Volume 6 - Appendix D

   

 

 

     APPENDIX D

Alan C. Miner

June 8, 2002

 

     A Chronology of Thought on Book of Mormon Geography

     Statements by Church Authorities

     Significant Books, Articles, & Events

     Significant Theoretical or Illustrated Models of Book of Mormon Geography

     

 

     The objective of this paper is to make an extensive chronological compilation of those authoritative statements, those books and articles, those events, and those illustrated models that have shaped the evolution of thought on Book of Mormon geography. In my studies of Book of Mormon geography and the reasoning behind various geographical models which have been proposed, I have many times come across selected quotes attributed to authorities in the Church which have been used to bolster certain opinions or perspectives. At times it has been difficult to assess such quotes because the complete text of the quote was not always printed, to say nothing of the milieu of thought at the time the quote was made and the statements which have been made subsequent to the one under assessment. Therefore I have made it a goal to collect all pertinent data and make it available in a chronological setting.

     My research has led me to many sources, however I have used as my foundation the following previous works:

     John L Sorenson: The Geography of Book of Mormon Events: A Source Book, Part 1. A History of ideas: The Geography of Book of Mormon Events in Latter-day Thought." Provo: FARMS, 1990.

     Joseph L. Allen, Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon, Chapter Sixteen, "A Survey of Geography, 1989, pp. 181-198.

     Bruce A. Van Orden, "The Debate of the Hill Cumorah." A paper written for Graduate Religion 523: Book of Mormon-External Evidences, August 1971.

     Kenneth W. Godfrey, "Joseph Smith, the Hill Cumorah, and Book of Mormon Geography: A Historical Study, 1823-1844. A paper delivered at the 1989 Mormon History Association Meeting.

     Kenneth W. Godfrey, "The Zelph Story," F.A.R.M.S. Paper GDF-89; a shorter version of the same, without the copies of the original sources, can be seen in BYU Studies 29 (Spring 1989), pages 31-56.

     Kenneth W. Godfrey, "What is the Significance of Zelph in the Study of Book of Mormon Geography?" in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Vol. 8, Number 2, 1999, pp. 73-74.

     Donald W. Parry, Jeanette W. Miller, and Sandra A. Thorne eds. A Guide to Publications on the Book of Mormon: A Selected Annotated Bibliography, Provo:FARMS, 1996.

 

     Much of the information and commentary comes from these works, but because of the nature of my compilation, specific citations have not always been made. I would like to here acknowledge these sources for the help they have provided in this project. I would also like to give a special thanks to John Sorenson for allowing me the use of his files. In researching these works, I have been able to make significant progress towards my goal to make available to the average Book of Mormon student a more expanded and a more easily updated perspective on the history of Book of Mormon geographical thought.

     Before I begin, I think it is appropriate to acquaint the reader with my perspective. I believe that as far as Book of Mormon geography is concerned, while one should have respect for authoritative statements, one should also be aware of the times and circumstances in which they were made. I also believe that one has the responsibility to study the issues for himself (to "seek learning, even by study and also by faith"--D&C 88:118). In my research I have come across a number of quotes that are applicable on this matter; I will quote but a few:

     In 1909, B. H. Roberts wrote:

           Let me here say a word in relation to new discoveries in our knowledge of the Book of Mormon, and for matter of that in relation to all subjects connected with the work of the Lord in the earth. We need not follow our researches in any spirit of fear and trembling. We desire only to ascertain the truth; nothing but the truth will endure; and the ascertainment of the truth and the proclamation of the truth in any given case, or upon any subject, will do no harm to the work of the Lord which is itself truth. Nor need we be surprised if now and then we find our predecessors, many of whom bear honored names and deserve our respect and gratitude for what they achieved in making clear the truth, as they conceived it to be--we need not be surprised if we sometimes find them mistaken in their conceptions and deductions; just as the generation who succeed us in unfolding in a larger way some of the yet unlearned truths of the Gospel, will find that we have had some misconceptions and made some wrong deductions in our day and time. . . . All which is submitted, especially to the membership of the Church, that they may be prepared to find and receive new truths both in the Book of Mormon itself and about it. (B. H. Roberts, New Witnesses for God, Vol. II. (3 Volumes), Deseret News: Salt Lake City, 1909, pp. 503-504)

 

     On April 13, 1833 Joseph Smith wrote a letter to Jared Carter in which he said the following:

           It is a great thing to inquire at the hand of God, or come into his presence: And we feel fearful to approach Him on subjects that are of little or no consequence, to satisfy the queries of individuals, especially about things the knowledge of which men ought to obtain in all sincerity, before God for themselves, in humility by prayer of faith" (History of the Church, by Joseph Smith, Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1976, p. 339)

 

     Joseph Fielding Smith has remarked:

           It makes no difference what is written or what anyone has said, if what has been said is in conflict with what the Lord has revealed, we can set it aside. My words, and the teachings of any other member of the Church, high or low, if they do not square with the revelations, we need not accept them. Let us have this matter clear. We have accepted the standard works as the measuring yardsticks or balances, by which we measure every man's doctrine. You cannot accept the books written by the authorities of the Church as standards in doctrine, only in so far as they accord with the revealed word in the standard works.

           Every man who writes is responsible, not the Church, for what he writes. If Joseph Fielding Smith writes something which is out of harmony with the revelations, then every member of the Church is duty bound to reject it. If he writes that which is in perfect harmony with the revealed word of the Lord, then it should be accepted. (Doctrines of Salvation, Vol. 3, pp. 203-204)

 

     Dr. Henry Eyring published a book in 1983 called Reflections of a Scientist in which he offers the following thoughts about the relationship between religion and science:

           As parents and teachers we pass on to our children and pupils our world picture. Part of this picture is religious and part of it deals with the world around us. If we teach our pupils some outmoded and nonessential notions that fail to hold water when the students get into their science classes at the university, we run grave risks. When our proteges shed the bad science they may also throw out some true religion. The solution is to avoid telling them that the earth is flat too long after it has been proved round. Don't defend a good cause with bad arguments.

           So I am certain that the gospel, as taught in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is true. It's a better explanation of what I observe in science than any other I know about. There are still lots of things I don't know, but that doesn't bother me. I'm a happy muddler. The gospel simply asks me to find out what's true as best I can and in the meantime to live a good life. That strikes me as the best formula for living there could be. (Reflections of a Scientist. S.L.C.: Deseret Book, p. 101)

 

     "Light cleaves to light, and facts are supported by facts. The truth injures no one." (Editorial comment, The Times and Seasons 3 (23), 1 October 1842, p. 927, Joseph Smith Editor, John Taylor Managing Editor)

 

     It is in this same spirit that I submit the following chronology of authoritative Book of Mormon geographical thought. Readers can draw whatever conclusions they may from these statements, but that is not the primary purpose of this paper. What is more important is that these statements and illustrations are made available so that students of the Book of Mormon CAN read them in a suitable context. Moreover, these references are now in digital form so that readers can not only have ready access to them, but add whatever well-researched details and perspective they choose. If I have missed any pertinent statements, information or insights, I would welcome anything that one might send my way.

 

 

     Statements by Church Authorities

     Significant Books, "Articles," & Events

     [Significant Theoretical or Illustrated Models of Book of Mormon Geography]

     Notes*

 

YEAR*            PERSON                  SOURCE

 

Note* The year (listed on the left) for the event or quote is not always the same as the date of the source (listed on the right) from which the information was taken. If the source information (the later publication of the information) was significant, in and of itself, to the later time period in which it came forth, there will also be a separate listing for that later year.

 

1823            Joseph Smith            "Wentworth Letter" Times and Seasons, 3:706-710

 

     In relating the happenings relative to the visit of the angel Moroni, Joseph writes:

           I was also informed concerning the aboriginal inhabitants of this country, and shown who they were, and from whence they came, a brief sketch of their origin, progress, civilization, laws, governments, of their righteousness and iniquity, and the blessing of God being finally withdrawn from them as a people was made known unto me. I was also told where there was deposited some plates on which were engraven an abridgment of the records of the ancient prophets that had existed on this continent. The angel appeared to me three times the same night and unfolded the same things.

(See the notations for 1842)

 

1823-1827      (abt. Joseph Smith)      S.E.H.A. Newsletter, Number 158, December 1984.

 

     The following was part of an address delivered by Ross T. Christensen at the Thirty-third Annual Symposium on the Archaeology of the Scriptures, held at BYU on September 28 and 29, 1984. Christensen writes:

           Such questions have been asked as "How much did the prophet Joseph Smith actually know about Book of Mormon geography?" and "How much of what he knew did he feel at liberty to reveal to his followers?" Joseph Smith was first shown the plates of the Book of Mormon on September 22, 1823, but it was not until the fourth anniversary of that date, i.e., in 1827, that they actually came into his possession. What was he doing during those four years, and why that long wait before he could get on with his important assignment of translating them into English?

           A recent study documents no fewer than 22 visitations of the angel Moroni to Joseph, as well as appearances of Nephi, Alma, Mormon, and other Book of Mormon notables [Robert J. Woodford, "Book of Mormon Personalities Known by Joseph Smith" The Ensign, Vol. 8, No. 8, August 1978, pp. 12-15; also "The Story of the Doctrine and Covenants," i.b.i.d., Vol. 14, No. 12, December 1984, pp. 32-39]. Most of these visits were made, no doubt, during this four-year period, and many of them were reported by Lucy Mack Smith, mother of the Prophet, who in her old age dictated a biography of her controversial son. (Smith, 1979)

           Chapter 18 (pp. 79-85) of Mother Smith's biography is of particular interest. It starts with the date September 22, 1823, when young Joseph told his father of the visits of Moroni through the previous night. Then, that evening and the next, his whole family gathered about to listen to him.

           From this time forth, Joseph continued to receive instructions from the Lord, and we continued to get the children together every evening for the purpose of listening while he gave us a relation of the same. I presume our family presented an aspect as singular as any that ever lived upon the face of the earth--all seated in a circle, father, mother, sons and daughters, and giving the most profound attention to a boy, eighteen years of age, who had never read the Bible through in his life: he seemed much less inclined to the perusal of books than any of the rest of our children, but far more given to meditation and deep study.

           During our evening conversations, Joseph would occasionally give us some of the most amusing recitals that could be imagined. He would describe the ancient inhabitants of this continent, their dress, mode of traveling, and the animals upon which they rode; their cities, their buildings, with every particular; their mode of warfare; and also their religious worship. This he would do with as much ease, seemingly, as if he had spent his whole life among them. (Smith, pp. 82-83)

 

           . . . In any case, the Prophet seems to have known a good deal about ancient Nephite civilization. Why, then did he not tell his followers more about such matters as Book of Mormon geography? Because they were not yet ready for it, and because that was not what the Church was to become involved in at that stage of development. It would seem, however, that he at least left a few clues behind, perhaps to stimulate us of the present generation to further inquiry. (Incidentally, I am not one to accept everything Joseph Smith ever said or wrote as automatically binding; he was a human being like the rest of us. But I do believe he had special insights, and whatever he may have had to say--even on a subject like Book of Mormon geography--is worthy of careful consideration.)

