Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Topography of the Land Northward – More of Omer’s Journey

When the Jaredite barges landed, the people went forth upon the land and began to till the earth (Ether 6:12). From there, Mormon tells us the Jaredites went up into the South Wilderness (Alma 22:31), and settled in the Land of Moron (Ether 7:5).
The Jaredite barges, under power of the wind and waves (ocean currents) would have been driven ashore along the south coast of the Santa Elena Peninsula, the further most western point of the South American coast where currents continually drive floating debris ashore

This, of course, would have placed the initial Jaredite settlement, the city of Moron in the Land of Moron, the seat of the Jaredite Kingdom, in the Jaredite or Land Northward south wilderness, which would have been just to the north of the Nephite Land of Desolation (Ether 7:6) in the southern end of the Land Northward (Alma 22:29-30).
    It was from this seat of the kingdom that Omer was driven out and told to flee by the Lord as was discussed in an earlier article in this series. Now in discussing Omer’s route of travel, we earlier showed he went northward toward what is now Quito and encountered the Quaillabamba Gorge, forcing him to turn eastward toward Ablom and the sea (Ether 9:3). The reason he did not go south is quite simple, but one that does not show up on any map and that is because of the terrain to the south of Moron—the area called Desolation by the Nephites.
    Beyond the narrow neck of land, was an area today called Loja in southern Ecuador, and from there to Cajamarca in northern Peru it is a stretch of country that is not easy to traverse even today.
The northern part is a tangle of peaks, knots, canyons and narrow valleys that make movement and communication between the two countries today extremely difficult. In the time of the Jaredites and later Nephites, it would have been practically impossible—one of the reasons that the Jaredites never found a reason to move southward into the Land Southward, other than to hunt, and the Nephites to move northward into the Land Northward for nearly 600 years.
    Even today, no boundary has officially been settled between Peru and Ecuador along this rugged area between the two countries, since it would hardly be worth quarreling about. Even the streams have difficulty in finding a direction in seeking an outlet, and finally emerge into the Marañon valley. Today this area is sparsely inhabited, nearly devoid of roads, even Indian trails being extremely difficult and little used. Even the country south of Cajamarca, from Quito to Cuzco, a distance of 1200 miles, is the wildest, roughest country on the American continent.
    There would have been little appeal to draw Omer to the south of Moron and much for him to head northward. Heading north, as Venice Priddis points out in her book in a footnote on page 55, “the southern part of the central plateau is arid, with a very light rainfall. There are no streams except from melting snows. Further north the rainfall is heavier, giving rise of a considerable number of small streams, some of which help to form Ecuador's three, great westward flowing river systems.”
Flooding during rainy season

These three rivers, the Guayas, which is part of the Guayaquil estuary and gulf in the south, the Esmeraldas in the north, of which the Guaillambamba is its largest tributary in the Sierra, and flows west before emptying in the Pacific near the city of Esmeraldas, and the Mira, also in the north, and flowing into the Pacific. It is important to note that during the rainy season, which lasts from January to April, these rivers that drain into the Pacific flood and merge together and often cause great damage. There was not much boat traffic on these rivers other than short distance canoes since frequent waterfalls limited such travel before the Europeans arrived.
    Obviously, the further northward Omer went, at least a portion of his journey would have been through overcast and colder climate, no doubt with heavy thunderstorms along the way, especially in the afternoons, that would have swelled the numerous rivers and streams encountered, to be forded or bypassed for the past several days of their travel.
Cerro Imbabura floating in the clouds in the morning light

When passing Imbabura, if the day was clear, it would have seemed as though the mountain floated on the clouds as they looked northward off to their left. And to the right they could have seen the third highest mountain in Ecuador, Volcán Cayambe, with its permanent snow cap despite being on the equator, and beyond that Reventador, which likely showed some white ash plume from its typically active cone.
(Left) The 18,996-foot Volcano Mount Cayambe; (Right) Volcán El Reventador

Yellow Line shows Omer’s journey set in today’s existence of volcanoes (blue) and Jaredite hills (black), the latter mentioned in scripture: Imbabura as Rama/Cumorah; Cayambe as the hill Comnor; and Hermoso as the hill of Shim
Continuing on toward Ablom along the seashore, Omer’s travels would have taken him past a forest of Frailejon (Espeletia) plants hundreds of years old living at high altitude and forming a woodland in this páramo, growing on trunks that can reach 20 feet or more in height. Their yellow flowers are very similar to sunflowers and the soft, hairy leaves which serve to protect the plant from the cold climate, do not fall off but remain enclosed around the stem.
A forest of hairy-leafed Frailejon plants surrounded by tussock grasses and cushion plants

