Issues with Most Book of Mormon Geographic Correlations
The Book of Mormon’s internal geographic model is incredibly detailed and consistent. Perhaps as much so as any ancient record of its genre. But no Book of Mormon model is without substantial problems when it comes to fitting the geographic descriptions of the text with real world analogs–although some are much better than others, and some are far more consistent and believable than others. This article attempts to critique a few of the most popular models with the text. In this authors biased view the Highland model is best at fitting the internal model, followed by Usumacinta and then Grijalva continental models which DO NOT promote 2 Cumorah’s and maintain the land Northward as largely the United States of America. Coming in last are pocket models which attempt to put the entirety of the Book of Mormon into one pocket of the continent such as 2 Cumorah models or the heartland model.
Perhaps the biggest problem with most geographic correlation models of the Book of Mormon are their failure to match the configuration of ‘border’ cities explained the the war chapters of Alma 42-54 with the text. In Alma 50:7–14 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 52:12,15; 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.
When Amalickiah comes to battle the Nephites in Alma 51, he first takes the southmost ‘east coast’ 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).
This configuration in the heartland model is virtually impossible unless you tuck the entirely of the lands of Nephi and Zarahemla in some little corner between the great lakes (such as the lower Peninsula of Michigan). However if you do this, you destroyed nearly every other correlative piece of evidence used by Heartlanders. From Zelph, to the D&C Zarahemla, to the Adena and Hopewell ruins. For the Mesoamerican models a similar problem arises when matching the narrow neck with Tehuantepec. The problem lies in the Yucatan Peninsula ruining the logic and description of the ‘east sea cites’ of Moroni, Aaron, Nephihah, Jershon, Lehi, Morianton, Omner, Gid, and Mulek. Since we know that Nephihah (and thus Moroni) are somewhat aligned with Manti (Alma 53:21; Alma 56:31), and that Manti is at the Head of Sidon, then if our Sidon is the Grijalva or Umacinta, the only possible location for Nephihah & Moroni is the Belize area. But there is NOWHERE in the text to suggest that after taking Moroni and Nephihah (which we know are on the south near the Amalakite border), that the army then travelled 320 miles to get to the cities near Bountiful and the narrow pass! (Alma 50:34; 52:9)
This is why essentially NO internal model I’ve seen seems to look like the Yucatan. They almost universally agree with the ‘backwards L’ configuration of the Alma 42-54 war border cities. To make these models work, we must disregard Alma 51:26 which says of Nephihah, Lehi, Morianton, Omner, Gid and Mulek “all of which were east on the borders of the seashore”, and instead guess that actually most of them stretched across the Yucatan and weren’t actually by the east/north sea. Of course, if this were the only problem they’d be in pretty good shape, but there’s a lot of other issues with these models, so read on.
Internal models of The Book of Mormon show a high degree of agreement for a reason. Alma 22 draws a fairly clear picture of the basic layout of Book of Mormon lands.
27 And it came to pass that the king sent a proclamation throughout all the land, amongst all his people who were in all his land, who were in all the regions round about, which was bordering even to the sea, on the east and on the west, and which was divided from the land of Zarahemla by a narrow strip of wilderness, which ran from the sea east even to the sea west, and round about on the borders of the seashore, and the borders of the wilderness which was on the north by the land of Zarahemla, through the borders of Manti, by the head of the river Sidon, running from the east towards the west—and thus were the Lamanites and the Nephites divided.
28 Now, the more idle part of the Lamanites lived in the wilderness, and dwelt in tents; and they were spread through the wilderness on the west, in the land of Nephi; yea, and also on the west of the land of Zarahemla, in the borders by the seashore, and on the west in the land of Nephi, in the place of their fathers’ first inheritance, and thus bordering along by the seashore.
29 And also there were many Lamanites on the east by the seashore, whither the Nephites had driven them. And thus the Nephites were nearly surrounded by the Lamanites; nevertheless the Nephites had taken possession of all the northern parts of the land bordering on the wilderness, at the head of the river Sidon, from the east to the west, round about on the wilderness side; on the north, even until they came to the land which they called Bountiful.
30 And it bordered upon the land which they called Desolation, it being so far northward that it came into the land which had been peopled and been destroyed, of whose bones we have spoken, which was discovered by the people of Zarahemla, it being the place of their first landing.
31 And they came from there up into the south wilderness. Thus the land on the northward was called Desolation, and the land on the southward was called Bountiful, it being the wilderness which is filled with all manner of wild animals of every kind, a part of which had come from the land northward for food.
32 And now, it was only the distance of a day and a half’s journey for a Nephite, on the line Bountiful and the land Desolation, from the east to the west sea; and thus the land of Nephi 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.
33 And it came to pass that the Nephites had inhabited the land Bountiful, even from the east unto the west sea, and thus the Nephites in their wisdom, with their guards and their armies, had hemmed in the Lamanites on the south, that thereby they should have no more possession on the north, that they might not overrun the land northward.
To explore the details of the above configuration with an accompanying internal model map, see the Internal Model of the Book of Mormon page.
Issues with the Heartland Model
The Book of Mormon heartland model is a model first proposed by Rod Meldrum and others which places the entirety of Book of Mormon narrative in the Eastern United States of America. It seems to have arisen in response to the issues in the “limited Mesoamerican model”. These includes issues such as the ‘two Cumorah’ theory, early prophetic and apostolic quotes about Book of Mormon culture & individuals in North America, as well as the way Mesoamerican models appear to discount the many impressive North American prehistoric cultures which seem to fit well into the Book of Mormon narrative. I believe its time to heal the divide caused by both these models.
– The greatest strengths of the heartland model are NOT having to invent a second land Cumorah. (See ‘Issues’ with the southern Mesoamerican model) Although it seems reasonable to suppose that the Book of Mormon’s final battle and ‘Hill Cumorah’, might not be the exact hill Joseph got the plates from, it is highly problematic to suppose it is not at least relatively close to it, and at least in the the same land Cumorah. (see Cumorah in Internal Model of the Book of Mormon)
– References which obviously prophesy about the United States on ‘this land’ (ie. the land the ancient prophets lived on) simply work better for heartland. Although Mexico/Guatemala also work to some extent its simply not as good of a match for the description of a ‘land of liberty’ and U.S. revolutionary ‘freedom’ culture that seem to shine through so strongly in the text.
– Early LDS prophetic statements (as well as the account of ‘Zelph’) work only if Nephites/Lamanites lived in North America too.
– Basically see the “Issues” section for the Mesoamerican models, and you’ll see the “strengths” of the Heartland models. The heartland model’s strengths are not so much in geography as in context, ideology, and prophesy associated with the Book of Mormon and early LDS leaders.
– IT LIMITS THE BOOK OF MORMON BY IGNORING THE CONTINENTS MOST IMPRESSIVE RUINS & ANCIENT CULTURES. Just like the Limited Mesoamerican models it betrays the general sense of a continental model given in the Book of Mormon, which clearly gives the impression that Book of Mormon narrative encompasses the whole continent from sea to sea. North to south (Canada to ancient Mesoamerican cultures) and east to west (New England to Southwest ancient cultures).
there was much contention and many dissensions; in the which there were an exceedingly great many who departed out of the land of Zarahemla, and went forth unto the land northward to inherit the land. 8 And it came to pass that they did multiply and spread, and did go forth from the land southward to the land northward, and did spread insomuch that they began to cover the face of the whole earth, from the sea south to the sea north, from the sea west to the sea east. (Hel 3:8)
– THE LAND OF NEHPI, NARROW STIP OF WILDERNESS & LAND OF BOUNTIFUL (& DESOLATION) SHOULD STRETCH FROM SEA EAST TO SEA WEST. The text clearly states that at least the land of Nephi, narrow strip of wilderness and land of Bountiful stretch fully from “sea east even to the sea west”, and strongly infer by movements of armies in the battle chapters of Alma 50-59 that the southern frontier of the Land of Zarahemla stretches from the east sea to west sea as well (further explained in a later point).
27 …the king sent a proclamation throughout all the land, amongst all his people who were in all his land [Land of Nephi]… which was bordering even to the sea, on the east and on the west, and which was divided from the land of Zarahemla by a narrow strip of wilderness, which ran from the sea east even to the sea west…
32 And now, it was only the distance of a day and a half’s journey for a Nephite, on the line Bountiful and the land Desolation, from the east to the west sea; and thus the land of Nephi and the land of Zarahemla were nearly surrounded by water… 33 And… the Nephites had inhabited the land Bountiful, even from the east unto the west sea… (Alma 22:27–33)
It’s completely illogical to suggest the west sea of v. 32 (which heartlanders say is one or more of the Great Lakes, is different from the west sea of v. 32. given that ALL the lands are “nearly surrounded by water”. The heartland model’s Land of Nephi and narrow strip of wilderness and Land of Zarahamla are not “nearly surrounded by water” lacking the texts clear explanation of a sea to the west (see also Alma 53:8, Alma 52:11–12, Hel 3:8). Those who try to explain these problems away by calling rivers, seas or part of the ‘surrounded by water’ are stretching the text beyond its limits with mental gymnastics.
