Land of Promise in The Book of Mormon

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A popular argument among Great Lake theorists, is the Promised Land theory. The Book of Mormon states several times that the land which they were led to, was the “promised land”, or a “choice land”. According to The Book of Mormon, the Promised Land shall be a land of liberty, with no kings upon the land [1], and be discovered by a Gentile whom the Spirit of God wrought, to cross “many waters” [2] in order to find, among many others.

The “Gentile” who discovered the Americas is generally thought to be Christopher Columbus. In the 1879 Book of Mormon, Orson Pratt added the footnote to 1 Nephi 13:12 which named this “gentile” as Christopher Columbus. Columbus began writing a book called “Book of Prophecies” and in this book

“set forth views on himself as the fulfiller of biblical prophecies! Columbus saw himself as fulfilling the ‘islands of the sea’ passages from Isaiah and another group of verses concerning the conversion of the heathen. Watts reports that Columbus was preoccupied with ‘the final conversion of all races on the eve of the end of the world,’ paying particular attention to John 10:16: ‘And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold’ (see also 3 Nephi 16:3). He took his mission of spreading the gospel of Christ seriously. ‘made me the messenger of the new heaven and the new earth. . . .  He showed me the spot where to find it,’ Columbus wrote in 1500.” [3]

As the scripture says, the Spirit led the gentile to the Promised land, the Spirit also led Columbus to the Americas.

The prevailing opinion is that Columbus discovered America, or the United States. But in all actuality, Christopher Columbus discovered islands in the Caribbean, and Central and South America. He never stepped foot on what we now know as the United States. His first two voyages were only to the Bahamas, his third to the Bahamas and the Northern portion of South America, and his fourth to the Bahamas and Central America. If 1 Nephi 13:12 is referring to Christopher Columbus, that would mean the land he discovered was part of the “promised land”.

But would Central America pass the test of being a “land of liberty, with no kings upon the land”? In FAIR’s article reviewing the work of a popular Great Lakes theorist, they answer this question by saying:

“As we have already seen, ‘this land’ cannot be read as [Great Lakes Theorists] relatively small area in the United States. It is interesting to read what Orson Hyde would have said in answer to [his] question, ‘Anyone want to guess what land we’re talking about?’

‘THERE SHALL NO KING BE RAISED UP ON THIS LAND; AND WHOSOEVER SEEKETH TO RAISE UP A KING ON THIS LAND SHALL PERISH.’ [Quoting 2 Nephi 10:11] ‘This land,’ means both North and South America, and also the families of islands that geographically and naturally belong and adhere to the same.

Were he not more than a century too early, Orson Hyde could have expanded on the answer to [his] question:

There are promises and decrees of God in relation to ‘land’ of an extraordinary character. No other land can boast of the same. How beautifully does the spirit of the above prophetic sentiment chime in with the great American principle, ‘that no foreign prince, potentate, or sovereign will be allowed to interfere in the affairs of this Continent!’ Spain must give up Cuba; England, Canada and the United States of America must hold, as her dependencies, every country on the Western Continent, with the islands along its borders.” [4]

A “land of promise” can be different places to different people, because it is land that the Lord has covenanted to his people. [5] To the Israelites, it was Israel, [6] to Enos and his people, it was the land of Cainan. [7] It is possible that it will be promised for “a little season,” [8] or it can be a heavenly promised land we all wish to obtain. [9] It is not a definite term that is used for places of earth, but has a spiritual meaning of what God covenants to give you.

“The operative word in the Land of Promise is not ‘Land.’ It is ‘Promise.’ A promise is a covenant involving two parties. It is a divine contract…with God. The land is given to the covenant people only as long as they continue faithful.” [10]

One writer correctly defines the Nephite “promised land” as “all of the North and South America.” He continues “Some have tried to narrowly apply the concept of the Promised Land to the United States…” which is a “significant part of the Land of Promise…. So also is Canada, Mexico, South America, and Mesoamerica part of the Promised Lands.” [11]

The History of the Church states “…these two American continents [North and South]. These continents are a promised land.” [12]

Joseph Smith stated “…speaking of the Land of Zion, It consists of all N[orth] & S[outh] America but that any place where the Saints gather is Zion which every righteous man will build up for a place of safety for his children…The redemption of Zion is the redemption of all N[orth] & S[outh] America.” [13]

A North and South America Promised Land was also taught by several modern Prophets and leaders like Wilford Woodruff , [14] Ezra Taft Benson, [15] and many others. [16] It cannot be placed in one area only, or nation, and still be compatible with the scriptures.