 

     

     Note* In his book Moroni: Ancient Prophet-Modern Messenger (SLC: Deseret Book, 2000), H. Donl Peterson has a chart, "Moroni's Known Appearances to Joseph Smith: 1823-1829," in which is listed twenty-two visits. (see pp. 131-134). Peterson also has a chart "Personages Who Appeared to Joseph" in which 59 visitors are listed. (see pp. 148-150) Among those visitors that might have related information about Book of Mormon geography we find: Moroni (JS--H 1:30-49; Journal of Discourses, 17:374); The Twelve Nephite Apostles, including the Three Nephites (JD 21:94); Nephi (JD 21:161); Zelph the Lamanite (Times and Seasons 6:788); Mormon (JD17:374); Alma (JD 13:47).

 

     Note* Orson Pratt wrote:

           Here, then, was a reality--something great and glorious, and after having received from time to time, visits from these glorious personages, and talking with them, as one man would talk with another, face to face, beholding their glory, he was permitted to go and take these plates from their place of deposit--plates of gold--records, some of which were made nearly six hundred years before Christ" (Journal of Discourses, 13:66).

 

1827            Lucy Mack Smith(abt. Joseph)      Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet and His

                                   Progenitors for Many Generations (Liverpool, England: S. W.

                                   Richards, 1853) See also History of Joseph Smith, Salt Lake

                                   City, 1956, pp. 99-101.

 

     (Implied knowledge of "Cumorah"): In her 1853 Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet and His Progenitors for Many Generations (Liverpool, England: S. W. Richards) which Lucy Mack Smith dictated in 1845, she makes some remarks concerning the time period apparently just after Joseph's marriage on January 18, 1827. Lucy tells the story as follows:

           [Joseph] took leave for Pennsylvania, on the same business as before mentioned, and the next January [1827] returned with his wife, in good health and fine spirits. Not long subsequent to his return, my husband had occasion to send him to Manchester on business. As he set off early in the day we expected him home at most by six o'clock in the evening, but when six o'clock came he did not arrive. . . . He did not get home till the night was far spent. On coming in he threw himself into a chair, apparently much exhausted. . . . Presently he smiled and said in a calm tone, "I have taken the severest chastisement that I have ever had in my life." My husband, supposing that it was from some of the neighbors, was quite angry and observed, "I would like to know what business anybody has to find fault with you!" "Stop, father, stop," said Joseph, "it was the angel of the Lord. As I passed by the hill of Cumorah, where the plates are, the angel met me and said that I had not been engaged enough in the work of the Lord; that the time had come for the record to be brought forth; and that I must be up and doing and set myself about the things which God had commanded me to do. . . . It was also made known to him at this interview that he should make another effort to obtain the plates, on the twenty-second of the following September, but this he did not mention to us at that time.

 

     Note* In his book, By the Hand of Mormon: The American Scripture that Launched a New World Religion, Terryl L. Givens notes that Richard L. Bushman (Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism, Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1984, p. 78) and Donna Hill (Joseph Smith, the First Mormon, SLC: Signature Books, 1999, p. 69) suggest that these things happened following Joseph and Emma's trip to Pennsylvania to get some of Emma's things in August of 1827.

 

1829            (abt. David Whitmer, Joseph & Oliver)       Millennial Star 40 (1878), p. 722

 

     Note* In an 1878 interview with Orson Pratt and Joseph F. Smith, David Whitmer, one of the three witnesses to the plates, told them a story which apparently happened during or following the translation process at the Whitmer home (about May or June of the summer of 1829). The account goes as follows:

           When I was returning to Fayette, with Joseph and Oliver, all of us riding in the wagon, Oliver and I on an old-fashioned, wooden spring seat, and Joseph behind us--when traveling along in a clear open space, a very pleasant, nice-looking, old man suddenly appeared by the side of the wagon, and saluted us with, "Good morning, it is very warm," at the same time wiping his face or forehead with his hand. We returned the salutation, and, by a sign from Joseph, I invited him to ride, if he was going our way; but he said very pleasantly, "No, I am going to Cumorah." This name was something new to me. I did not know what Cumorah meant. We all gazed at him and at each other, and as I looked around inquiringly at Joseph, the old man instantly disappeared, so that I did not see him again.

 

     Note* We don't seem to have any indication during the years which immediately follow 1829 that this incident was told to anyone by the other participants in this incident. Joseph Smith, in his 1842 History of the Church, did not make any reference to this incident. The same applies to Oliver Cowdery, who had a chance to write a number of letters concerning the early days of the Restoration to W.W. Phelps, who published them in 1835 in the Messenger and Advocate.

 

     Note* See the 1878 David Whitmer notation and the 1928 B. H. Roberts notation.

 

1829      (abt. Joseph Smith & Oliver Cowdery)      Journal of Discourses (Liverpool, 1878), vol. 19:36-39.

 

     Note* Just two months and twelve days before his death in 1877, Brigham Young was establishing a new stake in Farmington, Utah. In his discourse he said the following:

 

           [The] treasures that are in the earth are carefully watched, they can be moved from place to place according to the good pleasure of Him who made them and owns them. . . . Oliver Cowdery went with the Prophet Joseph when he deposited [i.e., returned] these plates. Joseph did not translate all of the plates. There was a portion of them sealed, which you can learn from the Book of Doctrine and Covenants. When Joseph got the plates, the angel instructed him to carry them back to the hill Cumorah, which he did. Oliver says that when Joseph and Oliver went there the hill opened and they walked into a cave, in which there was a large and spacious room. He says he did not think, at the time, whether they had the sunlight or artificial light; but that it was just as light as day. They laid the plates on a table; it was a large table that stood in the room. Under this table there was a pile of plates as much as two feet high, and there were altogether in this room more plates probably than many wagon loads; they were piled up in the corners and along the walls. The first time they went there the sword of Laban hung upon the wall; but when they went again it had been taken down and laid upon the table across the gold plates; it was unsheathed, and on it was written these words: "this sword will never be sheathed again until the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our God and his Christ! I tell you this as coming not only from Oliver Cowdery, but others who were familiar with it.

 

     Note* The translation was finished in late June, 1829, thus the setting of this story would have been sometime after that. It is worthy of note that the earliest corroboration of this story seems to be 1855 (see the notation for 1877). Although the 1855 account is attributed to W. W. Phelps, he cites Hyrum Smith rather than Oliver Cowdery as his source. However, the following might imply that Oliver had a knowledge of such treasures:

     On September 22, 1835, Joseph Smith received a Patriarchal Blessing under the hands of Oliver Cowdery which promised the following concerning Joseph Smith:

           The records of past ages and generations, and the histories of ancient days shall he bring forth, even the record of the Nephites shall he again obtain, with all those hid up by Mormon, and others who were righteous; and many others till he is overwhelmed with knowledge. (Patriarchal Blessings Book Vol. 2:28, Church Historian's Office, in Fred Collier, Unpublished Revelations of the Prophets and Presidents of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, vol. 1 (Salt Lake City: Collier's Publishing, 1979, pp. 76-77)

 

(See the notation for 1877. See also the 1856 Heber C. Kimball statement which implies the events in this account were seen in vision.)

 

1830            The Lord            D&C 28:8-9, September, 1830

 

     "You shall go unto the Lamanites and preach my gospel . . . The city of Zion shall be built . . . on the borders by the Lamanites."

 

     Note* Joseph Allen writes: "Certainly, no one has any argument about the American Indians being considered Lamanites. Nor does anyone debate about the western part of the United States being labeled Lamanite territory In 1830, the western portion of the United States belonged to Mexico. Certainly, Missouri and points west must be considered the borders of the Lamanites." (Exploring, p. 353)

 

1830            The Lord            D&C 32:2 October, 1830

 

       "And that which I have appointed unto him is that he shall go with my servants, Oliver Cowdery and Peter Whitmer, Jun., into the wilderness among the Lamanites."

 

[1830's      Theoretical Concept: North American Indians = Descendants of Lehi; Cumorah in New York]

 

1831            The Lord            D&C 49:24, March 1831

 

     "But before the great day of the Lord shall come, Jacob shall flourish in the wilderness, and the Lamanites shall blossom as the rose."

 

1831            The Lord            D&C 54:8, June 1831

 

     "Take your journey [from Ohio] into the regions westward, unto the land of Missouri, unto the borders of the Lamanites."

 

1831      W.W. Phelps (abt. Joseph Smith)      Revelation? given to Joseph Smith, July 17, 1831

 

     On August 12, 1861, W.W. Phelps wrote a letter to Brigham Young in which he includes a revelation supposedly given to Joseph Smith somewhere west of Jackson County, Missouri on July 17, 1831. This revelation is not contained in the Doctrine and Covenants, but is part of the Joseph Smith Collection, Church Historian's Office. It reads as follows:

           Verily, Verily, saith the Lord, your Redeemer, even Jesus Christ . . . For it is my will, that in time, ye should take unto you wives of the Lamanites and Nephites, that their posterity may become white, delightsome and just, for even now their females are more virtuous than the gentiles."

 

1831      Parley P. Pratt (abt. Oliver Cowdery)      Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, SLC, 1938, pp. 55-56

 

     According to Parley P. Pratt, in 1831 some early elders of the Church were discussing the Book of Mormon with the Delaware Indians of Kansas, the first such meeting with Indians since the Restoration. The spokesman was Oliver Cowdery, who included in his remarks the following:

           Once the red men were many; they occupied the country from sea to sea--from the rising to the setting sun; the whole land . . . Thousands of moons ago, when red men's forefathers dwelt in peace and possessed this whole land the Great Spirit talked with them, and revealed His law and His will and much knowledge to their wise men and prophets. This they wrote in a Book, . . . written on plates of gold and handed down from father to son for many ages and generations. . . . This Book, which contained these things, was hid in the earth by Moroni, in a hill called by him, Cumorah, which hill is now in the state of New York, near the village of Palmyra, in Ontario County."

 

     Note* The concept of Moroni calling the New York hill "Cumorah" could well have come from Oliver's reading of the Book of Mormon. Yet only once in the text does Moroni actually mention "Cumorah" (Mormon 8:2). It is Mormon who makes multiple references specifically to the word "Cumorah." This brings up the alternative possibility that Oliver could have gotten his information from Joseph Smith, who in turn had received this knowledge directly from Moroni.

 

1832            William Wyne Phelps            Evening and Morning Star, Vol. 1, October 1832

 

     Phelps identified the "middle of the [American] continent," "These vast prairies of the far west . . . the Book of Mormon terms them the land of desolation." He referred to the eastern part of the United States was referred to as the "land of Joseph."

 

     Note* Compare the statement of Levi Ward Hancock in The Life of Levi W. Hancock, typescript, BYU Library, who reported that Joseph Smith called North America the "land of desolation." In a letter to Emma, Joseph writes from "the plaines of the Nephites." (See the notation for 1834)

 

1833      Joseph Smith            Letter to N.C. Saxton, editor of a Rochester, New York, newspaper

 

     Joseph said that "the Book of Mormon is a record of the forefathers of our western tribes of Indians . . . By it we learn that our western tribes of Indians are descendants from that Joseph that was sold into Egypt, and that the land of America is a promised land unto them. (Quoted in Dean C. Jessee, The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1984), p. 273)

 

1833      W. W. Phelps, Editor            Evening and Morning Star, February-July 1833

 

     Ken Godfrey notes in his 1989 article ("Joseph Smith, The Hill Cumorah, and Book of Mormon Geography: A Historical Study, 1823-1844") that when an ancient stone house, including household furniture, was found imbedded in the earth in Rowan County, North Carolina, the editor of The Star commented on the event: "No people that have lived on this continent, since the flood, understood many of the arts and sciences better than the Jaredites and Nephites, whose brief history is sketched in the Book of Mormon. The facts following from the Star of the West is not only proof of their skill but it is good proof to those that want evidence that the Book of Mormon is true." (Vol. 2, June) Again when "an artificial peach and pear tree cut out of stone with a complete imitation of the stem and blossom end," was found in another part of the United States this too was, in the same article, cited as proof of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. In those early issues of the Star each new archaeological discovery in either North or South America was dutifully cited as proof that the Book of Mormon was "a history of those groups who had peopled this continent" (see Vol. 1 February 1833). A Vol. 2 July 1833 article declared that the book unfolded "the history of the first inhabitants that settled this continent." When a fifty-foot fissure in a rock in Virginia was found full of bees, the editor of the Star reported that fact as "proof that the Jaredites brought bees with them to the American continent." Even the W. W. Phelps-authored poem, "The Red Man" identified the American Indian as having descended from Jacob through Ephraim.