– Alma 22:28 SUGGESTS THERE IS A SEA/SEASHORE WEST OF THE LAND OF ZARAHEMLA. The text is pretty clear that there is a seashore nearby, west of the land of Zarahemla. One that Moroni later kicks the Lamanites out of, when he creates the new border between the lands of Zarahemla and Nephi (Alma 53:8–22). And that the lands are “nearly surrounded by water”. So why would we use mental gymnastics to suggest that the same west sea does not stretch from the land of Bountiful & Desolation down to the land of Nephi past the land of Zarahemla?
west of the land of Zarahemla, in the borders by the seashore… (Alma 22:28)
– LAND OF FIRST INHERETANCE WAS ON A SEASHORE WEST OF THE LAND OF NEPHI (NOT SOUTH OR SOUTH-WEST). With the Eastern US heartland model, Nephi’s journey from eastern Arabia to America doesn’t really even make sense when the text says they land on a shore which they call first inheritance that was “west in the Land of Nephi” (not south in the Land of Nephi).
“the Lamanites lived in the wilderness… west of the land of Zarahemla, in the borders by the seashore, and on the west in the land of Nephi, in the place of their fathers’ first inheritance, and thus bordering along by the [west] seashore. ” (Alma 22:28–29)
So if Lake Erie is the West Sea, how would they land there? Where can you possibly place the Nephite landing “on borders by the seashore… on the west… and along the seashore” and make it fit with the Eastern United States? Do we now pretend the Gulf of Mexico is both the sea south of Hel 3:8 and the sea west? Both Alma 22:28 and Mosiah 9:1 talk about the Land of Nephi and the “land of their first inheritance, after they had crossed the sea”, as if they can be used interchangeably. (ie. the Land of First Inheritance is IN or very near the land of Nephi. We know the land of Nephi is south of the narrow neck. So once again, how can ANY model which puts the narrow neck on the Great Lakes, or the land of Nephi in the heart of the US, make the place they first landed work? (pretending they came up the Mississippi also does not work, as the text clearly states the land of first inheritance is by the “WEST SEASHORE”. Here we run into the same problem that Heartlanders blast Mesoamerican models for, where we must use mental gymnastics to make a sea south (the Gulf of Mexico) into a sea west. Note also that had Moroni meant “southwest” he likely would have said so as in Alma 53:8, which specifies that the string of cities of Alma 51-53 began on the “west sea, south [border of the land of Nephite possessions]”.
– STORY OF HAGOTH MAKES LITTLE SENSE IN THE GREAT LAKES. Look carefully at the wording in the reference to Hagoth who took people to the Land Northward and note some of the issues with the Heartland Models idea that the “west sea” is one of the Great Lakes and the “land northward” is Canada.
5 And it came to pass that 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. 6 And behold, there were many of the Nephites who did enter therein and did sail forth with much provisions, and also many women and children; and they took their course northward… (Alma 63:5–9)
Since he builds the ship “on the borders of the land Bountiful, by the land Desolation”, that rules out the western lakes of Lake Superior & Michigan and leaves us only with Lake Huron as our ‘West Sea’ where Hagoth traveled. But think of the logic?! Verse 4 says THOUSANDS of people are heading to the land northward, so Hagoth exploits this mass exodus by helping bring provisions and hundreds more. But they travel 480 miles by foot, just to get on a boat that takes them ONLY 180 miles or so to the cold Canadian landscape? It makes SO MUCH more sense to suggest
The story of Hagoth makes little sense if the West Sea is the Great Lakes (and a completely different sea than the one mentioned concerning their first landing?). Hagoth is said to have “launched… forth into the west sea, by the narrow neck which led into the land northward” (Alma 63:5). But how do the ‘Great Lakes’ even really get you access to the Heartland Model’s “land northward” When we know that the Land Northward is where Cumorah and the final Battle take place? Really, any of the lakes would only get you access the the Narrow Neck region’s of Bountiful and perhaps desolation (places in contact with Zarahemla), but the text suggest a LARGE distance saying that the people who left, “were never heard of more” (Alma 63:8). Reading the whole account in Alma 63:5–9, makes it clear that this model stretches the Book of Mormon text past it’s logical limits. Also, a Polynesian connection to Hagoth (as proposed by many LDS apostles) is impossible in the Heartland model.
– LAND NORTHWARD MAKES NO SENSE IN CANADA. The land of Desolation which is an “exceedingly great distance” north from the Land of Zarahemla and Narrow Neck (Hel 3:8), also make very, very little sense if you try and place it in Canada. The text states that the land was the heartland of the Jaredite Civilization, covered in bones, and was “rendered desolate and without timber, because of the many inhabitants who had before inherited the land” (Hel 3:3–8). How can you get Eastern Canada to fit that description? It is almost NOWHERE devoid of timber (until you get to the uninhabitable tundra). It has essentially NO evidence of a complex ancient civilization and certainly not one that was “exceedingly expert in the working of cement” (Hel 3:7). It is SO WET that bones disintegrate within a few years, and would be unlikely to be preserved the amount of time required by the text (from the Jaredite destruction to the Nephite exploration of the area).
– CUMORAH IS NOT REALLY IN THE HEARTLAND MODEL’S LAND NORTHWARD. Cumorah is SOUTH (in the land southward) of the narrow neck in the Heartland Model. The logically problematic, two Cumorah theory of Sorenson’s model is one of the reason’s the Heartland Model gains supporters. But yet the Heartland model introduces a greater problem by putting the Hill Cumorah in the Land Southward. (since their ‘Narrow Necks’ are the isthmus areas created by the Great Lakes). Mormon 2:20,29 makes it clear that the final Nephite retreat was “northward” from the Narrow Neck, and for at least 3 of the battle cities “in the borders west by the seashore” (Mormon 2:6–8, Mormon 3:8 & Mormon 4:3). There is ABSOLUTELY no indication that the Nephites fled north of the Narrow neck into the Land Northward (where a treaty was made giving them the land Northward, Mormon 2:17), only to then circle around a Great Lake and then back south through a different narrow neck, back into the Land Southward to upstate New York (Cumorah). This logic slaughters the geography mentioned in the text.
– MISSISSIPPI RIVER IS POOR MATCH FOR RIVER SIDON. The head of Sidon is south of Zarahemla, near the land of Manti (Alma 22:27,29; Alma 43:22) which most heart landers equate with Huntsville Missouri, because of a Joseph Smith quote. This requires heartlanders to make the “head” of the river, either it’s mouth or delta — a definition completely contrary to the 1828 dictionary (see last definition: Head– “To originate; to spring; to have its source, as a river”). Or to use twist the meaning of the word head even farther equating it with a ‘confluence’ (of the Ohio & Mississippi arms). But even this simply doesn’t work with the geography laid out in Alma 56:25 where the “head of Sidon” is mention as being a reasonably distanced march from Nephihah, which Alma 51:26 places on the East Sea.
– RIVER CROSSINGS ARE PROBLEMATIC. The bones of those thrown into the River Sidon are said to be carried to the “sea,” (Alma 3:3) which primarily refers to the Great Lakes in the Heartland Model. The Mississippi flows into the Gulf of Mexico, far away from these “seas.” Even calling the Lakes and Ocean both ‘seas’, the same verses say the armies crossed the river Sidon before battling on its banks and then throwing bodies into it. This suggests a river small enough to easily cross without canoes (Alma 2:34–35). But large and seasonally flooding enough to throw bodies into and know they will end up in the sea.
– The Heartland Model has the land Bountiful southeast of Zarahemla; the Book of Mormon has it northward.
– The Heartland Model elsewhere claims that Bountiful is directly north of the land of Nephi; in the Book of Mormon, Zarahemla is directly north of the land of Nephi.
– The Book of Mormon has the sea west to the west of the Zarahemla and the land of Bountiful, but the Heartland Model has it east of Zarahemla and north of Bountiful.
– Heartland Model uses a city founded by Mormons near Nauvoo (named “Zarahemla) to locate the Nephite city of Zarahemla. The model ignores that it was settlers who started calling it Zarahemla first, not scripture or Joseph Smith. The lines about Zarahemla were added later, for historical clarity, by an editor when the revelation was published.
– Likewise, a city called “Manti” was ascribed to the prophet by later editors, but it was not in the original text.
– Heartland Model relies on Hopewell cultural dates matching B.O.M. dates, but the locations of Zarahemla, Nephi, and Manti used in most models dont match any major Hopewell sites (are evidence of prehistoric settlement at all)!
