Friday, May 4, 2018

The City of Desolation – Part II: Where Were the Cities of Teancum and Boaz?

After several unsuccessful attempts at dislodging the Nephites from the City of Desolation near the narrow pass into the Land Northward following the treaty between them, the Lamanites finally attacked in such numbers that they overwhelmed the Nephites and drove them out of the City of Desolation (Mormon 4:2). The Nephites fled before the Lamanites to the city of Teancum—no doubt named for one of Moroni’s top lieutenants, who had earlier killed the defector Morianton and defeated his army of dissenters trying to reach the Land Northward.
Teancum was by the seashore, Desolation near the northern entrance to the narrow pass, and Boaz further to the north-northeast

According to Mormon’s description, the city of Teancum was located “in the borders by the seashore” and near the city of Desolation (Mormon 4:3). This means, “to be near the seashore,” that the city was likely to the west of the narrow neck and west of the City of Desolation along the seashore or coast of the Sea west in the Land Northward.
    For those who place the city of Boaz nearer the opening to the narrow pass which led into the Land Southward, where the city of Desolation was located, we need to keep in mind that the Nephites were driven out of the City of Desolation and fled to the city of Teancum, which should mean it was the closest city to Desolation and provided the quickest path to safety. Nor can we place Boaz in the west with Teancum, since the Lamanites, from their previous experience of the Nephites fleeing to Teancum, would have cut off that route when they gathered this second time to retake the city of Desolation with such superior forces (Mormon 4:17,19).
    This would place Boaz either to the north or northeast from the narrow neck/pass area. For those who might think Boaz was the “great city” the Lamanites built, these events would show that Boaz was too far from the narrow neck to qualify for the description Moroni leave us about the location of Boaz, which was “built by the narrow neck of land” (Ether 10:20).
Elevation of the City of Desolation where the Nephites were located and the area at the south of the narrow pass where the Lamanites were located up in the hills or mountains