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  1. 2 Nephi 10:11.
  2. 1 Nephi 13:12.
  3. Ed. John W. Welch, Re-Exploring The Book of Mormon, Columbus: By Faith or Reason?, chapter 9.
  4. http://www.fairlds.org/DNA_Evidence_for_Book_of_Mormon_Geography/DEBMG04F.html#en37, accessed May 16, 2009
  5. 2 Nephi 1:5; D&C 51:16.
  6. 1 Nephi 17:33, D&C 124:38, Hebrews 11:9.
  7. Moses 6:17.
  8. D&C 51:16–17.
  9. Alma 37:45.
  10. John L. Lund, Mesoamerica and The Book of Mormon: Is This the Place? (The Communication Company 2007), p. 46.
  11. Ibid., p. 45.
  12. B.H. Roberts, History of the Church, p. 552fn.
  13. Martha Jane Knowlton Coray, edited by Dean C. Jessee, “Joseph Smith’s July 19, 1840 Discourse,” Brigham Young University Studies 19:3 (Spring 1979), p. 392.
  14. “This land, North and South America, is the land of Zion; it is a choice land—the land that was given by promise from old father Jacob to his grandson and his descendants, the land on which the Zion of God should be established in the latter days.” Journal of Discourses (12 January 1873), 15:279.
  15. “This is our need today—to plant the standard of liberty among our people throughout the Americas… the struggle for liberty is a continuing one—it is with us in a very real sense today right here on this choice land of the Americas.” Conference Report (October 1962), pp. 14–15; “To the peoples who should inhabit this blessed land of the Americas, the Western Hemisphere, an ancient prophet uttered this significant promise and solemn warning.” Conference Report (October 1944), p. 128.
  16. Milton R. Hunter: “This is one of the most important days of my life, and in the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints…. We came in full view of the valley of the Great Salt Lake; the land of promise, held in reserve by God, as a resting place for his Saints.” Conference Report (April 1947), p. 67.
    Orson Pratt: “And the Lord gave unto them the whole continent, for a land of promise….” Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions and of the Late Discovery of Ancient American Records (Edinburgh: Ballantyne and Hughes, 1840); cited in David J. Whittaker, The Essential Orson Pratt (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1991), p. 11.
    Orson Pratt: “We are not in possession of our land of promise particularly, only as we obtain it by a renewed promise; but we are inheriting a land that was given to the remnant of Joseph, and God has said that we must be remembered with them in the possession of this land.” Journal of Discourses (1 November 1868), 12:322.

18 thoughts on “Land of Promise in The Book of Mormon

  1. Arlin Nusbaum

    Does your view apply to Israel?

    Their borders are clear, and YES the “land” IS VERY IMPORTANT!

    Are you aware of the prophecies regarding people being “RESTORED” to “THEIR LANDS”? According to you, it’s the promises needing to be restored, no one needs to go anywhere.

    Your approach disclaims any need for the Jews to be restored to their home lands. It also negates what was fought for, prayed for, and that blood was spilt over, whether in Israel or the Book of Mormon!

    In your view (as well as those whom you cite) Lehi could have stopped ANYWHERE out there and it would have been fine – “it’s the promises not the land” right?

    Where is God’s will respected, anywhere? Did He not promise them their own lands? Did He not lead them there by the Liahona? I find the defense disgusting and have a hard time accepting that Nephi, Jared, or Mormon would condone this dilution of their hard fought land promises.

    You as well as other authors should put disclosures on your writings that say:

    “My priority is to filter and interpret what the Book of Mormon says to fit what our General Authorities have said.”

