Monday, March 14, 2016

What Did Mormon Mean: “Thus Were the Nephites Nearly Surrounded by the Lamanites”

In his abridgement of Alma, Mormon takes a moment to explain something in great detail that he knew would not have been otherwise understood by his future readers. First of all, Alma in this part of his writing, is describing Aaron and his companions Omner, Himni, and their brethren, Muloki and Ammah, who encounter king Lamoni’s father, the great king over all the Lamanite lands, who is never named. After Aaron discusses God with the great king, the king evidently is pricked in the heart and desires to know this God of Aaron of whom Ammon first spoke, and begins to pray (Alma 22:18), which results in his slipping into a coma (caught up in the Spirit) that is interpreted as death by the queen and her servants. Concerned over the results of their fear, Aaron eventually raises the king onto his feet and the king immediately pacifies the fears of his queen and servants and assures them he is all right (Alma 22:26). 
Aaron and his brethren were in the City of Nephi where Lamoni’s father, the king over all the Lamanites, dwelt
    After he has Aaron and his companions preach to all in his palace, the king decides to send 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…”
    So we know three things from this:
1. There is a narrow strip of wilderness that ran across the land;
2. The Land of Nephi, that land the Nephites controlled, is to the south of the narrow strip, and included all the land south of there (Also the Land of Lehi) from sea to sea;
3. The Land of Zarahemla, the Nephite land, is to the north of that narrow strip.
    Now Mormon becomes more detailed in his description of this narrow strip of wilderness, by saying of it: “…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—” (Alma 22:27).
    Now we know two more things:
4. That narrow strip of wilderness ran from sea to sea, all across the land;
5. When the narrow strip reached the seashore, it curved (round about on the borders of the seashore) upward, into the Land of Zarahemla and ran along the coast northward along both shores;
    Mormon continued: and thus were the Lamanites and the Nephites divided.”
6. This narrow strip of wilderness was the single dividing line between the Nephites and the Lamanites, even where it curved upward along the coast of both seas.
    Thus, we now have a clear picture of six important benchmarks; 1) the Land of Zarahemla was to the north, 2) the Land of Nephi to the south, of 3) a Narrow Strip of Wilderness was in between, 4) that ran from the sea east to the sea West, and 5) curved up along the seashores encroaching into the Land of Zarahemla, that 6) divided the Lamanites and the Nephites.
A rough drawing of the Land as Mormon describes it, including some lands (like Gideon, and the unnamed land between Zarahemla and Bountiful) that we learn about later in Mormon’s descriptions. Note the “round about” nature of both the east and west wildernesses, keeping in mind that a wilderness is a “tract of unoccupied land without human improvements or permanent occupation”
    Evidently, considering that information not sufficient, Mormon adds more regarding that area in the wilderness that ran “round about” up along the seashores:
    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” (Alma 22:28).
    We now have a seventh benchmark or landmark:
7. The wilderness area ran northward along the seashore in the west, all the way from the far south where Lehi landed, up past the Land of Nephi, and even into the Land of Zarahemla.
    Mormon continues now about the east coast: And also there were many Lamanites on the east by the seashore, whither the Nephites had driven them” (Alma 22:29).
    So not only did the wilderness that curved up “round about” along the seashore in the west, but also in the east, which Mormon, looking back over the records to a time about which he is writing but not during his lifetime, clarifies what the two coastal wildernesses meant to the Nephites.
Nearly surrounded, a comment Mormon makes from his military viewpoint that the Nephites, allowing the incursion of the Lamanites in the east and west wildernesses nearly had the Nephites in Zarahemla surrounded
    Thus Mormon wrote: And thus the Nephites were nearly surrounded by the Lamanites…” (Alma 22:29).
    Looking at this in hindsight with his military eye, Mormon realizes that something needed to have been done—which the Nephites later did when Moroni drove the Lamanites out of these east and west wildernesses a few years later, driving them south into their own lands, which were south of Zarahemla (Alma 50:7), and south of the narrow strip of wilderness. To ensure the Nephites would not be nearly surrounded again, Moroni “caused that the inhabitants who were in the Land of Zarahemla and in the land round about should go forth into the east wilderness even to the borders by the seashore, and possess the land” (Alma 50:9).
    However, at this moment, in Mormon’s mindset (we don’t know if these words were in Alma’s writings since Mormon is inserting these nine verses on his own), Mormon looking backward in time, sees how the Lamanites could have had the Nephites nearly surrounded, by encroaching into the wilderness to the west and along the east coast evidently to a much larger amount and distance.
    Mormon then goes on to qualify his comment of the Nephites being nearly surrounded, by adding: “…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” (Alma 22:29).
    Somewhere around this point, Mormon decides to expand upon his description, by showing the relationship to other parts of the Land of Promise (Alma 22:30-34) before returning to the account in Alma he was abridging (Alma 22:35).
With Lamanites controlling both the south, east and also part of the west of the Land of Zarahemla, Mormon fully understood the importance of the Lamanite encroachment, as did Moroni later who drove the Lamanites out of the east and west wildernesses (Alma 50:11)
    Evidently, from his military viewpoint, Mormon saw the narrow strip of wilderness as such a division between the Nephites and Lamanites, that it provided them some type of definitive chokepoint or blockage to crossing, such as a wide canyon, deep ravine, or cliffs and mountains, that he saw the existence of Lamanties in the wilderness regions to the east and west in the Land of Zarahemla as a real threat to encirclement. That is, allowing the Lamanites to live in these two wildernesses gave Mormon a concern regarding the defense of the Land of Zarahemla against who Mormon considered to be their enemy (Alma 22:34), and one that he considered innumerable (Alma 58:8).


