Jul 22, 2011

Book of Mormon Lands and Rivers

The idea that a Book of Mormon “land” comprised a river drainage basin was first proposed by Michael Hobby some time ago in the journal Zarahemla Quarterly. Under this proposal, the people of the Nephite era viewed their lands from the valley floor bordered by the surrounding hills and mountains. The mountians, viewed from ground level, appear as straight lines separating the different lands. They settled in these river valleys forming cities, towns, or “lands”, and then would expand to the next valley and start a new colony.
Thus the greater Land of Zarahemla would include the valley and drainage system of a specific river, the cities and towns being located in the arable valleys. The local Land of Zarahemla, immediately surrounding the city, would include only the immediate portion of the river valley. The Land of Nephi, the Land of Bountiful, and the Land of Melek, etc. would all be located in different, separate river systems.
I believe that this hypothesis is correct and will be proven so at some future date. If this is so, and the river systems have remained unchanged since Nephite times, we should be able to use this information to assist in locating specific Book of Mormon lands.
I would like to apply this hypothesis to the geography of Costa Rica, which I believe comprised the principle lands of the Book of Mormon.
Let's begin with the Land of Bountiful.  (For a more detailed discussion of Book of Mormon lands see my main web page.)   This land was located between the Land of Zarahemla to the south, the Land of Desolation to the north, and was south of the narrow neck of land. It also bordered the Land of Jershon, and was wide, extended from the east sea to the west sea. In most geographical locations a river system matching these criteria would be difficult to match; a drainage system that encompassed a wide expanse from an east to a west coast, including both sides of a continental divide. However, in Costa Rica we have a unique situation where this criteria is met.
The large San Juan River, which divides Nicaragua and Costa Rica, drains eastward into the Caribbean but originates in Lake Nicaragua, near the Pacific side of the country. The Sapoa River, which is a tributary of that lake, has its headwaters a few miles from the Pacific coast on a high bluff overlooking the Bay of Salinas. Thus from this bluff overlooking the Pacific, eastward to the Caribbean is one complete drainage system that crosses the entire country from west to east. The Land of Bountiful would have been the south side of this river system, which includes many tributaries flowing into the San Juan River. It is a fairly large area consisting mostly of flat plains rising into the volcanic mountains to the south.
I have suggested that the Land of Zarahemla was near the present town of Turrialba, Costa Rica, located on the Reventazon River. The upper portion of this drainage would have been the greater Land of Zarahemla, which included the Land of Gideon in a tributary to the south, and the Land of Manti, upstream on the headwaters of the river. Below Turrialba, the river enters a gorge which makes settlement impractical and, as a result, divides the drainage system. The lower portion of this river system would have been included in the Land of Jershon near the Caribbean coast.
The main Lamanite settlements would have been included in the large valley of the Terrabe River, in southwestern Costa Rica. This would not have included the “south wilderness” which would have included the main body of the Talamancan mountain chain.
The Land of Melek would have been the extensive valley of the Tarcoles River, which drains the Costa Rican central valley, and flows west, from the continental divide, to the Pacific.

The enclosed map gives a general idea of the lands I am suggesting. It shows the individual river systems of Costa Rica, each of which, to one degree or another, would have been a “land.” The large light yellow area at the top is the southern half of the drainage of the San Juan River, which flows east to the Caribbean.  This would have been the Land of Bountiful. The dark blue region on the central east side of Costa Rica would have been the Sidon drainage, which flowed eastward to the Caribbean.  The lower western half would have been the Land of Zarahemla. The light blue area to the left central is the basin of the Tarcoles River system, which drains west to the Pacific.  This would have been the Land of Melek. The orange-tan section in the lower right is the drainage of the Terrabe River system, which flows west to the Pacific.  This would have been the Land of Nephi (or the main land of the Lamanites).
To me, arranging the Book of Mormon lands in such a manner, seems very logical and reasonable. I am better able to visualize their cities, towns and villages. In other words, the Book of Mormon becomes a history of a  real people in a natural and logical place.