Adapted from the more comprehensive list found at bmaf. (first adapted from a list compiled by Gregory Smith)…
Issues with the Limited Mesoamerican or Mayanland Models
The majority of Mesoamerican Book of Mormon geography models seek to correlate the Isthmus of Tehuantepec or the Isthmus of Guatemala with the Book of Mormon “Narrow Neck”. In my analysis, I only cover the former, as the latter do not seem very plausible (although many of the issues below cover those models as well). Mesoamerican models in general far exceed the heartland models in their ability to synthesize the text with known archaeology. However, all of these models suffer many of the same substantial problems which gave rise to the Heartland models (ie. excluding 95% of the continent and its ancient cultures from the B.O.M. narrative as well as many prophetic statements and common-sense readings of the text). Despite the many issues listed below, I find the Usumacinta/Tonina/Kaminaljuyu the most convincing of the Mesoamerican models, and a true candidate for a valid possibility to the text; although still far inferior to my continental model. Grijalva models come in third behind Usumacinta & my Highland model, but only when 2 Cumorah ideas are discarded, and Sorenson’s ‘east cities’ stretch from Belize to Tehuantepec instead of all being all Tehuantepec.
– The cultural correlations of the limited Mesoamerican models are fantastic. You could make 100 “strength bullet points from these alone”. Probably a few of the most unique are things like how Maya and their culture and climate fit well with many Book of Mormon statements. (Although forcing BOTH the Nephites and Lamanites (including Mulekites and all other ‘ites’) into the Mayan culture seems more monolithic than we should suppose. If the Mulekites culturally evolved for hundreds of years completely separate from the Nephites, we should see that as a distinctly different culture should we not?).
– Kaminaljuyu (Guatemala City) as Nephi works pretty well both temporally and geographically.
– Tonina and Palenque are at least fair geographic matches for Zarahemla. Their relationship west of the Umacinta River (Sidon) fits well with the text. Also their dates of establishment could possibly work with the text (200 BC). (However, their rise and fall does not fit well, as their populations seem abysmally small before the time of Christ, and only reach significance long after the time of Christ).
– The isthmus of Guatemala and Motagua Valley/Ridge work fairly well as the ‘narrow strip of wilderness’ separating the lands of Nephi and Zarahemla. It’s an obvious geographic barrier, with the ‘head of Sidon’ (headwaters of the Usumacinta River) right there in the narrow wilderness strip where the text demands.
1 – IGNORES EARLY PROPHETIC VIEWS OF A CONTINENTAL MODEL. Like the Heartland model, Limited Mesoamerican Models must ignore the overwhelming consensu of early prophetic views that supported a Continental model. A view strongly suggested by the book of mormon text itself (see Hel 3:8). Especially statements concerning Zelph and New England Nephite occupation. Also scriptural assertions that at least the land, if not hill, ‘Cumorah’ is in New England where the angel Moroni appeared to Joseph Smith in vision. Also the many, many instances in the Book of Mormon which essentially prophesy of a future nation of freedom (despite attempts to explain this away, it really is unmistakably includes the U.S.) being built upon the same lands as Mormon seemed to live on. Instead, they force the Book of Mormon into a small corner of Central America. They correlate all Book of Mormon lands and peoples with merely two Mesoamerican people’s (Maya & Olmec), while almost entirely ignoring the largest and most influential cultures on the continent (Adena, Hopewell, Anasazi/Ancient Puebloan, Mexican Highland/Teotihuacan, Zapotec, Mixtec, Huestec, Parapucha, etc).
– TWO CUMORAHS ARE CONTRADICTED BY THE D&C AND JOSEPH SMITH – Just as Joseph Smith consistently pushed a continental model, he also consistently pushed the idea that the Hill Cumorah in New York where he claimed to find the plates was the same Cumorah mentioned in the Book of Mormon . D&C 128:20 seems to clearly insinuate that the Angel Moroni’s visit to Joseph Smith was at least in the land Cumorah. So even if one were to speculate that the hill Cumorah which Mormon hid ALL the Nephite records in his possession (Mormon 6:6 — probably in an old mine of some sort), “by” where the battle took place (Mormon 6:2), suggesting Cumorah is actually in Mexico is to make D&C 128:20 a false statement.
“20 And again, what do we hear? Glad tidings from Cumorah! Moroni, an angel from heaven, declaring the fulfilment of the prophets—the book to be revealed. A voice of the Lord in the wilderness of Fayette, Seneca county, declaring the three witnesses to bear record of the book! The voice of Michael on the banks of the Susquehanna…” (D&C 128:20)
– TWO CUMORAHS ARE CONTRADICTED BY MORONI 1:1. Although the text never calls the hill where Moroni buries his abridged plates ‘Cumorah’ think of the logic of two Cumorah’s in regard to Moroni 1:1 where he says,
“Now I, Moroni, after having made an end of abridging the account of the people of Jared, I had supposed not to have written more, but I have not as yet perished…”
This suggests Moroni was unsure when he was going to be killed by Lamanites! This is incredibly important, as we can assume from this that he almost certainly would have hidden the plates before the final battle, at the same time his father & other leaders hid ALL the records (Mormon 6:6), so as to not risk having the record falling into enemy hands before the last of the final battle! Mormon 6:12 says Moroni lead a legion of 10,000 in battle, so then even if Mormon 6:6 suggests that Mormon hid up “all the records… save it were [the] few plates which [he] gave unto [his] son”, we’ve got to imagine that Moroni dying with his 10,000 was a possibility so he must have put the abridged plates in their safe place where they could be found by the latter-day gentiles. (The abridged history being important that the Gentiles “have first” before God revealed the rest the records. 3 Ne 26:9) Then… when he surprisingly doesn’t “perish”, he must have gone back to their hiding place, and ‘written more’ (Moroni 1:1). So although idea that Moroni travelled long distances after the final battle is entirely plausible, The idea that he travelled long distances WITH the plates doesn’t make much sense. It would involve WAY TOO MUCH RISK of being killed on the journey and allowing the plates to fall into enemy hands (see Moroni 1:3–4, Mormon 5:12). It would appear that he assured their safety by leaving them in their hiding place between the time(s) he went BACK to that hiding place and ‘wrote more’ (the Books of Ether & Moroni) before his final demise.
– TWO CUMORAHS ARE GENERALLY ILLOGICAL. Limited Mesoamerican Models require a “two Cumorah theory” (Mormon 6:2: vs D&C 128:20), where Moroni wanders alone (Mormon 8:3–5) with the heavy plates over 1,900 miles after the final battle which they suggest happened somewhere in southern Veracruz Mexico to get to New York to bury the plates. While suggesting that Cumorah and the final battle are ONLY around 100 miles from the ‘Narrow Neck’, which requires the readers to believe that Mormon for some confusing reason, took all the records from the Hill Shim in desolation (when the Lamanites looked to ‘overthrow the land’- Mormon 4:23), only to transport them to a new random hill only 100 miles away. One which had very little strategic or geographic advantage, where they still exist to this day–completely separate from the region in upstate New York where the Book of Mormon would be buried for Joseph Smith. Think about this–-when the early LDS saints fled from Ohio and Nauvoo; 30,000-70,000 people fled over 1,500 miles to find safety and a new home. In fact they traveled over 2100 miles over 17 years building several cities between New York & Utah. So why would 300,000 Nephites, flee only 100-250 miles building no traceable cities over a 50+ year period? Especially when a flight up the Caribbean coast toward Texas would have been so easy?!
The text gives no indication they were being hedged in from the north by some other group, and SURELY would say if a force larger than their 300,000 were hemming them in! Besides, with their massive army ready to make a stand or die, they surely would have attempted to cut their way through the Huestec lands in search for a northern land to settle. A last stand of such a huge group consisting of men, women and children really only makes sense if they were forced SO far north (ie. New York) that they reached the edge of the habitable continent and had nowhere left to flee because of Great Lakes (Ripliancum) and coming winter. And since this is where the plates were found AND where prophetic visions put the last battle, WHY ON EARTH would anyone try and conceive a second Cumorah in Mexico only a few hundred miles from Zarahemla?! This illogical proposal has effectively split the church and given birth to the even poorer heartland models. Those who believe and push this theory, do a great injustice to Book of Mormon geographic correlation.
– LAND OF MANY WATERS OR LARGE BODIES OR ‘LARGE BODIES OF WATER AND MANY RIVERS IS OBVIOUSLY NORTHERN-MOST NORTH AMERICA (EASTERN US & CANADA). It stretches one’s imagination to the limits to suggest that the following four verses in the Book of Mormon are referring somewhere like the Valley of Mexico or Vera Cruz. The text says these locations are “an exceedingly great distance” from Zarahemla, and contained “many waters” and “many rivers” and “many large bodies of water”. To cultures familiar with Lake Izabal and Lago de Ititlan in Guatemala or the Grijalva & Usumacinta river systems in Mexico to refer to the Lakes of the Mexican Highland such as Texcoco or Chapala in following manner is almost laughable when contrasted with the clearly obvious region around Joseph’s ‘Cumorah’ of the Great Lakes or Rivers and springs of the Canadian shield or Upper Mississippi River systems.
