Mormon 2

 

Covenant Obedience Brings Peace -

 3 Nephi 11 -- Mormon 7      Disobedience Brings Destruction


 

 

Mormon 2:1 Notwithstanding I Being Young, Was Large in Stature; Therefore the People of Nephi Appointed Me That I Should Be . . . the Leader of Their Armies:

 

     Mormon was appointed to be the leader of the Nephite armies at the age of fifteen (Mormon 2:1-2). He says: "notwithstanding I being young, was large in stature; therefore the people of Nephi appointed me that I should be their leader, or the leader of their armies" (Mormon 2:1). One might wonder why being "large in stature" would have such an influence on the Nephites? After all, Mormon was just fifteen!

     According to Jerry Ainsworth, it was common for Maya to select large people as their military leaders. The Nephites also likely knew of the unique family from which Mormon came. If Mormon came from a wealthy, aristocratic family, as it appears he did, then his travels throughout the land of Zarahemla would not have gone unnoticed. Certainly his family's name, lineage, and status would have been well known among the Nephites. It is conceivable that information about Mormon's calling as the record keeper became public, especially since he endeavored "to preach unto this people" (Mormon 1:16). The people would have understood that he had been "visited of the Lord, and [had tasted and knew of the goodness of Jesus" (Mormon 1:15). They undoubtedly knew of his superb schooling and of his noble and/or aristocratic lineage, as well as his spiritual roots. Because of this, Mormon would have been a perfect selection for such a military position. The Nephites had a long-standing custom of choosing someone with the gift of prophecy as a military commander (see 3 Nephi 3:19). [Jerry L. Ainsworth, The Lives and Travels of Mormon and Moroni, p. 158]

     Note* Nephi also considered himself "large in stature" (1 Nephi 4:31). [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]

 

Mormon 2:1 The Leader of Their Armies:

 

     According to Jerry Ainsworth, Mormon 2:1 offers confirmation that Mormon had not been raised among the people of Zarahemla but was essentially from a different land, the land northward. Mormon says, "the people of Nephi appointed me that I should be their leader, or the leader of their armies" (emphasis added). Had Mormon been reared among these Nephites, he certainly would have referred to these armies as our armies. However, after serving as leader of the Nephite armies for one year, Mormons states, "the Lamanites did come upon us with exceedingly great power, insomuch that they did frighten my armies" (Mormon 2:3; emphasis added). [Jerry L. Ainsworth, The Lives and Travels of Mormon and Moroni, p. 158]

 

Mormon 2:2 I [Mormon] did go forth at the head of an army of the Nephites (Major Nephite Leaders) [Illustration]: The Major Leaders During Nephite History. [Church Educational System, Book of Mormon Student Manual: Religion 121 and 122, 1989, p. 160]

 

Mormon 2:3 In the Three Hundred and Twenty and Seventh Year the Lamanites Did Come upon Us with Exceeding Great Power:

 

     We find in Mormon 2:3 that "in the three hundred and twenty and seventh year the Lamanites did come upon [the Nephites] with exceeding great power, insomuch that they did frighten my armies; therefore they would not fight, and they began to retreat towards the north countries." Sometime before "three hundred and forty and four years had passed away," Mormon notes that he "saw that the day of grace was passed with them, both temporally and spiritually" (Mormon 2:15).

     According to Hunter and Ferguson, many years of quiet peace followed the ministry of Christ in the land of Bountiful. Ixtlilxochitl (a 16th century Mesoamerican historian) dates the interruption at 305 years after the crucifixion, that is, 305 years after the eclipse of the sun and the moon that occurred in approximately A.D. 34. Thus, the peace lasted until approximately A.D. 339 according to him. The Book of Mormon is consistent, reporting this long era as an epoch of peace, prosperity, righteousness and happiness. The first signs of war in 300 years flared up in A.D. 322 (Mormon 1:6,10). By 339 A.D., Ixtlilxochitl's date for the disruption of peace, war was in full progress again. Where did the trouble start? Both accounts point to the ancient "seat of the kingdom." Ixtlilxochitl, like the Book of Mormon refers to the absolute banishment of the Bountiful artisans. It would have been impossible for Ixtlilxochitl to have known that his ancestors experienced a long period of peace following the visitation of Quetzalcoatl (Jesus Christ) to the western hemisphere except through the authentic traditions and records which came to him from his predecessors. The Catholic missionaries were not informed on that matter and could have had no influence on his thinking. [Milton R. Hunter and Thomas Stuart Ferguson, Ancient America and the Book of Mormon, pp. 223,232]

 

Mormon 2:3 The Lamanites Did Come upon Us:

 

     Mormon notes that "the Lamanites did come upon us" (Mormon 2:3). The reader should notice that from the Nephite point of view in the land of Zarahemla, the Lamanites did not come down. Mormon and his Nephite army only "go forth" (Mormon 2:2) rather than up against the Lamanites. If this war was started in the narrow strip of wilderness "in the borders of Zarahemla, by the waters of Sidon," it seems strange that there is no mention of elevation. Perhaps this war was fought on multiple fronts along these southerly borders and at different elevations, as Mormon 2:6 also refers to "borders west by the seashore." Although John Sorenson tends to feel that, in general, Mormon uses elevational prepositions only sparingly in his own story (Source Book, p. 299), it might be well for the student to compare the war setting of the sons of Helaman (Alma 56) which relates the circumstances of war in the borders of the land of Zarahemla by the head of the river Sidon. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]

 

Mormon 2:3 They Began to Retreat towards the North Countries:

 

