Comparing Book of Mormon Geography Models


Issues in the heartland Model

The Book of Mormon heartland model is a model first proposed by Rod Meldrum and others which places the entirety of Book of Mormon narrative in the Eastern United States of America. It seems to have arisen in response to perceived problems in the “limited Mesoamerican model”. These includes issues such as the ‘two Cumorah’ theory, early prophetic and apostolic quotes about Book of Mormon culture & individuals in North America, as well as the way Mesoamerican models appear to discount the many impressive North American prehistoric cultures which seem to fit well into the Book of Mormon narrative.


–  With the Eastern US heartland model, Nephi’s journey from eastern Arabia to America doesn’t really make sense.   A nearly fatal flaw is in Alma 22:28 which quite clearly explains that the Land of First Inheritance (first landing) was by the WEST seashore.  So if Lake Erie is the West Sea, how would they land there?  Where can you possibly place the Nephite landing “on borders by the seashore, and on the west” and make it fit with the Eastern United States?  Both Alma 22:28 and Mosiah 9:1 talk about the Land of Nephi and the “land of their first inheritance, after they had crossed the sea”, as if they can be used interchangeably. (ie. the Land of First Inheritance is IN or very near the land of Nephi.  We know the land of Nephi is south of the narrow neck.  So once again, how can ANY model which puts the narrow neck on the Great Lakes, or the land of Nephi in the hart of the US, make the place they first landed work? (pretending they came up the Mississippi also does not work, as the text clearly states the land of first inheritance is by the West SEASHORE..
– Many references to the West Sea run into this same problem!
–  The story of Hagoth makes little sense if the West Sea is the Great Lakes (and a completely difference sea than the one mentioned concerning thier first landing?). Hagoth is said to have “launched… forth into the west sea, by the narrow neck which led into the land northward” (Alma 63:5).  But how do the ‘Great Lakes’ even really get you access to the Hearland Model’s “land northward” (Eastern Canada)?  They would only get you access the the Narrow Neck region’s of Bountiful and perhaps desolation (places in contact with Zarahemla), but the text suggest a LARGE distance saying that the people who left, “were never heard of more” (Alma 63:8). Reading the whole account in Alma 63:5–9, makes it clear that this model stretches the Book of Mormon text past it’s logical limits.
–  The land of Desolation which is an “exceedingly great distance” north from the Land of Zarahemla and Narrow Neck, also make very, very little sense if you try and place it in Canada. The text states that the land was the heartland of the Jaredite Civilization, covered in bones, and was “rendered desolate and without timber, because of the many inhabitants who had before inherited the land”  (Hel 3:3–8).  How can you get Eastern Canada to fit that description?  It is NOWHERE devoid of timber (until you get to the uninhabitable tundra). It has NO evidence of an ancient civilization and certainly not one that was “exceedingly expert in the working of cement” (Hel 3:7). It is SO WET that bones disintegrate within a few years, and would never be preserved the hundred years or so required by the text (from the Jaredite destruction to the Nephite exploration of the area).
–  Cumorah is SOUTH (in the land southward) of the narrow neck in the Heartland Model. The logically problematic, two Cumorah theory of Sorenson’s model is one of the reason’s the Heartland Model gains supporters.  But yet the Heartland model introduces a greater problem by putting the Hill Cumorah in the Land Southward. (since their ‘Narrow Necks’ are the ithsmas areas created by the Great Lakes). Mormon 2:20,29 makes it clear that the final Nephite retreat was “northward” from the Narrow Neck, and for at least 3 of the battle cities “in the borders west by the seashore” (Mormon 2:6–8, Mormon 3:8 & Mormon 4:3).  There is ABSOLUTELY no indication that the Nephites fled north of the Narrow neck into the Land Northward (where a treaty was made giving them the land Northward, Mormon 2:17), only to then circle around a Great Lake and then back south through a different narrow neck, back into the Land Southward to upstate New York (cumorah).  This logic slaughters the geography mentioned in the text.
–  The Mississippi River makes a poor match with the River Sidon for several of the following reasons.
–  The Sidon should empty into the “seas,” (Alma 3:3) which are the Great Lakes in the Heartland Model.  The Mississippi flows into the Gulf of Mexico, far away from these “seas.” In fact the head of Sidon can be placed south of Zarahemla, near the land of Manti (Alma 22:27,29; Alma 43:22). This requires hearlanders to make the “head” of the river, it’s mouth or delta. But even this simply doesn’t work with the geography laid out in Alma 56:25 where the “head of Sidon” is meantion in connection with Nephihah, which Alma 51:26 places on the East Sea.
–  The confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers as the “head” of the river Sidon is baffling logic. Nor does it work with the same scriptures listed above.
–  The Heartland Model has the land Bountiful southeast of Zarahemla; the Book of Mormon has it northward. (A map demonstrating these claims is available here, about a third of the way through.)
–  The Heartland Model elsewhere claims that Bountiful is directly north of the land of Nephi; in the Book of Mormon, Zarahemla is directly north of the land of Nephi.
–  The Heartland Model’s Land of Nephi does not stretch from east to west sea, as it would need to in order to match the Book of Mormon text.
–  The Book of Mormon has the sea west to the west of the Zarahemla and the land of Bountiful, but the Heartland Model has it east of Zarahemla and north of Bountiful.
– The land of first inheritance should be on the west sea, west from the land of Nephi.  The Heartland Model places it south of the land of Nephi, on the Gulf of Mexico that is not even one of the “seas” in his model.
–  Heartland Model uses a city founded by Mormons near Nauvoo (named “Zarahemla) to locate the Nephite city of Zarahemla.  The model ignores that it was settlers who started calling it Zarahemla first, not scripture or Joseph Smith.  The lines about Zarahemla were added later, for historical clarity, by an editor when the revelation was published.
–  Likewise, a city called “Manti” was ascribed to the prophet by later editors, but it was not in the original text.
–  Items in many models: armor, weapons, defensive works, cities, presence of dead bodies, bodies of water.
–  Heartland Model does not match the known archaeology of the Hopewell area that he wishes to make into the Nephites.
–  The Heartland Model’s seasonal and climate claims have problems; some Book of Mormon elements (e.g., extreme heat, rather than snow, in and end-of-the year battle) do not match his proposed geography.
–   The Heartland Model also misunderstands the evidence about population sizes and growth.
–   The Heartland Model misrepresents and misunderstands the issue of stone cities versus wood cities, and burning “stone” cities.

