“Lamanites Had Come in Upon the Wilderness Side into the Borders of the Land Even into the City of Ammonihah”

Alan C. Miner

In Alma 16 we find an account of an attack on the city of Ammonihah which parallels an account given in Alma 25. In Alma 16:2 it says that "the armies of the Lamanites had come in upon the wilderness side, into the borders of the land, even into the city of Ammonihah, and began to slay the people and destroy the city." One might wonder just why the Lamanites would even think to choose this pathway of attack. Most previous internal geographical Book of Mormon maps have a narrow strip of wilderness completely separating the general land of Nephi on the south from the general land of Zarahemla on the north and extending from the sea east to the sea west (Alma 22:27). Additionally we find that the city of Ammonihah was 3 days north of the land of Melek (Alma 8:6); and the land of Melek was on the west of the local land of Zarahemla (Alma 8:3). This internal arrangement would separate the city of Ammonihah by a minimum of 3-4 days from the Lamanite/Nephite southern border (the narrow strip of wilderness). So why didn't the Lamanites (who apparently just wanted to kill any Nephite for revenge--see Alma 25:1-2), satisfy themselves in a much easier and quicker manner by attacking somewhere along the narrow strip of wilderness border on the south?

To gain a different perspective, we can refer to the theoretical commentary and illustrations in this volume on Alma 22:27-34 which talks about this narrow strip of wilderness. According to the theory illustrated, the narrow strip of wilderness did not go completely from sea to sea. Near the "borders" of the sea this strip of wilderness went "round about on the north" until it came to the land Bountiful (Alma 22:27). According to Alma 22:27-34, idle Lamanites were spread through the wilderness on the west of the land of Zarahemla in the borders by the seashore (Alma 22:28). Assuming that the land of Bountiful was not heavily controlled or fortified by the Nephites at this time, then the Lamanites could possibly have traveled unhindered northward along the west borders by the seashore (Alma 22:28) until they were able to approach Ammonihah from the wilderness side. [See the commentary and illustrations on Alma 22:27-34]

Assuming a Mesoamerican setting, this geographical situation is illustrated quite nicely in a similar manner to the above by using the theoretical maps of either Allen, Palmer, or Sorenson. According to these theories, and the Mesoamerican map, one can travel westward along the west coastal plain of Guatemala and southern Mexico with the Pacific Ocean on the south (or the left of the traveler) and a paralleling strip of mountain wilderness on the right of the traveler. The traveler is on the path of the ancient Kings Highway (the path of the present day Pan American Highway) and as it turns northward (or to the traveler's right) to go through the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, the traveler will find that the strip of mountain wilderness on his right will curve with him. From this highway (or pathway), the ruins of Mirador (city of Ammonihah) can be reached from either a southwestern approach (from the city of Arriaga) or from a western approach (from the city of Tapanatepec), both of which wind through the mountains before reaching the ruins.

The fact that the Lamanites were said to have come "even to the city" might indicate that certain settled territory of the land of Ammonihah might have been located between the approach of the Lamanites and the city of Ammonihah. From the perspective of an internal model, one has to wonder how the Lamanite army, having marched so far northward into wilderness Nephite country, would know where they were going? And if, by chance, the internal map allows for a coastal corridor, how the Lamanite army knew where to go through the strip of wilderness in order to attack Ammonihah "from the wilderness side" in surprise fashion? One would presume that they had some previous knowledge of both the geography and the culture of Ammonihah.

In trying to make some sense out of the internal questions above, the reader will notice that not only the leaders of the city of Ammonihah (Alma 16:11), but the Amalekites and Amulonites (Alma 21:4) who incited the Lamanites to initiate the war were associated with the "order of Nehors." If we correlate the geography and culture of this situation with Mesoamerica, and if we assume that the "order of Nehors" had something to do with "getting gain" (through trade), then this Lamanite attack to the northern part of the land of Zarahemla might start to make some sense. After all, the King's Highway has been a major trade route since ancient times. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See Geographical Theory Maps] [For a Lamanite perspective on this war, see the commentary on Alma 25]

Geographical [Theory Map]: Alma 16:1-3 Lamanites Invade Ammonihah (11th Year)

Step by Step Through the Book of Mormon: A Cultural Commentary