Land of Promise
What direction did Lehi and his family sail when they left Bountiful for the promised land? And where is that promised land? This is a subject which has been given little attention by Mormon scholars due to the acceptance of wrong theories, and, for some reason, they appear to purposely avoid considering it, even in light of current discoveries.
One day, in about 1991, while in a print shop making a copy of a manuscript that I eventually had published, I met a man by the name of Delbert Curtis. He too was making copies of a manuscript of his book. As we talked, he offered me a copy of his manuscript which I obtained at his home. The subject was that of where the land of the Nephites really was — in North America, and specifically around the area of the Great Lakes.
This is something I have always believed ever since my conversion to Mormonism back in 1960 and my early reading of a book entitled, Just One Cumorah, by Riley L. Dixon, and other such books. It has always been confusing to me why the Book of Mormon scholars have always insisted that the Nephite lands were in Central America, when, to me, it made little sense at all; for the Hill Cumorah was in New York. Anyway, a year or so later I found a hard-bound published copy of a book entitled, Christ In North America, by the same Delbert W. Curtis I had met in the copy shop; so I purchased it, and found it to be a well documented work. From that book I would like to offer a quote from his introduction, as he discusses the debate surrounding different geographic theories:
“For Book of Mormon geography scholars to admit that the hill in New York which we call Cumorah is the hill...Cumorah would leave them without foundation for their theories. To identify the United States of America as the land of promise,... would mean that Jared, Lehi, and Mulek were led to the North American Continent. This would also leave them without reason to look anywhere but North America for the Land of the Nephites.
“Book of Mormon geography scholars locate a site in Central or South America; they then look for a description to match that site in the Book of Mormon. When a matching description cannot be found, they blame it on the destruction at the death of Christ. The reason they cannot find a matching description in the Book of Mormon is that they are not even looking on the land of promise,... If the destruction at the time of the death of Christ is carefully examined, it will be found that it was only the face of the land northward that was changed. All the other landmarks remained.
“There is another cause for confusion when Book of Mormon geography scholars locate a site where they would like the Nephites placed... Those scholars disregard what is written in the Standard Works [scriptures] that may present different facts. It must be remembered that everything a General Authority [of the Church] says is not inspired, if what is said or written is not in tune with the Standard Works. It is an opinion and nothing more.” (Curtis, Christ In North America, pp. 6-7.)
Knowing the true location of the real land of the Nephites is one of vital importance when it comes to validating the Book of Mormon story; for if we are led off into the wrong direction, as most have been because of tradition, then there is no solid validity in support of the Book of Mormon. Knowing which direction Lehi and his family sailed will tell us approximately where he landed, and where the real promised land lies. To begin, let’s review the first few relevant scriptures pertaining to their sea voyage.
5. And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord came unto my father, that we should arise and go down into the ship.
6. And it came to pass that on the morrow, after we had prepared all things, much fruits and meat from the wilderness, and honey in abundance, and provisions according to that which the Lord had commanded us, we did go down into the ship, with all our loading and our seeds, and whatsoever thing we had brought with us, every one according to his age; wherefore, we did all go down into the ship, with our wives and our children.
8. And it came to pass after we had all gone down into the ship, and had taken with us our provisions and things which had been commanded us, we did put forth into the sea and were driven forth before the wind towards the promised land. (See 1 Ne. 18:5-8.)
As we just read, they sailed “towards the promised land.” So the question is, in which direction did they set sail, and where is that “promised land”?
The traditional direction believed by most LDS Church members is easterly over the Pacific Ocean and landing on the west coast of Central or South America. The reason they believe this is because over a hundred years ago some very interesting ruins were found down in Central America which sparked great interest, not only among other scholars, but among Mormon scholars in particular.
In 1897 Orson Pratt, one of the first leaders of the Mormon Church, placed footnotes in that edition of the Book of Mormon. He stated his opinion that 1) Lehi landed on the west coast of Chile, 2) the Isthmus of Darian (Panama) was the narrow neck of land, 3) the River Magdalena in Columbia was the river Sidon, and 4) Zarahemla was on the Yucatan Peninsula. Those footnotes were removed from the following edition of the Book of Mormon. But because those ideas were in the book, many believed them, so the theory took root and is still stuck in the head of many teachers and scholars.
All of this coupled with a supposed statement from Joseph Smith that Lehi landed on the west coast of South America has sent myriads of archeologists, and other researchers, to that part of the world in search of proof to support the Book of Mormon.
There was a paper given to the Church Historian’s office supposedly from Fredrick G. Williams, many years after the death of Joseph Smith. This paper was an alleged revelation, and reads in part:
“Lehi’s Travels — Revelation to Joseph the Seer.
“The course that Lehi and his company traveled from Jerusalem to the place of their destination: they traveled nearly a south, southeast direction until they came to the nineteenth degree of north latitude; then nearly east to the sea of Arabia, then sailed in a southeast direction, and landed on the continent of South America, in Chile, 30 degree, south latitude.”
The paper was quoted in The Compendium, in 1882, by Franklin D. Richards and James A Little, both men of good standing in the Church. Because of their reputations, this statement was received by members of the Church and believed. However, that particular statement, a “Revelation” supposedly given to Joseph Smith, has since been proven to be a fake.
