Land Northward - Response to Hedges' Article: Cumorah and the Limited Mesoamerican Theory



Review of Hedges' article

Cumorah and the Limited Mesoamerican theory

Joe V. Andersen 1-9-12

This draft of an article is intended for discussion purposes and not for publication at this time. It is in response to Andrew Hedges article entitled; Cumorah and the Limited Mesoamerican Theory


I have read and studied Hedges articles and believe he brings a whole lot to the table in understanding the geography of the Book of Mormon. I very much like what and how he writes. I agree with Hedges as to the following points he has made in several of his articles:

1.      That Alma 32:22 and other scriptures do not justify the conclusion that the Isthmus of Tehuantepec is the narrow neck of land described in the Book of Mormon.

2.     That the width of the narrow neck of land of the Book of Mormon must be about a day to a day and a half in width.

3.     That by the time of the final battle of the Jaredites, the armies of Coriantumr and Shiz had substantially been reduced and most of the Jaredites participating in that civil war had been destroyed

4.     That about the time the Armies of Coriantumr and Shiz left the wilderness of Akish the last time there was a change in “Theaters” and that change appears to be from a wilderness and mountainous area to an area of plains, many villages, and valleys.

I disagree with Hedges on the following points that I will address in this article:

1.     That the areas around Ramah/Cumorah were sparsely populated.

2.     that the Jaredites left the main areas of population in the Isthmus area and marched hundreds of miles northward leaving the area of the heartland of the Jaredite/Olmec and going to some “Jaredite hinterland”.

3.     That the Nephites in like manner left the Jaredite land northward and found some “Nephite hinterland”. 

4.     That the Jaredite land northward might have extended to the New York Cumorah area.

5.     That the hill Cumorah was not located somewhere near the Tuxtla Mountain area.

6.     That the last battle of the Jaredites did not occur in the area near of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.

In addressing these issues I will quote some of Hedges’ article and respond in red with my comments and emphasis within his article. I will start by quoting at about page…five where he is talking about the last civil war of the Jaredites and the initial 10 battles or so that occurred in the area of the main capital city of Moron.

Hedges states “…of the land” in which “every man with his band [was] fighting for that which he desired,” and the other a two-year period in which “all the people upon the face of the land were shedding blood” (13:25, 31). All of these took place within a limited area in and around Moron, the sum total of which could easily account for the extensive destruction Limhi’s men found. (agreed) The dead from these ten battles and two other wars were part of the slain “two millions of mighty men, and also their wives and their children” that Coriantumr would later count after the apparent shift in the scene of action from Moron to other regions (Ether 15:2). (Depends on the meaning of regions. If regions means within the Isthmus of Tehuantepec area then I agree but if this meant anything northward from about Vera Cruz then I do not believe this is justified by the Book of Mormon.) I agree with the initial statement that all fighting through the killing of the 2 million of men plus their wives and children had to have occurred in Mesoamerica.   However, this took place up to about the start of the 4 year period of gathering for the last battle