Perhaps the biggest problem with the Heartland model (as well as many others) is its complete disregard for the configuration of cities explained the the war chapters of Alma 42-54. Alma xx clearly explains that Moroni ‘pushed the Lamanites out of the east and west wilderness’ effectually creating a new border between Nephite to Lamanite lands which he then fortified with cities from the East to the West Sea. This configuration in the heartland model is virtually impossible unless you tuck the entirely of the lands of Nephi and Zarahemla in some little corner between the great lakes (such as the lower Peninsula of Michigan). However if you do this, you destroyed nearly every other correlative piece of evidence used by Heartlanders. From Zelph, to the D&C Zarahemla, to the Adena and Hopewell ruins.

see also this list.  (first adapted from a list compiled by Gregory Smith)


–  The greatest strengths of the heartland model are the ways

Issues in the Limited Mesoamerican or Mayan-land Models

The majority of Mesoamerican Book of Mormon geography models seek to correlate the Isthmus of Tehuantepec or the Isthmus of Guatemala. They far exceed the heartland models in their ability to synthesize the text with known archaeology. However, all of these models however suffer many of the same substantial problems.

–  They force the Book of Mormon into a small corner of North America, ignoring all inferences in the account which infer continental occupation. They correlate all Book of Mormon lands and peoples with merely two Mesoamerican people’s, while ignoring the largest and most influential cultures on the continent.
–  They require a “second Cumorah theory”.  Where Moroni wanders over 2000 miles after the final battle somewhere in Vera Cruz Mexico to get to New York to bury the plates.
–  Although Mayan models do a good job at finding cultural correlations, none of them have done a very good job at really matching individuals Book of Mormon cities with archaeological ruins. None of them can match Zerahemla or the city of Nephi with convincing archaeological ruins which match the level of prominence and significance afforded these cities in the text.
–  Teotihuacan and it’s Mexican highland culture, the largest and most influential city and culture in prehistoric North America, is mysteriously scant or absent from the Book of Mormon in these models (as well as Zapotec culture). By suggesting that it’s absence is the result of Teotihuacano culture post-dating the end of the B.O.M narrative (at ~420 AD) one has to wonder why the same standard isn’t held to Mayan culture (which also had a Zenith post dating B.O.M. times).  And even though the Teotihuacano zenith might have post-dated the date given for Nephite destruction, it was still a rapidly growing regional influence which by 420 AD eclipsed any of the cultures put forth for Zarahemla in predominate Mayan models. These models usually identify the Mexican Highland as “the land northward”… yet in Mormon’s description of the final flight to “Cumorah”, the land northward is said to be emptied of its inhabitants (ref). We see no such occurrence in the archaeology.
–  Supporters of this theory ignore many quotes by Joseph Smith and other early Saints which suggest a hemispheric model covering all the way from South America to New England.
– The story of Haggoth traveling to “the land Northward” from the West Sea, just doesn’t make much sense in these models. If the Land Northward is composed of areas like the Mexican Highland, Valley of Mexico or area of Vera Cruz, then why would Haggoth launch from the West Sea to get there? Only the East Sea would get you closer to these areas.
– The guarding of the “narrow neck” in preservation of “the land northward” doesn’t make much sense in these models.
– The Grijalva and Umacinta rivers seem a little to big to match with what the Book of Mormon describes of the River Sidon. The river needs to be small enough for a “numberless army” to easily cross (Alma x:xx), but big enough to carry away thousands of corpses. The river also needs to be in a deep canyon near where the battle and crossing took place (ref). And should also form a border of sorts in its areas south of Zarahemla (ref).
– Suggesting rivers that travel northward, makes the idea of throwing thousands of dead bodies in the river (which then would float through the land of Zarahemla) a bit counterintuitive (see Alma x.xx).
– They

