A NEW MODEL FOR
BOOK OF MORMON GEOGRAPHY
By James Lee Warr
The Narrow Neck of Land
The narrow neck of land, mentioned repeatedly in the Nephite record (Alma 22:32; Alma 50:34; 52:9; Hel. 4:7; Morm.3:5; Ether 10:20), is the key to Book of Mormon geography. Most researchers consider it to be an isthmus which connects the land southward and the land northward. If this geographic feature could be identified it would solve the riddle of Book of Mormon lands, and then all else would naturally fall into place. Many different possibilities have been suggested, from the Isthmus of Panama to a penisula between two of the Great Lakes. However, in my opinion all of the suggested sites fail to meet the criteria set forth in the Book of Mormon.
Most recent researchers feel that the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, in southern Mexico, is the narrow neck of land. However this site also seems to fall short of the mark. Naturally I have my own opinion which I will present shortly. But before we talk about specifics, let us consider the criteria for this landmark which are outlined in the Book of Mormon.
It should be oriented in a general north-south direction. Alma 22:32.
It is flanked by a west sea and an east sea. Alma 22:32.
It should be located at a place where "the sea divides the land." Ether 10:20.
It should have a separate feature called the " narrow pass" Alma 50:34; 52:9.
This "narrow pass" is described as leading by the west sea and the east sea into the land northward. Alma 50:34.
It could be traversed in 1 to 1 1/2 days (this would make it approximately 15-40 miles wide. See discussion on distances.). Alma 22:32; Hel.4:7.
It was at a lower elevation than the higher land to the south. Morm.4:1,19.
The combined land of Zarahemla and Nephi, southward from the Narrow Neck, was almost completely surrounded by water and was small enough that the inhabitants considered it an island. Alma 22:32; 2Ne.10:20- 21.
At one time in Jaredite history the narrow neck was blocked by an infestation of poisonous snakes so that neither man nor beast could pass. (This could only occur if there were a water barrier on both sides.) Ether 9:31-34.
The border between the Land of Bountiful and the Land of Desolation was at the narrow neck. Alma 22:31-32.
The city of Desolation was located "in the borders" by the "narrow pass" feature of the narrow neck. Morm.3:5-7.
The city of Teancum was located on the seashore on or by the narrow neck. Morm. 4:3.
Hagoth's shipbuilding site was on the west sea near the narrow neck. Alma 63:5.
Lib, a Jaredite king, built a "great city" by the narrow neck. Ether 10:20.
The city of Bountiful was some distance south and eastward from the narrow neck-- probably at least a days journey. Alma 50:32-34.
It should be an area which would be easy to fortify. Alma 52:9; Morm.3:5-6.
The Jaredites did not inhabit the land south of the narrow neck, but reserved it for hunting. Therefore there should be no ruins of ancient Jaredite cities south of the isthmus. Ether 10:21.
During the Nephite time period, the land northward from the narrow neck was devoid of trees (Hel.3:5-10), and was considered "desolate" because of the many previous Jaredite inhabitants. Hel. 3:5-7.
The Nephites were probably not aware of the narrow neck until sometime after 150 B.C. (following Mosiah's arrival in Zarahemla). The first mention of the land northward is about 121 B.C. when it was explored by Limhi's search party ( Mosiah 8:8). The next reference is about 90 B.C. and this was a commentary by the abridger Mormon. Alma 22:31-2.
Now that we have the criteria in place, let us proceed with my proposal.