Book of Mormon Geography: An Internal Model

Separate authors internal models of the Book of Mormon. Left BYU Virtual Scriptures by Tyler Griffin, Middle Joel Hardy Map (1998), Right, Old official LDS Institute/student manual map. See also Turner Map.

Quicklinks/ Jump to Section:

Narrow NeckAmmonihahAntionumAaronMelek
MulekNoahBountifulSouthwest CitiesEast Sea Cities
GideonJershonJerusalemHelam, Alma, AmulonIshmael
River SidonHead of SidonMantiNephiZarahemla
Land Many WatersCumorahHill ShimWildernessesDefensive Lines

Overview

Apart from the general isthmusian nature of Book of Mormon lands laid out in Alma 22 (and explained in detail later), perhaps the most important aspect of any internal model of the Book of Mormon is the relationship between Moroni’s East Coast and Southwestern defensive garrison cities fought over in Alma chapters 50-56.  In Alma 50:11 (Alma 50:7–15) we learn that Moroni creates a NEW border between the Nephite and Lamanite lands, and fortifies it with garrisons/cities which run between the Land of Zarahemla and the northern border of the Land of Nephi which Alma 50:8 says runs “in a straight course from the east sea to the west [sea]” (see also Alma 22:27). Read carefully through Alma 50 and pay close attention to the wording and logic concerning these new border fortifications.

10 And he also placed armies on the south, in the borders of their possessions, and caused them to erect fortifications that they might secure… their people… …fortifying the line between the Nephites and the Lamanites, between the land of Zarahemla and the land of Nephi, from the west sea, running by the head of the river Sidon— [to the] foundation of a city, and they called… Moroni; and it was by the east sea. (Alma 50:8–13, esp. verse 11)

The army march in Alma 52-56 from the West Sea to Manti (particularly Alma 56:25) verifies this by showing that south frontier town of Manti, while only a few days march from the west sea city and other south frontier garrisons (Alma 53:22; Alma 56:31), is also close enough to reasonably march to Nephihah and Moroni and the east sea (Alma 51:26). Alma 59:5–7 also shows Manti is close to Nephihah. Moroni also fortifies the entire east coast from the new southern border all the way to the “Narrow Pass” (Alma 50:34; 52:9) or “Line Bountiful” (Alma 22:32–33) which leads to the land Northward. Basically, making a backward L of defensive cities to guard the Nephite southern frontier and eastern coast. The attention shown by Moroni in fortifying the east coast (and not the west coast), further suggests the east coast posed a greater threat as a travel corridor and mode of entry to Nephite lands than the west coast, almost certainly because Zarahemla and the Nephite center was closer to the east coast than the west coast. As will be seen in a moment, these are vital details that makes almost all existing geographic correlations (whether Heartland models, or Mayanland models) difficult to correlate with the text, because features like the Yucatan Peninsula in Mesoamerican models or shear width of the North American continent and/or configuration of the Great Lakes in Heartland models make the travels of the various armies on these new coast to coast southern defensive borders spoken of in these chapters, incredibly problematic.

Alma 22 lays the most comprehensive geographic groundwork for this border dispute by explaining the general layout of Nephite and Lamanite lands before Moroni’s border realignment. The chapter sets forth the following important geographic relationships.

-The “land of Nephi and the land of Zarahemla were nearly surrounded by water, there being a small neck of land between the land northward [called Mulek or Desolation- Hel 6:10, Alma 22:30] and the land southward [called Lehi or Nephi/Bountiful- (Hel 6:10, Alma 22:29)”. (Alma 22:32)
-Before Captain Moroni’s redefinition of the southern national boundary, the Nephites had become “nearly surrounded by the Lamanites” (Alma 22:29)
-The land of Nephi’s borders stretched “to the sea, on the east and on the west” (Alma 22:27). In other words the Land of Nephi stretched from the East Sea to the West Sea. (see verses 27-30)
-The land of Bountiful, which “the Nephites had inhabited”, was north of Zarahemla and also stretched “even from the east unto the west sea” (Alma 22:33).
-The land of Nephi was “divided from the land of Zarahemla by a narrow strip of wilderness, which [also] ran from the sea east even to the sea west” (Alma 22:27)
-The “head of the river Sidon” or headwaters of the river Sidon were “by” the land of Manti in the Narrow strip of wilderness that separated the lands of Nephi and Zarahemla. (Alma 22:27). Verse 27 also seems to suggest that the river Sidon actually “runs” or flows “from east toward the west” forming a border of sorts between the Nephite and Lamanite lands, just like the narrow strip of wilderness which also is said to have “ran from the sea east even to the sea west” (Alma 22:27).
-Similar to typical English usage, the Book of Mormon seems to differentiate between the seas or oceans (i.e. called either ‘sea’ or ‘many waters’) and lakes (Called simply ‘waters of ’ or ‘bodies of water’). These verses show the word sea = ocean: 1 Ne 18:8, etc, etc, etc.  Also ‘Great waters’ = Ocean: Omni 1:16.  Contrasted with ‘Waters of’ = lake or river: Mosiah 25:18, Alma 2:34, Alma 18:7, Mormon 1:10. Large bodies of water = large lakes: Alma 50:29, Hel 3:4. One exception is the phrase ‘many waters’, which seems to be used interchangeably with lake or large ocean that inhibits travel ( ‘Many Waters = ocean that divides continents: 1 Nephi 17:5; 1 Nephi 13:10–12. ‘Land of many waters’ = land with lots of large lakes?: Mormon 6:4, Mosiah 8:8).

Thus before Captain Moroni, there seems to have been a poorly defined border between the lands of Nephi and Zarahemla through a “narrow strip of wilderness” which ran between the two lands, as well as possibly some part of the “River Sidon”, which seems to repeatedly be used as the strategic battle point to stop Lamanite armies from entering or leaving the land (see Alma 2:15–17, 34–35, Alma 16:6–7, Alma 43:40–41).  However, because the Lamanites had moved north of the narrow strip of wilderness along the east and west seashore until they “nearly surrounded” the land of Zarahemla, Captain Moroni decided to drive them out of the east and west coastal areas, until they were south of the new ‘sea to sea’ or ‘coast to coast’ border he created through the land of Manti and cities of Antiparah, Judea, Cumeni, Zeezrom, Nephihah and Moroni. (again, see Alma 50:7–15)

Book of Mormon Geography (internal model)
Internal model of Book of Mormon Geography. cc. Lance Weaver Map

Narrow Neck

Book of Mormon references to the Narrow Neck or Narrow pass are actually a bit confusing and contradictory, leading me to believe there is confusion about it in the mind of the author(s). The Book of Mormon gives no indication of exactly how wide the narrow neck is excepting that it “divides the land” (suggesting an isthmus), and that it contains some type of pass or defensive line that is a day’s journey across in one area (Hel 4:7) and/or a day and a half’s journey in another (Alma 22:32). It is specifically called a “small neck of land” (Alma 22:32, Ether 10:20), or “narrow neck” (Alma 63:5) but then a “narrow pass” or “passage” which led by the sea (Alma 50:34; 52:9, Mormon 2:29; 3:5-6).  The distances given, may be only specifically talking about the “the line” which they had fortified (Alma 22:32, Hel 4:7).  Since a day and a half’s journey is typically only 15-30 miles, we can assume these distance markers are NOT referring to the whole width of the isthmus, since even the narrowest parts of panama are more than 30 miles wide and were referenced as being at least “3 days journey” by Natives in early references (see Balboa, January 20, 1513).

So perhaps it’s safe to assume that this isthmus must have contained a rugged mountain range or some impassable feature in addition to the 15-25 mile wide fortified “line” on the coastal plain or travel corridor. 

Also of important note is that the Book of Mormon (especially the book of Alma) seems to be quite precise when it comes to cardinal directions. Using “northward” instead of just north, and more importantly, directions like “south and west” as well as “west sea, south” and “borders of the land on the south, by the west sea” when referring to the battles for the southwest cities (Alma 52:11–15 & 53:8,22 ).  But note it NEVER mentions a north shore or north and west (northwest)/north and east (northeast) shore when talking about the battles for the cities of Bountiful and Mulek or the travels along the east sea or west sea to the land Northward. Chapters dealing with the East sea, strongly suggest the narrow neck is inline with the rest of the East sea.  Conversely, the opposite seems true for the final flight of the Nephites to Cumorah (although these battles are glossed over). No mention is made of Bountiful, the River Sidon, the sea east or any east sea city in the final flight before the destruction. (only the WEST sea is mentioned). In fact new ‘lands’ are mentioned we never heard about in the battles on the East sea. The text also refers to various wild animals coming from “the land northward to the wilderness of Hermounts “on the north and west” [of Zarahemla], suggesting some kind of mountainous wilderness corridor on the narrow neck which connects with northwest wilderness of Hermounts. Also when Hagoth launches “into the west sea”, “BY the narrow neck” (not at the narrow neck) it seems to suggest there is no northern shore caused by the land narrowing. (ie. the narrow neck is to the west, not north east). Given these details, and asking ourselves why the final flight was along the west sea instead of east, it almost seems like there are two narrow necks… one on the east, and one on the west?  At very least the two narrow necks seem somewhat separated. 

