Sorenson, John L.     An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon; Salt Lake City, UT; Deseret Book Company, 1985.
     
Tehuantepec
Allen, Joseph L.          Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon;  Brigham Young University Print Services,  1989.
     
Tehuantepec
Lund, John L.              Mesoamerica and the Book of Mormon, is this the place?;  The Communications Co.,  2007.
     
Tehuantepec
Warr, James                "A New Model for Book of Mormon Geography";   www.geocities.com/jwarr87480/index2.html  .
     Costa Rica  
Simiskey, Patrick L.   The Zarahemla Puzzle; Decorah, Iowa; The Anundsen Publishing Company, 2002. (z-letters@yahoogroups.com)
    
Panama
Peay, E.L.                     The Lands of Zarahemla: Nephi's Land of Promise;  Provo, UT: Peay, 1994.
     
Yucatan
Colombia/Panama     www.WhereWasMormon.com ;   February 2009.

Rosenvall, Lynn A.     www.aChoiceLand.com ;  March 2009.
     
Baja, Mexico
Goble / May                 This Land - Zarahemla and the Nephite Nation; Colfax, Wisconsin; Hayrider Press, 2002.        
     Midwest USA
Aston, Duane R.          Return to Cumorah; Sacramento, CA; American River Publications: 1998.
     
Penn-New York     
Meldrum, Rod              DNA Evidence for Book of Mormon Geography (video DVD); www.BookofMormonEvidence.org, 2008.
    
Miss-Michigan
Proposed Zarahemlas
             Geographic Comparisons
There have been many sites proposed for Zarahemla since the 1830s.  An excellent early historical summary of these models can be viewed in PDF form by clicking here (this document was printed from mormonstudies.com/geo1.htm).  The current Book of Mormon geography standard for many years has been Sorenson's proposal which declares the narrow neck to be the Mexican Isthmus of Tehuantepec.  It's scientifically an attractive model.  The Olmecs (1500 BC - 400 (or maybe 100) BC) who landed on the Gulf of Mexico coast correlate with the Jaradites.  The Mayans (1500 BC - 1461 AD) were south of the narrow neck and made perfect Nephite/Lamanites.  The classic Mayan culture is generally dated about 250 AD - 900 AD.  The classic dates we're pretty sure about, because we can now read the Mayan calendar.  The fact that the classic Mayan period should be just getting started right when the Nephites began the decline which led to their complete destruction, has bothered me since I was a youth. The Book of Mormon dates the Nephites from about 600 BC - 385 AD.  The coincidental confluence of these cultures (and the later Aztecs in Mexico city) is very attractive, but these dates don't match.  It is not possible to be just entering your greatest, most advanced era, at the very moment when you are declining, constantly moving for safety, and sinking into destruction.  A jungle full of blood-thirsty Lamanites would also be incapable of creating the classic Mayan age with all of its cultural and technical advances.  The Mayans are not the primary Nephites who wrote the records which Mormon abridged into the Book of Mormon.  A few of the thousands of people who moved "an exceedingly great distance" (Helaman 3:4) north and built their houses out of cement may have contributed to the Mayans (who also built houses out of cement), but even that is not necessarily true.  A number of these migrants were converted Lamanites (Helaman 6:6).

Then there's Sorenson's model itself.  When the Chairman of the Department of Anthropology at BYU says that westward is really north, and a man in 350 AD really can walk 140 miles in a day and a half, then anything can mean anything.  Black can mean white. Gray really means purple.  With that kind of academic example being our standard, is it any wonder that both North, South, and especially Central America are literally littered with proposed sites for Lehi's people, most of which grossly fail the simplest geographic screenings.  This failure does not stop their various authors from standing forth and declaring fervently that they have the right place.

