Why City Bountiful was not located in the Yucatan, Peten or northern Belize
Mulek was located on the east sea coast “on the east borders by the seashore” (Alma 51:26). The Book of Mormon requires that the city Bountiful be located northward from Mulek, not more than a half day’s march (approximately 5 to 10 miles) and near the same seashore.
Alma 52:22-23, states:
22. …Teancum should take a small number of men and march down near the seashore; and Moroni and his army, by night, marched in the wilderness on the west of the city Mulek; and thus, on the morrow, when the guards of the Lamanites had discovered Teancum, they ran and told it unto Jacob, their leader. [If Cerros was Mulek then Moroni’s army would have been stationed on the west side of Cerros right on the seashore and Teancum would have been waiting on the northeast side of Cerros near the seashore. Retreating northward from there would have meant that Teancum would have ended up in the Chetumal Bay, see map below].
23. …the armies of the Lamanites did march forth against Teancum, supposing by their numbers to overpower Teancum…And as Teancum saw the armies of the Lamanites coming out against him he began to retreat down by the seashore northward. [This implies that they never left the seashore and always traveled northward. This scripture does not support the idea that they “circled back” somewhere (see pages 603-of Exploring]. Had they “circled back” after leaving Cerros and traveling northward on the seashore, they would have traveled a much greater distance. They would also have to have marched southward to go around the Bay and then crossed a good sized river and a very swampy Delta which would have substantially reduced the distance they could have marched in a half a day.
27. …the Lamanites did pursue Teancum until they came near the city Bountiful, and then they were met by Lehi and a small army, which had been left to protect the city Bountiful. [To me it sounds like they followed Teancum northward along the seashore and never crossed a river or a swampy delta].
28. …when…the Lamanites beheld Lehi…coming against them, they fled in much confusion, lest perhaps they should not obtain the city Mulek before Lehi should overtake them…. [They clearly could have made it back to Mulek within the same day. Therefore, the farthest distance that city Bountiful could have been located from Mulek was not more than a half day’s march, (not a day’s march as suggested at page 604, of Exploring). I submit that Mulek and Bountiful would not have been more than 10 miles apart.
I submit that the cities Mulek and Bountiful could not have been more that 10 miles apart and therefore, Kohunlich cannot be the city Bountiful because it is located due west from Cerros about 30 miles as the crow flies. Also one could not have traveled northward from Cerros along the beach to get to Kohunlich as required by the Book of Mormon. One would have to have “circled back,” traveled southward, and then crossed a large river and swampy delta before marching to Kohunlich or Dzibanche.
It is even more improbable that Dzibanche could have been the city Bountiful because Cerros is located 40 miles from Disbanche as the crow flies and it is more west than north. Again, one could not have traveled northward from Cerros (Mulek) along the seashore to arrive at Dzibanche as required by the Book of Mormon and nothing therein justifies the claim that Teancum “circled back” (see page 603).
I submit that, according to the Book of Mormon, the armies of Teancum and armies of the Lamanites did not march across a large river and swampy delta and about 40 miles inland to the city Bountiful at Dzibanche in a half day. I further submit that this scripture requires city Bountiful to be located not more than about 10 miles northward from Mulek and be very close to the seashore. Therefore, neither Dzibanche nor Kohunlich could have been city Bountiful. (See map above)
The Cities Bountiful, Mulek, and the east-sea land Bountiful could not have been located in northern Belize, Peten, or in the Yucatan because there were too many Maya living there. It would have been a military disaster.
We must recognize and accept the fact that the Nephite/Lamanite/Mulekite people did not include all of the Maya. The enormous Maya culture pre-existed the Nephites by many hundreds of years. To help understand the extent of the Maya culture in central Peten at its peak about 250 BC, I quote from /Authenticmaya.com at mayaculture.htm. Nov.2010:
Most archaeologists agree that ancient Guatemala was the cultural and commerce center of the Americas, and that the Mayan civilization, is the jewel of all ancient American cultures, and one of the greatest civilizations the world has ever known.
The Mayan Culture developed between 3000 and 2000 BC. Pollen samples [have] shown the establishments of agriculture in Guatemala by 4000 BC, and around 2500 BC initiated the building of small cities with some permanent architecture all over the country (Pre-Classic). According to Houston the Cho'lan language, the precursor to the Maya, originated in the Guatemalan Highlands, ca 3000 BC. In the tropical lowlands of El Mirador Basin, in the Petén Lowlands,of Northern Guatemala,…[there are] huge cities like Mirador, Nakbé, San Bartolo, Tintal and others, although there were some early cities in the Guatemala Highlands (Naranjo, Kaminal Juyú, Nebaj, Guaytán, El Portón), and in the Pacific Low Lands (Tak’alik Abaj, Chocolá), [they did] not reach the size of those in Petén where they built at least 27 big cities and countless smaller ones at its peak around 250 BC.
