There are 35 thoughts on “Unavailable Genetic Evidence, Multiple Simultaneous Promised Lands, and Lamanites by Location? Possible Ramifications of the Book of Mormon Limited Geography Theory”.

  1. Mormon wrote that because of limited space on the plates that he could not write a hundredth part of the thigs of his people (Words of Mormon 1:5). The problem with drawing conclusions from absences in the text is that there is a 99% probability that they will be wrong.

  2. Brian,

    I’m sure that you would agree that when the Lehites traveled through the desert that they had camels to carry their heavy tents and provisions, even though camels are not mentioned. When Nephi separated from his brothers and travelled many days, they took their tents and other provisions (2 Nephi 5:7). As they didn’t have light-weight nylon backpack tents in those days they would have required packhorses. Nephi mentioned earlier about finding horses when they landed (1 Nephi 18:25). Throughout their entire history there are numerous references to both the Nephites and the Lamanites traveling with tents.

    When King Benjamin made his address from the temple, “the people gathered themselves together throughout all the land…And it came to pass that when they came up to the temple, they pitched their tents round about, every man according to his family” (Mosiah 2:1-5). That would require at least one horse per family.

    Alma and all his converts travelled through the wilderness with their tents (Alma 24:20). King Limhi and his people traveled through the same wilderness with their tents (Mosiah 22:2; 22:11) Both the armies of the Nephites and the Lamanites travelled with their tents, requiring at least one horse per squad of soldiers (Alma 2:26; 47:8; 51:34; 58:13). At the end of their history the Nephites were still travelling with tents. “And it came to pass that we did march forth to the land of Cumorah, and we did pitch our tents around about the hill Cumorah” (Mormon 6:4).

    With horses being that common for packing tents, they surely used some of them for riding. It appears from the evidence in the text that both the Nephite and Lamanite civilizations were “Horse Nations.”

    • Hi Theodore,

      You bring up an interesting theory. If a society has tents, then they must have camels or horses.

      I’m sure you know that backpackers today routinely carry their tents without the use of a pack animal.

      Perhaps a bigger problem within the context of the Book of Mormon, is that an army would use a horse to pack a tent but not create cavalry units with those same horses. As pointed out in the article, the discussion of the armed conflicts in the Book of Mormon is quite detailed. That the use of horses would not also have been mentioned seems less likely. Neither are their pictographs with cavalry units.

      Theorists today can postulate many scenarios (like Lehi having camels). But a theory that’s inconsistent with multiple other cultures historically is less persuasive. Every society that has had Equus caballus has used it for warfare.

      Perhaps I could add that Alma’s migration from the City of Nephi to Zarahemla included the movement of “flocks.” We don’t know what animal was involved, but horses would not have appreciably increased the travel speed of “flocks.”

      • Daily travel rates on foot are not increased by increasing the speed of travel but by increasing the hours of travel per day.

      • King Benjamin’s people came from throughout the land of Zarahemla and pitched their family tents round about the temple. A black goat-hair, traveling Bedouin tent weighs about 200 pounds plus poles and stakes. A sheik tent is much larger, and it requires many camels to carry it (As water & irrigation manager at Kibbutz Sde Boker in the Negev Desert I became acquainted with the Bedouin).

        Teepees, covered with hides, have been used by Native Americans of the Great Plains since ancient times and require horses to transport them. Sami (Laplanders) of far northern Europe employed a similar skin covered tent called a goahti and used reindeer to transport them. The Mongolians used a skin covered tent called a yurt since 600 BC and they transported them with horses. (See: The History of the Tent,

        Roman mobile military tents were usually made from calf or goat skin and slept a squad of around eight soldiers (a contubernium of legionnaires) and were transported by a mule. (See: Tent of Contubernium, )

        I am not aware of any ancient tenting people who did not use animals to transport their tents. Light weight backpacking tents are a modern invention.

