May 14, 2011

A Sudoku Approach to 
Book of Mormon Geography

Sudoku is a puzzle game that was developed and popularized in Japan. Each puzzle consists of a square containing nine sub-squares which each containing nine smaller squares. All the small squares within the original square also form nine columns and nine rows. Each small square needs to be filled with a number from 1 to 9. A number cannot be repeated within a row, a column, or a sub-square. A few random numbers are provided to give clues for the rest of the numbers. The puzzle is finished when all the small squares are filled in with no repeating numbers. Each Sudoku has a unique solution that can be reached logically without guessing.
The other day I was thinking about Book of Mormon geography and that it should have as simple and logical a solution as a Sudoku puzzle. We are provided with clues to the places and each and every location should have a unique location. In addition, all the various criteria must intermesh without discrepancy. There is only one correct answer. The City of Zarahemla could only have been in one specific place. The narrow neck of land was precisely located and there could not have been two such landmarks. By combining the clues provided by the book, we should be able to narrow down the choices until we arrive at the unique solution. With this in mind, I have compiled a list of criteria for the various lands and places. These criteria are by no means complete, and some may be incorrect. But by testing each proposed location against the needed criteria, we can determine if it meets the requirements. The criteria are listed below. If you have corrections or additons, please contact me a
It should be noted that this approach will only work with those theories which have identified specific locations. Unfortunately many theorists have neglected to refine their theories to the point where they can pinpoint locations.

Criteria for the Land of Nephi.
It was a twenty days journey from Nephi to Zarahemla (with families, apparently traveling on foot) (Mosiah 23:1-4; 24:25). In rough mountainous terrain, this would have been about 100-200 miles.
It was an area of grassland or savannah (not a forested area or jungle) where they could raise grain and graze flocks (2Ne.5:11; Mosiah 21:16).
It was at a higher elevation than Zarahemla (Mosiah 7:2).
It was apparently located at the southern end of the south wilderness (Mosiah 22:12).
It was in a region of drier climate (hence probably the Pacific slope).
It was "many days journey" west of the Land of First Inheritance (with families apparently traveling on foot) (2Ne.5:7).
Nephi built a temple there (2Ne.2:16).
The city of Nephi had a wall (Mosiah 22:6).
There were abundant mineral deposits (2 Ne.5:15).
The Land of Mormon and Waters of Mormon were close by (no further than a days journey) (Mosiah 18).
It was adjacent to the lands of Shemlon and Shilom (Mosiah 19:6; 22:8).

Criteria for the Land of Zarahemla:
It was located to the west of the River Sidon, and probably at least half way up its course (Alma 6:7).
It was lower in elevation than the Land of Nephi to the south (Alma 27:5).
There should be no Jaredite style ruins (i.e. of stone) (see Nephite buildings).
It was divided from the Land of Nephi to the south by a narrow strip of east-west wilderness. (Alma22:27)
It was in a central part of the Nephite lands which were south of the narrow neck of land (Hel. 1:27).
It had a mixed (and probably segregated) population of Nephites and Mulekites which probably resulted in separate barrios or twinned cities (Omni 1:16-19; Mosiah 25:4).
The City of Zarahemla had a wall (it does not specify whether it was of stone or timber) (Hel. 1:21).
It was located at a distance of 20 days travel from the City of Nephi (apparently in a northward direction) (Mosiah 23:3; 24:25).
It was occupied by the Nephite faction from about 200 B.C. to 322 A.D. (The Mulekites may have arrived there fifty years or so earlier.)
It was bordered on all sides by areas of wilderness (Alma 22), including a west wilderness (Alma 8:3), the Wilderness of Hermounts northwest from Zarahemla (Alma 2:37), and the east wilderness (Alma 25:5).
South of Zarahemla and the narrow strip of wilderness, lay the expansive south wilderness of the Lamanite domains (Alma 22:27).
It was burned at the time of the crucifixion (3 Ne. 9:3).
The city of Gideon lay a short distance to the east (Alma 6:7).
It was an area where tropical diseases (i.e. fevers) and their remedies were present (Alma 46:40).

Criteria for the River Sidon.
It ran northward as it originated in the southern Nephite highlands (Alma 43:22).
It passed east of the City of Zarahemla (Alma 6:7).
It was shallow enough to be forded near the city of Zarahemla. (Alma 2:27,34)
It was large enough to carry the bodies of the dead Lamanites out to the sea. (Alma 3:3)
It was west of the hill Amnihu. (Alma 2:15)
It was west of the Valley of Gideon. (Alma 2:26; 6:7)
The City of Melek was to the west of the Sidon. (Alma 8:3)
The City of Manti was at the headwaters of the Sidon near the south wilderness.   (Alma16:6-7; 22:27)
The head of the River Sidon extended into the south wilderness. (Alma 43:22)
It passed through the central part of the Land of Zarahemla.
It may not have been navigable as no river travel is mentioned in the text.

