Chapter 3 

Land of Nephi

Book of Mosiah

 

Introduction to Chapter 3

It may seem that there are only a few Book of Mormon scriptures describing the land of Nephi. Still, by correlating scriptures that identify Zarahemla’s land with several scriptures regarding the land of Nephi, it is possible to layout the location of the lands and cities. In section two, we identified scriptures that show the South Wilderness to be the dividing line between the land of Zarahemla and the land of Nephi. The Lamanites controlled the South Wilderness. The map below shows the previously determined layout of the South Wilderness.

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Hill with a Temple and Tower

 

Shilom is the place in the land of Nephi where Zeniff's group lived after the colony left  Zarahemla and returned to the lands of their prior inheritance. If this group of Nephites exiting Zarahemla followed Route 2 (on the map) south of the mountains, they would come to the land of Shilom first.  

 

Mosiah 7:1 121BC

Five scriptures later, in verse 7:6, they travel down to the land of Nephi.

Mosiah 7:5    121 BC

 
 
 

Section 1

Land of Shilom- Hill with a Temple and Tower

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Surely it would not take forty days for explorers in Zeniff’s group to reach Shilom after leaving Zarahemla if they had traveled a direct route and level roads, like today. Route 2 from Zarahemla to Shilom on this map would include more challenging terrain and elevation changes than Route 1 because of the mountains existing in present-day New York and Pennsylvania in this area, versus the flatter, lower mountain ranges along Route 1 going southward. It had been years since King Mosiah I took the more righteous part of the Nephites north to the land of Zarahemla, and Zeniff’s group could be unaware of the exact location of the area they wished to resettle, Shilom.  

 

The critical part of this scripture is that they came out of the mountains searching for the land of Nephi, and landed at Shilom, a much more specific place that was located inside the more general “land of Nephi.” The hill pictured below is located north of the land we believe to be  Shilom, which we will discuss next.

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These photos show the area surrounding modern-day Clearfield, Pennsylvania, which is the likely site of Shilom from the Book of Mormon days. This hill is north of Clearfield and could be the hill described in Mosiah 7:5. In this same area, Zeniff’s group built a temple next to the tower, and east of the entrance into Shilom. From this tower, they overlooked Shilom, Shemlon, and surrounding areas.  

 

Mosiah 11:12    160-150 BC

Mosiah 11:13   160-150 BC

There is a lookout tower in this area today that the Forest Service uses to view or prevent wildfires. That lookout tower lies west of the “entry way” discovered by Zeniff’s group, and confirms the possibility that Nephites could build a structure in a similar place that would allow guards to watch for invading Lamanites or for dangerous fires. Photographers snapped these pictures from the modern forestry tower. Anciently the tower and temple that the people of Shilom built would have been further east of this spot. Looking at this forestry tower, you can see the whole land, as discussed in the Book of Mormon in Mosiah 11:12.

 
 
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Mosiah 19:4-6   145-121 BC

In these verses, the Nephite king fled to a tower, from which he and Gideon could see their enemies approaching from the land of Shemlon. Recent photographs of the area indicate how this was possible.

 

The next photo taken in Clearfield, Pennsylvania, shows a historical plaque on display in a downtown park situated beside the Susquehanna River. Note the reference it contains to Native Americans populating this area. 

 
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Written on the sign,"…archeological evidence points to Native Americans who lived here and burned away vegetation to grow crops." Three things we learn from the plaque:

 

  1. The people who lived here burned the trees.

  2. This area was a place for growing crops.

  3. This sign confirms Native Americans in the area shared a lifestyle similar to the Nephites—agrarian—and demonstrates the possibility Nephites lived in this area.  

 

This area in Clearfield matches descriptions for Shilom anciently. The terrain fits, from its trails, mountains, hills, and forestry tower, to its location south of Melek (the Belmont/Wellsville area of current Allegany County, New York). From the land of Zarahemla area, the Nephites would have traveled both “up” and then “down” in elevation to reach the land of Nephi.

