If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome. Anne Bradstreet

And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them. Ether 12:27

Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season therof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart; Yea, for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul. And it pleaseth God that he hath given all these things unto man; for unto this end were they made to be used, with judgment, not to excess, neither by extortion. D&C 59:18-20

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Book of Mormon Geography: Alma's Colony

The record of Alma's colony identifies three new sites for NEPHI: the place of Mormon, the land of Helam, and and the land of Amulon.

The Place of Mormon

After Abinidi's martyrdom, Alma began teaching his words to the people. To avoid King Noah, he hid out in the place of Mormon, which included a fountain of pure water, the waters of Mormon, a thicket of trees, and a forest. The description of Mormon's location "in the borders of the land" is stated twice in Mosiah 18, verses 4 and 31. Since Alma's group fled from Mormon into the wilderness, Mormon could be along either the western border of either Nephi or Shilom, or along the northern borders of Shilom.

"Waters of Mormon" may refer to a river, as Mormon uses "waters of Sidon" seven times to refer to the river Sidon (Alma 2:34, Alma 3:3, Alma 4:4, Alma 43:40, Alma 43:50, Alma 44:22, Mormon 1:10). The fountain of water may have been a natural spring or the head of a river--both of which were common meanings of the word "fountain" in Joseph Smith's day (See 1828 Webster's Dictionary). If the fountain of water did refer to the head of a river, then the location of Mormon would be in the area of the head of the Rio Mico or the Rio Siquia. If the Rio Mico formed part of Shilom's northern border, then the Siquia is the better candidate for the fountain as the description strongly suggests the fountain and waters of Mormon are new to Alma's people, and the Rio Mico would already be familiar to them.

The text is ambiguous about the gathering that took place at the place of Mormon. In some instances, it sounds like they gathered together just when they wanted to hear Alma preach (Mosiah 18). However, when they fled from the place of Mormon, they were able to quickly gather together their tents, flocks, and grain (Alma 23:1). People don't normally bring tents, flocks, and grain to church with them. So, it sounds like the gathering at the place of Mormon was a population relocation, either in the place of Mormon itself or in the adjacent areas.

Noticing this population relocation ("having discovered a movement among the people"), Noah "sent his servants to watch them" (Mosiah 18:32). Then, "on the day that they were assembling themselves together to hear the word of the Lord they were discovered unto the king" (Mosiah 18:32). The servants, however, had to return to the city of Nephi to report this to the King, and the King then had to send his army to the place of Mormon. By the time Noah's army arrived in Mormon, Alma's people were gone. I believe this ability for the group to evacuate so quickly and get away from the King's army, with their flocks and grain, strongly suggests the place of Mormon was along Shilom's northern border.

The land of Helam

Alma's colony "fled eight days' journey into the wilderness" and founded a new land, which they called Helam. Besides this 8-day journey, we have only three location clues for placing Helam:

  1. It was "a land of pure water," which suggests a river
  2. Other groups traveling between NEPHI and ZARAHEMLA, or the reverse, did not discover Helam
  3. It is 12 days journey for Alma's colony, with their flocks, to Zarahemla

The head of the Rio Grande de Matagalpa seems a likely place for the land of Helam. Alma's colony may have headed northwest out of the land of Mormon, and then turned northeast to the head of the Rio Grande, finally settling in the crook formed by the Rio Grande. This would have provided some concealment from those traveling between NEPHI and ZARAHEMLA.

The land of Amulon

After the departure of Alma's people from the place of Mormon, the Lamanites attacked Nephi. Noah fled with his priests and a large group of men who left their wives and children behind. These men had second thoughts about what they did and turned on Noah, killing him by fire. The priests escaped, and the men returned to Nephi. Under Limhi's kingship, all of the Nephites gathered together in Nephi for safety. The priests hid in the wilderness and vandalized the Nephites (Mosiah 21:21). They also kidnapped 24 Lamanite daughters (Mosiah 20:5). After this, they relocated to a land, which they called Amulon (Mosiah 23:31), after their leader.

We have no information on Amulon's location, other than it is in the wilderness between NEPHI and ZARAHEMLA. I place the land of Amulon so far north because the record of the missionary efforts of the sons of Mosiah identifies another land north of Shemlon.

The Lamanites, in pursuit of the people of Limhi, got lost in the wilderness and chanced to find Amulon. The point of departure for the Lamanite army was the city of Nephi. They would have been moving at good speed, since they were in pursuit of Limhi's group, but could follow their tracks for only two days (Mosiah 22:16). I have indicated on the slide show the route Limhi's group would have taken through the wilderness along Lake Nicaragua and the point at where the Lamanites lost their tracks and became lost, most probably turning to the northeast instead of following the northwest route. This led them to the land of Amulon.

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