The Lord Confirms the Covenant Way
Alma 45 -- 3 Nephi 10
Alma 52:7 [Teancum] Kept Thus Preparing for War until Moroni Had Sent a Large Number of Men:
We learn in Alma 52:7 that Teancum "kept thus preparing for war until Moroni had sent a large number of men. For a discussion on how long did Teancum had to wait for men, the reader is referred to the commentary on Alma 52:15. [See also Appendix A--Chronology]
Alma 52:9 He Should Fortify the Land Bountiful, and Secure the Narrow Pass Which Led into the Land Northward:
Moroni commanded Teancum to "fortify the land Bountiful and secure the narrow pass which led into the land northward" (Alma 52:9). Thus it seems that chief captain Moroni felt that the actions of fortifying the land of Bountiful and securing the narrow pass were somehow connected in purpose. If this is true, then the location of these strategic geographical areas might be crucial to gaining an understanding of (or to seeing the differences between) various models of Book of Mormon geography. Therefore, it is up to each Book of Mormon geographical theorist to define "the land Bountiful," "the narrow pass," and "the land northward." [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See Geographical Theory Maps]
Alma 52:9 He Should Fortify the Land Bountiful, and Secure the Narrow Pass Which Led into the Land Northward:
According to the geographical theory of David Palmer, the land Bountiful provided access to the land northward by way of an "east coast" route. This route was apparently the location of the cities (in the "east wilderness") taken by Amalickiah before he came to the land Bountiful. According to the theories of Palmer and John Sorenson, movement through the Isthmus of Tehuantepec [their proposed small neck of land] on the Gulf of Mexico side of the divide [their "east coast" route] is extremely difficult unless the ridge running from Acayucan past Minatitlan is followed. Elsewhere the area is too swampy for travel. . . . It seems likely that the gravelly ridge crossing this swampy area and ending at the major ford on the Coatzacoalcos river could be associated with the "narrow pass" (Alma 52:9). [David A. Palmer, In Search of Cumorah, pp. 31-32] [See the commentary on Alma 50:33-34; Helaman 4:7; Alma 63:5; Mormon 3:5-7]
Alma 52:9 Lest the Lamanites Should Obtain That Point:
According to David Palmer, the reference to a "point" in Alma 52:9 emphasizes the fact that the entire isthmus was not being spoken of. [David A. Palmer, In Search of Cumorah, pp. 31-32]
For those who define their "narrow neck of land" as the distance across an isthmus in a west-east direction, the "narrow pass" would represent not only a "point," but a separate and distinct geographical entity from the "narrow neck of land." That is, the "narrow pass" would be running in a south-north direction. However, if the "narrow neck of land" represented a narrow travel corridor which first ran northward along the west coast, then turned and traveled through an isthmus in a west-east direction before turning northward along the east coast, the term "narrow pass" could be taken as another way of describing the "small neck of land." In other words, one could interchange the terms "narrow pass" and "narrow neck of land." Thus, for one traveling northward, they would have to reach a "point" somewhere along a "narrow pass" ("small neck of land") traveling in a west-east direction from coast to coast. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See Geographical Theory Maps] [See the commentary on Alma 50:33-34; Helaman 4:7; Alma 63:5; Mormon 3:5-7]
Alma 52:9 He should fortify the land Bountiful, and secure the narrow pass which led into the land northward (Illustration): Map #4, Narrow Neck of Land Region Archaeological Sites Dating to Book of Mormon Period. [David A. Palmer, In Search of Cumorah, pp. 256-257]
Alma 52:10 That Quarter of the Land:
Does the phrase, "that quarter of the land" (Alma 52:10), imply that the land of Zarahemla was divided up into quarters? If so where were these quarters and what significance did they have militarily?
