Tuesday, May 12, 2020

The Waters of Mormon

The Land and Waters of Mormon

In the borders of the Land of Nephi was a place or land called Mormon, which contained a pond or lake named the Waters of Mormon (Alma 5:3). These Waters of Mormon were the result of a fountain of pure water (Mosiah 18:5), which lay within or the by the border of a forest, referred to as the Forest of Mormon (Mosiah 18:30). This forest was a thicket of small trees large enough to hide within (Mosiah 18:5)
    This land of Mormon had been infested at times or seasons with wild beasts. In the days of Alma, there was an area around the waters large enough to hold some 450 people in a manner they could gather to listen to the preaching of Alma (Mosiah 8:7).
    After Alma’s conversion listening to Abinadi in the councils of King Noah, he went about preaching privately among the people so his works would not become known to the king (Mosiah 18:3). Alma must have changed the place of his meetings during this time, for the people began to assemble in an area called Mormon, an area so named by the king (Mosiah 18:4,7).
Baptisms took place at the nearby Waters of Mormon in the Land of Mormon adjacent to the Forest of Mormon

In addition, the waters were deep enough for fully emerged baptisms to take place (Mosiah 18:12,14).
    Earlier, Alma had been secretly preaching (Mosiah 18:3) in the city of Nephi, moving about to keep the knowledge of his actions from the king. Eventually, these people gathered in the land of Mormon near the Waters of Mormon (Mosiah 8:7).
    Being part of the city populace, these baptized members gathered once a week where possible in the city to worship (Mosiah 18:25). However, their daily lives were among the Nephites conducting their business (Mosiah ) but all their worship was done in the borders of the land that they might not come to the knowledge of the king (Mosiah 18:31). This suggests that the Land of Mormon and the Waters of Mormon were within a convenient distance to the city of Nephi, for some 450 people to weekly travel back and forth.  
    As Mormon wrote much later: “I am called Mormon, being called after the land of Mormon, the land in which Alma did establish the church among the people, yea, the first church which was established among them after their transgression” (3 Nephi 5:12). However, Mormon also tells us his father was named Mormon (Mormon 1:5), which is a strange combination unless Mormon’s father was also named after the Land of Mormon where Alma established the first church—which might tell us a little about Mormon’s ancestry and the strength of character among his forbears, which allowed him at age 15 to have the faith and desire to know Jesus and preach against evil (Mormon 1:15-17), and at 16 for the Nephites to appoint him their military leader (Mormon 2:1-2).
The evil king Noah

While this place would have been large enough to accommodate the inclusions mentioned in the scriptural record and given the formal name “land,” it seems to have been called “place” that included a small area, like a pond, a forest, and evidently not occupied other than by wild animals, a label given to non-violent animals as opposed to those referred to as wild beasts (Alma 16:10).
    The fact that later an area named Hermounts is introduced that had ravenous beasts, might suggest these in the land of Mormon were not man-eating wild animals, but merely wild—in fact, the term “infested” suggests “to trouble greatly, to disturb, to annoy,” which sounds less like dangerous, and more like pesty and annoying. And since the king called the area Mormon, perhaps the term at the time was a derogatory one. It also might be that the wild animals provided food to feed the 400 people who gathered there.
    In any event, the area of Mormon was on the borders of the Land of Nephi, near a “forest,” might also suggest that “land,” in all languages conveys the meaning of “expressing distance from cities and civilization,” and “expressing departure or wandering,” well fits Mormon’s use of the word in his melancholy statement in verse 30.
    This is also suggested when Mormon describes the area as being a thicket of small trees, which is an area of “a wood or collection of trees or shrubs closely set,” which is not descriptive of a forest. And since this place or area was not called the Land of Mormon at the time (Mosiah 18:30), but later grown in size and scope (Alma 5:3), perhaps the best term would be the one Mormon uses—the Place of Mormon, and not try to make it something more than it was in terms of size and importance. In fact, it must have been of insufficient importance as to be one where the king’s men did not search
    We can also assume that this area was unsettled and insignificant at the time of Alma, though it had a fountain of pure water where Alma spent his time, and hid himself during the day in the thicket when the king’s army came to search for him. It is not likely that when Alma said, “Here are the waters of Mormon,” when his converts wanted to be baptized (Mosiah 18:8), that he was referring to a large lake as Mesoamerican Theorists claim, such as their Lago de Atitlan, which could not be “searched daily” by the king’s men (Mosiah 18:5), nor would any activity around it not be visible from numerous vantage points. Hardly an area of secret or of hiding described by Mormon.
Lake Atitlan, Mesoamerican Theorists’ Waters of Mormon, a large 80-square-mile lake in Panajachel, Guatemala
Obviously, this area or Place of Mormon would not have been far from the City of Nephi, “in the borders of the land,” Mormon tells us. The City of Nephi, of course, was in the Land of Nephi, a term that may have had both smaller and larger dimensions, depending on its use. For when Ammon “came to a hill, which is north of the land of Shilom…he took three of his brethren…and went down into the land of Nephi” (Mosiah 7:5-6). Yet the Land of Nephi stretched from the west sea to the east sea (Alma 22:27; 50:8), with all the land south of the narrow strip of wilderness the Land of Nephi (Alma 27:14), and Lamoni’s father was king over all the land except for the land of Ishmael (Alma 22:1). 
    Yet, there were other lands within the greater Land of Nephi, such as the land of Middoni (Alma 20:4), land of Jerusalem (Alma 36:29), land of first inheritance, where Lehi landed (Alma 54:12), etc. It was probably into this narrow strip of wilderness that Alma led his 450 converts after being apprised of the king’s army approaching (Mosiah 18:34).
It is interesting that when Mormon was about eleven his father “carried him” into the Land Southward from their home in the Land Northward. They went as far as the Land of Zarahemla (Mormon 1:6); however, whether his father intended to visit the Land of Mormon near the City of Nephi is not known, and a war broke out between the Lamanites and Nephites that year (Mormon 1:8) and further travel might have been restricted. On the other hand, the Lord may have directed Mormon’s father to take him to Zarahemla, where his future as a leader of the people and prophet was to be realized.
    In any event, it stands to reason that the Place of Mormon (or Land of Mormon) was located within a day or two travel of the City of Nephi, on the outskirts of the Land, or where it bordered with a wilderness, no doubt the narrow strip of wilderness described by Mormon, and possibly one of the reasons why he knew so much about the topography of this area.