 

     Note* Dan Vogel writes that shortly after the Book of Mormon's publication, David Marks visited the Ohio mounds and like many wondered who had built them. When he was told that the Book of Mormon gave a history of them, and of their authors, he became anxious to get a copy even though he doubted its historicity. (Dan Vogel, Indian Origins and the Book of Mormon, SLC: Signature Books, 1986, p. 32)

 

1834            Joseph Smith, Jr.      Letter to Emma on 4 June, 1834 while marching with Zion's Camp

 

     This letter from Joseph Smith to his wife appeared in Dean C. Jessee's, The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1984), p. 324.

 

           We arrived this morning on the banks of the Mississippi . . . we left the eastern part of the state of Ohio . . . The whole of our journey, in the midst of so large a company of social honest and sincere men, wandering over the plaines [sic] of the Nephites, recounting occasionally the history of the Book of Mormon, roving over the mounds of that once beloved people of the Lord, picking up their skulls & their bones, as a proof of its divine authenticity. . . .

 

1834            (abt. Joseph Smith)      Zelph Incident (Multiple Sources) June 2-3, 1834,

 

     Note* While traveling through Illinois on June 2-3, 1834, members of Zion's Camp located a few bones, including a broken femur and an arrowhead, approximately a foot below the earth's surface, and these remains became the catalyst for revelation to Joseph, regarding the skeleton's identity. Joseph identified the man as "Zelph" and stated a number of things concerning him which might or might not have a bearing on Book of Mormon geography. This information was recorded in diaries or journals by a number of different men. The dilemma is that while all the accounts are generally consistent, they all have differing pieces of information. Of the men who wrote or dictated contemporary accounts of the Zelph incident, we have the following six:

     1. Reuben McBride (Diary, Handwritten): McBride's account of the discovery of Zelph is shorter and less detailed than the others but may have been the first one recorded, possibly having been written on the day the find occurred, although in no case are we completely sure when the information was put down in writing. McBride recorded that Zelph was a great warrior under the prophet Omandagus, that an arrow was found in his ribs, and that he was a white Lamanite who was known from the Atlantic to the Rocky Mountains. He writes:

     Tuesday 3 visited the mounds. A skeleton was dug up. Joseph, said his name was Zelph a great warrior under the Prophet Omandagus. An arrow was found in his Ribs which he said he suposed [sic] ocaisoned [sic] his death Said he was killed in battle. Said he was a man of God and the curse was taken off or in part he was a white Lamanite was known from the atlantic to the Rocky Mountains. (Reuben McBride Diary (3 June 1834), LDS Church Archives)

 

     2. Moses Martin (Diary, Handwritten): Martin, a 22-year old member of Zion's Camp also reported the finding of Zelph. Martin was present when the digging occurred and was impressed with the size of the skeleton and with Joseph's vision of the unnamed prophet. But he said nothing about his being a white Lamanite or his having served under a prophet chief named Omandagus or Onandagus. Instead, in the Martin account, the deceased man was "a mighty prophet." He records:

     This being in the Co of Pike, here we discovered a large quantity of large mounds. Being filed [sic] with curiosity we excavated the top of one so[m]e 2 feete [sic] when we came to the bones of an extraordinary large person or human being, the thigh bones being 2 inches longer from one Socket to the other than of the Prophet whi who is upwards of 6 feete [sic] high which would have contuted [sic] some 8 or 9 feete [sic] high. In the trunk of this skeleton near the vitals we found a large stone arrow which I suppose brougt [sic] him to his end. Soon after this Joseph had a vision and the Lord shewed him that this man was once a mighty Prophet and many other things concerning his people. Thus we found those mounds to have be[en] deposits for the dead which had falen [sic] no doubt in some great Batles [sic]. In addition to this we found many large fortifications which als[o] denotes siviliseation [sic] and an innumberable [sic] population which has falen [sic] by wars and comotion [sic] and the Banks of this Beautifull River became the deposit of many hundred thousands whose graves and fortifications have are overgrown with the sturdy oak 4 feete [sic] in diameter. (Moses Martin Diary, LDS Church Archives)

 

     3. Wilford Woodruff (Journal, Handwritten): Wilford Woodruff, who was the preeminent LDS journal keeper of the entire nineteenth century, prepared characteristically a detailed record of the events surrounding the discovery of Zelph. Woodruff's reputation and stature is further attested to by his decade of church service as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve and as president of the Church. Woodruff recorded under the date May-June 1834 that while the camp traveled they visited many of the mounds which were probably "flung up" by the "Nephites & Lamanites." "We visited one of those Mounds," Woodruff writes, "and several of the brethren dug into it and took from it the bones of a man." According to Woodruff, Joseph Smith was told in an open vision that the bones were those of a white Lamanite whose name was Zelph, a warrior under the great prophet who was known from the Hill Cumorah to the Rocky Mountains. This is the earliest source for this geographical data. (In Reuben McBride's account it is Zelph who was widely known.) A paragraph was added later to this account (date unknown) later in his life, and another manuscript was recorded, although the wording was essentially the same (see B* & C* below). He writes:

     While on our travels we visited many of the mounds which were flung up by the ancient inhabitants of this continent probably by the Nephties & Lamanites. We visited one of those Mounds and several of the brethren dug into it and took from it the bones of a man.

     We visited one of those Mounds: considerd [sic] to be 300 feet above the level of the Illinois river. Three persons dug into the mound & found a body. Elder Milton Holmes took the arrow out of the back bones that killed Zelph & brought it with some of the bones in to the camp. I visited the same mound with Jesse J. Smith. Who the other persons were that dug in to the mound & found the body I am undecided.

     Brother Joseph had a vission [sic] respecting the person. He said he was a white Lamanite. The curs [sic] was taken from him or at least in part. He was killed in battle with an arrow. The arrow was found among his ribs. One of his thigh bones was broken. This was done by a stone flung from a sling in battle years before his death. His name was Zelph. Some of his bones were brought into the Camp and the thigh bone which was broken was put into my waggon [sic] and I carried it to Missouri. Zelph was a large thick set man and a man of God. He was a warrior under the great prophet /Onandagus/ that was known from the hill Camorah[sic]/or east sea/to the Rocky mountains. The above knowledge Joseph receieved [sic] in a vision. [Wilford Woodruff's Journal, ed. Scott G. Kenner, 9 vols. (Midvale, UT: Signature Books, 1988), 1:10. Original Journal in the LDS Church Archives. I have deleted the note on the interlinear entry.]

 

     4. Levi Hancock (Journal, Handwritten): The longest and most detailed near-contemporaneous account of Zelph's discovery was written by Levi Hancock, later one of the Presidents of the Seventy. He makes no mention of the Hill Cumorah or of Onandagus's wide fame but does write that Zelph was a white Lamanite:

     On the way to Illinois River where we camped on the west side in the morning, many went to see the big mound about a mile below the crossing, I did not go on it but saw some bones that was brought with a broken arrow, they was layed down by our camp Joseph addressed himself to Sylvester Smith. "This is what I told you and now I want to tell you that you may know what I meant; this land was called the land of desolation and Onendagus was the king and a good man was he, there in that mound did he bury his dead and did not dig holes as the people do now but they brought there dirt and covered them untill [sic] you see they have raised it to be about one hundread [sic] feet high, the last man buried was Zelf, he was a white Lamanite who fought with the people of Onendagus for freedom, when he was young he was a great warrior and had his th[igh] broken and never was set, it knited [sic] together as you see on the side, he fought after it got strength untill [sic] he lost every tooth in his head save one when the Lord said he had done enough and suffered him to be killed by that arrow you took from his brest[sic]." These words he said as the camp was moving of[f] the ground; as near as I could learn he had told them something about the mound and got them to go and see for themselves. I then remembered what he had said a few days before while passing many mounds on our way that was left of us; said he, "there are the bodies of wicked men who have died and are angry at us; if they can take the advantage of us they will, for if we live they will have no hope." I could not comprehend it but supposed it was all right. (Levi Hancock Diary, LDS Church Archives)

 

     5. Heber C. Kimball (Journal): In 1845 the Times and Seasons published Heber C. Kimball's account of finding Zelph under the title, "Extracts from H. C. Kimball's Journal." Information concerning the Zelph incident is found under the date of "Tuesday the 3rd" (of June, 1834). Kimball states that Zelph was killed in "the last destruction among the Lamanites" but is unclear as to whether it was the final destruction of the Nephites or the last battle of Zelph's people, whoever they were. The account is as follows:

     On Tuesday the 3rd, we went up, several of us, with Joseph Smith jr. to the top of a mound on the bank of the Illinois river, which was several hundred feet above the river, and from the summit of which we had a pleasant view of the surrounding country; we could overlook the tops of the trees, on to the meadow or prairie on each side the river as far as our eyes could extend, which was one of the most pleasant scenes I ever beheld. On the top of this mound there was the appearance of three altars, which had been built of stone, one above another, according to the ancient order; and the ground was strewn over with human bones. This caused in us very peculiar feelings, to see the bones of our fellow creatures scattered in this manner, who had been slain in ages past. We felt prompted to dig down into the mound, and sending for a shovel and hoe, we proceeded to move away the earth. At about one foot deep we discovered the skeleton of a man, almost entire; and between two of his ribs we found an Indian arrow, which had evidently been the cause of his death. We took the leg and thigh bones and carried them along with us to Clay county. All four appeared sound. Elder B. Young has yet the arrow in his possession. It is a common thing to find bones thus drenching upon the earth in this country.

     The same day, we pursued our journey.--While on our way we felt anxious to know who the person was who had been killed by that arrow. It was made known to Joseph that he had been an officer who fell in battle, in the last destruction among the Lamanites, and his name was Zelph. This caused us to rejoice much, to think that God was so mindful of us as to show these things to his servant. Brother Joseph had enquired of the Lord and it was made known in a vision. [Times and Seasons 6 (1 Feb 1845): 788.]