3 And… there were an exceedingly great many who departed out of the land of Zarahemla, and went forth unto the land northward to inherit the land. 4 And they did travel to an exceedingly great distance, insomuch that they came to large bodies of water and many rivers. 5 Yea, and even they did spread forth into all parts of the land, (Hel 3:3–5)
29 Therefore, Morianton put it into their hearts that they should flee to the land which was northward, which was covered with large bodies of water, and take possession of the land which was northward. (Alma 50:29)
8 And they were lost in the wilderness for the space of many days, yet they were diligent, and found not the land of Zarahemla but returned to this land, having traveled in a land among many waters, having discovered a land which was… covered with ruins of buildings of every kind, having discovered a land which had been peopled with a people who were as numerous as the hosts of Israel. (Mosiah 8:8)
4 And it came to pass that we did march forth to the land of Cumorah, and we did pitch our tents around about the hill Cumorah; and it was in a land of many waters, rivers, and fountains (Mormon 6:4)
– TIMBER BEING SCARSE IN THE LAND DESOLATION IS PROBLEMATIC. The land of Desolation is said to be desolate because of the Jaredites who were destroyed AND desolate “save it was for timber” or in other words it was desolate or devoid of timber so that the people who live in it had to “live in tents” and become expert in making “houses of cement”. Mayanland models must make the same case as Heartlanders in suggesting that regions which abound in wood and timber must have been “deforested” by the Jaredites in a manner that still left them without timber HUNDREDS of years later. This seems unlikely both in Heartlands Canada and Michigan Peninsula, as well as in Mayanlands south-central Mexico. More importantly, the use of cement in Oaxaca or the Mexican Highland was no more prevalent than its use in mayanlands making the following statement a bit problematic.
6 And now no part of the land was desolate, save it were for timber; but because of the greatness of the destruction of the people who had before inhabited the land it was called desolate. 7 And there being but little timber upon the face of the land, nevertheless the people who went forth became exceedingly expert in the working of cement; therefore they did build houses of cement, in the which they did dwell. 8 And it came to pass that they did multiply and spread, and did go forth from the land southward to the land northward, and did spread insomuch that they began to cover the face of the whole earth, from the sea south to the sea north, from the sea west to the sea east. 9 And the people who were in the land northward did dwell in tents, and in houses of cement, and they did suffer whatsoever tree should spring up upon the face of the land that it should grow up, that in time they might have timber to build their houses, yea, their cities, and their temples, and their synagogues, and their sanctuaries, and all manner of their buildings. 10 And it came to pass as timber was exceedingly scarce in the land northward, they did send forth much by the way of shipping. (Hel 3:6–11)
Both the Mayan and Mexican Highland cultures largely build only their temples and city centers of stone with more minor adobe use in homes. (Excepting perhaps large apartment complexes). Really only the desert southwest had timber desolation to the point of ubiquitous usage of wikiups or stone and cement (adobe) for all aspects of cultural building. And really only the US Plains Indians could be said to have culturally lived predominately in ‘tents’ or teepees.
– WEST COAST HAGOTH MAKES NO SENSE. The story of Hagoth traveling to “the land Northward” from the west sea, just doesn’t make much sense in these models. If the Land Northward is composed of areas like the Mexican Highland, Valley of Mexico or southern area of Veracruz, then why would Hagoth launch from the west sea to get there? Only the East Sea would get you closer to these areas. It makes no sense both from a launch point and destination route. If the Nephite ‘Land Northward is Veracruz, and if Sidon is the Usumacinta/Grijalva which go directly to the Caribbean, why not boat down Sidon to the port and head north along the East Coast?
Similarly, if Zarahemla is the Chiapas basin (Santa Rosa) why not leave from the harbors just west of there? Why go so far from the good lumber of the Chiapas mountains and go all the way up to Bountiful? A west coast of Bountiful launch ONLY MAKES SENSE if Zarahemla is on the Usamacinta, and the ‘Land Northward’ includes West Mexico, the known trade routes into the southwest U.S. Anasazi lands through the gulf of California, and perhaps the entire west coast of America.
4 And it came to pass… there was a large company of men, even to the amount of five thousand and four hundred men, with their wives and their children, departed out of the land of Zarahemla into the land which was northward. 5 And it came to pass that Hagoth, he being an exceedingly curious man, therefore he 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. 6 And behold, there were many of the Nephites who did enter therein and did sail forth with much provisions, and also many women and children; and they took their course northward. And thus ended the thirty and seventh year. 7 And in the thirty and eighth year, this man built other ships. And the first ship did also return, and many more people did enter into it; and they also took much provisions, and set out again to the land northward. 8 And it came to pass that they were never heard of more. And we suppose that they were drowned in the depths of the sea. And it came to pass that one other ship also did sail forth; and whither she did go we know not. 9 And it came to pass that in this year there were many people who went forth into the land northward. (Alma 63:4–9)
– VERY FEW GOOD CITY MATCHES WITH SIGNIFICANT ARCHAEOLGICAL SITES. Although Mayan models do a good job at finding cultural correlations, none of them have done a very good job at really matching individuals Book of Mormon cities with notable archaeological ruins (with the exception of Kaminaljuyu). In my opinion, none of them can match Zarahemla with convincing archaeological ruins which match the level of prominence and significance afforded these cities in the text. Particularly in the case of Zarahemla and Sorenson’s Santa Rosa.
– MANY OF THE SPECIES IN THE ANIMAL LISTS IN THE BOOK OF MORMON ARE OUT OF PLACE SOUTH OF TEOHUANTEPEC. See my article Animals in the Book of Mormon for examples of this. Specific differentiation between animals like asses (mule deer) and horses (elk, possible white tailed deer), and goats (pronghorn) verses wild goats (North American Mountain Goat), sheep (North American mountain sheep, which are on the Jaredite list and never ranged far into Mexico) as well as “cattle, of oxen, and cows” (bison, possibly tapir, musk ox) are incredibly problematic if you put the whole book of Mormon south of Tehuantepec (especially in the Jaredite list).
– MAYANLAND MODELS DO NOT HAVE ANY ARCHAEOLOGICAL EVIDENCE OF NORTHERN LANDS BEING ‘EMPTIED’, ABANDONED OR DESTROYED. These models usually identify Veracruz or the Mexican Highland as “the land northward”… yet in Mormon’s description of the final flight to “Cumorah”, the land northward is said to be emptied of its inhabitants (Mormon 5:5).
4 And it came to pass that they came against us again, and we did maintain the city. And there were also other cities which were maintained by the Nephites, which strongholds did cut them off that they could not get into the country which lay before us, to destroy the inhabitants of our land. 5 But it came to pass that whatsoever lands we had passed by, and the inhabitants thereof were not gathered in, were destroyed by the Lamanites, and their towns, and villages, and cities were burned with fire; and thus three hundred and seventy and nine years passed away. 7 …and those whose flight was swifter than the Lamanites’ did escape, and those whose flight did not exceed the Lamanites’ were swept down and destroyed.
We see no such occurrence in the archaeology. In fact that logic of the final battle MAKES NO SENSE given what we know of Teotihuacan. Why wouldn’t the Nephites make an alliance with them, if they were part of their northern ally cultures which they had been ‘guarding’ (ie. protecting the narrow neck – Alma 22:33) for nearly a thousand years? It also makes no sense in relation to the final Battle… why did Teotihuacan not get involved if the Nephites fled into their land in Veracruz to escape the Lamanite army?
– HOW COULD THE ZAPOTEC & TEOTIHUACAN EMPIRES BE OMITTED FROM THE BOOK OF MORMON WHEN THEY WOULD HAVE BEEN SO INCREDIBLY RELEVENT TO THE REGION? Teotihuacan and the Mexican highland culture, the largest and most influential city and culture in prehistoric North America, is mysteriously scant or absent from the Book of Mormon in these models (as well as Zapotec culture). Even though the Teotihuacano zenith might have post-dated the date given for Nephite destruction, it was still a rapidly growing regional influence which by 420 AD eclipsing any of the cultures put forth for Zarahemla in predominate Mayan models.
– SAYING THE ZAPOTECS & TEOTIHUACANOS ARE GADIANTONS MAKES THE IDEA OF GUARDING THE NARROW NECK ILLOGICAL. The guarding of the “narrow neck” in preservation of “the land northward” doesn’t make much sense in these models for reasons mentioned above. For instance, what culture are they guarding? Teotihuacan? The Zapotecs? That’s like Guatemala guarding the United States! Even at 100 BC, the Zapotec, and cities of the Mexican Highland (Cuicuilco, Cholula, Teotihuacan area) was FAR more populous and powerful than anything along the Grijalva or Usumacinta. Those empires would have been guarding/dominating the Nephite lands, not the other way around. Teotihuacan was the most powerful hegemon on the continent by 300 AD, so if they are the Nephites in the land Northward, why didn’t they aid the Nephites in the Final Battle, and why does the text describe a scene where the Nephites after retreating from Zarahemla and desolation “did cut [the Lamanites] off that they could not get into the country which lay before us, to destroy the inhabitants of our land” (Mormon 5:4). If Teotihuacan is the land northward, THE TEOTIHUACANOS would have sent an army and squashed the Lamanite forces. From all we can tell from the archaeology, Teotihuacan was the regional hegemon. (Remember that Mormon was from Jordan near the Narrow Neck, and there is simply nothing in the text to forward the idea that Monte Alban, Teotihuacan or any highland cultures helped in the war–had they helped in the war the tens of thousands of Nephite woman and children SURELY would have been sent there before the final battle instead of fighting to the death with no hope like cornered animals as the text suggests).
