As Mormon edited the Book of Mormon, he must have had a map in his mind of the places and physical features that were the setting for the events described in that book. In Mormon's Map, a new book from FARMS, John L. Sorenson attempts to reconstruct that mental map"Mormon's Map"using information in the Book of Mormon text.
Mormon's Map provides a comprehensive map of the entire area in which Lehi's descendants lived in the promised land, as well as 18 other helpful maps of smaller areas and clear discussion of the maps' features. The maps are all internal, meaning that they are constructed based only on textual informationthey are not pinned to any real-world location. Sorenson uses stories in the record, such as accounts of wars and journeys, to glean information about distances traveled and the length of time taken to cover those distances.
The book is divided into chapters that discuss the overall shape of the land, the environment of the Nephites, climate, topography, distances and directions, civilization, and historical geography. Maps are integrated with the chapters and clearly illustrate such events as Alma the Younger's missionary journeys, the locations of different Book of Mormon peoples, and the final retreat of the Nephites into the land northward.
Mormon's Map answers such general questions as, What is the overall shape of the Book of Mormon lands? and What can we learn about distances and directions? It also answers more specific questions like, Why were Moroni and Pahoran even more angry and concerned over the dissenters who seized power in the center of Nephite lands than they were over the powerful Lamanite armies on the periphery? and How was geography central to the defeat of the robbers of Giddianhi?
One example of detailed discussion relates to the river Sidon. Sorenson explains, "When Moroni drove Lamanite inhabitants out of the area along the east sea and established garrison cities (see Alma 50:7, 911), he focused on fortifying along a defense "line" against anticipated Lamanite attacks. That line logically had a physical basis; it could well have been one of the branch distribution channels by which the waters of the Sidon reached the sea."
Sorenson also notes that "quite surely the Sidon did not flow to the west sea, because to the west a mountain range ranthe one that protected the land of Melek. This means that the continental divide was also on the west side. The divide separated streamslikely quite steep and smallthat drained into the sea west from tributaries of the Sidon."
The scriptures are meant to cause us to "lift up [our] hearts and rejoice" (2 Nephi 11:8), and we do that most fully when we penetrate as thoroughly as possible what was in the hearts and minds of the scripture makers at the time they wrote. We can learn the most from their message when we can empathize with their pains, puzzle over their problems, and join with them in their joys. The maps and explanations in Mormon's Map intensify the sense of reality with which we envision the events, scenes, and characters in the Book of Mormon.