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I love the subject of Book of Mormon geography and enjoy hearing all the theories and research. For full disclosure, I’m inclined to believe that the majority of the events in the Book of Mormon occurred in North America in the Eastern United States, that said, I tried to not let any biases influence what I was seeing in the text.
My goal was not to “find” Book of Mormon lands but to get an idea of how they were laid out and where cities were in relation to one another. I looked at many maps and found what I believed were some pretty fatal flaws. My theory on the so-called “narrow neck of land” is way different from the hourglass-like land masses portrayed in other maps. Plus, I don’t think they put many of the lands in the right places.
I wanted to produce a map that was as true as possible to the text. Using the text alone, I have attempted to build the Land of Zarahemla with its cities and the surrounding territories on textural clues and a few daring assumptions that challenge other models out there. I’m not an expert at this but as I’ve read and re-read the Book of Mormon and am continually fine-tuning my map, this is where I’m at thus far.
Note that I am not suggesting that this model is perfect by any stretch, it is a work in progress. Almost every location is referenced by scripture in the map itself so you’ll have to zoom in a little, I tried to make the map as close to proper scale as possible.
A few observations:
- My map estimates the Land of Zarahemla to have been approximately 36 miles wide and surrounded not only by various water features but forests and possibly very rough or even impassible terrain in the west around to the southwest.
- I think Zarahemla and Manti were key crossing points on the Sidon river at the northern and southern regions of Zarahemla and that they used the impassable middle portion to their strategic advantage.
- I think the narrow neck of land was actually a pass that was a convenient way into the land northward on the coast of the west sea and that there was perhaps an inland lake or “sea” or impassible rocky terrain that made the “narrow neck” a much easier route. I believe it was small enough to be guarded by an army, but that the distance between the sea east and the sea west at this point was around 54 miles wide, wider than the land of Zarahemla.
Using this model has helped me discover a lot of things that were not apparent in the text. I’ve gained some insight on the age of Alma the Younger at the time of his conversion (article pending) and why certain military strategies were employed and the strategic positioning of Ammon’s converts in Jershon.
While my map is probably far from perfect and it can be a little difficult to gauge many of the distances, especially the North/South distances, this map is a rough estimate of the general layout. I have not yet gone into the Lamanite lands or the land of first inheritance as of yet.
The map is open source and free to the public and can be edited easily in Adobe Illustrator. If you find any errors or any possible additions to the map, please let me know in the comments and I’ll take your suggestions into consideration.
Seas vs. Lakes
The image below is only for size comparison, I’m not making any claims. We just don’t really know how large or small the east and west “seas” were in the Book of Mormon. I think sometimes we envision them as oceans and look for something more like the Pacific and Atlantic oceans flanking Central America.
As I read the text, I believe that there is probably evidence that one could travel further west than the shore of the west sea and further east than the shore of the east sea. One way this would be possible is if Zarahemla was positioned roughly between the south shores of two seas. I think the south shore of the west sea was potentially a little further north than the south shore of the east sea.