Sunday, March 15, 2020

Cities of the Land of Nephi

Somewhere around 589 B.C., the Nephite colony made landfall after their voyage across the “many waters.” The first thing they did after landing was pitch their tents (1 Nephi 18:23), then they planted their seeds “brought from the land of Jerusalem” (1 Nephi 18:24). After that they did a little exploring of the land (1 Nephi 18:25). At this point it must have been a time of relaxing for Nephi was commanded to make plates and duplicate the writing already engraven on the plates of Lehi (1 Nephi 19:1-2), and then add to them what took place in the Land of Promise (1 Nephi 19:4).
    Sometime over the next few years, Lehi died (2 Nephi 4:12), and the persecution against Nephi by his elder brothers and the sons of Ishmael increased until they threatened his life (2 Nephi 5:4) and the Lord warned Nephi to flee into the wilderness with all those who would go with him (2 Nephi 5:5). They took their tents and possessions (2 Nephi 5:7) and seeds (2 Nephi 5:11), the records and the Liahona (2 Nephi 5:12), as well as the sword of Laban (2 Nephi 5:14).
Nephi was commanded to flee his brothers and take those who would go with him

Nephi and those with him traveled in the wilderness for “many days” until they came to a land where the Lord wanted him and the Liahona would have guided him. There they settled down and those with him wanted to call the place the Land of Nephi (2 Nephi 5:8). They then built a city they called the City of Nephi (Alma 23:11), and they built buildings, using wood, iron, copper, steel, gold, and precious ores (2 Nephi 5:15). They also built a temple like the temple of Solomon (2 Nephi 5:16).
    Nephi died about 544 B.C. (Jacob 1:1, 12), probably at the age of 75 to 80 years, with Jacob about 50. Over the next one hundred and fifty years, the people of Nephi had waxed strong in the land (Jarom 1:5) and were scattered on much of the face of the Land (Jarom 1:6). Jarom, Jacob’s grandson, also speaks of “sweeping the Lamanites out of our lands” and “began to fortify our cities” and that they “multiplied exceedingly, and spread upon the face of the land” (Jarom 1:7-8). They built in wood, in iron, and in copper and brass, and in steel (Jarom 1:8).
    The results of this time is to have built many cities throughout the Land of Promise in the areas about the City of Nephi, to the north of the area the Lamanites controlled, i.e., the Land of First Inheritance (Alma 22:28).
    Following Jarom’s time, there was his son, Omni, and then his son, Amaron, and about 311 BC, in which the more wicked part of the Nephites had been destroyed. By 279 BC. The record then went to his brother, Chemish, who passed the record on to his son, Abinadom, who passed it on to his son, Amaleki.
    Now Amaleki was the grandson of Chemish, or the second generation, making the year somewhere around 200 B.C. when Amaleki records Mosiah being “warned of the Lord to flee out of the land of Nephi” (Omni 1:12) with as many as would “hearken unto the voice of the Lord” and go with him. They were “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).
The Nephites spread across the land, always looking to distant areas to settle

Thus, in the nearly 400 years between 570 B.C. and about 200 B.C., the Nephites lived, waxed strong, and spread across the face of the land in the Land of Nephi. They built many cities, mined gold and silver, and worked in metallurgy with iron and steel, and precious ores in their constructions. There were numerous cities and villages (Alma 23:14) in the Land of Nephi, as well as separate lands referred to as the Land of Ishmael, so named after the sons of Ishmael (Alma 17:19), and the Land of Middoni (Alma 20:2), the Land of Jerusalem (Alma 21:1) which was named after Jerusalem in Palestine, the Land of Mormon (Alma 21:1), the Land of Shilom (Alma 23:12), the Land of Shemlon (Alma 23:12), the Land of Amulon, the Land of Helam (Alma 24:1), and the Land of Midian (Alma 24:5).
    There was also a city of Nephi (Alma 23:11), the city of Jerusalem (Alma 21:2), the city of Lemuel, and the city of Shimnilom (Alma 23:12), and there was a village named Ani-Anti (Alma 21:11), which was somewhere between the city of Jerusalem and the Land of Middoni (Alma 21:12). In addition, there were “regions round about” the Land of Middoni (Alma 21:13).
    It is not known if there were other cities and lands within the Land of Nephi, for only these are mentioned in the record. The point is, however, that this Land of Nephi was a large area, with separate lands and numerous cities within its borders. It would appear from the record that the Land of Nephi encompassed many other lands, and even kingdoms, for the Land of Ishmael was a separate kingdom under king Lamoni, and the Land of Middoni under king Antiomno, yet all were in the Land of Nephi where Lamoni’s unnamed father “was king over all the land” (Alma 20:8).
    Once the Nephite left their lands and followed Mosiah northward and down from the mountains into the Land of Zarahemla, they left behind numerous villages and cities within the Land of Nephi. Obviously, there were other lands within the Land of Nephi, which stretched from the east sea to the west sea (Alma 22:27) and from the Land of Zarahemla on the north to the Lehi landing site along the west sea in the south (Alma 22:28,33). The entire Land of Nephi was surrounded by water, as was the Land of Zarahemla to the north, except for a small neck of land between the land and the Land of Desolation to the north of Bountiful (Alma 22:31).
Nephites laying out the bounds of a new city