 

     6. George A. Smith (Journal, History): Smith recorded the Zelph incident in his journal; however, he included information in a history prepared in 1857 and dated to "Monday, 2 June 1834." He gives the full date, tells of the height of the mound, and indicates Joseph Smith visited the mound the following morning. Smith's church experience was similar to that of Woodruff and Kimball. He served as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve and as a counselor in the First Presidency. He is known as a reliable witness. He writes: "Monday, 2 June 1834: Some of us visited a mound on a bluff about 300 feet high and dug up some bones, which excited deep interest among the brethren. The President and many others visited the mound on the following morning." [George A. Smith Journal (2 June 1834), LDS Church Archives]

 

     A*. (Willard Richards): In 1842 Willard Richards, then Church historian, was assigned the task of compiling a large number of documents and producing a history of the church from them. He worked on this material between 21 December 1842 and 27 March 1843. He himself had not joined the Church until 1836, but he would easily have learned from associates that the Prophet had kept no record of the march of Zion's Camp. Therefore, Richards presumably had to rely on the writings or recollections of Kimball and Woodruff and perhaps others for his information regarding the discovery of Zelph. He may have checked the story with the Prophet himself, for the latter was overseeing the preparation of the history. Richards drafted the story of Zelph as it appears in the "Manuscript History of the Church, Book A-1." Richards unwittingly created a problem for future generations, however, because he recorded this incident in a "first person" style as if Joseph was the one writing. (see the notation for 1843)

 

     B*. (Wilford Woodruff): Sometime after arriving in the Salt Lake Valley, Wilford Woodruff began writing his autobiography. An examination of the manuscript in his own hand, now in the Church archives, reveals that when he came to that part of his life when the bones of Zelph were found, he added information that is not found in his journal account.

 

     C*. (Wilford Woodruff): On 22 February 1893, James E. Talmage visited President Wilford Woodruff who showed him "a sacred relic then in his possession in the shape of an Indian arrow head." This arrow was said to have been the cause of the death of the white Lamanite, Zelph. The arrow point had allegedly come into the president's possession through Zina Young Card, a daughter of Brigham Young who, according to the same account, had formerly had possession of it. President Woodruff, at the suggestion of George F. Gibbs, his secretary, then dictated an account regarding the finding of Zelph.

 

     Sources: Kenneth W. Godfrey, "The Zelph Story," F.A.R.M.S. Paper GDF-89; a shorter version of the same, without the copies of the original sources, can be seen in BYU Studies 29 (Spring 1989), pages 31-56. For the exact text of each different contemporary source quotation, see "The Zelph Story." For how these sources were later compiled and printed, see the notations for 1843, 1846, 1904, 1938. Don Cannon wrote an article entitled "Zelph Revisited" in Regional Studies in Latter-day Saint Church History--Illinois, Editor H. Dean Garrett, Department of Church History and Doctrine, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 1995. Ken Godfrey also wrote a follow-up to his first article entitled "What is the Significance of Zelph in the Study of Book of Mormon Geography?," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Vol. 8, Number 2, 1999, pp. 73-74.

 

[1834      Illustration (Chart): Summary of the basic facts recorded in journals concerning the Zelph incident. Don Cannon, "Zelph Revisited" in Regional Studies in Latter-day Saint Church History--Illinois, Editor H. Dean Garrett, Department of Church History and Doctrine, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 1995, pp. 102-103]

 

     Note* The 1834 Unitarian (Boston) reported that the Mormons "Suppose the mounds throughout the western states, which have heretofore excited so much curiosity, are the remains of the cities of the Nephites and Lamanites." Edward Stuart Abdey wrote in 1835 that "the mounds of earth, which, as they now exist in that part of the country, have given rise to so much interest and speculation, are referred to, by the preachers of the Mormon faith, as proofs of these theocratic tribes." (Dan Vogel, Indian Origins and the Book of Mormon, SLC: Signature Books, 1986, p. 32)

  

1835            Oliver Cowdery      Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate, February 1835, p. 77

 

     Oliver Cowdery wrote that the Ephraimites and the Lamanites were the "original settlers of this continent," and that "an ancient prophet caused the plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated to be buried nearly two thousand years ago, in which is now called Ontario County, New York."

 

     Note* In this same issue, W. W. Phelps wrote that it was "by that book [the Book of Mormon] I learned that the poor Indians of America were of the remnants of Israel." Many other times editor Phelps identified the land of America as being the place where at least some Book of Mormon history took place, including the last battles of both the Jaredites and the Nephites (see Messenger and Advocate, vol. 2, October 1835, and the letter of W. W. Phelps to Oliver Cowdery in that same issue.)

 

1835            Oliver Cowdery      Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate, July 1835, pp. 158-159

                             (Reprinted in The Improvement Era 2, 1899, pp. 729-734)

 

     Note* In 1835 Oliver Cowdery wrote a series of letters to W. W. Phelps, the editor of the Messenger and Advocate. The Messenger and Advocate was published with the direction and approval of Joseph Smith. In 1841 these same letters were published in Nauvoo in the Times and Seasons (V. 2, p. 379). These letters were again published in The Improvement Era (1899, Vol. 2, pp. 729-734).

 

           [In regards to the hill Cumorah in New York] At about one mile west rises another ridge of less height, running parallel with the former . . . between these hills, the entire power and national strength of both the Jaredites and Nephites were destroyed.

           . . . By turning to the 529th and 530th pages of the Book of Mormon you will read Mormon's account of the last great struggle as they were encamped round this hill Cumorah. In this valley fell the remaining strength and pride of a once powerful people, the Nephites--once so highly favored of the Lord, but at that time in darkness, doomed to suffer extermination by the hand of their barbarous and uncivilized brethren. From the top of this hill, Mormon, with a few others, after the battle, gazed with horror upon the mangled remains of those who, the day before, were filled with anxiety, hope, or doubt. A few had fled to the south, who were hunted down by the victorious party.

           . . . This hill, by the Jaredites, was called Ramah; by it, or around it, pitched the famous army of Coriantumr their tents. Coriantumr was the last king of the Jaredites. The opposing army were to the west, and in this same valley, and near by, from day to day, did that mighty race spill their blood . . . In this same spot, in full view from the top of this same hill, one may gaze with astonishment upon the ground which was twice covered with the dead and dying . . .

 

1835            Oliver Cowdery      Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate, October 1835

 

     "I have now given sufficient on the Hill Cumorah--it has a singular and imposing appearance for that country, and must excite the curious inquiry of every lover of the Book of Mormon."

 

     "Soon after this visit to Cumorah, a gentleman from the south part of the state, (Chenango County), employed our brother [Joseph] as a common laborer."

 

1835      W. W. Phelps            Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate 2, October 1835, p. 193

 

     The following words by W. W. Phelps are revealing concerning the extent of geographical knowledge of the world at the time of Joseph Smith. He writes:

           The parts of the globe that are known [today] probably contain 700 millions of inhabitants, and those parts which are unknown may be supposed to contain more than four times as many more. . . . There may be a continent at the North Pole, or more than 1300 square miles, containing thousands of millions of Israelites.

 

1835      W. W. Phelps            Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate, November 1835

 

     W. W. Phelps, in letter twelve to Oliver Cowdery, writing about the Hill Cumorah, said:

           I want to drop an idea or two about Cumorah. Yes, Cumorah which must become as famous among the Latter-day Saints as Sinai was among the former saints . . . the history of the first settlers of America; even the book of Mormon, preparatory gathering from Cumorah: Glorious spot! . . . Cumorah, the artificial hill of North America is well calculated to stand in this generation as a monument of marvelous works and wonder. Around that mount died millions of the Jaredites; yea, there ended one of the greatest nations of this earth. In that day her inhabitants spread from sea to sea, and enjoyed national greatness and glory, nearly fifteen hundred years . . . An angel came down from the regions of glory and told that a record was hid in Cumorah.

 

1836            (Reprint)            Latter Day Saint's Messenger and Advocate, July 1836, p. 341.

 

     (See the 1832 statement by W.W. Phelps.)

 

1836      Nancy C. Williams (abt. Frederick G. Williams)      Meet Dr. Frederick Granger Williams . . . After One

                                          Hundred Years (Independence: Zion's Printing and

                                          Publishing Co., 1951), pp. 101-102.

 

     Nancy Williams writes concerning an incident which happened on March 27, 1836 during the dedication of the Kirtland Temple:

           Heber C. Kimball related it thus: "During the ceremonies of the dedication an angel appeared and sat near Joseph Smith Sen., and Frederick G. Williams, so that they had a fair view of his person. He was tall, had black eyes and white hair and stooped shoulders and his garment was whole, extending to near his ankles, on his feet he had sandals. He was sent as a messenger to accept of the dedication. (History of the Church, Vol. II, p. 427)

           Frederick had in his pocket a piece of paper which he carried to take notes on. On this he wrote in pencil: John the Beloved"-then a space followed and a few lines written in another language. A large space followed and then at the bottom of the page he wrote the following revelation: "The course that Lehi traveled from the city of Jerusalem to the place where he and his family took ship: They traveled nearly south, southeast direction until they came to the nineteenth degree of north latitude. Then nearly east to the Sea of Arabia; then south, southeast direction and landed on the continent of South America in Chili, thirty degrees south latitude."

           Returning home he transcribed the revelation in ink on another sheet of paper. Rebecca kept these papers with his other notes until her death. Their son, Ezra, loaned them to the Church Historian's Office in Salt Lake City in the 1860's where they have lain these many years, known only to historians, to be brought to light and published for the first time. [see note #1]

           Apostle George A. Smith records that "on the first day of the dedication, President Frederick G. Williams, one of the Council of the Prophet, and who occupied the upper pulpit, bore testimony that the Savior dressed in His vesture without seam, came into the stand and accepted of the dedication of the House; that he saw Him and he gave a description of His clothing and all things pertaining to it." (Journal of Discourses, Vol. XI, p. 10; Doc. & Cov. Comm. p. 726.)

 

     Note #1: The original, written in pencil was shown to the author by a Historian, in the early 1930's, and was the only one she had seen until February 29, 1949, when she was shown the film and the letter from which it was taken--and received with others a wonderful manifestation that it was indeed a revelation given to Frederick G. Williams for him and his family. The original, written in pencil, cannot be found at this writing.

(See the material about J. M. Bernhisel for the year 1845.)

 

1837            Parley P. Pratt            Elder's Journal, October 3, 1837

 

     Pratt stated that the Book of Mormon contained the "Origin of the Indians."

 

1838            Joseph Smith, Jr.      History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 3:34-35

 

           [Regarding "Tower Hill" north of Far West, Missouri] We pursued our source up the river, mostly through timber, for about eighteen miles, when we arrived at Colonel Lyman Wight's home. He lives at the foot of Tower Hill (a name I gave the place in consequence of the remains of an old Nephite altar or tower that stood there), where we camped for the Sabbath.

 

     Note* George W. Robinson, a scribe of Joseph Smith who was with him at the time, writes: "We next kept [traveling] up the river mostly in the timber for ten miles, until we came to Colonel Lyman Wright's who lives at the foot of Tower Hill. A name appropriated by President Smith in consequence of the remains of an old Nephitish Altar and Tower where we camped for the Sabbath. (Scott H. Faulring ed., An American Prophet's Record: The Diaries and Journals of Joseph Smith, SLC: Signature Books, 1989, p. 184.)

 

1838            (abt. Joseph Smith)            Zera Pulsipher Journal, pp. 8-9, located in the LDS Church

                                   Historical Archives

     

     Joseph Smith accompanied several Church members in exploring the area around Lyman Wight's northern Missouri home. In his journal, Zera Pulsipher noted:

           Davies Co was a buetiful [sic] place situated on grand river the first rate land and plenty of good timber where we supposed there had been an ancient citty [sic] of the Nephites as the hewn stone were already there in piles also the Mound or alter [sic] built by father [Adam] where to offer sacrifices when he was old leaning upon his staff prophecying the most noted thing that should take place down to the latest generation therfore [sic] it was called Adam ondiamen [sic].

 

     Note* No person was named as to the original source of the information written in the journal entry above. It has been inferred, plausibly, to have come from Joseph Smith. Yet according to the text of the Book of Mormon, the Nephite city of Manti was southward from the city of Zarahemla in the land southward of the narrow neck of land; the city of Manti was located not far from the headwaters of the northward-flowing river Sidon.

