Where is the Promised Land Mentioned in The Book of Mormon?

A popular argument among Great Lake theorists, is the Promised Land theory. The Book of Mormon states several times that the land which they were led to, was the “promised land”, or a “choice land”. According to The Book of Mormon, the Promised Land shall be a land of liberty, with no kings upon the land[1] and be discovered by a Gentile whom the Spirit of God wrought, to cross “many waters” in order to find[2] , among many others.

The “Gentile” who discovered the Americas is generally thought to be Christopher Columbus. In the 1879 Book of Mormon, Orson Pratt added the footnote to 1 Nephi 13:12 which named this “gentile” as Christopher Columbus. Columbus began writing a book called “Book of Prophecies” and in this book “set forth views on himself as the fulfiller of biblical prophecies! Columbus saw himself as fulfilling the "islands of the sea" passages from Isaiah and another group of verses concerning the conversion of the heathen. Watts reports that Columbus was preoccupied with "the final conversion of all races on the eve of the end of the world," paying particular attention to John 10:16: "And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold" (see also 3 Nephi 16:3). He took his mission of spreading the gospel of Christ seriously. "God made me the messenger of the new heaven and the new earth. . . . He showed me the spot where to find it," Columbus wrote in 1500.”[3] As the scripture says the Spirit led the gentile to the Promised land, the Spirit also led Columbus to the Americas.

The prevailing opinion is that Columbus discovered America, or the United States. But in all actuality, Christopher Columbus discovered islands in the Caribbean and Central and South America. He never stepped foot on what we now know as the United States. His first two voyages were only to the Bahamas, his third to the Bahamas and the Northern portion of South America, and his fourth to the Bahamas and Central America. If 1 Nephi 13:12 is referring to Christopher Columbus, that would mean the land he discovered was part of the “promised land”.

But would Central America pass the test of being a “land of liberty, with no kings upon the land”? In FAIR’s article reviewing the work of a popular Great Lakes theorist, they answer this question by saying:

“As we have already seen, "this land" cannot be read as [Great Lakes Theorists] relatively small area in the United States. It is interesting to read what Orson Hyde would have said in answer to [his] question, "Anyone want to guess what land we're talking about?"

"THERE SHALL NO KING BE RAISED UP ON THIS LAND; AND WHOSOEVER SEEKETH TO RAISE UP A KING ON THIS LAND SHALL PERISH." [Quoting 2 Nephi 10:11] "This land," means both North and South America, and also the families of islands that geographically and naturally belong and adhere to the same.

Were he not more than a century too early, Orson Hyde could have expanded on the answer to [his] question:

There are promises and decrees of God in relation to "this land" of an extraordinary character. No other land can boast of the same. How beautifully does the spirit of the above prophetic sentiment chime in with the great American principle, "that no foreign prince, potentate, or sovereign will be allowed to interfere in the affairs of this Continent!" Spain must give up Cuba; England, Canada and the United States of America must hold, as her dependencies, every country on the Western Continent, with the islands along its borders.”[4]

The Book of Mormon also doesn’t allow a North America only setting either. 1 Ne 18:25 gives a hint of what can be found in the land of promise.

  “And it came to pass that we did find upon the land of promise, as we journeyed in the wilderness, that there were beasts in the forests of every kind, both the cow and the ox, and the ass and the horse, and the goat and the wild goat, and all manner of wild animals, which were for the use of men. And we did find all manner of ore, both of gold, and of silver, and of copper.”(emphasis added)

The “land of promise”, according to this scripture, must have gold, silver, and copper upon it. As mentioned earlier, Eastern United States does not fit this description, but Mesoamerica does. Therefore, Mesoamerica must be part of the land of promise as well.

A “land of promise” can be different places to different people, because it is land that the Lord has covenanted to his people [5]To the Israelites, it was Israel,[6] to Enos and his people, it was the land of Cainan.[7] It is possible that it will be promised for “a little season,[8] or it can be a heavenly promised land we all wish to obtain.[9] It is not a definite term that is used for places of earth, but has a spiritual meaning of what God covenants to give you.

“The operative word in the Land of Promise is not “Land.” It is “Promise”. A promise is a covenant involving two parties. It is a divine contract…with God. The land is given to the covenant people only as long as they continue faithful.”[10]

 Lund correctly defines the meaning of the Nephite “promised land” as “all of the North and South America.” He continues “Some have tried to narrowly apply the concept of the Promised Land to the United States…” which is a “significant part of the Land of Promise…So also is Canada, Mexico, South America, and Mesoamerica part of the Promised Lands.”[11]

The History of the Church states “…these two American continents [North and South]. These continents are a promised land.”[12]

Joseph Smith stated “...speaking of the Land of Zion, It consists of all N[orth] & S[outh] America but that any place where the Saints gather is Zion which every righteous man will build up for a place of safety for his children...The redemption of Zion is the redemption of all N[orth] & S[outh] America."[13]

A North and South America Promised Land was also taught by several modern Prophets and leaders like Wilford Woodruff,[14]  Ezra Taft Benson,[15] and many others[16]. It cannot be placed in one area only, or nation, and still be compatible with the scriptures.