El Mirador, the Cradle of the Maya Civilization, where, the cities were not only numerous, but very sophisticated, and developed, with architectonic structures from 1400 BC, indeed the two biggest cities of the Maya Civilization (Mirador and Tintal) are there, with the same religious beliefs, astronomical, mathematics and writing knowledge [of] those in the Classic period.
El Mirador provides the richest undisturbed laboratory on the origins of the Maya civilization and its earliest kingdoms, culture, history and environment, and the reasons of the _collapse.htm">collapse [about AD 150] of a civilization of nearly one million people [in the Mirador basin].
We don't know if the early Maya went to war mainly to acquire territory, take booty, control conquered groups for labor, take captives for sacrifice in sanctification rituals, or a combination of these.
A Late Classic occupation in the seventh and eighth century AD. occurred in the Mirador Basin, although never approaching the levels seen during the Late Preclassic heyday of the site [250 BC.]
Prior to about 71 BC, the entire area of northern Peten, Yucatan, and Belize was heavily populated with indigenous Maya as noted above. In Belize, the huge city of Lamanai was heavily populated, continuously, from about 1500 BC to after 1500 AD. El Mirador was at its peak about 200 to 300 BC and contained upwards of 200,000 people. It was an expanding city/state and one that practiced human sacrifice.
I submit that the Nephites and or Nephite/Mulekites never occupied or attacked any territory near these above-cited humongous Mayan civilization centers located in northern Peten, Belize, and Yucatan. It would have been foolhardy for Moroni (about 72 BC) to have sent Nephites from Allens’ proposed Zarahemla at Santa Rosa, Chiapas over 300 miles as the crow flies to build and settle a new city Bountiful at Dzibanche, Yucatan. They would had to have passed through the Mirador complex or the Lamanai complex and hundreds of other large Mayan cities on their way. And then they would have to have conquered Cerros (Mulek) because Cerros, in Belize, was already an existing city. It states at www.authenticmaya.com:
Cerros is located in the north of Belize on a peninsula across from Corozal Town and in the Bay of Chetumal. During the Pre-Classic Period (100B.C- 250A.D), Cerros was important as a coastal trading center.
The Nephites never had the manpower to have conquered the Maya in Petén, Belize or Yucatan
According to the Book of Mormon, prior to about the year 200 BC, the Nephites were living south of the narrow strip of mountainous wilderness in the land of Nephi. About 200 BC King Mosiah 1 “fled” the land of Nephi with “as many as would hearken unto the voice of the Lord.” They congregated upon the hill north of Shilom, (Mosiah 11:1) and then crossing the narrow strip of mountainous wilderness before going down into the city of Zarahemla where they merged with the Mulekites. With the consent of the Mulekites, Mosiah 1 also became their king (Omni 1:13). How many Nephites came with King Mosiah 1? 5,000 to 20,000? Perhaps.
I submit that at this time the land of Zarahemla occupied a very limited area surrounding the city of Zarahemla. By 91 BC, the time of Alma the younger about 100 years later, the land of Zarahemla, notwithstanding civil wars and many battles between the Lamanites and the Nephites, had expanded to include the following (See my article FootPrint at BMAF.org.):
2. Gideon, east across the river Sidon and about a day’s journey southeast from Zarahemla.
3. Manti south of Zarahemla (not more than 50 miles or so) and up in the narrow strip of mountainous wilderness.
4. Melek, west from Zarahemla, perhaps not more than a day’s journey or so.
5. The west-sea land bountiful area northward to the line between Desolation and Bountiful.
By the time Moroni came onto the scene in the year 74 BC (Alma 43:16), the Nephites and the land of Zarahemla were “nearly surrounded by Lamanites”. Moroni had the monumental task of stopping the Lamanite encroachment from the east sea area, the area south of the narrow strip of wilderness, and the west sea area.
One should ask what was the purpose for Moroni’s locating “many cities”, including the city Bountiful, on or near the east seashore. The answer is that after he chased the Lamanites out of the east sea area and forced “all the Lamanites” (Alma 50:7) to relocate south of the narrow strip of wilderness, he was trying to keep them out by establishing new cities in that area. This was a strategic military decision. I do not believe Moroni would have located those cities in non-strategic areas, such as 150 to 200 miles northward from the narrow strip of wilderness, in the areas of northern Belize or the Petén or the Yucatan. He certainly would not have allowed these new east-sea-area defensive cities to have been separated by heavily populated cities like Lamanai. And there is no evidence that he conquered any east sea coastal Mayan city.