“by the narrow pass which led by the sea into the land northward, yea, by the sea, on the west and on the east.” (Alma 50:34)

Lastly, it is important to note that the common placement of Teancum on the Sea East is entirely unsupported by the text. ALL references to the sea in the final flight (until arriving in Cumorah) are to the West Sea. And the text suggests that Teancum is quite close to Desolation. (see Final Flight section at the end of this document)

-It was “the distance of a day and a half’s journey for a Nephite, on the line Bountiful and the land Desolation, from the east to the west sea; and thus the land of Nephi and the land of Zarahemla were nearly surrounded by water, there being a small neck of land between the land northward and the land southward”.  (Alma 22:32).
-Teancum’s army heads Morianton’s flight northward on the “borders of the land Desolation… by the narrow pass which led by the sea into the land northward, yea, by the sea, on the west and on the east.” (Alma 50:34)
-Moroni orders that Teancum “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)
-Hagoth… went forth and built him an exceedingly large ship, on the borders of the land Bountiful, by the land Desolation, and launched it forth into the west sea, by the narrow neck which led into the land northward. (Alma 63:5)
-Nephite armies of Moroniahah, “fortify against the Lamanites, from the west sea, even unto the east; it being a day’s journey for a Nephite, on the line which they had fortified and stationed their armies to defend their north country.” (Hel 4:6–7)
-A peace treaty is made wherein 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)
-The Nephites gather to Desolation, “to a city which was in the borders, by the narrow pass which led into the land southward… that we might stop the armies of the Lamanites, that they might not get possession of any of our [northern] lands” (Mormon 3:5–6)
-Lib “built a great city by the narrow neck of land, by the place where the sea divides the land. And they did preserve the land southward for a wilderness, to get game.” (Ether 10:20–21)

ReferenceExact WordingSea west mentioned?Sea east mentioned?Days jour-neyDirectional indicators
Alma 22:32–33“small neck of land” or “the line Bountiful”yespossibly1.5from the east to the west sea
Alma 50:34“the narrow pass”yeslikely by the sea, on the west and on the east
Alma 52:9“the narrow pass” no  
Alma 63:5“the narrow neck”yesno the west sea
Hel 4:6–7“the line”yeslikely1from the west sea, even unto the east
Mormon 2:29“the narrow passage” no  
Mormon 3:5–6“the narrow pass” no  
      
Ether 10:20–21“narrow neck of land”likelylikely place where the sea divides the land

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Ammonihah, Land of

Ammonihah and Melek are two of the most problematic cities in Book of Mormon Geography. This because so many features mentioned in relation to this cities seem to contradict each other.  I believe these contradictions to all be caused by a copy/translation error made by Mormon or Joseph Smith where the city is said to be NORTH of Melek, when in fact is is SOUTH of Melek.  See discussion for details.

-It was 3 days travel on the north [south] of the land/city of Melek (which was west of Sidon by a/the west? wilderness) ,  (Alma 8:6).
-It was on the border of the greater land of Zarahemla (Alma 25:2).  Likely northern border if it really was north of Melek, but southern border if in reality it was south of Melek.
-It was near, and probably west? of, the city of Sidom (Alma 15:1). Likely less than a days Journey (15 miles)
-It was near the city of Noah (Alma 16:2–3). The Lamanite armies destroy “some around the borders of Noah” after sacking Ammonihah. They also go straight to Noah after attempting to sack Ammonihah after its rebuilt (Alma 49:12–14). Noah is mentioned nowhere else in the text.
-It was near the city of Aaron. At least Alma “took a journey toward the city called Aaron” after being cast out of Ammonihah (Alma 8:13).  Which seems likely the same as the East coast city of Aaron between Moroni & Nephihah (Alma 50:14), perhaps by Jershon and named after Aaron the Missionary of Alma 31.
-The or a wilderness abutted Ammonihah on the west (Alma 8:5).
-There is a pass of some sort between it and Zarahemla which requires ‘coming over’. (Alma 15:18)
-There were 2 routes into the city (Alma 8:16).
-It was fortified with Moroni’s ditch and mound system (Alma 49:4). But beforehand considered “the weakest part of the land”, thus obviously a frontier town. (Alma 49:15)

discussion:  Ammonihah is twice attacked by Lamanite armies on account of its convenience. Alma 49:3 calls it “easy prey” and Alma 49:15 calls it “the weakest part of the Land”.  Alma 25:2 says its “on the borders of Zarahemla”.  So the question is which border?  The fact that its the first place of convenient attack to the Lamanites angry at the conversion of the Lamanites in Alma 25:1–2 would suggest it is on the SOUTH border close to the city of Nephi. This is substantiated by the mention of Alma “took his journey toward… Aaron” after being cast out of Ammonihah (Alma 8:13), since we know Aaron is near Nephihah and Moroni on the southeast coast (Alma 50:7–15, esp v.14). So given a careful reading of Alma 50, how can Ammonihah be put on the northwest coast? Another likely evidence that the city is SOUTH of Melek instead of north is found in Alma 8:16–18 where we learn that when Alma returns to the city after being instructed by the angel to return he sneaks in the backdoor of the city “which is on the south of the city”.  If the city was North of Zarahemla, why would the backway into the city be on the south? This verse suggests that the city is actually south of Zarahemla and Melek along with Noah, Aaron and Nephihah. In fact just the names of this cities should suggest that they are close to the Land of Nephi, likely being named after Aaron the son of Mosiah, and possibly Noah the wicked king. Also, the leaders of Ammonihah are some of the first to fully convert to the Order of Nehor (Alma 15:15) and Nehor seems to have lived/preached mostly around the areas of the Amalekites and Amulonites (Alma 24:28) whose home was close to Helem eight days from the city of Nephi (Mosiah 23). Also, since the people of Jershon flee Jershon and go to Melek to avoid the Zoramite attack… Ammonihah isn’t likely that far from Jershon! (since Ammonihah is 3 days journey from Melek, and having the people of Ammon flee 200 miles from their new home Jershon to another new home that is also on the edge of Nephite lands doesn’t make much sense).

Because of the above difficulties, many have speculated there are two Melek’s and two Aaron’s because of the confusion. (including the BOM topical guide). But I believe all these confusions are fixed by assuming that the “3 days north of Melek” is an error, and it is actually 3 days south.

Note that the retreating army of Lamanites after sacking Ammonihah and Noah in Alma 16 is perhaps the best indication of where this city is. It suggests Ammonihah is a first city in the Nephite lands when an army “come in upon the wilderness side, into the borders of the land [of Zarahemla]” (Alma 16:2). Not only does Alma 16 say NOTHING about the west sea in this chapter — which seems to go against the common habit/mistake of putting Ammonihah somewhere near the west sea on the north. But after destroying Ammonihah, as they head back to the land of Nephi with their prisoners, Alma tells the Nephite generals to head them off near “the river Sidon in the south wilderness, away up beyond the borders of the land of Manti” (Alma 16:6). Looking at internal maps or most Mesoamerican models we see how little sense this path of retreat makes given what we know of Manti (see Manti and Sidon, Head of). Why would they go back through the central part of the land to hightail it home, after purposefully sneaking into the “weakest part of the land?” (Alma 49:15) If Ammonihah is near the coast then surely they would take the coastal route back to the Land of Nephi, and not make a strange jaunt inland to cross the headwaters of Sidon only to head back toward the coast and arrive in the Land of Nephi!

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Antionum, Land of 

-Antionum is “the land of the Zoramites” (Alma 31, Alma 43:5), yet it seems to have been in Nephite territory or the border of Nephite territory during Moroni’s time.
-It is “east of the land of Zarahemla, which lay nearly bordering upon the seashore, which was south of the land of Jershon, which also bordered upon the wilderness south” (Alma 31:3)
-After their mission to the Zoramites, Alma and Amulek go rest at Jershon (so its close). Alma 35:2
-Bordering the land of Jershon & the “wilderness” (Alma 43:15, see Alma 43:5,15,22)

discussion: Alma 43, is important as it establishes that Antionum and Jershon are very close to each other, and likely closest to Manti and the “head of Sidon”, more than Zarahemla or other Nephite cities. It also establishes Antionum as the likely southernmost city of the east border/coast cities, since it was the first place the Zoramites reached as they came up the coast for battle. But both it and Jershon are NEARLY bordering the shore, but not ON the shore, and yet BORDERING the south wilderness.  So they seem to be where the coastal plain meets the mountains/wilderness and BORDERING the south wilderness. Its initially In Nephite territory, but Zoramite mission is because they fear they might join the Lamanites and thus endanger Nephite lands (Alma 31:4)

Geographic model notes: note this means it has to be SOUTH of Zarahemla & thus Catonia (which Jershon could be), and perhaps as far south as Tehuacan or even La Coyotera (thats probably too far). Probably on the upper or lower border of the coastal mountains. I get the feeling that the entire coastal plain is refered to as the “borders of the seashore”, so the fact that it is only “nearly” bordering the seashore, it is NOT down on the coastal plain.

