Interpreting “Mormon’s Geographical Map” via Alma 22:27–35 and Alma 50:1–36
Interpreting “Mormon’s Geographical Map” via Alma 22:27–35 and Alma 50:1–36
27. And it came to pass [about 85 BC] that the king [of the Lamanites] sent a proclamation throughout all the land [the territory of the land of Nephi over which he was king],Amongst all his people who were in all his land,Who were in all the regions round about,Which [the king’s territory in the land of Nephi] was bordering even to the sea, on the east [of the land of Nephi from where the king dwelt] and on the west [of the land of Nephi from where the king dwelt],And which [land of Nephi] was divided from the land of ZarahemlaBy a narrow strip of wilderness, which [narrow strip of wilderness] ran from the sea east [of the land of Nephi] even to the sea west [of the land of Nephi],And [the narrow strip of wilderness continued] round about on the borders of the [west] seashore, and the borders [of that part] of the [narrow strip of] wildernessWhich was [located] on the north [of the narrow strip of wilderness] by [near] the [city/]land of Zarahemla, [and continued] through the borders of [the city/land of] Manti,By [near] the head of the river Sidon, [the borders of the narrow strip of wilderness continued] running from the east towards the westAnd thus were the Lamanites and the Nephites divided. [The narrow strip of wilderness divided them—not the river Sidon, which ran north. Therefore, the narrow strip of wilderness—not the river Sidon—ran from the east to the west.]
28. Now, the more idle part [distinguishing from the more industrious part who lived in the city/land of Nephi, which was located south of the narrow strip of wilderness] of the Lamanites lived in the [narrow strip of] wilderness, and dwelt in tents;And they [the idle Lamanites] were spread through the wilderness on the west [the western and southern part of the narrow strip of wilderness, and therefore], in the land of Nephi;Yea, and also [the idle Lamanites were spread] on the west of the land of Zarahemla, in the borders by the seashore [because these idle Lamanites were spreading west of the city/land of Zarahemla, they were then beginning to surround the Nephites on their western side],And on the west in the land of Nephi, [therefore south of the narrow strip of wilderness] in the place of their [the Lamanite] fathers’ first inheritance [Lehi’s landing place],And thus bordering along by the seashore [the west seashore south of the narrow strip of wilderness (see Helaman 6:10 where “the Lord did bring Mulek into the land north and Lehi into the land south” of the narrow strip of wilderness)].29. And also there were many Lamanites on the east [from the city/land Zarahemla] by the seashore,Whither the Nephites had driven them. [The east-sea Bountiful area was not yet part of the Nephites’ territory, and none of the east-sea cities had been built at this time prior to ca. 72 BC.]And thus the Nephites were nearly [on three sides, east, south, and west] surrounded by the Lamanites;Nevertheless the Nephites had taken possession of all the northern parts of the landBordering on the [narrow strip of] wilderness, at [from] the head of the river Sidon,From the east to the west, round about on the [western] wilderness side [of the narrow strip of wilderness]; on the north [from the western part of the narrow strip of wilderness],Even until they [the Nephites] came to the land which they called Bountiful. [Therefore, this west-sea land Bountiful was deemed by Mormon as a land distinct from the land of Zarahemla, and it was located northward from the narrow strip of wilderness. Also, because the Nephites were already in possession of the city/land of Zarahemla, then this new land they “had taken possession of” must be referring to that land that was west of the city/land of Zarahemla and northerly from the western part of the narrow strip of wilderness. They had not taken possession and control of the east sea and wilderness area yet.]30. And it [land Bountiful bordering the west sea] bordered upon the land which they [the Nephites] called Desolation, It [land Desolation] being so far northward [from the narrow strip of wilderness] that it [land Desolation] came into the land which had been peopled and been destroyed [this statement precludes any possibility that the Jaredites could have fought their final battles in any area other than where they lived because this verse says they were destroyed in the same land where they had lived],Of whose bones we have spoken [via the Limhi expedition; see Mosiah 8:8],Which [land where the people had been destroyed] was discovered by the people of Zarahemla,It [the land where the people had been destroyed] being the place of their [people of Zarahemla] first landing [the people of Zarahemla did not land in the land Desolation but in the land where the Jaredites had been destroyed, which was located north of Desolation].