        • The word tent can be used generically for temporary coverings. It is not restricted to materials or type of construction. As for tents used without pack animals, welcome to Meosamerican warfare. The records speak of the Aztec tents, but there is every reason to assume that they were common. They were temporary constructions of available materials on the road.

          As for the tents when Benjamin called his people, the current plausible reason is the feast of tabernacles and that has no indication of needing any pack animals.

      • Brian,

        Regarding military cavalry, in Israel and Egypt about the time the Lehites left Jerusalem, calvary was mostly limited to chariots, a few mounted archers and a few elite commanders who rode horses or mules. Chariots were used by King Lamoni and his servants, as well as his father, King of the Lamanites (Alma 18:12). The Nephite, Ammon, knew how to care for and prepare the horses and chariots for travelling, so he was obviously familiar with them. It appears that horse-drawn chariots were well known amongst the Book of Mormon civilization.

  3. Interesting article.

    I find it a little convenient that you can spend over 2,500 words trying to explain away the use of the translated term ‘horses’ to mean something other than horse, yet you don’t afford the same generous interpretation to the translated word ‘ship’. You have no problem taking a dictionary definition for ‘ships’ being “A ship is, by definition a “large sea-going vessel (opposed to a boat).” I would contend for your argument to be consistent, if ‘horse’ can be ‘Tapir’, then ‘ship’ or ‘shipping’ can include ‘boats’ and imply any ‘travel/transportation on water’.

    Your position on this feels forced and I don’t believe it adequately addresses Nevilles (and others) position on river travel.

    • Hi Chris,

      The Book of Mormon mentions “horses,” but the Lehite culture does not use horses as every other civilization in the history of the planet has used them. If they had Equus caballus, it is strange they didn’t utilize it to advance their civilization. For example, combat history shows that cavalry is a stronger battlefield force than foot soldiers, yet no cavalry is mentioned in the BofM

      As you point out, Book of Mormon mentions ships and uses them as would be expected (launched into the sea). Undoubtedly the Lehites also used canoes and small craft for limited travel on the waterways. But not only is there an absence of references to boats and similar watercraft, there is also an absence of references to water travel altogether.

      Advocates of the idea that the Lehites traveled on rivers advance a faith-based position since no documentary evidence is found. Theories without evidence can describe a wide variety of possibilities, and truth could be found within them. But theories that quote some of the 269,320 words of primary evidence will probably be more persuasive.

      • Using absence as evidence is a very weak argument. There is no mention in the Book of Mormon of shoes or sandals, so must we conclude that their armies were went into battle barefoot?

        • Hi Theodore,

          I agree the absence of evidence is a weak argument. It is weak in support (as applied to those who say the Lehites traveled long distances on the rivers), but as you point out, the absence of evidence is not always evidence of lack (can’t prove a negative).

          The problem is those who advocate a huge Promised Land based on river travel haven’t studied the proposal. You simply can go up the Mississippi in a keelboat (even today). Flat-bottomed barges could not either due to shelves in the river (and the short waterfalls they produced), but more importantly because above Natchez, the current is 3.5 mph.

          So you see, it is not just the absence of supportive evidence; it is the additional historical and scientific contradictory evidence that proponents like my friend Jonathan Neville should address if they wish to advance a genuinely defensible theory.

  4. For Brian Monson,

    You bring up some good questions, some of which are dealt with in the article:

    Page 80 discusses Chariots: “The Book of Mormon contains six references that associate horses with ‘chariots,’ but one of them is mentioned only as part of a quoted Bible passage (2 Nephi 12:7). The Lamanite King Lamoni has horses and chariots and is later described as ‘journeying,’ but whether it was on foot, by horse, or by chariot is not specified (Alma 20:8). Chariots with wheels are not described in the Book of Mormon. Wheeled effigies have been identified in the Americas, but as John L. Sorenson explains: “Scholars have long operated on the assumption that the wheel was unknown in ancient American technology. The Book of Mormon implicitly agrees.”18 So assuming Lamoni’s “chariots” had wheels may not be justified. One definition for chariot in the Oxford Dictionary specifies ‘a stately vehicle for the conveyance of people,’ and ‘vehicle’ is defined as a ‘receptacle in which anything is placed in order to be moved.’ Wheels would assist in moving but are not implicit in the definitions.”

