Locations of Various Nephite Cities and the Political, Military, and Record Keeping Succession Practices of the Nephites

After a seven month break, I’m back with the Reign of the Judges series. I’ve had time to write about it enough to provide you with many new posts. I hope you learn from these posts and your own personal study. This post picks up in Alma chapter 16. This is the beginning of the 11th year of the Reign of the Judges.

A Cry is Heard All Throughout the Land

On the 5th day of the second month in the 11th year of the Reign of the Judges, a cry was heard throughout the land. There hadn’t been wars or contentions in the land for a number of years, that there had been much peace. No wars for six years. If you count wickedness abounding in the land as a contention, then that hadn’t happened for three years. So the Nephites are in a pretty good spot when this cry is heard.

If people are using the ancient Jewish calendar, the second month is Iyyar and covers half way through April to half way through May. That’s what month we are in now (at the time of this writing–April 28, 2015). If that is what they are using, it’s the fifth day. So around April 20th? I’m not completely sure but it makes it easier to imagine the season and temperatures these events are occurring during. It’s too bad the rumors of war went out and about. The people probably began thinking to themselves, “This is going to be a long Spring and Summer”.

The Lamanites had come in upon the wilderness side into the borders of the land to the city of Ammonihah and began slaying the people and destroying the city. Before the Nephites could raise an army sufficient to drive them out of the land, they had destroyed Ammonihah and the people there and a few other cities around the borders of Noah and taken others captive into the wilderness.

The Locations of Various Nephite Cities

I’m getting sucked into another land discussion. This one will be good because I’m getting better at trying to imagine where these events take place. We’ll start with Zarahemla. Let’s say for kicks and giggles we follow my Evidence of the Book of Mormon in America’s Heartland book and think of present day Montrose, Iowa, which is near the banks of the Mississippi, as the area of Zarahemla.

A guess of where Zarahemla is

The cities in Nephite territory that we have read about thus far are: Zarahemla, Gideon, Minon, Nephi, Melek, Ammonihah, Sidom, and Noah.

  • Zarahemla: Doesn’t give location in relation to Sidom. Thinking it’s west of the Mississippi River.
  • Gideon: East of the river
  • Minon: West
  • Nephi: Not sure…but on the borders of Lamanite territory
  • Melek: West of Sidom
  • Ammonihah: West, near Melek, Noah and Aaron (which is close to the wilderness, possibly a border city)
  • Sidom: Outside of Ammonihah, so probably West. A church is established here. Don’t hear about it hardly so maybe a minor town or village?
  • Noah: In the land of Zarahemla, near Ammonihah. Only mentioned twice in the war chapters, both references being in the same chapter. It was traditionally a weak place. Maybe just inside Nephite territory or a little more up the border.
  • Aaron (possibly two different cities according to the index): It’s in the vicinity of Ammonihah

Now that I have all that typed out, here is what I’m thinking. I think there is a good chance that Zarahemla is on the western side of the river. I just checked the index again and the best geographical locations it can give to Zarahemla is that it and the land of Nephi were nearly surrounded by water. Looking at map 5 and 6 in the back of the scriptures of the U.S., it looks like Montrose is near and area where another river meets up with the Mississippi River. I think the nearly surrounded by water would make a good description. Looking at map 5 though I wonder if Nauvoo, Ramus, Carthage, Quincy, or Springfield are near where Gideon used to be. It was the city where Pahoran retreated so it had to be close but not so close that it was worth pursuing him. Unless! If the whole Montrose being Zarahemla, or near unto it, it could be possible that because the Mississippi is crossable on foot at certain times during the year. Perhaps in this area Pahoran managed to get across in time. By the time people found out he was gone, the Mississippi would have been flooded! Again, making the hunting down of Pahoran a little more difficult. Even if they did send out mercenaries, by the time they crossed, Pahoran could have been anywhere. I’m thinking maybe not Nauvoo, but Ramus, Carthage, or Quincy are more likely candidates. Maybe not Quincy because they could have just floated down the river towards Pahoran. Perhaps Ramus, Carthage and Springfield area are better guesses.

