How to Find Accuracy


How to Find Accuracy


Why is redundancy in geographic reference association so important? Because redundancy eliminates confusion; one single reference should never be used to establish a critical correlation. Take the idea of an isthmus, for instance. Only one single reference in the book’s text, Alma 22:32, can be interpreted as an isthmus explanation yet numerous current and historic geographies of the Book of Mormon pivot around this concept. If a variety of similar reinforcing references concerning an isthmus should actually exist, than everyone writing their geographies around this core concept would be standing on bedrock. Since there is no redundancy, these writers are standing on sand when they rely on the term “isthmus” as a correct interpretation of Alma 22:32. 


This process of seeking redundancy among the references for Nephi, Manti, Zarahemla, the narrow strip of wilderness, the river Sidon and the demarcation line between the lands of Bountiful and Desolation all ties into Alma 22:27-34, Mormon’s classic description of the Nephite/Lamanite geography.


The search for authenticity based on redundancy begins with Alma 22:27, the fundamental reference Mormon gives us pertaining to the geography of the Lamanites about 85 BC. In this verse the converted Lamanite king sends out a proclamation to his people in his land and its “regions round about” which means throughout the greater land of Nephi extending from the city of Nephi, where he lived, to Lamanites settled on the east and west sea shores.  This verse reads as follows in its original chiasm:


And it came to pass that the king sent a proclamation throughout all the land,

1   A amongst all his people who were in all his land, who were in all the regions round about,

2            B E F which was bordering even to the sea, on the east and on the west,

                       C and which was divided from the land of Zarahemla

4                                      D by a narrow strip of wilderness,

5            B’ F’ E’ which ran from the sea east even to the sea west, and round about on the borders of the  seashore,

6                                      D’ and the borders of the wilderness

7                        C’ which was on the north by the land of Zarahemla,

8            B” E” F” through the borders of Manti, by the head of the river Sidon, running from the east towards the west

9   A’ and thus were the Lamanites and the Nephites divided (Alma 22:27).


This chiasm actually focuses on the narrow strip of wilderness (hereafter NSW) as shown by D and D', the red highlights and the central position occupied by lines 4 and 6. Mormon describes that wilderness in line 5 which features reiterations of couplets E and F as originally found in line 2 and as reiterated a second time in line 8. It is interesting that Mormon reverses his couplets in line 5 placing the sea east—sea west association before the bordering concept. 


The relationship between the NSW and the lands of Zarahemla and Nephi are given in line 3 in which Nephi is “divided” from Zarahemla by the NSW.  The relationship of the NSW with the land of Zarahemla, the land of Manti and the Sidon River is given in line 8. Although all of this is structured around the lands occupied by the Lamanites, the only lines that actually address the lands and peoples of the Lamanites are lines 1, 2, 3 and 9. This format means that the NSW, which is generally ignored in most geographies of the Book of Mormon, is fundamental for understanding the book’s setting. Any publication that does not address the narrow strip of wilderness with the clarity that Mormon provides should be rejected as an answer to the book’s setting.


Mormon writes Alma 22:27 in this format to clarify the following factors:

1.The NSW divided the Lamanites’ land of Nephi from the Nephites’ land of Zarahemla (lines 1, 3 and 4).

2.The NSW extended from the east sea to the west sea5 and 8) as did the lands occupied by the Lamanites shown in line 2 (note Mormon’s placement in the chiasm of lines 2, 5 and 8—all addressing the seas on the east and on the west).

3.The NSW was north of the land of Nephi by the land of Zarahemla (line 7).

4.The borders of Manti were also north of the land of Nephi (line 8).

5.The headwaters of the river Sidon were in or adjacent to the borders of the land of Manti (line 8).


Line 9 provides Mormon’s conclusion stating that the Lamanites and the Nephites were thus, “divided” by the NSW.  So it was not simply the philosophies, traditions and lifestyles that “divided” the two cultures—their intermediate terrain, the narrow strip of wilderness, was also a major barrier between the two peoples.