    100,000 square miles is a little smaller than the state of Colorado and leaves plenty of room for highways and roads. For example, Colorado had 185,486 lane miles of road measured in 2019.

    • Brother Brian,

      You and Brother Brant seem to be saying that the Lamanites had horses and chariots to conduct King Lamoni to meet his father, but the horses didn’t necessarily pull the chariots and the chariots didn’t necessarily have wheels, and King Lamoni didn’t necessarily ride in a chariot. I confess that I cannot comprehend such thinking (However, if the chariots didn’t have wheels, then the horses probably could not pull them anyway).

      Nephi was a technological guy. He knew how to smelt and forge various kinds of metals into various tools and weapons, and even built a ship. It is not reasonable that he did not bring the age-old technology of the wheel to the Promised Land. Archaeologists have a saying that, “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” That also holds true in analyzing the text of the Book of Mormon. There are multiple things that are not mentioned in the Book of Mormon that the Lehites would have had, used, ate, or experienced that are not mentioned in the text, such as pottery, pot, jar, shade, sweat, berries, etc., etc. I don’t believe that there is enough information in the Book of Mormon to conclude that the Lehites were a non-horse civilization.

      • In the case of horses influencing culture in the western hemisphere, we actually have evidence, in the sense that absence really does tell us something definitive. There was no horse culture. We know how horses impacted culture all over the world. We know that it didn’t happen on the western hemisphere. So, while there was something that was labeled a horse (and may have been a horse, given some recent finds), there was no impact. In a similar way finding pig bones in an archaeological site and one nearby that had no pig bones tells archaeologists that the one without were Hebrew. Absence can be evidence.

        Central American knew wheels. There is simply no evidence of large wheeled vehicles, or any vehicle pulled or dragged by anything except human strength. You are not alone in not being able to see things any other way, but that doesn’t mean that history and archaeology are wrong.

    • As far as I know, these “wheeled effigies” are only representations of animals and not any type of vehicle. I’m assuming that if a wheeled toy of a wagon or chariot was found, it would be indicative of the use of actual wheeled wagons or chariots. It’s an argument from silence, but it fits the notion of a lack of wheeled transportation in classical Mesoamerica.

      • The wheeled effigies were likely more important for the effigy that for the wheels. However, they demonstrate that the principle of the wheel (and axle in some) was understood. That means that there is no reason that there could not be larger wheeled vehicles. Having said that, there is no evidence of larger vehicles. Manpower appears to be the only way to move things. There are numerous raised roads in the Maya region. None of them show any use by wheels.

        So, there is evidence that they could. There is no evidence that they did.

  5. I should add that all limited Book of Mormon geographies are based upon the untenable assumption the city of Lehi-Nephi is the original city of Nephi.

    • Hello Brother Brandley,

      I appreciate the comments from someone who has already published on the topic. You wrote: “The city of Lehi-Nephi was first mentioned after 400 years of war in which the Nephites were driven and nearly annihilated. It could have been a thousand miles or more north of the original city of Nephi.”

      The Book of Mormon mentions five pertinent locations:
      1. the unnamed original Lehite settlement, perhaps called the land or city of Lehi
      2. the place Nephi settled after traveling “many days” to escape his brothers Laman and Lemuel living at the original settlement (2 Ne. 5:7–8)
      3. the land of Nephi where Mosiah(1) dwelt prior to leaving for Zarahemla (Omni 1:12–13)
      4. land of Lehi-Nephi, or in the city of Lehi-Nephi (Mosiah 7:1)
      5. the city of Nephi (Mosiah 9:15).

      It could be argued that the last three are reliably the same location.

      I think you theorize that the land of Nephi where Mosiah dwelt was “a thousand miles or more north” of the place of Nephi originally settled by Nephi, and that war was a primary driver for expansion?