 

1838            (abt. Joseph Smith)      Samuel D. Tyler, Manuscript History Sept 25, 1838, p. 829, Book B-1

 

     Joseph Smith accompanied several Church members in exploring the area around Lyman Wight's northern Missouri home. In his journal, Samuel D. Tyler wrote:

           Sept: 25, 1838. We [the Kirtland camp] passed through Huntsville, Co. seat of Randolph Co. Pop. 450, and three miles further we bought 32 bu. of corn off one of the brethren who resides in this place. There are several of the brethren round about here and this is the ancient site of the City of Manti, which is spoken of in the Book of Mormon and this is appointed one of the Stakes of Zion, and it is in Randolph County, Missouri, three miles west of the county seat. . . . [W]hat would be more natural then that Moroni, like his father Mormon, would deposit the plates in the land where the battles came to an end and the evidence in the Nephites were destroyed? This Moroni says he did, and from all the evidence in the Book of Mormon, augmented by the testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith, these final battles took place in the territory known as the United States and in the neighborhood of the Great Lakes and hills of Western New York. And here Moroni found the resting place for the sacred instruments which had been committed to his care.

 

1838            (abt. Joseph Smith)            A. Jenson, Historical Record, Book 1, p. 601

                                   Millennial Star 16:296

 

     Joseph Smith accompanied several Church members in exploring the area around Lyman Wight's northern Missouri home. In his journal, A. Jenson wrote:

     "The [Kirtland] camp passed through Huntsville, in Randolph County, which has been appointed as one of the stakes of Zion, and is the ancient site of the City of Manti. . . ."

 

1838            Joseph Smith?            Documentary History of the Church, 3:10:144:1

 

           We came through Huntsville, the county seat of Randolph county . . . A mile and a half west of Huntsville we crossed the east branch of Chariton (River), and one and a half miles west of the river we found Ira Ames and some other brethren near the place where the city of Manti is to be built, and encamped for the night on Dark creek, six miles from Huntsville. Traveled this day seventeen miles. Distance from Kirtland, seven hundred and fifty-five miles.

 

     Note* Edwin Goble and Wayne May make the following remarks about the above information:

           The Prophet Joseph Smith said that Manti was in Missouri. Now as we have shown in the statements about Manti in Missouri, it was around the area of Huntsville, Missouri. Not only was it specifically designated as the ancient site of the city of Manti spoken of in the Book of Mormon, but, it was also stated that a city by that name was to be built by the saints near Huntsville, which apparently was never built. This goes along with another statement in Doctrine and Covenants 125:3: "Let them build up a city unto my name upon the land opposite the city of Nauvoo, and let the name of Zarahemla be named upon it."

           Special notice should be paid to this statement, because the Lord Himself wanted the saints to give the name of Zarahemla to a site across the Mississippi River from Nauvoo in Lee County, Iowa. He wanted them to build a city by that name there. So, not only was the ancient site of Manti in Missouri, but here we see that the Lord associates the name of Zarahemla with eastern Iowa. This is obvious because the Lord Himself recognized that as the place name for the area. (From Edwin G. Goble and Wayne N. May, This Land: Zarahemla and the Nephite Nation. Published by Ancient American Archaeology Foundation. Printed by Hayriver Press, Colfax, Wisconsin, March 2002, p. 67.)

 

1840            Oliver Cowdery      Times and Seasons, Nauvoo, December 1, 1840

 

     "He [Moroni] then proceeded and gave a general account of the promises made to the fathers and also gave a history of the aborigines of this country, and said they were literal descendants of Abraham."

 

1841            Benjamin F. Winchester            Gospel Reflector, March 15, 1841, p. 124

 

           [The Book of Mormon] gives the history of the Ancients of America . . . They [Lehi's colony] set sail, and in proper time landed as we infer from their records somewhere on the western coast of South America. . . . The Indians of America are the descendants of the Lamanites.

 

     Note* Besides the 1836 Frederick G. Williams manuscript concerning Lehi's travels, this is the first indication that something was being said about where Lehi landed in the Americas. As to who was saying what and how this relates to the manuscript of Frederick G. Williams, I have no other information at this time.

 

[1840's      Theoretical Model HEMISPHERIC]

 

1841            Oliver Cowdery            Gospel Reflector, March 15, 1841, p. 124

 

     "The Book of Mormon was deposited not far from that place [Joseph Smith's home] and translated by means of the Urim and Thummim."

 

1841            (Reprint)                  The Times and Seasons 2, 1841, p. 379.

 

     (See the Oliver Cowdery statement of 1835)

 

1841            ??                        "American Antiquities--More Proofs of the Book of Mormon,"

                                   Times and Seasons June 15, 1841, p. 440.

 

     Frederick Catherwood was an illustrator who traveled to Central America with John Lloyd Stephens, a diplomat and amateur archaeologist who later published an illustrated book of this experience. This article argued that the illustrator and amateur archaeologists "Frederick Catherwood and John Lloyd Stephens'" finds in Central America, as reported in the New York Herald were proofs "beyond controversy," that on this vast continent "once flourished a mighty people, skilled in the arts and sciences, and whose splendor is not to be eclipsed by any of the nations of antiquity--a people once high and exalted.

 

1841            ??                        "Dialogues on Mormonism," Times and Seasons, Vol. 2,

                                   July 15, 1841, p. 472.

 

     "The Book of Mormon is a record of the aborigines of this continent [America] . . , it gives an account of the first settlement of this land by the seed of Israel."

 

1841            Charles W. Wandell            Times and Seasons, September, 1841,

 

     Ken Godfrey writes in his 1989 article ("Joseph Smith, The Hill Cumorah, and Book of Mormon Geography: A Historical Study, 1823-1844") that the September 1841 issue of Times and Seasons carried an article in which Charles W. Wandell noted that a Professor Rafinesque had written some articles regarding writing found in the ruins of a stone city in Mexico, and that this writing ran from top to bottom like Chinese, and from side to side like Egyptian. Wandell argued that these were further proofs of the authenticity of the Book of Mormon. Godfrey concludes that articles such as these would seem to indicate that the early Saints had no concept that Book of Mormon history should be limited to a small area on the American continent.

 

1841      Charles Thompson      Evidence In Proof of the Book of Mormon, Batavia: n.p., 1841, p. 101.

 

     Charles Thompson, an elder wrote a pamphlet contending that there were enough similarities between the mound builders of the United States and the Book of Mormon peoples to make a convincing case that they were part of the same group. Such similarities in Thompson's mind included theology.

 

1842            Editor?                  Times and Seasons 1 Jan. 1842, pp. 640-644.

 

     There is a book review in the Times and Seasons of Charles Blancher Thompson's book, Evidence in Proof of the Book of Mormon, printed in Batavia, New York, in 1841. Concerning mention of antiquities of the eastern United States in the book, the reviewer states: "the people whose history is contained in the Book of Mormon, are the authors of these works."

 

1842            Joseph Smith, Jr.      The Times and Seasons 3 (1 March 1842), pp. 707-8

                             History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 4:537-8            

                             Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1932-51

     (Book Review:)

           In this important and interesting book the history of ancient America is unfolded, from its first settlement . . . to the beginning of the fifth century of the Christian era. We are informed by these records that America in ancient times has been inhabited by two distinct races of people. . . . The principal nation of the second race fell in battle towards the close of the fourth century. The remnant are the Indians that now inhabit this country.

 

1842            Joseph Smith            D&C 128:19-20, September 6, 1942

 

     Note* This was originally an epistle from Joseph Smith the Prophet to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, dated at Nauvoo, Illinois, September 6, 1842, HC 5:148-153.

 

           Now, what do we hear in the gospel which we have received? A voice of gladness! A voice of mercy from heaven; and a voice of truth out of the earth; . . . And again, what do we hear? Glad tidings from Cumorah! Moroni, an angel from heaven, declaring the fulfilment of the prophets--the book to be revealed. A voice of the Lord in the wilderness of Fayette, Seneca county, declaring the three witnesses to bear record of the book! . . .

 

1842            Orson Pratt            An Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions, and of the

                             Late Discovery of Ancient Records, 1840. Third American edition,

                             New York, 1842, p. 18.

 

     "the western coast of South America [is the site of Lehi's landing]"

 

 

1842            Joseph Smith, Jr.      Letter to John Bernhisel 16 November 1842

                             Printed in The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, Dean C. Jessee,

                             ed. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1984), p. 502.

 

     On September 8, 1842, a Pennsylvania born physician who had joined the Church in 1837 and was now serving as Bishop of the Eastern States, John M. Bernhisel, wrote Joseph Smith a letter in which he informed him that he was sending him a "copy of Stephens'Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas, and Yucatan. In a letter the prophet thanks the donor and observes of the book:

     "I have read the volumes with the greatest interest and pleasure and must say that of all histories that had been written pertaining to the antiquities of this country it is the most correct, luminous & Comprehensive--" . . . "[it] supports the testimony of he Book of Mormon."

 

1842            John Taylor or J.S.      The Times and Seasons 3 (22), 15 Sept. 1842, pp. 914-15

 

     This is an editorial review of John Lloyd Stephens' Incidents of Travel in Central America. While Joseph Smith at the commencement of his career as editor of The Times and Seasons that "I alone stand responsible for it," the actual managing editor was John Taylor. Just prior to the publication of these articles in the fall of 1842, the Prophet had assumed editorial responsibility for the Times an Seasons. Moreover, he was in Nauvoo when these stories were printed. The following appears:

           Pages 914-15: Mr. Stephens' great developments of antiquities are made bare to the eyes of all the people by reading the history of the Nephites in the Book of Mormon. They lived about the narrow neck of land, which now embraces Central America, with all the cities that can be found. . . . Read the destruction of cities at the crucifixion of Christ, pages 459-60. Who could have dreamed that twelve years could have developed such incontrovertible testimony to the Book of Mormon?

           Pages 921-22: . . . Lehi went down by the Red Sea to the great Southern Ocean, and crossed over to this land, and landed a little south of the Isthmus of Darien, and improved the country.

 

1842            John Taylor or J.S.      The Times and Seasons 3 (23), 1 October 1842, p. 927

 

     This is an editorial comment on John Lloyd Stephens' Incidents of Travel in Central America. While Joseph Smith at the commencement of his career as editor of The Times and Seasons that "I alone stand responsible for it," the actual managing editor was John Taylor. The following appears:

           Zarahemla. Since our 'Extract' was published from Mr. Stephens' "Incidents of Travel," &c., we have found another important fact relating to the truth of the Book of Mormon. Central America, or Guatimala [sic] is situated north of the Isthmus of Darien and once embraced several hundred miles of territory from north to south--The city of Zarahemla, burnt at the crucifixion of the Savior, and rebuilt afterwards, stood upon this land as will be seen from the following words in the book of Alma:

           And now it was only the distance of a day and a half's journey for a Nephite, on the line Bountiful and the land Desolation, from the east to the west sea; and thus the land of Nephi, and the land of Zarahemla was nearly surrounded by water: there being a small neck of land between the land northward and the land southward [See Book of Mormon 3d edition, page 280-81 (Alma 22:32)].