  1. Very good explanation. I will link this onto Facebook. Btw, I just thought of this. Before she died I talked Venice Priddis several times on the phone. I am sure you consider her work too speculative, and I agree. But her book was on the right track by your understanding. She told me she had another book she was preparing, but I have never seen it. She said it had a few really good further evidences. I think she said it was with a publisher overseas, so maybe when she died the matter ended. But there could be manuscript versions of it around. Are you aware of this second book?

    1. I don't understand why you folks have not embraced Venice Priddis book with more enthusiasm. I find her book very intriguing. I think she has found the location of the city of Zarahemla for example and well as other cities. When you compare the scriptural record with her maps they fit very well.

      I compared the scriptural record with Sorensen's book years ago and numerous problems right from the start. The same with the North American model which is complete nonsense. Haven't found that with her book. Ira

    2. Ira. Do not get me wrong. I was excited about her book long before I saw Del's book. And it is still very intriguing. And to be fair I am sure she would admit her speculating could be off. She did the best she could. She lived close to BYU but except for maybe one professor they ignored and even ridiculed her. But I find the Mesoamerican model the one that should be ridiculed.

    3. I totally agree erichard. I took Sorensen's book and found that he was 180 degrees wrong on his maps as compared to the scriptural record. Here we have Priddis book that logically shows where many of the cities are located. There is good evidence in many cases that she is correct. The wall for example mentioned in Helaman has been found for example. It's a marvelous book.

      The reason these byu profs don't accept it is because they would have to defend the idea that the South American continent came up out of the ocean 2,000 years ago. And that is something they can't and won't do. Ira

    4. Wait, its only half as bad as you are saying! It's 90 degrees off, not 180. Right? But that is still unbelievable. And only the Amazon basin came up out of water as the Andes rose, thus forming present day South America. If it takes faith to believe the Book of Mormon is a true record anyway, why worry that it also takes faith to believe the science evidences that support it being true? Other scientist reject both anyway.

  2. Thank you for bringing her to our attention--she deserves much more recognition for her work than anyone gives her as far as I know. I became aware of Venice Priddis (by the way she emphatically pronounced her name Pred-des, like in predecessor I am told) through a friend of hers this past year--I never saw her book or knew of her work until about four months ago, nor did Art Kocherhans until much later in his work. After reading over her book, I found it extremely interesting that the three of us all came to pretty much the same general conclusions through our own independent works (Priddis 1975; Kocherhans (1989) and mine (2009) completely unaware of each other and did so by the same course--following exactly what was written in the scriptural record. I also find it interesting that all three of us ran across Nephi's writing of Jacob's comment abut being on an island and accepted it without question--her geologic map of ancient Andean South America may heave been accurate via 1975 knowledge, but so much more research has been accomplished between then and now, the map we have illustrated of the craton locations,inland seas, etc., of South America is far more accurate. I never met her, she died about 7 or 8 years ago. I actually tracked her down through her obituary (which is on the internet). From looking at her work recently, we different here and there, but actually surprisingly close. I understand through a friend of hers that she was very disappointed that her work in South America was never acknowledged to any high degree. Recently I have taken to studying her location of cities, etc., and maps and find in many ways they fit well, so I have begun independent research on locations based on her suggestions--something I have avoided doing (looking for specific city settings, etc) for many years. So far, I find some of them remarkably accurate in regard to fitting the scriptural record and are the best fit I have run across of anyone's speculation.

    1. Thanks Del, I can't wait for your further analysis of not only her work but your additional knowledge of the South American model. Ira

  3. With me, it is a constantly growing process. I am amazed at how much more research is being done in South America today, how many more advanced papers are being written, and how much more interest there is in the area. When I first looked into this back around 1987-8, you could hardly find anything anywhere I spent nearly ten years in libraries around the country in my travels looking for old books where the most accurate info was found--but the pickings were slim. Today, there is a treasure trove of information available. Funny thing is, the more I read and study, especially in new areas or about new ideas, the more it all fits into the scriptural record. Like the Lord said, in the the latter days He would reveal things above the earth and below the earth, etc. Personally, I think that is happening now.