      I see this as problematic. The Nephites were not “swept off the face of the land” (Jarom 1:3), but defended themselves and defended their lands. The migration of 22 days of Alma and his people is outlined in some detail. Can we believe other migrations of much greater distances were left silent?

      You are entitled to your opinion that it is “untenable” to believe that “the city of Lehi-Nephi is the original city of Nephi.” And we recognize that Mormon, as the editor on the Large Plates, may have used different verbiage from that engraved by the Small Plates scribes. But I detect no documentable reason to separate the place of Nephi from the later city of Nephi (by a thousand miles?) and the similarity in titles hardly seems accidental (and misleading).

      As you know, theories supported primarily by speculation are generally weaker than those supported by the text. This is seen in theories that expand the geographical boundaries beyond what foot travel could support.

      Undoubtedly river travel with canoes was important in some areas. But there is no evidence that the BofM people used keel boats and barges that would have been needed to move people, animals, and supplies to-and-from existing metropolitan centers. The upstream travel was just too labor intensive and even wide rivers like the Ohio and Mississippi had river obstacles that impeded downstream travel.

      Thanks for your input. If you have additional data to share, I would enjoy reading it.

      Brian Hales

      • I happen to believe, as does Brother Brandley, that the City of Nephi and the City of Lehi-Nephi were not the same. However, not being the same does not mean that they were far distant. Both were in the land of Nephi, and both were (at the time of Zeniff) under Lamanite control. In the real world, it was not unusual to have major cities only about three days walk apart. Lehi-Nephi was not a major city, and was close enough to the Lamanite king that the king could keep close tabs on Zeniff’s people. So while I do believe that the cities are different, being different doesn’t significantly alter the calculations of distances.

      • The land of Nephi stretched from the city of Lehi-Nephi to Lehi’s landing on the west coast (Alma 22:23). Weather the land of Nephi was 100 miles or 2,000 miles between these locations we cannot determine from the text alone. What we do know is that there were hundreds of years of wars in that area and that the Nephites were scattered and the more wicked of them were destroyed. The Nephite were probably driven many times long distances. The Lehites had a history of long-distance travel over land before they arrived in America. There is nothing in the text to preclude them from continuing that tradition.

        Within seventy-five years of the founding of the United States of America US military forts dotted the continent. Within twenty years of the founding of the Church, without the use of modern transportation, the Latter-Day Saints were shuttling back and forth from New York to Ohio, to Missouri, to Illinois, and then to the Salt Lake Valley and California. The Mormon Battalion, with women and children, marched 2,000 miles from Council Bluffs, Iowa, to San Diego. By 1887, without the use of the railroad, the Saints had colonized as far south as Mexico and as far north as Western Canada. The first ward in Western Canada was organized as a unit of the Cache Valley, Utah, Stake. The stake president, Charles Ora Card, lived in the Canadian settlement for three years while administering the Cache Valley Stake, seven hundred miles to the south through the Rocky Mountains. He was also in regular attendance at general conferences in Salt Lake City. To confine the Lehite civilization into an area 200 miles by 500 miles does not seem reasonable.

        It appears from the ore deposits, that Lehi landed on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. We have multiple testimonies from two of the Three witnesses, that Moroni told Joseph Smith that the Hill Cumorah of the ancients was in the State of New York. That gives us our two anchor points. The River Sidon lies somewhere in between. (see )

        • Hi Brother Brandley,

          You wrote, “The Nephite were probably driven many times long distances.” I don’t think such speculations are very helpful, and I would argue they are not supported by the text.

          More importantly, you wrote, “The Lehites had a history of long-distance travel over land before they arrived in America. There is nothing in the text to preclude them from continuing that tradition.” Actually, there is. They traveled long distances to arrive at the Promised Land. Once there, the need for long-distant travel disappeared.

          As you have read, the article outlines the differences between horse-nations and non-horse nations. Your second paragraph compares the Lehites, a non-horse-nation, to horse-nations of the United States and Canada. The comparison has no usefulness.