     The Nephite armies "began to retreat towards the north countries" (Mormon 2:3), but what and where were the north countries? Were the north countries a synonym for "the land northward"? It is interesting to note that at the beginning of his abridgment of the book of Ether, Moroni says, "now I, Moroni, proceed to give an account of those ancient inhabitants who were destroyed by the hand of the Lord upon the face of this north country" (Ether 1:1). By saying "this north country," Moroni seems to imply that he was located in the north country, or the place where the Jaredites had been destroyed. The final battle site of the Jaredites (the hill Ramah) was the same final battle site of the Nephites (the hill Cumorah) (Mormon 8:1-4). The fact that Moroni was abridging the record of the Jaredites seems to imply that he had returned to the hill Cumorah, located in "this north country." Mormon himself will record that the Nephite "retreat" ended at the hill Cumorah (Mormon 6:4-11). [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See the commentary for Ether 1:1]

 

Mormon 2:3 They Began to Retreat towards the North Countries:

 

     According to John Sorenson, the cultural connections of the Chiapas area (Sorenson's proposed land of Zarahemla) since A.D. 50 had been primarily to the Isthmus of Tehuantepec (proposed narrow neck) and beyond to south-central Veracruz (proposed land northward). That would tie Sorenson's Zarahemla area to Bountiful, and also to Desolation and Cumorah, Mormon's homeland. The Book of Mormon's statements and implications agree with that picture. It was northward to those areas that the Nephites finally retreated (Mormon 2:16-17, 28-29). . . . At the date in question the site of Kaminaljuyu (proposed local land of Nephi) in the Valley of Guatemala was regaining its former glory. It was already coming under the influence of the sprawling metropolis of Teotihuacan in central Mexico, at that moment the most impressive of all Mesoamerican centers. Several explanations have been offered for the developing tie between the two centers. They emphasize Kaminaljuyu's function as a southern trade center for Teotihuacan through which to exploit valuable obsidian deposits nearby. . . . The Lamanites who attacked Mormon's forces in Zarahemla/Chiapas could well have been bearers of highland Guatemalan culture under Teotihuacan stimulation. Moving northward from their base in the land of Nephi, the Lamanite lineage chiefs must have had big ideas about power, their eyes having been opened to the possibilities for conquest by their Teotihuacan teachers and exemplars. They would have been organized and equipped better than former Lamanites had been in their attacks on the hereditary enemy, the Nephites. This picture gets support from the archaeological data at Mirador (proposed area for Angola). [John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, pp. 340-341] [See the commentary on Mormon 2:4 and 2:8]

 

Mormon 2:3 In the Three Hundred and Twenty and Seventh Year . . . [the Nephites] Began to Retreat towards the North Countries:

 

     When Mormon was eleven years old, he accompanied his father to the land of Zarahemla. At the age of fifteen, he was appointed to be the leader of the Nephite armies. Now he states that "in the three hundred and twenty and seventh year the Lamanites did come upon us with exceedingly great power, insomuch that they did frighten my armies; therefore they would not fight, and they began to retreat towards the north countries" (Mormon 2:3). According to the geographical theory of John Sorenson, this retreat marked the beginning of the Nephite exodus from the Central Depression of Chiapas.

     Sorenson notes that the Central Depression constituted the "heart" of isthmian Mesoamerica, "surrounded by security" (Alma 60:19). . . . It occupied a central position within the broader area encompassed by the Izapan style of art, which ranged from coastal southern Guatemala through Chiapas into southern and central Veracruz state. The peak of Izapan development dated between the second century B.C. and the fourth century A.D. This Izapan style is, so far, the best hint of the presence of Nephites, although the association is based on inference from time and space factors. . . . Beginning in the late fourth century A.D., when the Nephite demise came, most cities in Chiapas were abandoned and the population dropped markedly. The area never again became a significant player in the ongoing course of Mesoamerican civilization. [John L. Sorenson, Images of Ancient America, p. 196]

 

Mormon 2:4 Angola:

 

     According to Richard Hauck, the settlement of Angola was spelled "Angelah" in the original 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon, p. 520. [F. Richard Hauck, Deciphering the Geography of the Book of Mormon, p. 105]

 

Mormon 2:4 Angola (Angolah)?:

 

     In 1999, the Zarahemla Research Foundation (RLDS) finished an exhaustive review of all known manuscripts and editions of the Book of Mormon in order to restore the text "to its purity." The result was the Restored Covenant Edition of the Book of Mormon. One of their "restorations" involves the geographical place name "Angola" (Mormon 2:4), which has been changed to read "Angolah." [Zarahemla Research Foundation, "Geography Concordance" in The Book of Mormon: Restored Covenant Edition, p. 999]

     This must be considered tentative subject to the verification of Royal Skousen, director of the Book of Mormon manuscript project, who will not comment at this time relative to such changes. [Personal communication, 11/22/1999]

 

Mormon 2:4 City of Angola:

 

     Apparently from a location "in the borders of Zarahemla, by the waters of Sidon," the Nephite army "did come to" the city of Angola as the Nephite "armies" "began to retreat towards the north countries (Mormon 2:3). Notice that possibly soon after this, the location of the Nephite armies is described as being "in the borders west by the seashore" (Mormon 2:6). Thus, geographically speaking, the "retreat towards the north countries" was apparently not in a direct line due north.

