There are 13 thoughts on ““From the Sea East Even to the Sea West”: Thoughts on a Proposed Book of Mormon Chiasm Describing Geography in Alma 22:27”.

  1. The enemies of the Church are gleeful over the divisiveness among members regarding the geography of the Book of Mormon. This disagreement amongst the members is evidence to them that the Book of Mormon is a fable and therefore not true. The Mesoamerica proponents have some sound evidences of traces of the Book of Mormon in those lands. Likewise, the Heartland theorists have some sound evidence for Book of Mormon events in the Midwest and Northeastern United States. Both groups have staked out claims which they vigorously defend, and just as vigorously condemn the opposing views. I believe that you are all good Priesthood brethren, but there should be no disputations among us (3 Nephi 11:28).
    I also believe that the truth lies in the union of these theories. If Interpreter would allow us the Blog space to discuss this, and if you brethren would be willing to honestly listen and consider new points of view, I would be pleased to write a series of articles that I believe could lead us to a more common understanding.

    • Submission for posts to the blog may be entered through the normal submissions format for Interpreter. Please note that they are for the blog. While the editorial standards are more flexible for the blog, please understand that there is no promise that all submissions will be posted.
      Also note that because of the very divisiveness mentioned for Book of Mormon geographical studies, anyone submitting a blog post must realize that the posts will receive scrutiny. We attempt to keep a polite tone in the discussions, but there will certainly be differences of opinion. Please expect them.

  2. Reading anything describing a Book of Mormon Mesoamerican setting is so utterly painful. One does not need to be a scholar to recognize the voluminous errors purported as evidences by Mesoamerican “scholars.” The book says where it took place, more accurately, Christ says where the book took place in 3 Nephi 21:4. Christ is speaking of the Book of Mormon coming forth in a free land in the last days “in this land”. I think we can all agree the Book of Mormon was translated and published in a free country by Joseph Smith. A country in which the Savior said He established by Constitution (D&C 101:80). Go ahead and distort what the Savior said, but any committed member of the church can study the Book of Mormon and clearly know where the Nephites lived without the aid of any scholar. Then if you study the comments from Joseph Smith, Letter VII from Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, Lucy Mack Smith, the Doctrine and Covenants, the mounds (pun intended) of archaeological evidences in North America that number literally in the hundreds of thousands, the words of Nephi, the Zelph account, the city of Zarahemla, the Nephite’s commitment to the law of Moses, it is difficult to believe that the Mesoamerican theory has any legs at all. Come on, lets stop acting like it has any validity. Stop ignoring and changing the words of the scriptures and prophets. Its an embarrassment, it hurts the validity of the Church, Joseph Smith, and the Book of Mormon. It is a distraction at best and at worst a hindrance to missionary work and the growth of the church.
    Also, are we now ignoring the work of Royal Skousen and Stanford Carmack? Joseph’s translation wasn’t a translation where he had to come up with how to say things in his own words. Again the Book of Mormon speaks to how it would be translated in 2 Nephi 27:22. I don’t know if Neville’s map is 100% accurate; I doubt he feels that way, but in my opinion it is by far the closest I have ever read. My hat is off to him. His approach, demeanor, scholarship, writing, and bravery is excellent. His books are spectacular. Instead of being critical of his approach, we all should learn from it and build on it as a group. Think of the amazing things we could find if Mesoamericanists would spend their energy where the Book of Mormon and Savior said it took place. It would be so fun! Don’t be afraid to abandon tradition, let’s move on and embrace the truth!

