A NEW MODEL FOR
BOOK OF MORMON GEOGRAPHY
By James Lee Warr
THE GREAT LAKES AREA
Recently there have been a number of proposals centered around the Great Lakes. They tend to differ in specifics, but theorize in general that the Nephite lands were located in a limited area around the lakes and eastern New York. An example of these theories is one which suggests that the narrow neck of land is a strip of land between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, and that the land northward would be northwest up into Canada, and the land southward would be southeast and eastward into New York.
The illustrations at the right show the great lakes region at the bottom, with the isthmus between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie. The upper map shows a magnified view of this isthmus with the Niagara River bisecting it. The isthmus itself is about 30 miles wide.
These proposals have the advantage of having the "Hill Cumorah", where Moroni deposited the golden plates, located nearby. This would seem to strengthen their argument. However here again we have a number of major obstacles in trying justify this proposal
First, the land is too big and is not surrounded by water (although there are large bodies of water nearby).
Second, the narrow neck, in the example cited above, is not northerly but lies in an east west orientation. There is also a major river (the Niagara) which bisects it and which would make foot travel very difficult (it is approximately 1000 feet wide), and would not allow the events described in the text which took place on and around the narrow neck.
Third, it is located in a cold climate. Cold, snow or ice is never mentioned in the Book of Mormon. The narrow neck was blocked at one time by an infestation of poisonous snakes for eight generations. This would not have been possible in a cold climate where snakes would hibernate during the winter. Book of Mormon lands were characterized by fevers which one would associate with tropical climates (Alma 46:40).
Fourth, there is no evidence that this area experienced any of the major geologic changes which took place at the time of the crucifixion of Christ. These would include volcanic activity, mountain building, extensive faulting, etc.
Fifth, there is very little archeological evidence to justify the presence of the Jaredite and Nephite civilizations in the area.
Sixth, the New York Cumorah does not appear to be the same hill where Mormon hid all the Nephite records, and where the last battles of the Jaredites and Nephites took place. The hill is a small, unremarkable hill which would not serve as a major defensive position. There are not signs of major battles having taken place there (i.e. fortifications, artifacts, etc.). It is composed of glacial moraine and would not contain caves or natural openings. It is unlikely that Moroni would have wandered for 21 years only to return to the same place where he had started. To a place which was infested with his enemies who were actively trying to kill him.
Seventh, it goes against the opinion of Joseph Smith who felt that the land of Zarahemla was located in what was then Guatemala (i.e. Central America) (Refer to Times and Seasons Vol. 3, #22).
John Clark has written an excellent review of the Great Lakes theories and the books which support them which is found on the FARMS web site.