     According to John Sorenson, since Angola and the land of David appear as stopping places on the way from Zarahemla to the west coast (Mormon 2:4-6) near the narrow pass or narrow passage (Mormon 2:29; 3:5), they would lie north-westward, in Nephite terms, from the land of Zarahemla. From central Chiapas (Sorenson's proposed land of Zarahemla) the normal way to reach the Pacific coast leads west from the upper Grijalva/Sidon River through the Cintalapa Valley to the passes over the wilderness mountain strip above Arriaga. (The Lamanites had followed the same route in reverse in their early attacks on Ammonihah and Noah -- Alma 16:2, 49:1-14). Angola and David were probably along that route somewhere, although the brevity of Mormon's record denies us enough information to pin down the places definitively. The city of Angola likely was at or near the site of Mirador, identified earlier as Ammonihah. [John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, p. 338] [See Geographical Theory Maps]

 

Mormon 2:4 We Did Take Possession of the City:

 

     According to John Sorenson, the nature of the Nephites' organizational problem is described in the phrasing of Mormon 2:4: "We did come to the city of Angola, and we did take possession of the city, and make preparations to defend ourselves against the Lamanites." This statement is remarkable because Angola was already part of the greater land of Zarahemla. Why would Mormon's forces have to "take possession" of it? The key point about the Nephite political structure has already been made several times: there was no unitary Nephite state. What we see in Mormon's appointment and in the affair at Angola is the system of lineage leadership in the political arena. Leaders held power on the basis of the loyalty given to them by kin or "friends" who had made a commitment to ally with a powerful major lineage. Smaller units had to link themselves with others in order to survive in a dog-eat-dog world of tests of power. That had been true just before the Savior's appearance (3 Nephi 7:2-6) and it was true again now. Each lineage tended to occupy certain areas and communities. Each was tied with others through interpersonal bonds--distant shared ancestry, trade alliances, friendship, intermarriage, shared religion, and so on--as these connections were cultivated by their leaders. Thus combined armies would be put together according to the political weather of the moment.

     We can get a glimpse of how such a system worked at the time of Cortez's conquest, twelve centuries after Mormon. The essentials of the pattern had changed little in between. We saw earlier how, when Cortez first encountered the Tlaxcalans, who eventually became his allies against the Aztecs, he found a fragmented leadership. "These same Caciques [leaders] . . . came out to receive us, and brought with them their sons and nephews and many of the leading inhabitants, each group of kindred and clan a party by itself."75 Among the Nephites similar fragmentation surely prevailed, the military commander using powers of persuasion and diplomacy about as often as he used his limited authority. . .

     As the Nephite forces retreated still farther, they repeated this process over and over, forcing local people to cast their lots with the retreating lineages and their armies. All the political and military means available to Mormon and his people they used to "gather in our people as fast as it were possible, that we might get them together in one body" (Mormon 2:7). [John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, pp. 336-337]

 

Geographical Theory Map: Mormon 2:3 Nephites Begin Retreat towards the North Countries (327 A.S.--331 A.S.)

 

Mormon 2:5 The Land of David:

 

     Not only were the Nephites driven out of the city of Angola, but they were also driven out of "the land of David" (Mormon 2:5), which is a land for which no city is mentioned in the Book of Mormon. According to John Sorenson, the land of David could have been westward along the Cintalapa Valley from Mirador, Chiapas, Mexico (which is the normal way to reach the Pacific coast from the upper Grijalva/Sidon river). [John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, p. 338]

 

Mormon 2:6 The Land of Joshua, Which Was in the Borders West by the Seashore:

 

     After the Nephite armies were driven out of the land of David, they marched to the land of Joshua. Assuming a Mesoamerican setting, these "borders west by the seashore" (Mormon 2:6) might have been on the Pacific coastal plain. John Sorenson proposes this zone to be the land of Joshua. According to Sorenson, the Arriaga--Tonala coastal zone was heavily settled in those times. In Mormon 2:9 it says that at the land of Joshua, the 42,000 man Nephite army withstood the 44,000 man Lamanite army. This can possibly be explained geographically by the Nephites holding the two major passes over the mountains above Arriaga--Tonala (the land of Joshua), so that the enemy could not reach the Pacific coastal strip. [John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, pp. 338-340]

     Mormon's army was successful in fortifying against the Lamanites here in the land of Joshua for about 14 years, whereas at the city of Angola and the land of David they could not hold. This not only suggests that the land of Joshua was probably in a more defensible position, but that this war was moving geographically quite slowly. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]

 

Mormon 2:7 We Did Gather in Our People As Fast As It Were Possible, That We Might Get Them Together in One Body:

 

     [See the commentary on Mormon 2:4]

 

Mormon 2:8 The Land Was Filled with Robbers:

 

     According to John Sorenson, Book of Mormon and Mesoamerican secret groups were up to the same tricks and operated according to similar rules. But were these practices really ancient in America, or were they late developments? Some researchers think the Pochteca (long distance trading) groups' origin goes back to Teotihuacan (the early centuries A.D., but Professor Coe maintains that a similar institution was vital in Olmec civilization before 1000 B.C. J. A. Bennyhoff has interpreted masks recovered by archaeologists as indications of the presence of secret societies anciently. These ritual artifacts are present from about 1200 B.C. to 600 B.C. in the Valley of Oaxaca (Jaredite Moron). . . . Masks again are found in large numbers during developed Teotihuacan times, for a few centuries after A.D. 300. This happens to be just the period when Mormon reports the rise of the secret society that was instrumental in the downfall of the Nephites (Mormon 2:8, 10, 27-28; Ether 8:19-21). [John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, pp. 308-309]

 

Mormon 2:8 The land was filled with robbers (Illustration): Masks like this one of the Teotihuacan era have been interpreted as evidence for secret societies (Photo by Daniel Bates. Courtesy David A. Palmer and the Society for Early Historic Archaeology.) [John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, p. 303]

 

Mormon 2:8 It Was One Complete Revolution throughout All the Face of the Land:

 

     Apparently, during the time that the Nephite armies were gathering to the land of Joshua, Mormon mentions that "a complete revolution" (Mormon 2:8) had been going on throughout the land of Zarahemla. According to John Sorenson, archaeological evidence in Chiapas, Mexico, a proposed site for the land of Zarahemla, seems to reflect this "revolution." According to a report on the site of Mirador (proposed area of Angola) by archaeologist Agrinier, the Jiquipilas phase (A.D. 250 to 350) "was ended by an intense fire that totally destroyed" the structure of the largest sacred building at Mirador. "It seems that the temple had been thoroughly cleaned of its contents prior to its burning." This suggests either a scorched earth policy on the part of retreating inhabitants or looting by the invader, or both."76 Tombs at the site were sacked at the same time.77 After the destruction of the temple, a period of temporary abandonment followed, perhaps as little as a single year. . . . When Mirador was settled anew, it was by a new people. The buildings suggest "shoddier construction" by "a transitory elite . . . more concerned with quickly-secured grandeur than with long-range durability."78 That sounds like what we could expect from the Lamanite invaders who followed on the heels of Mormon's retreating people. . . . In addition, it turns out that the invaders who looted and burned there, arriving on the heels of the populace abandoning the site, displayed a mixture of Guatemalan and Teotihuacan traditions. [John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, pp. 340, 342]

