A NEW MODEL FOR
BOOK OF MORMON GEOGRAPHY
By James Lee Warr
Amulon, Helam, and the Valley of Alma.
Helam is 8 days journey into the wilderness from the city of Nephi (Mos. 23:3).
Helam is 12 (or 13) days journey from the city of Zarahemla (Mos. 24:23-25).
Helam was in an area suitable for agriculture (Mos. 23:4-5).
The Valley of Alma was one days journey (probably northward) from Helam (Mos. 24:20).
Amulon was suitable for agriculture, but apparently not as good as Helam as they did not return to it (Mos. Ch. 23).
All these locations were in the south wilderness between Nephi and Zarahemla.
The land of Amulon should probably be encountered first in traveling toward Nephi from Zarahemla in accordance with the experience of the lost Lamanite army (Mos. 23:31-36).
There are a number of variables which have to be fulfilled in order to align these sites. First Alma and his group of 450 leave the land of Nephi about 147 BC and travel eight days into the wilderness before finding a suitable site and establishing a permanent settlement at the place which they called Helam. Next Amulon's group leaves Nephi, but initially doesn't go far as they return and steal Lamanite women for replacement wives, and later steal back at night and plunder the Nephites. At a later time they apparently travel so far into the wilderness that they don't know the way back to Nephi. They do this without running across the site of Helam. Then about 25 years after Alma first leaves Nephi, Limhi's people escape from the Lamanites, who are guarding them, into the wilderness, and are led by Ammon to Zarahemla, apparently without encountering Alma's group or the people of Amulon. The Lamanite army pursues Limhi's group, but cannot follow their tracks after the second day. They then become lost in the wilderness, find and join with the Amulon group, then encounter the land of Helam and enslave Alma's people. Alma shows the Lamanites the way back to Nephi. After some time in servitude, the Lord helps Alma's group to escape. They travel one day's journey into the wilderness and come to a beautiful valley which they call the Valley of Alma. But the Lord warns them to travel onward as the Lamanites are following them. They pursue their journey and arrive at Zarahemla after twelve day's travel.
There are only four possible locations on the eastern seaboard of Costa Rica and Panama which fit the criteria for these sites,. These are located between the proposed areas for Zarahemla and Nephi, in what is still today largely mountainous wilderness. They are:
1. A valley at the mouth of the Changuinola River in northwestern Panama.
2. The Sixaola Valley on the lower Sixaola River.
3. The Valley of Talamanca on the upper Sixaola.
4. The Valley of the Estrella on the lower Estrella River.
A tentative placement of the Valley of Alma will be made in the Valley de Estrella east of the coastal city of Cahuita. This location is spaced about right for the travel times required and is the northern most of the four valleys which meets the criteria.
Helam will be tentatively place in the Valley of Talamanca. This valley would be about eight days travel with families and possessions from the Nephi area near Volcan, Panama.
Amulon will be tentatively placed on the lower Sixaola River, which would be the area encounter first if traveling southward toward Panama.