– THE ZAPOTECS & TEOTIHUACANOS AS GADIANTONS DOES NOT FIT THE TEXT OR THE ARCHAEOLOGY. Note the Book of Mormon clearly paints the Gadianton robbers or ‘band’ as mountain dwelling guerilla band as well as a mafia like secrete society which dwells WITHIN the Nephite and Lamanite societies. The text does does not suggest they are a full fledged independent nation or empire like the Lamanite or Nephite nation. To equate the Gadiantons with two of the largest and most formative empire nations on the continent does not honor the picture painted in the Book of Mormon. Read these descriptions carefully and then lets compare this with the Zapotec & Teotihuacan empires and cultures.
23 And it came to pass in the forty and ninth year of the reign of the judges, there was continual peace established in the land, all save it were the secret combinations which Gadianton the robber had established in the more settled parts of the land, which at that time were not known unto those who were at the head of government; therefore they were not destroyed out of the land. (Hel 3:23)
18 And now behold, those murderers and plunderers were a band who had been formed by Kishkumen and Gadianton. And now it had come to pass that there were many, even among the Nephites, of Gadianton’s band. But behold, they were more numerous among the more wicked part of the Lamanites. And they were called Gadianton’s robbers and murderers. (Hel 6:18)
1 …the Gadianton robbers, who dwelt upon the mountains, who did infest the land; for so strong were their holds and their secret places that the people could not overpower them; therefore they did commit many murders, and did do much slaughter among the people.” (3 Ne 1:27), 17 …and…the war between the robbers and the people of Nephi did continue and did become exceedingly sore; nevertheless, the people of Nephi did gain some advantage of the robbers, insomuch that they did drive them back out of their lands into the mountains and into their secret places. (3 Ne 2:17)
18 And these Gadianton robbers, who were among the Lamanites, did infest the land, insomuch that the inhabitants thereof began to hide up their treasures in the earth; and they became slippery, (Mormon 1:18)
There is only one indication in the Book of Mormon that the Gadianton Robbers start their own culture or city (3 Ne 7:9–12). But this city is not created until ~30 AD, and then is burned or destroyed at the death of Christ (3 Ne 9:9). There is certainly no indication that they pioneer or take over multiple empires which are among THE MOST POWERFUL EMPIRES ON THE CONENTENT both before and after the time of Christ. Note the Zapotecs of San Jose Migote, Monte Alban and the Valley of Oaxaca are founded around 1200-600 BC, and by 300 BC already likely are the largest militaristic society in the Americas at the time (see here). Indeed, orders of magnitude larger and more powerful than emerging Mayan societies like Kaminaljuyu (City of Nephi in his model) or Chiapa de Corzo/Santa Rosa (land of Zerahemla in his model) during formative times. Likewise the central cities of the Teotihuacan empire grown out of formative cities like Cuicuilco, Ticomán, El Terremote, Coapexco, El Arbolillo and Chalcatzingo; all of which were established around 1000 BC with close ties to Olmec cultures and which mostly continued into classic times and had grown into an empire for larger than anything existing in the Mayanlands by 300 AD.
The only indication The Book of Mormon gives that there could be an alliance between the Lamanites of the final battles and some other group is Mormon 1 & 2 where the Gadianton robbers who are said to be “among the Lamanites” (Mormon 1:18), seem to be involved in both the fighting and a ten year treaty. But read the verse concerning this carefully and note how crazy it would be for Mormon to omit the fact that the Gadiantons (Teotihuacahn & Zapotec Empires) actually owned essentially ALL the land north of the final battle and were hemming in their position (as most 2 Cumorah proponents propose concerning the final battle).
18 And these Gadianton robbers, who were among the Lamanites, did infest the land… (Mormon 1:18)
27 …But behold, we did go forth against the Lamanites and the robbers of Gadianton, until we had again taken possession of the lands of our inheritance. 28 And the three hundred and forty and ninth year had passed away. And in the three hundred and fiftieth year we made a treaty with the Lamanites and the robbers of Gadianton, in which we did get the lands of our inheritance divided. 29 And 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 2:27–29)
What those proposing that the Zapotecs and Teotihuacanos are ‘Gadianton Robbers’ are suggesting is that this verse should read, “the Lamanites did give unto us the [tiny portion of the land northward along the east sea], yea, even to the narrow passage which led into the land southward. And we did give unto the Lamanites all the land southward [and we did remain hemmed in, leaving the Gadiantons possessing essentially ALL the land north of us because they were indeed far too large and powerful for us with our 300,000 to attempt to fight with].
– GRIJALVA AND UCUMACINAT SIZE COULD BE AN ISSUE. The Usumacinta rivers seem a little to big to match with what the Book of Mormon describes of the River Sidon being seemingly easily crossed by the Nephites & Amlicites near Zarahemla (Alma 2:27–35). The river needs to be small enough for a “numberless army” to easily cross, but big enough to carry away thousands of corpses to the sea (Alma 3:3). The river also needs to be in a deep canyon near where the battle and crossing took place. And should also form a border of sorts in its areas south of Zarahemla (Alma 22:27; see also Sidon in the Internal Model of the Book of Mormon). The Grijalva on the other hand needs to have its ‘head’ or main headwaters near the land and city of Manti. But in the Sorenson model, La Libertad, his match for Manti is on a small, minor central tributary of the Grijalva which isn’t a great match for the ‘head’ or headwaters of the River, which are far to the southwest.
Also suggesting rivers that travel northward as the Grijalva and Usumacinta both do, makes the idea of throwing thousands of dead bodies in the river (which then would float through the land of Zarahemla) a bit counterintuitive (see Alma 3:3).- Attempting to match the Umacinta river with Sidon, and somewhere like Palenque with Zarahemla makes the hill Amnihu, which was west of both Zarahemla and the River Sidon, problematic also. As there literally NO hills west of that locations. So then you have to shoot for large sites farther south like Tonina or Yaxchilan. But even then he city of Gideon is also a problem for essentially all Usumacinta models, as there are no sizable archaeological sites just west of Sidon yet still on the way to Nephi (Guatamala city). These issues are more minor and can be overcome with nuanced readings of the text.
– MODELS WHICH PLACE BOUNTIFUL IN BELIZE ARE PROBLEMATIC. Likewise, models place bountiful south of Belize which accords well enough with verses which describe the land/city of bountiful as being “north of Zarahemla (see Alma 22). But those directions break down in Alma 50:34, when Moroni chases Morianton “and not head them until they had come to the borders of the land Desolation; and there they did head them, by the narrow pass which led by the sea into the land northward, yea, by the sea, on the west and on the east.” If Bountiful is correctly “North” then surely this should also say, “by the sea on the north and on the south”. Using tehuantepec as a narrow neck has serious direction issues. Furthermore, WHERE THEN IS the sea north thats mentioned in (ref)? if its not the Caribbean in this area?
– ALMA 52:9 IS A BIT PROBLEMATIC IN ALL MAYANLAND MODELS. The east sea cities in this model don’t make a whole lot of sense. Take Alma 52:9, for instance. It says “he also sent orders unto him that he should fortify the land Bountiful, and secure the narrow pass which led into the land northward, lest the Lamanites should obtain that point and should have power to harass them on every side.” We see that bountiful is a fort which secures the narrow pass. So if Bountiful is in Belize, this makes no sense. This verse accords with others that suggests that bountiful is both on the east sea, and on the narrow pass leading to desolation.
If on the other hand you put bountiful and the east sea cities in the Tabasco and Tehuantepec area, you have a major issue with directions such as (ref), that say Jershon? Nephihah? is east of the Land of Zarahemla. They’d have to be crazy to think north-WEST is east. Furthermore, there’s just not much evidence of fortifications in that area, and the BOM says basically ALL those cities were fortified.
SUMMARY OF WHY THE MESOAMERCAN CUMORAH (M2C) THEORY IS A HORRIBLE FIT TO THE TEXT.
Much like the Heartland Theory the Mesoamerican 2 Cumorah Theory is a needless distraction. It solves very few problems and creates many. Perhaps above all it necessitates the creation of some type of “Heartland theory” to fill in the holes left by the following issues which arise from excluding the United States and most of North America from being part of the Book of Mormon.
– Mesoamerican Cumorah directly contradicts D&C 128:20 and the prophetic visions and beliefs of Joseph Smith concerning New York and the United States as part of the Land of Promise and its ancient inhabitants being part of the Book of Mormon.
– A Mesoamerican Cumorah essentially makes Joseph Smith’s vision of Zelph the Nephite warrior, false or wildly out of place.