The remainder of the population died after this shift in theaters, in the“swift and speedy” war through cities, plains, and valleys that left “the bodies of both men, women, and children strewed upon the face of the land” (14:22), but before the final battle at Ramah.[Not true. I agree there was a shift in the theater of war from the apparent higher elevations to the lower elevations and from the southern areas near the Jaredite south sea to the areas associated with the Jaredite North sea.  However the count of the “two millions of mighty men, and also their wives and their children” included all those killed during the “swift and speedy” war through the cities, plains, and valleys and after the major 3 battles at the hill Comnor and before.Shiz chased Coriantumr to Ripliancum. This alone implies that all of these areas where the valleys, cities, and plains including Comnor were located contained significant populations.. It also implies that any march northward out of the area of where these 2 million men had been killed had to have taken place following the battles at Comnor and not before.] Given how many people had perished before Ramah appears in the narrative, one wonders how many people were actually left to fight in the final battle itself.  In fact, some evidence in the text suggests the possibility that only a few thousand people ultimately closed ranks at Ramah. Moroni tells us that after five days of fighting, everyone had fallen except for fifty-two on Coriantumr’s side and sixty-nine on Shiz’s side (see Ether 15:15–23). After another day of fighting, Coriantumr’s numbers were down to twenty-seven, while Shiz had thirty-two—about a 50 percent mortality rate on each side for that day’s fighting (see 15:25). (this emphasizes to me that it is most unreasonable and improbable, if not impossible, for Coriantumr. who was wounded as if he were dead, to have taken his remaining few thousands of the strongest soldiers from Comnor, during the 4 years of gathering at Cumorah, 2,500 miles northward to New York, just to fight the final battle in New York. Furthermore it is even more improbable that Shiz would have followed him, without any further battles, for some 2,500 miles across Mexico, the Rio Grande, all of Texas, the Mississippi River, the Tennessee and Ohio Rivers, and spending at least 3 winters in Palmyra just to have that last series of battles at Cumorah, New York, or for that matter anywhere in between. IT seems very clear to me that they could not have left for New York until after the battles at Comnor. IT is also clear that the gathering at Cumorah for the Jaredites occurred during the 4 years while they were residing at Cumorah. This would then mean that the trek from near the Isthmus of Tehuantepec to New York had to have occurred within a very short period of time for both Coriantumr and Shiz and their armies and for Ether because he had to witness the final battle and return to his cave to finalize his record and place the plates where Limhi’s scouts found them.  Remember also that the entire trek of Limhi’s scouts took place in less than a year. Which indicates to me that they did not travel all the way to near New York and back but that they must have found the plates somewhere within the Isthmus. I agree with Hedges’s conclusion that Limhi’s scouts probably found the ruins and the plates at a location of an earlier battle within the Isthmus. I believe that to have been near the area Boaz or Jashon/Jordan. it appears that these areas were in the southern part of the Isthmus because it is dryer there they probably found the “dry bones” of the Jaredites there. 


To corroborate the above I believe that Ether14:33 states that the people did not leave the area where the swift and speedy war occurred and the area where they went from the shedding of blood to the shedding of blood and the overthrowing of “many cities” (verse 17) because then it says in verse 23  ”…the scent thereof went forth upon the face of the land, even upon all the face of the land; wherefore the people became troubled by day and by night because of the scent thereof” Had they been fleeing from city to city as they destroyed the people on their way toward New :York the survivors would never have stay around to have been bothered by the scent.


Another corroborating scripture is Ether 14:26-31 and 15:1-3. Shiz had the advantage and chased Coriantumr eastward to the seashore.   Why eastward if they were on the way north to Cumorah? All of the following scriptures and events occurred before the battles at Comnor and before Coriantumr counted the 2 million dead warriors and before he repented:

26. …Shiz did pursue Coriantumr eastward, even to the borders by the seashore, and there he gave battle unto Shiz for the space of three days.[Corriantumr now gained the advantage]

27. …so terrible was the destruction among the armies of Shiiz...they fled to the land of Corihor, and swept off the inhabitants before them, all them that would not join them. (just like from the Jaredite south sea to Akish to the plains of Agosh and northward once they left these area there was no point in returning as they were left desolate. They were canvassing the whole area looking for recruits and fighting all the while. They were not racing toward New York).

28. …they pitched their tents in the valley of Corihor; and Coriantumr pitched his tents in the valley of Shurr. Now the valley of Shurr was near the hill Comnor; wherefore Coriantumr did gather his armies together upon the hill Comnor, and did sound a trumpet …

29. they came forth, but were driven again; and they came the second time, and they were driven again the second time. …And they came the third time and the battle became exceedingly sore.

30.   Shiz smote upon Coriantumr that he gave him many deep wounds; and Coriantumr, having lost his blood fainted, and was carried away as though he were dead. 

31. Now the loss of men, women and children on both sides was so great that Shiz commanded his people that they should not pursue the armies of Coriantumr; wherefore, they returned to their camp. (They were certainly not traveling northward during these battles but were stationed in their camps and fighting and recuperating)

Chapter 15:1…when Coriantumr had recovered from his wounds, he began to remember the words which Ether had spoken unto him.[It was not until after the battle at Comnor where the “loss of men, women and children on both sides was so great” that Coriantumr did the count.]

2. He saw that there had been slain by the sword already nearly two millions of his people, and he began to sorrow in his heart; yea, there had been slain two millions of mighty men, and also their wives and their children.

3. He began to repent of the evil which he had done; he began to remember the words which had been spoken by the mouth of all the prophets, and he saw them that they were fulfilled thus far, every whit; and his soul mourned and refused to be comforted. [Why? Because in that Prophecy, which he now knew would come to pass, his entire family and people would be destroyed].