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Aaron, City of

Alma 50:14. Nephihah is built by Moroni, between the city of Moroni and Aaron. So they are likely all defensive cities. Moroni and Nephihah build specifically to hedge out the Lamanites.

discussion: The topical guide and many others speculate that there are two Aaron’s because Alma heads “towards” Aaron after giving up on preaching to Ammonihah (Alma 8:13), but is “called back” by an angel.  YET, Alma 50:14, says they built Nephihah (a defensive city) between Moroni and Aaron (so east coast cities).  

However I think there might just be one, as it doesn’t actually say Nephihah is on the coast. So maybe Aaron isn’t either. Maybe Moroni is on the coast, and Nephihah and Aaron stretch inland and form a southern border of Nephite lands?  Seems likely these are some of the cities mentioned in Alma 50:10, where he says “he placed armies in the south, in the borders”. This would actually help make more sense of Alma 56:25, where it says the Lamanite army fighting manti “durst not march down against Zarahemla, or cross the head of Sidon over to the city of Nephihah.”  It also makes sense, because most of the cities built by Moroni were built to fortify the southern border between the lands of Nephi and Zarahemla.

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Melek, Land of

-Alma 8:3–4 says Melek is “west of the river Sidon, on the west by the borders of the wilderness”.
-Alma 8:6 says it’s three days Journey south of Ammonihah. (which I believe is an error. See Ammonihah)
-Alma 31:6 agrees it’s close to Ammonihah (since Amulek and Zeezrom are there). Either way, this chapter gives more support to the idea that Melek is close to Jershon and the Zoramites. (by the east sea)
-West of the Sidon River by the borders (on the edge of) of the wilderness (Alma 8:3).
-The land was large enough to contain the displaced Ammonites from Jerson (Alma 35:13).  Probably very good agriculturally, and secure in order for the Ammonites to be moved there once their land was deemed an unsafe frontier.
-It was near the city of Noah (Alma 16:2–3). The Lamanite armies destroy “some around the borders of Noah” after sacking Ammonihah. They also go straight to Noah after attempting to sack Ammonihah after its rebuilt (Alma 49:12–14). Noah is mentioned nowhere else in the text.
-It was near the city of Aaron. At least Alma “took a journey toward the city called Aaron” after being cast out of Ammonihah (Alma 8:13).  Which seems likely the same as the East coast city of Aaron between Moroni & Nephihah (Alma 50:14), perhaps by Jershon and named after Aaron the Missionary of Alma 31.
-It was where Alma seemed to be headed toward when he left the land never to return. (likely headed to the Land Northward via the west coast).

discussion: This is one of the hardest of ANY cities in the book of Mormon to place. (making it fit with Ammonihah, Jershon and Noah) Many have speculated there are two Melek’s because it makes little sense for the people of Ammon to go from the East coast to somewhere near the “west wilderness”, and “west of Sidon”. The location of this city is tied to the location of Ammonihah. Alma 8:3 may lead to speculate the Melek was far in the west by the west sea and west wilderness. However, since the Ammonites flee there, it must still be pretty close to the East Sea where Jershon was. Its hard to say exactly what encompasses the “west wilderness” of Alma 8:3  (Alma 27:22 makes it clear Jershon is “on the east by the sea”.)   It could be across the river from Gideon (which is on the east of Sidon),

Geographic model notes: Perhaps “west of sidon” doesn’t mean by the West Sea, but west of a Sidon tributary, like where Puebla is. (see Jershon).  Of course it’s possible that anything west of Zarahemla/Cholula/Popocatepetl could be considered the “west wilderness”.  I’m guessing somewhere like Chalcatzingo/Ocuituco/Chalco or Cuernavaca or south to Cuetlajuchitlán or even Teopantecuanitlan (but thats a LONG way for a people to fee, although they’d already come from Nephi and may have wanted to move closer to it anyway). Or it could be farther west like Chalcatzingo (but why would the Ammonites flee there if its that far?). How do you get a configuration that is west of the river Sidon, but close to the East sea and Jershon?   I’ll bet its good agricultural land, but quite possibly closer to the “southwest” cities that their 2000 sons were defending. Lower Cuernavaca, lower Chalcantango or even into the Mixtec lands. Likely very hidden.

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Mulek, Land of – (see Bountiful)

-on east borders by seashore, possessed by Amalickiah: Alma 51:25–26 .
-Moroni retakes Mulek: Alma 52:16–26 . ( Alma 53:2, 6 )
-heavily fortified. Not too far from city of Bountiful. (Alma 52:17)  Not too far from the seashore (Alms 52:22). Teancum retreat north along the seashore away from the city (v. 23). Likely less than a few hours south-east of Bountiful. (see discussion)
-there are plains between Mulek and Bountiful that could serve as a battleground. (Alms 52:20)
-likely named after Mulek the son of Zedekiah who first landed in the “Land North”. (Helaman 6:10) Perhaps close to their landing? Or perhaps just so far in the north that it is named after the north region of “Mulek”.

discussion: The location of this city is tied to city of Bountiful per Alma 52.  Teanucm flees Mulek (east?) to the seashore (v. 20), then flees northward (v. 23) toward the city of Bountiful (v. 27,39)

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Noah, City of – (see Bountiful)

A city close to Ammonihah. All we know of it, is when the Lamanites attack Ammonihah the first time, they attack Noah also, and take many prisoners (Alma 16:2–3). And some geography is described when they head off the Lamanites on their way home with the prisoners (16:5-8).  Then after Ammonihah is rebuilt and fortified, the lamanites come against Noah again, but this time it’s a fortress (Alma 49:12–15). After suffering many casualties, they head back to the land of Nephi.  In Alma 49:15, it’s called “the weakest part of the land”.  Thats another reason to believe its not in the mountains or way out of the way, but in a major thoroughfare.

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Bountiful, City of – (see Mulek)

-Moroni & Teancum force Lamanite prisoners to dig a ditch and dirt brim about the city. It becomes a stronghold “ever after”. (Alma 53:2–5)
-it is near the city of Mulek, (eastward?), and presumably near the east? seashore. (Alms 52:20)

-it is near the pass which leads to the land northward. Likely the most northern of the string of east coast cities (Alma 52:11–15?)

discussion: Alma 52:11 talks about how Moroni is over by the west sea fighting, and sends an epistle to Teancum who is by the east sea cities of Mulek and Bountiful, and tells him to” secure the pass which led into the land northward” (v. 9). This makes no sense unless he’s talking about an EAST SEA PASS. Moroni leaves the west coast and marches to Bountiful and the EAST coast (v. 15).

Geographic model notes: So Bountiful could only be somewhere like Tamtoc or ruins in Tampico!

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South & West Cities

Zeezroom, Cumeni, Antiparah & Judea. Described as being presumably on the borders of the land on the south by the west sea (Alma 53:8,22)

-They appear to stretch in a line from Manti in the order of Manti, Zeezrom, Cumeni, Antiparah, Judea? (Alma 56:14). They are retaken by Helaman’s 2000 warriors in reverse order.
-The cities of were apparently on the south and west border of the Nephite lands and were the first cities captured by the Lamanite invaders (Alma 56:14). Alma 52:11–12 describes Ammaron’s intent to assault the “borders by the west sea”.
-Manti is consistently mentioned in conjunction with the river Sidon (especially it’s ‘head’). But the river Sidon is never mentioned in the war for these cities… so it’s likely near Manti but not between these cities.
-Antiparah was between the city of Judea and an unnamed Nephite city near the seashore (Alma 56:30). We can presume this is the west sea, although it’s strange that Nephihah (which Alma 51:26 says is by the East Sea) is mentioned in conjunction with these cities (Alma 56:25).
-The fact that Zarahemla and Nephihah (which Alma 51:26 says is by the East Sea) is mentioned in conjunction of these cities is another great evidence that these South & West Cities are stretching in a line from the West Sea toward the East Sea. (with the head of Sidon being beyond Manti, yet between these and Nephihah — Alma 56:25)
-The Nephite armies could flee two days northward from Antiparah into the wilderness without reaching the shore or Zarahemla (Alma 56:33–42).
-Cumeni seems to be just west of Manti (Alma 57:22). Cumeni doesn’t appear to have been a fortified city (Alma 57:16–20).
-In battle for Cumeni, defeated Lamanites were driven back to nearby city of Manti (Alma 57:22).
Some or all of these cities were fortified (Alma 56:20–21).
-Zeezrom is likely right next to Manti, because it’s never mentioned again after verse 22. After Cumeni the war goes straight to Manti.
-going from these cities to Nephihah would require crossing “the head of Sidon”.  Nephihah and Zarahamla were the closest options of Lamanite attack from these cities (Alma 56:25). That might be a good evidence that the ‘head’ of Sidon is it’s headwaters which are close to Nephihah and the east sea.
-there are “other cities which were on the northward”, which are not mentioned by name (Alma 56:22). This again suggests that these cities are the southern (or possibly southwestern? – but I think not) frontier.

discussion: The cities defended by Helaman’s 2000 stripling warriors in Alma 56-57 are said to be “southern cities” by the west sea, which Moroni must have been guarding before he went to help Teancum with the Eastern front- Alma 52:11–52. (Moroni left Helaman & Antipus in charge when he left.) Additionally, prisoners from this group are sent down to Zarahemla (suggesting it’s close by & lower).  Helaman says in Alma 56:14 the Lamanites had taken Manti, Zeezrom, Cumeni and Antiparah (in that order) when he gets to Judea. The cities are then retaken in the reverse order (with no mention of Zeezrom).

