Friday, December 14, 2018

Why Was Ammon’s 16-man Expedition to Find Zarahemla Lost for Forty Days?

King Mosiah being  wearied by his people over the missing Nephites who returned to the city of Nephi
In the year 121 BC, king Mosiah II, the son of king Benjamin, being wearied by the Nephites in Zarahemla to know what had happened to their brethren who returned to the city of Nephi some time earlier, authorized sixteen strong men to “go up to the land of Lehi-Nephi to inquire concerning their brethren” (Mosiah 7:1-2). As the scriptural record states of this:
    “On the morrow they started to go up, having with them one Ammon, he being a strong and mighty man, and a descendant of Zarahemla; and he was also their leader. And now, they knew not the course they should travel in the wilderness to go up to the land of Lehi-Nephi; therefore they wandered many days in the wilderness, even forty days did they wander. And when they had wandered forty days they came to a hill, which is north of the land of Shilom, and there they pitched their tents” (Mosiah 7:2-5, emphasis added).
    Now, Ammon and his men had a mission—to find the people who had left Zarahemla and gone back to the city of Nephi nearly three generations earlier. They were not dallying around, wandering about to see the countryside as they traveled. They would have taken a direct route toward where they understood Zarahemla to have been.
    The distance from Zarahemla to the city of Nephi, would not have warranted such a long journey taking a direct route. After all, later when the Lamanites came down to the Land of Zarahemla to do battle on numerous occasions, it would not have taken them 40 days down to battle, and 40 days back to their homeland. Therefore, the travel time had to be much shorter.
    However, and for whatever reason, Ammon and his group were forty days wandering in the wilderness before they reached a hill that overlooked the land of Shilom and the land and city of Nephi (Mosiah 7:7). One would think that on an assignment like this from their king to locate their brethren and learn what had taken place with them, they certainly would have taken a direct route and made haste to learn the condition of their brethren that could be reported back to their king in Zarahemla. But obviously, they did not.
    Evidently, they started out in what they considered a direction toward the city of Zarahemla, but obviously became lost, for “they knew not the course they should travel in the wilderness.” Obviously, not long after leaving Zarahemla, or the land of Zarahemla, they became lost, or at least reached a point of not knowing what exact direction to take to find the city of Nephi. How much knowledge they had of the city’s location is unknown. However, we do know that when Mosiah left the city of Nephi about 60 or so years earlier, he and those who would follow him, “were led by many preachings and prophesyings, continually being admonished by the word of God, and led by the power of his arm, through the wilderness, until they came down into the land which is called the land of Zarahemla” (Omni 1:13).
Children of Israel wandered in the desert for forty years 

This, of course, sounds like anything but a straight movement, and more like the Children of Israel were led in the wilderness for 40 years. In any event, the scriptural account tells us that Ammon and his men “wandered many days in the wilderness, even forty days did they wander.”
    Now the term “wander” has a very specific meaning: “to walk or move in a leisurely, casual, or aimless way.” In fact, in the 1828 Webster dictionary, it states: “To rove (wander); to ramble here and there without any certain course or object in view; as, to wander over the fields; to wander about the town, or about the country,” and also “To travel over without a certain course” (emphasis added).
    Seemingly, Ammon and his men were wandering without certain course, aimlessly rambling along here and there, hoping to find the city of Nephi. In this case, “ramble” means to rove or wander carelessly or irregularly; as, “to ramble over the country…moving without restraint and without certain direction.”
    So why were they wandering about, without direction, going or moving from place to place without any determinate plan? This would hardly typify a group of men on a mission from their king that would have required expediency.
    In addition, why did it take them forty days? Surely, there were men or leaders in Zarahemla who had knowledge of the journey their forefathers had taken from the city of Nephi down to Zarahemla. Surely, in a record keeping society as the Nephites (Helaman 3:15), someone’s journal or writing would have some type of information regarding the whereabouts of the city of Nephi.
    If we superimpose this idea onto the Mesoamerican model, movement from their city of Nephi, today’s Guatemala City (Kaminaljuju), northwest to the Land and City of Zarahemla, travel would have been through almost direct narrow valleys, with limited cross-valleys, making it almost impossible to  have gotten lost; as for the Heartland, from northwestern Tennessee to Illinois is basically a level landscape, as is the area in western New York for the Great Lakes model, again almost impossible for Ammon and his team to become lost in either of these locations. In other words, there would be little difficulty in moving from their city of Nephi in either of these models to their city of Zarahemla. However, Ammon and his team wandered for forty days trying to find the city of Nephi.
    Now the term “wander,” as used in Mosiah, means they walked aimlessly, without direction, evidently confined by difficult and perhaps periodic impassable terrain. Otherwise, they would not have taken forty days to reach the hill overlooking the city of Nephi.
A large portion of southern Peru is covered with contiguous mountain ranges, ridges, and peaks, with very few passes through which men could have passed in Nephite times 

Thus, we come to the location in South America, in southern Peru, moving from the area of Cuzco (city of Nephi) to Pachacamac (the city of Zarahemla), near Lima, and across the narrow strip of wilderness, which is extremely difficult wilderness in places, impassable terrain through the mountains, canyons, and steep cliffs, making such slow and aimless wandering a reality as Ammon would have been wandering around trying to find ways to pass through each mountain ridge.
    In this area of Peru, the land is deeply mountainous between these cities of Nephi and Zarahemla, except for the final few miles of coastal lands, which were basically flat and level sloping from the foothills down to the coast. Ammon would have taken canyons and river gorges, or traveled across tabletops, looking for passes through contiguous ridges, crags, summits and peaks. No doubt they were forced around precipices, deep ravines, and steep inclines, while trying to find ways to ford wide rivers.
Terrain of Steep Cliffs and mountains, numerous ridges, and few passes 

In such type of travel, they would be meandering, or wandering, across the land, moving from one landform to another, crossing saddles valleys and buttes, while looking for gaps, notches or low areas in the cliffs and mountains, seeking some way of continuing their planned direction. It might not be that they didn’t know where they were headed, but that they couldn’t find a way to get through the terrain to their location.
Finding passes through contiguous mountain ranges can be difficult, forcing directions and meandering to find them both difficult and time-consuming 

When people on a mission in antiquity took a long time to go reasonably short distances, the obvious thing to look for is the type of terrain in which they were “lost.” Obviously, the Great Lakes and Heartland locations are not consistent with such a situation, and Mesoamerica not much more. Andean South America is very consistent with long travel periods looking for mountain passes and means of reaching a destination.


  1. You can add this to the list of Andes model bulls eyes.

    In dogma evidence is irrelevant, so the fact this this one point alone seriously undermines the other theories will be brushed off and probably snickered at by the main pushers of those theories.

  2. The same goes for Limhi's men going the other direction, from the city of Nephi to look for the city of Zarahemla and completely missing it in both directions of travel. They got all the way to old Jaradite territory and back without running into anybody.