Criteria for the Land of Bountiful.
It joined the land Desolation to the north at the narrow neck of land (Alma 22:29).
The "narrow pass" feature was apparently located at the border of Bountiful with the land of Desolation (Alma 52:9).
It was a day and a half journey (probably on foot) across the narrow neck on the border of Bountiful with Desolation (Alma 22:32).
The land of Bountiful was a wilderness filled with all manner of wild beasts (Alma 22:31).
It extended from the east sea to the west sea (Alma 22:33).
The land Jershon bordered the land of Bountiful to the south, along the shore of the east sea (Alma 22:22)
The cities of Mulek, Gid, Omner, Morianton, Lehi and Nephihah (in that order) were located on the seashore southward from the border of the land Bountiful (Alma 51:26).
There was a temple in the land of Bountiful (not the city Bountiful) (3Ne. 11:1).
In the account of the rebellion of Morianton, the impression is that Teancum's army had to travel some distance (perhaps even days) from some part of the land Bountiful to catch him at the narrow neck (Alma 50).

Criteria for the City of  Bountiful.
The city of Bountiful was within a days march of the city of Mulek which was somewhere near the eastern end of the south border of the land Bountiful.  The city of Bountiful was also within a days march of the east sea (Alma 52).
It was fortified with a moat and earthern banks (Alma 53:3-4).
The city was large enough to house a large group of Lamanite prisoners (Alma 52 & 53).

Criteria for the Land of Desolation.
It joined the land of Bountiful to the south (Alma 22:31).
It began at the narrow neck of land (Alma 22:32).
The City of Desolation was located near the narrow neck, on the border with the land of Bountiful (Morm. 3:5-7).
There were few trees in the land during Book of Mormon times (Hel. 3:3-11).
It was the southern limit of Jaredite habitation (Ether 10:21).
The land of Desolation was lower than the northern wilderness of the land of Zarahemla (Morm.4:19).
The seashore city of Teancum was nearby, and north of the city of Desolation (Morm.4:3).
The city of Angola, and the lands of David and Joshua, as well as the lands of Jashon and Shem were in the northern part of the land of Desolation, or north of that land (Morm. 2:3-6, 16-7, 21).
There were many evidences of the Jaredite wars in the land of Desolation during the early part of the Nephite occupation.

Criteria for the Land of First Inheritance.
It was probably located on the Pacific Coast of southern Central America.
The Nephite faction left there after a short time and traveled eastward to the land they called Nephi.  (2Ne. 5:5-7).
It was probably south of the South Wilderness, and far south of the land of Zarahemla.
The Lamanites did not maintain that land as their capitol for by 90 B.C. the Lamanite king was ruling out of the City of Nephi (Alma 22:1).
It was westward from the land of Nephi (although this may refer to the greater land of Nephi).  (Alma 22:28)

Criteria for the Jaredite Lands
They inhabited the area north of the land of Bountiful beginning with the land of Desolation.
Their domain included and extended north of the narrow neck of land (Hel. 3:3-7, Ether 7:5-6, Ether 10:20).  
There should be extensive evidence of the Jaredite civilization as the Lord promised that they would become the greatest nation on the face of the earth (Ether 1:43).
There should be no evidence of Jaredite ruins south of the narrow neck. This area was reserve for hunting (Ether 9:33; 10:20-21)
The Jaredite capitol Moron was "near" the land desolation (probably to the north) (Ether 7:5-6).  
There should be archeological evidence of a Jaredite city by the narrow neck of land, where the sea divides the land (Ether 10:20).
The Jaredites may have created stelae, or stone monuments, to record the reigns of their kings (Omni 20-21).
The Mulekites landed in the Jaredite lands and found the surviving king Coriantumr who lived with them for 9 "moons".  It is possible that the  Mulekites had substantial contact with the Jaredites (Omni 21, Hel. 6:10).
The Hill Cumorah (Ramah) was found within the Jaredite lands near the east sea (Ether 9:3, Ch. 15).
As the Jaredites came from ancient Sumer (later Mesopotamia), and were present at the Tower of Babel, they may have perpetuated the ancient practice of building stepped pyramids (or Ziggurats) which originated there.
If the Jaredites traveled by way of eastern Asia (as I believe), there may be evidence of cultural similarities.

