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Map showing current sites with red dots and possible Book of Mormon sites with black dots; Zarahemla placed in modern-day Chiapas state of Mexico.

According to the beliefs of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Zarahemla (/ˌzærəˈhɛmlə/)[1] refers to a large city in the ancient Americas which is described in the Book of Mormon. It also is used to refer to a large political division, and a minor character in the book.[2] The Book of Mormon is revered by members of various Latter Day Saint churches as sacred scripture. Archaeologists and historians have not been able to archaeologically verify a location for the city. (See Archaeology and the Book of Mormon for more detail about the archaeological debate between Mormons and mainstream archaeologists).

Mormon studies[edit]

Some Mormons speculate that the name "Zarahemla" is a compound Biblical Hebrew name זֶרַע חֶמְלָה Zéraʻ Ḥemlah meaning "seed of compassion". Others interpret the name differently.[3]

Hugh Nibley relates the name to a 'red city'[4]

It always got me because there's an important trading centre in the middle of the Sahara that goes by the name of 'Dar Al-Hamra' which means 'the Red City'. Of course it depends on the dialect. Zarahemla means 'red city', but what attracts me about it is that the Hopis say that their people came from the 'great red city of the south' when it was destroyed.


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.)[5] 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.[6] 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."[7] 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.[8] The dissenter Coriantumr led the Lamanites in battle against the Nephites in the first century B.C.[9]

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.[10]

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." [11] "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.[12] 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."[13] The Book of Mormon does not indicate whether the city of Zarahemla survived to be occupied by Lamanites after the destruction of the Nephite nation.

In Mormon culture[edit]

The name "Zarahemla" was given to a small Mormon settlement across the Mississippi River from Nauvoo.[14] In August 1841 a 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.[15] The stake was dissolved three years later; a second stake for Iowa would not be organized until 1966.[16]

Zarahemla was the original name of Blanchardville, Wisconsin, founded in the 1840s by Strangite Mormons. The village received its present name after it was platted in 1857.

"Zarahemla" is a song on the album Axe by guitarist Randy Bachman.

In 2003, a board game, The Settlers of Zarahemla, was produced. This game was intended to be similar to The Settlers of Catan, another popular board game, but targeted at a Mormon audience and set in a Book of Mormon setting. It was published by Inspiration Games in 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."[17]

Passage to Zarahemla is an adventure film directed and written by Chris Heimerdinger. It tells the story of a young pair of siblings seeking to find a new life following the abrupt death of their mother. Their exploits lead them to a relative's home in Utah and eventually a thrilling confrontation with their past and the merger of time.


  1. ^ "Book of Mormon Pronunciation Guide" (retrieved 2012-02-25), IPA-ified from «zĕr-a-hĕm´la»
  2. ^ Helaman 1:27–29
  3. ^ Hunter and Fergusson preferred the word "hamulah" spelled with a Hebrew "hey" instead of a "chet". They suggested that "hamulah" meant "fully", "overflowing", "abundance" or "bountiful". (Milton R. Hunter & Thomas Stewart Fergusson, Ancient American and the Book of Mormon, pp. 152–153) Both the Lexicon and Strong's Concordance suggest that the word means "rain-storm", "rushing" or "roaring sound", "sound of a great storm", "tumult"
  4. ^ Nibley, Hugh & Hummel, Sharman Bookwalter (ed.) Nibley's Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 1 (2013), ASIN: B00GFY0GUO
  5. ^ Omni 1:14–15
  6. ^ Helaman 8:21, Omni 1:16, the name "Mulek" is believed by some to be a discrete version of "MalkiYahu son of the King Zedekiah" found in Hebrew Bible: See for instance Coon, W. Vincent, Choice Above All Other Lands, pp. 125–126. Coon cites Jeremiah 39:6 from Hebrew scripture
  7. ^ Omni 1:19
  8. ^ Mosiah 7:1–3
  9. ^ Helaman 1:15
  10. ^ Omni 1:24
  11. ^ 3 Nephi 8:7–8
  12. ^ 4 Nephi 1:7–8
  13. ^ Mormon 5:5
  14. ^ Doctrine and Covenants 125:3
  15. ^ TIMES AND SEASONS: "TRUTH WILL PREVAIL" (originally published Sept. 15, 1841; see also Bushman, Richard Lyman, Joseph Smith Rough Stone Rolling, pg. 469
  16. ^ Deseret News Church Almanac
  17. ^ A Motley Vision: " Interview with Chris Bigelow about Zarahemla Books"