Issues in the Mexican Highland Model

-The narrow neck does not fit the model presented in the text

-The Land of Desolation fits better with it being an area “desolate” because of lack of lumber than desolate because of the desolation of an older civilization.

Strengths of the Mexican Highland Model

-The match between the Jaredite “Great Dearth” and the Late Pleistocene Megafauna Extinctions is quite strong.
-The “Great City” built by the Narrow Neck of Land, “by the place where the sea divides the land” in Ether 12:20 could be a strong match to the Olmec City of San Lorenzo. Tenochtitlán, La Venta, Tres Zapotes, and Laguna de los Cerros follow shortly after. Building platforms are strangely similar to that of the earliest Adana.
-The distinct differences between the Mexican Highland Nahuatl cultures and the Mayan cultures matches well with the distinct differences between the Nephites and Lamanites.
-The emergence of language in Mesoamerica matches well with the Lehites bringing language to America. (especially epi-olmec/zapotec connection being at the heart of it)
-The similarities in Mayan writing and pyramids is awfully a lot like Egyptian writing and buildings.
-The pocket of Huestec people/language and its clear relationship to the Mayan language and Chiapa de corzo is a pretty big coincidence… it just happens to match perfectly to our land and people of Jershon who came from the Lamanite heartland in Oaxaca or Chiapas.
-The relationship of Uto-aztecan language in central mexico and its coming from Sinaloa (which is our land of desolation) is another crazy coincidence.
-I remember reading about another bit of evidence suggesting southern Oaxaca was in close ties with Chiapa de Corzo… which would be another huge coincidence.
-The match between Teotihuacan and Pahorans gathering of the people on the boundary of Zerahemla and Bountiful is an amazing match.
-The “no man’s land” in Oaxaca seems a lot like what it says of the city of Nephi, giving it to Zeniff and his people.

Time Line- Jaredites

± 14,000 BP Early PaleoIndian (earliest North American cultures develop) Jaredites Reach America (scripture account based on convoluted oral traditions?)  unknown*
(@Tower of Babel)
± 10,000-8,000 BC Clovis & Folsom cultures spread out from American Southwest Early Jaredite Culture spreads from the Land of Desolation.  unknown*
± 8,600-8,500 BC Bull Brook Complex and associated early New England sites Omer and his Household flee the cultural core to east of Cumorah  unknown*
± 9,500-6,000 BC Plano & Early Eastern Archaic Pre-Dearth Jaredite Culture  unknown*
~ 9,000 BC End of the Ice Age – Late Pleistocene Extinctions The Great Dearth in days of Heth  unknown*
±Ether 9:30–34, speaks of a climate event (great dearth) which causes the animals which were more especially “useful for the food of man”— such as “elephants and cureloms and cumoms” (Ether 9:19) to flee southward. The people then pursue the animals until they until they “had devoured them all” (v. 34). This scriptural event matches incredibly well with the archaeological evidence for North America megafauna extinctions (caused by climate and over-hunting).
± 1,400 BC Adena culture begins in the Ohio Valley. Lib builds up his empire in the Land Northward. ± 1200-300 BC?
± 1,400 BC Olmec culture begins to take off with the building of San Lorenzo. Lib builds a “great city” by the narrow neck of land in the Land Southward. ± 1200-300 BC?
± 6,000-1,500 BC Middle & Late Archaic Post-Dearth Jaredite Culture ± 1200-300 BC?
± 1,500 BC End of Archaic Cultures Jaredite Desolation ± 300 BC

*Jaredite dates are only approximate- the Book of Mormon does not give exact dates for Jaredite events and carbon dating has a large margin of error with these early dates