A NEW MODEL FOR
BOOK OF MORMON GEOGRAPHY
By James Lee Warr
THE GENERIC MODEL
Many researchers have produced so called "internal maps" of Book of Mormon geography which attempt to spatially relate locations mentioned in the text without trying to locate the geography in the real world. These are helpful in defining a general outline of Nephite lands and giving us a general idea of what to expect and look for. John Sorensen has collected a number of these maps in his book The geography of Book of Mormon events : a source book.
The map included here is one developed by Joel Hardy and published on his website http://www.mormonhaven.com/bomgeog.htm There are a number of others in Sorensen's book which are quite similar, particularly the one proposed by Hammond, and which only differ in minor points.
As can be observed from this model the land is divided into two parts with an hourglass shape, divided by a narrow neck of land which joins the two halves. The upper half was known as the land northward, and the lower as the land southward. These halves were also known as Mulek (north) and Lehi (south) because the Mulekites landed in the land northward and Lehi arrived in the land southward. The land southward was divided further by an east-west strip of wilderness which separated the land of Nephi to the south, from the land of Zarahemla to the north. The River Sidon originated in this strip of wilderness and flowed northward to the east sea (or possibly the west sea). The city of Zarahemla was west of the river, and the city Manti was near its headwaters.
The land was surrounded (the text says "almost surrounded") by water. In other words it was almost an island. In fact the writers indicate in a number of places that they felt they were living on an island (Alma 22:32 and 2 Ne. 10:20-21). We can infer from this that the land was not very large. There is mention of seas to the north, south, east and west (Alma 22:32).
You will note that the Jaredite cities and places are all located to the north of the narrow neck. They did not inhabit the land southward to any significant extent, but specifically reserved it as a wilderness. Following their destruction, their bones were only found in the land northward where they had fought city by city throughout their homeland. The Nephites and Lamanites originally inhabited only the land southward, but after about 100 BC they began spreading into the land northward.
The land northward was characterized by "many waters" (i.e. seas, lakes, rivers, streams, springs, etc.), was devoid of trees, and showed extensive evidence of the Jaredite wars and destruction.
Zarahemla, and its immediate area, was surrounded by areas of wilderness to the east, west, south and northward (Hermonts).
The narrow neck as shown here is too wide, and should be no more that ten percent of the width of the land southward, and probably much less. It was narrow enough that a normal Nephite could walk across it in a day. It could be easily fortified and defended. It was apparently not directly north of the land southward, but was "northward" (i.e. at some angle deviating from true north). It had a feature termed a "narrow pass" which allowed for easier defense. It was also located at a place where the "sea divided the land", a feature which is not shown on the accompanying map.
I would generally agree with the placement of features and locations on Hardy's map with the exception of a few changes in minor cities, and the changes and deficiencies noted above for the narrow neck of land. Also I feel that the southern wilderness should be located in the land of Nephi south of the narrow strip of wilderness.