I submit that these new eastern cities were all located proximately to each other to ensure each other’s safety and to keep the Lamanites out of the east sea area. He further would have done nothing to invite hostile action by the neighboring Maya to the north. It seems reasonable to me that the Nephites had an amiable trading relationship with the Maya to the North and did not want the Lamanites to interrupt that relationship.
Clearly the cities Bountiful and Mulek were within 10 miles or less from each other. Morianton and Lehi were closer than that because of the border disputes they had. Therefore, it seems to me that all of the other cities named in Alma 51:26 from the city Moroni (located at the very eastern edge of the land of Zarahemla near the east sea and just north of the land of the Lamanites) to the city Bountiful should not have been separated by a distance greater than between 30 to 50 miles.
I do not believe it possible that the Nephites ever “invaded” those northern areas or even attempted to locate any cities near where so many Maya people were living. Certainly Moroni,
in 72 BC, did not chase “all” the “one million plus Maya” out of those areas and did not make them locate south of the narrow strip of mountainous wilderness. So, therefore, it appears to me that the cities of Bountiful, Gid, Mulek and the other east sea cities built by Moroni about 72 BC were probably located south of Belize, or at the very most perhaps in the southern most part of Belize where it borders on Guatemala.
On page 596 of Exploring, it states an erroneous time period (150 BC) when the Maya began populating the areas of Petén and Belize:
At page 595-96 “…this area [the vast Maya heartland including Belize] was heavily populated beginning at 150 BC and continuing to the conquest of Mexico in the sixteenth century. This area is literally dotted with ruins of ancient buildings, including Tikal, El Mirador, Bonampak, Uaxactún, Rio Negro, Lamanai, and Altun Ha. As seen above, this is a misstatement of the facts about the Maya and their beginnings and populating of El Mirador, etc. El Mirador began before 1500 BC and was continuously occupied until its first demise about 150 AD. Lamanai in Belize was populated continuously from about 1500 BC to about AD 1500.
On page 598, After the Nephites had driven all the Lamanites out of the east wilderness (the Petén and Belize) south into their (the Lamanites’) own land—that is the highlands of Guatemala—the Nephites went forth into the east wilderness, or the Petén, to occupy it. They went as far as the borders of the seashore (Belize) to possess the land. If that were true then the Nephites would have to have driven all the million-plus Maya out of Mirador, Uaxactún, Tikal, Tintal, Nakbe, San Bartolo, Lamanai and hundreds of other cities in the Petén and Belize areas and driven all of them to the south of the narrow strip of wilderness. Note I did not say “to the highlands of Guatemala” because the Book of Mormon does not say that. Alma 50:7 says “…and drove all the Lamanites who were in the east wilderness into their own lands, which were south of the land of Zarahemla.”The land of Nephi included the east sea area south of the narrow strip of wilderness and this area was not part of the “highlands of Guatemala.”
If the Lamanites had occupied all of the Petén and Belize as claimed, then the Lamanites would have had to have left the land of Nephi prior to 200 BC and gone into the Petén and Belize in mass and constructed all those humongous structures between about 500 BC and 72 BC when Moroni chased them all “back” “into their own lands.” Such a scenario flies in the face of reason and the known archeological findings of the area and is certainly not corroborated by the Book of Mormon.
On page 597, ”…The Petén and Belize rainforests constituted the east wilderness of Zarahemla. … Because we are talking about the east wilderness and because it is
I submit that If this were true then one must conclude that all of the Maya were part of the Nephite people and I do not believe that was possible, and I do not believe that the Book of Mormon supports this claim. Clearly the Nephites had their hands full defending the Lamanites from the south without also controlling and defending the “Mayan Lamanites” from the north.
The Book of Mormon does not support changing the headquarters of the church to the city Bountiful.
The Allens suggest that the “church” headquarters of the Nephites was moved from Zarahemla to the city Bountiful (on page 612) about 36 BC (page 614) and that this east-sea land Bountiful covered the “entire area” (page 615) of Petén and Belize.
To believe that the Nephites moved their headquarters to the city Bountiful in Dzibanche and controlled the entire nation of the Maya in Petén, Belize, and possibly Yucatan from about 36 BC to who-knows-when after Christ is most incredible. This claim is based on Helaman 4:4-6 (see page 613). The problem is that the rest of the scripture was not cited which clearly places the event not in the east-sea Bountiful but in the west-sea Bountiful. Helaman 4:5-8 states:
Helaman 4:5. [In the 34th year BC the Nephite dissenters and the Lamanite armies] “…succeeded in obtaining possession of the land of Zarahemla; yea, and also all the lands, even unto [not in yet] the land which was near the land Bountiful.”