This early fraud, and other archeological misdirections, have led to the insistent belief, even among learned Mormon scholars, that down south is, indeed, the place where Lehi landed; and this in spite of NO solid evidence in support of that theory. As of yet, there is no solid correlation between archaeological sites in Central or South America and the Book of Mormon like there is between the Bible and the Near East. For thousands of years people have known where Jerusalem is located, but there is no such geographical history for Zarahemla, or the Land of Nephi, anywhere.
Yes, they have found many fascinating things down there in the south, some of which we will take up in future chapters, but not one solid piece of evidence to show, conclusively, that that is the land where the drama of the Book of Mormon played out. However, what we do find in the Book of Mormon are references to rivers and seas, cities and places, directions, travel and time periods, hills and the narrow neck of land, and such.
The Promised Land
Before we seek to determine in which direction Lehi sailed, let’s first try and establish which land is the real “land of promise, which [is] choice above all other lands, which the Lord God had preserved for a righteous people.” (Ether 2:7.)
From the forgoing verse we find that the promised land is for a righteous people. We also learn that “whoso should possess this land of promise, from that time henceforth and forever, should serve him...or they should be swept off... and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall serve God, or they shall be swept off when the fulness of his wrath shall come upon them. And the fulness of his wrath cometh upon them when they are ripened in iniquity.” (vv. 8-10.)
Continuing on with verse 12 of Ether 2 we read: “Behold, this is a choice land, and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall be free from bondage, and from captivity, and from all other nations under heaven, if they will but serve the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ, who hath been manifested by the things which we have written.” What nation has been established as free from bondage and captivity, and from all other nations? Why the United States of America, as God established it with its Declaration of Independence and Constitution for these United States of America. In the Doctrine and Covenants, a part of Mormon scripture, the Lord said regarding the Constitution of this nation:
77. ... the laws and constitution of the people, which I have suffered to be established, and should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh, according to just and holy principles;
78. That every man may act in doctrine and principle pertaining to futurity, according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment.
79. Therefore, it is not right that any man should be in bondage one to another.
80. And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose, and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood. (D&C 101:77-80.)
5. And that law of the land which is constitutional, supporting that principle of freedom in maintaining rights and privileges, belongs to all mankind, and is justifiable before me.
6. Therefore, I, the Lord, justify you, and your brethren of my church, in befriending that law which is the constitutional law of the land;
7. And as pertaining to law of man, whatsoever is more or less than this, cometh of evil. (D&C 98:5-7.)
So God established this promised land so the people could be free of bondage. And not only is this the land of promise, but we have been the most prosperous nation this world has ever seen, and the most productive as well — being considered the breadbasket of the world as we sent food to many other nations. Additionally, we have been the strongest military might in the world, the most highly educated, and possessing a high moral character.
In 1 Nephi Chapter 13 there is an account of a vision that Nephi had about how the Gentiles escaped captivity in their land of Europe, and how they came to this continent and formed a new nation upon this “land of promise” (v. 14). If there is a scriptural prophecy about the founding of the United States of America, 1 Nephi 13 is it. Yes the Spaniards went to Central America and established themselves there, but it was not to escape captivity as did those of England and northern Europe. The Gentiles, as the Book of Mormon refers to them, did not leave Europe and go to Central or South America, they went to the North American continent.
Is North America a “choice land”? Of course it is! It is the land of the Gentiles, as both Nephi and Moroni pointed out. And what other nation is there to which people have flocked? Do they flock to Central America, Mexico, or South America? No! Those people, and others, flock here. They come to North America, the real land of promise and place of opportunity.
Delbert Curtis wrote in his very interesting book, Christ in North America, that, “Mormon was commanded to hide up the sacred records ‘for the Lamanites would destroy them’ (Mormon 6:6). The Lamanites destroyed and burned all the towns and villages (Mormon 5:5). This happened in the year A.D. 379; at that same time the people of Mesoamerica were over 150 years into their classic period. There seems to be a conflict in the two records.” Where did the Prophet Mormon hide his records? He hid them in the Hill Cumorah, which is located in upper-state New York.
According to Book of Mormon geography, we know that Bountiful and the Hill Cumorah were near one another; and we know that the resurrected Christ appeared to the people of Nephi at the temple in the land of Bountiful (3 Ne. 11:1-11). There the Christ taught, “For it is wisdom in the Father that they [the Gentiles] should be established in this land, and be set up as a free people by the power of the Father,...” (3 Ne. 21:4.)
Were the people of Central America established as a free people? No they were not. They were dominated by the Spaniards, despotic rulers, and the great and abominable church from which the Gentiles of Great Britain, Holland, and Germany fled when they came to North America.
Also, we find a contrast between the people of Central America and that of the Lamanites during about the same time period. In the southern countries they were educated, unified, had achieved great scientific advancements, and kept records of their attainment and religion. But far to the north, the Lamanites were “a dark, a filthy, and loathsome people,” beyond description; they were “scattered ... and they were driven about as chaff before the wind”; and they “are at war one with another; and their towns, and villages, and cities were burned with fire; and the whole face of the land is one continual round of murder and bloodshed.” (Mormon 5:5, 15-20; 8:8-9.)
Can the reader see the difference between the two people? The people of Mesoamerica could not be the people of the Book of Mormon, nor could Central America be the place where the story in that book took place.
