According to the
Book of Mormon, the Land of Zarahemla (popularly attributed to Biblical Hebrewזֶרַע חֶמְלָה unicode|Zéraʻ Ḥemlā "seed of compassion") was the Nephitecapital for many years, and it was discovered by Mosiah sometime between 323 and 130 B.C. Its original inhabitants told Mosiah that they too were Jews who went out from Jerusalem at the time of Zedekiah, the last king of Judah, and were called the people of Zarahemla, or the Mulekitesby modern people. The king of Zarahemla (also named Zarahemla) claimed to be a descendant of the people's namesake, Mulek, whom they said was a son of Zedekiah's.
Although Mormons believe Zarahemla to be an actual city that once existed on earth, nobody can say with any certainty where. Numerous Mormon scholars have come up with theories but none has been adopted by the church as correct. Many Mormons believe that Zarahemla existed somewhere between South and North America, and was either completely destroyed or buried. Critics say this is implausible and evidence that the Book of Mormon is fiction, claiming that evidence of activities and things present in the Book of Mormon (such as steel, which would require mining) could not possibly have disappeared from the earth.
Zarahemla, both the king and the land, are first mentioned in the
Book of Omni. Zarahemla's descendants include Ammon, who led the quest to find those who had gone in search of Lehi-Nephi; and Coriantumr, who led the Lamanitesin battle against the Nephites.
At some point before Mosiah discovered Zarahemla, the people of Zarahemla had discovered the last of the Jaredites,
Coriantumr. Coriantumr stayed with the people of Zarahemla "for the space of nine moons" (Omni 1:21) before dying and receiving a burial by them (Ether 13:21).
Shortly after discovering the Mulekites in Zarahemla, Mosiah was made king over them sometime between 361 BC and 130 BC. Mosiah's son, Benjamin, then succeeded him as king.
King Benjaminwas also victorious in driving the Lamanitesfrom the Zarahemla region.
During the crucifixion of
Christ, or shortly after, the Book of Mormon records that all the cities in the region of Zarahemla caught fire and were destroyed along with their inhabitants. However, it was later rebuilt, and once again became a great city.
The city existed for about 500 years, and its final end is uncertain. It may have later been used by the
Lamanites(who have been speculatively identified by some Mormonscholars as the Mayansand/or some other Native American tribes or civilizations such as the Hopewell Tradition).
The location of Zarahemla (and surrounding lands) is not specified nor implied by official doctrine of the LDS Church. Failure to ascertain the exact position of a city this ostensibly large leads many non-Mormon critics to dismiss its
historicity. But today in Mormon culture the most popular possible locations of the land of Zarahemla are in the Mexican state of Chiapasand in the Ohio- Illinoisarea of the United States. The LDS tourism service Israel Revealedand [http://www.bountifultravel.com Bountiful Travel] provide "Book of Mormon Lands" tours that include various spots in Chiapas, although the exact spots are guesses.
The name Zarahemla was appropriated by Mormon settlers who built a small settlement across the
Mississippi Riverfrom Nauvoo, Illinois with that name. In August 1841a conference was held there during which John Smith was sustained as president of the stake in Iowa, with David Pettigrew and M. C. Nickerson as his counselors. [TIMES AND SEASONS: "TRUTH WILL PREVAIL" http://www.centerplace.org/history/ts/v2n22.htm (originally published Sept. 15, 1841] The stake was dissolved three years later; a second stake for Iowawould not be organized until 1966. [Deseret News Church Almanac]
In 2003, a board game
The Settlers of Zarahemlawas produced. This game was intended to be similar to the popular Settlers of Catanbut targeted at a Mormon audience and set in a Book of Mormon setting. It was published by Inspiration Gamesin conjunction with the German company that owns the rights to Catan.
The name has also been adopted by
Zarahemla Books, according to publisher/owner Christopher Bigelow, because it's "instantly recognizable to any Mormon insider, but it’s just an exotic-sounding name to any outsider." [ A Motley Vision: " Interview with Chris Bigelow about Zarahemla Books" http://www.motleyvision.org/?p=277]
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