    • “MiamiGuy”:
      Thank-you for your note and interest in what I wrote. I have eight observations:
      [1] Any flaws in any of a variety of Mesoamerican models have no real relevance to an assessment of Neville’s (or any other) North American one. Each model must succeed or fall on its own merits. There are not merely “two choices” such that a weakness in one implies a point in the other’s favor. Instead, there are many models; it could be that we do not have enough information to prepare a valid model, and so all of them are wrong together.
      [2] The issue which I take with Neville’s analysis on this point is not that he differs with the Mesoamerican model, but that it does not fairly or adequately represent the arguments of those with whom he differs. Surely we can agree that we should deal with the actual arguments being made, not caricatures of them?
      [3] I remain deeply concerned by those who argue that those who differ with them on a peripheral matter such as Book of Mormon geography (as you write) “hurts the validity of the Church, Joseph Smith, and the Book of Mormon. It is a distraction at best and at worst a hindrance to missionary work and the growth of the church.” The Church has long said that there is no official or revealed geography, contrary to your claim that “the Savior said it took place” where Neville says it did. You are welcome to such views, but you are not welcome to represent the evidence on this score. [An exhaustive collection of statements is available here: Readers who know of other statements are encouraged to submit them to FairMormon for inclusion in our resources. Statements which explicitly disclaim a revelatory basis for geography can be found here:
      [4] Furthermore, recent work makes it virtually certain that Joseph had a key role in writing materials that endorsed a Mesoamerican model, or at least included Mesoamerica in consideration for some of the Book of Mormon’s locations. [Matthew Roper, Paul J. Fields, and Atul Nepal, “Joseph Smith, the Times and Seasons, and Central American Ruins,” Journal of the Book of Mormon and Other Restoration Scripture 22/2 (2013): 84–97, online at: In statistical terms, it seems simply untenable to suggest otherwise. This tendency for “Heartland” advocates to claim revelatory sanction and/or insist that those with whom they differ are harming missionary work and the Church are among their least admirable and most troubling traits, for me.
      [5] As for issues of translation method, as I note in my article [p. 377], sometimes _more literal_ or tight translation (as opposed to the loose model with which you seem to take issue) can cause difficulties for our best understanding as well. So I don’t think an appeal to the method of transation can really help solve all these issues. And, seeing the translation in an all-or-nothing sort of way as to method may not be helpful either, though that’s a much broader discussion that I don’t consider myself capable enough to enter into.
      [6] If you do not understand why the Mesoamerican model is compelling to some, that suggests that you may not have understood it. In like manner, those who don’t understand the appeal of the “Heartland” or other model probably don’t understand what its advocates see in it.
      [7] Personally, I am most interested in internal models. And, it is on those grounds that Neville’s map simply falls apart. An examination of only a few verses shows up the holes and problems. (To say nothing of the fact that he can move the west sea, as discussed, and still have his model “work.”) If the internal map doesn’t even work, then trying to put it in a real world location is a lost cause–or, at least, is very premature.
      [8] I didn’t mention it in the paper, but there are other aspects of Neville’s approach that raise serious questions (reviewing all of those would be a mammoth undertaking, if one considers how much space it took just to deal with a few verses). There is one issue, though, that is also extremely troubling and is easy to understand:
      (a) in an earlier draft of the same book, Neville places the “sea west” (or one of his seas west) on the SOUTH of the Lamanite lands, in the Gulf of Mexico.
      (b) In his final draft, he moves this “sea west” to the Lower Mississippi (which is more west than the southern Gulf of Mexico, I suppose, but is east of his Zarahemla).
      This is quite intriguing–the sea undergoes an entire 90 degree shift in location, and moves from identifying an ocean to identifying a river. No “internal map” could accomodate both–the Book of Mormon text can’t simultaneously call for a sea “west” on the south and a river that is a sea to the east. Yet, Neville used both approaches in his model, and seemed to believe they were good fits. There was certainly no remark in the text about how the sea “west” being on the south was an outstanding problem.
      This strongly suggests that he is not working from the Book of Mormon text as a starting point, and then trying to fit the map to the real world once he has an internally-consistent map constructed. It means he has a destination in mind from the start–he will shift his reading of the text to match the area he is determined to use as the Book of Mormon’s location.
      One can take that approach if one wishes, but we must recognize that it smacks of special pleading, and one risks self-deception by essentially (in my view) working the problem backwards.
      What COULDN’T he shoehorn or handwave away, if it doesn’t matter where the ocean is from a south location, or an easterly one? In both cases, he was arguing this was a near-perfect agreement between his model and the text–but both those models can’t be right. So, apparently, the actual geography on the ground is the template being used, and the Book of Mormon text squeezed or stretched or (on occasion) tortured to force it to match–and that happens both with the Mississippi or the Gulf of Mexico. Either will do–so long as the Nephite “Heartland” can be where he wants it to be. Or, at least, so it seems to this reader.