4. …he wrote an epistle unto Shiz, desiring him that he would spare the people and he would give up the kingdom for the sake of the lives of the people.(what kingdom would he be giving up if he were residing in New York?)

A more substantial criticism of a setting for the final battles far to the north of the narrow neck of land is the contention that the hill had to be located in an agriculturally productive area to sustain the numbers of people massing there prior to the final battle between the Nephites and Lamanites.48 Although upstate New York is fertile and productive today, for example, maize was not cultivated there until after Book of Mormon times—a simple fact that, for some, calls into serious question the region’s ability to produce the food necessary to sustain the armies.49 Again, however, such a concern is based more on assumption than the actual text, which gives little concrete information about how the Nephites actually gathered to Cumorah. We have no idea how long large numbers of people were living in the area. We know from Mormon’s chronology that the Nephites took flight from the city of Jordan and other cities in about the three hundred and eightieth year (Mormon 5:3–7),  (I understand from this statement that Hedges postulates that all of the remaining Nephites living in Mesoamerica must have fled with the aging Mormon. One of several possibilities exist during the time from AD 380 to AD 385.::

1.      Mormon took many hundreds of thousands with him from Mesoamerica at a time he was beginning to get old and raced all the way from Jashon/Jordan to New York (or some area in between) and prepared for the last battles there. At least 400 000 Lamanites pursued or followed the 230 000 Nephites to New York, arriving within 1 to 3 years. Or

2.     During his “speedy” march from Jashon/Jordan northward, Mormon would have been recruiting hundreds of thousands of soldiers from areas northward from about Veracruz . The Lamanites would also have been recruiting hundreds of thousands of soldiers along the same route following the Nephites with no battles until they came to New York. 

3.     If the Nephites had to spend time recruiting as they fled to New York and the Lamanites did not have to recruit, then the Lamanites would have overrun the Nephites and destroyed them as that was their intent.

4.     If the Lamanites also had to spend time recruiting, where did they recruite. The Nephites would already have forced the recruits to join the Nephites. Were the Lamanites also scattered from the Isthmus to New York? Were the Hopewell people also Lamanites?

After that sometime later Mormon requested that the Lamanite king allow them to gather to Cumorah (6:2), and that by the end of three hundred and eighty four years all the Nephites had made it there (6:5). The text implies that the gathering was a process and that some were there longer than others, but there is no reason to think that hundreds of thousands of people were living there for four years—just the opposite, in fact. Nor does the text require that the armies were growing their food on the spot. Quite possibly they were not; earlier periods of warfare saw armies on both sides receiving provisions from somewhere other than the fields of battle (see Alma 56:27–30; 57:6, 8, 10–11, 15; 58:4–5, 8), [ yes and they were receiving these provision from near their centers of population and in no instance was it received outside the land of Zarahemla. Certainly there is no indication that they had been able to provide food and clothing for an extended period of time in a cold climate away from the land of Zarahemla.] and at one point early in the first century AD the Nephites had gathered enough provisions to maintain “thousands and tens of thousands” of people a full seven years (3 Nephi 3:22, 4:4) [And this was in an area within the land of Zarahemla or Bountiful and in a tropical climate where there was no snow and hardly any winter weather. I believe that storing food and spending 3 or 4 winters in an unfamiliar cold climate for hundreds of thousands of Nephites and over 500000 Lamanites was never a possibility within the pages of the Book of Mormon.] several years longer than Mormon’s armies were gathering to Cumorah. Like Helaman’s ten-thousand-man army earlier, each of Mormon’s twenty-three armies of ten thousand might have come to Cumorah prepared with enough supplies “for them, and also for their wives and their children” [impossible. See below] (Alma 56:28) to last as long as necessary, rendering the agricultural productivity of the site of the final battles in the fourth century AD a moot point.

This is easier to say than for the Nephites and Lamanites to have done. From the time Mormon left Joshua on the west sea coast, probably Izapa area, in the year AD, 350 almost ever year is accounted for with no time to prepare for a 2500 mile march to New York preparing food, and winter clothing etc. All of their time was spent in defending the treaty line, city Desolation, Boaz and Jashon/Jordan hoping to remain in the principle Jaredite land northward (aka “north countries) with no intent on traveling 2500 miles to New York. This was a constant struggle just to stay alive. They were forced to flee from Desolation to Boaz; Forced to flee from Boaz to Jashon/Jordan; 3 large battles latter they were forced to flee for their lives in the year 380.  

