Relics of some lost race were found with nearly every turn of the spade in western New York during the early years of colonization. Thus, it was commonly accepted by scholars and laymen alike, and even by the early saints, that an ancient civilization once occupied western New York long before the Indians became lords of the land. “Could they have been the people of Zarahemla, they wondered?”
Along with the numerous relics and well preserved artifacts found, ancient fortifications were also found in every county in western New York which led the archaeologist, E. G. Squire to believe a race once existed in the region that was considerably advanced in civilization. The Historian Dr. Alexander W. Bradford noted the following conclusions about the people who built them: . . .
1-That they were all of the same origin, branches of the same race, and possessed of similar customs and institutions.
2-That they were populous, and occupied a great extent of territory.
3-that they had arrived at a considerable degree of civilization, were associated in large communities, and lived in extensive cities.
4-That they possessed the use of many of the metals, such as lead, copper, gold, and silver, and probably the art of working in them.
5-That they were an agricultural people living under the influence and protection of regular forms of government.
6-That they were skilled in the art of fortification.
7-That the epoch of their original settlement, in the United States, is of great antiquity.”(Alexander W. Bradford, American Antiquities, p. 36-40).
The Historian O’Callaghan wrote:
“Why have we no history of such a nation as must have inhabited this part of the world? Probably if a knowledge of those ancient people is ever obtained, it will be derived from inscriptions on stones or metals, which may have withstood the rust of time.”(E. B. O’Callaghan, The Documentary History of New York, III, 1143)
How many missionaries would love to stand today and shout from the rooftops that their identity is not lost, nor is their history, a history preserved by ancient prophets in what today is the Book of Mormon, a book that also explains their mysterious disappearance. Just a year before the Book of Mormon came off the press, The Wayne Sentinel published a few lines of its own about that ancient race and their equally mysterious disappearance. It read:
There appears to be a gap in the history of the world, so far as relates to them, which can never be filled up; . . . we may picture them in our minds as a flourishing and mighty nation, possessing all the advantages and blessings of civil and religious liberty; powerful in wealth and natural resources; combining moral and political excellence; and seated upon the pinnacle of national prosperity and glory — and we may suppose that some dreadful plague, some natural calamity swept them from the face of the earth; or perhaps like Sodom and Gomorrah of old, their natural sins became so heinous, that the Almighty in his wrath utterly annihilated them; — but after all our own conjectures. . . Who they were and from whence they sprung; . . remains locked up in the womb of the past. (O. Turner, Pioneer History of the Holland Purchase of Western New York., p.20).
Unfortunately, far too many of the Saints are unaware of the overwhelming evidence that a race of civilized people, whose relics speak volumes about their obvious ties to the people of the Book of Mormon, once occupied western New York. Thus, sadly, other than the Hill Cumorah itself, which is the only known landmark we have of that ancient time in history, the actual land of Zarahemla and the other territories noted in the Book of Mormon have remained essentially hidden. It is no wonder people keep searching for them. Yet strangely, regardless of the mass of evidence of a civilized race in the area, and at the right time in history, that being 600 B.C., most geographers chose settings far removed from New York, some even thousands of miles away, suggesting that the Nephites marched hundreds, or even a thousand miles to their final place of doom around the Hill Cumorah. Some geographers have even suggested that there was a second Hill Cumorah closer to their proposed setting which they figure would negate any need for such a long march to the hill in New York. Unfortunately, because so many flaws keep showing up in the various theories, more theories keep cropping up in hopes that it might be the one to win supremacy in the search for Zarahemla and the lost lands of the Book of Mormon, with some geographers even getting heated at times in their arguments against another’s setting. Such a distressing subject is even difficult to talk about. Thus, let the short video review of the evolution of Book of Mormon geography suffice before moving on to more productive issues.
How It All Began
As the Saints moved further and further away from New York during their early years of persecution and exile, the memory of Cumorah soon faded from their minds. Even so, the question about where Book of Mormon activity took place was never far from their minds. Gratefully, once the Saints were finally settled in their new Rocky Mountain homes and more and more time was freed up for a serious study of the Book of Mormon, it became obvious that the popular hemispheric model of that time had to be pared down some, for the Book of Mormon makes it pretty clear that it only took the Nephites a few days to journey from one city to the next, not weeks or months. Thus, the more limited Mesoamerican setting was born, a theory which lasted for decades.