– Also a Mesoamerican Cumorah in Veracruz or the Mexican Highland is not an “exceedingly great distance” from the Land of Zarahemla, given that neither the Land of Nephi NOR ANY OTHER LAND is said to be so superlatively far away from the Nephite population center. (Hel 3:4)
– Also no other land in North America matches as well as the Eastern US & Great Lakes region as a land of large bodies of water and many rivers (Hel 3:3–5, Alma 50:29) or a land of many waters, rivers, and fountains (Mormon 6:4). As noted from the perspective of one likely familiar with the MANY large rivers, fountains and lakes of southern Mexico and Guatemala. (Hel 3:5)
– The Great Lakes are certainly the best match for the “the waters of Ripliancum, which, by interpretation, is large, or to exceed all“, which were near the land Cumorah (Ether 15:8)
– Only the Great Lakes are near a true “sea north” (Hel 3:8). Especially given the “nephite north” of most Mesoamerican models.
– Northernmost Mexico and North America’s southwest are a better match than Mesoamerica for the Land Northward’s part of the “Land of Desolation” which was “desolate, save it were for timber… being but little timber upon the face of the land, nevertheless the people who went forth became exceedingly expert in the working of cement; therefore they did build houses of cement, in the which they did dwell.” (Hel 3:6–7) Note that the Maya built with just as much or more cement in their adobe houses and monumental architecture as the Teotihuacanos, Olmec or Zapotec.
– The U.S. Midwest is the best match for a culture of people who did “dwell in tents.” (Hel 3:9)
– A Mesoamerican Cumorah makes the SOUTHWARD flight of few surviving Nephites after the final battle go directly back into enemy controlled territory. (Mormon 8:2)
– A Veracruz Cumorah makes the eastward directionality of Omer’s flight which lasted “many days” between the Hill Shim & the seashore, essentially unworkable. (Ether 9:3)
– A Mesoamerican Cumorah requires all Jaredites to have been in Mesoamerica also, which makes the over 2-4 MILLION deaths of the final battle questionable. (Ether 15:2,14)
– A Veracruz Cumorah makes the moving of ALL THE NEPHITE RECORDS from the Hill Shim to Hill Cumorah illogical (a distance of LESS than a hundred miles or so – Mormon 4:23)
– If tens of thousands of early LDS saints fled 2,160 miles by foot from New York to Ohio to Nauvoo to Utah IN 17 YEARS, building dozens of cities along the way, Why would hundreds of thousands of Nephites or millions of Jaredites only flea 100 MILES OR SO over 30+ years, building no traceable cities along the way? Why not instead supposed they fled the 2600 miles to New England and build up the Hopewell archaeological ruins along the way?
– If the Book is all south of Oaxaca then there are SERIOUS issues with the animal lists mentioned for BOTH the Nephites & Jaredites. (see my article here)
– If the Book of Mormon has nothing to do with North America, why would God have Moroni burry it in New York? Why not save time and burry it in Nauvoo or Utah?!?
– If Moroni wasn’t sure whether he’d die or not in the final Battle (Moroni 1:1). And Mormon WAS killed in battle (Mormon 8:5), then WHY ON EARTH would Moroni not bury the plates BEFORE the final battle (as the text suggest he did in Mormon 6:6). Then he goes back and “writes more” after he miraculously doesn’t die (Mormon 1:1).
– If Cumorah is southern Veracruz, where on earth was the “towns and villages” of Mormon 4:22–23, or the “strongholds” and “towns and villages and cities” in the “country which lay before us” after the battle for Jordan? (Mormon 5:4–7).
–If Cumorah and the Land Northward does not include North America, why did Hagoth leave from the west coast of Bountiful to take thousands of people “TO THE LAND NORTHWARD” (see Alma 63:5–9)? How does that gain faster access to Veracruz or the Mexican Highland or any of areas that the 2 Cumorah model suggests are the Land Northwards? A west coast launch point only makes sense to access Northwest Mexico, the Gulf of California (and thus the Anasazi land which we know traded with Mesoamerica) and the west coast of North America.
– Ether 10:19–21 says Lib “built a great city by the narrow neck”, and then “preserved the land southward for a wilderness, to get game”, allowing only “the land northward [to be] covered with inhabitants”. This seems to suggest that at some point in Jaredite narrative, their culture moved from the land of Moron (was near the land which is called Desolation by the Nephites — Ether 7:6) to a more northern location. Perhaps somewhere far to the north such as the Poverty Point culture, Watson Break, Woodland Culture & Adena cultures. Although by the final war, the narrative seems to move back to the land of Moron (Ether 14:6) the shear number of deaths (2 Million+ before the final gathering even starts from Ether 14:24–31 & Ether 15:1–3) suggest it could be a long time and a long ways until they finally end up near “the waters of Ripliancum, which, by interpretation, is large, or to exceed all” (Ether 15:8) which is NORTH (Ether 15:10) of, and “by” the hill Rama which is “that same hill where my father Mormon did hide up the records unto the Lord” (Ether 15:10).
– Some presume the final Jaredite battle must have been close to Moron where the Jaredites lived. However, this forgets that the Mulekites, Nephites & Jaredites COEXISTED for at least a few hundred years before the Jaredite final battle with the ONLY record of interaction being Coriantumr’s 9 month say with the Mulekites. The fact that Limhi’s exploration party found the Jaredite land littered with bones gives us an approximate age of the Jaredite final battle since they departed between 160-120 BC, and bones only last a few decades before disintegrating in wet climates. With Ether 15:2 reporting 2 million war casualties before the Jaredite war even begins to wind down, IT IS HIGHLY UNLIKELY THAT THE JAREDITE CAPITOL WAS VERY NEAR THE MULEKITE OR NEPHITE POPULATION CENTERS. If they were close, it would be strange not to have gotten involved in the war or at least known about it. Especially with sites like the Mirador Basin, Izapa & other obvious Olmec dated archaeological sites being so close to the land of Nephi & Zarahemala of Mayanland models! And we can’t really assume the land of dried bones where the Limhite exploration party found the plates was in an ARID environment since it seems to have been a land of ‘many waters’ suggesting a lot of rainfall (see Mosiah 8:8)
Reasons why many believe in the Mesoamerican M2C Theory
– NEW ENGLAND IS TOO FAR FROM MESOAMERICA FOR REGUGEES TO TRAVEL. Many find it hard to believe a group as large as the hundreds of thousands of Nephites and/or Jaredites who died in the final battles could or would travel that far. However this same poor reasoning would force a disbelief that the tens of thousands of Mormon pioneers traveled 2,100 miles from New York to Utah, or the estimated 300,000 plus people traveled the 2,200 mile long Oregon trail from 1841 to 1868, or the known records of hundreds of thousands of Goths who fled thousands of miles to escape the Hunnic invasions of Rome in the 2nd century AD or even the hundreds of thousands or even millions of Syrian refugees who recently migrated to Europe or the many other examples of long distance refuges. Indeed when comparing historic analogs, its the idea that the Nephites & Jaredites only fled 200 miles or less to avoid genocide which becomes hard to believe.
– ALSO TOO FAR FOR LIMHITE SEARCH PARTY. Believing 2000-3000 miles seems to far for the Limhite search party who found the Jaredite 24 plates amid a land of “many waters… covered with bones of men, and of beasts, and… with ruins of buildings of every kind” (Mosiah 8:8) has two poor assumptions. First, see this map of early American explorers (earlier in this article) to see how common many thousand miles exploration treks were. Given the history of notable ‘exploration parties’, its far less likey these “determined” explorers, who were lost “many days in the wilderness” traveling in a “land of many waters” only went a few hundred miles. Secondly since we don’t know where Ether hid the plates, we have no idea how far they traveled. It could have been near the final battle, or Ether could have brought them back to south to Moron. (Ether 15:10)
– CORIANTUMR COULDN’T WANDER THOUSANDS OF MILES WHEN INJURED. This is again poor logic. Wherever he went he likely allowed himself to heal before traveling. And his only living “9 moons” with the Mulekites could suggest he was now an old man. Either way, doesn’t it make sense he would head back to the land of Moron or Jaredite heartland to see if anyone was still alive? In fact, Alma 22:30–31 suggests the Mulekits surveyed the Jaredite destruction shortly after the final battle “it being the place of their first landing.” This wording seems to suggest multiple landings, and allows all sorts of wild plausible speculations such as perhaps the Mulekites sailing from a Phoenician port to Spain or England to settle for a few hundred years. And then coming to America and finding Coriantumr in a short-lived northern settlement much like Jamestown. And then after abandoning that “coming up into the south wilderness” where it was written on a rock and transformed into legend (Alma 22:31; Omni 1:20–21)
– OMER AND HIS HOUSEHOLD FLEE PAST CUMORAH. Once again this is poor logic to suggest a royal family fleeing for their lives would only go a hundred miles or so. Mulek fled some 10,000 miles for this exact same reason. Additionally, the fact that Omer fled “east” for “many days” doesn’t work well with a Mesoamerican Cumorah which is west and north of the olmec lands.