The reader should note that there are two distinct phrases used overwhelmingly during the tenure of Moroni as chief commander of the Nephites. The first is "that quarter of the land," and the second is "that part of the land." Not counting the book of Ether, which is a history of the Jaredites, the Book of Mormon has 12 instances where these phrases occur. All of these occurrences are found within the tenure of Moroni as chief commander.
As part of the overall defense of the country, the Nephite chief commander Moroni might have viewed the general land of Zarahemla as being divided up into four quarters (NW, SW, NE, SE). Each of these quarters or parts were apparently connected to the central local land of Zarahemla. In Alma 60:18-19, we find that Moroni writes an epistle to Pahoran to complain about the lack of support. Pahoran is Chief Judge at the time and has a residence in the city of Zarahemla. Moroni says the following:
But why should I say much concerning this matter? For we know not but what ye yourselves are seeking for authority. We know not but what ye are also traitors to your country. Or is it that ye have neglected us because ye are in the heart of our country and ye are surrounded by security, that ye do not cause food to be sent unto us, and also men to strengthen our armies?
Thus leaders were apparently established for the various "quarters of the land"; however, only certain ones are mentioned at various times. We know that Teancum was set up in the northeast quarter in the land Bountiful (Alma 52:9). Moroni had his "camp" in the southeast quarter near the cities of Lehi, Morianton, and Nephihah (Alma 50:27). Antipus was appointed by Moroni as a leader in the southwestern quarter (Alma 56:9), and Helaman was recognized as the leader of the 2000 "young men" of the people of Ammon (possibly from the northwest quarter--Alma 56:5). [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See Geographical Theory Maps]
Alma 52:11 The Lamanites Are upon Us in the Borders of the Land by the West Sea; and Behold I Go against Them:
[See the commentary on Alma 52:15]
Alma 52:11 I Go against Them:
Moroni laments the fact that he can't come to the aid of Teancum in the land Bountiful. His reason for not doing so is that "the Lamanites are upon us in the borders of the land by the west sea; and behold, I go against them" (Alma 52:11). One might ask, When Moroni uses the phrase "I go against them," does he mean that he is already there "in the borders of the land by the west sea," going to go there, or does he mean that he has the responsibility as chief captain over all the army (Alma 61:2) to see that a proper defense is made "in the borders of the land by the west sea"? And where is Moroni writing his letter from at this time? If chief captain Moroni did actually go to the west coast, and was actually involved in the battles, why didn't Helaman mention anything about this in his letter to Moroni? (see Alma 56) [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See the commentary on Alma 52:15]
Alma 52:12 The King [Ammoron] Had Departed out of the Land of Zarahemla:
Just after we read of Moroni notifying Teancum of Lamanites which were upon the Nephites in the borders of the land by the west sea, we find an editorial note by Mormon in which he states:
Now the king [of the Lamanites--Ammoron] had departed out of the land of Zarahemla, and had made known unto the queen concerning the death of his brother [Amalickiah], and had gathered together a large number of men, and had marched forth against the Nephites on the borders by the west sea. And thus he was endeavoring to harass the Nephites, and to draw away a part of their forces to that part of the land, while he had commanded those whom he had left to possess the cities which he had taken, that they should also harass the Nephites on the borders by the east sea, and should take possession of their lands as much as it was in their power, according to the power of their armies. And thus were the Nephites in those dangerous circumstances in the ending of the twenty and sixth year of the reign of the judges over the people of Nephi. (Alma 52:12-14)
The reader should be aware that the whole story of these battles by the west sea will be told in Alma 53:8-18 and Alma 56:1--58:39. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]
Alma 52:15 In the Twenty and Seventh Year . . . Moroni . . . Had Begun His March towards the Land Bountiful:
In "the twenty and sixth year" (Alma 52:1), Moroni lamented in a letter to Teancum (who was "in the land Bountiful"--see Alma 52:9) that, "I could come unto you, but behold, the Lamanites are upon us in the borders of the land by the west sea; and behold, I go against them, therefore I cannot come unto you" (Alma 52:11). As a fulfillment of Moroni's words, Mormon records that,
in the twenty and seventh year . . . Moroni . . . had established armies to protect the south and the west borders of the land, and had begun his march towards the land Bountiful, that he might assist Teancum with his men in retaking the cities which they had lost-- (Alma 52:15)
This chronological information might seem at odds with the information in Alma 56:9 and Alma 52:22. There we find that,
. . . in the twenty and sixth year, I, Helaman, did march at the head of these two thousand young men to the city of Judea, to assist Antipus, whom ye had appointed a leader over the people of that part of the land . . . And now it came to pass that Helaman did march at the head of his two thousand stripling soldiers, to the support of the people in the borders of the land on the south by the west sea. (Alma 56:9; 52:22)
Apparently Helaman and the 2000 marched on the west coast in the 26th year. Yet in Helaman's epistle to Moroni (which Moroni received "in the commencement of the thirtieth year"--Alma 56:1), Helaman writes as if Moroni had no personal knowledge of his situation on the west coast (see Alma 56:2).
