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Book of Mormon Geography: An Internal Model

Various author’s Internal models of the Book of Mormon


Perhaps the most important, and least discussed, 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 Nephi and Land of Zarahemla “in a straight course from the east sea to the west [sea]” (Alma 50:8–11, esp. verse 11; Alma 22:27). 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 53:21; Alma 56:31), is also close enough to reasonably march to Nephihah and Moroni and the east sea (Alma 51:26). 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. In essence 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)

Internal model of the Book of Mormon

Internal model of the Book of Mormon

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 minds 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 or day and a half’s journey (15-25 miles). 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).  Two of those references give a distance of “a days journey” or “day and a half’s journey for a Nephite on “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 “he 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 Haggoth 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.

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)

Reference wording sea west mentioned? sea east mentioned? days jour-ney directional indicators
Alma 22:32–33 “small neck of land” or “the line Bountiful” yes possibly 1.5 from the east to the west sea
Alma 50:34 “the narrow pass” yes likely by the sea, on the west and on the east
Alma 52:9 “the narrow pass” no
Alma 63:5 “the narrow neck” yes no the west sea
Hel 4:6–7 “the line” yes likely 1 from 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” likely likely place where the sea divides the land


Ammonihah, Land of 

-It was 3 days travel on the north 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).  Possibly the northern border?
-It was near, and probably west? of, the city of Sidom (Alma 15:1).
-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 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”, and obviously a frontier town. (Alma 49:15)

discussion:   The location of this city depends largely on identifying Melek (since we know they are both west of Sidon, but Ammoniihah is 3 days north of Melek).  Since the people of Jershon flee Jershon and go to Melek to avoid the Zoramite attack… Ammoniahah can’t be all that far from Jershon! This is likely substantiated by the mention of Alma “headed toward the city called Aaron” after being cast out of Ammonihah, since Aaron was also one of the sons of Mosiah and his followers may have founded a city right near Jershon. If Jershon is “near the borders” of the east sea, why are they fleeing somewhere by the WEST wilderness?  Melek and Ammonihah are the most difficult of any cities to place in both internal and external models. Many have speculated there are two Melek’s because of the confusion. Really the only working solution is to have an arm of Sidon that is quite far EAST, so Ammoniahah/Melek can be west of it, AND near some type of “west wilderness”, but also not too far from the East Coast cities of Jershon and Aaron.

Note that Alma 16 is perhaps the best indication of where this city is, as 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” (Alma 16:2). Note is says NOTHING about the West sea here, which seems to go against the common habit/mistake of putting Ammonihah somewhere near the west sea (which makes no sense when the text seems to suggest its not far from the east coast city of Aaron (Alma 8:13). Perhaps more importantly, is the path taken by the Lamanite armies 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 isn’t the coast mentioned at all? Why would they go through the central part of the land to hightail it home, after purposefully sneaking into the “weakest part of the land?” (Alma 49:15)

Geographic model notes: the Hildalgo area seems the most likely candidate, maybe Xihuingo, but one still has to wonder how the Lamanite army snuck through the defensive line of cities in Alma 16 & 49. Because of this the valley of Mexico seems out, although some parts of the Cuernavaca/Balsas basin could be reasonable, even if unlikely.


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 Zerahemla, 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 Zerahemla 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 Zerahamla & 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.


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 Zarahamla, 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 Zerahemla.


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. 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 3 days journey to (the south of) the city of Ammonihah (Alma 8:6).
-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.

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 Zerahamla/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.


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)

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)


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.


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!


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 Zerahemla 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).


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)


-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).


-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).


-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.


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?)


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.


Helum, 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 (Mosiah 24:23–25).
-Helam was 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 suitable for agriculture, but apparently not as good as Helam as they did not return to it (Mosiah 23).
-All these locations were in the south wilderness between Nephi and Zarahemla.
-The land of Amulon should probably be encountered first in traveling toward Nephi from Zarahemla in accordance with the experience of the lost Lamanite army (Mosiah 23:31–36).  (double check this)


Sidon, River (28 uses) – 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 stip of wilderness’ between the land of Nephi and Zarahemla (Alma 22:27). 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. (farther 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/Anionum 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 Zerahemla (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 Zarahamla), 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.  (thats 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).
Another string of evidence suggesting this clause IS INDEED talking about the river Sidon running from east to west, is the discussion for “Sidon, Head of” and Alma xx:x where it is shown that the head of Sidon, or headwaters of Sidon are almost certainly near the EAST SEA. (And then flowing toward the land Gideon and Zarahemla). This also 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!?  He almost always seems to. 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.  [Note that my model seems to satisfy all these requirements quite well].


Sidon, Head of (Head of Sidon. 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 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”).