 

           It is certainly a good thing for the excellency and veracity, of the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon, that the ruins of Zarahemla have been found where the Nephties left them: and that a large stone with engravings upon it, as Mosiah said; and a 'large round stone, with sides sculptured in hieroglyphics,' as Mr. Stephens has published, is also among the left remembrances of the, (to him,) lost and unknown. We are not agoing [sic] to declare positively that the ruins of Quirigua are those of Zarahemla, but when the land and the stones and the books tell the story so plain, we are of the opinion, that it would require more proof than the Jews could bring to prove the disciples stole the body of Jesus from the tomb, to prove that the ruins of the city in question, are not one of those referred to in the Book of Mormon. . . .

           It will not be a bad plan to compare Mr. Stephens' ruined cities with those of the Book of Mormon: light cleaves to light, and facts are supported by facts. The truth injures no one, and so we make another Extract . . . [what follows is a page of material from Stephens' book]

 

     Note* It is interesting here that the Isthmus of Darien is associated with the narrow neck because of Alma 22:32. Furthermore, because of this same scripture, Zarahemla (correlated with Quirigua in Guatemala) is also associated with the narrow neck. When the full text of the Book of Mormon is analyzed, it becomes apparent that Zarahemla was located south of the narrow neck.

 

     Note* In his article, "Did the Prophet Joseph Smith Confine the Geography of the Book of Mormon to Mesoamerica? Does It Matter?" (date?), Jonn D. Claybaugh notes that in the March 15 1842 edition of the Times and Seasons, Joseph wrote the following:

     This paper commences my editorial career, I alone stand responsible for it, and shall do for all papers having my signature henceforward. I am not responsible for the publication, or arrangement of the former paper; the matter did not come under my supervision. JOSEPH SMITH (Times and Seasons, Volume 3, Number 9 [15 March 1942], page 710;

 

     Claybaugh then writes that [in view of the fact that some of the quotes is subsequent issues regarding geography have been questioned as coming from Joseph] the quotes listed below carry Joseph's signature:

           Times and Seasons, vol. 3, Number 22 [15 September 1842], pp. 914-15

           Times and Seasons, Vol. 3, Number 23 [1 October 1842], p. 927.

           Times and Seasons, Vol. 4, Number 22 [1 October 1843], pp. 346-47.

 

     Note* Delbert Curtis (Christ in North America, p. 18) takes exception to the view that Joseph Smith had a hand in these volumes. He writes that John Taylor assumed the editorial chair of the Times and Seasons at the end of 1841 and conducted the publication until the final issue in February 15, 1846. August 8, 1842, Joseph Smith and Orrin Porter Rockwell were taken into custody on an extradition order issued by the Governor of Illinois for the Governor of Missouri. Joseph and Orrin were released on a writ of "habeas corpus" and went into hiding. Joseph Smith spent much of the next five months on an island in the Mississippi River, until he surrendered January 5, 1843. (The Restored Church, by William Edwin Berrett, Desert Book, 1961, pp. 218, 224-225). . . . It was during this time, while Joseph was in hiding, that the excerpts about the geography of the Book of Mormon were put in the Times and Seasons.

 

[1842      Theoretical Model      John Taylor or Joseph Smith      N.N.=N. of Quirigua, Guatemala      MODIFIED HEMISPHERIC]

 

1843            Willard Richards            Manuscript History of the Church, Book A-1

 

     One of the most often-quoted stories used to prove that the last battles were fought in New York stems from an incident which took place in the travels of Zion's camp and has come to be known as "the Zelph incident." In June 1834, some of the members of Zion's camp uncovered some bones and Indian artifacts at the top of a mound in Illinois (one mile south of the modern Valley City). The identity of the deceased Indian initiated a revelation received by Joseph Smith, which he then apparently related to some members of the group in whole or in part. Subsequently, the information surrounding all of these events was recorded by several members of the camp (It should be noted, however, that Joseph Smith kept no personal record of the march of Zion's camp). These reports were then interpreted by Church historians. Because there have been different accounts which have appeared in official Church history, an exhaustive analysis and compilation of all the pertinent documents was undertaken by Kenneth Godfrey ("The Zelph Story," 1989, F.A.R.M.S.).

     The first Church account appears to have been written by Willard Richards between December 21, 1842, and March 27, 1843 under the title "Manuscript History of the Church," Book A-1. Although very acceptable at the time, Richards did two things which have affected the historical impact of the Zelph story in a great way: 1. He wrote the account without having personal first-hand knowledge (Even though he apparently blended the sources available to him and perhaps received oral input, the Zion's camp experiences had taken place nearly two years before Richards had joined the Church); and 2. He wrote the account as if he were Joseph Smith (a rather common practice of the day but not well-known by the modern reader). The manuscript was subjected to a number of editorial additions and deletions before publication, which markings appear on the manuscript. Subsequently, another clerk, Wilmer Benson, drew up a second copy of the same material known as the "Manuscript History of the Church," Book A-2. It differs from the Richards version in a dozen details of spelling, punctuation and phrasing, but with only one notable difference: Where Richards had "a great struggle with the Lamanites," Benson's script reads, "the last great struggle with the Lamanites." For the benefit of the Book of Mormon student, the following is the original account written by Richards with the editorial changes as marked [A-1]. These editorial changes are indicated by the crossed-out words (deletions) and the italicized words (additions):

           Tuesday the 3rd During our travels we visited several of the mounds which had been thrown up by the ancient inhabitants of this country, Nephites, Lamanites&e. and this morning I went up on a high mound near the river, accompanied by several the brethren. From this mound we could overlook the tops of the trees and view the prairie on each side of the river as far as our vision could extend and the scenery was truly delightful.

           On the top of the mound were stones which presented the appearance of three altars having been erected, one above the other, according to ancient order and the remains of human bones were strewn over the surface of the ground. The brethren procured a shovel and hoe, and removing the earth to the depth of about one foot discovered the skeleton of a man, almost entire, and between his ribs the stone point of was a Laman [=] itish arrow, which evidently produced his death. Elder Burr Riggs Brigham Young retained the arrow, and the brethren carried some pieces of the skeleton to Clay county - The contemplation of the scenery around before us produced peculiar sensations in our bosoms and subsequently the vision of the past being opened to my understanding by the Spirit of the Almighty, I discovered that the person whose Skeleton we had seen was before us was a white Lamanite, a large thick set man and a man of God.His name was Zelph. He was a warrior and chieftain under the great prophet Onandagus who was known from the hill Cumorah or eastern Sea, to the rocky Mountains, His name was Zelph. The curse was taken from Zelph him, or at least, in part. one of his thigh bones was broken by a stone flung from a sling, while in battle, years before his death. He was killed in battle, by the arrow found among his ribs, during a last great struggle with the Lamanites and NephitesElder Woodruff carried the thigh bone to Clay county.

 

     The 1904 first edition of the B.H. Roberts' edited History of the Church in seven volumes had the account [A-1] as Richards had left it. In 1934 and 1948, however, under the direction of Joseph Fielding Smith who became Church historian, Benson's version [A-2] was substituted for that of Richards version [A-1] and explicit references to the Hill Cumorah and the Nephites were reintroduced. That phrasing has continued to the present in all reprintings.

     In 1957, Preston Nibley, assistant Church historian, authorized Fletcher Hammond to announce that the 1904 edition was correct (See Hammond 1959):

           . . . Brother Nibley has authorized me to say that the 1904 edition of the Documentary History of the Church Vol. II at pages 79 and 80 correctly reports the "Zelph" incident; and that the part of the 1934 (and the 1948) edition of the same history which differs from it is erroneous. (Palmer 1981:77)

 

     Summarizing his thorough analysis, Godfrey concluded:

           Most sources agree that Zelph was a white Lamanite who fought under a leader named Onandagus (variously spelled). Beyond that, what Joseph said to his men is not entirely clear, judging by the variations in the available sources. Therefore, those who try to support a particular historical or geographical point of view about the Book of Mormon by citing the Zelph story are on inconclusive grounds.

Source: Kenneth W. Godfrey, "The Zelph Story," F.A.R.M.S., 1989; see also Joseph L. Allen, Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon, pp. 352-353.

 

     Note* (See the notations for 1834, 1846)

 

1843            John Taylor or J.S.            The Times and Seasons 4 (1 October 1843), pp. 346-347

 

     This is an editorial comment on John Lloyd Stephens' Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan, volume 2 (1843). While Joseph Smith at the commencement of his career as editor of The Times and Seasons that "I alone stand responsible for it," the actual managing editor was John Taylor. The comment reads as follows:

           It will be seen that the proof of the Nephites and Lamanites dwelling on this continent according to the account in the Book of Mormon, is developing itself in a more satisfactory way than the most sanguine believer in that revelation could have anticipated. . . .

           This is a work that ought to be in the hands of every Latter-day Saint; corroborating, as it does the history of the Book of Mormon. There is no stronger circumstantial evidence of the authenticity of the latter book, can be given, than that contained in Mr. Stephens' works. . . .

           It has fallen to his lot to explore the ruins of this once mighty people, but the "Book of Mormon" unfolds their history . . accounts of a people, and of cities that bear a striking resemblance to those mentioned by Mr. Stephens, both in regard to magnificence and location, it affords the most indubitable testimony of the historical truth of that book.

 

           [Year??] Vol. 4, Page 922: When we read in the Book of Mormon that Jared and his brother came on to this continent from the confusion and scattering at the Tower, and lived here more than a thousand years, and covered the whole continent from sea to sea, with towns and cities; and that Lehi went down by the Red Sea to the great Southern Ocean, and crossed over to this land and landed a little south of the Isthmus of Darien, and improved the country according to the word of the Lord, as a branch of the house of Israel . . . The extract below, comes as near the real fact as the four Evangelists do to the crucifixion of Jesus. Surely "facts are stubborn things." It will be as it ever has been the world will prove Joseph Smith a true prophet by circumstantial evidence, (in experiments), as they did Moses and Elijah. Now read Stephens' story.

 

     Note* The statement that Lehi "landed a little south of the Isthmus of Darien" (Panama) seems to be in conflict with the Frederick G. Williams manuscript.

 

1844            Mosiah Lyman Hancock      Autobiography, mimeographed volume, p. 28 (BYU Library)

 

     In a memoir dictated when he was an old man, Mosiah Lyman Hancock tells of Joseph Smith visiting his parents' home in Nauvoo when he was a ten-year-old boy:

           The next day [i.e., on June 19, 1844] the Prophet came to our home and stopped in our carpenter shop and stood by the turning lathe. I went and got my map for him. "Now," he said, "I will show you the travels of this people." He then showed our travels through Iowa, and said, "Here you will make a place for the winter; and here you will travel west until you come to the valley of the Great Salt Lake! . . . But, the United States will not receive you with the laws which God desires you to live, and you will have to go to where the Nephites lost their power. They worked in the United Order for 166 years" . . . Placing his finger on the map, I should think about where Snowflake, Arizona, is situated, or it could have been Mexico, he said, "The government will not receive you . . ., and those who are desirous to live the laws of God will have to go South," indicating at the same time on the map with his finger the direction of Mexico.

 

     Note* The only reference in the text of the Book of Mormon to Nephites living the United order comes from after the visit of Christ to the Nephites in the land Bountiful ("they had all things common among them"-- 4 Nephi 1:3). In the verse preceding that reference it mentions that "And it came to pass in the thirty and sixth year, the people were all converted unto the Lord, upon all the face of the land, both Nephites and Lamanites" (4 Nephi 1:2). In 4 Nephi 1:24-25 we find that "in this two hundred and first year there began to be among them those who were lifted up in pride . . . And from that time forth they did have their goods and their substance no more common among them." The minimum difference here is about 165 years, which tends to agree with Joseph Smith's supposed comment.

