City of Zarahemla (FARMS geography model)

Major capital of Nephites, originally founded by Mulekites

City of Zarahemla (FARMS geography model)

The city of Zarahemla, a pivotal center for the Nephites, was originally founded by a group of people called Mulekites, who were led by a man named Zarahemla and had migrated from their initial landing near the east coast to the basin area named after their leader. In a significant encounter, the Mulekites were discovered by Mosiah and his entourage, who were venturing from the land of Nephi. This meeting led to the merging of these two unique groups and the establishment of Zarahemla as the capital of Nephite civilization—a center of commerce, governance, and religious life (Omni 1:14-19).

Under the reign of Mosiah, the city played a key role in religious reform and governance. The initial monarchical system was replaced by a system of judgeships, where judges were elected by the popular will of the people, with the chief judge residing in Zarahemla (Mosiah 29). The first chief judge in this new system was the prophet Alma2, the son of Alma1 (Mosiah 29:42). Alma2’s profound concern for the spiritual welfare of his people compelled him to leave his judgment-seat to preach the word of God across the land (Alma 4-15). Despite facing rejection and hostility in areas like Ammonihah, his ministry did effect significant religious changes among the people.

Throughout its history, Zarahemla was a city familiar with conflict, experiencing occupation by Nephite dissidents known as king-men, as well as attacks and temporary control by Lamanite forces (Alma 51-62; Helaman 1). Yet the city was also a place of restoration and conversion, as seen when significant portions of the Lamanite population converted to the teachings of Christ through the ministries of Nephi2 and Lehi4 (Helaman 5:16-19).

However, the city was not immune to destruction. The great storm and earthquakes that occurred at the time of Christ’s death resulted in the burning of Zarahemla and the loss of many lives (3 Nephi 8:8, 24; 9:3). After these cataclysmic events, the city was eventually rebuilt and flourished once again (4 Nephi 1:8). Late in the Nephite record, it is noted that the city had become densely populated and thoroughly urbanized, indicative of Nephite prosperity in the years leading up to the final clashes with the Lamanites (Mormon 1:6-7, 10).

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