I was watching several lectures on the Book of Mormon by Wayne May which discussed ancient american archeology and genetic migration and was just blown away. I, like Brother May, have always agreed with Hugh Nibley and Joseph Smith that the United States of America was the place of the Nephites and the Great Lakes Native American's were the descendants of the Book of Mormon people (Mitchondrial DNA Haplogroup X2a strongly supports this). I also believe the Hopewell or "mound builders" were the Nephites, but I never could put all the geography together in my mind until seeing Wayne May's presentation.
It is like the scales have fallen away from my eyes. The geography is so clear now but had always been right there before me. Why couldn't I had seen it before? I remember looking at limited maps of the Great Lakes region and thinking, "that is the place of Joseph Smith's Comorah, but I can't see how all the events of the book of Mormon fit into that small "limited" geographical area." Now that I recognize the Book of Mormon lands as the Whole Eastern US, It all makes sense to me for the first time.
Book of Mormon archeologists had done a great job retracing Lehi's family departure from Jerusalem and their travels through the desolate Arabian pennisula finally to arrive at a lush oasis called Bountiful on the coasts of the Eastern (Indian) Ocean. Amazingly, there is a small strip of green on the coast of Oman exactly where the Book of Mormon predicts it to be located in the Dohfar region of Oman. This small oasis of lush green, fruit and timber fed by moisture-rich monsoon winds coming up off the horn of Somalia. There is not another place like this in all of the Arabian Penninsula-- a miraculous scriptural bullseye.
However, when it came to the Nephites in America, I remember hearing that we had lost track of of Nephites in America. We couldn't pinpoint the area of the Nephite's first landing and the Great Nephite Cities of Zarahemla and Bountiful and the Great River Sidon.
I used to rationalize this conundrum by telling myself that God would not reveal to us the location of Zarahemla because He wanted us to trust in the words of the prophets and in the Holy Ghost and not in archaeologists and artifacts. However, Wayne also makes a valid point that the spirit and the body, light and truth, science and religion go together and bring a fullness of joy.
It turns out that my current home of Augusta, Georgia may be very near to the Nephites land of Lehi's first inheritance in the Promised Land. The Nephites would have left the coasts of Oman and ocean currents would have taken them around the Cape of Africa and then up to the Gulf of Mexico or Georgia Coast. It turns out that the City of Savannah, GA lies at exactly the same latitude as Jerusalem.
However, Nephi wouldn't have spent much time in thecSavannah, Augusta Jacksonville or Tallahassee Areas. According to the Book of Mormon, Nephi, Sam, Jacob, Joseph, Zoram and their families seperated themselves from Laman and Lemuel and traveled North to the Land of Nephi. The Nephites would spend 400 years in the Land of Nephi which Wayne May suggests would have been the North Georgia mountains and Tennesee Valley. The Nephites would have followed either the Chattahoochee or the Savannah Rivers to North Georgia.
One clue that supports the North Georgia, Tennessee area as the Land of Nephi is that Nephi said that he had found an abundance of gold. The city of Dahlonega, GA was the location of the second American gold rush in 1829. Also, it is important to realize that the Nephites would have likely used rivers as their transportation. Also it is evident from the immediate and continual raids, and war with the Lamanites, that the Lamanites knew which direction they had gone off in and easily followed them.
After 400 years in the Land of Nephi, the Nephites found themselves surrounded by the Lamanites and were forced to move on. Although the Nephites had discovered the Gulf of Mexico, it doesn't seem like they knew of what is later called the River Sidon or the Mississippi River.however they would've followed the Mississippi drainage which begins in the North Georgia mountains and would have headed further notth and west until they arrived at the Great River Sidon and the City of Zarahemla which was populated by the people of Mulek and is located on the Mississippi river across from the city of Nauvoo.
All the LDS temples faced East except for one. The Nauvoo temple is the only LDS temple which faces west. Directly across the river from the Nauvoo temple is a site that has been identified which may be the site of the temple at Zarahemla. The temple had been pointing us to Zarahemla all this time. Furthermore, radar suggests the ancient temple may be still preserved at the site having been sunk by liquifaction during a great New Madrid Earthquake that occured in Americs at the time of Jesus Christ's death.
The Mesoamerican areas just don't fit the details of the Book of Mormon. The book of Mormon people were agrarian, and they built their homes and their churches in their temples out of wood and they built defensive walls around their city out of earth and timber. The Nephites never use cut stone like the Inca or Maya or Aztecs. The Nephites mentioned seasons, migrating wild beasts (buffalo), tornadoes, Lamanites living in tents, the several "seas that divide the land" (Great Lakes) and many other details that can only fit the North Anerican geography.
Knowing the location of Zarahemla, we can identify the Land of Bountiful as being located in the Ohio River Valley and the Land of Desolation as the Upstate New York where the golden plates were discovered at the Hill Camorah.
Now, what is with all the Hopewell burial mounds? The Book of Mormon tells of the people that preceeded the Nephites in America known as the Jaredites. Archeologists call them the Adena. The Adena were a powerful and mighty people. They were great metallurgists and used powerful Mastadons to do most of the earth moving. It is believed that the Jaredites were darker skinned, very tall at 7-8 ft , and very powerful.
However, the Book of Mormon recounts a terrible war of extermination that may have also resulted in the extermination not only of the Jaredites themselves but of the American horse and elephant. The Mulekites and Nephites likely settled in abandoned Adena cites. The Nephites likely adopted the "pagan" custom of burial mound building from the Mulekites who picked up the practice from the many thousands of Adena/Jaredite burial mounds.