Will there ever be an end of this confusion?  Indeed.  What sets the Book of Mormon apart from other works?  It is scripture.  When the prophets, who built worthy temples, say north, they mean north.  When Mormon says northward, he means in a generally northerly direction.  When he says that it took a day and a half to walk from point A to point B, that can't mean 70 much less 140 miles.  Many very specific geographic features are described in the text.  The following table compares a few of these features with a sampling of various more recently proposed models.  59 models (which was admittedly in incomplete list) were surveyed to select these 10.  Bias was toward selecting the more recent and more readily accessible models.  Every single model I reviewed gave me further valuable insight into Lehi and his people.  Those insights have been priceless to me.
21.   A narrow neck of land divided the land of Bountiful (south of the neck) from the land of Desolation (north of the neck).  
22.   The orientation of the narrow neck is generally north - south.
23.   The River Sidon is large enough to carry bodies to the sea.
24.   This narrow neck is also where "the sea divides the land" (not the land divides the sea)
(Ether 10:20).
25.   Fits the Prophet Joseph Smith's statement about Lehi and Darien.
26.   Is compatible with the Times and Seasons 1842 statements about Zarahemla
(a partial text is quoted on comments page).
27.   Room for the Jaradites with a much larger population than the Nephites to never go south of the narrow neck.
28.   The narrow neck is defensible with an army of 30,000 to 50,000.
29.   There is no access to the land northward (Desolation) except through the narrow pass or narrow neck.
30.   The neck could be blocked by snakes for a long time.
31.   The City of Bountiful is on the eastern sea. 
32.   A narrow passage into the Land of Desolation along the sea just northward of the City of Bountiful
(Alma 50:34).
33.   The lands of Bountiful and Desolation are small enough that a population of a few hundred thousand could strip most of the trees from the land.
34.   Mulek first landed on the east sea (at the City of Mulek?)
35.   The Land of Zarahemla was in the north of the land (in the time of Alma. In Mormon's time the Nephites lived north of the narrow neck).
36.   Zarahemla was southward of the narrow neck.
37.   The cities on the eastern sea occupied no more than 50 miles of coastline (2 days of battles).
38.   This was a land of diseases with cures in the wilderness (a tropical climate)
(Alma 46:40).
39.   There was a similar distance for Limhi's explorers in the Land of Nephi to go to either Desolation or Zarahemla.
40.   The line from Zarahemla to Bountiful was short and thus defensible from the Gadianton Robbers
(3Nephi 3:22-23).
41.   Zarahemla's elevation (distance above sea level) is lower than the land of Nephi.
42.   At an "exceedingly great distance" northward of the narrow neck is a sea north and a sea south
(Helaman 3:3-8).
1.   North for the proposed geography is really north.
2.   The River Sidon flows primarily north.
3.   At it's headwaters, the River Sidon flows west (before it flows north)
(Alma 22:27).
4.   There is only one main river in the Nephite lands (in the time of Alma. In Mormon's time the Nephites were north of the narrow neck).
5.   Zarahemla is just to the west of the River Sidon.
6.   The land of Zarahemla is nearly surrounded by water
(Alma 22:32).
7.   Just to the east of Zarahemla, east of the River Sidon, is a clearly identifiable hill Amnihu
(Alma 2:15).
8.   Just to the east of the hill Amnihu within a day's battle distance is a clearly identifiable valley Gideon.
9.   To the west and to the north of Zarahemla is a wilderness full of wild beasts.
10. The narrow strip of wilderness runs 1 1/2 days walk from the east sea to the west sea
(Alma 22:32).
11. The narrow strip of wilderness then runs along the west sea into the Land of Nephi
(Alma 22:27).
12. The narrow strip of wilderness then turns east just south of Manti
(Alma 22:27).
13. To the east of Zarahemla is another wilderness
(Alma 50:7).
14.  Manti is is south (not southward) from Zarahemla at the head of the River Sidon.
15. The Land of Lehi (the land of the Nephites first inheritance) is on the western sea.
16. The Land of Nephi (the land of the Nephites second inheritance) is on the western sea and north of the land of Lehi.
17. Zarahemla is north of Lehi
(Helaman 6:10).
18. The mountains where the Gadianton robbers hid is a distinctly different terrain from Nephi, Lehi, and Zarahemla.
19. The mountains where the Gadianton robbers hid were large enough to hide from the entire Nephite and Lamanite armies.
20. There was much gold, silver, and other metals in the lands of Lehi, Nephi, Zarahemla, and Desolation.
The first 20 geographic characteristics.  (21 - 42 are below on a second table.)  Blue #s have more discussion
       The question of archeology has been central in most discussions about where the Book of Mormon occurred, and this table doesn’t address it.  The Book of Mormon is scripture.  Scripture still trumps science. 
       During my lifetime I have seen science have to bow to scripture several times.  The Old Testament discusses continental drift, yet science “discovered” drift in the 1960s.  Christianity declares that our physical bodies are eternal, yet it wasn't until 1965 that the Hayflick Limit showed that our bodies are really designed to live forever, and old age occurs because of a counting “switch” that’s been added to our genetics.  Leonardo DaVinci said that the flood could never have occurred world-wide, because there’s not enough water in the seas to cover the mountains.  Yet, over the last 15 years very deep oceans under our continents (which make continental drift possible) have been discovered.  These “oceans” outflow through very deep ocean vents.  These deep oceans remove salt preventing our surface oceans from all becoming “dead seas”.  What a surprise that Genesis described the flood as the fountains of the earth opening up.  There are more examples.
      The bottom line is if we heed the scriptures, taking them at face value; the science will certainly follow.
                                                                                                                                                                               P. Douglas Kiester, M.D., May 2009
 
