A study of the history of the entire drainage basin of the Great Lakes region makes it all too obvious that the ancient landscape of New York during the Archaic period was somewhat different than it is today, and remained so for several millennium. It had just gone through the last of the great Ice Ages and the weather was considerably warmer than it is today which allowed the residual glaciers to continue to melt. This warm, humid condition and the various bodies of water left ponded in western and central New York made this region an especially appealing place to settle.
Yet, a look at the land as it appeared in prehistoric times presents a somewhat different picture of the landscape than the one we would see today. Yet, those trying to reconcile this area with the geographical descriptions provided in the Book of Mormon will find various clues interspersed throughout the text. For example, they inform us that the Hill Ramah/Cumorah lay just to the south of Ripliancum, which the Jaredites claim means “large” or “to exceed all,” which can only mean Lake Ontario, or its larger predecessor Lake Iroquois. Moreover, the Prophet Ether informs us that their final battles took them eastward toward the Hill Ramah. Thus we can place at least one of their kingdoms in western New York. Further, both the Nephites and Jaredites described the territory around the Hill Ramah/Cumorah as being a land of many waters; a description which fits the lands around the Hill Cumorah perfectly, for the entire region is simply filled with water, including literally thousands of streams, creeks, ponds, and eleven finger lakes which extend from north to south across the land like great fingers of water ranging in length from three miles to forty. Even the topographical features of western New York fit the lands described in the Book of Mormon, each having highlands to the south and flat lands to the north, a land of lush forests and fertile fields; a land highly coveted by the Lamanites.
Unfortunately, our view of Book of Mormon territory has often been too grand, thinking it must surely have been greater than what is implied in the text. But, without the modern means of transportation and communication we take so for granted today, documenting the history of an enormous area would have next to impossible for any one scribe—especially in those regions where prophets were not welcomed. Thus, only the history in the small territory of western New York, the religious center of the Nephites throughout their sojourn in the promised land, was recorded on the gold plates for those of our day. It was the place the brass plates were kept, as well as the Liahona, the sword of Laban, the gold plates of the Jaredites, and the plates of Nephi, both large and small. Thus, only the events that transpired in that limited region were recorded on the sacred plates, a region which evidence shows to be one of the greatest areas of distribution for the ancients of New York. All other regions kept their own records.
The region of western New York may seem small to some, but we might remember that the biblical lands of the Old World were similarly small. We might remember that when King Benjamin called the people of Zarahemla together to inform them that his son Mosiah would succeed him to the throne, the people gathered in just one day, for he taught them on the morrow. Thus, they probably did not travel more than about twenty miles, or less. (See Mosiah 1:10.) Remember also, that when King Mosiah called forth the people to hear the account of Zeniff, he called forth all the people which by this time including not only the Nephites but the Mulekites as well, an enormous group, but one still small enough to be taught, albeit in two separate groups. Moreover, those who were baptized following that sobering occasion, continued their instructions in the various churches scattered throughout the land, the number of which was only seven, far fewer than one might expect for the entire Northeastern Woodlands. (See Mosiah 25:18-24.) Surely this was a limited region, one often described in quarters as though it were a square, with various battles fought.
Now, in light of the sheer number of artifacts found in the area, and the comments of those who excavated the territory before the encroachment of civilization wiped the land clean of its ancient relics, ample evidence exists that vanished races once lived in western New York. Artifacts abound, numerous fortifications similar to those described in the scriptures dot the landscape, and all the animals, grains and minerals mentioned in the Book of Mormon can be successfully reconciled with the region in one way or another. But, of even greater significance, nowhere else can we find more successful correlations between the topography of a given land and those described in the Book of Mormon. For this reason, and because the lands in question were located in the promised land (United States of America), the territory of western New York is worthy of serious consideration in the search for the lost lands of the Nephites and Jaredites.
Copyright © 1998 by Phyllis Carol Olive
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