Chapter Synopsis: : This chapter will present the record of Mormon's abridgment of the geography of the Book of Mormon lands at the time of the conversion of King Lamoni's father through the efforts of Aaron, one of the sons of Mosiah. It is the most important geographical statement describing the lands that we have in one location in the book. An analysis of this writing is made.
THE TIME OF THIS DESCRIPTION
The major writing from which we get our basic knowledge of the overall land configurations is found in Alma, chapter 13, verses 68-82. The reader will notice that most of these verses were written in the past tense. Mormon was writing from the record and included the situations at the time of that record (90 BCC). He could only have known this geography from what had been written. Some investigators have suggested, he was simply describing the area from his own knowledge and inserting that information at this point.
Since Mormon was the major military leader of the Nephites, he would have known the lands of the Book of Mormon peoples better that anyone else. The record tells us that a great destruction and change took place in these lands at the time of the crucifixion of Christ in the Land of Jerusalem. Because Mormon continues to describe the movement of the armies and the people in his day (some time before 375 ACC) with the same basic geographical features as we find described at the time of this text, we may assume that the basic geography had not changed too significantly from this time period up to, and including the time of Mormon's own writing. John Sorenson also agrees with this premise. (John L. Sorenson in "Mormon's Map" pg. 11, 12. Published by The Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, Provo UT, 2000)
If we now examine this abridgment by Mormon in some detail we should have a firm basis for attempting to understand the geography which follows, and also the movements of the people from the original point of landing in "the Promised Land." The complete text is found in Alma 13:68-82.
"And it came to pass that the king sent a proclamation throughout all the land" (v.68)
This is in the Land of Nephi
"amongst all his people" (v.68)
The following continuous quotations are arranged as a Hebrew poetry list beginning with the word "which."
"which were in all his land," (v. 68)
His rulership may not have included all of the Land of Nephi, indicated by the pronoun "his". From the text and the events which followed, it seems certain that his kingdom did not include all of the major land mass south of the Land of Zarahemla.
"which were in all the regions round about," (v. 68)
The location for his people.
"which was bordering even to the sea on the east and on the west and "which was divided from the land of Zarahemla by a narrow strip of wilderness," (v. 68)
The above two phrases describe the land of the king and "all the regions round about." The next two phrases describe the "narrow strip of wilderness."
"which ran from the Sea East even to the Sea West, and round about on the borders of the seashore and the borders of the wilderness which was on the north, by the Land of Zarahemla, through the borders of Manti, by the head of the River Sidon, running from the east toward the west; And thus were the Lamanites and the Nephites divided." (v. 69) "Now the more idle part of the Lamanites lived in the wilderness and dwelt in tents; and they were spread through the wilderness on the west, in the Land of Nephi, Yea, and also on the west of the Land of Zarahemla," (v. 70,71)
Indicating that the Land of Zarahemla did not extend all of the way west to the sea.
"in the borders, by the seashore, and on the west in the Land of Nephi," (v. 71)
The Land of Nephi did extend that far.
"in the place of their fathers' first inheritance," (v. 71)
The phrase, "their fathers' first inheritance" is also used in describing the Land of Moron of the Jaredites as "the land of their first inheritance." (Ether 3:42,43; 54,55)
"and thus bordering along by the seashore. "And also there were many Lamanites on the east by the seashore, whither the Nephites had driven them; and thus the Nephites were nearly surrounded by the Lamanites." (v. 71,72)
They can only be nearly surrounded when their Land of Zarahemla is in a kind of pocket geographically, by the topography and also by the presence of the Lamanites.
"Nevertheless, the Nephites had taken possession of all the northern..." (v. 73)
"...parts of the land bordering on the wilderness at the head of the River Sidon," (v. 73)
This wilderness was identified many times from its relationship to "the head of the River Sidon" and was also identified as the "South Wilderness" or sometimes just as "the wilderness".
"from the east to the west," (v. 73)
It did not extend completely to the west edge of the land where the sea was located.