Printer friendly version (map/charts only)
Hill where Joseph found the plates (Later named  Cumorah) - New York
 
Isthmas of Tehuantepec
Yucatan
Costa Rica
Baja
A Few Proposed Narrow Necks
Narrow Neck & Sea Divides the Land
  Niagra Falls and Niagra River (Aston)
Land of Lehi         (Meldrum)
Narrow Neck (Meldrum)
Mormon's Wall
 
Colombia
Narrow Neck
    Simiskey
Moroni
Bountiful
Simiskey-Colombia
Zarahemla
  Simiskey
Panama
Colombia
Zarahemla
Colombia
  Sorenson
Tehuantepec
Allen
Tehuantepec
Lund
Tehuantepec
Warr
Costa Rica
Simiskey
Panama
Peay
Yucatan
Colombia-
Panama
Rosenvall
Baja
Goble/May
Midwest USA
Aston
New York
Meldrum
Miss-Mich
1     +   + + + w   + +
2 w w +   + w +     +  
3 + +     ?   + +      
4 w w w       + +      
5 + + +   +   + +   ? +
6       + + + W +      
7     +   ?   +        
8     w   ?   +        
9     ?   + ? + ?   w ?
10       + w   + +   w  
11         +   + W      
12         +   + W      
13 +       +   + +     ?
14         + ? + W   +  
15 + + +   + + + W      
16 w       +   + W      
17 w       w + + W     +
18 ? ? ?   w ? + ? ? ? +
19 + + +   w + +   + ? +
20 + + +   + ? + ?      
+ = Present       Blank = Absent      W = Weakly present       ? = Not enough information     
  Sorenson
Tehuantepec
Allen
Tehuantepec
Lund
Tehuantepec
Warr
Costa Rica
Simiskey
Panama
Peay
Yucatan
Colombia-
Panama
Rosenvall
Baja
Goble/May
Midwest USA
Aston
New York
Meldrum
Miss-Mich
21 + + + + w   + +   W W
22       +   + + +   W +
23 ? ? ?   + + + ?   ? +
24       w w w + + +   W
25         +   +        
26 w w + w w w w w W W W
27 + + +   +   + + + + +
28       + +   + +   +  
29 + + +   +   + +      
30       + +   + + + W  
31 + w ?   +   + +      
32 w           +       +
33         + + + +      
34 + + w   + + +        
35         + + + w     W
36         + + + + + + +
37 w       +   + w      
38 + + + + + + +        
39           w +       +
40             + w   W +
41 + + + + + + +        
42       w w   +       W
+ = Present       Blank = Absent      W = Weakly present       ? = Not enough information     
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