  3. Tubaloth,
    Jenkins refuses to categorize any Book of Mormon geographic correspondence as evidence because he cannot accept the basic premise of the BoM’s origins. If, for example, an ancient writing were discovered that was merely a record of business transactions along the same trail we presume Lehi to have taken, any and all geographic correspondences would be categorized as evidence –not necessarily proof, mind you — of that merchant’s journey.

  4. With all due respect, I don’t think there is any “evidence” for either theory regarding Book of Mormon geography. Where is the archeological evidence for either theory? Didn’t Prof. Jenkins ask for evidence last year and those here could not provide it? What constitutes evidence anyway when there is none? Where has Prof. Hamblin gone? Frankly, the answer to the geography “debate” is that the geography is best described as a Joseph Smith fantasy model.

  5. I would propose a different chiastic structure for Alma 22:28-34. (I apologize if this does not format properly)
    In this chiastic proposal I leave out verse 27 as it was Mormon’s abridgement of Alma’s account. While Mormon was writing this abridgement he interjected additional geographical information and gave us a condensed description of the entire geographical area of the Lamanites and the Nephites. One reason that it is difficult to follow is the current sentence and verse structure masks Mormon’s description. I suggest that the chiastic structure is in the following form:
    A. Lamanite Lands
    B. Nephite Lands
    C. Combined Lamanite and Nephite Lands
    B. Nephite Lands
    A. Lamanite lands
    Alma 22:28-34:
    A. Lamanite Lands
    28 Now, the more idle part of the Lamanites lived in the wilderness, and dwelt in tents; and they were spread through the wilderness on the west, in the land of Nephi; yea, and also on the west of the land of Zarahemla, in the borders by the seashore, and on the west in the land of Nephi, in the place of their fathers’ first inheritance, and thus bordering along by the seashore.
    29 And also there were many Lamanites on the east by the seashore, whither the Nephites had driven them.
    B. Nephite Lands
    And thus the Nephites were nearly surrounded by the Lamanites; nevertheless the Nephites had taken possession of all the northern parts of the land bordering on the wilderness, at the head of the river Sidon, from the east to the west, round about on the wilderness side; on the north, even until they came to the land which they called Bountiful.
    30 And it bordered upon the land which they called Desolation, it being so far northward that it came into the land which had been peopled and been destroyed, of whose bones we have spoken, which was discovered by the people of Zarahemla, it being the place of their first landing.
    31 And they came from there up into the south wilderness. Thus the land on the northward was called Desolation, and the land on the southward was called Bountiful, it being the wilderness which is filled with all manner of wild animals of every kind, a part of which had come from the land northward for food.
    32 And now, it was only the distance of a day and a half’s journey for a Nephite, on the line Bountiful and the land Desolation, from the east to the west sea;
    C. Combined Lamanite and Nephite Lands
    And thus the land of Nephi and the land of Zarahemla [together] were nearly surrounded by water, there being a small neck of land between the land northward [combined lands of Lamanites and Nephites] and the land southward.
    B. Nephite lands
    33 And it came to pass that the Nephites had inhabited the land Bountiful, even from the east unto the west sea, and thus the Nephites in their wisdom, with their guards and their armies, had hemmed in the Lamanites on the south, that thereby they should have no more possession on the north, that they might not overrun the land northward.
    A. Lamanite Lands
    34 Therefore the Lamanites could have no more possessions only in the land of Nephi, and the wilderness round about.

    • Additional explanation of above:
      As Mormon was writing the missionary account of the sons of Mosiah, as recorded by Alma, Mormon came to the narrative of what we have as Alma 22:27 where it states, “the king sent a proclamation throughout all the land, amongst all his people.” The account goes on to describe where the Lamanites were and how they were divided from the Nephites. The geographical account given by the sons of Mosiah ends at the end of verse 27 where it states, “and thus were the Lamanites and the Nephites divided.”
      While the sons of Mosiah were in the land of Nephi, and shortly thereafter, there were many additional changes to the borders of the Nephites and the Lamanites, which the sons of Mosiah would not have been aware of when they gave their account to Alma. For example, in the narrative there is no mention of the land of Bountiful (in the Promised Land) until Alma chapter 27. It appears that Mormon decided that the geography of the sons of Mosiah should be updated. Therefore what we have in verses 28 to 34 is Mormon’s overview of the geography at that time, in chiastic form, plus his ending commentary. In verse 35 he states, “And now I, after having said this, return again to the account of Ammon and Aaron, Omner and Himni, and their brethren.”