One might wonder if a chronological error has entered into the Nephite record. However, I believe that an adequate explanation can be presented for this seemingly mixed-up chronology.
The first thing to be considered in trying to understand this chronological situation is the location from which Moroni sent his message to Teancum (see Alma 52:11). Was it sent from the embattled cities in the east wilderness? or from "the borders of the land by the west sea"? or from somewhere else? Contrary to what it might seem (that it was sent from either the eastern cities or the land by the west sea), I believe that Moroni sent his epistle to Teancum from the central land of Zarahemla for reasons stated by Moroni himself. In a letter written some years later to the chief judge Pahoran when failure to send men and provisions cost the Nephite armies dearly, Moroni will write:
Behold, I direct mine epistle to Pahoran, in the city of Zarahemla, who is the chief judge and the governor over the land, and also to all those who have been chosen by this people to govern and manage the affairs of this war.
For behold, I have somewhat to say unto them by the way of condemnation; for behold, ye yourselves know that ye have been appointed to gather together men, and arm them with swords, and with cimeters, and all manner of weapons of war of every kind, and send forth against the Lamanites, in whatsoever parts they should come into our land . . . But behold, great has been the slaughter among our people; yea, thousands have fallen by the sword, while it might have otherwise been if ye had rendered unto our armies sufficient strength and succor for them. Yea, great has been your neglect towards us. (Alma 60:1,2,5)
Thus, it was apparently the responsibility of the central government to furnish men and supplies to any of chief commander Moroni's armies (which includes both the armies of Teancum and the armies on the borders of the west sea). Therefore, Moroni would have probably sought the counsel of the central governmental leaders before embarking on any campaign with Teancum or against the west coast. The route that Moroni took in the 26th year to reach these governmental Nephite leaders and at the same time protect against the armies of Ammoron was probably the same route that he took earlier in his military career against Zerahemnah (see Alma 43,44). In that march, Moroni traveled from the eastern lands of Antionum and Jershon through the southern boundaries of the central land of Zarahemla in order to eventually stop Zerahemnah on the west at Manti. Now in the 26th year, Ammoron was circling around in the same way to attack Manti, and thus Moroni would counter that offensive by putting his army between Manti and the central land of Zarahemla much like before.
Whether Moroni was personally and physically involved in the establishment of armies on the western front during the middle part of the 26th year is not mentioned specifically, but even if he was, it might not have had a bearing on the records of either Mormon or Helaman. To clarify, I will refer the reader to Appendix A. Mormon records just after the ending of the 26th year:
But behold, it came to pass in the twenty and seventh year of the reign of the judges, that. . . Moroni, who had established armies to protect the south and the west borders of the land, . . . had begun his march towards the land Bountiful, that he might assist Teancum with his men in retaking the cities which they had lost. (Alma 52:15)
What is important to understand chronologically is that in the last part of the 26th year, Moroni would have had to have finished with the establishment of armies to protect the west and begun his march toward Teancum in the land Bountiful a little before Helaman began his march toward Antipus in Judea, which is entirely possible. Mormon apparently could have been satisfied or assured by the leaders in Zarahemla that reinforcements and provisions to the west were going to be taken care of by the officials in the local land of Zarahemla so that in the latter part of the 26th year, he departed from the local land of Zarahemla.