The rest of the cities I feel like are all relating to one another. All in the southern part of Nephite lands. But where and situated how far apart, I can’t say for certain. Maybe I can attempt to draw something.

a picture of my imagined layout of Nephite territory

The problem with the map below is that it’s a complete guess. No evidence to back it up. What I realized the other day while looking at these maps of the U.S. is that the U.S. is a lot bigger than I thought. Pretty much my entire mission, I’ve remembered Nauvoo as down further South. Like Kentucky or Tennessee area. How embarrassing. I guess it’s hard for me to imagine the course of the Book of Mormon happening over such a large distance. But if the theory of America’s heartland is right, then I mean we are all the way up to New York in the hill Cumorah, to Iowa with Zarahemla and if where Lehi and his family landed is right, Florida–Alabama area. That’s a huge area! Maybe not the land in between was all inhabited. Maybe there were pockets of civilization. Instead of all the cities being spread out, maybe the Book of Mormon talks about the centers of civilizations and the immediate land surrounding. In which case, this could be accurate. Maybe Nephite borders aren’t right next to Lamanite borders. Perhaps once you make it outside the area surrounding the bigger cities, you were in “no man’s land”. Land, that if someone wanted to live on, they could. But they would have to know if it was along a trading route or war path. Think of it like Utah.

Pretty much from Brigham City in the North to Provo further South all the way to St. George in the bottom part of the state. Between Brigham City and Provo, the population density is pretty high. Between Provo and St. George, the population density decreases. Not as many cities. However, I-15, the highway that runs North-South has the bigger cities surrounding it. Once you leave Provo, the more you go East or West of I-15, the less frequently you’ll find cities. There are a lot of uninhabited places until you arrive in St. George. Granted, it isn’t 100% uninhabited. Yes, there are pockets of places that have grown relatively bg without the help of a highway. The point I’m trying to make is I think a similar thing could have happened with the Nephite civilization. Zarahemla is like Salt Lake City. The surrounding cities would be connected with trading routes, highways, and other well-traveled paths. The land of Nephi could be thought of as St. George. A place that starts out isolated but then gets connected. You could even think of St. George as the beginning of Lamanite territory and Provo as the end of Nephite territory. Everywhere in between is scattered with towns, villages, outposts, trading posts, etc… I don’t know how true that is, but I think it serves to illustrate how a civilization could cover a lot of area and only inhabit pockets at a time.

Another thought I had while drawing up the Nephite map a few pages ago was that it could be very fitting to have borders between  Nephite and Lamanite areas be running along rivers. That’s why I put Minon and Nephi close to a river. It’s a natural barrier of division. Personally, I think Nephi was wayyyy more South than Minon was. But Nephi and/or Minon could have been near a river.

I wonder how big a role the Mississippi River, if that is the river Sidon, could have played in trading/transport. I don’t know enough about the river itself to give you prospects on the potential. I’d have to do more research to find that out.

Record Keeper, Military, and Political Succession in the Book of Mormon

Continuing on with the story. Even though Ammonihah has been destroyed, as well as other cities, and captives had been taken, the Nephites still desired to pursue and obtain the captives. The chief captain that is appointed is named Zoram. He has two sons, Lehi and Aha. From the way verse 5 is written, it looks like Lehi and Aha could have also been captains in the Nephite army, although not the chief captain like their father.

This is going to sound crazy but to what extent was it tradition or expected to follow in the career of your father? Is that too dalam (deep in Malay) a question to ask? There may be something to this though. Let me grab the Book of Mormon institute manual and see if there is anything cool we can see. This is going to be cool I think.

Successsion of Record Keepers

I’m looking at appendix B in the Book of Mormon institute manual. It’s on Nephite record keepers. I’ll write the names in here but it seems that at least when it came to being keeper of the records, it was passed from father to son:

Nephi–>his brother Jacob–>Enos, son of Jacob–>Jarom, son of Enos–>Omni, son of Jarom–>Amaron, son of Omni–>Chemish, brother of Amaron–>Abinadom, son of Chemish–>Amaleki, son of Abinadom