The relatively new Heartland theory challenged the former works, yet it too takes in a couple thousand miles, just as the hemispheric model did, although it was limited to just the eastern third of America. Yet, a continuing study of the Book of Mormon makes it more and more obvious to the serious student of the Book of Mormon that the saga played out in the Book of Mormon took in only a limited area, one small enough that armies could march from city to city in just a day or two to help defend a neighbor’s city, or to help build or repair a town or city destroyed by the Lamanites-not across hundreds or even thousands of miles, a limited region exactly like the ancient lands of western and central New York.
The following short video lays out the limited New York setting- a setting of ample size for all the activity noted in the Book of Mormon, with one southwestern county alone bigger even than some European countries.
New York’s Ancient Lands of the Book of Mormon
Before the case can be made for the superiority of the New York setting over more distant settings, it is important that a quick review of the setting itself be reviewed as a base for our ongoing discussion. While ample archaeological evidence makes it clear that western and central New York were once populated by an ancient civilization that left forts behind that were built exactly like those built by the Nephites, the landscape of the area has changed over the years which has made it more difficult to pin-point various Book of Mormon landmarks, and reconcile certain geographical descriptions. That fact alone makes it clear why ancient Zarahemla and the other lands noted in the book of Mormon have remained hidden these many years. Thus, we must first go back in time to an era when primeval forests and great glacial seas once filled the land from one end to the other, for only by reconstructing that ancient setting can we hope to outline the lost lands of the Book of Mormon. Gratefully, after years of researching the ancient New York landscape, the lands of the Book of Mormon have finally come to life–right where they have been all along.
Follow the Nephites from Jerusalem to their new world setting in the following video and get a feel for the ancient landscape they settled, which will be scrutinized further as we begin to examine the evidence required to decide if it meets all the requirements needed to be the true lands of the Book of Mormon.
Examining The Evidence
If the various settings proposed for the Book of Mormon were on trial, opposing attorneys would be required to lay out the case in favor of their clients setting. Such scrutiny would include reconciling various landmarks and geographical descriptions provided in the scriptures with each proposed setting, including such things a narrow neck of land, or a sea that divided the land, or a land of many waters and their relation to various Nephite towns and cities, and the time it took to get there.
Even such things as the weather must be debated, for certain geographers have chosen to make the weather an issue in determining the location of Book of Mormon territory, supposing that it was too cold in New York, and thus must be in a tropical setting since the Lamanites were described as wearing nothing but loin cloths at one point in the Book of Mormon narrative. Would a good lawyer be able to reconcile that scripture with the New York setting, or any other for that matter? And what would be the argument for or against those same weather conditions in relation to the grains grown in Book of Mormon territory, not all of which thrive in a tropical setting?
But, there is more! Each attorney must present evidence that such things as horses and elephants, and the cureloms and cummons mentioned in the Book of Mormon show up in the archaeological record of each setting, for everything must fit when trying to outline a true and viable candidate for the lost lands of the Book of Mormon, not just a few things. It is not enough to find one landmark, or one sea, or a narrow neck of land someplace in one’s efforts to lay out a proper model for Book of Mormon geography. Each model must include each and every geographical description included in the Book of Mormon, and each of the issues thus described. The New York setting meets that challenge-a challenge described in much more detail in the following video.
Tying the Scriptures to the Land
The Book of Mormon documents the movement of the Nephites t from the land of Nephi to the land of Zarahemla and then on into Bountiful and the land northward over their long stay in the land, each of which can outlined in western and central New York. The Prophet Mormon made every effort to include a detailed geographical description to each of the lands the Nephites came to settled which some now call Mormon’s Map. Those trying to reconcile this area with the geographical descriptions provided in the Book of Mormon will find various clues interspersed throughout the text.