Nevertheless, the western front at this time presented a dilemma to the leaders in Zarahemla responsible for supplies and men because within those western boundaries resided the people of Ammon (Alma 8:3, 35:13). These former Lamanites had taken an oath years before never to take up arms (Alma 56:6). Because of this, as Helaman relates, "in the twenty and sixth year" the young men of these people of Ammon stepped forward and volunteered to fight, not having ever taken the oath. Thus Helaman "did march at the head of these two thousand young men to the city of Judea, to assist Antipus" (Alma 56:9). It is important for the reader to notice that Helaman does not say what part of the "twenty and sixth year" that his march took place in. Therefore, I propose that it is entirely plausible that his march took place in the latter part of the twenty and sixth year. It is also important for the reader to notice that the specific march of Moroni to assist Teancum in Bountiful "had begun" sometime "in the twenty and seventh year," but not necessarily in the commencement of the 27th year. Thus, Moroni could have started his march towards the land Bountiful in the latter part of the 26th year, a little before the time Helaman started his march toward the west coast.
One final consideration might be to establish the route that Moroni took in his march towards the land Bountiful in order to assist Teancum in the 27th year. This journey apparently consumed a good part of a year (Alma 52:15, 18), which is too much time for a direct march from the local land of Zarahemla (or from the west coast). A plausible reason for the delay might be that Mormon took time to revisit the established army sites along the southern border of the general land of Zarahemla in order to assure himself of their readiness. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See Appendix A--Chronology]
Alma 52:16 Teancum Had Received Orders to Make an Attack on the City of Mulek:
In Alma 52:16 it is noted that "Teancum had received orders [from Moroni] to make an attack on the city of Mulek, and retake it if it were possible." If we refer back to Alma 52:5, we find that,
Teancum saw that the Lamanites were determined to maintain those cities which they had taken, and those parts of the land which they had obtained possession of; and also seeing the enormity of their number, Teancum thought it was not expedient that he should attempt to attack them in their forts. . . . And he kept his men round about, as if making preparations for war . . . And . . . he kept thus preparing for war until Moroni had sent a large number of men to strengthen his army.
If Teancum "received orders" at this time, had this "large number of men" already arrived? [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See Appendix A--Chronology]
Geographical Theory Map: Alma 52:7-16 Ammoron Departs to the West Sea (26th Year)
Alma 52:17 The City Bountiful:
In Alma 52:17 we find the first mention of a "city Bountiful." All the previous references have been to the "land" Bountiful. One might wonder if all the previous references were referring to a local land of Bountiful or a general land of Bountiful? One might also wonder just exactly where the "city Bountiful" was located in the "land" of Bountiful. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]
Alma 52:17 Teancum Made Preparations to Make an Attack:
In Alma 52:1-9 it states that "in the twenty and sixth year" (v.1) while "it was not expedient" (v.5) for Teancum to attack the Lamanites in their forts, Teancum kept preparing for war by "casting up walls round about" (v.6) his defensive sites in "the land Bountiful" (v.9) "until Moroni had sent a large number of men to strengthen his army" (v.7). There is no direct account of this "large number of men" ever arriving, however in the "twenty and seventh year" (Alma 52:15); "Teancum had received orders to make an attack upon the city of Mulek" (Alma 52:16) and thus "Teancum made preparations to make an attack" (Alma 52:17. However, Teancum "saw that it was impossible that he could overpower [the Lamanites] while they were in their fortifications; therefore he abandoned his designs and returned again to the city Bountiful, that he might receive strength to his army." Thus, the men Moroni had promised might not have ever been sent. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]
Alma 52:17 The City of Mulek . . . the City Bountiful:
If Teancum marched forth with his armies to "the city of Mulek" (Alma 52:17) and then "returned again to the city Bountiful" to wait for the coming of Moroni," one might reason that because there is no mention of any other land or city in the record of Teancum's travels, both to or from the city of Mulek, then there was, in fact, no other recognized land or city between the city of Mulek and the city of Bountiful. The reader should note, however, the mention in Alma 51:32 of what is termed "the borders of the land Bountiful" and "the borders on the beach by the seashore," both of which would apparently lie in the intervening space between the city of Bountiful and the city of Mulek. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]