          Bringing up the Cumorah controversy doesn’t help much, either. Those who argue for two Cumorahs have a valid argument, and I think continuing that argument here would be an unfruitful exercise.

          Thanks again for the comments,

          Brian Hales

          • “And it came to pass that we did find upon the land of promise, as we journeyed in the wilderness, that there were beasts in the forests of every kind, both the cow and the ox, and the ass and the horse…which were for the use of men.” (1 Nephi 18:25)

            Brian, do you think that Nephi lied, or that he didn’t know what an ass and a horse looked like?

            • Theodore, it seems to me that you are asking a loaded question and it is probably one that you know is loaded. Why would you do that? Why would you condense what should be a nuanced topic down to two choices: either Nephi lied or Nephi was ignorant?

              I trust you know that there are many more nuanced possibilities available than the single binary choice you have offered. Giving someone with whom you may disagree only two choices is rather bad form, no?

            • I didn’t intend to be provocative. Nephi said there were horses and Brain said there were not. I was hoping he could explain.

            • In my reading of Brian’s paper, I didn’t get that he said horses didn’t exist. He did say, however, that they weren’t used for transportation. (He has a whole section in his paper concerning horses in the Book of Mormon.) That is the type of nuance to which I referred–horses can be here, but they may not be used as we use them today or as they were used in Europe or as they were used in the Middle East in 600 BC. We just don’t know because the text doesn’t tell us how the horses were used, only that they were here. Any assumptions about how they were used are just that–assumptions.

              Brian can, of course, elaborate more on this is he so chooses.

            • Brother Allen, I was responding to Brother Brian’s statement above that the, Lehites were, “a non-horse-nation.” However, as for use, Nephi stated that the horses, “were for the use of man,” but he did not say exactly how they were used. Throughout history horses were used three ways, draft, pack and to ride. The Book of Mormon only specifically mentions one of those ways, which was draft, for pulling King Lamoni’s chariots (Alma 18:9).

            • Brother Brandley, the idea that horses pulled the chariots is reading into the text. The text only associates them without indicating the nature of the association. That reference is to Lamanite usage. The only time we really see horses among the Nephites is in the description of the animals gathered to created the scorched earth before the Gadiantons. In that list, they are among food animals. It is quite possible that horses were considered food. There is no textual indication that they had any cultural impact on the Nephites–which Brian’s article rather nicely reports.

            • Hi Again,

              I think if you’ll reread the article, you’ll discover that the characteristics of a “horse nation” as defined by Kelekna, are not characteristics of any of the nations in the Book of Mormon.

              By those definitions, all the Book of Mormon peoples were non-horse nations.

              In other words, a horse nation is not simply a nation with animals called horses, but a nation that used Aquus caballus for transportation, warfare, and other described applications.

            • Since the word “chariots” is somewhat anachronistic, we enter into the problem of translation assumptions at this point. That requires more discussion than should be had in the comments. Suffice it to say that making assumptions is not the best way to use historical texts. As Brian pointed out, horses create horse culture. They transform societies. There is no textual evidence for that in the Book of Mormon.

            • I am interested in knowing how the scholars would interpret the following verses in Alma 18:9-10 “And they said unto him [King Lamoni]: Behold, he [Ammon] is feeding thy horses. Now the king had commanded his servants, previous to the time of the watering of their flocks, that they should prepare his horses and chariots, and conduct him forth to the land of Nephi; for there had been a great feast appointed at the land of Nephi, by the father of Lamoni, who was king over all the land.
              “10. Now when king Lamoni heard that Ammon was preparing his horses and his chariots he was more astonished, because of the faithfulness of Ammon, saying: Surely there has not been any servant among all my servants that has been so faithful as this man; for even he doth remember all my commandments to execute them.”

              Note that King Lamoni intended to travel to be with his father and so ordered that BOTH the horses and chariots be PREPARED. Why? So that the king can be conducted FORTH to the Land of Nephi. How? Using multiple chariots so that his security detail will ride in front of the king and also be his rearguard. Maybe as many as three chariots in front, followed by the king’s chariot with two chariots on both sides of the king’s. Three more chariots to provide rearguard protection.