In the Book of Mormon, the word “hail” is mentioned in Helaman 5:12, so the Nephite people must have experienced this weather phenomena. But Delbert Curtis did a little research and discovered it doesn’t hail in Central America, but up around the Great Lakes, which is in the middle of the hail belt. (p. 10.) Delbert Curtis makes another interesting point in regards to South and Central America not being Book of Mormon land.
“Many now believe that Zarahemla was on the Yucatan Peninsula. Alma and his people left from where Nephi settled, journeyed 21 days and arrived at Zarahemla (Mosiah 23:3; 24:20, 25). Even today a journey from Chile to Yucatan is an impossible journey by land. The second landing site of Lehi has been suggested as a little south of the Isthmus of Darien [Panama], which is also an impossible journey.
“In the 1930's a big campaign was started to build a road from the south tip of Chile to Alaska. The United States of America started two survey crews out from the Panama Canal. One crew ventured toward the U.S., and the other journeyed towards Colombia. The crew headed for Columbia went into the jungle and disappeared. A search party was dispatched. They also vanished. A second search party was sent forth. One man returned with the word, 'You will never build a road through there. The heat, the terrain, and the bugs will kill you.' That was 50 years ago, and the road has yet to be started. ... If the most advanced civilization the world has known cannot build a road from Columbia to the Panama Canal, how did the Jaredites carry fresh meat across it (Ether 10:20, 21)?” (CINA, p. 22.)
Mormon geological scholars have formulated theories and then looked for clues to try and substantiate their erroneous conjectures, instead of taking clues from the Book of Mormon and arriving at conclusions based on those clues.
The LDS scholar’s way is much like “wresting” the scriptures where one has a theory and then tries to prove it: Here’s the conclusion. What facts can we find in support of it? Not very scholarly! However, the more appropriate way is to use logical facts to reach conclusions: Here are the facts. What conclusion can be drawn from them?
So, according to the resurrected Christ, where were the Gentiles to be set up as a free people? Was it in Central America? No! It was in North America. This was where the resurrected Christ was at the time He spoke those words concerning the Gentiles being “established in this land, and be set up as a free people.” (3 Ne. 21:4.) THIS IS THE LAND OF PROMISE. And specifically in the northeastern portion where the Hill Cumorah is located.
Climate Conditions in the Book of Mormon
In the Book of Mormon we find there were "seasons of the year." For example, Alma said that, “...there were some who died with fevers, which at some seasons of the year were very frequent in the land...” (Alma 46:40; also Mosiah 18:4.) Also, Alma 51 verse 33 speaks of those overcome with fatigue, “...which was caused by the labors and heat of the day.”
It seems that if the Nephites were in Central America, where the weather is generally the same all year long, it would have been unnecessary to mention the “heat of the day,” since that is what they would have been experiencing on a daily basis. In the same vein, North America has seasons each year, but Central America does not; which leads us to believe that the promised land is up north and not down south.
As Abinadi was prophesying for the Lord, concerning the destruction of the wicked, he said, “And it shall come to pass that I will send forth hail among them, and it shall smite them; and they shall also be smitten with the east wind; and insects shall pester their land also, and devour their grain.” (Mosiah 12:6.) Later on in the Book of Mormon we find Helaman also speaking of hail. (Hel. 5:12.)
Why would Abinadi, and later Helaman, mention “hail” unless it was meaningful to the people? Delbert Curtis, in his book, Christ in North America (p. 10), said that he called the U.S. Weather Information and asked them where it hails in relation to North America and Central Americas. He was told that it hails, “Between the 30th and the 60th degrees of latitude. Below the 30th it melts before it hits the ground; above the 60th it is too cold to form.” Then Mr. Curtis said, “This puts Helaman a long way from Mesoamerica, yet the Hill Cumorah is right in the middle of the hail belt...”
Another climate phenomenon that is peculiar to North America in relation to Central America is that of “whirlwinds,” or tornados. Tornados do not occur in Central America, but are quite frequent in North America; so frequent, in fact, that North America is the Tornado capitol of the world. Whirlwinds, the Book of Mormon name for tornados, are mentioned in a few places in that book of scripture. In Third Nephi we find a good reference to whirlwinds. When speaking of the great destruction at the time of the Crucifixion of Christ, we read, “And there were some who were carried away in the whirlwind; and whither they went no man knoweth, save they know that they were carried away.” (3 Ne. 8:16; also 2 Ne. 15:28, Mosiah 7:30, Hel. 5:12.) Other weather conditions don’t usually “carry” people away, but tornados do.
Considering the climate conditions as mentioned in the Book of Mormon, in relation to the climate condition of Central America, it should be obvious that North America is the real land of promise.
Sea Route to the Promised Land
Since it seems obvious that Central America is not the promised land, then perhaps Lehi did not sail across the Pacific Ocean and land in Chile as some have believed. To find the real place where the story of the Book of Mormon took place, we must determine which direction Nephi sailed the ship, and discover the sea route that was taken by Lehi and his people as they sailed from southern Saudi Arabia. Then we might be able to ascertain the place where the ship finally landed, and where Lehi and his family first settled. (Above right: Ocean current map taken from the dust cover of Delbert W. Curtis’ book, Christ in North America.)
