The Promised Land

The Promised Land

The Book of Mormon shares some very interesting insights into the nature of the land of promise where the Nephites ultimately live. What I especially appreciate is the clear teaching that the Book of Mormon encompasses all of the Americas.

At the end of the book of Alma, we see a period of peace where the people begin to spread north. It begins with a company of 5,400 men, with their women and children, which means somewhere around 20,000 people (assuming 2 kids per family and 1 wife per man).

Alma 63:4 And it came to pass that in the thirty and seventh year of the reign of the judges, there was a large company of men, even to the amount of five thousand and four hundred men, with their wives and their children, departed out of the land of Zarahemla into the land which was northward.

This company is then followed by a curious man named Hagoth. Who travels north using a ship. They must have liked what they found because they returned a year later, built more ships and took more people north.

Alma 63:

5 And it came to pass that Hagoth, he being an exceedingly curious man, therefore he went forth and built him an exceedingly large ship, on the borders of the land Bountiful, by the land Desolation, and launched it forth into the west sea, by the narrow neck which led into the land northward.

6 And behold, there were many of the Nephites who did enter therein and did sail forth with much provisions, and also many women and children; and they took their course northward. And thus ended the thirty and seventh year.

7 And in the thirty and eighth year, this man built other ships. And the first ship did also return, and many more people did enter into it; and they also took much provisions, and set out again to the land northward.

This population must have grown and expanded outside of the main Nephite civilization because they were never heard of again. Regardless, they clearly established some sort of new base in the land north, because they managed to return. While some of suggested that these people ultimately made it to present day Hawaii and the Polynesian islands, the text doesn’t seem to support a westward trip.

Later in the Book of Mormon we see a period of peace among the Nephites after the arrival of Jesus Christ. This peace lasted over 300 years and according to 4 Nephi included a massive expansion of the land of the Nephites:

4 Nephi 1:23 And now I, Mormon, would that ye should know that the people had multiplied, insomuch that they were spread upon all the face of the land, and that they had become exceedingly rich, because of their prosperity in Christ.

I’ve considered this period as being longer than the present history of the United States. Meaning migration would be highly likely during this extended period of peace. Without war or famine, the people would grow old and have large families. They would need space to grow and would migrate.

Additionally, in First Nephi chapter 13, Nephi provides the details of a vision he receives regarding the future colonization of the Americas. In it he shares how the gentile nations will arrive at the promised land. He also clearly teaches that the people who will first welcome the gentiles are the descendants of his brethren.

1 Nephi 13:12 And I looked and beheld a man among the Gentiles, who was separated from the seed of my brethren by the many waters; and I beheld the Spirit of God, that it came down and wrought upon the man; and he went forth upon the many waters, even unto the seed of my brethren, who were in the promised land.

It is not absolutely clear which explorer these verses are referencing, but it seems to be Christopher Columbus. Columbus arrived in the Caribbean in 1492 and returned several times thereafter.  As we know his original intent was to discover an alternate route to India, and so when he arrived in the Americas he called the people Indians. It wasn’t until his fourth voyage that he actually arrived central America. Perhaps this is the voyage which Nephi is referencing.

Later Nephi explains that the people fled the gentile nations because of religious persecution. This part of the vision seems to be referencing the Mayflower in 1620. The Mayflower landed in Massachusetts which is far from anywhere Christopher Columbus traveled.

1 Nephi 13:

13 And it came to pass that I beheld the Spirit of God, that it wrought upon other Gentiles; and they went forth out of captivity, upon the many waters.

14 And it came to pass that I beheld many multitudes of the Gentiles upon the land of promise; and I beheld the wrath of God, that it was upon the seed of my brethren; and they were scattered before the Gentiles and were smitten.

Finally, the vision includes the battles against the mother gentiles. Interestingly, when referencing the parent countries, it uses the plural gentiles. This would indicate that there were potentially multiple countries impacted. I believe that Spain, Portugal, and Great Britain are the three primary mother gentiles who were rebuffed by the settlers of the promised land. Their colonies spanned from Canada to Argentina, representing the entire promised land.

1 Nephi 13:17 And I beheld that their mother Gentiles were gathered together upon the waters, and upon the land also, to battle against them.

As an interesting side note, Nephi was clearly familiar with snow. He indicates that the whiteness of the fruit is as driven snow. This adjective driven is indicative of a severe snow storm. This would be unfamiliar to one living in Jerusalem which occasionally has a mild snowfall. The only places where he could experience this type of snow would be in the present day United States, Canada, Chile, or Argentina. Therefore Nephi must have lived for a time in one of these regions.

1 Nephi 11:8 And it came to pass that the Spirit said unto me: Look! And I looked and beheld a tree; and it was like unto the tree which my father had seen; and the beauty thereof was far beyond, yea, exceeding of all beauty; and the whiteness thereof did exceed the whiteness of the driven snow.

So why do some argue that the Book of Mormon demands a limited geography model? The Book of Mormon is clearly written about the entire Americas. The people of the Book of Mormon clearly populated the lands from north to south. While the primary authors were potentially confined to a smaller region, their descendants and relatives clearly expanded throughout the land, as stated by Nephi and Mormon.

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