Mormon 4


Covenant Obedience Brings Peace -

 3 Nephi 11 -- Mormon 7      Disobedience Brings Destruction



Mormon 4:1 The Nephites Did Go Up to Battle (Chronology ---> Geography):


     At this point in the text--Mormon 4:1, the Nephite-Lamanite wars have gone on now for approximately 42 years. It seems easier to visualize the battles happening within the limited confines of Mesoamerica rather than having whole populations of people traveling up and down all over North, Central, and South America. It is interesting to note that even after the Nephite-Lamanite Treaty has been agreed to, the Nephites still seem to have an affinity towards the Land Southward--Zarahemla (Mormon 2:29,3:5,4:1). It would be hard to imagine people in North America (what is now the United States) being motivated to retake lands reaching to the middle of South America. [See Appendix A - Chronology]


Mormon 4:3 The City of Teancum Lay in the Borders by the Seashore:


     When the Lamanites finally took the city of Desolation, the Nephite armies found refuge at the city of Teancum "in the borders by the seashore" (Mormon 4:3). According to John Sorenson's Mesoamerican theory, the location of Teancum could be around the site of Pilapan, some dozen miles away from the modern-day Minatitlan, Mexico on the Gulf coast. [John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, pp. 345-346]

     Joseph Allen places the city of Teancum relative to modern-day Acayucan, Mexico, his proposed city of Desolation. Acayucan is about 28 miles from the Gulf of Mexico. [Joseph L. Allen, Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon, p. 232].

     According to Richard Hauck, "the west sea (or Pacific Ocean) must have been adjacent to the city of Desolation, for during a major battle in A.D. 362 the Lamanite dead were "cast into the sea" (Mormon 3:8). By comparing his cover maps, I presume the city of Teancum was somewhat to the northwest of the [modern-day] city of Arriaga, Mexico near the [Pacific] coast. [Richard Hauck, Deciphering the Geography of the Book of Mormon, p. 188, inside front cover, inside back cover]

[See Geographical Theory Maps]


Geographical Theory Map: Mormon 4:2 The Lamanites Take Desolation (364 A.S.)


Mormon 4:8 [The Nephites] Took Possession Again of the City of Desolation:


     Here in Mormon 4:8 we find that the Nephites "took possession again of the city of Desolation. We are reminded, with this Nephite retaking of the city of Desolation, that the Nephite-Lamanite series of final battles did not move steadily northward, especially in these years of battle over the city Desolation. [See Appendix A--Chronology]


Geographical Theory Map: Mormon 4:7-8 The Nephites Take Desolation Back (364 A.S.--366 A.S.)


Geographical Theory Map: Mormon 4:10-14 The Lamanites Retake Desolation and Teancum (367 A.S.)


Mormon 4:12 There Never Had Been So Great Wickedness among All the Children of Lehi, nor Even among All the House of Israel:


     In Mormon 4:12, Mormon makes an interesting statement regarding the degree of wickedness to which the Nephites and Lamanites had sunken to:

           And it is impossible to describe, or for man to write a perfect description of the horrible scene of the blood and carnage which was among the people, both of the Nephites and the Lamanites; and every heart was hardened, so that they delighted in the shedding of blood continually.

           And there never had been so great wickedness among all the children of Lehi, nor even among all the house of Israel, according to the words of the Lord, as was among this people. (Mormon 4:12-13)


     According to Douglas and Robert Clark, this statement can hardly be appreciated without reading the Old Testament's descriptions of the appalling degradation that had set in on the kingdom of Judah just prior to the Babylonian destruction. The only thing in history known to compare with the Nephite wickedness is the infamous generation of the flood, whose degradation, depravation, and refusal to repent were similar to that of the Nephites (see Genesis 6:5, 11-13; Moses 7:32-41; 8:18-30)81 -- and brought a similar result: total annihilation. [E. Douglas Clark and Robert S. Clark, Fathers and Sons in the Book of Mormon, p. 237]


Mormon 4:14 [The Lamanites] Did Offer Them Up As Sacrifices unto Their Idol Gods:


     Mormon notes that the Lamanites drove the inhabitants out of the city of Teancum, "and did take many prisoners both women and children, and did offer them up as sacrifices unto their idol gods" (Mormon 4:14). According to John Sorenson, there is evidence that correlates the mention of human sacrifice in the Book of Mormon (Mormon 4:14) with Mesoamerica. Sorenson notes that for late Teotihuacan times (around A.D. 600), excavation has revealed clear evidence of human sacrifice, with a meal made of the victims. Sanders has reported earlier data on the same practice from a site near Teotihuacan dating between A.D. 450 and 550. If Teotihuacan culture elements were as deeply involved in the life of the Guatemalan Lamanites as it appears, these despicable rites are not surprising among the Lamanites. [John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, p. 346]


Mormon 4:15 [The Nephites] Did Drive [the Lamanites] out of Their Lands:


     Considering the agreement of 350 A.S. in which the Nephite lands of inheritance were divided, the words here in Mormon 4:15, "they (the Nephites) did beat again the Lamanites, and drive them out of their lands" probably mean that the Lamanites were only forced to retreat southward past the narrow passage (the dividing line in the 350 A.S. treaty). Southward of the narrow passage was presumably the former Nephite land of Bountiful (Alma 22:31-33). Thus, it is not likely that the Nephites again regained all of the general land of Zarahemla as some might presume. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]


Geographical Theory Map: Mormon 4:15 The Lamanites Are Driven Out of Nephite Lands (367 A.S.)


Mormon 4:16 The Lamanites Did Not Come Again against the Nephites until the [375th] Year:


     If the Lamanites were driven out of the land in the 367th year (Mormon 4:15), and did not come again against the Nephites "until the three hundred and seventy and fifth year" (Mormon 4:16), then the Nephites had at least seven years of peace at this time in the city of Desolation. [See Appendix A--Chronology]


Mormon 4:20 They Came to the City Boaz:


     From the city of Desolation, the Nephites were forced to flee in retreat (probably northward). However, the reader should notice that, unlike the previous retreat, nothing is said about coming to the city Teancum before "they came to the city Boaz" (Mormon 4:20). This might be a clue as to the "power" of the Lamanites and the swiftness of the retreat, but then again it might be a clue as to the direction. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]


Mormon 4:23 The Lamanites Were about to Overthrow the Land, Therefore I Did Go to the Hill Shim:


     When the Nephites lost the city of Boaz, apparently Mormon felt that no strategic stand could stop the Lamanites from overthrowing the land. Mormon states that "the Lamanites were about to overthrow the land, therefore I did go to the hill Shim, and did take up all the records which Ammaron had hid up unto the Lord" (Mormon 4:23). Whether Mormon kept the plates with him, or moved them quickly to the hill he called Cumorah, we are not told.

     Geographically speaking, what did Mormon mean by "the land"? Although we don't quite know in what general land the city of Boaz was located, from the tone of Mormon's remarks, it seems to have been within the land that the Lamanites were about to overthrow. That "land" was possibly the land of Desolation (Mormon 4:1, 4:19). In order to appreciate this assumption, let us summarize the distance covered by all the final wars:

     1. The wars started in the borders of Zarahemla in 322 A.S. after Mormon had just returned to the land of Zarahemla from a location close enough to the hill Shim that he was acquainted with details about it at the age of 10.

     2. Zarahemla was south of the narrow pass (passage -- small neck of land)

     3. The battles have lasted 54 years

     4. These last series of battles can definitely be located by the narrow pass (passage) for 26 years. (349 A.S.-375 A.S.)

     5. Twenty-six years is about one-half of the total war years.

     6. The fighting has not been a steady retreat northward.


     If the land of Desolation was near the narrow pass (passage) (Mormon 2:29; 3:5) and if this "narrow pass" is equivalent to the "small neck of land" which divided the land northward--Desolation from the land southward--Bountiful and Zarahemla (Alma 22:31-33), then it is not too improbable to assume that the first series of battles were in the vicinity of the narrow pass also. And it also is not too improbable to believe that the "land" that the Lamanites were about to overthrow was the land Desolation, or a land very close to it.

     According to John Sorenson, the hill Shim was probably northward (from Boaz), still in Nephite hands, but near enough that it was clear to Mormon that the land Antum where the hill Shim was could fall soon (Source Book, p. 304). We might speculate that the hill Shim was within a distance of between 10 and 60 miles from the battles at Boaz.