The most logical sea route would be the shortest one. The map of ocean currents, shown above, lays out the possible and most logical route that Lehi could have sailed. It is much shorter than going east across the Pacific Ocean, and the natural current stream would make it much easier. And since he would not be heading toward Chile, but to the northeastern part of the promised land, it would be the quickest.
There is a natural current that flows westerly from Saudi Arabia where Lehi could have caught the Agulhas Current heading southerly down the east coast of Africa and around its southern tip; then, after making a connection with the Benguela Current heading north up Africa’s west coast, he could have crossed the Atlantic by way of the South Equatorial Current until it reached the Gulf Stream going up the east coast of North America all the way to the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
If Lehi left in the Spring of the year, he would have had favorable winds, along with favorable currents all the way. This being the case, the entire trip could have taken him as little as sixty day.
Some holding the North American promised land belief have Lehi putting in at the Mississippi River, which they consider to be the River Sidon. If this theory is true, this would put Lehi’s landing place in southeastern part of the continent with the early part of Nephite history taking place there, and the Hill Cumorah land of New York and the Great Lakes area being the latter part of the Nephite history. (Above left: Map showing possible route from the Gulf of St. Lawrence down to Lake Ontario, or the Sea East.)
There is a Spanish translation of a work entitled, Title of the Lords of Totonicapan, which wasn’t translated into English until 1953 by Delia Goetz. The Totonicapan claim that the ancestors of the Quiche Mayas, “...came from the other part of the ocean, from where the sun rises, [a place called Bountiful]; and they came from where the sun rises, descendants of Israel...[east of the Americas].” (Hunter, Archaeology and the Book of Mormon, p. 40; CINA, p. 37.)
There are other ancient manuscripts that testify that ancestors of the Quiche Mayas, and other, came across the ocean from the east, such as Popol Vue, and Works of Lxtlilxochitl, but we haven’t the time nor space to explore all evidences.
In his book, Christ In North America, Delbert Curtis points out an interesting comparison between a Book of Mormon verse and a statement made by the French Explorer, Samuel de Champlain. In 1615, Champlain sailed up the St. Lawrence River into Lake Ontario. Of this experience he said,
“I never saw so many deer... We saw in divers quarters, immense herds of wild bulls and cows; their horns resembling, in some respects, the antlers of a stag. Our game does not leave us; it seems that venison and game follow us everywhere. Large droves plunge into the lake as if to meet us...
“At the side of the rapids we perceived a herd of wild cows which were passing at their ease in great state. Five or six hundred are seen sometimes in these regions in one drove.” (E.B. Callaghan, Documentary History of the State of New York, IV, 4: Geography of the Book of Mormon, pp. 8-9; CINA, p. 42.)
And from the Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 18:25, we read: “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, and the goat and the wild goat, and all manner of wild animals, which were for the use of men. And we did find all manner of ore, both of gold, and of silver, and of copper.” The similarities of both accounts of the same place is striking.
Thus, the land of promise being where it is, and the Hill Cumorah being where it is, the seagoing route of Lehi, as just suggested, seems the most plausible. Of course, we all know that God’s ways are not our ways, for as He said, “...my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.” (Isa. 55:8.) So, unless God had a different agenda, the sea route suggested for Lehi appears to be the most favorable.
Specific Landmarks of Nephite Land
Nephite land, where the people spoken of in the Book of Mormon lived, covered a very small area, and isn’t as extensive as some believe. However, given a thousand years of history, all the people didn’t stay in just one place, they migrated far and wide, most likely spreading over the entire North American continent; with their influence going even as far south as Central America. But the drama played out in the Book of Mormon took place in a much smaller area — an area throughout the Great Lakes region of North America.
The purpose of this chapter is not to document every little geographic spot where the Nephites lived in the promised land, but we will consider just a few major landmarks. As we do, I will not be pointing out all the relevant scripture verses in support of the landmarks, I will leave that up to the reader who is truly interested.
As stated above, many have believed that the Isthmus of Panama is the narrow neck of land; the Panama canal to be the River Sidon; below that the land southward; above the river the land northward; the Gulf of Mexico as the Sea East; the Pacific Ocean the Sea West; and many conjecture as to where the Hill Cumorah was, even though there is only one and that is in New York just south of Lake Ontario. All seem to be looking for evidence in the wrong place.
After a $250,000 sponsorship from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, granted by President David O. McKay, Thomas Stuart Ferguson spent about ten years trying to find logical evidence in support of Book of Mormon geography. After that time Ferguson wrote, “With all of these great efforts, it cannot be established factually that anyone, from Joseph Smith to the present day, has put his finger on a single point of terrain that was a Book-of-Mormon geographical place. And the hemisphere has been pretty well checked out by competent people. Thousands of sites have been excavated. ... thousands of archaeological holes in the area proposed have given us not a fragment of evidence of the presence of the plants mentioned in the Book of Mormon...” (Salt Lake City Messenger, Sept., 1988, pp. 5-6; Curtis CINA, pp. 24-25.) Yet the diehard scholars continue digging in the same holes, instead of the holes further north.
Actually, there is no place in South or Central America that matches these landmarks. The excuse has always been because of the great destruction and changes that took place at the time of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. But as mentioned earlier, if that event is carefully examined, it will be discovered that only the face of the land northward was changed, and the other landmarks remained. So the major landmarks should all still be intact, so let’s briefly consider a few.