 

Mormon 2:9 The Lamanites Had a King and His Name Was Aaron:

 

     [See the commentary on Moroni 9:17]

 

Mormon 2:3-9 330 Years Had Passed Away (Year 327 to Year 331 = 3-Plus Years of War):

 

     By the time "330 years had passed away" (Mormon 2:9), or in close to 3 years of war, the following happened:

     (1) the Nephites fortified Angola;

     (2) the Lamanites took Angola;

     (3) the Lamanites took the land of David;

     (4) the Nephites came to the land of Joshua;

     (5) the Nephites tried to gather;

     (6) there was revolution throughout all the face of the land; and

     (7) the Nephites beat an army of 40,000 Lamanites.

 

     These circumstances open up a number of questions regarding geography. Starting at somewhere along the possible southern border of the land of Zarahemla, how far towards the north countries did the Nephite armies go in 3 years, especially when "there was one complete revolution throughout all the face of the land?" Were all the Nephites everywhere in the general land of Zarahemla retreating towards the north countries? or just Moroni's army? There is no mention of traveling through the small neck of land, or through the land of Bountiful, or through the land of Desolation, all of which were apparently on the north of the land of Zarahemla (Alma 22:27-34). It must have taken at least some amount of time to "fortify the city of Angola with all their might" and to "gather" the people to Joshua, so to what distance could the Nephites ultimately retreat in the time alloted? [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See Geographical Theory Maps]

 

Geographical Theory Map: Mormon 2:4-7 Nephites Driven from Angola, David--Gather to Joshua (327 A.S.--331 A.S.)

 

Mormon 2:10-11 The Nephites Began to Repent . . . and Cry unto the Lord As Had Been Prophesied by Samuel the Prophet:

 

     It is interesting that although just previously in Mormon 1:19, Mormon noted the fulfillment of Samuel the Lamanite's prophecies concerning sorceries, witchcraft, and magic (see Helaman 13:18-23), he now adds to that fulfillment with words about repentance and crying unto the Lord in Mormon 2:10-11:

           And it came to pass that the Nephites began to repent of their iniquity, and began to cry even as had been prophesied by Samuel the prophet; for behold no man could keep that which was his own, for the thieves, and the robbers, and the murderers, and the magic art, and the witchcraft which was in the land. Thus there began to be a mourning and a lamentation in all the land because of these things, and more especially among the people of Nephi.

 

Once again, for the benefit of the reader, the following is the specific prophecy of Samuel the Lamanite:

           Yea, behold, the anger of the Lord is already kindled against you; behold, he hath cursed the land because of your iniquity.

           And behold, the time cometh that he curseth your riches, that they become slippery, that ye cannot hold them; and in the days of your poverty ye cannot retain them.

           And in the days of your poverty ye shall cry unto the Lord; and in vain shall ye cry, for your desolation is already come upon you, and your destruction is made sure; and then shall ye weep and howl in that day, saith the Lord of Hosts. And then shall ye lament, and say:

           O that I had repented, and had not killed the prophets, and stoned them, and cast them out. Yea, in that day ye shall say: O that we had remembered the Lord our God in the day that he gave us our riches, and then they would not have become slippery that we should lose them; for behold, our riches are gone from us.

           Behold, we lay a tool here and on the morrow it is gone; and behold, our swords are taken from us in the day we have sought them for battle.

           Yea, we have hid up our treasures and they have slipped away from us, because of the curse of the land.

           O that we had repented in the day that the word of the Lord came unto us; for behold the land is cursed, and all things are become slippery, and we cannot hold them.

           Behold, we are surrounded by demons, yea, we are encircled about by the angels of him who hath sought to destroy our souls. Behold, our iniquities are great. O Lord, canst thou not turn away thine anger from us? And this shall be your language in those days.

           But behold, your days of probation are past; ye have procrastinated the day of your salvation until it is everlastingly too late, and your destruction is made sure; yea, for ye have sought all the days of your lives for that which ye could not obtain; and ye have sought for happiness in doing iniquity, which thing is contrary to the nature of that righteousness which is in our great and Eternal Head. (Helaman 13:30-38)

 

     Once again, one should note here the excellence of Mormon as an inspired editor, tying in the fulfillment of prophecies made about 330 years before this time. More importantly, however, the reader should be aware that Mormon is giving a spiritual and cultural description of his people (and hopefully giving sufficient warning to us) in the most subtle yet emphatic manner possible. If Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon, he has once again proved to be a genius at tying in loose ends of the story. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]

 

Mormon 2:10 Murderers, and the Magic Art, and the Witchcraft Which Was in the Land:

 

     According to John Sorenson, J. A. Bennyhoff has interpreted masks recovered by archaeologists as indications of the presence of secret societies anciently. These ritual artifacts are present from about 1200 B.C. to 600 B.C. in the Valley of Oaxaca, Mexico (proposed as the Jaredite site of Moron)79. . . . Masks again are found in large numbers during developed Teotihuacan times, for a few centuries after A.D. 300. This happens to be just the period when Mormon reports the rise of the secret society that was instrumental in the downfall of the Nephites (Mormon 2:8, 10, 27-28; Ether 8:19-21). [John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting For the Book of Mormon, p. 309]

 

Mormon 2:15 [No Record*]

 

     According to Mormon 1:3-5, when Mormon (then 10 years old) turned 24 years of age, he was to "go to the land Antum, unto a hill which shall be called Shim." He was to "take the plates of Nephi unto [himself]" and "engrave the things concerning this people." It is significant that here in verse 5, Mormon says that "I remembered the things which Ammaron commanded me." When Mormon turned 24 it would have been 335 A.S. (compare 4 Nephi 1:48, Mormon 1:2). The last recorded episodes of Mormon before 335 A.S. were "in the three hundred and twenty and seventh year" (Mormon 2:3) when the Lamanites drove the Nephite armies from the city of Angola and the land of David until they came to the land of Joshua, "which was in the borders west by the seashore" (Mormon 2:6).