-Perhaps “running from the east toward the west”. Alma 22:27. See discussion on Sidon, River.
-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.s.
-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?


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?


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” west of the Land of First Inheritance (with families apparently on foot) (2 Nephi 5:7).
-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 (no further than a days journey) (Mosiah 18).
-Adjacent to the lands of Shemlon and Shilom (Mosiah 19:6; 22:8).
-Near the south wilderness (Mosiah 22:12).


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).

Cumorah, Land & Hill

For some reason, site of both the Lehite AND Jaredite final battles. WHY?! Obviously Cumorah must provide either some exceptional strategic advantage, or be the natural endpoint or trap of a group fleeing for their lives.

– In a land of many ‘waters, rivers and fountains’ [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).


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.


Narrow Neck

Usually referred to as a ‘narrow pass’, ‘narrow passage’, ‘small neck of land’ or ‘the line Bountiful’. Some consistency exists in references to it, however there is a possibility that there are multiple ‘narrow passes’. Early references tend to point to happenings on the ‘east sea’ of the Narrow neck/pass, but later references seem to shift exclusively to its west side, on the West Sea. See discussion above.


Wilderness  – 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 moden 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)


The Three Defensive Lines   

The Book of Mormon talks about 3 seperate defensive lines.  One between the land of Nephi & land of Zerahemla. 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.

Alma 50:7–11 describes the first, which is built by Moroni after he forces the Lamanies 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 Zerahemla”, “and also on the west” (v.11) and then appears to build Moroni and Nephihah on the east to fortify that line. (v. 13)  migrating people from Zerahemla into the east wilderness to do it. (v. x)  He also fortifies the west…. (ref)   

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, x, y, z.  This defensive line is important in two different occasions where the Nephite elite are completely driven from Zarahamla 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”.

 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.” 


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)

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


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Animals in the Book of Mormon

Many Book of Mormon critics try to show issues or anachronisms with the lists of animals found in its narrative; for example the wikipedia articles on Book of Mormon Archaeology and Book of Mormon Anachronisms. The Book of Mormon certainly has its major issues.. (see Arguments For and Against the Authenticity of the Book of Mormon), but reading these animal issue attacks always seems strangely biased to me. In fact articles like this have so many blatant falsities that they’re a bit difficult for a well-read person to stomach. Debunked statements on their being no evidence of the domestication of certain animals, or no evidence of the ancient use of metal plates, or no evidence of certain animals in the new world are peppered throughout many similar critical articles. I have huge problems with many of Mormonism’s exclusivist truth claims; and the Book of Mormon has a lot of other problems to overcome; however, regardless of whether you believe the Book of Mormon narrative or not you have to consider the fact that the mention its assorted animals is not a deal breaker for it being a truly channeled translation of an ancient history. Especially when one considers the possibility of a very “loose translation” (dynamic equivalence instead of formal equivalence) in the channeling process of the book.

Throughout this article, keep in mind that our model places the Nephites primarily in the Mexican Highland, the Lamanites in the Yucatan and the Jaredites primarily in North America— the early Jaredite record being an abridged oral & channeled history spanning from the Ice age to the Nephite era.

The Book of Mormon makes clear that both Jaredites and Nephites who lived in ancient times on this continent had domestic animals of various kinds. They also speak of wild varieties of presently domesticated animals. The earlier people, the Jaredites (unknown beginning to ~300 B.C.), are reported to have had,

all manner of cattle, of oxen, and cows, and of sheep, and of swine, and of goats, and also many other kinds of animals which were useful for the food of man. And they also had horses, and asses, and there were elephants and cureloms and cumoms; all of which were useful unto man, and more especially the elephants and cumoms. (Ether 9:18–19)

The Nephites (c. 600 B.C. – 400 A.D.) on the other hand tell us,

that there were beasts in the forests of every kind, both the cow and the ox, and the ass and the horse, and the goat and the wild goat, and all manner of wild animals, which were for the use of men. (1 Nephi 18:25; cf. Mosiah 5:14; Enos 1:12; Alma 5:59; Alma 17)