Helaman 4:6 “And the Nephites and the armies of Moronihah were driven even into [now they go in] the land of Bountiful; [this land Bountiful was located on the west sea coast, see verse 7 below.]
Helaman 4:10. (In the 31st year BC) “…they succeeded in regaining even the half of all their possessions.” I submit that this included the city of Zarahemla. (See Helaman 13:12-16) Also note that in the year 30 BC Nephi still held the judgment seat at Zarahemla (See Hel 5:1). Therefore, Nephi had not moved to the “new headquarters” of the Church in the city Bountiful, at Dzibanche, Yucatan, Mexico.
Who was the prophet, the head of the church, and the keeper of the plates and records during the years 53 BC to 39 BC, and held the Judgment seat from 50 BC to 39 BC)? Helaman, son of Helaman (see Alma 63:11-12 and Helaman 2:2).
Who was the prophet, the head of the church, and the keeper of the plates and records during the years 39 BC to 1 BC? Nephi, son of Helaman. (See Hel 2:2 and Hel 5:1 and 3 Ne 1:2). He also held the judgment seat from 39/BC to 30 BC?
Where was his residence and land of his nativity? Zarahemla (Hel 7:3, 10 & 3 Ne 3:9).
Where was Nephi, son of Helaman, residing when he gave the plates and all the records to his son Nephi in the year one AD? Zarahemla (3 Ne 1:2). It was not the city Bountiful.
Where were the records during this time? Zarahemla (See 3 Ne 1:2-9 & 2:9).
Was Lachoneus a prophet? Yes (See 3 Ne 3:16-19). The chief Judge? Yes. The governor? Yes. (See 3 Ne 3:1). From where did he rule? Zarahemla. (See 3 Ne 1:1 & 3:1 & 3:17).
When did Lachoneus begin his reign? One BC. It was the same time and place where Nephi, son of Helaman died. Then when did the headquarters of the church return to Zarahemla from city Bountiful? It did not. I submit that it never left Zarahemla until Christ was crucified when the city of Zarahemla burned.
When did Lachoneus end his reign and where was he living? AD 29 living back in Zarahemla after returning from the west-sea Bountiful after abandoning the Nephite cities to the Gadianton Robbers in the year AD 17 (See 3 Ne 6:19 & 25).
There is no indication that the headquarters of the church was anywhere except Zarahemla until Christ died.
The only time that the Book of Mormon mentions that Nephi, son of Helaman, went to the city Bountiful was the year 30 BC after Nephi, son of Helaman, gave up the judgment seat to Cezoram. Nephi and his brother, Lehi, thereafter dedicated their lives to (see chapters 5 through 10 of Helaman):
…teaching the word of God among all the people of Nephi beginning at the city Bountiful…and from thenceforth to the city of Gid; and from the city of Gid to the city of Mulek;..even from one city to another, until they had gone forth among all the people of
Nephi who were in the land southward; and from thence into the land of Zarahemla, among the Lamanites…eight thousand of the Lamanites [were] baptized…[and then] Nephi and Lehi did proceed from thence to go to the land of Nephi…and the Lamanites’ righteousness did exceed that of the Nephites…and many of the Lamanites did come down into the land of Zarahemla. …and…many of the Lamanites did go into the land northward; and also Nephi and Lehi went into the land northward…In the [23rd year BC] Nephi returned to the land of Zarahemla from the land northward…[where] they did reject all his words insomuch that he could not stay among them but returned again unto the land of his nativity. …Nephi had bowed himself upon the tower which was in his garden…which was by the highway which led to the chief market, which was in the city of Zarahemla…there were some who said that Nephi was a prophet…others who said: behold, he is a god…Nephi went his way towards his own house…a voice came unto him saying:…”Behold thou art Nephi, and I am God. …I give unto you power that whatsoever ye shall seal on earth shall be sealed in heaven; and whatsoever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven and thus ye shall have power among this people. [at 3 Nephi 1:2, the year AD 1] Nephi, son of Helaman having departed out of the land of Zarahemla, giving charge unto his son Nephi, who was his eldest son, concerning the plates of brass, and all the records, which had been kept, and all those things which had been kept sacred from the departure of Lehi out of Jerusalem.
