Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Lands of Nephi and Zarahemla

The Land of Nephi included the land of first inheritance, where the Lehi Colony first landed, and was bordered by a sea on the west and a sea on the east. Soon after Lehi died, Nephi, Sam, Zoram, Nephi’s younger siblings, Jacob and Joseph, at least two sisters, and possibly his mother and mother-in-law, were forced by the actions of his brothers Laman and Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael to leave their “land of first inheritance,” and settle in another land after a journey of “many days” (2 Nephi 5:6). Based on the configuration of the land of promise being long (north to south) and narrow (east to west) this small group of outcasts would have traveled in a northward direction to their new home they called “the land of Nephi.”

For almost 400 years the Nephites occupied the land of Nephi as the center of their civilization. After “much war and contention,” the Nephites “who would hearken unto the voice of the Lord” were forced to flee from the land of Nephi. These expelled Nephites moved northward under the direction of a leader named Mosiah and encountered, then joined, with the people of Zarahemla in the land of Zarahemla (Omni 1:10-19). Their home in the land of Nephi was taken over by those Nephites who stayed behind, and by the Lamanites.

The land of Nephi is described as “bordering even to the sea, on the east and on the west” (Alma 22:27). The sea on the west we assume to be the same sea west that bordered the adjacent “land of first inheritance” to the south in the Land of Nephi along the west seashore (Alma 22:28).

Mormon in his description of the land of Nephi includes the phrase—”the regions round about”—to describe part of the shape and extent of the land of Nephi. Mormon also records that the Lamanites who lived in the land of Nephi “could have no more possessions only in the land of Nephi, and the wilderness round about.” These two references to “round about” appear to describe a particular area with a circular-shaped boundary. Noah Webster’s 1828 Dictionary describes “round about” as encircling. Thus, the Nephites' Land of Zarahemla was encircled along the south, west and east where they were "nearly surrounded by the Lamanites" (Alma22:29); however, the Lamanites were “hemmed in on the south where they could have no more possession on the north” (Alma 22:33).

Between the Land of Nephi and the Land of Zarahemla was a narrow strip of wilderness that ran from the east sea to the west sea (Alma 22:27), and curved up (round about) along both seashores where there were Lamanites (Alma 22:28-29). There were no occupants living in this narrow strip since wilderness means “a tract of unoccupied land” (Noah Webster 1828 Dictionary).

Obviously, the Nephites “hemmed in” the Lamanites on the south to protect their northern lands—which should suggest that the southern boundary of the Land of Nephi had an end, called the “Sea South,” and that these three seas—the Sea West, the Sea East, and the Sea South, surrounded the Land of Nephi in the Land Southward. “Thus the Land of Nephi and the Land of Zarahemla were nearly surrounded by water” (Alma 22:32). In a drawing, it would look something like the map above.