 

1844            (Attributed to Joseph Smith)            (Charles Lowell Walker Diary, under the date of

                                         January 26, 1881)

 

     The information below comes from a S.E.H.A. Newsletter, Number 158, December 1984. It was part of an address delivered by Ross T. Christensen at the Thirty-third Annual Symposium on the Archaeology of the Scriptures, held at BYU on September 28 and 29, 1984. Christensen writes that a key location may have been identified by Joseph Smith, according to an 1881 diary entry by Charles Walker recording a sermon of an elderly man (Brother McBride) who had heard the identification from the Prophet's lips nearly 40 years before. Walker wrote:

           Br. McBride also related that Joseph marked with his cane in the sand the track the saints would take to the Rocky Mountains. . . .

           Said we should make stations and build up settlements all the way to new, and old Mexico Until we crossed the Isthmus and get back to the place where the Covenant was broke [i.e., the United Order] by the old Nephites. Spoke of the Great Temple in Central America unfinished, showing marks of the work being stopped while in the Course of erection; that pillars and other curiously worked stones were found in the Quarry quite a distance from the Temple exactly corresponding with those already fitted and placed in the grand and massive structure. Showing plainly that some unexpected event transpired causing a stoppage in the work. This temple was situated by the River Copan anciently called the River of Nephi. (Karl A. Larson and Katherine Miles Larson, eds. Diary of Charles Lowell Walker. Utah State University Press: Logan. Vol. 2, pp. 524-525; words in brackets inserted by Larson and Larson)

 

     Note* Charles Lowell Walker was of British ancestry, and came to reside in Fillmore, Utah. He faithfully kept a diary, which eventually ran to ten volumes. It was his practice to record summaries of sermons he especially liked. In 1881 he entered the above passage in his record of a sermon by Reuben McBride.

     Reuben McBride had been a member of Zion's Camp, which marched in 1834. He was well acquainted with the prophet Joseph Smith and therefore spoke in his sermon of matters of which he had personal knowledge. He would have been about 77 years old when Walker recorded his sermon (see the notation for 1881).

     Joseph Smith, Jr., apparently made the statement McBride attributed to him during the last week or so of his harried life, before his martyrdom on June 27, 1844, at the age of 38. It is likely, however, that he made such statements a number of times in addition to the instances reported here.

 

     Note* The statement "we should make stations . . . all the way to new and old Mexico until we crossed the Isthmus and get back to the place where the Covenant was broke by the Nephites" implies a chronological journey past an Isthmus, implying that the Nephites broke the Covenant in the land southward. It also implies that the "Isthmus" was the narrow neck and was somewhere in Mexico or south of Mexico.

 

1844            Joseph Smith                  Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 362.

 

           The whole of America is Zion itself from north to south, and is described by the Prophets, who declare that it is the Zion where the mountain of the Lord should be, and that it should be in the center of the land. When Elders shall take up and examine the old prophecies in the Bible, they will see it.

 

1844            John Taylor                  Times and Seasons, December 15, 1844, pp. 746-747

 

     Editor John Taylor states that the "Jaredites probably made the present prairies [of America] by extensive cultivation."

 

1845            Heber C. Kimball            Times and Seasons 6 (1 Feb 1845): 788

 

     In 1845 the Times and Seasons published Heber C. Kimball's account of finding Zelph under the title, "Extracts from H. C. Kimball's Journal." Under the date of "Tuesday the 3rd" (of June, 1834), Kimball states that Zelph was killed in "the last destruction among the Lamanites" but is unclear as to whether it was the final destruction of the Nephites or the last battle of Zelph's people, whoever they were. (For the full quote, see the notation for 1834.)

 

1845            Lucy Mack Smith            History of Joseph Smith First ed., Liverpool, 1853 [written in

                                   1845]. First Utah ed., 1901, Salt Lake City, p. 100.

 

           "A short time after the marriage of Joseph [1827], his mother reported eighteen years later, that after a visit to the hill, he referred to 'the hill of Cumorah'." (see the 1927 notation)

 

     Note* See the 1878 statement of David Whitmer, which seems contradictory.

 

1845      Joseph? or Frederick G. Williams?      J. M. Bernhisel manuscript of Joseph Smith's "new

                                    translation" of the Bible      

 

     According to Robert J. Matthews ("Notes on 'Lehi's Travels'," BYU Studies 12 (??, 1972), pp. 313-14),            In the spring of 1845, in Nauvoo, Dr. John M. Bernhisel made a partial copy of the manuscript of Joseph Smith's "new translation" of the Bible. Although the statement about Lehi's travels apparently has nothing to do with the translation of the Bible, the "Lehi" statement is found on the last leaf of the Bernhisel copy. It is on a page by itself without a heading, and there is no comment concerning it. Dr. Bernhisel did not number the pages of his manuscript after page 21, but if they were numbered consecutively, the page containing the Lehi statement would be number 135. The reverse side of the page is blank.

           The exact text and spelling of the statement as it appears in the Bernhisel copy is as follows:

                 The course that Lehi travelled from the city of Jerusalem to the place where he and his family took ship. They travelled nearly a south south East direction until they came to the nineteenth degree of North Lattitude then nearly East to the sea of Arabia then sailed in a south east direction and landed on the continent of South America in Chile thirty degrees south lattitude.

 

           It will be noted that the Bernhisel copy has the same wording as the Williams account [see the notation for 1836] and nearly the same spelling and capitalization, with striking correlation in the spelling of "lattitude."

           Bernhisel offers no date as to when he recorded this item, but the entire Bernhisel manuscript was made during May and June 1845 and is dated several times in the manuscript. The penmanship of the Lehi entry appears to be consistent with the remainder of the manuscript, having the same style of writing, capitalization, and word-slant. In every respect it seems to be the handwriting of Dr. Bernhisel recorded during the May-June 1845 period. . . .

           Since the "Lehi" information is in no way connected with the "new translation" of the Bible, a question arises as to how Dr. Bernhisel obtained the information in the first place. This of course we do not know, but it is possible that he found it among the sheets of the Bible manuscripts and simply recorded it because it was interesting to him. Whether the Lehi item was ever among the pages of the Bible translation we do not know, but it is certainly not among them today. The original manuscripts of Joseph Smith's "new translation" of the Bible which Dr. Bernhisel used are in the RLDS archives in Independence, Missouri, and the writer knows from personal examination that the Lehi statement is not currently in the collection.

 

     Note* See the notations for 1836 and 1882.

 

1846            ??                        Times and Seasons, 1 January 1846, p. 1076.

 

     Ken Godfrey wrote an article entitled "What is the Significance of Zelph in the Study of Book of Mormon Geography?," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Vol. 8, Number 2, 1999, pp. 71-79. In it he writes:

           Following the death of Joseph Smith, the Times and Seasons published serially the "History of Joseph Smith." When the story of finding Zelph appeared in the 1 January 1846 issue, most of the words crossed out in the Richards manuscript were, for some unknown reason, included, along with the point that the prophet's name was Omandagus. The reference to the hill Cumorah from the unemended Wilford Woodruff journal was still included in the narrative, as was the phrase "during the last great struggle of the Lamanites and Nephites."

 

     Note* See the notation for 1843.

 

1848      Orson Pratt            Divine Authenticity--or was Joseph Smith Sent of God?, Liverpool, 1848

 

     Orson Pratt was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and a leading intellectual figure in the Church. In 1848 he writes:

           In the Book of Mormon are given the names and locations of numerous cities of great magnitude, which once flourished among the ancient nations of America. The northern portions of South America, and also Central America, were the most densely population [sic?] . . .

           A careful reader of that interesting book can trace the relative bearings, and distances of many of these cities from each other; and if acquainted with the present geographical features of the country, he can, by the descriptions given in that book, determine, very nearly, the precise spot of ground they once occupied. . . .

           The moldering ruins of many splendid edifices and towers, and magnificent cities of great extent, have been discovered by Catherwood and Stephens in the interior wilds of Central America, in the very region where the ancient cities described in the Book of Mormon were said to exist.

 

     Note* This statement was reprinted in Orson Pratt's Works on the Doctrines of the Gospel (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1945), p. 22.

 

1848      Orson Pratt            Doctrines of the Gospel, Liverpool: England, 1848

 

     Orson Pratt writes: "In the interior wilds of Central America, is the very region where the ancient cities described in the Book of Mormon were said to exist."

 

1848            Orson Pratt                  Millennial Star 10 (22, 15 November 1848), pp. 346-347

 

     This is an editorial (Orson Pratt was the editor).

 

           The first great nation that anciently inhabited Yucatan, passed away about 2,400 years ago; but their prophets left a history, an abridgement of which has been translated into the English language, called the "Book of Ether" . . . The last great nation that inhabited that country and passed away, have also left their history, which was discovered, translated, and published in the English language nearly 20 years ago by Mr. Joseph Smith. . . . "Mr. Mormon says, that in the 367th year after Christ, "the Lamanties"--the forefathers of the American Indian--"took possession of the city of Desolation"--which was in Central America, near to or in Yucatan--"and this because their number did exceed the number of the Nephites"--the Nephites being the Nation who inhabited the cities of Yucatan--"and they"---the Lamanites--"did also march forward against the city of Teancum . . .

           In the 384th year, the occupants of Yucatan and Central America, having been driven from their great and magnificent cities, were pursued by the Lamanites to the hill Cumorah . . . where the whole nation perished in battle.

 

     Note* Earlier statements coupled with this location of "the city of Desolation-which was in Central America, near to or in Yucatan" seems to imply that Pratt's concept of the land of Desolation was a land stretching from at least Yucatan all the way to at least Missouri. Pratt's narrow neck would have been south of Yucatan.

 

1849            Orson Pratt            Millennial Star 11 (8) (15 April 1849), pp. 115-116.

 

     This is a reply to a pamphlet printed in Glasgow entitled "Remarks on Mormonism," [Part III]

 

           In my remarks upon the evidence in favour of Joseph Smith's divine mission, ("Divine Authority," page 13) I have, among numerous other evidences adduced, referred to the late discoveries of Catherwood and Stephens in Central America, as confirmatory evidence of the truth of the Book of Mormon. Mr. Paton considers this as no evidence at all, and refers to the discoveries of Baron Humboldt and many other antiquarians, long before Mr. Smith translated that book. No one will dispute the fact that the existence of antique remains in different parts of America was known long before Mr. Smith was born. But every well informed person knows that the most of the discoveries made by Catherwood and Stephens were original--that most of the forty-four cities described by him had not been described by previous travellers. Now the Book of Mormon gives us the names and locations of great numbers of cities in the very region where Catherwood and Stephens afterwards discovered them.

 

1851            Parley P. Pratt            Proclamation! to the People of the Coasts and Islands of the Pacific

 

           "Arriving at the sea coast they built a ship, put on board the necessary provisions and the seeds brought with them from Jerusalem; and setting sail they crossed the great ocean, and landed on the western coast of America, within the bounds of what is now called 'Chili'."

 

1855            Parley P. Pratt            Key to the Science of Theology, Liverpool, 1855, pp. 22-23

 

           By this science the Prophets Lehi and Nephi came out with a colony from Jerusalem, in the days of Jeremiah the prophet, and after wandering for eight years in the wilderness of Arabia, came to the seacoast, built a vessel, obtained from the Lord a compass to guide them on the way, and finally landed in safety on the coast of what is now called Chile, in South America.