THE HILL CUMORAH: This is the easiest one, for the Hill Cumorah is where Joseph Smith and others of his day said it is, it’s in upper-state New York near the town of Palmyra and a little southeast of Rochester. And there is not one single thread of evidence proving it can be placed down south in Central America.
THE RIVER SIDON: In Alma 16:7 we read: “And it came to pass that Zoram and his sons crossed over the river Sidon, with their armies, and marched away beyond the borders of Manti into the south wilderness, which was on the east side of the river Sidon.” To have an east side, the River Sidon must flow north and south, and the Panama Canal runs east and west; there is NO east side to the Panama Canal.
The Niagara River, flowing from Lake Erie and running from its headwaters at Buffalo on the U.S. side and Fort Erie on the Canadian side, flows over Niagara Falls and into Lake Ontario. The River Sidon (Niagara) divides most of the land northward from the land southward at this point. This river geographically matches the Book of Mormon River Sidon in every respect.
Also, the river Sidon isn’t mentioned in the Book of Mormon until we get to Alma 2:15, which is about 87 B.C. This is 513 years after Lehi left Jerusalem. If Lehi had landed and first settled in the southern part of North America, and then migrated up the Mississippi River, it could have taken the Nephites many years to migrate northward to the vicinity of the Great Lakes.
THE SEA EAST & THE SEA WEST: Let’s consider that the Sea East is Lake Ontario and the Sea West is Lake Erie. The River Sidon (Niagara River) flows north from the Sea West (Lake Erie) into the Sea East (Lake Ontario). Looking carefully at the two seas, and if you draw an imaginary line down between the two, say where the Niagara River is, Lake Ontario lies east while Lake Erie lies to the west.
Again, the sea east and sea west is not mentioned in the Book of Mormon until Alma 22:27, which is between 90 & 77 B.C.
THE NARROW NECK OF LAND: The narrow neck of land travels from east to west and divides the West Sea (Lake Erie) from the East Sea (Lake Ontario. And it takes a Nephite a day-and-a-half to travel from the West Sea to the East Sea. This is near impossible at the Isthmus of Panama where there is thick jungle, rugged mountains, and various other hazards, not to mention the fact that the distance is much greater.
Like the river Sidon, and the sea east and sea west, the narrow neck of land is not mentioned in the Book of Mormon until Alma; in this case, Alma 22:32, which is also between 90 & 77 B.C.
THE SEA DIVIDES THE LAND: In the Book of Ether we read where Lib and his people built a great city: “And they built a great city by the narrow neck of land, by the place where the sea divides the land.” (Ether 10:20.)
(Notice the picture top-left above. In the Great Lakes area we can see where the “sea [Lakes Erie and Ontario] divides the land” from north and south. But in the picture to the right of Central America, the land divides the sea.)
THE LAND NORTHWARD & THE LAND SOUTHWARD: The land northward is basically in what we know today as Canada, with a fraction of it along the southern shore of Lake Ontario; the narrow neck of land being in the land northward. The land southward would mostly be what we know today as New York and the continental United States.
There are many other geographical places that could be pointed out, such as the land Bountiful, the land of Desolation, Zarahemla, and the like, but all of this is not the purpose of this chapter. What has been presented should be enough to show where the land of promise really is, and a few geographic locations to help the reader in their mental orientation.
Why the Land of Promise Is a Choice Land
I am going to digress here somewhat from the real purpose of this chapter because I feel that some things need to be understood as we consider the real land of promise and why it is so special to the Lord.
We have learned that the promised land is for a righteous people, and even though we considered Ether 2:8-10, earlier, I will quote that same portion again for convenience. In those verses we learned that, “whoso should possess this land of promise, from that time henceforth and forever, should serve him...or they should be swept off... and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall serve God, or they shall be swept off when the fulness of his wrath shall come upon them. And the fulness of his wrath cometh upon them when they are ripened in iniquity.” (vv. 8-10.)
Going to the next verse we find Moroni warning the future Gentiles, who will be the future possessors of this land of promise. “And this cometh unto you, O ye Gentiles, that ye may know the decrees of God – that ye may repent, and not continue in your iniquities until the fulness come, that ye may not bring down the fulness of the wrath of God upon you as the inhabitants of the land have hitherto done.” (v. 11.)
Moroni spoke in such a way because he saw the future inhabitants of this promised land of America; for back in Mormon 8 he also wrote to the coming generations who should possess this land, as he saw their wickedness. At that time he wrote: “Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doings. And I know that ye do walk in the pride of your hearts;...” (See vv. 35-36.) In the Book of Ether, Chapter 8, he wrote:
19. For the Lord worketh not in secret combinations [conspiracies] neither doth he will that man should shed blood, but in all things hath forbidden it, from the beginning of man.
22. And whatsoever nation shall uphold such secret combinations, to get power and gain, until they shall spread over the nation, behold, they shall be destroyed;...
23. Wherefore, O ye Gentiles, it is wisdom in God that these things should be shown unto you, that thereby ye may repent of your sins, and suffer not that these murderous combinations shall get above you, which are built up to get power and gain – and the work, yea, even the work of destruction come upon you, yea, even the sword of the justice of the Eternal God shall fall upon you, to your overthrow and destruction if ye shall suffer these things to be.