Was Nephi, son of Helaman, the Prophet, Sear, and Revelator? Yes. Was he the leader of the Church? Yes. Was he living in Zarahemla? Yes. Was he residing in the city Bountiful? No. Did he give the all the keys, records and all things sacred to his son Nephi in AD 1? Yes. Was Nephi, son of Nephi living in Zarahemla at the time? Yes.
It is very clear to me that there was never a relocation of the headquarters of the church from Zarahemla to Bountiful. I submit that neither city Bountiful nor the headquarters of the church was ever located north of the large Maya city states of El Mirador and Lamanai at Dzibanche or Kohunlich or anywhere near those areas.
I further submit that the east sea wilderness described in the Book of Mormon did not include the Mayan people of Petén, northern Belize, or the Yucatan. The city Bountiful was mentioned only from its beginning about 71 BC to 30 BC when Nephi, son of Helaman started his missionary journey there. It is never mentioned again and the Book of Mormon never says that there was a temple in city Bountiful.
Christ first appeared at west sea Bountiful and not at city Bountiful.
I submit that Christ did not initially come to the city Bountiful on the east sea coast but to the west-sea Bountiful for the following reasons:
1. The Book of Mormon never mentions a temple in any east sea location.
2. City Bountiful and east-sea land Bountiful are never mentioned after 30 BC.
3. City Bountiful was located at the extreme northern area of the Nephite occupation on the east sea area and not where most of the Nephites lived.
4. West-sea Bountiful was located more near the heartland of the Nephites about the time of Christ’s first appearance.
5. Lachoneus never went to the east-sea Bountiful area for protection but to the west-sea Bountiful in the year 16 AD.
6. The Maya “Lamanites” had so heavily populated the areas of northern Petén and Belize at the time of Christ’s resurrection that it would have been impossible for there to have been substantial numbers of faithful Nephites including faithful Lamanites in that area.
7. The areas of northern Petén, Yucatan, and Belize were too far from Zarahemla for the Nephites to have effectively protected and governed those territories.
The city Bountiful and the east sea land Bountiful were never mentioned after 30 BC. (Hel. 5:14) The east sea is mentioned in Helaman 11:20, however the city and land Bountiful are not. From this time forward term “Bountiful” always has reference to the west-sea Bountiful.
It seems to me that there must have been a good reason for Lachoneus, (in the year AD 17) to have relocated his “tens of thousands” of Nephites, after abandoning Zarahemla to the robbers led by Giddianhi (3 Nephi 3 & 4), to an area on the west sea coast that they were already familiar with. It would have been near where they had support from those Nephites who had relocated there and, perhaps, support from those who had relocated into the land northward. This was also close to the same area where Hagoth had built and launched his ships some 50 years prior. Surely there were friendly Nephites in this appointed area.
It also seems reasonable that they would have traveled along an existing route and not a foot-path in the wilderness somewhere because they took their “horses, and their chariots, and their cattle, and all their flocks, and their herds, and their grain, and all their substance and did march forth by the thousands and by tens of thousands, until they had all gone forth to the place which had been appointed… (3 Ne 3:22)…the land which was appointed was the land of Zarahemla, and the land which was between the land Zarahemla and the land Bountiful, yea, to [not beyond] the line which was between the land Bountiful and the land Desolation. …Lachoneus did cause that they should gather themselves together in the land southward, because of the great curse which was upon the land northward (see 3 Nephi 3:22-25).” [Clearly they settled in that part of the greater land of Zarahemla that was called Bountiful from the “Line” and southward as needed because they settled in one place near the land northward. An excellent candidate for this location is the huge and once heavily populated area called La Perseverancia located just southward from the “line”. Notice also that sometimes the term “Land southward” means land Bountiful. Had there not been a drought in the land Northward, Lachoneus would have located in the land northward.
The proposed land Bountiful on the west sea is an area west of the Sierra Madre Mountains and southward from about Tonala, near Tehuantepec, Mexico. This is an area with an annual rainfall of over 200 inches and, unlike other areas in Mesoamerica, rarely goes without rain even in the dry season. Also remember that the reason Lachoneus did not go into the land northward was because of the drought there at the time.
The southern part of this west-sea land Bountiful would have been located near the Book of Mormon city of Joshua, which was located near the archeological site of Izapa, Mexico.
I maintain that Dr. Hauck has very good reason to believe that when Christ first appeared to Nephites at the temple in the land Bountiful, he must have come to a temple in the west-sea land Bountiful, possibly at Izapa where the “Tree of Life stone” is located. As noted above there are also very good reasons to believe that Christ did not first appear at city Bountiful on the east sea coast.