Alma 52:17 The City Bountiful (Sorenson Theory):
On the suggestion of John L. Sorenson, a ten-day expedition was conducted between December 27, 1989 and January 6, 1990 to the Gulf of Mexico side of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in southern Mexico. The principal objective of this trip was to find a plausible site for the Book of Mormon city first called "Bountiful" (Alma 52:17). Additionally, plausible sites were investigated for the Jaredite place called Ablom. At the time, John Sorenson felt that an informed amateur could possibly accomplish more than a professional archaeologist because of the laws regarding the ancient mounds, so he arranged funding and asked Dr. David A. Palmer to head the expedition. He was assisted by Dr. Robert E. Fisher who did videotaping, and Elder Octaviano Tenorio, a regional representative of the LDS Church, as he was born and raised in a community called Tilapan, Veracruz, about ten miles from the Cerro Vigia (a proposed location for the hill Cumorah).
After a number of flights over the Isthmus area near the Gulf Coast, and visits (some interesting and some disappointing) to various sites, and through careful study of the scriptures, this group came to believe that the Land Bountiful had the following boundaries: the River Tonala on the east, the River Coatzacoalcos on the west, the Gulf Coast on the north, and that it continued south as a block essentially to the Pacific Ocean. With this scenario, it seemed as though the City Bountiful might have been located on the west side of the River Tonala, as this location would have provided some military protection. The most promising spot was found to be at Tonala.
Tonala (see the location on the illustrated map below) has been inhabited from the time the city of Bountiful was first built in the days of Captain Moroni, but the mounds have suffered considerably. The natives there have been extracting and selling artifacts from the mounds for many years. The largest mound was apparently enormous. Today it has been almost razed and used as a site for the local cemetery, which even today is completely covered with potsherds.
Tonala was an early place visited by Bernal Diaz del Castillo.32 His men traded glass beads for what they thought was gold. Lic. Roberto Bencomo, a collector of ancient artifacts in the area, told the group that the natives actually gave Diaz shiny copper (tumbaga?). Of note, however, is the fact that his men saw enormous mounds at the site. They also said that during the dry season it was possible to just walk across the river at its mouth without having to swim. In that year, A.D. 1518, they planted the first oranges in the New World at the bottom of the major pyramid. Descendants of those original oranges are still grown there. In regards to what the Book of Mormon says happened at Bountiful (the Savior's visit), the name of Tonala may have some significance. Bencomo indicated that it means "lugar donde sale el sol" (the place where the sun arises???) [David A. Palmer, Robert E. Fisher, and Octaviano Tenorio, "Trip Report--Bountiful Expedition," submitted March 17, 1990, used by permission from the files of Robert E. Fisher and John L. Sorenson] [See the commentary on Alma 52:21-40]
Alma 52:17 The city Bountiful (Illustration): Map #1 illustrating the location of Tonala (City Bountiful) and La Venta (city of Mulek). [David A. Palmer, Robert E. Fisher, and Octaviano Tenorio, "Trip Report--Bountiful Expedition," submitted March 17, 1990, used by permission from the files of Robert E. Fisher and John L. Sorenson]
Alma 52:17 The city Bountiful (Illustration): Video: Fly Over; Bountiful near sea coast; Ground search for Bountiful-Tonala. [David A. Palmer, Robert E. Fisher, and Octaviano Tenorio, "Trip Report--Bountiful Expedition," submitted March 17, 1990, used by permission from the files of Robert E. Fisher]
Alma 52:17 The City Bountiful (Allen Theory):
According to the geographical theory of Joseph Allen, the archaeological site of Dzibanche (pronounced see-bahn-chey) located in the southern Yucatan Peninsula (see map below) can be proposed as a candidate for the city of Bountiful. This ancient city was comparable in size and splendor to Tikal, El Mirador, and Calakmul. Add to these sites the neighboring sites of Kohunlich and Kinichna, and the result is an ancient megalopolis. The immensity of these sites suggests the presence of hundreds of thousands of people living there at the zenith of the sites.