– THE EAST SEASHORE. There is a seashore mentioned “east” of Cumorah and Rama. (refs). This actually goes against a 2 cumorah theory since mesoamerican cumorah’s are northwest… (finish)
– ARMY LOGISTICS. Some say the logistics of a large army travelling our of their domain in Mesoamerica to New England makes no sense. This in an incredibly poor argument given what we know of the final battle of the Book of Mormon. If the final battle had any indication of being about land or political power the argument might be fair. But the book of Mormon gives the logic for the final battle (which seems to have changed from the early parts of the war, after the Nephite elite cede their land and sign the 10 year treaty), and makes it clear that by the time of the final battle (which at that point may have had different players than the initial players of Mormon 1 in Zarahemla, 57 years previous to the end) the war was solely about genocide towards those holding a religious belief. “Because of their HATRED they put to death every Nephite that will not deny the Christ…” (Moroni 1:2–3)
Were the battle against the Nephites about land, the Lamanites would have stopped once the Nephites abandoned land after land, but instead they pursue them even after they flee to and then abandon the Nephite frontier “cities” and “strongholds” of the “country which lay before us” (north of desolation in the land northward of Mormon 5:4–7).
Just the fact that they annihilate every man woman and child should keyus into the fact that this is likely not just a typical war between “city states”. (unlike the wars of the book of Alma & Helaman) Much like the Jaredite final battle this is an atypical war of annihilation. So the most sound logic follows that the Nephites are going to run AS FAR AS POSSIBLE to keep their wives and children and selves from having to fight or dying from said genocide.
Also as far as logistics, there’s plenty of examples in history of armies with infantry travelling thousands of miles. (Romans, Alexander, Mongols, Huns, etc, etc). Even without horses, the logistics aren’t hard if you are relying on looting to feed your troops so you don’t need supply lines. (which we don’t even know how many they were… it may be they were more like 100,000 Lamanite/Gadianton men vs. the Nephites 250,000 men women & children) Furthermore… we don’t know where they were from! For all we know, the vast majority of Nephites AND Lamanites of the final battle were (by the end) all from the Hopewell area. At least we have good archaeological evidence of a social collapse there… something that the Mayan lands and Veracruz COMPLETELY LACKS at 380 AD.
Issues with the Sorenson Model (& all others which put all b.o.m. ‘East coast cities’ on the North coast of Tehuantepec)
1 – PLACEMENT OF NEPHIHAH, MORONI & MANTI ARE ILLOGICAL & CONTRARY TO THE TEXT. Alma 50 is a MAJOR problem in these models that’s almost insurmountable. Alma 50:10–15 says Moroni “placed armies on the south… fortifying the line between the Nephites and the Lamanites, between the land of Zarahemla and the land of Nephi, from the west sea… ” to the newly built garrisons of Moroni which was “by the east sea… on the south by the line of [Lamanite] possessions” (v. 13) and on to Nephihah “joining the borders of Aaron and Moroni” (v. 14). So the text specifies that Moroni is fortifying the southern border from the east to west sea between the Land of Nephi and the Land of Zarahemla. (read that section again for yourself) So if Moroni & Nephihah (which are part of the East Coast Cities mentioned in Alma 51:26) are on the North coast of Tehuantepec, how does that help divide or fortify Zarahemla from Lamanite attack from the land of Nephi?! How can they be considered “south of the Land of Zarahemla” (Alma 50:7) or “south of the borders of their possessions” (Alma 50:10) or “south by the line of the possessions of the Lamanites” (Alma 50:13). Especially when the context seems to infer that all of these terms are referring to the same area.
Alma 56:25 further verifies that Moroni & Nephihah should be south of Zarahemla by showing that south frontier town of Manti, while only a few days march from the west sea and other south frontier garrisons (Alma 52:12,15; Alma 56:31), is also close enough to reasonably march to Nephihah and Moroni and the East Sea (Alma 51:26). On Sorensen’s map Manti and the ‘Head of Sidon’ are 220 miles from Nephihah! That’s an 11 -18 day’s march! One that make no sense at all in the context of that verse, which is suggesting the Lamanites were looking for easy targets near Manti where they could “harass the Nephites… and take possession of their lands as much as it was in their power” (Alma 52:13). And presumably they were most interested in the lands they felt Moroni had recently taken from them (Alma 50:9–11).
Alma 52:9 hits the point home even better, with Moroni stressing how important it was that Teancum secure the eastern pass and eastern areas of the Land Bountiful, because if it were to fall into Lamanite hands they “should have power to harass them [Nephite territory] on every side”. How does that make ANY sense with the Sorensen model? In his model the ‘east coast’ cities of Nephihah, Moroni, Gid, Lehi and Bountiful serve absolutely no use in protecting Zarahemla from attacks on “every side”. The ONLY configuration that makes any sense is the one shared by most internal models where at least the cities of Moroni and Nephihah are SOUTH of the land of Zarahemla (and honestly putting MOST of them, including the Bountiful pass south to latitudinally even with Zarahemla makes the most sense).
2 – MANY EAST COAST CITIES ARE NORTH INSTEAD OF SOUTH. Note particularly Alma 51:26’s language where it says,
Nephihah, and the city of Lehi, and the city of Morianton, and the city of Omner, and the city of Gid, and the city of Mulek, all of which were on the east borders [of Nephite lands/land of Zarahemla] by the seashore.
Note it does not say “on the east seashore”, but “on the east borders.” And we know its east borders of Zarahemla and not Bountiful because Alma 50:13 tells us Nephihah is “south” (as we’ll go over in a moment). How can these cities be considered to be “on the east borders” of the Land of Zarahemla or Nephite lands in Sorensen’s model? Even using Sorensen’s skewed directions or “Nephite North”, placing these cities on Tehuantepec in line with Bountiful clearly makes them northern border cities contrary to the text. Not to mention that such a configuration leaves the entirety of the western flank of the land of Zarahemla or Chiapas depression open for attack (discussed next). It also makes the location of Jershon illogical (discussed later).
3 – AGAIN, THE CITIES OF MORONI, AARON & NEPHIHAH SHOULD BE SOUTH OF THE LAND OF ZERAHAMLA. Sorensen’s model puts these cities north, DIRECTLY OPPOSITE OF WHAT THE TEXT SAYS. Read Alma 50:6–14,
6 Thus Moroni did prepare strongholds against the coming of their enemies, round about every city in all the land. 7 And it came to pass that Moroni caused that his armies should go forth into the east wilderness; yea, and they went forth and drove all the Lamanites who were in the east wilderness into their own lands, which were south of the land of Zarahemla.
13 And it came to pass that the Nephites began the foundation of a city, and they called the name of the city Moroni; and it was by the east sea; and it was on the south by the line of the possessions of the Lamanites. 14 And they also began a foundation for a city between the city of Moroni and the city of Aaron, joining the borders of Aaron and Moroni; and they called the name of the city, or the land, Nephihah.
Note, that in the next verse the city of Lehi is mentioned as being “on the north [of either the land of Zarahemla or city of Nephihah]” (Alma 50:15), “on the east borders by the seashore.” (Alma 51:26). So Nephihah, Moroni & Aaron are clearly “on the east-south” of Zarahemla but Lehi (and presumably the other cities mentioned with it like Morianton, Mulek & Bountiful could be “on the east-north”.
4 – MANTI IS IN PROXIMITY TO NEPHIHAH & MORONI IN THE TEXT. Putting Manti far from Nephihah or Moroni is fully against the text. In multiple instances, armies move between these cities as if they are the closest options. For instance the Lamanite armies guarding Manti debate whether to retreat to Nephihah when under attack from Helaman’s forces.
25 Neither durst they [the Lamanites in Manti & surrounding cities] march down against the city of Zarahemla; neither durst they cross the head of Sidon, over to the city of Nephihah. (Alma 56:25)
Later after Helaman and the 2000 stripling warrior drive them from the city of Manti & Judea, the Lamanite armies flee there anyway. Obviously because Nephihah was one of the closest cities needing reinforcements.
5 And it came to pass that while Moroni was thus making preparations to go against the Lamanites to battle, behold, the people of Nephihah, who were gathered together from the city of Moroni and the city of Lehi and the city of Morianton, were attacked by the Lamanites. 6 Yea, even those who had been compelled to flee from the land of Manti, and from the land round about, had come over and joined the Lamanites in this [Nephihah] part of the land. 7 And thus being exceedingly numerous, yea, and receiving strength from day to day, by the command of Ammoron they came forth against the people of Nephihah… (Alma 59:5–7)
5 – ALMA 52:9 MAKES NO SENSE WITH THIS MODEL. The location of all the east cities AND Bountiful in Sorenson’s model makes it so Alma 52:9 makes no sense because it is SOO far north (west?) of the land of Zarahemla that guarding the ‘pass’ near bountiful makes absolutely no strategic bearing on the security of the Land of Zarahemla. Listen to the wording.
9 And he also sent orders unto him that he should fortify the land Bountiful, and secure the narrow pass which led into the land northward, lest the Lamanites should obtain that point and should have power to harass them on every side. (Alma 52:9)
Look at the map and note that NONE of the east coast cities would keep the Lamanites out of Zarahemla. Only a configuration as discussed in #1 would. Alma 60:19 further pushes this issue that Moroni’s defensive cities spoken of in Alma 51-59 fully protect the central land of Zarahemla.