     Assuming a hemispheric (North America--South America) "One Cumorah" theory, these scriptures cited above probably do not give much support to the idea of a move from near the narrow pass (Panama) all the way into North America. In order to do so, the Nephites would have had to take one giant step northward. In addition, Mormon would not have wanted to abandon the Nephite people at this time of battle in order to make such a lengthy trip because the reason he went to get the plates in the first place was that he saw that "the Lamanites were about to overthrow the land" (Mormon 4:23). [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See Geographical Theory Maps]


Mormon 4:23 The Hill Shim:


     According to Joseph Allen, there is a hill named "Cintepec" which is located east of Lake Catemaco in the Tuxtla Mountain Range in the State of Veracruz, Mexico. The location of this Hill Cintepec is close to the Hill Vigia, which is the leading candidate for the location where the last great battles as discussed in the Book of Mormon were fought. The last part of the word Cintepec, "tepec," means hill or mountain in the Nahuatl (Aztec) language. The front part of the word, "Cin," means corn. Hence, the word "Cintepec" means Corn Hill. The word "Shim" in the Maya language also means corn. Therefore, Hill Cintepec, the Tuxtla Mountains hill that is close to the Hill Vigia (proposed hill Cumorah), may be the hill Shim mentioned in the Book of Mormon. It is very interesting that Hill Cintepec is the hill where the stone was quarried to construct the large Olmec stone heads discovered along the Gulf of Mexico. The Olmec culture dates to the Jaredite time period. [Joseph L. Allen, Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon, pp. 38-39]

     According to John Sorenson, the book of Ether tells us that the hill Shim was between the Jaredite land of Moron and the hill Ramah (the Nephites' hill Cumorah--Ether 9:3). Hills prominent enough to deserve being named as landmarks such as the hill Shim was are in the southern part of the Tuxtlas mountain mass or, less likely, in the foothills of the Sierra Madre 80 miles to the southwest. [John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, pp. 343-344]


Geographical Theory Map: Mormon 4:16-23 Lamanites Use All Power--Begin to Sweep Off the Nephites (375 A.S.)

     Mormon Goes to the Hill Shim


Mormon 4:23 I Did Go to the Hill Shim and Did Take up All the Records Which Ammaron Had Hid up:


     In Mormon 4:23 Mormon notes that when he saw that the Lamanites were about to overthrow the land, he "did go to the hill Shim, and did take up all the records which Ammaron had hid up unto the Lord." It is fascinating that the custom of hiding up sacred records in a hill still persists in Guatemala to this day. Allen Christenson writes as follows:

           While conducting research in Maya linguistics and ethnology in highland Guatemala in 1979 I was waiting for a friend along a road where buses pass. A small group of Maya elders (ranking officials of the Indian community) were standing nearby speaking in low tones in their native tongue. Not imagining that a gringo would speak their language, they talked openly about a cave in the nearby mountains where they had recently deposited a collection of books or papers. The word they used implied that these were ancient books, likely early Colonial transcriptions of their ancient records, although the same word may also refer to the folded screen hieroglyphic texts written prior to the Spanish conquest in the sixteenth century. As far as is known, no example of such a hieroglyphic text survived the destruction of the Spanish conquest in which hundreds of Precolumbian records were burned.

           From the description of the cave, I recognized the area as a high mountain valley nearby that I had recently visited. A sheer cliff of soft clay exists there covered with what looked to be crude drawings of ancient Maya glyphs. Because of the nature of the cliff, these glyphs could not have been more than a year or two old, suggesting that someone still had some knowledge of ancient Maya writing systems.

           Eventually my friend appeared and greeted me loudly in Maya. This shocked the group of Indian leaders nearby and one of them came over and politely asked if my friend would mind if he spoke to me alone. He then asked if I spoke his language. I replied that I did. He asked if I had overheard his conversation with the other elders and I admitted that I had. He then asked if I understood the danger for the safety of the records as well as his fellow elders if such information were to come to the knowledge of the government which was then ruthlessly persecuting traditionalist Maya. I assured him that I would never reveal their identities or the location of the cave where the records were kept. He thanked me and bid me a pleasant journey. [Allen J. Christenson, "An Account of an Experience While Waiting for a Bus in 1979," Personal Communication]



Mormon 4:23 I [Mormon] Did Take Up All the Records Which Ammaron Had Hid Up unto the Lord:


     [See commentary on 4 Nephi 1:48]