“Around the Borders of Noah”

Alan C. Miner

According to the geographical theory of John Sorenson (Chiapas depression = the general land of Zarahemla), the logical candidate to meet the requirements of the land of Noah (Alma 16:3) would be Ocozocoautla, a major archaeological site near the modern community of that name. Like the ruins of Mirador (proposed city of Ammonihah) to its west, the site of Ocozocoautla is near a modern highway, which parallels the ancient route. The settlement has been investigated by the BYU-New World Archaeological Foundation (NWAF). The results show a quite impressive center that was flourishing modestly at about the time the Lamanites attacked. [John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, p. 203]

According to Joseph Allen, the ruins of Ocozocoautla (Allen's proposed city of Noah) and the town of Ocozocoautla lie about 10 miles east of the city of Cintalapa (near the ruins of Mirador/Ammonihah). Ocozocoautla is also 20 miles west of the ruins and city of Chiapa de Corzo (Allen's proposed site of Sidom). The archaeological site near Ocozocoautla dates to Preclassic time. [Joseph L. Allen, Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon, p. 385]

“And Also Some Around the Borders of Noah”

According to Grant Hardy, as we read the Book of Mormon, we must constantly ask, "Why is this story or detail included? What is being left out? Why do the events take this form or sequence?" . . . Alma 16 tells of the destruction of Ammonihah. This chapter offers a striking illustration of God's justice, by which the righteous are saved while the wicked are punished. But something is wrong with this picture. While the innocent bystanders are all rescued, and the wicked Ammonihahites are all destroyed, there is a third group not mentioned at all in Mormon's summary. These are the people "around the borders of Noah" (Alma 16:3), some of whom were also killed in the Lamanite raid. What exactly had happened to them? Why did some die and some escape? We do not know, for they dropped entirely out of Mormons account and were never referred to again.

Mormon obviously had some information about them by what he says in Alma 49:15:

And now, behold, this was wisdom in Moroni [fortifying both Ammonihah and Noah]; for he had supposed that they [the Lamanites] would be frightened at the city Ammonihah; and as the city of Noah had hitherto been the weakest part of the land, therefore they [the Lamanites] would march thither to battle;

Nevertheless, Mormon chose not to elaborate upon their fate. He edited them out. Why? The answer might be that these people did not fit into the pattern of "the righteous prosper, the wicked suffer." . . .

It was important to Mormon that his spiritual principles were manifested in actual events -- the Book of Mormon is not a work of abstract theology, and Mormon did not make up stories to illustrate his principles; . . . however, Mormon was willing to simplify or streamline the facts to emphasize transcendent spiritual realities. [Grant R. Hardy, "Mormon as Editor," in Rediscovering the Book of Mormon, F.A.R.M.S., pp. 15-25]

The Land of Noah

Alma 16:3 states that "before the Nephites could raise a sufficient army to drive them out of the land, they had destroyed the people who were in the city of Ammonihah, and also some around the borders of Noah, and taken others captive into the wilderness." Thus the Lamanite attack on Ammonihah apparently extended to the borders of the land of Noah, which location would probably be in the same general area as the city of Ammonihah. The Lamanites apparently "had come in upon the wilderness side" (Alma 16:2). Assuming a Chiapas Depression setting, the wilderness was apparently situated so that it ran by on the west of the city of Ammonihah from the south towards the north (Alma 8:3,6). Thus the approach to the city of Ammonihah (ruins of Mirador) could have been made from either the southwest (city of Arriaga) or from the west (city of Tapanatepec), depending on their route through the mountains. Whatever the case, the land of Noah was probably not in the Lamanite's initial path (from the west). The account of Alma's missionary movements from the land of Melek northward to the city of Ammonihah never mentions the land of Noah, thus the land of Noah was probably not on the south of Ammonihah. The more logical options as to the location of the land of Noah are as follows:

Option #1: The location of the land of Noah might be somewhat north or east of the land of Ammonihah. Alma 16:3 says that the Lamanites had "taken others captive into the wilderness." Thus we see that if the land of Noah was located somewhat north of the land of Ammonihah, the Lamanites might have taken their prisoners initially, then traveled westward back through the wilderness on the west and returned to the land of Nephi along the same coastal route that they came along to begin with. In Mesoamerican terms, if the Lamanites approached from the southwest (city of Arriaga), then the "borders of Noah" could have been located near the route on the west of Mirador (the proposed city of Ammonihah). A full attack (northward) on the land of Noah might have been prohibitive because the Lamanites were in retreat (westward) from the city of Ammonihah (ruins of Mirador) and traveling towards the location of the present day city of Tapanatepec which would lead them back to the Isthmus of Tehuantepec and back along the western coastal plain of Mexico before moving upward into the Guatemala highlands near the headwaters of the Grijalva river (Sidon river).

Option #2: On the other hand, if the land of Noah was located on the east of the city of Ammonihah (ruins of Mirador), then the Lamanites might have hoped to return to their homeland by marching through much of the mountain wilderness on the west of the general land of Zarahemla (Chiapas depression) before finally moving eastward into the headwaters of the Sidon river (Grijalva river).

Option #3: Another option might have carried the Lamanite army from an eastward location of the land of Noah initially eastward and then southward along a mountain route paralleling the east side of the general land of Zarahemla (Chiapas depression) until they reached the headwaters of the Sidon river (Grijalva river). [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See Geographical Theory Maps]

Geographical [Theory Map]: Alma 16:4 The Lamanites Are Scattered (11th Year)

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