Note that Elephants are in the list for animals useful for the early Jaredites. Evidence for the extinction of all North American Elephants (Mammoth & Mastodon) by carbon dates of 7,000 BC is overwhelmingly conclusive. This requires that the early Jaredite record was older than most people (including possibly the Book of Mormon authors themselves) believed. Unless carbon dates are somehow wrong, it seems likely that the Jaredite record (much like the Biblical & Babylonian records) may have presented a somewhat condensed version of cultural histories leading back to the ancient Babel tower myth. The mention of elephants and other extinct animals, along with the obvious fact that the Book of Mormon tells us the Jaredites were the first inhabitants of this continent is the most striking evidence for our correlated timeline which correlates the early pre-dearth Jaredites with North American paleo Indians living prior to the end of the ice age. (The “dearth” in Ether 9:30 being a massive episode of climate change ending the last ice age cycle) Because of the mention of elephants as well as two other apparently extinct megafauna which were “especially useful unto man”, then correlating the Paleo-Indian with the archaic cultures of North America is really the best plausible correlation. (see this article which covers date discrepancies). This is certainly plausible since the record itself does not give any concrete dates for the Jaredite culture (only a genealogy table). There are literally thousands of archeological sites showing that the Clovis and Paleo-Indians lived on diets rich in megafauna.  Many archaeologists have in fact suggested that these native American groups may have been responsible for hunting many of these animals to extinction. This highly debated theory gives a lot of weight to the idea given in the book of Ether where it states,

30 And it came to pass that there began to be a great dearth upon the land, and the inhabitants began to be destroyed exceedingly fast because of the dearth, for there was no rain upon the face of the earth.
31 …And it came to pass that their flocks began to flee… towards the land southward, which was called by the Nephites Zarahemla…
34 And it came to pass that the people did follow the course of the beasts, and did devour the carcasses of them which fell by the way, until they had devoured them all.

size comparison of mammoth, mastodon and African elephants

Cureloms and Cumoms

Many other extinct Pleistocene megafauna fit the description of Jaredite animals mentioned in the Book of Mormon. Paleo Indians were known to interact with and eat animals such as giant sloths; short-faced bears; several species of tapirs; saber-toothed cats like smilodon; dire wolves; saiga; camelids such as two species of now extinct llamas and camelops. Since it is generally accepted that “cureloms and cumoms” were especially “useful” to man (Ether 9:18–19), and unknown to Mormon in translation (not necessarily Joseph Smith), I think the most likely candidates are the giant sloth, wooly rhino and camelids.

A few of the many North American megafauna which co-existed with the paleoindians. (nearly all of which went extinct at the end of the ice age (which we correlate with the "great dearth" spoken of in the Book of Mormon).

A few of the many North American megafauna which co-existed with the paleoindians. (nearly all of which went extinct at the end of the ice age (which we correlate with the “great dearth” spoken of in the Book of Mormon).

Cattle, Oxen, and Cows

Concerning the Jaredite “cattle, of oxen, and cows” mentioned in Ether 9:18, likely matches would have to be American Bison (subfamily Bovinae/bovine), shrub ox (family Bovidae: went extinct with other megafauna); Harlan’s muskox (family: bovidae, subfamily: caprinae), Moose (family Cervidae, could have been classified as either cow or horse by Mormon/Ether depending on their cultural classification system) and for Mesoamerica and 1 Nephi 18:25, Baird’s Tapir which is locally known as the “Mountain Cow”. Each of these species ranged far south of their current habitat during the last Ice Age. There is of course no evidence for moose or shrub ox in Mexico, so the only option for the Nephite list is Bison as an Ox, which historical accounts put as far south as Zacatecas (Lst et. al 2007); and Tapir, perhaps as a swine or cow type animal. (It’s certainly nothing like a horse! LOL)

cattle, oxen and cows

cattle, oxen and cows

Large tapir.

A large Baird’s Tapir. Also known to the indigenous as the “Mountain Cow”.


Possibilities include North American Mountain Goats. (Our current scientific classification system does not include this animal in the Capra genus with most goats, but Joseph or Mormon could have very well have been referring to this type of animal).

The North American Mountain Goat.

The North American Mountain Goat.

The Nephite animal list differentiates between “goats and wild goats”. Although modern botanists classify North American antelope into a different family than goats (Antiloocapridae vs. Bovidae), you can see how similar the the two animals look. Antelope were known to be a major food staple of assorted Mesoamerican groups like the early Zapotecs ranging as far south as Oaxaca. This may very well be the wild and non-wild goat that the Nephites were referring to.

North American pronghorn antelope compared to both European and Middle Eastern varieties of goats.

North American pronghorn antelope (left) compared to both European and Middle Eastern varieties of goats (middle and right).


Many species of wild sheep are indigenous to north america. Including Rocky Mountain big horn, Dall Ram, Desert big horn. See wild sheep of north america for details. Note that sheep are not mentioned in the Nephite animal lists, only the Jaredite. This is fitting since, unlike antelope (goats) and bison (cows), no North American sheep are known to have ranged very far south into Mexico.

A few of North America's native sheep species include the Peninsular Ram, the Dall's sheep the Peninsular Ram and the Rocky Mountain Ram

A few of North America’s native sheep species include (shown from left to right above) the Peninsular Ram, the Dall’s sheep the Peninsular Ram and the Rocky Mountain Ram.