The dating of this site is consistent with the El Mirador preclassic time period.
Like its neighbors Becan, Cerros, Calakmul, and Tikal, defensive earthworks can still be detected at Dzibanche.
The relationship of Dzibanche to Cerros (Allen's proposed city of Mulek--see Book of Mormon Digest, vol. 1, no. 3 , p. 1) a coastal city on the Caribbean Sea (east sea) appears to be the same as the relationship between Bountiful and Mulek. The distance requirement from the seacoast to Dzibanche meets the requirements of the Book of Mormon text.
The climatic conditions of Dzibanche suggest a satisfactory name correlation with the name Bountiful. Crops at this site are watered by a gentle dew each morning, which provides the means for crops to grow year round. Moreover, it has a multitude of peaceful groves located among the ruins where there is adequate room to walk between the towering trees. Allen says the following:
I had always empathized with the people who were present when the Savior visited them, as I pictured them spending several hours in the sauna-like climate of the Yucatan. But that is not the case at Dzibanche. A fresh, cool breeze seems to circulate perpetually among the tall stately trees. Even in March, probably the month when the Savior visited the Nephites, and which month is one of the hottest months of the year throughout Mesoamerica, the pleasantness of the site corresponds with the peaceful feelings of Christ's visit.
According to Allen, the location of the city of Bountiful in the southern Yucatan close to the country of Belize is contrary to the opinions of those writers who place Bountiful near the Olmec site of La Venta in the Gulf of Mexico (see Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon) or some traditional statements suggesting that the archaeological site of Palenque was the city Bountiful. These sites are flawed not only because of directional requirements, but because these cities were built by an entirely different culture than the Nephite people. They were Olmec/Jaredite cities that were destroyed by a civil war around 300 B.C. and did not exist as a Maya/Nephite city between 64 B.C. and A.D. 34 as required by the Book of Mormon. [Joseph L. Allen, "Discovering Bountiful," in The Book of Mormon Archaeological Digest, Vol. III, Issue III (September 2001), pp. 1-6]
Alma 52:17 The city Bountiful (Allen Theory) [Illustration]: Map showing location of the archaeological site of Dzibanche, a candidate for the city Bountiful. The city Bountiful was near the city of Mulek which was near the east sea. (Alma 51:26, 52:17). [Joseph L. Allen, "Discovering Bountiful," in The Book of Mormon Archaeological Digest, Vol. III, Issue III (September 2001), p. 2]
Alma 52:18 Moroni Did Arrive . . . at the Land of Bountiful in the Latter End of the Twenty and Seventh Year:
In Alma 52:18 it states that "Moroni did arrive with his army at the land of Bountiful, in the latter end of the twenty and seventh year." In Alma 52:15 we find that in the first mention of "the twenty and seventh year" after "the ending of the twenty and sixth year," (Alma 52:14), Moroni "had begun his march towards the land Bountiful." Thus, Moroni's march might have consumed a good part of the 27th year. This seems to be too much time for a direct march from either the west coast or the local land of Zarahemla. Perhaps a good reason for the delay might have been because Mormon took time to revisit the established army sites along the southern border of the general land of Zarahemla in order to assure himself of their readiness. Apparently, the entire Nephite southern border covered quite a distance and was difficult terrain to cross because Ammoron "had departed out of the land of Zarahemla (Alma 52:12) apparently choosing to retreat into the land of Nephi from the east coast for his movement westward to "the borders by the west sea." Apparently Ammoron didn't feel that there was any advantage to attacking the Nephites at any point except along the "borders by the west sea" (Alma 52:12). Thus, in the 27th year, Moroni might have been slowly traveling through the southern borders of the general land of Zarahemla or what is termed the "narrow strip of wilderness [mountains] which separated the general land of Zarahemla on the south with the land of Nephi, and which ran "round about on the borders of the seashore" . . . "on the north even until they came to the land which they called Bountiful" (Alma 22:27, 29). This moving presence of Moroni's army might have been the reason why the Lamanites on the west coast in the beginning of the 27th year didn't dare "march down against the city of Zarahemla; neither durst they cross the head of Sidon, over to the city of Nephihah" (Alma 56:25).