     Mormon records that in the land of Joshua, the Nephites withstood the Lamanite armies "and three hundred and thirty years had passed away" (Mormon 2:9). In the land of Joshua, the Nephites began to repent and apparently maintained their position for about 14 years (Mormon's next date is recorded "in the three hundred and forty and fifth year" when "the Nephites did begin to flee before the Lamanites" (Mormon 2:16). It seems odd for Mormon not to mention more details of any trip to the hill Shim during this 14-year time period. I have to ask myself why this trip is not mentioned until ten years later? (Mormon 2:16-18) The reader should note that if we were to plot Mormon's travels according to the hemispheric geographical model (North America-South America), this round trip from a South America location south of the narrow neck (Panama) to a proposed hill Shim situated somewhere near the state of New York could have taken Mormon up to 6000 miles.

     Assuming a Mesoamerican setting, Mormon's probable route to the hill Shim would have taken him from a location near the "west" coast on the Pacific Ocean through the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. Depending on the Mesoamerican geographical theory, this distance to the proposed hill Shim would range from just a few miles to a little over one hundred. I would have to suppose that during Mormon's trip to the hill Shim, Mormon's army would have been stationed "in the borders west by the seashore" blocking the Lamanite advance. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See Geographical Theory Maps]

 

Geographical Theory Map: Mormon 2:10-15 [No Record] Mormon Goes to Hill Shim and Retrieves Plates ("335 A.S.")

 

Mormon 2:16 The City of Jashon:

 

     In Mormon 2:16 it says that in the 345th year, the Nephite armies began to flee from the Lamanite armies (supposedly from the location of the land of Joshua) "until they came even to the land of Jashon." If:

     (1) "the city of Jashon was near where Ammaron deposited the records" (Mormon 2:17);

     (2) the hill Shim was where the records were (Mormon 1:3);

     (3) the last recorded site of the Nephites before Mormon turned 24 and retrieved the plates was "in the land of Joshua, which was "in the borders west by the seashore," where the Nephites tried to gather (Mormon 2:6-15); and

     (4) the hill Shim was near the hill Cumorah, and one went "eastward" from there to a "seashore" (Ether 9:3);

     then, according to a hemispheric geographical Book of Mormon model (North America--South America), Mormon (after already making a round-trip to retrieve the plates) could have been forced to make another 3000-4000 mile continuous retreat with all his people from a location on the Pacific coast ("in the borders west by the seashore") to somewhere near the hill Cumorah (New York State) and an "east" sea (possibly the Atlantic). Depending on the location of the city of Jashon, this trip would have been two or three times as far as Brigham Young led the saints. I doubt such an extensive retreat, plus another retreat "northward to the land of Shem," took place in the space of one year (Mormon 2:20,22). [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See Geographical Theory Maps]

 

Geographical Theory Map: Mormon 2:16 The Nephites Flee to the Land of Jashon (345 A.S.)

 

Mormon 2:17 I Had Gone . . . and [Had] Taken . . . and Did Make a Record:

 

     In the comments corresponding to the year 345, Mormon notes that by this point in time (at the land of Jashon) he had gone and had taken the plates of Nephi, and did make a record according to the words of Ammaron (Mormon 2:17). Thus, Mormon had begun to record upon the large plates of Nephi which were left to him by Ammaron. Mormon's record on the Large Plates was apparently called as it is in the abridgment, "The Book of Mormon" (Mormon 1:1).

     According to Mormon's chronology, the Nephites spent 14 years in the land of Joshua (from 330-344 A.S.). In the year 345 the Nephites were forced to "flee before the Lamanites" (Mormon 2:16-17) and were involved in battles until the year 350 (Mormon 2:16-29). We can reason that because Mormon was the leader of the Nephite armies, the military time period between 345-350 A.S. was probably not devoted to either the study or the writing of many records. However, while previously residing at the land of Joshua, Mormon apparently had about 10 fairly stable years for studying and recording on the Large Plates. [Alan C. Miner, The Chronology and Compilation of the Writings of Mormon and Moroni," p. 2]

 

Mormon 2:17-18 Upon the Plates of Nephi I Did Make a Full Account . . . but upon These Plates I Did Forbear:

 

     According to Daniel Ludlow, when Ammaron turned the responsibility of the records over to Mormon, he indicated that Mormon should "engrave on the plates of Nephi all the things that [he] had observed concerning his people" (Mormon 1:4). Thus Mormon's major record of the events of his day was written on the Large Plates of Nephi.

     However, later in his life Mormon was commanded by the Lord to make a separate set of plates, the Plates of Mormon (Mormon 3:16). Mormon then abridged onto the Plates of Mormon all of the writings from the Large Plates of Nephi, including his own writings. Concerning his writings on these two sets of plates, Mormon said:

     "And upon the plates of Nephi I did make a full account of all the wickedness and abominations; but upon these plates [the Plates of Mormon] I did forbear to make a full account of their wickedness and abominations" (Mormon 2:18) [Daniel H. Ludlow, A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon, p. 170]

 

Mormon 2:19 I Know That I Shall Be Lifted up At the Last Day:

   

     Andrew Skinner notes that Mormon suffered greatly because of the wickedness of his people. However, he was buoyed up and received some comforting in the sure knowledge that he would be lifted up at the last day just as the Savior had promised. (3 Nephi 27:14) Said Mormon, "Wo is me because of their wickedness; for my heart has been filled with sorrow because of their wickedness, all my days; nevertheless, I know that I shall be lifted up at the last day" (Mormon 2:19).