As I quote from the Book of Mormon the details of the battles from 375 to 380, I ask the reader to tell me when, where, and how many thousands of Nephites and many thousands of Lamanites could have prepared for a massive migration hundreds , let alone thousands, of miles northward:

Mormon 4:18…[the Nephites] began to be swept off by them even as a dew before the sun. 19…there was an exceedingly sore battle fought in the land Desolation, in the which they did beat the Nephites. 20…they fled again …to the city Boaz   the Lamanites did not beat them until they had come again the second time. 21,..the Nephites were driven and slaughtered with an exceedingly great slaughter; their women and their children were again sacrificed unto idols. 22…the Nephites did again flee from before them, taking all the inhabitants with them both in towns and villages. 23…seeing that the Lamanites were about to overthrow the land,[of Jashon/Jordan where the records were.  Not the land of Cumorah] therefore I did go to the hill Shim and did take up all the records…Mormon 5:3…the Lamanites did come against us as we had fled to the city of Jordan, but behold, they were driven back that they did not take the city at that time. 4….they came against us again, and we did maintain the city. And there were also other cities which were maintained by the Nephites, which strongholds did cut them off that they could not get into the country which lay before us, to destroy the inhabitants of our land. [this was the land northward from Jashon/Jordan that had been inhabited for many years. This was the land called “north countries” that included Cumorah and there were “inhabitants of our land” living in all of these areas. This was the former “Olmec Heartland”. It did not extend 2500 miles to New York. There is no other area between VeraCruz northward or northwestward that has any evidence of massive numbers of inhabitants that lived during the Jaredite time frame.]

Mormon 5:…[prior to leaving Jashon/Jordan]    whatsoever lands we had passed by,[passed tense] and the inhabitants thereof were not gathered in, were destroyed by the Lamanites, and their towns, and villages, and cities were burned with fire; and thus 379 years passed away. 6. In the 380th year the Lamanites did come again against us to battle…but it was all in vain, for so great were their numbers that they did tread the people of the Nephites under their feet. 7. We did again take to flight, and those whose flight was swifter than the Lamanites did escape, and those whose flight did not exceed the Lamanites were swept down and destroyed. [It looks to me like those that tried to prepare for the 2500 mile speedy march to New York carrying all that food for 4 years and clothing for 2 or 3 winters in New York would have been those that were not swift enough to avoid being swept down and destroyed.]

All of the above events took place between 375 and 380. Clearly there was no time for the Nephites or the Lamanites to have prepared for a march of 2500 miles to New York or any other place very far from the principle population centers of the Nephites living in the former Jaredite/Olmec heartland areas.  

It should be clear from the above, however, that we may need to look for Cumorah farther to the north, in some sort of Jaredite and Nephite backcountry, than many have thought necessary in recent years. In doing so, it is of paramount importance that scholars continue to keep the requirements and ambiguities of the text firmly in mind as they formulate their hypotheses for what they should expect to find. What sort of archaeological evidence, for example, should we expect to find for Book of Mormon peoples living outside the centers of their civilizations? The answer quite possibly could be “not much.” One gets the strong impression from the text that much of the region lying between the centers of civilization and Ramah/Cumorah, although known to the Jaredites and Nephites, was sparsely settled, at least when compared to the areas the narrative primarily deals with. Cities quickly give way to plains and valleys in Lib’s and Shiz’s pursuit of Coriantumr to Ramah (see Ether 14:17–15:11), while “towns and villages” come into the picture during the Nephites’ race for Cumorah (Mormon 4:22; 5:5)  [This assumes the size of the “plains and valleys” were very large and that there were no cities within those plains and valleys which assumption is not justified in the Book of Mormon. More important is the fact that all of these plains; and valleys; and many cities; and from shedding of blood to the shedding of blood; and the leaving of the bodies of the dead upon the face of the land; and the scent bothering the survivors;, all of these events occurred prior to the battles at Comnor. The army of Coriantumr and the army of shiz could not have left for the “Jaredite hinterland”, or for New York, or for any area outside the primary population centers of the Jaredite people until after Comnor.. From Comnor Coriantumr fled to Ripliancum and from Ripliancum Shiz fled southward to Ramah.