Criteria for the Land and Hill of Cumorah
1. It was "many days" travel from the Jaredite capitol of Moron (Ether 9:3).
2. It was in a land of many waters, fountains, rivers, etc .(Morm. 6:4).
3. It was near an eastern sea (Ether 9:3).
5. The hill Ramah of the Jaredites, and the hill Cumorah of the Nephites, where Mormon hid all the records, are the same (Ether 15:11).
6. It was located in the Nephite land northward being north of the land they called Desolation, and north of narrow neck of land (Mormon Ch. 4 and Ch. 5:3-7).
7. It was located in an area which was large enough to contain at least 230,000 Nephites, plus the much larger invading Lamanite armies, and which could support the Nephites for four years while they prepared for the final battle (Mormon 6).
8. The hill was tall enough, and situated in such a way that Mormon could look down and see all the slain from top (Morm. 6:11).
9. The hill was large enough, and of such a nature as to conceal 24 survivors from the Lamanites (Mormon 6:11).
10. The hill was composed of material (such as limestone) where a cave could be found in which to hide the Nephite records (Morm. 6:6).
11. The hill was situated in such a way that it would afforded the Nephites a military advantage over the Lamanites (Morm 6:4). This advantage could have been strategic with natural barriers, such as rivers, lakes, etc. Higher ground would have afforded an advantage. There may have been existing fortifications left from the Jaredite wars. There may have been logistical advantages such as good supply of food and water to withstand a siege. There may have been large numbers of left over arrow points, ax heads, etc. which could be re-used, if the Jaredites had used stone weapons.
12. The hill was geographically situated so that the surviving Nephites could escape southward from Lamanite armies (Morm. 6:15; 8:2), but apparently not northward, which would have been the logical choice.
13.  There should be archeological evidences of a battle, or great destruction, such as weaponry (flint points, ax heads, etc.), fortifications, or other artifacts from the dead.  There should also be evidence of a large, but short term, inhabitation.
14. It was near Jaredite places called Ablom and Ogath (Ether 9:13, 15:10).
15. It was near the ocean called Ripliancum (large or to exceed all) by the Jaredites (Ether 15:8).
16. The seashore was eastward (distance unkown) from Cumorah (Ether 9:3).

Criteria for the Land of Ammonihah.
It was 3 days travel (apparently on foot) from the city of Melek, on the north of the land of Melek (Alma 8:6).
It was probably on the western border of the greater land of Zarahemla (Alma 25:2).
It was near, and probably west of, the city of Sidom (Alma 15:1).
It was near the city of Noah (Alma 16:2-3, 49:12-14).
It was near the city of Aaron (Alma 8:13).
The wilderness abutted Ammonihah on the west (Alma 8:5).  
There were 2 routes into the city (Alma 8:16).
It was fortified with Moroni's ditch and mound system (Alma 49:4).

Criteria for the Places Amulon, Helam, and the Valley of Alma.
Helam is 8 days journey into the wilderness from the city of Nephi (Mos. 23:3).
Helam is 12 (or 13) days journey from the city of Zarahemla (Mos. 24:23-25).
Helam was in an area suitable for agriculture (Mos. 23:4-5).
The Valley of Alma was one days journey (probably northward) from Helam (Mos. 24:20).
Amulon was suitable for agriculture, but apparently not as good as Helam as they did not return to it (Mos. Ch. 23).
All these locations were in the south wilderness between Nephi and Zarahemla.
The land of Amulon should probably be encountered first in traveling toward Nephi from Zarahemla in accordance with the experience of the lost Lamanite army (Mos. 23:31-36).

Criteria for the Land of Gideon.
It was situated east of the River Sidon and about a days journey from Zarahemla, (Alma 6:7).
A trail led southward from Gideon to Manti, and also to the land of Nephi (Alma 17:1)
The Land of Gideon was at a higher elevation than the City of Zarahemla (Alma 62:6-7).
It was near the hill Amnihu (Alma 2:15-20).  
It was located between the city of Zarahemla and the city of Minon (Alma 2:24).

Criteria for the Place Hagoth
It was on the borders of the land Bountiful, by the land Desolation, and  near the narrow neck of land (Alma 63:5).
The ships were built and launched on the west sea (Alma 63:5).
It was a safe harbor where ships could be launched and return (Alma 63:7).

Criteria for the Land of Jershon.
It was south of the land of Bountiful, by the east seashore and bordering on the south wilderness (Alma 27:22).
It was east of the city of Zarahema (Alma 27:22).
It was lower in elevation than the south wilderness (Alma 27:26).
It was north of the land of Antionum, or land of the Zoramites (Alma 31:3).
It probably encompassed the  eastern coastal cities of Mulek, Gid, Omner, Morianton, Lehi, Nephihah, and Moroni.

