The answer is straight forward: The Book of Mormon does not say that Mulek son of Zedekiah set foot in the land of Zarahemla. After crossing the Atlantic Ocean, Mulek’s people
likely first landed on a northern shore of the American East Coast. Mulek’s descendants eventually crossed the great waters of
Ancient Lake Iroquois (Now Lake Ontario) “into the land”.
This is the region
that Joseph Smith and Josiah Priest referred to as
“the lake country of America”.
The descendents of Mulek could have then crossed (by portable craft)
Ancient Lake Tonawanda.
From the southern shore of this large body of water, it was a short distance southward to where the Nephite king Mosiah discovered them.
Crossing Great Lake Iroquois, the people of Zarahemla (Mulekites) first landed on the shore of a land “which had been peopled and been destroyed”
- a land connected with the land which the Nephites called Desolation. The
first landing of these Mulekites likely happened a long time after Mulek
landed (Omni 1:5-6,
12-14), and some distance away from the region in “the land North”, where Mulek settled.
Making a Birch Bark Canoe (Exhibit) -
Rochester Museum and Science Center
Consider the following scriptures:
6 And it came to pass that many of the Lamanites did go into the land northward; and also Nephi and Lehi went into the land northward, to preach unto the people. And thus ended the sixty and third year.
9 And it came to pass that they became exceedingly rich, both the Lamanites and the Nephites; and they did have an exceeding plenty of gold, and of silver, and of all manner of precious metals, both in the land south and in the land north.
10 Now the land south was called Lehi and the land north was called Mulek, which was after the son of Zedekiah; for the Lord did bring Mulek into the land north, and Lehi into the land south.
1 BEHOLD, now it came to pass in the sixty and ninth year of the reign of the judges over the people of the Nephites, that Nephi, the son of Helaman, returned to the land of Zarahemla from the land northward.
There is no mention of Mulek ever setting foot in the land of Zarahemla! (Helaman 8:21-22)
1 AND now king Mosiah
[son of Benjamin, son of Mosiah] caused that all the people should be gathered together.
2 Now there were not so many of the children of Nephi, or so many of those who were descendants of Nephi, as there were of the people of
Zarahemla, who was a descendant of Mulek, and those who came with him into the wilderness.
15 Behold, it came to pass that Mosiah
[father of Benjamin] discovered that the people of Zarahemla [Mulekite ancestors] came out from Jerusalem at the time that Zedekiah, king of Judah, was carried away captive into Babylon.
16 And they journeyed in the wilderness, and were brought by the hand of the Lord across the great waters, into the land where Mosiah
[father of Benjamin] discovered them
[later generation of Mulekites]; and they had dwelt there from that time forth.
17 And at the time that Mosiah discovered them, they had become exceedingly numerous. Nevertheless, they had had many wars and serious contentions, and had fallen by the sword from time to time; and their language had become corrupted; and they had brought no records with them; and they denied the being of their Creator; and Mosiah, nor the people of Mosiah, could understand them.
Note that the above verses do not say that Zarahemla lived at the same time
as Mulek. We read that Zarahemla was a descendent of Mulek. The
Book of Mormon uses the expression “the people of Zarahemla”
when referring to his extant people
But the scripture also uses “the people of Zarahemla” when referring to
Moreover, the Book of Mormon uses the term “people of Zarahemla”
in reference to future descendents of his people
The “people of Zarahemla” who discovered and
ostensibly buried the last of the Jaredite kings (Coriantumr), were likely predecessors
and not contemporaries of Zarahemla. Scripture does not tell where in “the land northward” the Mulekites discovered Coriantumr,
or when exactly.
The reference to the “great waters” in Omni
1:16, definitely applies to the Atlantic Ocean. The term “great waters”
also describes the
waters of Ripliancum
Great Lake Iroquois (Ontario) which the people of Zarahemla later crossed
"into the land".
It is entirely possible that Zarahemla’s people, who arrived in the land where the Nephites encountered them, were a large company to begin with,
and that in a relatively short amount of time they had become “exceedingly numerous”.
30 And it bordered upon the land which they called Desolation, it being so far northward that it came into the land which had been peopled and been destroyed, of whose bones we have spoken, which was discovered by the people of Zarahemla, it being the place of their first landing.
31 And they came from there
[Desolation] up into the south wilderness. Thus the land on the
northward was called Desolation, and the land on the southward was called
Bountiful, it being the wilderness which is filled with all manner of wild
animals of every kind, a part of which had come from the land northward for
The reference to wild animals is important to note. There were ferocious
predators in the forests! See
1 Nephi 18:25,
2 Nephi 5:24,
Even large groups of people remained cloistered in the principal lands of the
Book of Mormon. Thus we read that the people of Zarahemla “had dwelt there from that time forth” notwithstanding their becoming “exceedingly numerous”.
Canids - "beasts of prey"
The beasts inhabiting the forests included, wild “dogs”, packs of “wolves”, “lions”
and other dangerous animals.
14:29) If exploration needed to be done, it was wisest to set out in large, armed companies.
But with ongoing threat of attack from neighbors, the sending away of large, well equipped expeditions had to be kept to a minimum.
In time, Book of Mormon peoples may have succeeded in clearing out wild
beasts from some of their lands.
(3 Nephi 4:2)
The time frame for these events is appropriately called the “Woodland period”!
For the most part, the principal New York lands of the Mulekites, Nephites and Lamanites,
except for the land of Desolation, were heavily forested.
Those who entered the woods could easily become lost after traveling only a short distance.
Taking all these things into account, we see that the Mulekites could have settled and multiplied in the land of Zarahemla
(about 60 miles northward of the city of Nephi) not many generations before the people of Mosiah discovered them.
The American setting of the Book of Mormon is real, as real as the
land of Israel! This does not mean that the
of either work of scripture is firmly established by mainstream archaeology.
Some opportunistic individuals base their "Book of
Mormon geography" models primarily on dubious "archaeological"
interpretations. Such an approach, though it may draw a crowd, is backwards.
The legitimate literary setting of the Book of Mormon should first and
foremost be determined from careful examination of LDS scripture, and
verifiable statements by Joseph Smith.
After locating the authentic literary
setting of the Book of Mormon
(based on proper textual analysis, e.g. LDS
Doctrine and Covenants 128:20), if no impressive
archeological evidence is immediately forthcoming, at least there is the assurance that we have located and laid out the covenant land
of scripture according to the best sources. Archeologically, we may find ourselves in much the same
situation with the Book of Mormon as with the Bible: Just because their
are remains of a
temple in northern Syria
that resemble the House of the LORD built by Solomon, this does not mean that we
should publish maps placing the
Kingdom of Judah
in Syria, or that we should publically announce that the Semitic Syrians were the Israelites. The Bible tells us where the
Temple of Solomon
stood, and thoughtful readers will hold to the scriptural setting despite a shortage of archaeological proof.
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