    The problem with that position is those General Authorities acted while under a mandate of condemnation according to D&C 84:56 and President Benson (Ensign, May, 1986, p. 4).

  2. Tyler Livingston Post author

    Why is the land important? Because God covenanted to give it to them, otherwise it would just be like any other land, as referenced in my post. Perhaps you should re-read my post because you are beating a straw man right now. I never argued that the land should be disregarded, as you assume. My point was that any land can be a promised land IF God makes it a promised land (see the examples I give). There are many promised lands, but some North American geography theorists claim that the promised land is what is now the USA. According to scripture and our leaders words, that is not the case.

    I will leave your mis-representation of D/C 84:56 for another time. It never seems to have a positive outcome to reason with fundamentalists. I know you believe you are an authority on the BOM and, according to your website are “on a mission to educate the world about what the Book of Mormon does and does not teach” after your apostasy from the LDS Church, but again, rational argument will do better for you than outlandish claims.

  3. Arlin Nusbaum

    Really?

    It is not a definite term that is used for places of earth, but has a spiritual meaning of what God covenants to give you.

    Hmmm…

    “The operative word in the Land of Promise is not ‘Land.’ It is ‘Promise.’

    And this:

    It cannot be placed in one area only, or nation, and still be compatible with the scriptures.

    Honestly.

  4. Tyler Livingston Post author

    Yes, really. Read my OP, I site examples.

    It is a promised land because God made it a promised land, otherwise, it is just land.

    If the *only* promised land was in Israel, then there would be no promise land in the Americas. I am not sure why you are arguing against that, or any other of the moot points you bring up.

  5. Arlin Nusbaum

    How about some reality.

    Had you not begun your post disparaging adherents of the Great Lakes area, your hasty generalizations would have been accepted – in some hasty, general way.

    Specifically regarding “Book of Mormon” land promises, what should you be looking for?

    1. White Gentiles.

    2. By the multitudes.

    3. Gain ownership of ancient Book of Mormon lands.

    Let’s see how you comprehend those before going on to the other 20+ fulfilled land promises.

  6. Steven Danderson

    Arlin, if you MUST have the “promised land” in the Book of Mormon in the USA, at the least you should place the Land Southward where 1. it is “nearly surrounded by water” [Alma 22:32], and 2. with a northward-flowing river [See Alma 22:27]. There is, of course, only one area in the USA that meets these and other criteria: Florida.

    The beauty of that setting is that, since the Land Northward is also part of the promised land, and the Book of Mormon says little about it, you can make the Land Northward cover whatever area you please!

    Just please don’t do violence to geographic markers plainly written in the Book of Mormon text!

  7. Arlin Nusbaum

    Interesting sentiments seeing you ignore the four seas that surround the Land Northward and are ignorant of what part of the Land Southward was not surrounded by water, which configuration works only in Western New York.

  8. Steven Danderson

    Mr. Nusbaum:

    Question: Where is the “narrow neck of land” separating the Land Northward from the Land Southward in western NY?

    Question: What other seas are there besides the East and West Seas?

    Question: Where is the northward-flowing river in western NY?

    Inquiring minds want to know! ;)

  9. Steven Danderson

    I saw your site. Thanks for the link.

    However, a Book of Mormon reference to those four seas would be nice, so I can check it out in context.

  10. Steven Danderson

    Thank you for the reference.

    While that verse certainly could be understood that way, I’m not sure that it actually does.

    Even accepting that it does, there is that decided lack of a Sea South in upstate New York.

    Score one for Mesoamerica, which has all four seas. ;)

  11. Arlin Nusbaum

    The Sea North IS Lake Ontario and the Sea South is Lake Tonawanda. Please read before you making further comments. There is ONLY one way to read the verse and ALL four seas should appear on ones Internal Map. If they don’t, then bias is at work, it’s as simple as that and no one need consider that person’s model further.

  12. Steven Danderson

    Arlin Nusbaum Says:

    The Sea North IS Lake Ontario and the Sea South is Lake Tonawanda.

    With Lake Tonawanda as the South Sea, you are making the entire Land Southward into a small neck of land. To properly align the lands with the text, you have to rotate the land about 90 degrees counterclockwise.