24. Wherefore, the Lord commandeth you, when ye shall see these things come among you that ye shall awake to a sense of your awful situation, because of this secret combination which shall be among you; or wo be unto it, because of the blood of them who have been slain; for they cry from the dust for vengeance upon it, and also upon those who built it up. (Ether 8:19, 22-24.)
These verses, coupled with the rest of Mormon 8, let us know the seriousness of our position in this land in which we dwell today, because we have not awakened to a sense of our awful situation and have let secret combinations spread over the nation; we have upheld them as we become “ripened in iniquity.”
Now we have already considered that this nation was established by God as a choice land, a nation free from bondage and captivity, where peoples of the world have come for opportunity, a country strong in military might and economic strength, a people highly educated and of moral character.
But all of this is behind us as we continue ripening in iniquity. Indeed, when we study the facts we find the prophecy of Moroni becoming fulfilled. We are not the most prosperous nation any more as we sink deeper into worldly debt with combined depression and inflation, and as the land of opportunity dwindles as we send our industry overseas; nor are we the breadbasket of the world, as we now import more than we export. For those who analyze military strategies, in spite of our claim, spending our strength in foreign lands has weakened our military might, letting other nations, such as Russia, become far superior. We are no more the top educated people in the world, for statistics have shown that we have dropped far down the scale as we dumb-down our students in our socialistic system of education. And our moral character has plummeted so low that we are about as wicked as the people during the days of Noah and at Sodom and Gomorrah, and are now ripened in iniquity and ready for God’s judgment to sweep us off the face of the land.
The once greatest nation upon the face of the earth is doomed to destruction as God warned through the Prophet Moroni. Indeed, our sins and wicked doing has not only caused us to be “ripened in iniquity,” but we flaunt our wickedness and iniquity before the world.
Yet, regardless of all of those who have inhabited this land, and in spite of their gross wickedness, this is still the land of promise which is favored of God, and it has a glorious future after He cleanses it of all iniquity. This then leads us to three questions: Why is this land called the land of promise? Why is it so special to the Lord? And what is its glorious future?
For those who are familiar with a little Mormon doctrine, they will recall that one of the Articles of Faith of the LDS Church, the tenth, is worded as follows: “We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.” Simply put, that is the reason this land in North America is the promised land; it is to be the land of Zion, which is the New Jerusalem.
Taking a quote from Joseph Smith we read: “The whole of America is Zion itself from north to south, and is described by the Prophets, who declare that it is the Zion where the mountain of the Lord should be, and that it should be in the center of the Land.” (Teaching of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 362.) Joseph said America, not the Americas. That puts the promised land between Mexico and Canada, the center of the Land being exactly that, in the center.
For the non-Mormon, that’s a bit to believe – that Zion, the New Jerusalem, will be upon this, the American continent. For isn’t Jerusalem over in what is known as the Holy Land? Yes it is, and that is the old Jerusalem. But the Lord spoke of a New Jerusalem; the Holy City we read about in the Bible will be upon this continent. “And...John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” (Rev. 21:2.)
John didn’t say where the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, was going to be, but the Lord did. When the resurrected Christ visited the Nephites after the crucifixion, He made it rather clear: “And behold, this people will I establish in this land, unto the fulfilling of the covenant which I made with your father Jacob; and it shall be a New Jerusalem. And the powers of heaven shall be in the midst of this people; yea, even I will be in the midst of you.” (3 Ne. 20:22.) And from Ether we have even more information regarding the New Jerusalem:
4. Behold, Ether saw the days of Christ, and he spake concerning a New Jerusalem upon this land.
5. And he spake also concerning the house of Israel, and the Jerusalem from whence Lehi should come – after it should be destroyed it should be built up again, a holy city unto the Lord; wherefore, it could not be a new Jerusalem for it had been in a time of old; but it should be built up again, and become a holy city of the Lord; and it should be built unto the house of Israel.
6. And that a New Jerusalem should be built up upon this land, unto the remnant of the seed of Joseph, for which things there has been a type.” (Ether 13:4-6.)
From the forgoing verses we learn that the Zion of the end times will include the New Jerusalem, which is also the Holy City. This New Jerusalem will be on this North American continent, but the old Jerusalem will be rebuilt as a holy city as well.
Let's remember: Joseph of old, was the favored son of Jacob, and also favored of God. Joseph’s son, Ephraim, was also favored of God as indicated by the blessing he received under the hand of Jacob. Also, the tribe of Ephraim, descendants of Joseph’s son, Ephraim, was the head or leading trib of Israel. So why would it be strange that God would favor Joseph, in the end times, with a specific place as an inheritance (a promised land) for his posterity as verse six, above, indicates?
2. And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the shall be established in the mountain of the LORD’S housetop of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.
3. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. (Isa. 2:2-3; see Micah 4:1-2.)
We know this prophecy is for the “last days,” for it says so. You see, both Isaiah and Micah saw the end times, and in their prophecies they spoke of both places. The law shall go forth from Zion, the New Jerusalem in the promised land, and the “word of the Lord from Jerusalem,” meaning the older rebuilt Jerusalem.
The term “mountain” is metaphoric for nation or government, and a "hill" is a smaller mountain. So “the mountain (nation) of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains,” meaning above all other nations (smaller hills). Zion, the New Jerusalem, will send forth the law of the Lord to all nations, and people shall flow to it.