Regarding the elevations of this area, Mormon gives us some insight into the differences between the land they occupied to the south of the narrow neck and the land the Nephites occupied to the north of the narrow neck. Consequently, after a ten year hiatus from war and battles and following the treaty entered into between the Nephites and the Lamanites, the Lamanites renewed their attacks through the narrow pass into the Land Northward where the Nephites were located. As Mormon states:
    “In the three hundred and sixty and first year the Lamanites did come down to the city of Desolation to battle against us; and it came to pass that in that year we did beat them, insomuch that they did return to their own lands again” (Mormon 3:7, emphasis added).
     The key phrase here is “they came down,” which is repeated in “in the three hundred and sixty and second year they did come down again to battle” (Mormon 3:8, emphasis added).    These two elevational descriptions are supported by the later mention of the Nephites who, after boasting of their strength in defeating the Lamanites and driving them back up to their own lands, the Nephites swore “that they would go up unto their enemies to battle, and avenge themselves of the blood of their brethren” (Mormon 3:14, emphasis added).
    So in these three examples, we find that the Lamanites came down to battle the Nephites and the Nephites went up to battle the Lamanites. Thus, it seems evident that the Lamanites were on higher ground and came down to battle the Npehites in the area of the city of Desolation, and that the Nephites went up to battle the Lamanites in their area south of the narrow neck.
    In fact, some military people looking at these passages and events as well as their results, have suggested that the reason the Nephites defeated the Lamanites twice in their own “lower” level, and were easily defeated when going “up” to the Lamanite area, was that the difference in elevation was great enough to alter the strength of the group going up or down. That is, when fighting on their own ground where they had become used to living for at least ten years, the Nephites were victorious. However, once they went up to the Lamanite lands, that change in elevation worked against them and they were defeated.
    I recall a somewhat similar experience in a far less threatening manner when our baseball team won the Church championship in Southern California and in those days, the Church held an all-Church tournament in Salt Lake City area, so we were invited up to SLC to play in the tournament. We eventually lost the championship to a team from Canada, but in the process, going from sea level in Los Angeles where we all had lived and played, up to over 4,000 feet in Salt Lake, those first few games were exhaustive. We found that triples turned into doubles, and doubles turned into singles because of the limited air at the 4,000 foot level for those of us born and raised at sea level.
    Whether or not that was a deciding factor in the battle between the Nephites and Lamanites is not known, but it is easy to see where it well may have played an important factor. However, the fact that up and down are distinctly mentioned in a short distance area is important and suggestive of different elevations—when the Nephites did go up to battle the Lamanites, Mormon says, “And now it came to pass that in the three hundred and sixty and third year the Nephites did go up with their armies to battle against the Lamanites, out of the land Desolation” (Mormon 4:1).
That is, the Nephites, in the City and area of Desolation, left that land and went up to battle the Nephites who were in the south end of the narrow neck and pass. Stated differently, the Nephites, with their armies, left the land of Desolation and went up to battle the Lamanites in their location to the south. And when they lost that battle, “they were driven back again to the land of Desolation” (Mormon 4:2).
    Now, while the Nephites were wearied from their battle in the higher ground of the Lamanite location, then retreated back down to the City of Desolation, a fresh Lamanite army came upon them and defeated the Nephites entirely, driving them out of the city of Desolation and capturing it for themselves (Mormon 4:2).
    Thus, the Lamanites to the south of the narrow neck were in higher ground than the Nephites, who were to the north of the narrow neck. At least that is how Mormon describes it, and we can compare his way of description up and down by a similar descriptive sequence involved when the defector Amalakiah joined the Lamanites and tried to finagle his way into leadership and eventually become king. At one point in his nefarious plan, Amalakiah tries to get Lehonti, the leader of the Lamanite army positioned along the top of Mount Antipas, to come down the mountain in Alma 47:10-14. The term “down” is used 8 times and up 1 time, and in each case, correctly signifying up and down in elevation.
    In other areas as well, Mormon uses “up” and “down” to illustrate elevation. Even Nephi used this terminology when telling us of the events he and his brothers had in dealing with Laban when sent back to Jerusalem to obtain the Brass Plates. When telling Nephi he was to return to Jerusalem to obtain the plates, Lehi then states: “and bring them down hither into the wilderness” (1 Nephi 3:4, emphasis added). Once in Jerusalem, and having failed to obtain the plates, Nephi comes up with a plan to use Lehi’s wealth he left behind. So they “went down to the land of our inheritance, and we did gather together our gold, and our silver, and our precious things. And after we had gathered these things together, we went up again unto the house of Laban” (1 Nephi 3:22-23).
    The point being that the Lamanites in the Land Southward, near the narrow pass that led into the Land Northward were at a high elevation than the Nephites, who were in the Land Northward near the narrow pass that led into the Land Southward. This is seen by the illustration below:
The green lands along the Gulf of Guayaquil, where the Narrow Pass is located, was basically at sea level (officially 0 to 300 feet); the land where the Nephites were to the north of the pass was also at sea level (0-300 feet); the area to the south (tan to brown) where the Lamanites were located, up in the hills was 2500-6000 feet and in some areas as high as 13,000 feet. Now between these two areas, the narrow pass extended through this neck area, meaning the Nephites went up to the Lamanite area and the Lamanites went down to the Nephite area

Thus, the Nephites, along the coastal area were at a lower elevation than the Lamanites, who were in the hills/mountains to the south, making Mormon’s description exactly correct.


  1. I have a question. The Cojitambo Ruins are said to date back to 500 BC. I know that dates are not easy to nail down. But that would be around the end of the Jaredites but before Nephite occupation in the area of the narrow neck. It looks to be south of proposed Boaz, and east of proposed Desolation, but within the "narrow neck" area. However, it is in higher lands and could be pre cataclysm. That would suggest that the pre cataclysm narrow neck had highlands and was pretty wide (a very hard day and a half walk). From the current west coast passed Cuenca to what would have been the east coast is probably over 120 miles. Are the dates likely wrong on this ruin to have it in this area? There shouldn't be anything in the narrow neck region that far from the west coast dating before Christ, right?

    In trying to solve the layout puzzle, I wonder if the west coastline was further east, or cut inland more dramatically pre cataclysm?

    And though the Land of Desolation is mentioned pre cataclysm, is the City of Desolation a later Nephite construction, possibly on land that was not exposed until after Christ? Most Ecuadorian ruins seem to be in highlands rather than coastal. I'm just trying to envision the layout.

    Also, isn't the proposed Teancum a difficult place to flee to, considering the size of the Guayas River?

    I love these geographical articles, by the way. Thanks!

  2. Todd: Wait until our post entitled: "The Cañari, Tuncahuán, and Cojitambo of Ecuador" appears on Sunday, May 27, for information about Cojitambo. If that doesn't answer your questions, ask them again.

    1. I'll look forward to it.

      Besides, I have to keep reminding myself when it comes to BC landscapes in this part of the world...

      3 Nephi 8:12 But behold, there was a more great and terrible destruction in the land northward; for behold, the whole face of the land was changed...