"round about on the wilderness sides on the north, even until they came to the land which they called Bountiful;" (v. 73)
"And it (v. 74) [Bountiful] bordered upon the land which they called Desolation," (v. 74)
Mormon says they called these two lands "Bountiful" and "Desolation," which were the names given by the people around 90 BCC.
"it (v. 74) [Bountiful] being so far northward," (v. 74)
Remember these people were on foot.
"that it came into the land which had been peopled, and had been destroyed--of whose bones we have spoken--" (v. 74) (see also Mosiah 5:60-66)
"which..." (v. 74)
"...the land which had been peopled,"
"was discovered by the people of Zarahemla," (v. 74)
At the same time they discovered Coriantumr; (see Omni 1:37)
"it" (v. 74)
"...the land which had been peopled,"
"being the place of their first landing; And they (v. 74) [the people of Zarahemla] came from there" (v. 74)
from "...the land which had been peopled" ie: Desolation, and "the place of their first landing;"
"up into the South Wilderness;" (v. 74)
near the land of Zarahemla where they were later found by the people of Nephi led by Mosiah.
"Thus the land on the northward was called Desolation, and the land on the southward was called Bountiful, it being the wilderness which was filled with all manner of wild animals of every kind, a part of which had come from the Land Northward, for food." (v. 75)
Read the description in Ether (Ether 4:35-69) of the famine where the animals came southward into the land known as Bountiful and the people could not get down to their animals because of the serpents which the Lord set there to block the way for the space of eight king generations.
"And now it was only the distance of a day and a half's journey for a Nephite, on the line Bountiful, and the Land Desolation, from the east to the West Sea;" (v. 76)
What are the meanings of the terms "line" and "land" as used here? Webster's definition for "line": "on the border between two categories", seems to fit! "Bountiful" to the south; "Desolation" to the north. Also is it "East Sea"? or simply the direction "east" "to the West Sea" as he states here? The Land of Bountiful and the Land of Desolation were northward -- therefore either the east and west seas as described above for the Land of Nephi and for the Land of Zarahemla are the same as those described here, or there are two West Seas and one or two East Seas.
No mention is made of any land west of the wilderness located west of Ammonihah, or west of Hermounts. Only the city of Jacobugath is identified as being in the "northernmost part of the land" and also in reference to Zarahemla, which was ravaged by fire. (3 Nephi 3:48, 3 Nephi 4:36)
"And thus the Land of Nephi, and the Land of Zarahemla, were nearly surrounded by water, there being a Small Neck of Land between the Land Northward, and the Land Southward." (v. 77)
But this neck of land was not necessarily formed by the two seas. We also have no indication that there was any other land south of the Land of Nephi! At that time, the Lamanites so far as we know, didn't keep records. Although the Nephites did, the Book of Mormon makes no mention of any land or migration which may have taken place to the south. Does this passage give strong support to the thesis that the Land of Nephi was of finite dimensions and was surrounded on the south by the sea? We don't know.
"And it came to pass that the Nephites had inhabited the Land Bountiful, even from the east unto the West Sea; (v. 78) And thus the Nephites in their wisdom, with their guards and their armies, had hemmed in the Lamanites on the south, that thereby they should have no more possession on the north, that they might not overrun the Land Northward; (v. 79) Therefore the Lamanites could have no more possessions only in the Land of Nephi, and the wilderness round about." (v. 80)
This statement also supports the above thesis that the Land of Nephi had finite dimensions on the south for the people who lived there.
"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 whither they might flee," (v. 81)
ie:Northward towards Bountiful and Desolation and then further into what is described as "the Land Northward".
"according to their desires. " (v. 81)
This is Mormon's description from the record in Alma of that time. He begins his own resume with the words "And thus the Nephites..." in verse 79. He concluded his own words and the chapter by stating:
"And now I, having said this, return again to the account of Ammon, and Aaron, Omner, and Himni, and their brethren." (v. 82)
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