Book of Mormon Archaeology
The archaeology of the Jaredites is still one more way to illuminate the lands of the Book of Mormon, for New York presents evidence of elephants, silk, gold and other minerals, along with all the grains noted in the Book of Mormon –all of which adds strength to the premise that New York is the rightful location of Book of Mormon events, for many of these things are lacking in other settings.
DNA & the Book of Mormon
Not only does the topography of New York fit the geographical descriptions given in the Book of Mormon, but recent DNA evidence now links many of the ancient occupants of the region to the Near East, which includes Israel, just as the Book of Mormon claims
The Nephite’s Ties to the Hopewell
Over the course of the Nephites nine hundred years in the land, many of the Nephites moved out into various directions, some of which became affiliated with the great Hopewell Culture flourishing along the Ohio and Mississippi River. Their story is important as well, for it helps illuminate the overall story of the Nephites and the lands they untimely came to settle.
Before reading Phyllis Olives’ book, The Lost Lands of the Book of Mormon, I was a deeply entrenched in the idea that the Book of Mormon lands were in Chili as anyone could possibly be. In fact, I almost didn’t read this book because I didn’t think the idea had much merit. I’m so glad I changed my mind and read it. She answered all my questions about why Mormons believe the BOM lands to be in Central America or Chili and why she believes it isn’t a valid theory. She then explains beautifully why she placed the BOM lands in upstate New York, so beautifully that I am completely convinced that she is correct. I can’t believe it fits so perfectly and yet more people haven’t made the same connection. Thank you Phyllis Olive for opening my eyes. You’ve made reading the Book of Mormon a more exiting and personal experience for me because I can now more fully picture the scenes describe in the scriptures, I look forward to reading anything more this wonderful author has to write and plan to share her books with my friends. – Judy Olin, Delaware
FINALLY! The simplicity of truth. I was excited to finally read a book that has been researched so completely that it cannot be disputed by anyone of reputable intelligence. There are many who are looking for proof positive of the location of the lands described in the Book of Mormon and while that may never be what the Lord has in mind, I feel this author has touched on so many important facts and findings that this is the most logical and believable theory to date. One needs only to get through the first chapter before realizing what should have been obvious from the beginning. The simplicity of the truth is often the most difficult for learned men to believe. Her use of ancient maps, scripture, and prophecy combine to create a literary symphony never before seen in this field of study. I offer my gratitude to the author for all her hard work. Linda Carrillo to www. Deseretbook.com on July 29, 2002
It has taken me years to find a setting for the Book of Mormon that I can really believe in. Daily scripture study has actually made it more difficult for me to go along with the Mesoamerican setting. A few years ago I read Phyllis Carol Olive’s The Lost Land of The Book of Mormon. As my wife and I have reread the book of Mormon, we have put Phyllis Olive’s map to the test. It is a delight to study the Book of Mormon with family, having a geographical map that makes detailed scriptural sense–At Last! (Vincent Coon, Ph. D. Physics)
You do not know me, but you have made me think— and ponder—and deliberate sooooo many things. I have been so stirred by your book—I got to finish it yesterday—that my night was filled with ideas. I am convinced that you are right. I prayed yesterday morning particularly about it, and all of these ideas seem to be reinforcing my conclusions. I think that I want this location to be true simply because of the facts that not only was the gospel restored here, but this is the land of promise! We have never had a king. There are so many reason that I am absolutely excited about it. . . . I shall wait for the next book. Thank you so much. Polly.
I really liked this book! I’ve been interested in the theories of Book of Mormon geography for many years and have bought several and read many more. But for the first time I enjoyed reading the whole book without becoming more confused than when I started! For me this subject is like putting together a giant jigsaw puzzle, and over the years I could see a few pieces fit here and a few there, but it was/and is far from finished. However, I feel as if reading this book has helped me find all the outer-edge pieces! I believe it encompasses the truth. My interest is once again heightened for the fun of searching out the complete picture. I truly believe the United States is the land choice above all others that is spoken of in the Book of Mormon and that the Hill Cumorah in New York is the only one. I believe the Lord delights in plainess. (not complications) And I think the Lamanites did dwindle in unbelief as Phyllis Olive describes and their main descendants are the American Indians. (A review by Darla Bushman for www.Deseretbook.com on March 10, 2003.)