The land of Ishmael was a portion of the larger territory known as the land of Nephi, situated within the complex geopolitical landscape depicted in the Book of Mormon. Governed by the Lamanite king Lamoni, a descendant of Ishmael, this region became historically significant due to the missionary labors of Ammon—a Nephite and one of the sons of Mosiah—who arrived in the land around 90 B.C. (Alma 17:19, 21). Ammon’s efforts led to the conversion of King Lamoni and subsequently, many of his people embraced the teachings of Ammon (Alma 18:40; 19:33–36). In recognition of this spiritual transformation, King Lamoni commissioned the construction of synagogues throughout the land of Ishmael, promoting a communal space for worship and instruction (Alma 21:20).
As a consequence of these conversions, the land of Ishmael became a sanctuary for the Lamanites who, having covenanted not to engage in warfare, faced the peril of attack from their unconverted brethren (Alma 23:7-9; 24:5–6). These converted Lamanites, known as the Anti-Nephi-Lehies or people of God, gathered in the land of Ishmael, which emerged as a pivotal location for both refuge and spiritual unity. A significant council to address defense strategies was held there by Ammon, Lamoni, Anti-Nephi-Lehi, and others in response to the looming threat from the Lamanite forces (Alma 24:5).
Culturally, the land of Ishmael was markedly influenced by both Nephite and Lamanite traditions, a result of the mingling and interrelations following the mass conversion and migration events. Furthermore, the land played a role in familial and political disputes, as illustrated when King Lamoni defied his father’s command to execute Ammon and instead chose to ally with the Nephites, leading to a notable altercation and ultimately reinforcing Lamoni’s sovereignty over the region (Alma 20:14-15).
Significant both as a setting for conversion and faith-based migrations and as a flashpoint for intra-cultural conflicts, the land of Ishmael thus stands as a testament to the transformative power of missionary work and to the enduring quest for peace and religious freedom within the Book of Mormon narrative.