A Model


All five of these fundamentals can now be diagramed into a model that is consistent with Mormon’s chiastic format for verse 27.  Figure 2.1a shows that the NSW, Manti and Zarahemla are all north of Nephi and both the NSW and the Lamanite regions under the king’s authority occupy an area between the east and west sea shores.


Based completely on verse 27 we can’t be certain where the river Sidon flows from the land of Manti. Since all rivers have a tendency to flow downhill, and the “head of the river Sidon” was stated to be by Manti, we can safely conclude that Manti was in the tops of the mountains that constituted the NSW.


However, the direction of the river’s flow is still unresolved. Now the pertinence of reference redundancy for establishing geographical associations can kick into gear. Turning to Chapter 2 in Alma the events of the Amlicite war in Zarahemla inform us that the Sidon River flowed through Zarahemla. Through multiple references[iv] we know that the Sidon flowed north from Manti down through Zarahemla. These references consistently place Manti directly between Nephi and Zarahemla and at a higher elevation than Zarahemla. Using these additional references we can complete the model for Alma 22:27 by making the adjustments shown in Figure 2.1b.  


The geographic model shown in Figure 2.1b contains all the pertinent elements needed for understanding the geography of the book’s core area. Geographic explanations of the Book of Mormon that lack these features in this order as extracted directly from Mormon’s chiasmus of Alma 22:27cannot be correct—it is just that simple.


Consider the maps generated in support of the “Heartland Theory.” That model attempts to place the setting of the Book of Mormon in North America using the concept that the Mississippi River was the river Sidon. The Mississippi River flows from north to south whereas Figure 2.1b demonstrates clearly that the Sidon did not flow south but flowed to the north. The “Heartland” topography of the Midwestern United States and Canada is just the opposite of what is stated in Alma 22:27. The Mississippi headwaters actually spread from southern Canada across the Midwestern states—there is no east to west mountain range in Canada or the Midwestern states at the head of the Mississippi that links a sea on the east with a sea on the west. Furthermore, the Mississippi River flows to the south through the United States into the Gulf of Mexico following the continent’s decrease in elevation. These discrepancies completely discredit any attempt of geographic correlation between the Mississippi River and the Sidon. 


Other inconsistencies associated with the “Heartland Theory” include the placement of Nephi, Manti and Zarahemla.  Where in southern Canada or in the northern Midwest is the mountainous narrow strip of wilderness where Manti could be situated? If Manti is situated at the head of the Mississippi in southern Canada where would Zarahemla be? We know that it is north of Manti; would that place it somewhere in central or northern Canada perhaps near the Hudson Bay? And where would the city of Nephi be if it is located to the south of Manti and Zarahemla? Furthermore, are there any mountain ranges in North America which extend east to west from an east sea to a west sea and which incorporate the headwaters of a north flowing river identifiable as the Sidon? No. Such topography does not exist in North America!


Nor can topographic features similar to those shown in Figure 2.1b be found in South America. There is no mountain range in South America that extends east to west linking the Atlantic with the Pacific.  The Orinoco River of northern Brazil and Venezuela does flow from south to north. An east-west mountain range does partially separate the headwaters of the Orinoco from the Amazon basin to the south; however, this mountain range does not link with the Andes Mountains, thus it does not extend from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Without a narrow strip of wilderness we can be certain that South America does not meet the requirements Mormon gives us in Alma 22:27. 


The exact topography shown in Figure 2.1b can be identified in Central America but not relative to the popular theory that claims the Grijalva River as the river Sidon. In the next article entitled, Part 3: Expanding the Geography beyond Alma 22:27, the remaining verses in Alma 22 will be incorporated into a final model of the book’s setting. That geographic model demonstrates that the geography contained in Mormon’s chain of chiasms, which we now have as Alma 22:27-34, actually describes the river, sea and mountain configurations of Central America. 



Hauck, F. Richard