Of special interest to Moroni at this time was the small army he left stationed to protect the fortified city of Nephihah when he marched to consult the leaders in Zarahemla about establishing armies on the west and south. Upon checking the situation of the people at Nephihah, and knowing that Ammoron was involved on the western front, apparently Moroni thought a good part of these men at Nephihah could be spared and took them with him to Bountiful. This was a decision he would later regret (see Alma 59:9-11). [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]
Alma 52:20 They sent embassies to the army of the Lamanites (Illustration): A codex shows a native ambassador sent by Cortez to meet with Tlaxcalan lords as his conquering army advanced toward the Aztec capital. A similar concept is represented above on an Olmec monument from La Venta that is two thousand years older. [John L. Sorenson, Images of Ancient America, p. 123]
Alma 52:21-40 (Geographical Scenario for Moroni's Battle Plan):
On the suggestion of John L. Sorenson, a ten-day expedition was conducted between December 27, 1989 and January 6, 1990 to the Gulf of Mexico side of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in southern Mexico. The principal objective of this trip was to find a plausible site for the Book of Mormon city first called "Bountiful" (Alma 52:17). After a number of flights over the Isthmus area near the Gulf Coast, and visits (some interesting and some disappointing) to various sites, and through careful study of the scriptures, this group came to believe that the City Bountiful might have been located at the present city of Tonala. On the assumption that Tonala was the City Bountiful and that the City of Mulek was associated with the ruins of La Venta, and assuming that cardinal directions in Book of Mormon times were rotated so that north was essentially west-northwest, the group reviewed the battle scenario that is chronicled in Alma 52. The following represents their thoughts (see also Map #2 below).
The battle plan developed under the direction of Moroni had the objective of luring the Lamanites out of the town of Mulek, which was practically surrounded by water (Alma 52:21). The second objective was to wear them out on a very long march (Alma 52:28). The third objective was to surround them with fresh troops (Alma 52:29). To accomplish this, Captain Moroni had his men march by night (Alma 52:22) to a place that would appear south on our current map, but essentially was west by his directions. The hook to lure the Lamanites out was the potential to overcome a small band of men led by Teancum. Teancum must have come within five kilometers of the city to have initiated much action from the occupying Lamanties. Teancum's band led them towards the coast and then to the left by the seashore (Alma 52:23). The distance to the seashore is approximately fourteen kilometers; it is necessary to go due north to avoid the Laguna Chicozapote. Further, it was probably Teancum's desire to have them go as far as possible to wear them out. The distance to the Tonala River is about six kilometers from where Teancum's band and the Lamanties army would have first reached the coast.
