Zarahemla - Story

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According to the Book of Mormon, the Nephite Mosiah and his followers “discovered that the people of Zarahemla came out from Jerusalem at the time that Zedekiah king of Judah, was carried away captive into Babylon” (about 587 B.C.) The Book of Mormon relates that the surviving seed of Zedekiah “journeyed in the wilderness, and were brought by the hand of the Lord across the great waters” to the Western Hemisphere. The book of Omni in the Book of Mormon tells how Zarahemla and his people came to settle the land of Zarahemla in the New World. Mosiah and his refugee people presumably united with the people of Zarahemla sometime between 279 and 130 B.C. “Mosiah was appointed to be their king.” Mosiah thereafter presided in the land of Zarahemla over a people called collectively “the Nephites”. The Land of Zarahemla was the Nephite capital for many years.

Notable Book of Mormon descendents of the leader Zarahemla include Ammon the venturer and Coriantumr the dissenter. Ammon led a quest in search of a colony that had left the land of Zarahemla in order to resettle a city named Lehi-Nephi. The dissenter Coriantumr led the Lamanites in battle against the Nephites in the first century B.C.

At some point before Mosiah discovered Zarahemla, the people of Zarahemla had discovered Coriantumr (not to be confused with the later Nephite dissenter of the same name). According to the Book of Mormon, Coriantumr was the last of a destroyed nation called the Jaredites. Coriantumr stayed with the people of Zarahemla "for the space of nine moons" (Omni 1:21) before dying and being buried by them (Ether 13:21).

Benjamin succeeded his father Mosiah as the second Nephite king of Zarahemla. King Benjamin was victorious in driving Lamanites enemies from the Zarahemla region.

The Book of Mormon indicates that Nephite cites were built of timber. There is no explicit reference in the Book of Mormon to any Nephite city or building made of hewn stone. At the time of the crucifixion of Christ, the Book of Mormon records that “there were exceedingly sharp lightnings, such as never had been known in all the land. And the city of Zarahemla did take fire.” "And it came to pass that there was a voice heard among all the inhabitants of the earth...'because of their iniquity and abominations...that great city Zarahemla have I burned with fire, and the inhabitants thereof...I am Jesus Christ, the Son of God.'" (3 Nephi, 9: 1, 2, 3, 15.) The Book of Mormon indicates that “the great city of Zarahemla” was rebuilt sometime in the first century A.D. As his doomed nation retreated northward from their enemies, the 4th century prophet and historian Mormon recorded that Nephite “towns, and villages, and cities were burned with fire.”

Some Mormon writers identify the Lamanites with the Mayans. This tradition can be traced back to two early Mormon sources: (1) the exaggerated hemispheric setting for the Book of Mormon promoted by some LDS (e.g. Orson Pratt), and (2) the later influence of John Lloyd Stephens’ 1841 bestseller, Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas, and Yucatan. Other LDS emphasize the unmistakable connection made in LDS scripture between peoples identified as “Lamanites”, and North American tribes of the Great Lakes region, including the mound builder (people). The Book of Mormon does not indicate that the city of Zarahemla survived to be occupied by Lamanites after the destruction of the Nephite nation.

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