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Where did Lehi’s family land? Notice first on this map how Interstate 80 runs right through this “Land of Nephi” area, running east-west in direction, and connecting routes to New York City. The New York, New York area is a possible landing place for Lehi's family. The prophet Nephi mentions in 2 Nephi that his group had to move from their original landing place to avoid the Lamanites, then move even farther away since Lamanites wished their destruction. It makes sense that the I-80 corridor could be the Nephites' route westward, from the ocean west to lands suitable for agriculture.

 

Land of Shemlon

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Route 1 from the land of Zarahemla to the land of Nephi follows an interesting path. People in Ammonihah chose to live on the outskirts of the land of Zarahemla, seemingly preferring physical and religious distance from the Nephite center.

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Route 1 from the land of Zarahemla to the land of Nephi follows an interesting path. People in Ammonihah chose to live on the outskirts of the land of Zarahemla, seemingly preferring physical and religious distance from the Nephite center.

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Shown in the map above, Route 1 includes Ammonihah (modern-day Corning, New York), and points northward that include the East Wilderness, East Sea, and the cities built along the East Sea (Lehi, Morianton, Omner, Gid, and Mulek), all the way to the city of Bountiful, as stated in the Book of Mormon. (Taking note the escarpment this would put the city of Bountiful next to the sea) To the south, Route 1 would follow a less challenging pathway through the mountains than Route 2, and would include the Pennsylvania boroughs of Tioga and Blossburg, and the cities of Williamsport, Lock Haven, etc.

 

If Lamanites traveled north from the land of Nephi using Route 1, they could turn to the left (northwest) just past Ammonihah, and have access to the Nephite cities of Noah, Moroni, Nephihah and Aaron; to the river Sidon and to the head of the river Sidon; and also to Nephite strongholds in the City of Zarahemla, City of Gideon, and the Valley of Gideon, including Hill Amnihu. In the first part of the Book of Mormon, the Lamanites used Route 1 to move their troops northward to attack Nephites. Later, the Lamanites utilized both Routes 1 and 2 for travel and war.  

 

After Lehi's family arrived in the promised land—presumably on the east coast of the United States—Nephi’s group probably went westward to avoid Laman and Lemuel’s murderous plans. We believe Nephi and his followers traveled in the wilderness many days and came to an area they could farm, in the modern-day Clearfield,

Pennsylvania area. Here the Nephites established the land of Nephi. Not content to rule their own people, Lamanites also migrated to the west, and lived in wilderness and mountain lands, full of wildlife and game, to support their lifestyle. Descriptions in the Book of Mormon, again, fit this placement, with the land of Shemlon’s location south of the Nephites’ east wilderness, and along a natural corridor (modern I-80) that includes mountainous terrain and wilderness areas.

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The Lamanites’ land of Shemlon would likely include the modern city of Lock Haven, Pennsylvania, as that area is the intersecting point of lands directly south of the Nephites’ east wilderness AND lands found along the modern I-80 corridor. Today there is a valley (placement above and photograph below) along the north Route 1 used by the Lamanites to travel northward from the land of Nephi to the land of Zarahemla/East Wilderness area. Large Lamanite (and Nephite dissenter) armies could travel more easily through these lands than they could utilizing Route 2, and arrive at the Nephite city of Ammonihah (the most southeast city

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found in the land of Zarahemla), which city essentially served as a gateway to the land of Zarahemla.

 

Shilom and Shemlon Connection

Thus far in Chapter Three, we outlined the Nephites’ travel to the land of Nephi (Shilom), their former inheritance, and mapped out the Lamanites’ travel from the land of Shemlon to the land of Zarahemla. What is the connection between the land of Shilom and the land of Shemlon? What stories fit this area? Today in Pennsylvania, the Allegheny Mountains separate many cities and boroughs in Blair, Centre, Clearfield, Clinton and Huntingdon counties. On the map below, it is easy to see that there are few large roads which connect the cities and boroughs—for example, Clearfield City to Lock Haven, or Lock Haven to Huntingdon. This is due to the mountains which exist in the area.

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In Book of Mormon days, those same mountains provided natural and desirable barriers between the Nephites in the land of Shilom (west of Shemlon) and Lamanites in the land of Shemlon. In fact, it would be surprising for Nephites to locate close to Lamanite lands if there were not topographical barricades separating the two peoples, given their history.

