In the Book of Mormon, we learn that a group of Lamanites and dissident Nephites had built a city which they named Jerusalem, being named “after the land of their fathers’ nativity” (Alma 21:1, also see vs. 2). This city was near the waters of Mormon, where Alma the Elder had preached and baptized earlier (see Alma 21:1-2; cf. Mosiah 18:4-16).
After the crucifixion of Christ, the Book of Mormon reports that a great deal of destruction took place, during which several cities are said to have been submerged by water (see 3 Nephi 9:7). This “Jerusalem” is one of those cities.
Based on that information, John L. Sorenson placed Jerusalem on the southern shores of Lake Atitlán, which he had designated as the waters of Mormon. “The likely spot [for Jerusalem] is near Santiago Atitlan, on the extreme southwestern tip of Lake Atitlan.” Realizing that Jerusalem was quickly submerged by water, Sorenson notes that “the level of Lake Atitlan has shifted dramatically – by as much as 60 feet within historical times, and up to 15 feet in a single year – so a city located on this shore could understandably be submerged quite abruptly.” Sorenson also suggests that this new world “Jerusalem” would have had religious significance to those who built the city.
The merits of any theory or model are always determined not only by how well it accounts for all available information when it is first formulated, but as time passes on it is judged for how well it accommodates new information. Sorenson’s geographical model was formally published in 1985, and had been in circulation for sometime before that.
In the year 2000, Henry Benítez and Robert Samayoa, a pair of Guatemalans with expertise in underwater archaeology, reported their findings of a submerged site just off the south shore of Lake Atitlán, near Santiago Atitlán. The same researchers concluded that the city’s submergence had been relatively abrupt based on the condition of the ruins. More recent research indicates this site was “an extremely important place from a spiritual point of view,” and that its submergence was likely the result of “a catastrophic event, like a volcanic eruption or landslide.” Sorenson is among the many LDS researchers who have come to view volcanic activity as essential to the destruction in 3 Nephi.
While the evidence is tantalizing, caution ought to restrain us from declaring affirmatively and absolutely that this was the Book of Mormon city of Jerusalem. We can say, however, that Sorenson’s original correlation is even more likely today than it was in 1985. No longer must we surmise – as Sorenson did in 1985 – that a city could be abruptly submerged by water in this area, we know that a city was abruptly submerged by water in this area.
This obviously has implications not only for the accuracy of the Sorenson’s geographic model, but for the authenticity of the Book of Mormon in general. If the Book of Mormon were false, then a correlation like Sorenson’s ought to be completely impossible to begin with – let alone the notion of seeming more likely with time.
Lastly, I’ve had some critics tell me that there was no evidence for submerged cities, as reported in the Book of Mormon, in Mesoamerica. At the very least, this criticism has been proven false – and has been so for more than a decade now.
 See John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book; Provo, UT: FARMS, 1985), pg. 175-176; 223-225
 Ibid, pg. 223, bracketed portion mine.
 Ibid, pg. 224
 Ibid, pg. 223; Sorenson writes: “This Jerusalem had been consciously named after the city of the Jews. Symbols associated with the Old World Jerusalem – the ‘deep,’ the peaks, waters to the ‘east,’ and other cosmological features – were used by Old Testament prophets like Isaiah, who so much interested the dissident Nephites among these people (Mosiah 12:20-26). These symbols would have been on the minds of those who chose this site.”
 Brant Gardner, “Behind the Mask, Behind the Curtain: Uncovering the Illusion,” FARMS Review 17/2 (2005), pg. 150. Gardner reports personally receiving a copy of the manuscript in 1975, while knowing of others who had received earlier copies (ibid, pg. 150 n. 7).
 See John L. Sorenson, “The Submergence of the City of Jerusalem in the Land of Nephi,” Insights 22/4 (2002), pg. 2-3. To see pictures of these underwater ruins, click here.
 Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting, pg. 318-323; also see James Baer, “The Third Nephi Disaster: A Geological View,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 19/1 (1986), pg. 129-132; Russell H. Ball, “An Hypothesis concerning the Three Days of Darkness among the Nephites,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 2/1 (1993), pg. 107-123; Bart J. Kowallis, “In the Thirty and Fourth Year: A Geologist’s View of the Great Destruction in 3 Nephi,” BYU Studies 37/3 (1997-98), pg. 136-190
 One good reason for such caution lies in the dating of these ruins. A source already cited indicates that the ruins were occupied until around AD 250 (see Grainger, “Divers probe Mayan ruins”). If that is correct, then the city was submerged about 200 years too late to be the Book of Mormon city. Meanwhile, Lawrence Poulson informs me that a Spanish source indicates that “the waters of the lake experienced a rapid rise 2000 yrs ago,” (Lawrence Poulson, e-mail correspondence, June 21, 2011), which would place its submergence within the right time frame as the sinking of Jerusalem. Regardless, that such a submerged city exists where Sorenson argued that such a thing could happen – and that it was submerged by means similar to those suggested by Sorenson and others – serves to strengthen Sorenson’s original theory. No longer must it be argued that such an event could possibily happen there, because we now know that it did. Now, if the AD 250 is accurate, the only question left would if it had already happened once before.