19 Or is it that ye have neglected us because ye are in the heart of our country and ye are surrounded by security, that ye do not cause food to be sent unto us, and also men to strengthen our armies? (Alma 60:19)
6 – ANTIONUM & JERSHON DONT WORK WITH THE TEXT. The Book of Mormon is clear that Antionum is south-east. of the land Zarahemla. Sorenson’s model puts it north (or north-north-east using “Nephite North”). Read the references and note how Sorenson’s configuration makes the west Yucatan into the “wilderness south” which makes absolutely no sense. Especially since he tries to call it the east wilderness elsewhere (ref).
3 Now the Zoramites had gathered themselves together in a land which they called 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)
Note that his configuration also makes the location of Jershon illogical. Why would the Nephites give a land so far to the north to the people of Jershon from the Land of Nephi? Doesn’t it makes sense that Jershon would be somewhat near the southern border and “south wilderness” close to Nephi? (see Alma 28:1–3) Especially considering that they are later moved to a safer location (Alma 35:13)? Jershon & Antionum being on the southern border by the land Nephi is also suggested by Alma 43:22 which has the Amalekites heading over to Mani and the head of Sidon as the next best attack point after being scared off in the land of Jershon. In Sorensen’s model this would be a 250 mile flank maneuver across an enigmatic massive swath of eastern frontier which his model has no cities guarding!
22 Behold, now it came to pass that [the Amackites] durst not come against the Nephites in the borders of Jershon; therefore they departed out of the land of Antionum into the wilderness, and took their journey [way, way, way?] round about in the wilderness, away by the head of the river Sidon, that they might come into the land of Manti and take possession of the land (Alma 43:22)
The close relationship between these regions is also suggested in Alma 59:5–7 where Nephihah and Moroni receive reinforcements from the Manti area.
7 – MORONI (AND THUS NEPHIHAH & JERSHON) ARE IN THE CORNER OF THE WILDERNESS SOUTH & WILDERNESS EAST. We’ve already established this in previous verses, but Alma 62 hits it home by stating that the land of Moroni is surrounded by the wilderness south and wilderness east.
34 And it came to pass that Moroni and Lehi and Teancum did encamp with their armies round about in the borders of the land of Moroni, insomuch that the Lamanites were encircled about in the borders by the wilderness on the south, and in the borders by the wilderness on the east [of the land Moroni]. (Alma 62:34)
Remember that Moroni is right on the east sea which drowns it at the death of Christ (3 Ne 8:9), so the “wilderness on the east” is obviously talking about the “east wilderness” which is east of the land of Zarahemla (Alma 50:7–11, Alma 25:5), not a wilderness east of Moroni (where the sea is). Because of this we can assume that the “wilderness on the south” is also talking about the “south wilderness” or narrow strip of wilderness that lies between the Nephite and Lamanite lands (as explained in Alma 16:6). This configuration is nowhere close to what Sorenson proposes.
8 – AMMONIHAH’S LOCATION IS ILLOGICAL. Furthermore his northern location of Ammonihah, Noah and Aaron make no logistical sense. Alma 49:3,15 suggest that Ammonihah was twice a target of Lamanite aggression because it was an “easy prey” or convenient point of attack. So, how can a city 250 miles into enemy territory be considered an “easy target?” (See my discussion on the obvious error in Alma 8:6–meaning south instead of north–solves all the issues associated with the geography of Ammonihah & Melek.) The Lamanite retreat of Alma 16 in Sorensen’s model would put the army retreating 200 miles directly through the land/valley of Zarahemla, in order to put them at the head of Sidon, which makes very little sense given the context.
But most importantly Since we know Ammonihah is near Aaron (Alma 8:13), Jershon (Alma 35:1–8) and the Land of Antionum, then Alma 49 is the SECOND time an army heads toward Manti from that area. So once again it is completely illogical to not place these two areas adjacent or somewhat close to one another along a southern border as suggested by most internal models as well as suggested by Alma 31:3 & Alma 50:7.
8 – ZERAHEMLA IS NOT LIKELY VERY NEAR THE WEST COAST. The Book of Mormon does not seem to indicate that Zarahemla is near the West Sea or Coast. In fact if anything, it suggests its closer to the east coast. Note that the ‘new border’ cities and war chapters of Alma 51-58 talk about defensive cities on the southern border and EASTERN border, more likely suggesting that Zarahemla is closer to the east coast than the west coast, and that the “west wilderness” (Alma 8:3, Alma 2:37) must be a major obstacle protecting the land from western entrance or exit.
More importantly, the Land of Zarahemla is NOT said to stretch “from the east sea unto the west sea” in Alma 22:27,33 like the land of Nephi, narrow strip of wilderness and land of Bountiful are. Additionally Helaman 1:18, 24–27 calls Zarahemla “the center of the land” and Alma 60:19 has Moroni calling the land of Zarahemla “in the heart of our country surrounded by security”. Sorenson’s model has Zarahemla being less than 50 miles from the west coast, which is hardly the heart of region.
Hagoth proves this point even more. The only reason Hagoth would leave from the narrow neck of Bountiful instead of on the west coast near Zarahemla, is if the quickest & easiest way from Zarahemla to the west sea is through Bountiful’s narrow neck. Let that sink in.
Issues with the Usumacinta Mayanland Models
The Usumacinta seems to do a much better job at fitting it geography to the Book of Mormon text than the Sorenson/Grijalva Model (or any model which places the ‘east sea’ cities on the north coast of Tehuantepec. However, like all Mayanland models, it still shares a few major issues with the ‘east sea’ cities. A problem which seems to be best overcome by supposing that Mormon and/or his people believed the east sea to be closer to Zarahemla than it was. (ie. the Yucatan peninsula was not as big as it actually is).
– However, Usumacinta models do a poorer job of matching formative archaeological sites than Grijalva models.
– The Mirador Basin’s major formative population centers are very problematic for Usumacinta models. (explain this when you have time)
Strengths and weakness are covered in the Mayanland model section above.
PLUS ALL THE OTHER ISSUES ARLEADY MENTIONED ABOVE CONCERNING ALL LIMITED MESOAMERICAN MODELS
Issues with my Mexican Highland Continental model
1 – THE NARROW NECK NORTH OF THE LAND OF ZARAHEMLA IN THE BOOK OF MORMON SOUNDS LIKE A NARROW ISTHMUS. The Book of Mormon refers to “narrow pass” or “narrow passages” in Alma 50:34, Alma 52:9, Hel 4:6–7 Mormon 2:29 & Mormon 3:5–6, which I suggest are the Narrow passages between the sea and the Sierra Madre Oriental and Occidental. However, Alma 22:32–33 refers to this region between the Land Bountiful and Land Desolation as a “small neck of land”, and both Alma 50:34 and Alma 63:5 strongly suggest that Mormon views this region as a narrow isthmus that goes from the east to west sea. (Although there seems to be some confusion there to, as Mormon strangely never says “from east sea to west sea”, but instead always says “from east to west sea” — see Finding the Book of Mormon Narrow Neck for a discussion on this topic.) Thus, this model requires suggesting that the authors didn’t entirely understand their own continental geography — which to be fair ALL models require and most ancient geographies prove (Strabo for instance). But in regard to the texts portrayal of the narrow neck the Mexican Highland model is incredibly difficult to fit into Mormon’s most probable views of what the narrow neck was. I suggest this one issue is the reason all other models have failed to find, what I believe is the best match for book of Mormon geographic correlation (ie. the highland model where the land of Zarahemla is the Mexican Highland of Tenochtitlan, Teotihuacan and Cholula).
2 – CITY OF TEANCUM COULD BE AN ISSUE. The city of Teancum is mentioned in association with the city of Desolation in the final battles/retreat of Mormon 4. The text seems to suggest that the cities are very close to each other. However, one would assume that a city named after Teancum would be very near the city of Bountiful on the East Coast since that is where Teancum died (if the city was named after the war general, which seems like a reasonable assumption). However, on the other hand Mormon seems to have come from the same area and was named after the waters and forest of Mormon way down in the land southward. And Mormon seems to include a surprising amount of literature on the wars of Moroni (also naming his son after the general). So maybe the culture around Desolation and Boaz idolized the wars of Moroni to such a point that they named cities after ancient heroes regardless of it they were close to the locations of those ancient wars?
NOT A LOT OF OTHERS ISSUES. AND IT EFFECTIVELY SOLVES MOST ISSUES IN THE OTHER PREDOMINATE MODELS.
The strength of my continental model is how by making this one assertion that Mormon/Moroni were confused as to the true nature of the ‘narrow neck/narrow pass’, the rest of the book really just ends up fitting unbelievably well with basically EVERY SINGLE major culture on the continent. From the Adena & Hopewell to the ancient Puebloans/Anasazi, Teotihuacan & Mexican Highland to the Zapotec and Olmec and even archaic and Paleoindian groups.
– If you’d like to contribute to a list of issues, please email them to me.