 

These mountains provide essential separation between Shilom and Shemlon, and this terrain fits and explains the stories in the Book of Mormon record, even the travel routes (Routes 1 and 2) commonly used by Lamanites and Nephites to enter or exit the land of Zarahemla. To reiterate major points:

1-     Zeniff’s colony of Nephites used Route 2 to rediscover the land of Shilom.

2-     Lamanites used Route 1 in the land of Shemlon to go northward to Zarahemla.  

Both routes were located in the land of Nephi.

 

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When Ammon (the Mulekite explorer) came from Zarahemla to the land of Nephi, he presumably utilized Route 2, and discovered Limhi’s group at Shilom, labeled on this map. If Lamanites came from Ammonihah (outer reaches of Nephite territory) to the land of Nephi, however, most likely they would travel Route 1, which would bring them to the location listed as Shemlon, above.

 

The following map shows the natural pathway that leads southward from Hill Amnihu, the valley of Gideon, the city of Gideon, the river Sidon, and the land of Melek to the place we have listed as the land of Shilom. On the right side of the map, we show the route which extends south of Morianton through Lehi, Moroni, Ammonihah (the East Wilderness area), to the land Lamanites called Shemlon, in the land of Nephi. Later in the Book of Mormon, the Lamanites took over the land of Shilom and then started to attack the Nephites in the land of Zarahemla through the Nephites’ Route 2, as described.

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Using this map,  identify the area controlled by Zeniff and his colony, as recorded in Mosiah 7 and 9, and its proximity to the land of Shemlon:

 

Mosiah 7:21 121 BC

Mosiah 9:6    200-187 BC

Desiring to return to the lands of their first inheritance, Zeniff's group met with a Lamanite king and gained permission to inhabit the cities and lands of Lehi-Nephi and Shilom. Then Zeniff recorded their efforts to cultivate these lands.

 

Mosiah 9:9    200-187 BC

Unlike Zeniff's group, most Lamanites did not grow crops, but hunted in the wilderness for meat needed to survive. This made the fruits of the Nephites’ labors very appealing.

Mosiah 9:14    200-187 BC

Five scriptures and thirteen years later in Mosiah 9, the Lamanites attacked the southern portion of Shilom. Utilizing Google maps, we placed red dots depicting two lands, the one on the lower left representing Nephite territory of Shilom and Nephi; and the other red dot on the upper right, representing the Lamanite territory of Shemlon.

 

In modern Pennsylvania, we find mountains between these two red dots, and these mountains probably existed in Book of Mormon days, providing a physical barrier between the Nephites and the Lamanites. Google maps show two routes that correlate, a north route and a south route from Shemlon to Shilom; again, the pathways of yesterday become the roads of today. In the scriptures, it notes that the Lamanites attacked the Nephites in the south part of Shilom. With various mountains separating the two areas, Lamanites had to travel around the mountains to attack here. This south road also clarifies the southern boundary of the land of Nephi.  

 
 
 
 
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Mosiah 9: 15    200-187 BC

After Lamanites attacked Zeniff’s people, the Nephites fled to the city of Nephi. As we trace the Lamanites from the east to the west on this south route, we find the modern city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The city of Nephi may have originally existed in the Pittsburgh area. Since Lamanites claimed the lands east of the land of Shemlon, according to Route 1, Zeniff’s colony would have to flee to the west in order to escape this Lamanite attack, as described in Mosiah 9.  

 

In the following chapter, Mosiah 10, Zeniff places spies by Shemlon to watch the Lamanites, indicating that the views from the Nephites’ tower had some limitations. Perhaps from it one could only see the entrance to Shilom instead of a full view into the land of Shemlon.

 

Mosiah 10: 7,8   187-160 BC

As the Lamanites approached to attack, Zeniff sent the women and children of his colony to the south wilderness:

 

Mosiah 10: 9    187-160 BC

At Shilom, the Lamanites attacked Zeniff’s group on the north from Shemlon, according to Mosiah 10:8, above, identifying a northern route that could be used to travel from Shemlon to the land of Shilom. The south wilderness is just north of this area??? 2/7/2021, and it would make sense that Zeniff’s group hid in this wilderness. There is no mention of an attack from the middle. There could be some barrier in place, since Zeniff only mentions the south and north routes. Viewing a topographical map of Pennsylvania for this area, dark green shows the presence of mountains here, a good reason for Lamanites to travel to the north or south in the region.