Criteria for the Land of Manti.
It was on the southern borders of the land of Zarahemla, at the head of the River Sidon, near the narrow strip of wilderness (Alma 22:27).
A trail from Gideon led southward to Manti (Alma 17:1).
To the south of the land of Manti, there was another valley along the course of the upper Sidon, with the hill Riplah on its east side.  (Alma 43:31-32) The battle described in Alma 43 and 44 was fought on the Sidon south of Manti. The route of travel crossed the river from the east to the west, and the route down to Manti from this point was on the west bank. The river was apparently fordable at this point (Alma 43:35, 40), and was large enough that the Lamanite dead could be disposed of in the river and be washed out to sea.

Criteria for the Land of Melek.
West of Zarahemla (Alma 8:3).
West of the Sidon River by the borders (on the edge of) of the west wilderness (Alma 8:3).
The land was large enough to contain the displaced Ammonites (Alma 35:13).
It was 3 days journey from the city of Ammonihah (Alma 8:6).

Criteria for the City of Moroni.
It was located on the shore of the east sea and was near the south wilderness of the Lamanites (Alma 50:13).
The land of Moroni bordered the land of Aaron, and the city of Nephihah was built in-between them (Alma 50:14).
Lehi was a nearby city to the north (Alma 50:15; 51:24).  
Moroni was surrounded by a wall (probably the trench-mound-palisade fortifications of Moroni) (Alma 62:36).
Moroni was probably just to the north of the land of Antionum.

Criteria for the Combined Cities of Mulek, Gid, Omner, Morianton and Lehi.
They were on the east on the borders by the seashore (Alma 51:26).
They were built for defense and were probably about a days journey apart (Alma 50:9-11).
Mulek was less than a day's journey from the city of Bountiful (Alma Ch. 52).
Lehi and Morianton were probably built in close proximity to each other (Alma 50:25-36)
These cities were all fortified with a ditch, mound and wooden palisade (Alma 51:27, 55:25-26).
They were arranged in order from south to north Nephihah, Lehi, Morianton, Omner, Gid and Mulek (Alma 51:26).

Criteria for the Combined Cities of Zeezrom, Cumeni, Judea and Antiparah.
They were on the west approaching the seacoast.
They appear to stretch westward from Manti in the order of Cumeni, Judea, Antiparah (Alma 56:14).
Cumeni seems to be just west of Manti (Alma 57:22).
The cities of Manti, Zeezrom, Cumeni, and Antiparah were apparently on the south border of the Nephite lands and were the first cities captured by the Lamanite invaders (Alma 56:14).
Cumeni doesn't appear to have been a fortified city (Alma 57:16-20).
Antiparah was between the city of Judea and an unnamed Nephite city near the west seashore (Alma 56:30).
The Nephite armies could flee two days northward from Antiparah into the wilderness (Alma 56:33-42).
In battle for Cumeni, defeated Lamanites were driven back to nearby city of Manti (Alma 57:22).
Some or all of these cities were fortified (Alma 56:20-21).

Criteria for the City of Nephihah.
It was located between Moroni and Aaron (Alma 50:14).
It was in the borders by the east sea, but apparently not right on the seashore (Alma 51:25-26).
There was a plain near the city (Alma 62:18).
The city had walls and an entrance (Alma 61:20-22).
It was south of the city of Lehi (Alma 51:25).

Criteria for the City of Teancum.
It was near the city of Desolation (Morm. 4:3).
It was located near the seashore (Morm. 4:3).
It was near the city of Boaz (Morm. 4:20).
The Nephites retreated northward to Teancum following their loss of the city of Desolation (Morm. 4:3).  

Criteria for the Waters of Mormon.
They were in the borders of the land of Nephi (Mos. 18:31).
There was a nearby forest or thicket in which Alma could hide (Mos. 18:4, 30).
They had been named by the king (Noah?) (Mos. 18:4).
They were seasonally infested with wild beasts (Mos. 18:4).
They are described as a "fountain of pure water" (Mos. 18:5).
Alma could teach a congregation of 450 at the place (Mos. 18:7).
It was at some distance, but probably less than a day's journey from the City of Nephi (Mos. Ch.18)

Criteria for the Land of Antionum
It was east of the land of Zarahemla, it was near the coast, the land of Jershon was to the north, and the south wilderness bordered it on the south (Alma 31:3).
A wilderness route to the city of Manti lay to the west (Alma 43:22).
A hill called Onidah was within the land of Antionum (Alma 32:4).
It was probably just south of the city of Moroni.

Of course there are many other places mentioned in the Book of Mormon which have not been included in this list.  However the same approach can be applied to them and separated criteria developed, where enough information is given.  

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