If there is a lot of geography written in the Book of Mormon, why are there so many different concepts of where it all took place? Can’t everyone agree on some common premise and help others who are trying to figure it out?
There are many, maybe 30+ different theories and maps that have been created and proposed over the years. There are so many that they are categorized. The hemispheric model, south America, central America, north American, great lakes region model, and on and on. How can they be so divergent? How can these studied people be so out of touch with each other?
The answer is really very simple.
First, Book of Mormon geography is obscure at best. By that I mean there are so many unconnected parts. You have to make certain assumptions to create an accurate map. If you have ever tried it you’ve probably found that it takes a number of judgments to bridge the gaps between the puzzle pieces. With so many to make, it’s easy for different people to come to different conclusions. (See the post, “Could I Create a Map Using Just the Geography in the Book of Mormon?”)
Second, the geography today is different than before Christ’s appearance. Much of it remained the same, but some of it changed. The disappearance of part or all of the land of Nephi was a big change. We also read, “And many great and notable cities were sunk. The city of Moroni did sink into the depths of the sea.” (3 Ne 9:4)
The city of Jerusalem in the land of Nephi, the Lord caused it to sink into the water. “The city of Jerusalem and the inhabitants thereof; and waters have I caused to come up in the stead thereof.” (3 Ne 9:7) Afterward, there remained the land of Zarahemla, the land Bountiful and the land of Desolation, but the land of Nephi is no longer mentioned. It played such a big part of the geography because that’s the land the Lamanites occupied. Applying the geography from the time Lehi landed until after Christ’s appearance, to a map of today’s geography…well we can see the results.
There are a few key facts that can give us a context to the geography.
- Lehi landed a little south of the isthmus of Darien, or Panama. This was called the land of their first inheritance.
- The Land of Nephi was somewhere north of the land of their first inheritance.
- The land of Zarahemla was north of the land of Nephi.
- The land Bountiful was north of the land of Zarahemla.
- The land of Desolation was even further north of Bountiful.
- Also the land of Desolation came into a land of many waters which had once been peopled and been destroyed. The Jaredites probably occupied this land.
The major lands that anchor the geography in the Book of Mormon consist of the land of Nephi, the land of Zarahemla, the land Bountiful and the land of Desolation. And thus the geographic context is between the south part of Central America to an area in northern America, say New York State. At least that’s how I see it.
Another significant reason for the many divergent theories is differing opinions how much area the geography encompassed. (Read the post How Far Apart are The Lands in The Book of Mormon) In a Central American theory or the great lakes theory, you have the 1,000 years of history kept within a 400-mile radius. And there is some Book of Mormon geographic evidence that support that limitation. Then others believe it covered all the land from sea to sea. This gives the area a 1,500 mile radius. There is quit a bit of evidence to support this position, some of it being common sense. The area I subscribe to is the 1,500 mile radius or 3,000 miles from the top of South America to the boundary of Canada.
If you don’t remember anything else, remember this. It’s more important to know the relationship of the lands and cities to each other than which map is correct. Knowing that will help you visualize how it all takes place. It’s that configuration that gives value and worth to the geography, irrespective of its location.