Thursday, June 11, 2020

How Accurate are Mormon’s Details about Geography

We continually find that errors upon errors are made by theorists and well-meaning writers in discussing the geography of the Book of Mormon. When doing so, most people turn to Mormon’s insert in Alma 22 in order to determine the makeup of the Land of Promise. Unfortunately, ion doing so, they ignore other, compatible scriptural references that helps define Mormon’s descriptions.
Limhi’s expedition went so far northward they came into the Jaredite Battlefield area

A case in point is the statement Mormon makes about Limhi’s 43-man expedition to find Zarahemla when they come across the destruction of the Jaredite kingdom and recover the 24-Gold Plates left by Ether which “he hid them in a manner that the people of Limhi did find them” (Ether 15:33).
    Now, Mormon’s insert states that Bountiful “bordered upon the land which they called Desolation, it being so far northward that it came into the land which had been peopled and been destroyed, of whose bones we have spoken, which was discovered by the people of Zarahemla, it being the place of their first landing” (Alma 22:30).
    Most theorists claim this statement referred to the “people of Zarahemla,” but a simple reading of the overall statement shows the opposite, i.e., that the statement had to do with the Jaredites, not the people of Zarahemla.“
    To understand this, we need to know who Mormon is describing and what is taking place in his writing. First of all, in the course of relating an incident involving Nephite missionaries and the great king over the Lamanites, Mormon inserted a 570-word aside that summarized major features of the Land Southward and a little of the Land Northward. He must have considered that treatment full and clear enough for his purposes, because he never returned to the topic. Broken down, this follows his description of the Land of Bountiful:
1. “And it bordered upon the land which they called Desolation…
That is Bountiful bordered on the north with the Land of Desolation
2. “it being so far northward…
The Land of Desolation was far to the north from Zarahemla
3. “that it came into the land which had been peopled and been destroyed…
Far to the north of Bountiful was the land which the Jaredites had controlled and where the final battles of the civil war had taken place
4. “of whose bones we have spoken…
In the chronology of time, which Mormon was fully aware in the mid 300s AD, this reference was to the Jaredites who had been destroyed long before Mormon’s time and whose remains were scattered across the Land Northward at the time
5. “which was discovered by the people of Zarahemla…
Limhi’s expedition to find Zarahemla and seek their help

Limhi’s 43-man expedition, though then living in the Land of Nephi, were of the lineage from Zarahemla, the land and people which they sought at the time
6. “it being the place of their first landing.
The 43-man expedition came into the land of the former Jaredites, which had been destroyed by the time of the Nephites, which had been the location or place of their first landing.
    Now many theorists claim this means where the people of Zarahemla landed (in the Land Northward), however, there is another writing in the scriptural record which answers that question. This is when Mosiah was told by the Lord to leave the Land of Nephi and led by Him “down into the land which is called the land of Zarahemla” (Omni 1:13). The record goes on to say: “Mosiah discovered that the people of Zarahemla came out from Jerusalem at the time that Zedekiah, king of Judah, was carried away captive into Babylon. And they journeyed in the wilderness, and were brought by the hand of the Lord across the great waters, “into the land where Mosiah discovered them; and they had dwelt there from that time forth” (Omni 1:15-16).
    Based upon these two scriptural references, it is not possible to claim that the Mulekites (people of Zarahemla) had lanced so far northward that they came into the land of the Jaredites, since they had been discovered.
    Since the Book of Mormon was published, its geography has been the subject of discussion and debate. Study shows that there are over 600 passages relevant to geography as well as upwards of 1000 passages of potential geographic significance. Despite the simplicity of the scriptural record, which is clear on the geographical descriptions, most theorists claim various differences between their views and Mormon’s descriptive writings. In order to justify their views and Land of Promise models, these theorists are quick to change the meaning of the record in order for it to match their models.
Yellow Circle: The Heartland and Great Lakes area—neither of which have four seas; Red Circle: Mesoamerica, which also does not have four seas

As an example, Mesoamerican theorists, including those professors at BYU, tout their model despite Jacob telling us that they were on an island and Helaman tells us that there were four seas—neither of which match Mesoamerica. At the same time, Heartland and Great Lakes theorists doggedly insist their model is correct, even though, among other errors, there are no real mountains in their models and the Heartland is basically a flat plain through the central states.
    What lay farther to the north, beyond Desolation, or farther to the south, past the land of Nephi, is left unsaid, other than Helaman’s comment that there was both a North and South sea.
    In this many theorists claim that “the people of Lehi likely migrated in both directions after landing and throughout during and after Book of Mormon times. As a result, descendants of Lehi may be found throughout the Americas, even though the events in the Book of Mormon played out in a more limited sphere.”
    However, while southward movement matches the theorist’s Mesoamerican model, it does not match the scriptural record. We find that while there are no indications of any movement south, there are several instances of the Nephites moving northward (Alma 63:4-7; Helaman 3:3).
    After finishing the narrative in giving his future reader a geographical understanding of the Land of Promise, Mormon stated: “And now I, after having said this, return again to the account of Ammon and Aaron, Omner and Himni, and their brethren” (Alma 22:35).
    In his limited insertion, and the simplistic manner written, we can only assume that Mormon had good reasons for inserting these details, along with the hundreds of other references to geography found throughout his abridgement.
Mormon, both an historian and military leader

No doubt Mormon knew how confusing all the many details were getting. He must have realized that without some kind of broader picture of Nephite lands, ensuing narratives about missionary travels, commercial relationships, political divisions, and prophetic fulfillment would be difficult, if not impossible, to follow.
    Just as obviously, Mormon knew how difficult it would be for his future readers to follow the events without some kind of imagery of the location of places and overall layout of the land. It began with the scope of the Lamanite kind’s land, then expanded to include the Nephite lands, and even to the Narrow Neck of Land and to the Land of Desolation beyond.
    No doubt it would trouble Mormon if he could see how distorted so many writers have made of his simple writing, and how they tend to disregard his simple and clear descriptions. As a youthful traveler, long-time military leader, and trusted steward over a library of sacred records, Mormon certainly had intimate and direct experience with the landscape and information about it. It seems beneficial for us to follow what he wrote and not try to change or bend it to fit preconceived ideas.

1 comment:

  1. Still no justification for placing Zarahemla on the Pacific Coast. Neither is there any reason to assume the Mulekites sailed the Pacific. Nephi we know traveled in the wilderness Eastwardly for over three years wading through much affliction as their women bore children. Three years to the nearly Eastwardly direction would get you easily all the way to Indochina. I think Viet Nam where there IS a land you could call Bountiful and many waters and great timber and iron ore. If they circled the Arabian Peninsula for over three years not making fire would hardly help conceal them. But crossing many great rivers, wading through much affliction a more heavily timbered regions no fire could conceal them better.