One of the subterranean threads running throughout the Book of Mormon is the mystery of whose bones are heaped upon the land northward. If we read the Book of Mormon in its present sequence, the mystery and its solution are explained almost simultaneously, so that itâ€™s easy for us to lose sight of how concerned the Nephites were with the question of the bonesâ€™ origin. But if we follow the bones through the sequence of Nephite history, they tell a somewhat different story.
The Mulekites, the original people of Zarahemla, knew of a land covered in bones because it was their first home in the Promised Land, but they didnâ€™t know whose bones lay scattered there.
Later, the people of Limhi sent 43 men to to seek aid from Nephite Zarahemla, but they instead found a land covered in bones. Supposing it was Zarahemla destroyed, the men gathered up metal plates with indecipherable writing and returned to Limhi. When the peoples of Limhi and Alma are rejoined to the Nephites, what the Nephites are anxious to know is: whose bones lie scattered over the land northward?
The various records and traditions available to the Nephites provide one answer: the bones in that distant northern land belong to a people of a bygone age, who fell into sin and were destroyed.
But then there are new bones heaped up on the land close to the Nephitesâ€™ homes, bones of others who came up to battle against them. But the Nephites slew and wounded many and drove the rest into the wilderness, and â€œmany died in the wilderness of their wounds, and were devoured by those beasts and also the vultures of the air; and their bones have been found, and have been heaped up on the earth.â€ The bones that litter the land before their eyes, then, are Lamanite bones.
At the end of Nephite history, only Mormon is left to recognize what his painstakingly transported and abridged records had been trying to tell him for decades, and trying to tell the Nephites all along: the bones that cover the land are our own bones. They have been here from the beginning, waiting for us.