 
 
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The Lamanite lands were on the east of Shilom, so Shemlon also needs to be on the east side, lining up with the area south of the south wilderness in the land of Zarahemla. The scriptures in Alma 23 provide us a clue to how the cities and lands of converted Lamanites may align from west to east in the land of Nephi.  

 

Alma 23:9-12   90-77 BC

We know the location of the lands of Shilom and Shemlon. We also have positioned the land of Middoni and the city of Nephi. Both areas (Shemlon and Shilom) have cities. We feel that the city of Laman and the city of Shimnilom would have been in the land of Shemlon. The number seven represents “full” or “complete” in Jewish symbolism, and it is interesting to me that seven cities or lands were described as converting to the Lord following the preaching of the four sons of Moisah. This could mean that the conversion took place throughout the entire land of the Lamanites, and was not limited to seven regions. As we position Lamanite lands and cities on the map below, we see that this is true. Many Lamanites joined the church in the north, south, east, and west.

 

We place the land of Middoni according to the description found in two places: Alma 23 and __________(list other). If only using Alma 23, we would put the land of Ishmael west of Middoni, but three words found in another part of the Book of Mormon provides additional clues. (HERE PLACE THE REFERENCE) The scripture states that from Jerusalem, the Nephites traveled over to the land of Ishmael, traveled up to the land of Nephi, and traveled down to the land of Middoni. Using all verses, we place the land of Ishmael in modern-day northwestern Pennsylvania. Why was King Lamoni’s father king of all the land except for the land of Ishmael?

 

 
 

Fix me

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The land of Nephi covers this entire area and is also called Lehi-Nephi. The land of Nephi consists of many lands or cities. This chart above breaks out those lands and clarifies those positions on the map as close as we can position them.

 

Travel to the land of Nephi

 

What stories from the Book of Mormon connect the land of Nephi to the land of Zarahemla? In this section we identify a few of these stories, and suggest the route or pathway likely used by Nephites and Lamanites.

 
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Route One

  • Lamanites forced out of the east wilderness and south to the land of Nephi

 

Alma 50:9   72-67 B.C.

Alma 50:9 describes the east wilderness as being north of the Lamanites’ land (Shemlon). Positioned on the map above as Route #1, this natural gap near the New York-Pennsylvania border is close to the Nephites’ east wilderness, and to the Lamanites’ land of Shemlon, precisely where the Book of Mormon says there

 
 
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is a pathway. The photograph above shows part of this natural valley found near that state line. In ancient days, Route #1 was wide enough for a large army of Lamanites to pass through from Shemlon on the south, to Ammonihah on the north.

 

  • Lamanites attack Ammonihah (Corning, New York)

 

Alma 16:2,3   81-77 BC

Again, we presume the Lamanites utilized Route #1 in order to gain access to the city of Ammonihah, since Ammonihah is the first Nephite city Lamanites would reach that is north of their area in Shemlon, and positioned in/around the Nephite’s south wilderness. This valley could also supply enough food and water to sustain life for such a sizeable Lamanite army. Chronology should also be considered. This battle occurred around 81-77 B.C. The Nephites established the east wilderness area between 72-67 B.C.

 

  • While king-men seek to establish a king over the Nephites, Amalickiah leads Lamanites to war against the Nephites

 

In Alma 51, Captain Moroni must pull his army away a war with the Lamanites, and return to the government seat in Zarahemla in order to force disgruntled king-men to defend their own country and preserve their liberty. Dissensions within the Nephites again caused a precarious situation, and when Nephite dissenter Amalickiah led Lamanites against the Nephites, there were insufficient defenders, and Lamanites captured numerous Nephite cities on the eastern border of Zarahemla, by the seashore, nearly obtaining the land of Bountiful.

 

Alma 51:26   67-66 B.C.

Nephite troops in the area around the east sea lacked numbers to repel the advancing Lamanite army, so Amalickiah and the Lamanites took over possession of the cities of Moroni, Nephihah, and five others named in Alma 51:26, as shown on the map below. Again, it is likely the Lamanites chose to attack from Route One, due to its easier terrain, its resources available to support a large army, and its proximity to the cities named in Alma 51:26. 