Situated on the high, moist, moorland where fog shrouds the moors most of the year, they create a unique highland plateau high in the Andes, where Spectacled bears roam and and an extremely lush birdlife now exists—no doubt started from the fowls of the air trapped by the Jaredites and brought to the promised land (Ether 2:2).
    Further north is the border area with Colombia, showing terrain that is consistently found in northern Ecuador where huge quebradas, the deep ravines of this country that are typically dry or have a small river along the base of the deep gullies or gorges most of the year, but fill with fast-moving torrents during a rain, that cut across the land, forcing travelers to turn aside and seek alternate routes.
One of the many steep-sided ravines (quebradas) that run across the northern Ecuadorian landscape and into Colombia
When it rains, these quebradas become torrential rivers flowing through the deep-gullied ravines

To the North, Omer and his household could see vast flatlands, probably now filled with water and overflowing from rains and snowmelt, and the breaks in the high mountain peaks where these rivers flow westward into the Pacific. This is the same area that, flooded, stopped the Jaredite armies in their later battles when Shiz fought Coriantumr (Ether 15:8), turning them back toward the south and Ogath (suggesting that the present sight of Otavalo, to the west of Imbabura and Lake San Rafael, may have been Ogath). Today the Sierra Trunk or highway 35 in Ecuador crosses the International Border with Colombia to become the Western Trunk highway or National Route 25 (part of the Pan-American Highway), and is the only road that crosses into Colombia, passing across these flatlandsor llanos that cover nearly sixty percent of Colombia's total land area, mostly in the south and eastfrom Ecuador to Colombia and beyond. From their height, Omer's party could see  the Colombian Massif off to the northwest, an extremely cold region—an area even today that few people traverse because of the rugged terrain and impenetrable páramo environmentwhere the Andes break apart into separate cordilleras once again forming the 15,000-foot high peaks of folded stratified rocks of the Cordillera Oriental, and the 17,000-foot high peaks of the Central Cordillera, where no passes lower than 10,825-feet exist. These two cordilleras are separated by the deep rift of the Cauca Valley, and beyond them, out of sight of Omer and his people, the lower range of the Cordillera Occidental.
The Land of Many Waters


  1. Small typo in the 3rd paragraph Del. I think you meant Guiallabamba gorge rather than Quaillabamba gorge. And just fyi if anyone was trying to look it up on google or google earth- I found it under the spelling: Guayllabamba.

  2. Sorry if it is old news and has been posted or referenced in one of the articles I have yet to read, but I walked into a seminary building the other day and saw the official map "Possible Book of Mormon Sites in Relation to Each Other." It had the *disclaimer saying not to try and place it in any geographical location, but I admit that I did. I felt slightly guilty, like a rogue member of the church, unconsciously noticing the uncanny resemblance at least in general layout to Andean South America. And it is church published and approved, only based on "internal evidence."

    Like I say - no big deal to you, but I found myself mentally nudging a city this way or that, or moving a mountain over a bit, and comparing Omer's path, etc. One thing is for looks nothing like the Great Lakes or Heartland, and north was definitely north.

    1. Wow. That certainly does look similar to Del's map.

    2. The thing that bugs me though is they put Zarahemla in the middle of the continent. They ought to be able to get it right. It's near the sea coast.

    3. The "seminary" map above more closely resembles the BYU map at:

      BYU received the mandate to quit teaching the Mesoamerican Book of Mormon Geography. They skirted the issue by rotating their map 90 degrees to get North and South right, and declared it doesn't represent any real world location. Unfortunately the Meso's have sufficient influence to get this map and Meso paintings in our Church Publications and Buildings. You should doubt the implied "church approved".

    4. DeVon, I do accept it as church approved because it's in Gospel Library as official church education system materials and must be approved to be there. But, as they say, it isn't meant to be applied to a given geography. But it certainly looks a lot like a given geography, minus details. Even the narrow neck of land looks a lot more like it should than the Mesoamerican version.

    5. Here's something else I have found interesting. John Sorenson, mesoamerican proponent, says he started with an internal map before trying to match to a land. His internal map actually looks far more like the Andes area than it does Mesoamerica. He even has North actually pointing North in his internal map- and if you leave it that way, you could almost overlay his internal map over the andes area. Here's a link to his internal map:

      It would appear that only after he could not make the internal map fit his predetermined Mesoamerica did he decide to change the cardinal directions. If he really had a legitimate basis for changing the cardinal directions - he should have changed them on his internal map too- but he didn't. In my opinion, his internal map fits Del's Andes model closer than it fits John's own Mesoamerican model.

  3. David: Thank you. The spelling is of two different locations: Quillabamba, is a small town in southern Peru near Cuzco along the Sacred Valley; Quayllabamba is the name of a river in Ecuador, which runs through the Quayllabamba Gorge and the adjacent town is also spelled Quayllabamba in Ecuador, which is consistent with the spelling of Guayaquil. There is also a Plain along this gorge area which is also called Quayllabamba. In Kichwa, the name is Wayllapampa, meaning "Green Plain." The original spelling on old maps of Ecuador, which I have one, show it to be spelled Quaillabamba.