  1. The city of Jerusalem, which was built by the Amalekites and Amulonites, bordered the Land of Mormon in some way.

    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.

    If that is referring to the borders of Mormon as the land / waters discussed here, then I have a hard time seeing Tiwanaku as a possible city of Jerusalem, as has occasionally been suggested. It would be a stretch to associate Tiwanaku with an area very near to the City of Nephi, which was near Mormon. It's too far in the wrong direction (350 miles south of Cusco).

    So I imagine that both the waters of Mormon and Jerusalem were within reasonable distance of the City of Nephi.

    Just a thought. What do you think?

  2. I looked up what Priddis decided. Her city of Jerusalem is Asillo, Peru -- somewhat North of lake Titicaca.

    I agree with Del that her choices were too speculative. But I still consider her choices. Here is a list of her choices:

    Venice Priddis BoM model locations

  3. Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language, the word “away” is defined as “At a distance, a separation at a distance. Thus Mormon’s descriptive statement: “Now when Ammon and his brethren separated themselves in the borders of the land of the Lamanites, 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” (Alma 21:1, emphasis added).
    Thus, it was away joining the borders of Mormon, meaning it was at a distance from the borders of the Land of Mormon. What distance we are not told, how large the Land of Mormon covered, and whether or not Jerusalem meant the Land of Jerusalem or the City of Jerusalem.
    In addition, Asillo, Peru, is 219 miles west of the northern edge of Lake Titicaca and 45 miles northwest of Puno on the shores of the lake. On the other hand, Asillo is only 205 miles south of Cuzco (City of Nephi). This leaves a large range between the City of Nephi and the location of the Land of Mormon. At the same time, it would be 239 miles from Cuzco to Puno on Lake Titicaca, but 359 miles from Cuzco to Tiwanaku.
    As we have mentioned several times, there simply is not enough information to claim this city or that city is one from the Book of Mormon, with exceptions of Cuzco for Nephi, Pachacamac for Zarahemla, and Cajamarca for Bountiful. Others are simply guess work.

  4. wow! I love reading this. I am grateful for the commentary too!

  5. Yeah, we don't really know, but it's fun to speculate.

    It's hard for me to pick Tiwanaku as Jerusalem for the distance reason, being so far south. We know Mormon is close to Nephi for the reasons discussed in your blog post. But Jerusalem is closer to Mormon, or it would not have been chosen as a reference point, as opposed to Nephi.

    If the Waters of Mormon were Puray by Chinchero, then it would not have been used as point of reference for Jerusalem if that city were Tiwanaku. That's like saying that Saint George is away by the borders of Cache Valley 😁

    That Tiwanaku was destroyed by earthquake and rapidly moving water appears clear, due to the scattering of such massive stones and the covering of the remnants in sediment. But Jerusalem may currently not be visible, since water was caused to "come up in the stead thereof." It could very well be IN Titicaca rather than south of it (that is, if it was south of Nephi at all). Tiwanaku could just as well have been Onihah or Mocum.

    One day we'll know, and it will be awesome! Until then, all we've got are a few hints in stories, and hours of nerdy obsession with Google Earth.

    Keep up the awesome work, Del. You'll be remembered for your valiant study and efforts!