Note this is not mentioned in the Nephite list of animals, only the Jaredite list.. Perhaps because many of the larger ranging North American peccaries (Including the long nosed and flat-headed peccaries) went extinct with other megafauna. Pigs (family Suidae) are not native to the Americas, however peccaries, which are native to the Americas (family Tayassuidae) have roamed limited parts of the continent since the demise of their relatives at the end of the ice age. Tapirs are also somewhat reminiscent of pigs. They are prevalent in central america and grow to be six and a half feet in length and can weigh more than six hundred pounds. Many zoologists and anthropologists have compared the tapir’s features to those of a cross between a pig and a cow.

Extinct North American peccary, living meso-american jungle peccary and north american dessert javelina

Extinct North American peccary (shown left), living North American dessert javelina (center), and Mesoamerican jungle peccary (right).

Ass & the Horse

Domestication of caribou, bison, reindeer, and even elk are not uncommon.

Domestication of caribou, bison, reindeer, and even elk are not uncommon.

Horses aren’t specifically mentioned in the Book of Mormon as being the type of animal that carried people. In fact in the instances that they are mentioned in relation to “chariots”, the wording could easily be referring to some type of supply slay (3 Nephi 3:22; Alma 18:9–12).  So its actually pretty plausible that the Book of Mormon translators used the biblical/European word “horse” to refer to a different type of native animal.  Just as Reindeer are the “horse” of Norse peoples, it seems fairly possible that the purported Book of Mormon channelers translated words for White-tale and Mule Deer (or even Elk, North American caribou or moose for those living farther north) in instances it was used. Both elk and deer have been readily domesticated in modern times. Elk farming in North America has become increasingly popular in recent years and Siberian natives have been domesticating elk and deer for thousands of years. Europeans also have occasionally domesticated deer for hundreds of years. Deer in most national parks and many urban settings as well as Elk in National Parks such as the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone have become so docile as to cause problems by their constant dependence and interaction with people. There are even numerous historic images of old cowboys riding elk. It seems logical that if many Nordic cultures could get a caribou to pull a sleigh then it is certainly plausible that some talented ‘deer whisperers’ could train a strong mule deer to pull a ceremonial supply ‘chariot’ as mentioned in Alma 18:9–12. I also find it interesting that settlers named the deer species O. hemionus “Mule Deer” because the animals large ears reminded them so much of a Mule or Ass. Deer are incredibly common in Mexico and even provided a main source of food for cultures as far south as the Yucatan Peninsula and Guatemala.

The idea that Book of Mormon references to “horses” refereed to tapirs, is far too much of a stretch in my opinion. I’m not sure why anyone would suggest such a thing when there are such better alternatives.

comparisons of African wild ass, European ass and North American mule deer.

Comparisons of African wild ass (left), European ass (center) and North American mule deer (right).

Comparison of modern horse and North American cow Elk.

Comparison of modern horse and North American Elk (shown at right).

Flocks & Herds

The Book of Mormon makes frequent mention of “flocks and herds”. In addition to the animals mentioned above it is relevant to note that archeological evidence shows that many Mesoamerican peoples bred, raised and subsisted on animals such as dog, turkey, rabbit and deer. Archaeological evidence indicates dogs and deer were a substantial part of the Mayan diet. In fact, at the Colha site, white-tailed deer accounted for up to fifty percent of the Maya meat source. Likewise, Zapotec cultures relied heavily on domesticated dog and turkey. It makes sense that, many of the references to “flocks and herds” may be referring primarily to these animals. Early Zapotec peoples are also known to have subsisted on antelope— of which similar species have been readily domesticated in various areas of Asia and Africa.  Peccary and tapir are also well known indigenous animals which could have been primary components of Book of Mormon “flocks and herds”. Although evidence for animal domestication in Mesoamerica is hard to come by, this may well be because it is often difficult, if not impossible, to tell the difference between a wild animal and a domesticated animal from archaeological food remains. Below is an example from Nara deer park in Japan, of how easy it is to domesticate wild animals… you simply need to give them a reliable food source.

Although it is certainly possible that the Book of Mormon was written by Joseph Smith or one of his contemporaries, instead of being channeled from heaven or translated from an ancient record–the supposed animal “anachronisms” are not a very solid argument against its authenticity.

Domesticating Deer. Nora Deer Park, Japan

Video of man Riding Buffalo

Video of man attempt at Riding Elk

Video of man attempted Moose Ride

Video of domesticating Antelope

A little detail behind why the only animals that Native American’s had much success Domesticating were, turkey, dog, and possibly deer & bison on a more limited basis.