And they [the people of Zarahemla] came from there [place of first landing] up into the south wilderness [the wilderness that was south of, and up in elevation from, that part of the Jaredite land northward where they first landed; from there they came directly up into the area known as Zarahemla because the Lord guided them directly to Zarahemla and they had dwelt there from that time forth (see Omni 1:16)].
31. Thus the land on the northward [of the line; see verse 32] was called Desolation,And the land on the southward [of the line] was called Bountiful,It [land Bountiful] being the wilderness which is filledWith all manner of wild animals of every kind,A part of which had come from the land northward [including land Desolation] for food.
32. And now, it was only the distance of a day and a half’s journey for a Nephite,On the line [between the land] Bountiful and the land Desolation, [which line ran]From the east to the west sea; [this line went from a boundary—not a sea—in an east-to-west direction to the west sea. Because the line ended at a distinct point on the west sea and because that line separated Desolation from Bountiful, then Desolation and Bountiful must also have begun at the same point on the west sea where the line began].
32a. And thus the land of Nephi and the land of Zarahemla [the two comprise the greater land southward] were nearly surrounded by water, there being a small neck of land between the land northward [including land Desolation] and the land southward [including land Bountiful].
33. And it came to pass [after 72 BC] that the Nephites [but not including any Lamanites] had inhabited the [west-sea] land Bountiful,Even from the east [boundary—not a sea] unto the west sea,And thus the Nephites in their wisdom, with their guards and their armies,Had hemmed in the Lamanites on the south [of the narrow strip of wilderness],That thereby they [the Lamanites] should have no more possession on the north [of the narrow strip of wilderness],That they [the Lamanites] might not overrun the land northward [probably referring to the territory north of the narrow strip of wilderness and everything northward from there, including the Jaredite land northward, which included Desolation, into which the Nephites were just beginning to migrate ca. 72 BC].
34. Therefore the Lamanites could have no more possessionsOnly in the land of Nephi, [which in 72 BC included everything south of the narrow strip of mountainous wilderness] and the [western part of the narrow strip of] wilderness round about [the Lamanites were not living in the west-sea Bountiful area at this time (see verse 33)].Now this was wisdom in the Nephites—as the Lamanites were an enemy to them,They would not suffer their afflictions on every hand,And also that they might have a country [west-sea Bountiful, land Desolation, and the Jaredite lands farther northward]Whither they might flee, according to their desires.
35. And now I, after having said this, return again [from just after 72 BC back to about 85 BC]To the account of Ammon and Aaron, Omner and Himni, and their brethren.
1. And now it came to pass thatMoroni did not stop making preparations for war,Or to defend his people against the Lamanites;For he caused that his armies should commence [begin]In the commencement [beginning] of the twentieth year [72 BC] of the reign of the judges,That they should commence [begin—not finish] in digging up heaps of earthRound about all the cities, throughout all the landWhich was possessed by the Nephites [the time was just before Moroni drove all the Lamanites out of the east-sea wilderness area]. . . .
7. And it came to pass that Moroni causedThat his armies should go forth into the east wilderness [that part of the east wilderness where there were Lamanites].Yea, and they went forth and drove all the LamanitesWho were in the east wildernessInto their own lands, which [Lamanites’ own lands] were south of the land of Zarahemla [south of that line of defense established by Moroni in 72 BC within the narrow strip of wilderness, also known as the “line of the possessions of the Lamanites” in the east-sea area].
8. And the land of Nephi did run in a straight course from the east sea to the west [sea]; [see Alma 22:27].
9. And it came to pass that when [after] Moroni had driven all the Lamanites outOf the east wilderness, which [wilderness] was north of the lands of their [Lamanite's] own possessions,He caused that the inhabitantsWho were in the [city/]land of Zarahemla and in the land round about [the expanded land of Zarahemla bordering beyond the city/land of Zarahemla]Should go forth into the east wilderness,Even to the borders by the seashore,And possess the land [therefore, the borders by the seashore were included in the term “east wilderness”; Moroni did not send them into the east wilderness to possess “all” of the east wilderness but merely “even to the borders by the seashore,” meaning that the Nephites were sent to the east-sea coastal area to occupy that land so the Lamanites could not come back into the east-sea area via the east seacoast.]