Military maneuvers begin in Judea (Alma 56:9). Helaman then marches past (but within sight of spies) Antiparah as if to go “to a city beyond by the seashore” as a decoy (possibly northward. see v. 36). When the Lamanites take the bait they flee a full day “northward, even to a considerable distance” (v. 36-37). Probably heading somewhat toward the sea still. After the battle prisoners are sent to Zarahamla, not back to Judea, so their march must have put them closer to Zarahamla. After heading back to Judea, the Lamanites abandon Antiparah, so the Nephites march and siege Cumeni— which is surrendered. The next battle is for Manti.

Heleman’s army then decoys the Lamanites out of Manti and then flees “much in the wilderness” toward Zarahemla, so it can’t be that far from Zarahamla (58:23-28). I suspect that Judea might be by the shore near Acapulco (La Sabana), and Manti near Tehuacan, with the other cities strung between. So this is the southwest frontier, and Teancum/Mororni’s battles were the eastern frontier.  

Geographic model notes: Perhaps Oxtotitlan Cave and Juxtlahuaca Cave were painted during this Lamanite assault? (dates are typical ascribed earlier.)    Possibly, La Sabana, Teopantecuanitlan by the river Sidon, Cuetlajuchitlán and Chalcatzingo or Xochicalco near Cuernavaca (Manti being Cholula near Puebla or Chalcatzingo or Tenongo).

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East Sea Cities

At least four cities (and likely nine) border the East Sea, Moroni, Aaron, Nephihah and Jershon. (Lehi, Morianton, Omner, Gid, Mulek seem near the sea but could be inland a ways)

MORONI, AARON

-It was located on the shore of the east sea and was near the south wilderness of the Lamanites (Alma 50:13).
-The land of Moroni bordered the land of Aaron, and the city of Nephihah was built in between (Alma 50:14).
-Lehi was a nearby city to the north (Alma 50:15; 51:24).
-Moroni was surrounded by a wall (probably the trench-mound-palisade fortifications of Moroni) (Alma 62:36).
-Submerged in the sea. Perhaps still underwater. (3 Ne. 8:9).

NEPHIHAH, LEHI

-It was located between Moroni and Aaron (Alma 50:14–15).
-It was in the borders by the east sea, but apparently not right on the seashore (Alma 51:25–26).
-There was a plain near the city (Alma 62:18).
-The city had walls and an entrance (Alma 61:20–22).
-It was south of the city of Lehi (Alma 51:25).

MORIANTON, OMNER, GID & MULEK,

-They were on the east on the borders by the seashore (Alma 51:26).
-They were built for defense and were probably about a days journey apart (Alma 50:9–11).
-Mulek was less than a day’s journey from the city of Bountiful (Alma Ch. 52).
-Lehi and Morianton were probably built in close proximity to each other-because they have a boundary dispute (Alma 50:25–36)
-These cities were all fortified with a ditch, mound and wooden palisade (Alma 51:27, 55:25-26).
-Heleman’s sons take a missionary journey from Bountiful, to Gid, to Mulek to Zarahemla to the Lamanites in the land Southward (Helaman 5:15–16). Note the direction error in v 16.

discussion: when Amalickiah comes to battle the Nephites in Alma 51, he first takes the city of Moroni and “all of their fortifications”, and then goes on to “take Nephihah, Lehi, Morianton, Omner, Gid and Mulek, all of which were east on the borders of the seashore” (Alma 51:26), suggesting that those cities were arranged in that order from south to north along the east sea.  They then “march forth… that they might take possession of the land Bountiful and also the land northward” (Alma 51:30). After Teancum kills Amalickiah on the way to Bountiful, they retreat back to Mulek. At that point Moroni sends a letter telling Teancum to secure the narrow pass, because he “cannot come” because he is occupied with a Lamanite attack “on the borders of the west sea”. This suggests the western cities are a long way from these eastern cities and the narrow pass.

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Gideon, Land of 

-It was situated east of the River Sidon and about a days journey from Zarahemla, (Alma 6:7).
-A trail led southward from Gideon to Manti, and also to the land of Nephi (Alma 17:1)
-The Land of Gideon was at a higher elevation than the City of Zarahemla (Alma 62:6–7).
-It was near the hill Amnihu, and “in the course of” or on the way to the land of Nephi (Alma 2:15–20).
-It was located between the city of Zarahemla and the city of Minon (Alma 2:24)..
-The ‘Valley Gideon’ is likely east of the River Sidon (alma 2:35)?  At any rate you must cross sidon to get from the valley of Gideon to the city of Zarahemla

Geographic model notes: If Zarahemla is Cholula, East Publa is a fantastic match for Gideon with La Malinche matching the Hill Riplah. (but does Amla 2 fit with that well?)

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Jershon, Land of

-It was “east by the sea”, south of the land of Bountiful (joining borders with Bountiful), and bordering on the south wilderness (Alma 27:22). The Lamanites had to be driven out of it, and it became a buffer between Bountiful and the Lamanite Lands.
-It was east of the city of Zarahema (Alma 27:22).
-It was lower in elevation than the south wilderness (Alma 27:26).
-It was north of the land of Antionum, or land of the Zoramites (Alma 31:3).
-It was likely near the eastern coastal cities of Mulek, Gid, Omner, Morianton, Lehi, Nephihah, and Moroni. (ref?)
-It’s just north of the Zoramites of Antionum, “which was east of the land of Zarahemla, which lay nearly bordering upon the seashore, which was south of the land of Jershon, which also bordered upon the wilderness south, which wilderness was full of the Lamanites” (Alma 31:3).
-It’s not far from Melek? since the people of Ammon temporarily flee to Melek when the Zoramites prepare to attack (Alma 35:13–14).  But it doesn’t make sense, because Alma 8:3–4 says Melek is “west of the river Sidon, on the west by the borders of the wilderness”. Perhaps this doesn’t mean by the west sea, but west of a Sidon tributary, like where puebla is.
-Alma 8:6 says Melek is three days Journey south of Ammonihah. Alma 31:6 agrees it’s close to Ammonihah (since Amulek and Zeezrom are there). Either way, this chapter gives more support to the idea that Melek is close to Jershon and the Zoramites.

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Jerusalem, City of

-It was drown at the death of Christ (3 Ne 9:7), and mentioned with many other drown cities, so likely a coastal city.
-It was “joining the borders of Mormon”,(and thus Helam?)  and where Aaron went first on his mission to the Lamanites (Alma 21:1)
-The Amalekites and Amulonites built it (Alma 21:2)
-It was near to Ani-Anti and Middoni (Alma 21:11–12)
-Amulon, Helam & Jerusalem all seem to be in proximity (Alma 24:1)

Find verse that puts Amulonites and Amalekites with Zoramites suggesting their regions are in close proximity on the east coast.

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Helam, Alma, Amulon (cities in Alma’s flight to Zarahemla)

-Helam is 8 days journey into the wilderness from the city of Nephi (Mosiah 23:3).
-Helam is 12 (or 13) days journey from the city of Zarahemla (Thus likely about 2/5’s between Nephi & Zarahemla. Mosiah 24:23–25).
-Helam was in a “beautiful and pleasant land… of pure water” in an area suitable for agriculture (Mosiah 23:4–5).
-The Valley of Alma was one days journey (probably northward) from Helam (Mosiah 24:20).
-Amulon was founded by the Amulonites and near Alma’s city of Helam. (Mosiah 23:30–35)
-All these locations were in the south wilderness somewhere between Nephi and Zarahemla. (8 days from Nephi & 12 days from Zarahemla)
-The Amalekites & Amulonites of Jerusalem seem to be in proximity to the Zoramites of Antionum (Alma 43:5–6)
-Both the Amalekites & Amulonites of Jerusalem & Zoramites of Antionum are in proximity to Jerson which is by the east sea (Alma 43:4, Alma 35:2–11).
-Amulonites who battle with the Nephites flee into the EAST wilderness (Alma 25:5).

