Mormons Believe There’s a Lost, Ancient City in Iowa — I’m Not Joking
According to the Book of Mormon and the Church of Latter Day Saints, Zarahemla was a large, ancient city located in the western hemisphere, possibly in Iowa. So far, archaeologists and historians have found zero verifiable evidence of the location of the city (it's okay to laugh, I did the whole time I wrote this).
As of yesterday, according to historyintheheartland.com, an archeological survey has begun to determine if Montrose, IA is the site of the ancient city (the founder of the religion, Joseph Smith, said the city was in Guatemala according to ldsliving.com). The population of the this small, river town in southeast Iowa is just 764 people.
This city appears in several stories in the Book of Mormon, but to summarize, mormonwiki.com says the following:
The city of Zarahemla and surrounding area were not originally Nephite (a member of a people descended from Nephi, a son of the Jewish prophet Lehi who led a colony from Jerusalem to America about 600 b.c. organized as a church by the risen Christ, and exterminated by the Lamanites leaving the scriptures recorded in the Book of Mormon). Around 323 BC a Nephite man named Mosiah found the already built city. The Book of Mormon explains how Mosiah came to this land and was later made king.
The people of Zarahemla had come from the land of Jerusalem under the leadership of Mulek, the only surviving son of King Zedekiah. The people of Zarahemla are thus often referred to as Mulekites. The Nephites taught the Mulekites their language and united to become one people, appointing Mosiah to be their king.
Zarahemla was the capital of the Nephite nation as well as the center of their government, religion, and culture.
Essentially, Zarahemla was to the ancient Mormon world what Salt Lake City is to Mormons today.
Though the surveying has recently started, according to bookofmormonevidence.org, the work to find the city in Iowa has already begun:
With the tools of modern science, the proof of the lost city is coming out of the ground. We have already searched in ways that our fathers could never imagine. In November 2020, we took the SENSYS MX V3 equipment from Germany to Montrose, Iowa’s cornfields, to places that God through His Prophet identified as Zarahemla. We found traces of 1,000’s of ancient fire pits revealed as magnetic images — these images are outlining North America’s largest 4th-century city.
To read more about the search and excavation for the city, visit here.