All of this partly answers the three questions posed above: Why is the North American continent called the land of promise? Why is it so special to the Lord? And what is its glorious future?
Those familiar with Mormon history know that Joseph Smith took some of his people to Independence, Missouri, to establish Zion. But due to personal pride and bickering among some of them the objective was never accomplished. So they eventually established Nauvoo in Illinois. It was much like when Moses took the Children of Israel out of Egypt to acquire the promised land. But they rebelled, and all of them perished in the wilderness save only two, Joshua and Caleb, who were allowed to cross over into the promised land. But why establish Zion in Independence, Missouri? It was because this was to be the center spot of Zion, and this was where the Garden of Eden was located. Above we read a quote from Joseph Smith where he stated that, “Zion where the mountain [nation] of the Lord should be, and that it should be in the center of the Land.” Indeed, this part of Missouri is just about in the center of the United States of America, the promised land.
“Come on now! Everyone knows that the Garden of Eden was over in the old world, wasn’t it?”
Of course that’s the belief of most people. Actually, mankind has been trying to figure out just where it was for hundreds of years. Because the cradle of civilization seemed to spring from the Fertile Crescent area of Mesopotamia after the great flood of Noah’s day, many have guessed it was probably there. And because Noah’s Ark settled on Mt. Ararat, which is also over there in Armenia, the idea prevails that the Garden of Eden must be somewhere over in that part of the world. But when we read scripture, we need to put on the old thinking cap and not just make assumptions.
All the Land in One Place at the Creation
For example, many don’t stop to consider what the Bible says when God created the earth: “And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the land appear ... and God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas:...” (Gen. 1:9-10.) What do we learn from these two verses? We learn that the “Seas” were all in one place gathered together, which means that ALL the “dry land” must have been gathered together in one place as well. So that would put the proximity of the North American continent in a different relationship to the Middle East than usually considered.
This brings in the geological term, “continental drift.” The crust of the earth is made up of what is called plates, which are large, rigid slabs of solid rock. The Earth’s outermost layer is fragmented into a dozen or more large and small plates that are moving relative to one another. Some scientist believe that the present-day continents are the fragmented pieces of a preexisting larger landmass known as a “supercontinent. (Above right: The globe on the left shows a conception of all the landmass in one place, the one on the right as it is divided today.)
Noah’s Ark Not Anchored
Noah and his Ark was not anchored to one spot, but was tossed, and thrown, and bobbed around as the firmament was broken up and the fountain of the deep was broken up. Why do people believe he stayed in one place? The Ark was blown by the wind and tossed around on tempestuous seas. It didn’t just stay in one place.
Where Noah started from we don’t know, but we do know where the Ark finally settled. It came to rest on Mt. Ararat in Armenia, and it is still there today. It has been discovered and many have seen it, but it is so far up the side of the snowy and treacherous mountain that explorers have not been able to make an expedition to examine it.
The Days of Peleg
Who was Peleg, and why is he important? Peleg was the great-great-grandson of Shem, who was one of the three sons of Noah. (Gen. 10:21-25.) About the only information we have about Peleg we get in Genesis, where we read: “And unto Eber were born two sons: the name of one was Peleg; for in his days was the earth divided; and his brother’s name was Joktan.” (Gen. 10:25; 1 Chron. 1:19.) There are a few other references to him, but only when considering who begat whom. Why wasn’t the name Joktan mentioned instead of Peleg, or in connection with him? Who knows, except he must have been important enough for the writer of Genesis that his name was mentioned at the time of the dividing of the earth’s landmasses.
However, we do know the meaning of the name Peleg. In the Hebrew language the word Peleg means a dividing by a “small channel of water,” and is also associated with the meaning of an “earthquake.” No doubt this Peleg was so named because of an event of great significance at the time he was born.
Some Creationists have interpreted this event to be the division of the North and South American continents from the European and African continents by the Atlantic ocean after the flood. But the Atlantic ocean is no “small channel of water” between land masses, so the dividing of the earth during the days of Peleg could have been a lesser division.
For example, an earth-splitting event, such as a valley opening in the ground and filling with water. That could have happened somewhere along the Dead Sea Rift zone, and could have been associated with a delayed adjustment of the earth’s plates because of the rapid subsidence of the sea floors after the flood. In theory, when the weight of the waters of the flood forced the sea floors downward to fill the void beneath, strain would have developed between the oceanic and continental plates. Consequently, tectonic pressures could have been redistributed. Many years later, about the time of Peleg, the strain and pressure of the earth’s plates may have caused the earth’s crust to rapidly split in weaker places. Such an abrupt change could also alter sea levels. But enough of this scientific and theoretical jargon. It is enough that we know there was a division of the earth either during or shortly after the great deluge.(1)
The Scattering of the People
A more popular event in the Bible is God’s scattering of the people into differing languages as they attempted to build the great tower of Babylon. (Gen. 11:4-9.) I have often wondered if these two events, the dividing of the earth and the scattering of the people into different languages, have anything in common?