The many cities within the Land of Nephi were built by the Nephites in their nearly 400 years occupying these lands. Somewhere around 200 B.C., Mosiah was warned of the Lord to flee out of the Land of Nephi “and as many as would hearken unto the voice of the Lord should also depart out of the land with him, into the wilderness” (Omni 1:12).
    We are not told what percentage of the Nephites in the Land of Nephi went with Mosiah, and what percentage remained behind. We do know that those left behind were quite wicked for the Lord to warn Mosiah to flee from among them. Thus, the Land of Nephi was left in the hands of wicked Nephites, and soon the Lamanites overran that land and either subjugated the remaining wicked Nephites, absorbed them into their Lamanite culture, or killed them.
    By the time of Benjamin, Mosiah’s son, the Lamanites who then occupied the Land of Nephi, evidently had come down to battle with the Nephites in Zarahemla and conquered some of that Land, for king Benjamin and the Nephites of Zarahemla did eventually “contend against the Lamanites until they had driven them out of all the lands of their inheritance” (Words of Mormon 1:14).
    Now there was a wilderness that divided the Land of Nephi from the Land of Zarahemla (Alma 27:14), which was a narrow strip of land (Alma 22:27) that ran from the east sea clear to the west sea (Alma 22:27), with the Land of Nephi to the south running from the sea east to the sea west (Alma 22:27), and the Land of Zarahemla on the north of this wilderness (Alma 22:27). Now this narrow strip of wilderness could not have been too narrow, for Ammon led the Anti-Nephi-Lehies not only into this wilderness, but that they traveled a distance within the wilderness and “came over to the borders of the land” of Zarahemla where they stopped and waited while Ammon traveled “forth into the land of Zarahemla” (Alma 27:15).
    Within the Land of Nephi there was a Land of Jerusalem (Alma 21:1) on the borders of the Land of Mormon where the Nephite outcasts, the Amalekites and Amulonites who had joined with the Lamanites, built a great city which was called Jerusalem (Alma 21:2), so named after the Jerusalem in Palestine (Alma 21:1), which was near the borders of the Land of Mormon.
This city of Jerusalem is the only city within the Land of Nephi that is described as a “great city” other than the City of Nephi where Nephi built a temple and taught his people. While the more idle part of the Lamanites lived in the wilderness and dwelt in tents (Alma 22:28), many lived within the vacated cities built by the Nephites before they fled with Mosiah to the Land of Zarahemla (Mosiah 9:7). This land was called the Land of Lehi-Nephi (Mosiah 9:6), and also the Land of Shilom, which was to the south (Mosiah 9:14). Beyond Shilom was the Land of Shemlon, which was occupied by the Lamanites (Mosiah 10:7; 11:12). Both of these lands could be seen from a high tower built next to the temple in the City of Nephi (Mosiah 11:12).
    When Zeniff led his people back to the Land of Nephi to reclaim this land of their fathers’ first inheritance, they “built buildings and repaired the walls of the city of Lehi-Nephi, and those of the city of Shilom,” which suggests that the Lamanites, though occupying these cities, did little, if anything to repair or keep them in decent order.
    The Zeniff Nephites lived for 22 years in peace (Mosiah 10:3) between Lamanite attacks. In this City of Nephi, Zeniff’s son, Noah, built many elegant and spacious buildings (Mosiah 11:8), and also built many buildings in the Land of Shilom (Mosiah 11:13).


  1. There is a geographic parallel between the sea of Galilee, river Jordan, and Dead Sea in Palestine and lake Titicaca, the river Desaguadero, and the lake Poopo in Bolivia.

    In both, a fresh lake fed by streams has water leave it in a main river down to a “dead” lake that has no water leave it and thus is very salty. This same water feature also exists in Utah, with Utah Lake, another river Jordan, and the Great Salt Lake.

    It occurred to me that the city of Jerusalem in the land of Nephi might be situated near this water feature in somewhat of a parallel to how the city of Jerusalem in Palestine is situated.

    1. I present this ruin as a possible candidate. It is fairly far from the lakes and river above, but it is in hills similar to Jerusalem in Palestine.

      El Fuerte de Samaipata

  2. The problem with that proposal for the city of Jerusalem is that El Fuerte de Samaipata is nowhere near what would have been the Land of Mormon (where Alma baptized the faithful in the time of King Noah).

    Alma 21:1 ...behold Aaron took his journey towards the land which was called by the Lamanites, Jerusalem, calling it after the land of their fathers’ nativity; and it was away joining the borders of Mormon.

    The Land of Mormon was near enough to the Land of Nephi that the church members went there in a day's journey to hear Alma preach. If it was south in modern day Bolivia, the journey would have been insurmountable for the story. That's 902 miles on foot from Cusco to El Fuerte de Samaipata.

    Alma 24:1 also mentions that Jerusalem is in the same area of Helam and Amulon, which makes sense, since Amulonites built the City of Jerusalem. Helam and Amulon were built relatively near one another by Alma's people as they were hiding, and by Amulon while he was hiding with Noah's other wicked priests.

    Jerusalem was also destroyed by water, as mentioned in 3 Nephi 9.

    It's a very cool ruin though, and one that has made me wonder who built it. They did some serious bedrock shaping.