and I were with our luggage outside the Salt Lake Airport terminal. My wife, seated on a
bench behind us, recognized the person sitting across from her. With
surprise, my wife turned and greeted her dear friend Lorraine who, like us, was waiting for
told us of her travels and humanitarian service in
Central America. In particular, Lorraine
mentioned her visit to
Belize. With conviction, she called the
region she had been in “the land of Lamoni”.
Nobody snapped at Lorraine’s reference to the Mesoamerican land of Lamanai. Nobody dragged the dear
sister’s pure and admirable motives into the cold water of fact. But, there
was little doubt in my mind where my wife’s friend had gotten the idea that
the Mayan “lamanai” is the same as the Book of Mormon “Lamoni”.
The Mesoamerican “Book of Mormon geography” business is
alive and thrashing in Mormondom. Quite a flock seems to favor that
businesses' watering hole! But not
everybody is convinced that all is well there.
(LDS Doctrine and Covenants 84:54-59)
The Mayan term “lamanai” means “submerged
on the eastern Yucatan, is named after the aquatic reptile
that skulks in the waters there.
“Lamoni” of the Book of Mormon, on the
other hand, was a Lamanite king who ruled over “the land of Ishmael”.
Many of his people later settled in the Nephite land of Jershon.
There is no land named Lamoni in the Book of Mormon.
The name “Lamoni” sounds a lot like “Lamani”,
which is how
“Lamanite” transliterates from Hebrew. Similarly, “Israelite” is really
pronounced “Yisra’Eli”. The
“ite” ending isn’t Hebrew - its simply an add-on for the
sake of translation. For the sake of a
gentile audience, the English version of the Book of Mormon is
replete with what I like to call
“goyisms” (gentile-ized terminology) from, for instance, the dignified but imperfect
King James translation of the Bible (KJV).
The name “Lamoni” also sounds a lot like “l’maani” (לְמַעֲנִי)
which is translated, “for mine own sake”. (Yesha’Yahu
(Isaiah) 37:35) This being so, could the name “Laman” be a
shortened form of “L’maan’Yahu” = “for the LORD’s sake”, or “L’maan’El” =
“for God’s sake”? “L’maan’El” has a familiar
Book of Mormon
ring to it. It sounds like “Lemu’El” (Laman’s brother). “Lemu’El” means
“belonging to God” (Proverbs
1 Nephi 2:11). Like the names of the
Germanic chieftains “Hengest” and “Horsa”, the names of the eldest sons of
sound somewhat alike. With the divine reference “El” added to “Laman”, the
names of the two brothers sound even more alike.
In order for the Mesoamerican place name “Lamanai” to be equivalent to “Lamanite”
or “Lamoni”, there would have to be some connection between the Mayan term for
“submerged crocodile” and the Book of Mormon name(s).
Well let’s see: The most appropriate Hebrew word for
“crocodile” is “tanin” (תַנִין).
“Tanin” is translated “dragon” in the King James Bible.
Various venomous serpents and aquatic monsters also qualify as “taninim” (e.g.
One might contend that “Laman” and “tanin”
somehow got nested.
One might point out verses like, “…the Lamanites …
they did fight like dragons …”
or one might propose that a king Lamoni, like a
Pharaoh of old, was symbolically associated with the local crocodile.
(Abraham Facsimile No. 1, Fig. 9;
Arguments like this, of course, are a stretch; but this is the kind of reasoning that
Mesoamerican setting propagandists might seize upon (should they be so
scripturally resourceful) in promoting the idea that a place named
in Belize, legitimizes a setting for the Book of Mormon in Central
America. But does this kind of reasoning really lead us to the authentic
literary locale of the Book of Mormon?
Names, including place names, tend to move with people.
The available literature of the time, gave early Mormons
the opportunity to discover that there were Native
American migrations from the north into Mexico
and Central America.
(“Ancient Ruins”, Times and Seasons, January
1, 1844, Editor John Taylor quotes an article from the Texas Telegraph,
October 11, 1843. Before that, there was
Josiah Priest and other
sources available to members of the Church.)
The Mexican historian Vetia tells us of the propensity of some migrating ancient Americans to name
new settlements after ones they had left behind. (Ancient
America Rediscovered, compiled by Donald W. and W. David Hemingway,
translated by Ronda Cunningham, pg. 50.) So if an occasional
Mesoamerican name happens to sound like a Book of Mormon name, what
does this really prove? If you find Hebrew sounding names in Poland, it doesn’t prove that the biblical Hebron is there.
topic of Book of Mormon-ish sounding names found in far-flung places,
ask how the
Lemhi River, valley,
Shoshone people of
Idaho got the name
“Lemhi”. I think “Lemhi” sounds a lot like the Book of
Mormon “Limhi” - don't you agree? Does the name “Lemhi” have something to do with
migrating Mormons who settled
(once Oregon Territory)? Turns out that it does -
It apparently took 22 days for a Mormon missionary party, sent out from the
Salt Lake Valley, to reach the Shoshone Salmon River Country.
Despite the explanation for how
Fort Lemhi in Lemhi County, Idaho
name, the Book of Mormon
doesn't say that
the expedition organized by king Limhi to find
lasted 22 days, or that his people
Zarahemla in 22 days.
Folks should know that there are place names in the
region of western New York
that match names found in the Book of Mormon. Take for instance the
Of course the authentic literary setting for the Book of Mormon is
the region of “Cumorah … in a land of many waters, rivers and fountains”.
The scriptural land Cumorah, with its drumlin hills, situates in the Finger
Lakes region of Joseph Smith’s boyhood state of
New York; south of that exceedingly “large” body of water we
now call Lake
Doctrine and Covenants 128:20,
The idea that
“Cumorah” is in southern
is a 20th century
fabrication, and tacit dismissal of Joseph Smith’s September
6, 1842 epistle on baptism for the dead (LDS Doctrine and Covenants 128).
(See L. E. Hills, "Geography of Mexico and Central America
from 2234 B.C. to 421 A.D.", 1917, Independence, MO) Without explaining
why it took RLDS members to first propose such an idea, a few prominent LDS authors like
saw fit to promote the specious
“Cumorah”, even though the idea had
been identified as false by several LDS
see also Milton R. Hunter, Thomas Stuart Fergusson, Ancient America and
the Book of Mormon, 4th edition, 1957, pp. 144, 185, 350, 361-363)
Footnotes to the 1879 LDS
Edition of the Book of Mormon that are scripturally based, do not
1879 LDS Edition of the Book of Mormon
correctly identifies Lake Ontario
as the Book of Mormon “waters
of Ripliancum” north of
Cumorah . Regarding
these “large” waters,
Ether 15:8 (pg. 606), footnote c reads:
“supposed to be
Mormon 6:5 (1981 LDS Edition and earlier), correctly
reads, “…gathered in all the remainder of our people unto the land
Cumorah.” The 1830 Edition reads, “land Camorah”, and elsewhere, “land of
Mormons tend to forget that Cumorah is more than a hill, it is a
land. It was at the Smith family residence, in the land Cumorah that Moroni declared “the
fulfillment of the prophets – the book to be revealed.”
(LDS Doctrine and Covenants 128:20)
With the general location of the land Cumorah identified in “the word of the Lord”
Doctrine and Covenants 127:10) - the Prophet’s
canonized epistle (section 128),
the Book of Mormon’s “west sea” has to be
Lake Erie. It’s really that simple! But for this to become plain to others
- ensconced as they are in geographic traditions that
have more to do with
Orson Pratt, or
John Lloyd Stephens
than the Book of Mormon, the warning in
LDS Doctrine and Covenants 84:54-59 needs to be taken to