Discussion: Evidence is split between these lands being toward the west or east coast. On one hand Alma 21:1–14 has Aaron and his brother preaching in Jerusalem the land of the Amalakites & Amulonites (v. 2), where they are rejected and go to the nearby cities of Ani-Anti & Middoni where they are cast into prison (v, 13) and kept there until Lamoni & Ammon deliver them (v. 14). Which might suggest a west coast location since Ishmeal is synonymous with the ‘Land of first Inheritance (Alma 21:18), which is on the seashore west of the Land of Nephi (Alma 22:28). However, 2 Nephi 5:7 has the city/land of Nephi being “many days” from the land of first inheritance so we can’t be sure Ammon & Lamoni didn’t cross the land were it a narrow location. Especially since on the flip side Alma 43:5–6 seems to have the Amalekites & Amulonites of Jerusalem in proximity to the Zoramites of Antionum which we know are by the east sea (Alma 35:2–11). Furthermore Alma 25:5 has Amulonites fleeing home from Nephite battles going into the EAST wilderness. And again, at the Destructions of Christ the Amalekite city of Jerusalem has “waters caused to come up in the stead thereof” (3 Nephi 9:7) just like the southeast coast (Alma 50:13) city of Moroni which is “sunk into the depths of the sea, and the inhabitants thereof were drowned” (3 Nephi 8:9). 4 Nephi 1:9 seems to suggest that many of these sunk cities were not just destroyed by a tsunami, but that a sizable region of coast line sluffed off or sank into the sea. (Although on some of these cities a lake could be involved instead of the sea). Furthermore Alma 43 seems to suggest that the land of the Zoramites and Amalikes are in proximity, and that the Amakite Zerahemnah starts his war by recruiting Zoramites then attempting war with Jerson (again on the east coast), and then going to Manti (which must be less than a few days journey away).

The Sorenson model puts the lands of the Amulonites and Amalakites (which we know were near Helam & Alma) along the west or pacific coast of Northern Guatemala. But note this is a very poor placement for several locations. Firstly, his location is near Izapa and many archaeological sites which have unbroken archaeological records dating from early formative Olmec times all the way to the time of Christ. Sites like La Blanca, La Victoria, Takalik Abaj and El Mesak. Placing Alma and the land of Helam anywhere near Lamanite or Lehite population centers does not make sense. More importantly this region is lies in the flat western coastal plane and ancient travel corridor where really only a fool wouldn’t be able to find their way to the coast and then up the known river undoubtedly linking the city of Nephi to the coast, yet Mosiah 23:36–37 shows that the Journey from Helam to Nephi was difficult to find causing the Lamanite army to become lost, strongly suggesting that Helam was in an area away from any typical travel corridors.

These lands are near the people of Ammon who get converted so it makes no sense that they are given Jershon on the east coast if they are from the east coast! (explain more and reference this…)

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Ishmael, Land of

-Is the home of Lamoni. (Alma 17:21, Alma 21:18)
-Is “the land of their inheritance” (Alma 21:18), which is likely synonymous with the ‘land of first inheritance’.
-Place of their father’s first inheritance is ‘west in the land of Nephi… bordering along by the seashore’ (Alma 22:28)

Since Alma 17:21 specifies Lamoni ‘was a descendant of Ishmael’ we assume that Ishmael did not follow Nephi or Laman into the wilderness but stayed in the land of first inheritance, since according to Alma 21:18 which calls it the land of first inheritance, and also places it in proximity to the land of Middoni (although a distance is not given and could be substantial the context suggests it is within a few days journey of Nephi and Middoni which is in turn somewhat close to Helam and Amulon, etc.

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Sidon, River (28 uses)

A seemingly major or geographically significant river. The only named river in the Book of Mormon. It has east and west banks… but also may run/flow “from east to west” just like the ‘narrow strip of wilderness’ between the land of Nephi and Zarahemla (Alma 22:27). Mhe majority of references to the river, refer to coming and going armies or people between the land of Nephi and land Zarahemla, suggesting it forms an important geographic boundary of some sort. (further supporting the above east/west interpretation of Alma 22:27)

-hill Amnihu is on east of Sidon: Alma 2:15 .
-it “ran BY the land of Zarahemla”: Alma 2:15 .
-Lamanites camp on west of Sidon: Alma 2:34 .
-many are baptized in waters of Sidon: Alma 4:4 .
-wilderness at Sidon: Alma 22:29 .
-One must go round about the river’s head when traveling from Jershon/Antionum to Manti (Alma 43:22).
-One must presumably cross from the west to east side of it traveling from Zarahemla to Gideon (Alma 6:7).  The city and valley of Gideon are on the east side of the river. (in the region of Zarahemla and Gideon it flows north-south.
-An army must cross it (presumably on foot) going from Gideon to Zarahemla. (Alma 2:27,34).  It has banks that can serve as battlegrounds.
-It was large enough to carry the bodies of the dead Lamanites out to the sea. (Alma 3:3)
-But it was small enough for an army to easily cross without boats/etc. (Alma 43:35–41, Alma 16:6–7)
-Perhaps “bordering on the wilderness” and going “from east to the west”. Alma 22:29  If the “wilderness” mentioned in Alma 22:29 is the same as the “narrow strip of wilderness” in verse 27 (which seems likely), then the head of Sidon is likely IN the narrow strip of wilderness that divides the Nephite and Lamanite lands.
-It apparently must be crossed as one goes from the Land of Nephi to the Land of Zarahemla (further supporting it being some kind of east-west running barrier like the south wilderness) Alma 16:6, Alma 2, Alma 43 .
-It was west of the hill Amnihu. Suggesting it runs north/south at that point. (Alma 2:15)
-It was west of the Valley of Gideon. (Alma 2:26; 6:7)
-The City of Melek was to the west of the Sidon–again suggesting a north-south flow in this region. (Alma 8:3)
-The City of Manti was at the headwaters of the Sidon near the south wilderness. (Alma 16:6–7; 22:27)
-The head of the River Sidon extended into the south wilderness, and created an obvious crossing point on the way to Nephi. (Alma 43:22).
-Runs between the Valley of Gideon (which is west of Zarahemla), then through “the land of Zarahemla”, but likely not through the city. (Alma 2:15, since the bodies of Alma 2:34 would then float through the city).)
-Likely either too large to safely cross, or down in a canyon or deep valley in most places as the crossing points seem limited & predictable (Alma 16:6, Alma 2)

discussion: Alma 22:27 ambiguously gives several geographic descriptions ending with the words “through the borders of Manti, by the head of the river Sidon, running from the east towards the west”. One way to read this is that it’s saying that the river Sidon “runs from east to west”.   This verbiage isn’t unique as Alma 2:15, also uses the words “running” to show directionality of the river by the land of Zarahemla. However, it is also possible this verse is for some reason simply redundantly repeating the clause earlier in the verse where the “narrow strip of wilderness… runs from sea east even to sea west”. The idea that a region might also “run” like a river is also used in Alma 50:8 where the land of Nephi is said to “run in a straight course from the east sea to the west”.  I actually believe it is both, as the author is trying to explain that Sidon, just like the lands of Bountiful and Nephi and the south wilderness “runs” from east to west nearly all the way across the land.  (that’s why its repeated twice in v.27). This idea is further supported by Alma 16:6, where Alma prophecies that the Lamanites as they flee home will “cross the river Sidon in the south wilderness, away up beyond the borders of the land Manti”. As if Sidon was some kind of border which Zoram ‘expected’ the Lamanites would have to cross (and there were only so many expected places to easily cross it, so as to know where Alma was talking about). This also accords with other places in the text where the river Sidon appears to be the best place to meet Lamanite armies as they head toward the Land of Zarahemla (Alma 2, Alma 43). A generally east to west configuration helps explain why no mention of crossing Sidon’s mouth/delta is ever mentioned in conjunction with the East Coast defensive cities, OR with the final retreat of the Nephites to Desolation along the West Coast. If Sidon flowed north wouldn’t Moroni mention that they crossed it!

HOWEVER, we must also note that the only ‘banks’ ever mentioned in relation to the river are east-west ones (Alma 16:6, Alma 43:27,53), suggesting that at least in the places where it is most often crossed, it flows north-south.  Also… the head (headwaters we assume) of Sidon are consistently mentioned as being in or near the Land of Manti, which we also know is south of Zarahemla (between the Land of Zarahemla and the Land of Nephi). And since we also know the river flows through the land and even near the city of Zarahemla (Alma 2:15) and city of Gideon (Alma 2:26; 6:7) and other central Nephite regions, this reinforces that at least part of the river flows from south to north.

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Sidon, Head of (5 uses)

“Head” is defined in websters 1828 dictionary as “n. To originate; to spring; to have its source, as a river.”  Also “n. The part most remote [or opposite] from the mouth or opening into the sea; as the head of a bay, gulf or creek.”  Also “n. The principal source of a stream; as the head of the Nile.”  the head of a river is NOT the mouth of a river. Attempting to make it such is a wild stretch.

