“The Nephites Who Had Escaped into the Country Southward”

Alan C. Miner

After the great and tremendous battle at the hill Cumorah, Moroni notes that "the Nephites who had escaped into the country southward were hunted by the Lamanites until they were all destroyed" (Mormon 8:2). One might wonder why the Nephites even tried to escape in a direction southward if that's where the Lamanites were? Why didn't Moroni report on any of the Nephites who tried to escape into the land northward? And despite the fact that Moroni says that he remained "alone," were there any Nephites who did escape?

Geographically speaking, does the term "country southward" mean "the land southward", which was south of the small neck of land (Alma 22:27-34)? Or does it simply mean any land southward from the hill Cumorah? For the survivors to have reached the "land southward" (meaning the land south of the small neck) they would have had to go through many miles of territory occupied by Lamanites or those the Lamanites had conquered. Possibly "the country southward" simply refers to those lands toward Jordan, Boaz or Desolation which were southward from Cumorah and which lands were possibly more familiar to the survivors. There they might have hoped to find surviving pockets of subjugated Nephites who they could relate to and among whom they might disappear from sight. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]

According to John Sorenson, a valid question is, "Why didn't the Nephites continue retreating farther and farther north and so escape the Lamanites altogether?" In the first place, we must realize that rarely if ever is there any decent land that does not already contain a sizable population, so they would have had to dispossess other people first. . . . Farther north also lay another military threat. Beyond the big swamps they would come nearer and nearer to the territory of Teotihuacan proper, the powerful state allied culturally if not militarily with the Lamanites on their other side. The Teotihuacan domain of control apparently did not extend quite as far as the Tuxtlas [the mountains where Sorenson's proposed hill Cumorah was located] by A.D. 380, but any move farther north by Mormon's people would have encountered this great power. [John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, pp. 348-349]

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