    Moreover, you’re still missing that small neck of land to the north; it is blocked by the Saint Lawrence River (or, perhaps, the Niagara River).

    Furthermore, Lake Tonawanda disappeared thousands of years ago–well before either Lehi’s or Jared’s bands landed.

    There is ONLY one way to read the verse

    Tyler appears to be right; you DO appear to be a fundamentalist. May I remind you that accepting only one possible meaning for the text caused Jewish fundamentalists to completely miss the fact that Jesus Christ is Saviour and Lord?

    ALL four seas should appear on ones Internal Map. If they don’t, then bias is at work….

    Bias, or, more accurately, preconception, is ALWAYS at work. Each of us has a mental picture of the world we live in, based on past observation and experience.

    The trick is to not let any preconception get in the way of the facts. ;)

    [I]t’s as simple as that and no one need consider that person’s model further.

    no, it’s not as simple as that. While a person might not get one facet right, it doesn’t follow that EVERYTHING is wrong. In fact, that person might get another facet right that completely eluded you.

  13. Arlin Nusbaum

    Danderson, you are confusing our model with another:

    you are making the entire Land Southward into a small neck of land. To properly align the lands with the text, you have to rotate the land about 90 degrees counterclockwise.

    No wonder you accept Louisiana as a candidate.

    Moreover, you’re still missing that small neck of land to the north; it is blocked by the Saint Lawrence River (or, perhaps, the Niagara River).

    ??? Please READ without imposing YOUR “preconceived” views. Honestly.

    Bias, or, more accurately, preconception, is ALWAYS at work. Each of us has a mental picture of the world we live in, based on past observation and experience.

    The trick is to not let any preconception get in the way of the facts

    Where’s your Internal Map? We’ll see if you ignore verse.

    While a person might not get one facet right, it doesn’t follow that EVERYTHING is wrong. In fact, that person might get another facet right that completely eluded you.

    Hopeless – no offense.

    “One facet” like no Sea North, or no Sea South CAN and DOES demolish a model.

    Before you presume to teach, show us what you know. Where’s your Internal Map? Or don’t you respect FAIR, Clark, or Sorenson?

  14. Steven Danderson

    Arlin Nusbaum says:

    Danderson, you are confusing our model with another

    That is probable.It was after I wrote that comment that I saw from your map that your South Sea was a bay to the east of the narrow neck.

    However, since you place your South Sea to the north of the Land Southward, you ignore the text that states that the Land Southward is “nearly surrounded by water” [Alma 22:32].

    More below.

    No wonder you accept Louisiana as a candidate.

    Actually, I do not. I have other reasons for not accepting Louisiana as the Land Southward.

    Really, Sir, I think you should read more carefully.

    ??? Please READ without imposing YOUR “preconceived” views. Honestly.

    So that you can impose yours on me?

    In that case, my “‘preconceived’ views” came from the text of the Book of Mormon. Looking at the external map of the area that you say fits your model, I failed to see a narrow neck of land that met the textual critera.

    Where’s your Internal Map? We’ll see if you ignore verse.

    I don’t have an actual map posted. However, I have verbal descriptions that are not too different from that posted in BYU’s old REL 121/122 Book of Mormon atudy textbook.

    Those verbal descriptions are posted:
    http://www.fairblog.org/2008/10/05/usingand-misusing-scholarship-and-revelation/
    and
    http://www.fairblog.org/2009/03/31/a-look-at-meldrums-revised-dvd/

    Hopeless – no offense.

    None taken. I feel about the same about you! ;)

    Before you presume to teach, show us what you know.

    I really don’t KNOW where the Land Southward is. There ARE, however, three candidates that, geography- and climate-wise, meet the criteria that I described in my references above.

    I DO, however, know many places where the Book of Mormon did NOT happen! ;)

    Where’s your Internal Map? Or don’t you respect FAIR, Clark, or Sorenson?

    I certainly do respect them. That is why I’m not presuming to know where the land are. ;)

  15. Arlin Nusbaum

    This note is for latecomers, the name of our model is “Western New York” model.

    Click on my name for a link to the details.

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