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Fri - Aug 29, 2008 : 08:58 am
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Book Of Mormon Lands
I've been reading a few books and websites lately on the "geography of the Book of Mormon", and see that it is quite a contentious point for many people!  A desire to understand the BOM geography was the specific thing that got me into reading the Boook of Mormon for the first time on my own.  That isn't to say that my testimony is based off of someone's idea of where these lands are, or on some sort of physical evidence ... it's just that in digging as deeply as i could, and trying to picture people, places, and events in my head, the BOM came alive for me like never before, and when the prophets would speak, it was no longer a bunch of 'church stuff' and "and it came to pass's" ... i was better able to understand their meaning, and feel them speaking directly to me.

We know from reading the Book of Mormon three major, undisputed, things in relation to the geography:

1) that the events (after Lehi's family migrated) took place on this, the American continent

2) that there were more than one group of people who migrated to the Americas

3) that the Book of Mormon represents only the smallest portion of the records kept, that it contains more of the gospel and less of the history, and that there are records of many other nations that we have not been given at this time.  It is an abridgement, meaning it's the 'reader's digest version' of the history of the gospel.

from those things, we could suppose that:

1) there are probably records and prophets for all nations of the earth, and it will be exciting to see those!

2) that the bulk of the history of the people in the Americas has not been revealed to us.

3) there could be varied physical origins of the people "native" to this continent when the Europeans first arrived.

I had to throw that last one in because its become more important to consider since we've now got DNA evidence to back it up.

Anyway ...

based on these things, i've always supposed that we don't have record (or much record) of the people in South America or Alaska, but that the BOM mostly took place "up here". 

imagine my surprise, then, when i picked up my first "mormon archealogy"-type book, to find that the Hill Cumorah was in Guatemala, and not in New York, as i'd been led to believe by Moroni (a prophet) speaking to Joseph Smith (a prophet), and other modern prophets (notably Brigham Young) who mentioned accounts of Joseph returning to Cumorah ...

it seems that at some point, once giant stone temples in South America were discovered, people began creating theories and weaving complexities to displace the Book of Mormon and plop it down into the jungles of South America. 

This isn't to say that there weren't people in South America and Central America during the times of the BOM, nor does it mean that these groups never met and interacted (as far as we know, the Lamanites built the giant temples) ... but people forget (or ignore?) a few things:

- much of the geography was changed at the time of Christ's coming. cities fell into the sea, were covered by mountains which had toppled, valleys became mountains and mountains became plains ... it *is* therefore imaginable that, even if we knew precisely where everything took place, geographies and possibly even climates could appear vastly different than in earlier BOM times.

- we know where the Hill Cumorah is, and that this is the place where Mormon deposited the plates during the last great war.  as plain and simple as this is, we know it is the case.

- we know that 'this land' was to be preserved as a land of liberty, as long as its inhabitants were keeping the commandments. are Guatemala, Columbia, Nicaragua, Peru, Mexico wider known for their freedom than the United States?

- in D&C 125, the Lord tells the saints to call the city directly across the river from Nauvoo "Zarahemla".  Why might that be?

- Joseph smith, 3 later prophets and 5 other men went to one of the many ancient man-made mounds on the bluffs over looking Valley City, Iowa, and the prophet took a shovel and dug into the earth, exposing some bones. they found an arrowhead in the rib cage, and the prophet spoke by revelation (saying the Lord had opened up a vision to him) saying that the bones were of the body of a Lamanite warrior who was under the great prophet Onandugas, whose name was "known from Cumorah to the Rocky Mountains", and had fallen during the last great war.  We know from this that the last great war must have taken place (at least enough for this man to have fallen!) in the United States, and that the prophet he was under was known across the U.S. ... Joseph did not name any South or Central American landmarks or cities. [this incident is in the History of the Church books].

- Brigham Young once mentioned at a temple dedication that some of the area around (St. George, UT?) was where the Gadianton Robbers had hidden. 

- i have a friend who is always reminding us that when Utah was named, the Saints wanted the state to be called Deseret, but people unfriendly to the Saints convinced the government to call it "Utah", after the "Ute" indians.  It was later discovered that the name means "High On The Mountaintops", or something to that effect ... Similarly, the name of the indians inhabiting the area around niagra means "narrow neck of land", and it is believed that the word "Niagra" is grom the Mohawk "ni-waa", meaning 'small', and "on-yara", meaning 'neck'. hmmm ...

- the 'dead sea' and the 'red sea' are incredibly small compared to our "Great Lakes", yet they were known as 'seas' throughout ancient times.  the BOM freqently mentions the 'narrow neck of land' and a sea on the west and a sea on the east.  it mentions a large river that runs north and south.  there are few geographic locations that match so closely.  Where is the great river (Sidon) that runs north/south located at panama or yucatan? there isn't one ... yet there *is* a Missippi river that runs from the great lakes (and remember the folks of niagra - the 'narrow neck') ...

