land, but on-site observations do not seem to support this unlikely candidate.) [Scot and Maurine Proctor, Light from the Dust, p. 161; Footnote, p. 207]
Alma 22:32 A small neck of land (Illustration): The Narrow Neck of Land. (1) Floods: "Vertical lines on this map show the Gulf of Mexico and Tehuantepec Isthmus areas worst hit by the current floods." (Mexico City News, 1968). Because much of this narrow neck of land is alluvial (i.e., built up from soil washed down from higher elevations), the neck was much narrower in Book of Mormon times. [Glenn A. Scott, Voices from the Dust, p. 154]
Geographical Theory Map: Alma 22:32 A Small Neck of Land (4th Year)
Alma 22:33 Bountiful, Even from the East to the West Sea:
The Nephites had driven the "Lamanites" toward "the east by the seashore" according to Alma 22:29. Apparently this statement might be inferring that in driving these "idle" Lamanites toward the east coast, the Nephites had cleared or extended the eastern part of the land of Bountiful also. The Nephite thinking at this time might have been that to have somewhat "idle" Lamanites on their west coast and "driven" Lamanites on their east coast did not endanger them; in fact, it kept trade routes somewhat "neutral." However militarily and politically the Nephites now felt that they had "hemmed in the Lamanites on the south". This theory would be tested to the maximum in the years to come. In fact, chief captain Moroni would ultimately have to put up a defense line to seal off both the west coast travel corridor and the east coast travel corridor. (Alma 50:32-34; 51:28-32; 52:9; Helaman 1:23,28; 4:6-7)
Mormon does not say here that the land of Bountiful definitely reached the east sea, only that it stretched "from the east unto the west sea." Nevertheless, as far as the eastern part of Bountiful ultimately reaching the east coast, we find in Alma 51:32 that "they (the Nephites) did slay them (the Lamanites) even until it was dark. And it came to pass that Teancum and his men did pitch their tents in the borders of the land Bountiful; and Amalickiah did pitch his tents in the borders on the beach by the seashore." This places the borders of the land Bountiful very close to the eastern seashore. Also, we find a similar scenario in Alma 52:18---53:3. Therefore, we can probably say that the borders of the land Bountiful were very close to if not right at the east sea. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]
Alma 22:33 No More Possessions on the North:
Alma 22:33 states the following:
And it came to pass that the Nephites had inhabited the land Bountiful, even from the east unto the west sea, and thus the Nephites in their wisdom, with their guards and their armies, had hemmed in the Lamanites on the south, that thereby they [the Lamanites] should have no more possession on the north, that they [the Lamanites] might not overrun the land northward.
One might ask, Does the fact that the Nephites desired that the Lamanites "should have no more possession on the north" imply that the Lamanites already had possessions on the north? [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]
Geographical Theory Map: Alma 22:33 The Lamanites Are Hemmed in (4th Year)
Alma 22:35 And Now I, After Having Said This [Statement concerning Geography], Return Again to the Account of Ammon and Aaron, Omner and Himni, and Their Brethren:
In the course of relating an incident involving Nephite missionaries and the great king over the Lamanites, Mormon inserted a 570-word aside that summarized major features of the land southward (as well as connecting the geography of all the pertinent cultures associated with the promised land in the Book of Mormon). This raises the question of relating geographical statements in the Book of Mormon. In other words, How can one construct a geographical map of the lands of the Book of Mormon?
John Sorenson writes that the beginning in addressing Book of Mormon geography is the text of the Book of Mormon itself. Elder Joseph Fielding Smith put the principle well for Latter-day Saints: "The teachings of any . . . member of the Church, high or low, if they do not square with the revelations, we need not accept them."105 Whatever the Book of Mormon says about its own geography thus takes precedence over anything commentators have said of it.
Overall, over 550 verses in the Book of Mormon contain information of geographical significance. Some fifteen lands are named therein, and their positions are noted, connoted, or implied. The positions of forty-seven cities are more or less characterized (thirteen of these forty-seven are mentioned only once, and that limited date fails to provide enough information to relate the thirteen to the locations of the locations of other cities or lands). Mormon never hints that he did not understand the geography behind the records of his ancestors that he was abridging; rather, his writing exudes an air of confidence. According to his account (see the book of Mormon), he personally traveled through much of the Nephite lands. In fact, he was a military leader and strategist who was accustomed to paying close attention to the lay of the land, and he may also have had actual maps to which he could refer. [John L. Sorenson, Mormon's Map, F.A.R.M.S., pp. 9-11]