Then the records were passed to Benjamin, a righteous man and king

Benjamin, son of Mosiah–>Mosiah, son of Benjamin

The records were then given to the prophet, Alma the younger

Alma II, son of Alma I–>Helaman, son of Alma II–>Shiblon, son of Alma II–>Helaman II, son of Helaman–>Nephi II, son of Helaman II (contemporary with Samuel the Lamanite)–>Nephi III, son of Nephi II, Nephi IV, son of Nephi III–>Amos, son of Nephi IV–>Amos II, son of Amos–>Ammaron, brother of Amon II

The records where then passed to Mormon II, son of Mormon–>Moroni, son of Mormon II

Most of the time the records passed from father to son. If a son wasn’t available, the records came to a brother. On occasion however, the records left the family and passed to another. That was the case with Benjamin, Alma the younger, and Mormon. I would wager that record keeping was taken seriously. And since the process of making plates and engraving upon them was tedious, I would think it would be a full-time job. I conclude, that if your family was in charge of the sacred records, there was a good chance you would do that as well. And if you were the record keeper, you were also President of the church. Big duty. Passed from father to son for the most part.

The Succession of Political Leaders

But what about political leader or military leader? In the Book of Mormon institute manual, there is a section called, “The Major Leaders During Nephite History–600B.C.–421A.D.” That’s where I’ll be taking the info from to answer this question. The chart is divided into 3 columns, one for political, one for historian and/or church leaders, and one for military leader. Since I’ve already gone over church leader and historian, I’ll stick with the political and military leaders.

Let’s start with political leaders. Before the Reign of the Judges, we don’t know too much about succession of kings. It isn’t till the last little bit that we get info. Mosiah the first was succeeded by his son, Benjamin. Benjamin’s son, Mosiah II took the throne after his father did. Once the Reign of the Judges starts, it isn’t by inheritance you obtain the judgement seat. There is common consent involved. Nevertheless, Pahoran’s sons both were chief judges over the people. They must have followed in the political career of their father. Helaman the second become chief judge after Pahoran’s sons are murdered. He was at the time, prophet and church leader. This is the first time the Nephites had a prophet-governor since Alma the younger. That was 42 years previous! Helaman’s son, Nephi, then becomes the chief judge. But delivers it up to a man named Cezoram. After Cezoram is done, his son takes over but is murdered. We don’t know if the next chief judge, Seezoram had any relation to Cezoram. The last chief judges are Lachoneus and his son. Wrapping this all into a coherent conclusion, I would observe that there are pockets of father-son succession in the government. I think there was a good chance that if your son wanted to follow a judge career, and the people liked your dad, and you were a decent judge, there was a good chance you would get elected. No guarantee though. Because of bits and pieces of father and son rulings, I would say that it wasn’t expected of you to be a politician if your dad was. Not like the sacred record keepers. That was something you were expected to take care of. Probably the most important thing you could do as far as church duties were concerned.

The Succession of Military Leaders

Next is military leaders. We don’t have too much concerning the generals or chief captains over the Nephites. The first instance we have access to of father-son military succession is Mosiah I to King Benjamin. But that is to be expected no surprise there. The king is always the military genius of the land. The only other instance we have of father-son is captain Moroni to his son Moronihah. I think this one happened because Moroni was such a good leader and military strategist that he taught it all to his son. Maybe this son picked up everything fighting-wise naturally and got to be very good at it. Other than that, we have random people as military leaders over the people: Alma the younger, Gidgiddoni, and Mormon. Based off this info here, I would say it was even less common to follow in your father’s footsteps for military leadership. But I suppose that both these conclusions I’ve drawn for military and political are narrow-minded. This does not cover the entire spectrum and all levels of military and political workings. Only the highest, chief judge and chief captain. It could have been very common for sons to take up the trade of their father but never make it to chief captain or chief judge. Yet, they could have still served honorably and nobly.

Summary of Successions

When it comes to being chief judge, there are occasional instances of father-son succession. When it comes to chief captain father-son successions, the instances rarely occurred, according to the record we have here in the Book of Mormon. If you were a prophet-historian, in almost all cases, your son would be your successor.



One thought on “Locations of Various Nephite Cities and the Political, Military, and Record Keeping Succession Practices of the Nephites

  1. Pingback: Ammon Arrives in the Land of Ishmael | Towards a Greater Light

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