- the seas are always referred to as 'dividing the land', rather than the land 'dividing the seas'. no one has mentioned this anywhere else, so i may be way off-base, but it would seem to me that in an area where the 'seas' were giant lakes, it would seem more that they were dividing the land than a place where the land narrowly wandered between two great oceans (where it would seem the land is dividing the sea). 

i've been to some of the locations in central america, and the things we know of those cultures don't really fit the Nephites and Lamanites from what we know.  We know that they built their cities out of wood, dug treenches and fortified their walls sometimes with soil ... this matches with archealogical finds of the "Hopewell" and "Adena" cultures of north america (who built mounds and trenches, who seem to have built their homes of wood, as we can still find posts in some of the locations, and in whose mounds we have sometimes found metal breastplates , spear heads and other tools, as well as stone 'plates' inscribed with middle-eastern looking writing, as well as images of a Christ-like figure on a cross) ...

I don't know if the heavy bias toward the Book of Mormon lands is rooted in the error that came out when Joseph was still alive (someone published an article in his name saying the newly found ruins in south america were of BOM lands, but he corrected the error and required the paper to have his signature before attributing anything else to him) ... or maybe the bias is rooted in the attempts of early government archealogy in the United States doing their best to hide away signs that an 'advanced' civilization once lived here (they were afraid that if the general population viewed the natives as anything other than -or related to anyone other than - "savages", they couldn't continue expanding westward without running into opposition). 

either way, it's nice to know that there are places we can look to individually to help us picture the places and events mentioned in scripture ... but, like the disputed places in the Bible (Jesus' tomb, where Noah's ark landed, where the manger was, etc), it doesn't really matter if we do or don't ever find the undisputed location: the substance of the scriptures is in the teachings, and those teachings will lead us closer to outr Father In Heaven.
Comment by Blaine Kippen on Dec. 13, 2008 @ 09:13 am
I know your intentions are good.  But you should be more cautious about some of the things written.  1) Moroni never said the hill in New York was the original Cumorah, 2) Joseph Smith never said it was the same hill.  3) No one ever referred to it as Cumorah until years later.  The name seems to have been based on assumptions that the plates were buried in the original hill, when it is just as likely that it was buried there only to be near Joseph Smith when it was needed for translation. 4) Earthquakes seldom change things to the extent you suggest.  This seems often to be an excuse for North American theories not matching the geographic requirements very well.  5) Mormon didn't bury the plates at the time of the last great war.  He took them out and gave them to his son.  (Mormon 6:6.)  Why would Mormon separate the plates from the Nephite archive unless they were to be taken somewhere else?  6) The references to Indian words are not compelling even if accurate.  7) The river Sidon flows north and not south as you suggest.  Remember, the headwaters of the river are located near the narrow strip of wilderness which is between Nephi and Zarahemla.  So when the river flows from there past Zarahemla and on into the sea it flows north. (See Alma 27:22).  8) The Nephite lands were "nearly surrounded by water." (Alma 22:32)  There is a reference to the sea dividing the land in Ether and it seems to located near the narrow neck but is a single feature and does not dominate the geography as would the four seas that surround Nephite lands.  (Helaman 3:8).  9) The Adena culture was very primitive and they never had villages much larger than 100 people.  The Hopewell culture for the most part post-dates Book of Mormon history and most of the mounds were constructed 500 years after the last Nephite was dead.  10) Joseph Smith's letter to John Bernhisel about the Stevens book doesn't indicate that he was antagonistic to the idea of a Mesoamerican setting.  Please document his retraction/correction.  11) Your treatment of the Zelph incident is pretty superficial.  Its interesting but details suggesting Book of Mormon links are not there in all the accounts.  12) I would like to hear the logic that establishes the identity of the Hill Cumorah as firmly as you indicate.  "We know here it is?"  With no outstanding questions?  Please document.  13) Your statement about the cultures in Mesoamerica not matching are simply not accurate.  14) In your model where are your candidate cultures for the Jaredites and the Mulekites.  Mesoamerica provides good candidates.  15) Where are the great cement cities in the land northward in your setting?

Fondest Regards,



Comment by P.C. Olive on Oct. 04, 2009 @ 09:57 am
I just came across your site and was pleased  that you stuck to your guns. You may profit from a reading of my newest book , The Lost Empires and Vanished Races of Prehistoric America. You will find it on my website, Book of Mormon Lands. com A new study of DNA and the Book of Mormon, which pretty much proves out our contention that Book of Mormon activity took place in North American, can also now be viewed on that site. Good luck as you continue your search for the truth.