Additionally, attempting to make the “head of Sidon”, mean the mouth or delta of the river run into possible problems in explaining a setup where the Lamanite armies leave coastal Jerson/Antionum and go “round about in the wilderness…by the head of Sidon” to get to Manti (Alma 43:22–27) which is known to be “up” and on the way to Nephi (which is also always “up”).

-Ambiguous, run-on sentences here. But Sidon likely “running from the east toward the west” just like the “narrow strip of wilderness which ran from sea east even to sea west” and apparently dividing the Land of Nephi and Zarahemla along with the narrow strip of wilderness. Alma 22:27. See discussion on Sidon, River..
-Perhaps a second(?) “head of the river Sidon” mentioned in Alma 27:29 which is “on the north” or “northern parts of the land bordering on the wilderness” near bountiful.
-Exists as an obstacle between Manti/Zeezrom and Nephihah, when going “round about in the wilderness”. Alma 56:25
-Exists as an obstacle between Jershon and Manti, when going “round about in the wilderness”. Alma 43:22
-It’s in the south-east, being between Lamanite armies (of the south & west cities) and the city of Nephihah (on the east sea). Alma 56:25
-Perhaps “bordering on the wilderness” and going “from east to the west”. Alma 22:29  If the “wilderness” mentioned in Alma 22:29 is the same as the “narrow strip of wilderness” in verse 27 (which seems likely), then the head of Sidon is likely IN the narrow strip of wilderness that divides the Nephite and Lamanite lands.
-“From the west sea, running by the head of Sidon” Alma 50:8,11  See discussion.
-Alma 50:11 could possibly suggest the ‘head of Sidon’ is near the West Sea, however it could also simply be contrasting the ‘head of sidon’ against the west sea. (see discussion)

discussion: Seems likely that “the head of Sidon” is a geographical term paralleling the modern term of “headwaters of a river”. Such as modern use of “the headwaters of the Mississippi or Ohio or Colorado or Snake rivers”. All of these terms would actually be talking about a highland or mountainous ridge area. Thus, the “head of Sidon” may not be talking about the river so much, as the ridge of mountains the river originates in.  For an army to “cross the head of Sidon” would not only mean crossing the river’s small early tributaries, but more importantly crossing the mountain passes which lie at the head of them. Alma 43:22, Alma 56:25 .

Alma 50:11, almost seems to suggest the ‘head of Sidon’ is near the west sea. However, Alma 56:25 says the Nephites would have had to cross the head of Sidon to get to Nephihah, which is plainly said to be by the East Sea (Alma 51:25–26). Therefore, Alma 50:11 is either contrasting the head of Sidon with the west sea (suggesting it is opposite the West sea, and near the East sea) Or it is by BOTH the east and west sea, being in a narrow part of the ithsmas.  See a great discussion on this in this link, search for “Thus, we seem to have established, as clearly as the text will allow, that the head of the river Sidon was east of Manti, not far from Nephihah, south of Antionum, and near the east sea. All of these bits of information are consistent with each other, and therefore, increase the probability of our conclusion.”

Geographic model notes: In our model the Rio Balsas has two main heads and 5 minor ones. The main head is in the Mixtec lands of northern Oaxaca. Secondary are the massive peaks of Valley of Mexico near Cholula, Teotihuacan and even Cuernavaca. If 50:11 really is saying it’s head is by the west sea, then it would have to be the Oaxaca arm which is the ‘head of Sidon’. Since the “south and west cities” appear to stretch in a line from Manti to somewhere near Nephihah in the order of Manti, Zeezrom, Cumeni, Antiparah, Judea (Alma 56:14). Of course perhaps, one could argue that Manti is somewhere near the mouth of Sidon and those cities stretch north toward Cuernavaca or Guadalajara?

The idea that Alma 22:27–29 might be talking about two different heads of Sidon, although hard to prove because of the ambiguity of these verses however works incredibly well with the Highland-Continental model.

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Manti, Land & City of

-The Lamanite crossing of Sidon was up beyond the borders of the land Manti (Alma 16:6). Also, the army ambush of Alma 43:32 occurs up from Manti “and so down into the borders of Manti”. (Alma 43:32)
-It was on the southern borders of the land of Zarahemla, at the head of the River Sidon, near the narrow strip of wilderness (Alma 22:27).
-A trail from Gideon led southward to Manti (Alma 17:1).
-To the south of the land of Manti, there was another valley along the course of the upper Sidon, with the hill Riplah on its east side. (Alma 43:31–32)
-The cities of Zeezrom, Cumeni, Antiparah, Judea? (Alma 56:14) stretch out in a line from it. It has a “wilderness side” (likely up against rugged terrain, a mountain or dense forest (Alma 58:13), with places to hide an army (56:17). Judea is near the west seashore.
-Heleman’s army decoys the Lamanites out of Manti and then flees “much in the wilderness” toward Zarahemla, so it can’t be that far from Zarahamla (Alma 58:23–28).
-After Nehor slays Gideon in Alma 1:9,15 he’s hung on the “hill Manti”. It seems likely that the “hill Manti” was in the land Manti (perhaps it’s defining feature), and that the land of Gideon is named after Gideon and thus is close to Manti (or at least the hill).  Alma 17:1 might support this, saying that Manti is “southward” from Gideon.
-Alma 16:6–7 says after Ammonihah and Noah are attacked, the Lamanites head home and “cross the river Sidon in the south wilderness, away up beyond the borders of the land of Manti.” Verse 6 suggests that the borders of Manti are by the “south wilderness, which was on the east side of the river Sidon.” Note it doesn’t say “south side of Sidon,” it says east side.

Geographic model notes: Could it be talking about the Cuernavaca tributary of Sidon or is Manti east of Puebla?

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Mormon, Land of

-Waters of Mormon were likely no further than a days journey from the City of Nephi. (Mosiah 18:4–7).
-Likely close enough to get there and back from the city in a day but far enough to be able to ‘hide from the king’. (Mosiah 18:3–4).
-Had a fountain (or spring) of pure water, presumably filling a pool big enough to baptize in. (Mosiah 18:5,16)
-No indication waters of Mormon are a large lake. More likely a small pool which is hidden “in a thicket”. (Mosiah 18:5)
-A noteworthy forest exists in the land. Likely different from the vegetation of the surrounding area. Perhaps because it is a high rugged area. (Mosiah 18:30)
-A big enough area that 450 people could gather, but small enough to still feel hidden and not in the open. (Mosiah 18:35)

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Nephi, City of

-everything is ALWAYS up to the city of Nephi (down out of the city of Nephi when leaving). In my model this is not necessarily because of the cities high elevation (although it is high at 6,300 ft), but because it is up on a tall defensive hill.  The Land does have hills higher than it which over look it (Mosiah 7:6). See Omni 1:27; WOM 1:13; Mosiah 7:2–6; 19:5; 20:2,7; 24:20; 26:3; 28:5; 29:3,14; Alma 27:5, 47:1;
-It was a twenty days journey from Nephi to Zarahemla (with families apparently on foot) (Mosiah 23:1–4; 24:25). This would have been about 150-250 miles.
-It was an area of dryer climate grassland or Savannah (not a forested area or jungle) where they could raise grain and grazed flocks and had to fight for water resources (2 Nephi 5:11; Mosiah 21:16).
-It was “Many days journey” from of the Land of First Inheritance (with families apparently on foot. see 2 Nephi 5:7. Also note First Inheritance is said to be on the west seashore of the Land of Nephi. Alma 22:28).
-Nephi built a temple there (2 Nephi 2:16).
-The city of Nephi had a wall (Mosiah 22:6).
-Abundant mineral deposits (2 Nephi 5:15).
-Land of Mormon, and waters of Mormon were close by (likely no further than a days journey) (Mosiah 18:4–7).
-Adjacent to the lands of Shemlon and Shilom (Mosiah 19:6; 22:8).
-Near the south wilderness (Mosiah 22:12).

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Zarahemla, Land & City of –   

Note that unlike many other Book of Mormon cities, almost EVERY reference to Zarahemla refers to the “land of Zarahemla” instead of the city (~60 references to ‘land’ vs. only 11 references to ‘city’), suggesting that at least until it is rebuilt after it’s burning at the death of Christ (3 ne 8:8, 9:3, 4 ne 1:8) it must be a fairly spread out city. Being more of a regional influence than a strongly metropolitan capital. That it DID indeed have an urban center is shown when 3 Nephi 9:3 calls it a ‘Great City’. As well as the story of Nephi and Samuel who show the city has both ‘towers’ and ‘walls’. (Hel 6, 13). However the afore overwhelming references to the ‘land Zarahemla’ suggest the regional population is even more important than the city.
Perhaps even more important for our model is that EVERY reference to a low elevation, of which there are many, are to the “land Zarahemla” and not the city.  I.e. it is always down to the land of Zarahemla when entering or coming ‘up out of’ the ‘land Zarahemla’ when leaving, but strangely not a SINGLE reference to going ‘down’ to the city of Zarahemla, suggesting that the ‘land of Zarahemla is lower than the capital city, which may be found at a high point in the land.