There is nothing in the scriptures to justify that these armies fled 2,500 miles from Comnor to New York or for that matter even a few hundred miles further than Comnor northward only to come back southward to Ramah..  

No settlement of any size is identified near Cumorah [If you mean Cumorah New York, I agree] itself, suggesting that even the villages thinned out along the way. Archaeological remains and Nephites and Jaredites in this area, therefore, could be few and far between, and on a far humbler scale than one should expect to find at the cultural centers.[I believe the Book of Mormon does suggest there were cities near Cumorah. Mormon 8:7 suggests that after the great battle at Cumorah that Mormon participated in at least one more battle and that Moroni must have witnessed it because he declares that Mormon was killed in battle and that all the Nephites have been hunted down and killed: “8:5…My father hath been slain in battle…7…the Lamanites have hunted my people, the Nephites down from city to city and from place to place, even until they are no more;…”.These cities and places must have been near Cumorah for Moroni to have witnessed and written about. 

of finding all sorts of scenarios at the scene of the final battles,as discussed above, scholars should also be open to the idea that Book of Mormon peoples in far-flung areas may have adapted their clothing, implements, and building practices to the climate and resources in the new area, and that much of what they find may therefore be of a very different character than remains found closer to the centers.[This may be true but not in two or three years between the years AD 382 to 384. And not for the Jaredites from the time they left the plains of Agosh there was no time for any adaptation to climate as the war was so “swift and speedy” and “Shiz did not cease to pursue Corriantumr” and he pursued him “eastward even to the borders by the seashore” and then they “fled to the land of Corihor” and fought 3 terrible battles and then rested just until Coriantrumr was healed and then they “fled to the waters of Ripliancum” and the “on the morrow they did come to battle”. Then they fled again and this time southward to Ramah. There was no time for any adjustment to or preparations for a new climate hundreds or thousands of miles away. Any adjustment to climate had to have occurred during the four years of gathering. For the Jaredites this meant 4 complete years and that meant that they had to have spent at least 3 winters near Lake Erie. I do not believe the Book of Mormon justifies such conclusions or even possibilities.]

How far from the Jaredite and Nephite centers should we look for Ramah/Cumorah? It should be clear from this paper that as far as distances and directions go, many places in northern Central America  [I submit that northern Central America is a possibility but not northern Mexico or the Unites States.]and North America might be considered potential candidates. While I have not argued for it exclusively, it should also be clear that a site in upstate New York should at least be considered a possibility and may not be as far-fetched as some might imagine.[I considered it and I strongly disagree. When one considers that Jashon/Jordan must be located in the Isthmus and that the Nephites could not have left the isthmus until AD 380  makes it an impossible task it seems to me. Then it is even more improbable considering that many hundreds of thousands of Nephites and many hundreds of thousands of Lamanites/robbers had to have made that same trek 3000 miles to Lake Erie, makes the event impossible unless they left, as Ed Goble proposes in an earlier version of Resurrecting Cumorah, 20 years(“decades”) earlier from Desolation. He has now changed and believes that the Nephites left Boaz in the Isthmus and then made the trip to New York during the year 375., I submit this is contrary to the meaning and intent of the Book of Mormon.

Then consider the Jaredites. They could not have fled the Isthmus area until after the 3 battles on the hill Comnor. Up to that point all the battles had been in areas of major populations. And they did not flee until Coriantumr had healed. Remember also that the army of Shiz was told to cease pursuing Coriantumr. It was during this truce and time of healing for Coriantumr that the correspondence took place where Coriantumr agreed to give up the kingdom if Shiz would spare his people. I submit that that kingdom he was talking about was not the kingdom of the Jaredites around Cumorah New York but the kingdom including where the major populations centers were or had been near Ramah/Cumorah near and including all of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. .And then when Coriantumr fled again he fled to the waters of Ripliancum which were located northward from Cumorah/Ramah and from there southward to Ramah/Cumorah. I personally do not believe they ever left the centers of their population and, as the Archeology shows, the Olmec had extensive populations throughout the area known as the Olmec Heartland.   If the Nephites occupied the Jaredite heartland from the north sea to the south sea as the Book of Mormon requires,  then why would they also not have had populations centers surrounding the bountiful Tuxtla mountain areas as well?

The following are maps I am proposing in an article not yet posted to BMAF. It surely answers a lot of questions for me. 

Andersen, Joe V.