    • Mormon’s statement in verse 32 above concerning combined Lamanite and Nephite lands reveals that the “small neck of land” was south of their combined lands. Keep in mind that directional locations in the Book of Mormon are not absolute locations but are relative to the context. The same directional names do not always refer to the same geographical locations. For example, in Helaman 6:10, the “land north” refers to the land of Zarahemla. However, in Mormon 1:6 Zarahemla is referred to as the “land southward.” Sometimes Bountiful is in the north as in Helaman 1:23, and sometimes it is in the south as in Alma 22:31. Directional names and notations are always relative to the context.
      “And thus the land of Nephi and the land of Zarahemla were nearly surrounded by water, there being a small neck of land between the land northward and the land southward.” (Alma 22:32)
      The lands of Nephi and Zarahemla together were nearly surrounded by water, except for a small neck of land that led to another land south of them. The Nephites and Lamanites were living on an island, except for a “small neck of land” south of them. This coincides with Jacob’s statement that, “the Lord has made the sea our path, and we are upon an isle of the sea.” (2 Nephi 10:20) Moroni told Joseph Smith that the Book of Mormon gave “an account of the former inhabitants of this continent.” (JSH 1:34) At the time he made that statement some maps were showing North America and South America as two separate continents. The fact that Moroni’s father had written that there was a “small neck of land” south of the inhabitants of the Book of Mormon, leads to the conclusion that the descendants of Lehi dwelt in the continent of North America during the time of the record. North America may seem to be too big to us to call it an island, but we don’t have a problem thinking of Australia and Antarctica as being island continents. The Nephites, who travelled by sea from the combined land-mass of Asia, Africa and Europe, considered themselves to be living on an isle of the sea. The Book of Mormon text contains no reference and gives us no record of any activity of Lamanites or Nephites in a land south of the land of Nephi. The “small neck of land” must therefore refer to the Isthmus of Panama. The “small neck of land” should not be confused with the “narrow neck of land” which was north of the land of Nephi and Zarahemla, near the border of the land of Bountiful and the land Desolation (Alma 63:5).

    • The problem is that the assertions to which Greg Smith is responding are not in any sense a matter faculty politics, but it is the product of Jonathan Neville’s unwillingness to engage serious scholarship in his flawed efforts to bolster the sagging so-called “heartland” Book of Mormon geography, which in one instance is driven by mercenary motives and has yielded utter crackpottery, and nothing approaching careful analysis and solid evidence.

      • Hi Brother Midgley. Thanks for your interest. I always enjoy your comments.
        I came here because people are asking me what I think about Brother Smith’s article. Fortunately, he provided a link to one of my blogs where I’m posting my review.
        And actually, I do engage serious scholarship, in detail, both in writing and in person (whenever the Mesoamerican advocates are willing to meet). I have specifically addressed every aspect of this topic, as you would know if you read my blogs and books.
        On a personal level, I like all the people I’ve met, on both sides of these issues. These issues could be resolved, or at least narrowed, much more efficiently and effectively in personal discussions, but the Mesoamerican advocates apparently disagree, so they waste a lot of time writing long articles in the Interpreter instead.
        I would happily publish articles in The Interpreter but they refuse to accept what I submit because they disagree with me. Consequently, I blog about these topics, but The Interpreter won’t let me post a link, either. If you want to engage along with me, google this: Book of Mormon wars. I hope to see you there.

        • Brother Neville,
          Interpreter does post papers with which at least some board members disagree. I can attest to that because I have personally approved papers with which I disagreed, but felt that the research and opinion were well enough done that the information should be available so that others could make up their minds. The decisions for accepting papers is not based on agreement, but upon the quality of the paper with respect to argumentation and documentation. Having said that, there are also some papers that have been fairly well argued, but where they cannot overcome a fatal flaw in the argumentation. None of these cases reference anything you have submitted.

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