-complaints come up to the land of Zarahemla (3 Ne 6:25). This is the only reference to Zarahemla being ‘up’, so although part of the land of Zarahemla might be ‘up’, perhaps just as likely this reference has nothing to do with altitude, but of importance… such as “up to capitol hill, Washington”. Perhaps evidence of a large pyramid where the high priest officiated from?
-the city must be WEST of the river Sidon since Alma heads westward and crosses the river Sidon to get to Gideon (Alma 6:7). Same is said of the armies in Alma 2, they cross west across Sidon to get from Gideon to Zarahemla.
-“the river Sidon, which ran by the land Zarahemla” (Alma 2:15). River runs by the land Zarahemla, but likely not necessarily through the city.
-many in the “land of Zarahemla”, join the church and are baptized in the “waters of Sidon” (Alma 4:1–4). Because it says “waters of Sidon” instead of river Sidon we must guess as to whether this is the river (which would obviously be close to the city) or perhaps a sacred lake with the same name (somehow associated with the river? part of its headwaters? an oxbow lake by the river? A reservoir taken from the river? A pond/lake the river feeds or that feeds the river?)
-war begins with the Lamanites in the “borders of Zarahemla, by the waters of Sidon”.  Whether this is the river Sidon or a lake with the same name is unknown. Also unknown if this is the land or city of Zarahemla. Presumably a war is not going to begin right on the outskirts of the capital city… so likely the land of Zarahemla.

Discussion: There is never any mention of the river Sidon flowing through the city Zarahemla but Alma 2:15 says it flows through the land Zarahemla, and the narrative definitely suggests it’s within a day of the city. (since people were babtized there, the waters of Sidon must be well within a days travel). Sidon most often seems to be associated with the barriers between Nephite & Lamanite lands. Two verses mention the “waters of Sidon” in association with the land of Zarahemla (not city).

-It was divided from the Land of Nephi to the south by a narrow strip of coast to coast east-west wilderness. (Alma 22:27))
-The Land of Zarahemla is NOT said to run from the east to west coast like the Lands of Nephi and Bountiful are (Alma 22), but instead is said to be in the “heart of their [Nephite] lands” (Hel 1:18)
-Thus in a central part of the Nephite lands which were south of Bountiful & the narrow neck of land (Hel. 1:27).
-It had a mixed (and probably segregated) population of Nephites and Mulekites which probably resulted in separate barrios or twinned cities (Omni 1:16–19; Mosiah 25:4)
The City of Zarahemla had a wall (it does not specify whether it was of stone or timber) (Hel. 1:21).

-It was located at a distance of 20 days travel from the City of Nephi (apparently in a northward direction) (Mosiah 23:3; Mosiah 24:25).
-It was occupied by the Nephite faction from about 200 B.C. (The “Mulekites” having arrived earlier.)
-The Land Zarahemla was roughly bordered on all sides by areas of wilderness (Alma 22), including a west wilderness, past Mekek somewhere west of the river Sidon (Alma 8:3), the Wilderness of Hermounts northwest from Zarahemla (Alma 2:37), and the east wilderness (Alma 25:5).
-South of Zarahemla and the narrow strip of wilderness, lay the expansive south wilderness of the Lamanite domains (Alma 22:27).
-It was burned at the time of the crucifixion (3 Ne. 9:3).
-The city of Gideon and river Sidon lay a short distance to the east (Alma 6:7).
-It was an area where tropical diseases (i.e. fevers) and their remedies were present (Alma 46:40).

discussion: Alma 2 may be one of the best descriptions of Zarahemla and its relationship to the River Sidon, Gideon and Nephi. It first tells us there is a strategic hill (Amnihu), “east of the River Sidon, which ran by the land of Zarahemla” that the Amlicites use to start a war with the people of Zarahemla (perhaps a Guerilla base on the hill- Alma 2:14–16). These verses seem to purposely point out that the River Sidon goes through the land Zarahemla, but NOT the city of Zarahemla. The Amlicites flee from the hill to the Valley of Gideon, so the Hill is likely between Zarahemla and Gideon. But there is no mention of crossing Sidon yet. (So Gideon Valley must still be East of the River Sidon). Gideon is also “in the course of” (on the way to) the land of Nephi (Alma 2:24). The Amlicites circumvent Gideon to head back to Zarahemla by way of Minon which is “above” Zarahemla. But as the Nephites go to head off the Amlicites in Minon and get ready to cross Sidon (from East to West?, on the way to Zarahemla) they get attacked and must “clear the bank on the west of Sidon” (Alma 2:34) to fight off the Amlicite army which then flees “towards the wilderness which was west and north, away beyond the borders of the land…until they had reached the wilderness, which was called Hermounts; and it was that part of the wilderness which was infested by wild and ravenous beasts” (Alma 2:36–38).  This is a tricky configuration that tells us a number of things…

-River Sidon runs “by the land of Zarahemla”, and NOT likely through the city of Zarahemla (Alma 2:15, since the bodies of Alma 2:34 would then float through the city)
-There is a prominent “hill Amnihu, which was east of the river Sidon, which ran by the land of Zarahemla”
-It is likely about a day from Zarahemla to the valley of Gideon (Alma 2:20), which is “in the course of” (on the way to) the land of Nephi (Alma 2:24). But at the same time Gideon can be easily circumvented to get back to Zarahemla another way (see v.25-26).
-There is a land of Minion above (higher than) the land of Zarahemla (Alma 2:24).
-For some reason you don’t seem to cross Sidon to get from Zarahemla to Gideon, but you do cross it if you want to head back to Zarahemla through Minon which is (in a pass)  ‘above’ Zarahemla..
-From that Sidon Crossing near Minon above Zarahemla, you would flee to the North and West Wilderness (Hermounts), which is infested with beasts from the Land Northward. (compare Alma 2:36–38 to Alma 22:31).
-You can throw a bunch of bodies into Sidon from near Minon above Zarahemla, Alma 2:34 (presumably without polluting the water source of any respected city like Zarahemla– which makes the idea that Sidon flows north from Gideon and Minon through Zarahemla seem unlikely).
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Land of Many Waters or ‘large bodies of water

– Morianton tries to flee to “the land which was northward” covered with “large bodies of water“. (Alma 50:29)
– “an exceedingly great many” leave the land of Zarahemla and travel “an exceedingly great distance” to “the” land Northward where there are “large bodies of water and many rivers”. (Hel 3:3–4)
– Lemhi’s exploratory party travels in a land “among many waters” after being “lost in the wilderness for the space of many days”. Finds a land covered with bones and ruins. (Mosiah 8:8)
– Cumorah is “in a land of many waters, rivers, and fountains”. (Mormon 6:4)

Discussion: Its uncertain if the Land of many waters of Mosiah 8:8 & Mormon 6:4 is the same as the land of large bodies of water of Alma 50:29 & Hel 3:3–4, but it seems quite likely given that both terms occur along with the description of “many rivers”.

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Cumorah, Land & Hill

Site of both the Lehite AND Jaredite final battles. Obviously Cumorah must provide either some exceptional strategic advantage, or be the natural endpoint or trap for refugee peoples.

– In a land of many ‘waters, rivers and fountains’ [ie. springs].  Nephite gather around the ‘hill’, hoping ‘to gain advantage over the Lamanites’ (Mormon 6:4).
– Before even entering the ‘land of Cumorah’, Mormon writes the Lamanites asking for time to ‘gather together out people unto the land of Cumorah, by the Hill which was called Cumorah, and there we could give them battle’ (Mormon 6:2).  Obviously the site is strategic in multiple ways.
– Mormon hides up in the ‘Hill Cumorah ‘all the records which had been entrusted’ to him (BUT NOT the b.o.m. plates – Mormon 6:6). We are not told the name of the hill Moroni hides his plates in, BUT D&C 128:20 seems to refer to the location of Joseph’s vision of Moroni as ‘Cumorah’, suggesting IT IS Cumorah (or at least in the Land Cumorah!).
– Jaredites call it the Hill Ramah (Ether 15:22), and tell us it’s about a day south of the waters of Ripliancum, meaning waters to exceed all (Ether 15:8), which are mostly likely a lake since they are west of, and not far from the East Sea–and different from it (Ether 9:3).  Given D&C 128:20 this strongly suggests Ripliancum is the Great Lakes and land Cumorah encompasses where the Joseph found the plates (although the final battle could have been somewhere else nearby but still in the land of Cumorah).

discussion: Since Moroni says in Moroni 1:1, that he expected to have been killed before writing the final book of Moroni, (his father being killed in the battle or shortly after in Mormon 8:3) we can suppose that Mormon and his father MUST have made both the cave for ALL the records, finished most the gold plates AND made the cement box/crypt for just the gold plates BEFORE the final battle, and likely hid up the records expecting to possibly die. (They wouldn’t have chanced something so important seeing death was so immanent in the final battle. And I would suppose this was done on a hill close to the final battle, but not the SAME hill, as they would not want to risk the invading army finding the record stores. This is VERY important, as it strongly suggests that if Moroni did a lot of travel and wandering after the final battle (which the text suggests), he hid the plates first and traveled before coming back to the plates and adding the final leaves instead of wandering around with the plates, risking being killed and having them stolen and melted down.