     Mormon's knowledge was well founded. He had received the Second Comforter (D&C 88:3-4, 67-68) and possessed the more sure word of prophecy, as did other Nephite prophets including Alma (Mosiah 26:20), Enos (Enos 1:27), and the Twelve on the American continent (3 Nephi 28:3). Modern revelation teaches: "The more sure word of prophecy means a man's knowing that he is sealed up unto eternal life, by revelation and the spirit of prophecy, through the power of the Holy Priesthood" (D&C 131:5). Such was the anchor to Mormon's soul in the face of the worst kind of calamity. [Andrew C. Skinner, "The Course of Peace and Apostasy," in Studies in Scripture: Book of Mormon, Part 2, pp. 227-228]

 

Mormon 2:20 We Were Driven Forth (from the Land of Jashon) . . . to the Land Which Was Called Shem:

 

     In the 345th year (Mormon 2:16) the Nephites retreated first to the land of Jashon, and then "northward to the land which was called Shem" (Mormon 2:20). Assuming a Mesoamerican setting and according to John Sorenson, the distance to the land of Shem might have only been a single retreat sequence away from Jashon, and thus might have only stretched anywhere from 10 to 60 miles (Source Book, p. 301).

     According to John Sorenson, the most likely Mesoamerican location for the land of Jashon and the land of Shem, although no geographical details are provided, would be on the strip around Acayucan and Hueyapan, south and west of the Tuxtlas [in Veracruz, Mexico], or else in the 50-mile sector from San Juan Evangelista in the direction of Tuxtepec. All these places were in the eastern, lowland sector of the land northward. According to the text's account of the final wars, there are no "ups" nor "downs" in the geography of the Nephite lands north of Bountiful. [John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting For the Book of Mormon, p. 344] [See Geographical Theory Maps]

 

Geographical Theory Map: Mormon 2:20 The Nephites Are Driven Northward to the Land of Shem (345 A.S.--346 A.S.)

 

Mormon 2:23 Fight for Their Wives, Houses, Homes:

 

     The fact that the Nephites were fighting "for their houses, and their homes" (Mormon 2:23) and that the Nephites "did gather in our people" tends to suggest that the land of Shem was somewhat a center of Nephite population.

     If we assume a hemispheric Book of Mormon geography model, after a very convincing and continuous retreat of possibly 3000-4000 miles from the land of Joshua "in the borders west by the seashore" to the land of Jashon (near the hill Shim, and somewhat near the hill Cumorah and an east sea), plus another retreat northward to the land of Shem, would the Nephites still be fighting for their "houses," and their "homes" (Mormon 2:23)? They certainly wouldn't have had time to build any in the previous 2 years of retreat, and given the odds and circumstances, would they even want to retrace their steps back to where there were?

     On the other hand, assuming a Mesoamerican setting, the land of Shem could have been a familiar part of Nephite occupied land close to the narrow pass area (travel corridor through the Isthmus of Tehuantepec) for quite some time. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]

 

Mormon 2:25 We Did Contend with an Army of 30,000 against an Army of 50,000:

 

     Mormon notes that in the 346th year, the Nephites "did contend with an army of thirty thousand against an army of fifty thousand" (Mormon 2:25). One might ask, Why would all the Nephites only have an army of 30,000 and the Lamanites only 50,000 if "the people were as numerous almost, as it were the sand of the sea" (Mormon 1:7)? Could the war be proceeding on multiple fronts? Was Mormon only talking about his army? Or was the war not sufficiently serious as to merit the full attention of either the Nephites or the Lamanites? Or did many of the Nephites tend to side with the Lamanites and not care so much for the ideals of the Nephite nation? [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See the commentary on Mormon 2:4]

 

Mormon 2:26-27 Lands of Our Inheritance:

 

     Mormon records that the Nephites were successful in retaking possession of "the lands of [their] inheritance" (Mormon 2:27). But what were considered the "lands of our Inheritance"? Did these lands extend "southward, even to the land of Zarahemla" (Mormon 1:6). Did these lands extend to the "borders west by the seashore" (Mormon 2:6)? We might get an answer in Alma 22:29-32 which talks about the Nephite lands. According to Alma 22:32 there was a "small neck of land between the land northward and the land southward," Alma 22:31 says that "the land on the northward was called Desolation and the land on the southward was called Bountiful. Thus, if the "narrow passage" mentioned in Mormon 2:29 is somewhat equal to the "small neck of land" mentioned in Alma 22:32, then the Nephite "lands of inheritance" constituted:

     (1) the land northward (of the "narrow passage"), the southernmost part of which apparently was called "Desolation"; and

     (2): the general land of Bountiful and the general land of Zarahemla which constituted the Nephite land southward.

     Assuming a hemispheric model, with only one quick reference here to a military march (1-3 years in length at the most), do the Nephites with an army that only counted 30,000 before the battles conquer all the land from Canada to the middle of South America (the Nephite "lands of inheritance")? Does this mean that the Nephites once again make a mass migration, only this time it is four times as far as Brigham Young led the saints, (a total of 5000 miles)? [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See Geographical Theory Maps]

 

Mormon 2:27 The Lands of Our Inheritance:

 

     Mormon records that the Nephites were successful in retaking possession of "the lands of [their] inheritance" (Mormon 2:27). But what were considered the "lands of our Inheritance"?