[1]. 2 Nephi 10:11 

[2]. 1 Nephi 13:12

[3]. Ed. John W. Welch, Re-Exploring The Book of Mormon, Columbus: By Faith or Reason?, chapter 9

[5].   2 Nephi 1:5, D/C 51:16

[6].   1 Ne 17:33, D&C 124:38, Heb 11:9

[7].   Moses 6:17

[8].   D/C 51:16-17

[9].   Alma 37:45

[10].   John L. Lund, Mesoamerica and The Book of Mormon: Is This the Place?, (The Communication Company 2007), pg. 46


[11].  Ibid, pg 45

[12].   B.H. Roberts, History of the Church pg 552 footnote

[13].  Martha Jane Knowlton Coray, edited by Dean C. Jessee, "Joseph Smith's July 19, 1840 Discourse," Brigham Young University Studies 19:3 (Spring 1979): 392.


[14].   "This land, North and South America, is the land of Zion; it is a choice land—the land that was given by promise from old father Jacob to his grandson and his descendants, the land on which the Zion of God should be established in the latter days." "The Signs of the Coming of the Son of Man, Etc.," Journal of Discourses, reported by David W. Evans 12 January 1873, Vol. 15 (London: Latter-Day Saint's Book Depot, 1873), 279.


[15].   "This is our need today—to plant the standard of liberty among our people throughout the Americas... the struggle for liberty is a continuing one—it is with us in a very real sense today right here on this choice land of the Americas." Conference Report (October 1962): 14–15; “To the peoples who should inhabit this blessed land of the Americas, the Western Hemisphere, an ancient prophet uttered this significant promise and solemn warning”: Conference Report, October 1944, Third Day—Morning Meeting, p.128

[16].  Milton R. Hunter, “This is one of the most important days of my life, and in the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints . . . We came in full view of the valley of the Great Salt Lake; the land of promise, held in reserve by God, as a resting place for his Saints.” Conference Report, April 1947, Second Day—Morning Meeting, p.67

Orson Pratt: "And the Lord gave unto them the whole continent, for a land of promise…”Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions and of the Late Discovery of Ancient American Records (Edinburgh: Ballantyne and Hughes, 1840); cited in David J. Whittaker, The Essential Orson Pratt (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1991), 11

Orson Pratt: "We are not in possession of our land of promise particularly, only as we obtain it by a renewed promise; but we are inheriting a land that was given to the remnant of Joseph, and God has said that we must be remembered with them in the possession of this land." "The Joy and Happiness, Etc.," Journal of Discourses, reported by David W. Evans 1 November 1868, Vol. 12 (London: Latter-Day Saint's Book Depot, 1869), 322.

Elder George F. Richards, “The land of North and South America is a very much favored portion of our Father's footstool, and he has declared with his own mouth that it is a land of promise-a chosen land-above all other lands.” Conference Report, October 1922, Afternoon meeting p.80

Elder George F. Richards, “Afterwards, Mulek, with a colony from Jerusalem came to this country. These colonies were located in the southern part of North America, in Central America, and in the northern part of South America. And all this land, as well as that into which they migrated to the north and to the south was designated by the Lord as the land of promise” Conference Report, October 1922, Afternoon Session, p.81

Elder Sylvester Q. Cannon, “This western hemisphere is a land of great promise.” Conference Report, October 1939, Afternoon Meeting, p.123

Melvin J. Ballard: "...I turn the key, unlock, and open the door for the preaching of the Gospel in all these South American nations...that thy name may be honored and glorified in this part of the land of Zion." Melvin J. Ballard: Crusader for Righteousness (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1966), 81.

Theodore Tuttle: "South America…land choice above all other lands. This land is included in the Book of Mormon declaration. It does not refer to North America alone; when the prophets were speaking they included both South America and North America as the land of promise." "South America—Land of Promise," address to BYU student body (14 April 1964); cited in BYU Speeches of the Year, 1964 (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1964), 3.


Ted E. Brewerton: "Three groups left the land of Jerusalem and crossed the oceans...and arrived in the promised land, the Americas." "The Book of Mormon: A Sacred Ancient Record," Ensign (November 1995): 30.



Livingston, Tyler