Also, since Omer and his family are fleeing for their lives from Desolation (the early Jaredite core) to the East Sea ‘eastward’ of Cumorah, we can assume that Cumorah is quite far from the Hill Shim and the land Desolation. (since Ether 9:3 says he fled “many days” from his homeland and the Hill Shem to Cumorah).  The same is true of the fleeing Nephites. If 50,000+ early LDS saints fled 1000+ miles by foot from Nauvoo (plus another 700 miles from New York) to escape persecution, we can assume that Omer’s family, the Jaredites and Nephites also fled a large distance (as much or more?) in attempt to avoid their annihilation. Suggesting Cumorah and the final battle were in southern Vera Cruz just 100 miles from Desolation (ie. the hill Shem) which are on the narrow neck really doesn’t fit well with the text in this regard.

A final important note is Mormon 8:2 which states that those who survived the final battle fled SOUTH afterwards!  If Cumorah was anywhere even close to Zarahemla, why would the survivors flee south into what had now become the heart of enemy territory? Their fleeing south strongly suggests that Cumorah is nowhere even close to Zarahemla, and that fleeing any farther north was not an option (because of some impassible barrier like Ripliancum/The Waters that exceed all — which therefor must have been something like the Great Lakes or ocean which could not just be canoed across, or something like a coming winter stopping northward travel).

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Hill Shim

Location where Nephite records were kept by Ammaron. Mentioned in both Nephite and Jaredite accounts.

– Ammaron deposited all the ‘sacred engravings of the people there’ (Mormon 1:3).
– In a land of desolation. Mormon gathers all the records from Hill Shim when he sees the Lamanites are about to ‘overthrow the land’ of Desolation. (Mormon 4:23)
– Omer passes by the hill as he flees ‘many days’ from the early Jaredite heartland/core, and then onto Cumorah, and ‘from thence eastward to the seashore’ where he and his refugee family set up residence. (Ether 9:3)

discussion:  It doesn’t really make much sense for the Hill Shim to be very close to the land of Cumorah. If it were why would they bother moving the records from one hill to the other? It makes far more sense to suppose that these records were moved before things got hopeless when the Nephites still hoped to find a new homeland, and that Shim and Cumorah are a considerable distance apart.

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Wildernesses

Definition: (1830 dictionary). a (1) : a tract or region uncultivated and uninhabited by human beings (2) : an area essentially undisturbed by human activity together with its naturally developed life community  b : an empty or pathless area or region.

When the Book of Mormon speaks of wildernesses, I believe it is using the modern definition. It is talking about unsettled, unclaimed, undeveloped area. That is, one without cities, roads or easy access.

Wilderness, Narrow Strip

-Area dividing the Nephite and Lamanite lands running from Sea East to Sea West. (Alma 22:27)

Add references to each of the wildernesses here. East, West South, Hermounts.

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The Three Defensive Lines

The Book of Mormon talks about 3 separate defensive lines.  One between the land of Nephi & land of Zarahemla. One between the land of Bountiful and the land of Desolation. And one north of Desolation somewhere around the city of Boaz between Desolation and ‘the land which lay before us’, which presumably seems to be the land of Many Waters.

1- Alma 50:7–11 describes the first, which is built by Moroni after he forces the Lamanites out of the east and west wildernesses after the Amalakite attack. He drives out “all the Lamanites who were in the east wilderness…south of the land of Zarahemla”, “and also on the west [wilderness]” (v.11) and then appears to build Moroni and Nephihah on the south-east to fortify that line. (v. 13)  migrating people from Zarahemla into the east wilderness to do it. (v. x)    

2- The second defensive line is the “line Bountiful” which is a narrow neck  between the Land Northward and the land Southward which is described in Alma 22:33, (refs).  This defensive line is important in two different occasions where the Nephite elite are completely driven from Zarahemla their capital to desolation. First in Helaman 4:5 the Lamanites drive the Nephites and their army “even into the land of Bountiful, and there they did fortify…from the west sea even unto the east”.  350 years later, the same thing occurs in Mormon 3:5–6 & Mormon 2:28–29, where a 10 year treaty is signed with the Lamanites giving the Nephites the land Northward “even to the narrow passage which led to the land southward”. During that time they “fortify against them with all our force”.

 3- The third is a line of cities near Boaz or “strongholds” mentioned in Mormon 5:4 where it says that for a time they did “maintain… strongholds [which] did cut them off that they could not get into the country which lay before us, to destroy the inhabitants of our land.” 

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Jaredite Lands

Unlike the Nephite record, the Jaredite account gives VERY little directionality or geographic information. There are really three or four locations that have any ability to be associated with an internal or external model. And half of those have directionality ONLY because they are associated with Nephite lands.

Moron, Land of

The Jaredite ‘Land of Inheritance’ (first inheritance) and heartland throughout at least major parts of their history..
– its near the
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Travels of the Nephites from Zarahemla to the Final Battle.

-Moroni gets instructions to go to hill Shim in the Land Antum to get records. (Mormon 1:3)
-Moroni “carried by his father into the land southward, even to the land of Zarahemla”. (Mormon 1:6)
-War begins “in the borders of Zarahemla, by the waters of Sidon”.  (First Battle – Mormon 1:10)
-A number of battles fought, then a truce for four to seven years.
-Lamanites attack again, Nephites “retreat towards the northcountries”. (Mormon 2:3)
-Moroni’s army take and fortify Angola “with their might”, but “notwithstanding their fortifications”, the city is taken. (Mormon 2:4)
-They are “also” driven out of the land David. (unsure if Angola was in the land David or if its the next province to the north) (Mormon 2:5)
-They gather to Joshua which is “west by the seashore”. (Mormon 2:6–8) A battle with a force of 40,000 each is fought here… Lamanites retreat.
-345AD. Lamanites attack again, Nephites retreat to city of Jashon, “near the land [Antum] where Ammaron had deposited the records unto the Lord” (Mormon 2:17).  Moroni gets just the plates of Nephi, and leaves the remainder where they are. (see Mormon 1:3)
-Nephites driven “northward to the land which was called Shem”. (Mormon 2:20) Nephites fortify the city and are attacked in 346AD, but win a battle with 30k to 50k. (Mormon 2:25)
-In 350AD a treaty is made. Lamanites “ 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)
-For 10 years, Nephites fortify and prepare. In 360AD Mormon causes his “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. 6 And 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; therefore we did fortify against them with all our force. 7 And it came to pass that in the three hundred and sixty and first year the Lamanites did come down to the city of Desolation to battle against us”. Nephites beat them. They come again the next year. They beat them a third time. “and their dead were cast into the sea.” (Mormon 3:8)
Desolation is by the sea or a river that flows into sea
-in 363AD, the Nephites go on the offensive, up out of desolation, but are driven back to “the land of Desolation” (not city). Then Lamanites attack, and take the city of desolation “slaying many and taking many prisoners”. (Mormon 4:2)
-”And the remainder did flee and join the inhabitants of the city Teancum. Now the city Teancum lay in the borders by the seashore; and it was also near the city Desolation.”  (Mormon 4:3)
Teancum is also somewhat near the sea.
-364AD, Lamanites come against Teancum, and are repulsed, so Nephites follow them and retake Desolation.  (Mormon 4:8)
Desolation and Teancum are close to each other
-In 366AD Lamanites attack and take Desolation, and then Teancum (and sacrifice the inhabitants both women and children.) Nephites are so angry about the loss of their families they retake the cities and drive the Lamanites out of the land. Then another 10 year pause in fighting (Mormon 4:16)
-In 375AD, the Lamanites come down to desolation with a numberless host.
-Nephites flea to Boaz and fight two battles. On second attack they flea and women and children are sacrificed again. Nephites flea and “all the inhabitants with them, both in towns and villages” (Mormon 4:20–22)
-Mormon goes to the hill Shim and takes up ALL the records (Mormon 4:23).
Boaz is still relatively close to all the preceding cities (Antum, Jashon, Desolation)
-in 379AD Nephites flee to Jordan, and repulse a Lamanite attack. (Mormon 5:4) They maintain a line of stronghold cities “that they could not get into the country which lay before us, to destroy the inhabitants of our land.” (Mormon 5:4)
Jordan is likely in the Southwest, one of a line of cities defending the land northward.
-in 384AD Mormon sends a letter to Lamanites requesting to gather to the land of Cumoruh “in a land of many waters, rivers, and fountains;” (Mormon 6:4)

Thus the spatial relationship from north to south, of these cities is as follows:

Jordan (line of cities)
Boaz (gets rest of records)
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Teancum (by seashore & desolation)
Desolation (dead cast into sea)
Shem (fortified)
Jashon (gets records)
Joshua (west by seashore)

David
Angola
Zarahemla

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