     According to John Sorenson, the cultural connections of the Chiapas area (proposed general land of Zarahemla) since A.D. 50 had been primarily to the Isthmus of Tehuantepec (proposed narrow neck and land Bountiful) and beyond to south-central Veracruz (proposed land northward--hill Cumorah area). That would tie our Zarahemla area to Bountiful, and also to Desolation and Cumorah, Mormon's homeland. The Book of Mormon's statements and implications agree with that picture. It was northward to those areas that the Nephites finally retreated (Mormon 2:16-17,28-29) On the contrary, practically no connections are evident in early A.D. times between the Chiapas sites (general land of Zarahemla) and Maya-speaking areas to the south and east. Since that is what we have considered Lamanite territory, this cultural differentiation again fits the Book of Mormon situation. [John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, p. 340]

 

Mormon 2:27 Lands of Our Inheritance:

 

     Mormon records that the Nephites were successful in retaking possession of "the lands of [their] inheritance" (Mormon 2:27). But what were considered the "lands of our Inheritance"?

     According to J.N. Washburn, Jesus came to the temple at Bountiful, Zarahemla having been burned. At least four times in his discourses he mentioned that that land (not necessarily just Bountiful, but the area) was the land of the people's inheritance (3 Nephi 15:13, 16:16, 20:14; 21:22). It was unquestionably that country to which Mormon referred in Mormon 2:27-29 as "the lands of our inheritance." [J.N. Washburn, Book of Mormon Lands and Times, p. 213]

     Yet from this perspective, one might ask: How could the Nephites reclaim any land as an "inheritance" if the Nephites and Lamanites became "one people" at the time of Christ? (4 Nephi 1:17) What became of political boundaries and lands when in 4 Nephi 1:2,17 (34-110 A.D.) it says that there were "no Lamanites or Nephites--they were one"? Wouldn't this mean that the "Lamanites" had just as much right to consider local lands as "lands of our inheritance" as the "Nephites" ? [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]

 

Geographical Theory Map: Mormon 2:26-28 The Nephites Retake the Lands of Their Inheritance (346 A.S.--349 A.S.)

 

Mormon 2:29 The Narrow Passage:

 

     Mormon records that in the 350th year, "the Lamanites did give unto us the land northward, yea, even to the narrow passage which led into the land southward. And we did give unto the Lamanites all the land southward" (Mormon 2:29). One might ask, Is the "narrow passage" referred to in Mormon 2:29 the same geographical location as the "small neck of land" referred to in Alma 22:31-32? First of all let's refer back to Alma:

           Thus the land on the northward was called Desolation, and the land on the southward was called Bountiful . . . 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 land 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 22:31-32)

 

     If the "narrow passage" mentioned in Mormon 2:29 is somewhat equal to the "small neck of land" mentioned in Alma 22:32, then the Nephites were giving up the general land of Bountiful and the general land of Zarahemla which constituted the Nephite land southward. Now as it says here in Mormon 2:28 "we (the Nephites) did get the lands of our inheritance divided." So, apparently much as it describes in Alma 22:29-32, this division occurred at the "small neck of land," or maybe otherwise called "the narrow passage," and the Nephites occupied the land northward of this passage. The land immediately north of this "small neck of land" was called "Desolation" according to Alma 22:31.

     Another question might be asked: Is "the narrow passage" of Mormon 2:29 the same as "the narrow pass" referred to in Alma 52:9? Let us review that passage of scripture:

           And (Moroni) also sent orders unto (Teancum) that he should fortify the land Bountiful, and secure the narrow pass which led into the land northward, lest the Lamanites should obtain that point and should have power to harass them on every side." (Alma 52:9)

 

     Apparently then, the "narrow passage" was as important to Mormon as the "narrow pass" had been to captain Moroni centuries before. That is, the "narrow pass" or "narrow passage" were both defensible positions that prevented armies from advancing into the land northward.

 

     Question: Is this "narrow passage" in Mormon 2:29 the same as the "narrow pass" in Mormon 3:5? Once again, let us review the scripture:

           And it came to pass that I did cause my people that they should gather themselves together at the land Desolation, to a city which was in the borders, by the narrow pass which led into the land southward. (Mormon 3:5)

 

     The value of this "narrow pass" area in Mormon 3:5 might be hinted at in Mormon 3:6, where it says that "there we did place our armies, that we might stop the armies of the Lamanites, that they might not get possession of any of our lands." The phrase "our lands" might be interpreted to mean that the Nephites were protecting the lands northward of the "narrow pass."

 

     If we assume a Mesoamerican setting, then all these terms could be referring to the travel corridor through the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, which "narrow pass . . . went by the sea into the land northwards, yea, by the sea, on the west and on the east." (Alma 50:34) This Isthmus of Tehuantepec has been the main corridor of travel and trade from Central America northward toward what is now Veracruz since Olmec (Jaredite) times. Thus, one would travel "by the sea" on the west" along the Pacific Coast of Guatemala, and then travel through the Isthmus of Tehuantepec before reaching the Gulf of Mexico Coast "on the east." [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See the commentary on Alma 22:32; 50:34; 63:5; Mormon 2:29] [See Step by Step Cultural Commentary, Volume 2, Appendix B] [See Geographical Theory Maps]

 

Mormon 2:29 The Lamanites Did Give unto Us (350 A.S. Treaty):

 

     Mormon records in Mormon 2:29 that the Lamanites granted the Nephites "the land northward, yea, even to the narrow passage which led into the land southward. And we did give unto the Lamanites all the land southward." Assuming a hemispheric Book of Mormon geography model (North America-South America), one might wonder how a whole continent of people could be asked to separate and move for the sake of a treaty drawn by armies totaling 80,000 people? (Mormon 2:25) If, during these final battles, the Nephites had gone from the land of Zarahemla (in South America) to the hill Shim (near New York) and back, and Mormon had gone twice, then why has the "narrow pass" not been mentioned from the start of the battles in 322 A.S. until this treaty in 350 A.S.? [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]

     

Mormon 2:29 The Lamanites Did Give unto Us (350 A.S. Treaty):

 

     According to Hunter and Ferguson, the parallels between (the 16th century Mesoamerican historian) Ixtlilxochitl and the Book of Mormon concerning the agreement or treaty of 350 AD (Mormon 2:29) are too striking to pass over without comment. According to Ixtlilxochitl, seven leaders held the meeting to discuss terms. Obviously, they were the leaders of the seven original tribal groups into which the Bountiful-land people separated at the end of the long era of peace. Ixtlilxochitl mentions that there were "two principal leaders and five other minor ones." This is in close accord with the Nephite record which says that the dominant tribes were the Nephites on the one hand and the Lamanites on the other.

