However, in my daily reading of the Book of Mormon a few months ago, I was again reminded of the statements by Nephi and Lehi about "this land." In the last chapters of 1 Nephi, Nephi reviewed Isaiah's prophecies "that the Lord God will raise up a mighty nation among the Gentiles, yea, even upon the face of this land; and by them shall our seed be scattered" (1 Ne 22:7). Later, in 2 Nephi 10, verses 11-12, Jacob says "And this land shall be a land of liberty unto the Gentiles, and there shall be no kings upon the land, who shall raise up unto the Gentiles. And I will fortify this land against all other nations."
These were not new scriptures to me, nor the ones that talk about the Book of Mormon coming forth from this land, or prophecies of Columbus and other events that led to the forming of "this land" -- The United States of America.
However, what struck me this time in my reading is the reality that Nephi, Lehi, and Jacob were standing on this land when they made those statements. They were standing on their land of promise, and their land of promise is the land that became the United States of America. Therefore, my model for Book of Mormon Geography is wrong, because it does not ever have Nephi, Lehi, and Jacob living upon the land now included in the United States of America.
Where did Nephi, Lehi, and Jacob live at the time of their "this land" statements? They were still at their first location. The Nephites didn't separate from the Lamanites till after Lehi's death (the account is given in 2 Nephi 5). Nephi's people traveled "for the space of many days" and they called the place "Nephi." That area became known in the Book of Mormon as the Land of Nephi. From there, the first Mosiah relocated the faithful members again to the Land of Zarahemla, where the Mulekites were living.
To complicate matters (perhaps by divine Design), the destruction at the time of Christ's death on the cross may have changed, even obliterated most of the landmarks that would help us identify the Nephite sites. Let's review that destruction, as found in 3 Nephi 8-9:
- a great storm
- also a great and terrible tempest
- city of Zarahemla did take fire
- city of Moroni did sink into the depths of the sea
- the earth was carried up upon the city of Moronihah, that in the place of the city there became a great mountain
- the highways were broken up, and the level roads were spoiled, and many smooth places became rough
- many great and notable cities were sunk, and many were burned, and many were shaken till the buildings thereof had fallen to the earth
- thus the face of the whole earth became deformed
- the rocks were rent in twain; they were broken up upon the face of the whole earth,
- the city of Gilgal have I caused to be sunk, and the inhabitants thereof to be buried up in the depths of the earth;
- the city of Onihah . . . the city of Mocum, . . . and the city of Jerusalem, waters have I caused to come up in the stead thereof
- the city of Gadiandi, and the city of Gadiomnah, and the city of Jacob, and the city of Gimgimno, all these have I caused to be sunk, and made hills and valleys in the places thereof
- that great city Jacobugath, which was inhabited by the people of king Jacob, have I caused to be burned with fire
- the city of Laman, and the city of Josh, and the city of Gad, and the city of Kishkumen, have I caused to be burned with fire
What is a Sea?
The Book of Mormon frequently refers to the West Sea and the East Sea. In one instance it also refers to a North Sea and a South Sea. The 1828 Webster's Dictionary defined Sea:
2. A large body of water, nearly inclosed by land, as the Baltic or the Mediterranean; as the sea of Azof. Seas are properly branches of the ocean, and upon the same level. Large bodies of water inland, and situated above the level of the ocean, are lakes.
3. The ocean; as, to go to sea.
Nephi describes the ocean in this way: "And it came to pass that I looked and beheld "many waters; and they divided the Gentiles from the seed of my brethren" (1 Ne 13:10). "And we beheld the sea, which we called Irreantum, which, being interpreted, is many waters" (1 Ne 17:5).
To be continued . . .