Sister Olive
Comment by Natalie on Mar. 18, 2010 @ 09:32 am
It amazes me how defensive people can get about their theories as to where the Book of Mormon took place  and it makes me a bit weary of "learned men".  Everyone is is entitled to their opinions.  Growing up I just assumed the BOM took place in the North East until I started doing a bit of my own reading and research about 5 years ago.  I felt Mesoamerica was a strong candidate and felt pretty good in thinking it took place down there. A lot of things fit into place and made sense.  In the last few weeks though I started looking into the theories about the BOM taking place near the Great Lakes.  And you have to admit there are just as many strong evidences and possibilities to it as there is for Mesoamerica and in my opinion maybe a bit more.  I'm inclined to lean towards the North America theory at this point.  There are pros and cons for both and unanswered questions for both.  So my point is 1)-Thank you for your write up on your opinion and why is it is so, 2)-Until there is a revelation and  public statement by our Prophet and/or the Lord himself as to where the the BOM's exact location was, people should acknowledge both the good (seems like if your against the theory one doesn't bother to acknowledge the good/evidences/explainations) and the bad (or unexplained) aspects to each theory and not be so closed minded as to disregard new theories and new evidences.  Some people spend a lifetime of work on one theory that they do themselves an injustice to realize that they could possibly be wrong.


Comment by Lou Petillot on Sep. 14, 2010 @ 11:02 am
When we place our theories before the words of the living prophets we stand tin ice.  I taught people while on my mission that the BOM was a history of the people of south central america as LDS scolars taught.  Years later I have turned to the words of modern prophets and over and over they teach us that the Hill Cumorah is the same hill that Joseph went to for the gold plates.  I am amazed how learned men can defame the prophets while they hold tight to their theories. When in doubt the science should match the inspired, if not stick to the inspired.

Thank you for your thoughts,

Comment by B. Sanders on Sep. 17, 2010 @ 11:53 am
I have read Sister Olive's book, and, after having done so, I sought a personal witness as to the truthfulness of the Great Lakes theory. I absolutely without hesitation believe her theories to be the most correct of any out there. If you read her book carefully, you will find that there is a cultural and genetic link between the great lakes cultures and the mesoamerican cultures. I have seen first hand artifacts recovered from some central Alabama mounds that only a trained archaeologist could distinguish as not being meso-American in origin. There is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that the tribes that lived up and down the length of the mississipi and it's many tributaries had strong ties to those in the land southward. But the truth is, the majority of the events described in the book of mormon absolutely did occur in and around the great lakes region. The only way to know that for yourself, though, is to let go of all the pride and prejudices you have toward the central american theories and ask in humility -- actually WANTING to know the truth.

Enjoy the Journey!
Comment by Jeff on Apr. 01, 2012 @ 09:53 pm
2 Nephi 10:
Comment by M Pate on Jun. 23, 2012 @ 11:16 pm
Are you aware that the recent research and publications of Robert A. Pate, PhD identify Guatemala as the principle location for most of the Book of Mormon Geography? SEE:
The latest, color, zoom-able Book of Mormon geography map is freely downloadable at the website.
Books by Robert A. Pate, PhD:
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Book 1: MAPPING THE BOOK OF MORMON: A Comprehensive Geography of Nephite America (2002, Hardbound, 509 pages)
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Book 2: MORMON NAMES IN MAYA STONE (2009, eBook & Softbound, 146 pages)
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Book 3: MORMON KEY TO MAYA CODE (Feb. 2012, eBook, 283 pages)

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Book 4: MORMON FOOTPRINT IN MESOAMERICA (Feb. 2012, eBook, 150 pages)
A (.pdf) copy of this book can be freely downloaded at
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This seminal work provides the methodology and trail-of-discovery that led to the identification of the cities and lands of the Book of Mormon – a never-before accomplished feat. Discovery of the place names accentuated the need for paradigm shifts to traditional thinking.
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Mormon, Moroni, Lehi, Nephi, Zoram, and other Book of Mormon personalities are identified in Maya writings and stone glyphs – something never before accomplished by researchers.
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Locations of living Book of Mormon survivors are determined by tribe with concomitant DNA implications. Read the natives' account of the hill Cumorah battle. The extensive Zarahemla silk industry and Chinese connection are also identified in the Maya glyphs.
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A short and clear walk through the Book of Mormon, identifying each city and land relevant to the Nephite travels and wars – including Zarahemla, Bountiful, Desolation, and Cumorah – each identified by name in the “native chronicles”. An alphabetical list of all major Book of Mormon cities and sites with their GPS coordinates is provided at the back of the book – with color maps.
A (.pdf) copy of this book can be freely downloaded at
- - -
The latest, color, zoom-able BofM geography map is freely downloadable at