     Ixtlilxochitl makes it clear that the prophet-historian, Hueman, spoke for the exiled branch of the original united peoples of Bountiful-land. Mormon, in his own Nephite record is modest, saying merely that "we made a treaty . . ." Clearly he was the primary or principal spokesman for the exiled Nephites. [Milton R. Hunter and Thomas Stuart Ferguson, Ancient America and the Book of Mormon, p. 355]

 

Mormon 2:29 The Lamanites Did Give unto Us (350 A.S. Treaty):

 

     According to Joseph Allen, the 350 AD treaty (Mormon 2:29) was not just a treaty between the Nephites and the Lamanites. The Robbers of Gadianton were included in the treaty (Mormon 2:28). The governmental stronghold of the Robbers of Gadianton possibly was at Teotihuacan in the Valley of Mexico. Beginning at 350 AD, the combination of government at Teotihuacan began to exercise control and to trade throughout Mesoamerica. The Nephites who lived about the narrow passage or small neck of land [Isthmus of Tehuantepec] may have simply been in the way of the trade activities between the Mexico Valley and Guatemala City (Kaminaljuyu). [Joseph L. Allen, Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon, p. 107]

     According to David Palmer, could an informal alliance have been struck between the two powerful cities [Kaminaljuyu and Teotihuacan]? If so, the only thing preventing a consummation of that marriage would have been the presence of the hated "Nephites." [David A. Palmer, In Search of Cumorah, p. 204]

 

Mormon 2:29 The Lamanites Did Give unto Us (350 A.S. Treaty):

 

     According to Todd Allen, at about A.D. 350 , a treaty was made that affected Nephite land ownership. What is astonishing to many readers of the Book of Mormon is that this treaty not only involved the Lamanites, but the Gadianton robbers. One might wonder, Why were they invited to join the treaty? The cultures of Mesoamerica offer a possible scenario.

     At about A.D. 400, open trade occurs for the fist time between Teotihuacan (the Valley of Mexico) and Kaminaljuyu (Guatemala City). What was previously impeding this trade may be evident by paying close attention to the treaty involving the Gadianton robbers in Mormon 2:28. Apparently there were three separate regional divisions at the time, each controlled by separate governmental organizations: (1) the Lamanites, who controlled the land of Nephi, or the Guatemala highlands in the south; (2) the Gadianton robbers, who controlled the land northward, or the Teotihuacan region; and (3) the Nephites, who controlled the land of Zarahemla, or the land in between the Lamanites and the Gadianton robbers, better known as the Mexican state of Chiapas and the Peten jungle of Guatemala.

     If the Gadianton robbers were in fact controlling the land northward at this time, then it makes sense that they would have had to be included in the treaty talks. But why were they willing to give up a portion of their land to the Nephites? And why would the Nephites agree to give up half their lands? The answer is apparently the perceived hope for more money and more power. With the Nephites controlling the lands of Zarahemla and Bountiful, all trade between the Gadianton robbers and the Lamanites would have gone through them. Naturally, the Nephites would have exacted a price for the exchange that could not occur without passing through them. But greed apparently took over with all parties involved, and so contentions arose. With the treaty of A.D. 350, the Nephites agreed to leave the more secure surroundings of the land of Zarahemla (the Chiapas Depression) and move up into the narrow neck of land (or the Gulf area of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec). This move apparently offered the Nephites a tighter control of trade (and riches), however it sacrificed some of their defensive capabilities. Under these conditions, David Palmer asks, "Could an informal alliance have been struck between the two powerful cities [Guatemala city of the Lamanites and Teotihuacan of the Gadianton robbers]? If so, the only thing preventing a consummation of that marriage would have been the presence of the hated "Nephites" who controlled areas on both sides of the Isthmus [of Tehuantepec, or the narrow neck of land]" (In Search of Cumorah, 1981, 204)

     Apparently, this was the case. It was just ten years after this treaty that the Lamanites began to engage in battle with the Nephites, and only 35 years would pass before the Nephites were completely destroyed at Cumorah, finally removing the literal "middle man" between the Lamanites and the Gadianton robbers. This presents new possibilities for explaining Moroni's statement that "[secret combinations] have caused the destruction . . . of the people of Nephi" (Ether 8:21).

     Interestingly, the powerful Teotihuacan suffered the same fate as the Nephites, or any other nation which upholds secret combinations. It was eventually destroyed according to the promise found in Ether 8:22. The population of Teotihuacan fell from an all time high of 200,000 to about 60,000 as a result of "deep dissatisfaction of the people toward the government" (Ignacio Bernal 1985, 54). The society soon collapsed, with the neighboring Toltecs becoming the controlling power, and the city of Teotihuacan was abandoned. [Todd Allen, "Secret Combinations at Teotihuacan," in The Book of Mormon Archaeological Digest, Volume II, Issue II, 1999, p. 10, 13] [See the commentary on 4 Nephi 1:26]

 

Geographical Theory Map: Mormon 2:28-29 Treaty: Nephites = Land Northward Lamanites = Land Southward (350 A.S.)