              King Lamoni’s command for preparing his trip closely relates both the horses and chariots for the purpose of travelling to meet with his father. This is reinforced several days later in Alma 20:6 “Now when Lamoni had heard this he caused that his servants should make ready his horses and his chariots.”

              This occurred after Lamoni’s miraculous conversion and days of testimony bearing. Yet the same preparations being made again for travelling.

              Note in Third Nephi 6:8 “And there were many highways cast up, and many roads made, which led from city to city, and from land to land, and from place to place.” Which seems to indicate a more extensive transportation network (possibly larger than a region of 200 miles by 500 miles?). In addition we read of battles involving tens of thousands of soldiers on both sides (likely indicating the need for horses to convey scouts and messengers up and down the front for the purpose of coordinating forces).

  6. Brian,

    Some of your conclusions about a limited geography are based on some of the same questionable assumptions that Sorenson made. I will only mention two them.

    Assumption #1: The city of Lehi-Nephi from which Alma departed was the original city established by Nephi, and therefore at the southern end of Book of Mormon Civilization.

    In Zeniff’s record, he changed the name of the city of Lehi-Nephi to the city of Nephi after war broke out between Zeniff’s Nephites and the Lamanites. The city of Lehi-Nephi was first mentioned after 400 years of war in which the Nephites were driven and nearly annihilated. It could have been a thousand miles or more north of the original city of Nephi. The approximate location of the city of Lehi-Nephi can only be known by backtracking from the city of Zarahemla once it is known. (See )

    Questionable Assumption #2: The Nephites did not use extensive river transportation.

    Although I agree that most of the Nephite migrations were overland, the Nephite capital city, Zarahemla, was on the river Sidon, and they were a shipping and a ship-building people (Helaman 3:13). Obviously, they were shipping on the river Sidon. As you pointed out, the word ship is usually referring to a large ocean-going vessel. However, not always. I have two grandchildren in the navy, and they refer to their aircraft carriers as a boat. A quick pursual of Early Modern English, into which the Book of Mormon was probably translated, seems to use the terms “ship” and “boat” interchangeably. Also, size is a relative thing. Nephi’s ship was probably about the same size as Viking ships, which were ocean worthy but were also used to navigate the entire river systems of Europe.

  7. Brian, Thanks for this article. It is nicely done and very helpful!

    There is one additional thing to consider, but it often muddies the waters: while “all are invited” and “belief, not lineage, ultimately governs those who are gathered,” it is also true that those who do gather–i.e., the true followers of Christ–have always sought to organize themselves into a legal family (both natural and adopted) for the purpose of literally inheriting the blessings of eternal life. On this, see my article:

    The implication is that those who call themselves Nephites in the later years of the Book of Mormon could certainly have been believers coming from any lineage, but they would have somehow identified themselves as descendants of Lehi and Nephi (whether natural or adopted) for purposes of inheriting the promised land given to them (hence “anti-Nephi-Lehies” are Lamanites who now identify as the seed of Nephi-Lehi). Non-believers are placed under the head of Laman, similar to the term “gentile” in the Bible, and are considered cursed–i.e., cut off from the inheritance. So legally being a part of the lineage that has the divine inheritance flowing in it actually does matter in the end, even if it does not matter as far as who gets invited.

    My remaining question would be: if the titles Nephite and Lamanite are only ideological titles, and Nephite means a believer in Christ, then why aren’t wicked Nephites (such as those in the final battle) already considered Lamanites? In other words, at what point or on what grounds does a wicked Nephite, “exceedingly wicked one like unto another [Nephite like Lamanite],” get to retain their title Nephite? Or why are some righteous believers (like Samuel) still referred to as Lamanites?

    Thanks so much for all your contributions!

    • This is great information! Thanks for your comments (and for your work on the latest BYU Studies issue. So important!

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