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Where Were the Waters of Mormon?

A Little Thicket of Trees

Where Science Meets the Book of Mormon: Come Follow Me Lesson: May 20-26; Mosiah 18-24

We read in Mosiah 18:4-6, 30, 31, 34; and 19:1: “And it came to pass that as many as did believe him [Alma] did go forth to a place which was called Mormon, having received its name from the king, being in the borders of the land having been infested, by times or at seasons, by wild beasts. Now, there was in Mormon a fountain of pure water, and Alma resorted thither, there being near the water a thicket of small trees, where he did hide himself in the daytime from the searches of the king. And it came to pass that as many as believed him went thither to hear his words…And now it came to pass that all this was done in Mormon, yea, by the waters of Mormon, in the forest that was near the waters of Mormon; yea, the place of Mormon, the waters of Mormon, the forest of Mormon, how beautiful are they to the eyes of them who there came to the knowledge of their Redeemer; yea, and how blessed are they, for they shall sing to his praise forever. And these things were done in the borders of the land, that they might not come to the knowledge of the king…And it came to pass that Alma and the people of the Lord were apprised of the coming of the king’s army; therefore they took their tents and their families and departed into the wilderness…And it came to pass that the army of the king returned, having searched in vain for the people of the Lord.”


These verses describe a place, “in the borders of the land,” which was infested, by times or at seasons, by wild beasts,” with “a fountain of pure water,” and “a thicket of small trees.” The place was called “the forest of Mormon.” From there they “departed into the wilderness.”

Two weeks ago, I speculated that the land between Zarahemla and Lehi-Nephi might be jungle because whenever anyone ventured into that area they got lost. However, last week, I discussed where grapes grew in the area of King Noah’s kingdom — and that is not likely a jungle setting — nor was it likely to be in Central America except possibly Guatemala. The above information suggests that the Waters of Mormon were in a forest and near a small grove of trees. Speaking of a forest and grove of trees makes no sense if the entire land was covered in jungle. Therefore, these data suggest a setting that was more open, perhaps with interspersed forests. However, the Forest of Mormon was in borders of the land, so the occupied land may have bee clear-cut or burned forest or even jungle.

From the Waters of Mormon, Alma and his people “departed into the wilderness,” so the forest or possibly jungle may have become thicker and denser beyond the “thicket of small trees,” which may have grown or grown back on the edge of the “land.” The statement that the thicket was “infested, by times or at seasons, by wild beasts,” suggests that it was at the edge of an area — forest or jungle — more commonly inhabited by wild beasts.

  With Lehi’s family departing the Arabian Peninsula, the prevailing current, the Agulhas Current, would have carried them south along east coast of Africa, where the Benguela Current and the South Equatorial Current could have carried them into the Gulf of Mexico. Alternatively, the Brazil Current could have carried them south along the east coast of South America. If they arrived in the Gulf of Mexico, they could have landed in Mexico or the south coast of the United States. Both of those areas have wild grapes. All along the east coast of Mexico — Veracruz and into the Yucatan Peninsula, is tropical forest. The native forests on the east coast of Mexico were apparently clear-cut where large settlements were established. The US Gulf Coast is Longleaf Pine, Oak, and Hickory forest.

If Lehi’s colony arrived in Veracruz or the Yucatan Peninsula, they would likely have encountered and intermixed with the Huastecs, Otomis, Totonacs, Olmecs, and/or Mayas. If the colony landed on what is now the south coast of the United States, they would have encountered native people of the so-called “North American Woodland Period” — the forerunners of the Hopewell Culture (100 BC to 500 AD). Warren Moorehead coined the term Hopewell for that Culture after his 1891-1892 excavations of the “Hopewell Mounds” in Ross County, Ohio. The mound group was named for the Hopewell family who owned the property where the mounds are located. Little is known about the Hopewell people: what they called themselves, what language they spoke, or even if they were one or more cultures.1 Some people even think the Hopewells were the Nephites.2


Trent Dee Stephens, PhD



1.     Romain, William F., Mysteries of the Hopewell: Astronomers, Geometers, and Magicians of the Eastern Woodlands (Ohio History and Culture, University of Akron Press, Akron, Ohio, 2000


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