“Thou Shalt Not Go Up to the Land of Nephi”

Alan C. Miner

In Alma 20:2,7,8, we find the modifying terms “up,” “down,” and “over.” Assuming a Mesoamerican setting and that the modifiers up, down, and over can be used as keys of elevation, perhaps we might gain some additional perspective in correlating the geography of the travels of the sons of Mosiah. Let us review the verses and how they fit into the geographical theories of Allen, Palmer, and Sorenson:

[Alma 20:2]: “Thou [Ammon, who is in the land of Ishmael] shalt not go up to the land of Nephi.”

Assumption: The land of Ishmael might be lower than the local land of Nephi.

The land of Ishmael (Chimaltenango area) = Elev. 2131 m.

The land of Nephi (Kaminaljuyu) = Elev. 1499 m.

There seems to be a contradiction. However, there might be a number of explanations. First, John Sorenson states: “Just possibly ‘up’ was, in this one case, in deference to the political eminence of the king’s capital rather than elevation.” Second, the reader should note that in mountainous terrain (which is what we have in Guatemala, although mountain valley “B” might be generally lower than mountain valley “A”, one might still have to go significantly up from valley “A” and cross over a significantly tall intervening hill in order to get to valley “B”.

[Alma 20:7]: “And he [King Lamoni] said unto Ammon [both being in the land of Ishmael]: Come I will go with thee down to the land of Middoni.”

Assumption: The land of Ishmael might be higher than the land of Middoni.

The land of Ishmael (Chimaltenango area) = Elev. 2131 m.

The land of Middoni (Antigua) = Elev. 1530 m.

The assumption seems to be validated.

[Alma 20:8]: “as Ammon and Lamoni were journeying thither [from the land of Ishmael to the land of Middoni] they met the father of Lamoni [coming from the local land of Nephi] who was king over all the land”

Assumption: The routes between the lands of Ishmael, Nephi, & Middoni might intersect

The Lamanite king coming from the local land of Nephi to the land of Ishmael encountered Lamoni and Ammon while they were in route to the land of Middoni. Thus the route out of the land of Ishmael might have led to both the land of Nephi and the land of Middoni until reaching a possible fork in the road where travelers had to choose one destination or another. Since Ammon had come originally to the land of Ishmael from the land of Zarahemla, which was probably located somewhat northerly, and he hadn’t yet reached the local land of Nephi (the king’s home), then the king’s home in the land of Nephi might have been somewhat southward from Ishmael, and thus the land of Middoni might have branched off from a somewhat northerly-southerly pathway. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See illustration] [See also the commentary on “elevation as a key” given in Alma 21:11,12; 22:3]

Alma 20:2 - 18 Geographacal [Theory Map] Ammon & Lamoni go Down to the Land of Midoni

Geographical theory map: Alma 20: 2-28 ([Illustration]) Ammon and Lamoni go down to the land of Middoni

Alma 20:2,7,8 UpDownOver (Elevation As a Key) (Illustration): A graph showing the difference in elevation between the proposed land of Ishmael (Chimaltenango, Guatemala), the proposed land of Middoni (Antigua, Guatemala), and the proposed land of Nephi (ruins of Kaminaljuyu, Guatemala City).

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