10. And he also placed armies on the south [of the middle part of the land of Zarahemla—not in the east-sea area because he already had his armies there, and Moroni had no need at that time to remove Lamanites from the Manti area because he had just obliterated the Lamanites in the battle of 74 BC], in the borders of their [Nephites’] possessionsAnd caused them [the Nephite armies] to erect fortificationsThat they might secure their armies and their people [in the middle part of the land of Zarahemla and in the Manti/head of Sidon area]From the hands of their enemies.11. And thus he cut off [separated or isolated] all the strongholds of the LamanitesIn the east wilderness, yea, and also [he cut off—separated or isolated—all the strongholds of the Lamanites located] on the west [sea area],Fortifying the [defensive] line [associated with the narrow strip of wilderness] between the Nephites and the Lamanites,Between the land of Zarahemla and the land of Nephi,From the west sea, [the fortified line between the Nephites and Lamanites going from the west sea] running by the head of the river Sidon [Manti area]—The Nephites possessing all the land northward [this “land northward” is not referring to the Jaredite land northward but is directionally northward of the line within the narrow strip of wilderness that ran from the head of the river Sidon to the west sea and northward from there],Yea, even all [very far, including] the land which was northward of the land Bountiful [this is referring to the Bountiful located on the west sea (see Alma 22:33) and therefore the Jaredite land northward from the line between Bountiful and the land Desolation],According to their pleasure [this language is very similar to the language used in Alma 22:29, 33, 34 and should, therefore, have the same meaning].12. Thus Moroni, with his armies,Which did increase daily because of the assurance of protectionWhich his works did bring forth unto them,Did seek to cut off [separate or isolate] the strength and the power of the LamanitesFrom off the lands of their [the Nephites’] possessions,That they [the Lamanites] should have no power upon the lands of their [the Nephites’] possession [from the east sea to the west sea and northward from that defensive line within the narrow strip of wilderness that Moroni had established].
13. And it came to pass [after Moroni had established the line of defense within the narrow strip of wilderness from the east sea to the west sea, including the middle of the land of Zarahemla—but still within the year 72 BC] that the Nephites began the foundation of a city,And they called the name of the city Moroni;And it was by [nearby, or adjacent to] the east sea;And it was on the south [part of the Nephite possessions but located] by the line of the possessions of the Lamanites [these seem to be the same criteria for the location of the cities of Jershon and Antionum, which were located within eyesight of each other; these cities are never mentioned again].
14. And they also began [in 72 BC] a foundation for a cityBetween the city of Moroni [which was located by the east seacoast near the line of possessions of the Lamanites] and the city of Aaron [which was located inland from Moroni],Joining the borders [thus providing a defensive inland area along the line of possessions of the Lamanites and also bordering the narrow strip of wilderness] of Aaron and Moroni;And they called the name of the city, or the land, Nephihah.
- Perhaps the dominant feature of Mormon’s Geographical Map was a narrow strip of wilderness—undoubtedly mountainous—that extended from a sea on the east to a sea on the west.
- On the south of this narrow strip of mountainous wilderness was the land of Nephi; on the north was the land of Zarahemla.
- Originating near the top of the narrow strip of mountainous wilderness was the start of a major river—the river Sidon—which flowed from the south to the north.
- Near the northern edge of the mountains and on the west side of and near the river Sidon was the city of Manti.
- A relatively short distance downriver from Manti was the city of Zarahemla and the land of Zarahemla, which extended to the east sea through an east wilderness that bordered the east sea.
- From the city of Zarahemla, the Nephites, beginning in 72 BC, extended their possession and control to the east-sea coastal areas where they built several (“many”) cities.
- For defensive purposes, they established a line of defenses along the narrow strip of wilderness to defend themselves from the Lamanites in the land of Nephi.