 
 
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Additional note: This entry from the land of Shemlon to the land of Zarahemla later became the Nephite dissenters’ preferred path to meet with the Lamanites at Jerusalem (currently known as Bingham and North Bingham Townships, Potter County, Pennsylvania) when they sought help to stir up the Lamanites to fight Nephites. [See map below]

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Route Two

 

A.    Lamanites attack the land of Zarahemla from the southwest

 

While the king-men were causing insurrection problems for Captain Moroni’s armies, and Amalickiah’s Lamanite armies were causing problems by attacking Nephite cities along the eastern sea area, other Lamanites simultaneously attacked the southwest side of the land of Zarahemla. These Lamanites then took possession of Nephite settlements close to the river Sidon area (modern Portageville, New York) and then westward, nearly approaching the west sea. If it had not been for Helaman's army of 2000 stripling Lamanite warriors, fighting alongside their comrade Nephite armies, the Lamanites would have taken over the west side of the land of Zarahemla.

 

The Lamanites that fought Helaman’s stripling warriors would have entered Zarahemla via Route Two, in smaller groups that probably gathered at the city of Jerusalem. From there, they traveled northward, followed the river Sidon and then headed west. They were organized and ready to attack the land of Zarahemla. In Alma 56, Helaman describes Nephite cities that fell prey to these Lamanite armies.  

 
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Alma 56:13    1566 BC

B.  Alma meets the sons of Mosiah in his travels

 

Route 2 was a regular route utilized by Nephites, we believe, to travel from the land of Zarahemla southward to the land of Lehi-Nephi. Since they did not bring armies southward to attack the Lamanites, Nephites could travel the more difficult and mountainous terrain in small groups.  In Alma 17, the record mentions a reunion of the prophet, Alma the Younger, and his friends, the four sons of Mosiah who had served a lengthy mission to the Lamanites.

 

Alma 17:1    77 B.C.

            As shown on previous maps, the land of Gideon was east of the river Sidon, and the land of Manti, to the west of Sidon. If Ammon and his brother traversed Route 2, it is entirely possible they met the prophet is his ministerial responsibilities at a cross roads area.

 
 
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C. Amlicites attacked Nephites at hill Amnihu, then joined with Lamanites to fight near head of river Sidon

 

Amlici failed in his attempt to be made king over the Nephites. He and his followers took up arms against their brethren, and fought a Nephite army at the hill Amnihu, east of the river Sidon. After being pushed southward from the east side of the River Sidon, Amlicites discovered a large group of Lamanites and joined with them. These Lamanites would have traveled up route two to be in this area (modern-day Cattaraugus and Allegany Counties New York), and could have caused extreme distress had they continued straight north to the city of Zarahemla. Nephite spies reported the alliance to the prophet, Alma, and then Alma led his army against numerous Amlicites and Lamanites, fighting near the head of the river Sidon. Eventually, Alma slew Amlici, the Lamanite king escaped, and Nephites threw slain Lamanites into the river. These verses tell part of that story:

 

Alma 2:15    87 BC

Alma 2:17,18    87 BC

 
 
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Alma 2:19,20    87 BC

D.  In bondage, King Limhi sends a group to seek help from Nephites in Zarahemla

 

Mosiah 8:8    121 B.C.- Limhi's group

 
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Google maps show two paths from the land of Shilom (Clearfield, Pennsylvania) to  the city of Zarahemla. Limhi’s search party left the land of Shilom seeking Zarahemla, but wound up in a land of many waters, a Mosiah 8:8. How could Limhi’s group miss the city of Zarahemla on their travels, but find the hill Ramah/Cumorah? Two ways occur to us: Limhi’s group took Route 2, the Nephites regular route between Zarahemla and Lehi-Nephi, but likely crossed one of the grey routes (see map below) and found bones instead of people. Although the search party returned to Shilom without bringing help from Zarahemla, their travel resulted in the discovery of records from an ancient people that had once inhabited the land—the Jaredites—whose final battles occurred around hill Ramah/Cumorah.

 

E.  Ammon and the sons of Mosiah traveled to the land of Nephi

 

Alma 17:1-13