It would be quite tiring for the Lamanties soldiers to complete a hurried march like that then begin a battle against the fresh troops of Captain Lehi that were waiting to surprise them. Lehi's men were apparently hiding on the eastern side of the River Tonala at the time of the Lamanite arrival (Alma 52:27). The Lamanties began an urgent retreat (Alma 52:28). By the time that they got close to their starting point of La Venta, the would have been exhausted, having travelled at least 30 kilometers at high speed. At that point they were met by Moroni's army in the front and were attacked from the rear by Lehi's army (Alma 52:31). Moroni's strategy of wearing them out before battle worked and the Nephites won the contest (Alma 52:32-40).
In Alma 53:3 it states that after the Lamanites had finished burying the victims of the war, "they were marched back into the land Bountiful." This could have been at any point along the River Tonala, though the logical spot would have been at the mouth of the river which, as mentioned previously, was fordable during the dry season. (Note* Today, however, the river has been dredged at the mouth by the PEMEX company.) Crossing at this location would have led them directly into Tonala (the city Bountiful). It is logical that the city Bountiful would be located close to the coast because of the routes described in the text. [David A. Palmer, Robert E. Fisher, and Octaviano Tenorio, "Trip Report--Bountiful Expedition," submitted March 17, 1990, used by permission from the files of Robert E. Fisher and John L. Sorenson] [See the commentary on Alma 52:17]
Alma 52:21-40 (Geographical Scenario for Moroni's Battle Plan) [Illustration]: Map #2, illustrating the battle plan chronicled in Alma 52 as it relates to Tonala and La Venta. [David A. Palmer, Robert E. Fisher, and Octaviano Tenorio, "Trip Report--Bountiful Expedition," submitted March 17, 1990, used by permission from the files of Robert E. Fisher and John L. Sorenson]
Alma 52:22 Wilderness on the West of the City Mulek:
In view of the previous association of the term "wilderness" with mountains, one might wonder if the same definition should hold true of the "wilderness on the west of the city of Mulek" (Alma 52:22). Some might feel that because of the proximity of the city of Mulek to "the seashore" (see also Alma 52:22), that this wilderness might have been something other than mountains, such as a tropical jungle or a swampland that provided a measure of secrecy (as well as travel difficulties). [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See the commentary on Alma 52:17]
Alma 52:22 Down by the Seashore:
If the geography student consistently equates the terms "up" and "down" with elevation, then when we read that Teancum marched "down near the seashore" (Alma 52:22), there probably was some elevation difference between the city of Mulek and the seashore, even though it might have been slight. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]
Geographical Theory Map: Alma 52:17-18 Moroni Arrives at Bountiful (27th Year)
Geographical Theory Map: Alma 52:19-25 Moroni & Teancum's Battle Plan to Take Mulek (28th Year)
Alma 52:27-39 The Lamanites Did Pursue Teancum (Distance Traveled):
In Alma 52:27-39 we have a record of: (1) the Lamanite pursuit of Teancum "until they came near the city Bountiful"; (2) the Lamanite flight back toward the city of Mulek; (3) a battle of "exceeding fury" in which "there were many slain on both sides; (4) Lamanite prisoners were "taken and bound" and "they were compelled to march with their brethren forth into the land Bountiful." Because no mention is made of any stopping to camp for the night, one might make the assumption that all this action took place within one day. On the other hand, one can't entirely exclude extended travel time.
If one does assume only one day for all of these events to have taken place, then according to Sorenson, the maximum plausible distance they could have traveled in one day under hot, fatiguing conditions would have been about 20 miles; the account implies that half of that would be the distance from Mulek to the point they reached near the city Bountiful, for they felt concern that they might not return (the same distance) to safety. After some miles backpedaling, they were defeated, then prisoners were marched "into the land Bountiful" (still the same day). It seems that the city of Mulek and the city Bountiful, then, could not be much more than fifteen miles apart by trail, and somewhat less (ten?) on a beeline. (Source Book, p. 272)
According to Joseph Allen's theory, all these actions might not have happened in one day. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See the commentary on Alma 52:17]