- The Nephites’ line of defense also included a defensive position on the “west sea south” where the lands of Zarahemla and Bountiful extended to the west sea. The purpose of this defensive position was to keep the Lamanites from moving into the area on the west sea called Bountiful and then into the adjoining area to the north called Desolation, a part of the Jaredite land northward, via the narrow pass in the narrow neck of land that ran by the west sea, and then farther north into the greater area called the Jaredite land northward. The Nephites’ line of defense also included a defensive position on the “west sea south” where the lands of Zarahemla and Bountiful extended to the west sea. The purpose of this defensive position was to keep the Lamanites from moving into the area on the west sea called Bountiful, and from there northward via the narrow passage along the west sea to the “line” located by the west sea and within the small neck of land, and from there northward via the narrow pass, also by the west sea, into the adjoining area called Desolation, a part of the Jaredite land northward.
2. Skousen, The Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text, xlii.
3. Skousen inserts “between the land” at this point as a conjectural emendation. See Skousen, The Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text, 362, 742, 765. We have opted to include this conjectural emendation in the discussion of Mormon’s Geographical Map.
Some Book of Mormon analysts prefer to use Skousen’s Earliest Text for discussions such as those in this article. In that respect, the conjectural emendation in Alma 22:32 could be cited by some analysts as evidence that Skousen’s book is superior to recent editions of the Book of Mormon as published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
However, in addition to many positives for Skousen’s Earliest Text, it contains frequent usage errors that, frankly, are very distracting and that “cry out” for an editing endeavor such as that reflected in the 1981 and 2013 editions of the Book of Mormon as published by the Church. For example, here are two illustrative sentences out of many from the Alma 22 and Alma 50 verses cited in this article: “And also there was many Lamanites on the east by the seashore” (Alma 22:29; emphasis added); “And it came to pass that they did not head them until they had came to the borders of the land Desolation” (Alma 50:34; emphasis added).
This discussion suggests the following question: “Which version of the Book of Mormon, Skousen’s Earliest Text or the Church’s 1981/2013 text, should serve as the “primary text” and which should serve as the “reference text”? An obvious outcome of the research for this article clearly suggests that the Church’s text should be the “primary text” and that Skousen’s Earliest Text should be the “reference text.”
4. Richard Hauck proposes that the mighty city of Moroni was composed of the original camp of Moroni between Antionum and Jershon and the remnants of the Zoramites at Antionum and in Jershon after the Ammonites had left.
5. Without punctuation, the sentence reads, “They called the name of the city or the land Nephihah.” If Mormon meant that both the city and the land were called Nephihah, he perhaps mistakenly used the conjunction or rather than the conjunction and. Another option here is an internal emendation by Mormon where he intentionally corrected himself because he wanted to say, “They called the name of the land Nephihah.” Subsequently, both the city and the land were referred to by the name Nephihah (see, for example, Alma 51:24–26 and Alma 62:14). In fact, in Alma 62:18, the city of Nephihah, land of Nephihah, and plains of Nephihah are mentioned.
6. The words that begin Alma 50:32 in the 1981 edition of the Book of Mormon are as follows: “Now behold, the people who were in the land Bountiful, or rather Moroni, feared that they would hearken to the words of Morianton and unite with his people.” Thus, the verse begins with an internal emendation by Mormon, who evidently made a mistake while engraving and then corrected that mistake himself. That is, he meant to say that Moroni, not the people in the west-sea land Bountiful, feared that the people would hearken to the words of Morianton. Therefore, we have corrected and used the verse to show Mormon’s intention through his internal emendation.
Further, we maintain that in no way was Mormon “confused” as he wrote this verse. That is, he did not temporarily confuse the lands Bountiful and Moroni. Nor was he confused about who “feared.” He merely made a mistake while engraving and then corrected that mistake via an internal emendation. For a complete discussion of the emendation process as reflected in Alma 50:32, see Ted Dee Stoddard, “‘If There Are Faults They Are the Mistakes of Men’: The Nature of Mormon’s Word Processor,” http://www.bmaf.org/articles/mormons_word_processor__stoddard, or Ted Dee Stoddard, “Historicity Implications of Mormon’s ‘Whoopses’ in the Book of Mormon,” http://www.bmaf .org/node/522.