According to many biblical chronologists, the Flood occurred in 2,348 BC, and Peleg was born in 2,242 BC, about 106 years later and living for 239 years until about 2,003 BC. Although there are no time periods given for Nimrod, it is estimated that Nimrod, and his imfamous tower, was about 2,200 BC. This would make Peleg and Nimrod contemporaries. This being so, there could have been a relationship between the dividing of the earth during the days of Peleg and the confounding of the languages and scattering of the people at the same time. But that is only conjecture, and only an interesting idea upon which to contemplate.
It was during these times that the Book of Mormon says that Jared and his brother brought their people out of Babylon to the Americas. There has been much speculation as to exactly where the Jaredites landed. Most believers in the Jaredites hold that they headed easterly across the Asian continent, settled in what we now know as the Far East, eventually setting out upon the waters following the natural current that flows north up the Asian coast, easterly to Alaska/Canada, southerly down to the west coast of the Americas, and landing somewhere thereabouts. As time passed, they could have very well migrated toward the northeastern portion of North America where the people came to an end. However, exactly where they embarked from and where they finally landed is still up for speculation.
Since they left the Middle East at the time of the Tower of Babel they could have very well been the very first inhabitants of the Americas. In fact, some of those originally with Jared and his brother may have stayed where they were and not sailed with Jared when they launched off into the sea. This remnant of Jaredite people could have very well been the progenitors of the Oriental races. Of course this is only my personal theory, which has little to do with the validity of the Book of Mormon at this time. So having drifted a little, let’s get back to the original purpose of this discussion, which is why the land of promise is God’s choice piece of real estate.
The Garden Spot
Not knowing exactly what the landmass looked like before Noah’s flood and before its division during the days of Peleg, the land of North America and that of the Middle East could have been much closer together than they are now, or even further apart for that matter. But it makes little difference; for a wooden boat that is tossed, blown, and bobbing all over a violent and turbulent sea could go thousands of miles in just 40 days. And having the earth divided could put the Ark far from its original launching port, even to the other side of the world, couldn’t it? Yes it could! And if that were the case, then there is the possibility that the Garden of Eden could have also been in another part of the world. In any event, the Garden of Eden is where God put it, not where man wishes it to be. And because of that, North America is a choice land.
Independence, Missouri, has been mentioned as the center spot of Zion, the New Jerusalem, where the Garden of Eden was once located. A few miles north of this spot, at Spring Hill, is what the Mormons call Adam-ondi-Ahman. It was designated the spot where Adam and Eve dwelt after their expulsion from the Garden. According to the Doctrine and Covenants, it is where Adam called together the righteous of his posterity and gave them his last blessing. (D&C 107:53-57.)
Many condemn Adam as committing a most unforgivable sin, and that he is condemned to the eternal flames of hell. But that doctrine is contrary to the Lord’s spirit of forgiveness when one repents. And although we have nothing mentioned on this subject in the Bible, there is no evidence to suggest that this first man did not eventually find favor with God.
Final Thoughts on the Land of Promise
It must be remembered that every apostle of Jesus Christ, except John, was martyred by hostile civil authorities. People of all faiths have been persecuted by, not only people of other faiths, but by those of their own faith as well. Throughout history, Christians have been imprisoned, tortured and killed by those in political power.
French Protestant Huguenot families fled from Catholic France during the reign of Louis XIV when he announced the reversal of the Edict of Nantes and began a wholesale persecution of his Protestant subjects in 1685. And it was the Pilgrims who came to these North American shores in search of religious tolerance, and the freedom to worship independent of intolerant civil authorities.
The North American colonies that formed the United States of America were settled by men and women, who, in the face of European persecution, refused to compromise their cherished religious convictions. Even colonies like Virginia, which were first established as commercial ventures, were led by business-minded men who considered themselves “militant Protestants,” and who worked diligently to promote the prosperity of the church.(2)
Not only was it a quest for freedom from political and civil persecution that people have come to America, it was also in search of a land where they could worship their Creator according to the dictates of their own conscience.
This land of America, this special geographic piece of real estate, has always been a very special place to the Lord — a place where His people could worship in freedom if they would only follow Him. The Prophet Lehi, of the Book of Mormon, was no exception. Around 600 B.C., he, too, was persecuted by civil authorities, as well as his church, when he tried to call Jerusalem to repentance and warn them of eminent destruction if they didn’t turn back to God.
North America, then, is a very special place to the Lord. So if the Garden of Eden was not where Independence, Missouri, is today, then where was it? Of course it could be some other place. But why would any other place be any better suited for it that in the promised land, a land where God established that man might be free? And where would be a more fitting place for the New Jerusalem, the Holy City, than right here in the center of North America?
This is where the lost tribes of Israel will be gathered. It will be the birthright place for the descendants of Joseph of old, as Ephraim is the head tribe of all the twelve. The Jews, however, will be gathered in the place of Old Jerusalem, after it is rebuilt unto God as a Holy City.
Hopefully, this study has helped alleviate some of the misconceptions about where the true Book of Mormon land really is, and why the promised land is truly a choice land unto the Lord. It is the Garden of Eden spot, it is likely the place where Noah boarded his Ark, it will be the gathering place for the disbursed tribes of Israel, and it will be the place of the New Jerusalem, the Holy City.
NOTE: For the views of a Southern Baptist Minister on the Promised Land, read Pastor Lynn Ridenhour’s comments in Appendix II, “Ten Biblical Proofs of the Book of Mormon,” at the end of this book.