 

1856      Heber C. Kimball            Journal of Discourses, 4:105, September 28, 1856

 

     In a discourse delivered in the Bowery, Great Salt Lake City, September 28, 1856, President Heber C. Kimball said the following:

           Brother Mills mentioned in his song, that crossing the Plains with hand-carts was one of the greatest events that ever transpired in this Church. I will admit that it is an important event, successfully testing another method for gathering Israel, but its importance is small in comparison with the visitation of the angel of God to the Prophet Joseph, and with the reception of the sacred records from the hand of Moroni at the hill Cumorah.

           How does it compare with the vision that Joseph and others had, when they went into a cave in the hill Cumorah, and saw more records than ten men could carry? There were books piled up on tables, book upon book. Those records this people will yet have, if they accept the Book of Mormon and observe it's precepts, and keep the commandments.

 

     Note* See the 1877 statement by Brigham Young. See also the statement by Edward Stevenson recorded for the year 1877.

 

1866            Orson Pratt            Millennial Star 28 (16 June 1866),

 

     In an article on the differential hour of the reports for the crucifixion as between the Bible and the Book of Mormon, the editor, Orson Pratt, writes about Nephi, who wrote the New World account of the crucifixion time:

           Page 370: . . . we have the strongest reasons for believing that he, at the time, resided in the northwestern portions of South America, near a temple which they had built in the land Bountiful, which the record informs us was not far south of the narrow neck of land, connecting the land south with the land north; but which we, in these days, call the Isthmus of Darien.

           Pages 390-394: The Hill Cumorah is situated in western New York. . . . It . . . is distinguished as the great battlefield on which , and near which, two powerful nations were concentrated with all their forces, men, women and children, and fought till hundreds of thousands on both sides were hewn down, and left to molder upon the ground. . . . The Hill Cumorah is remarkable also as being the hill on which and around which, a still more ancient nation perished, called Jaredites. . . . Millions fought millions, until the Hill Ramah, and the land round about, was soaked with blood. . . .

           Page 801: . . . After [Lehi's] arrival on the coast of Chili. . . . The Hebrew mound builders. . .

 

     Note* This is the first statement in print that the narrow neck of land was specifically thought to be the Isthmus of Darien. As to where Orson Pratt got this idea and how this relates to the Frederick G. Williams manuscript about Lehi's landing in Chile, I have no information at this time.

 

[1866      Illustrated Model      Orson Pratt:            HEMISPHERIC]

     L.S.=South Amer. / N.N.=Panama / L.N.=North of Panama / H.C.=N.Y.

     Source: Joseph L. Allen, Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon, p. 185.

 

1866            Orson Pratt            Millennial Star (28 (27): 417)

 

           The hill Cumorah, with the surrounding vicinity, is distinguished as the great battlefield on which, and near which, two powerful nations were concentrated with all their forces. Men, women and children fought till hundreds of thousands on both sides were hewn down, and left to molder upon the ground. . . .

           These new plates were given to Moroni to finish the history. And all the ancient plates, Mormon deposited in Cumorah, about three hundred and eighty-four years after Christ. When Moroni, about thirty-six years after, made the deposit of the book entrusted to him, he was, without doubt, inspired to select a department of the hill separate from the great depository of the numerous volumes hid up by his father. The particular place in the hill where Moroni secreted the book, was revealed, by the angel, to the prophet Joseph Smith, to whom the volume was delivered in September, A.D. 1827. But the grand repository of all the numerous records of the ancient nations of the western continent, was located in another department of the hill, and it's contents under the charge of holy angels, until the day should come for them to be transferred to the sacred temple of Zion.

 

     Note* In relation to these records, Orson Pratt commented in 1873: "But will these things be brought to light? Yes. The records, now slumbering in the hill Cumorah, will be brought forth by the power of God, to fulfil the words of our text, that 'the knowledge of God shall cover the earth, as the waters cover the deep.'" (Orson Pratt, May 18, 1873, in Journal of Discourses 16:57)

 

1866      Wilford Woodruff (abt. Heber C. Kimball)      Wilford Woodruff's Journal 6:305, December 17, 1866

 

     "[Heber C. Kimball] prophesied that when the final last struggle came to this nation it would be at the Hill Cumorah where both of the former Nations [Jaredite and Nephite] were destroyed"

 

     Note* See Joseph Fielding Smith's comment in the year 1923.

 

1868            Orson Pratt            Journal of Discourses (Liverpool) 1869, vol. 12, pp. 340-342

 

           By the command of the Lord they [the Jaredites] collected seeds and grain of every kind, and animals of almost every description, among which, no doubt, were the elephant and the curelom and the cumom, very huge animals that existed in those days. . . they eventually came to the great Pacific ocean, on the eastern borders of China or somewhere in that region. . . .

           But the most wonderful thing concerning the first colonization of this country after the flood was the way that they navigated the great Pacific Ocean. Only think for a few moments of the Lord our God taking eight barges, launched on the eastern coast of China, and bringing them on a voyage of three hundred and forty four days and landing them all in the same neighborhood and vicinity at the same time. . . .

           They landed to the south of this, just below the Gulf of California, on the western coast. They inhabited North America, and spread forth on this Continent, and in the course of some sixteen hundred years residence here, they became a mighty and powerful nation. . . .

           On a certain occasion there were a very few individuals, Omer and his family and some few of his friends, that were righteous enough to be spared out of a whole nation. The Lord warned them by a dream to depart from the land of Moran [sic], and led them forth in an easterly direction beyond the hill Cumorah, down into the eastern countries upon the sea shore. By this means a few families were saved, while all the balance, consisting of millions of people, were overthrown because of their wickedness. But after they were destroyed, the Omerites, who dwelt in the New England States, returned again and dwelt in the land of their fathers on the western coast. . . .

           Their greatest and last struggles were in the State of New York, near where the plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated were found. . . . Coriantumr, King of a certain portion of the Jaredites, after the destruction of his nation, wandered, solitary and alone, down towards the Isthmus of Darien, and there he became acquainted with a colony of people brought from the land of Jerusalem, called the people of Zarahemla. . . .

           After the destruction of the Jaredites, the Lord brought two other colonies to people this land. One colony landed a few hundred miles north of the isthmus on the western coast: the other landed on the coast of Chili, upwards of two thousand miles south of them. The latter were called the Nephites and Lamanites. . . . A little over one century before Christ, the Nephites united with the Zarahemlaites in the northern portions of South America, and were called Nephites and became a powerful nation. The country was called the land Bountiful, and included within the land of Zarahemla. . . .

           Shortly after the Nephite colony was brought by the power of God, and landed on the western coast of South America, in the country we call Chili, there was a great division among them. . . . Nephi and the righteous separated themselves from the Lamanites and traveled about eighteen hundred miles north until they came to the headwaters of what we term the Amazon river. There Nephi located his little colony in the country supposed to be Ecuador. . . .

           Here the Nephites flourished for some length of time. The Lamanites followed them up and they had many wars and contentions, and finally the Lamanites succeeded in taking away their settlements, and the Nephites fled again some twenty days journey to the northward and united themselves with the people of Zarahemla. . . .

            Numerous hosts of the Jaredites. . . . once spread over all the face of North America.

 

1869      Wilford Woodruff (abt. Brigham Young)      Wilford Woodruff Journal, 11 December 1869, 1865, 1865-72

                                   School of the Prophets, 11 December 1869, found in the LDS

                                   Church Archives

     

           In 1869, Wilford Woodruff recorded the following about a meeting of the Salt Lake City School of the Prophets:

           Brigham Young said in relation to Joseph Smith's returning the plates of the Book of Mormon that he did not return them to the box from where he had received [them]. But he went into a cave in the Hill Cumora [sic] with Oliver Cowdery and deposited those plates upon a table or shelf and in that room were deposited a large amount of gold plates, containing sacred records, and when they first visited that room the sword was drawn from the scabbord [sic] and lain upon the table and a messenger who was the keeper of the room informed them that that sword would never be returned to its scabbord until [sic] the Kingdom of God was established upon the earth and until it reigned triumphant over evy [sic] Joseph Smith said the cave contained tons of choice treasures and records.

 

     Note* See the 1877 Brigham Young notation.

 

1870            Orson Pratt            Journal of Discourses (Liverpool 1871) 14 (27 Nov. 1870), p. 298

 

           On what part of this continent did Jesus appear? He appeared in what is now termed the northern part of South America, where they had a temple built, at which place the people gathered together, some twenty-five hundred in number, marvelling and wondering at the great earthquake that had taken place on this land. . . .

 

1871      (abt. Brigham Young)      Kirk M. Curtis, "History of the St. George Temple," unpublished master's

                       thesis (Provo: Brigham Young University, 1964)

 

     In the year 1983, H. Donl Peterson, a faculty member of the BYU religion department since 1964, published a book (Moroni: Ancient Prophet-Modern Messenger, SLC: Deseret Book) in which he writes the following:

           Book of Mormon geography is very elusive. Where Moroni was born, where he lived, where the Nephite civilization was centered, and so forth, is not presently known. At best, we can draw relationship-type maps . . . but to attempt to superimpose a Nephite map on top of a current map of the Western Hemisphere is, at best, personal supposition.

           However, we are made aware of several localities that Moroni visited during his lonely years. . . .

           In 1871 a proposition was made to the local leaders in St. George to make plans to build a temple. One historian reported that "many rumors have been circulated concerning an undocumented statement by Brigham Young that Moroni, the Nephite Prophet-General, had actually dedicated the site where the temple now stands." (Kirk M. Curtis, "History of the St. George Temple," unpublished master's thesis (Provo: Brigham Young University, 1964), p. 24)

 

           David Henry Cannon, Jr., one of the first settlers in St. George, shed the following light on the topic many years after the incident occurred:

                 I am eighty-two years old tomorrow October 14, 1942. I am the only living person, so far as I know, who heard and saw what I am about to relate. At the time of which we shall speak, I was a lad of eleven years, all-seeing and all-hearing, and drove a team hitched to a scraper.

                 President Brigham Young had written to Robert Gardner, president of the stake high council. In this letter he expressed a wish that a Temple be built in St. George. Also, that Brother Gardner select a few leading brethren, and as a group, visit sites where it might be best to build the Temple. This they did. Visiting spots each thought might be best. They could not agree, and so informed President Young.

                 President Young, arriving later, somewhat impatiently chided them, and at the same time asked them to get into their wagons, or whatever else they had, and with him find a location (site).

                 To the south they finally stopped.

                 "But, Brother Young," protested the men, "this land is boggy. After a storm, and for several months of the year, no one can drive across the land without horses and wagons sinking way down. There is no place to build a foundation."

                 "We will make a foundation," said President Young.

                 Later on while plowing and scraping where the foundation was to be, my horse's leg broke through the ground into a spring of water. The brethren then wanted to move the foundation line twelve feet to the south, so that the spring of water would be on the outside of the Temple.

                 "Not so," replied President Young. "We will wall it up and leave it here for some future use. But we cannot move the foundation. This spot was dedicated by the Nephites. They could not build it (the Temple), but we can and will build it for them."

                 To this day the water from that very spring is running through a drain properly built.

           I make this statement of my own free will and choice, and without any fear of misgiving.

           David Henry Cannon, Jr. [Curtis, "History of the St. George Temple," pp. 24-25]

 

           An attestation followed, confirming that David Cannon's mind was "clear and kleen" and that during the entire interview "he never hesitated for an answer, and he never was once in doubt as to what he had seen and heard upon those memorable occasions."

(Source: H. Donl Peterson, Moroni: Ancient Prophet-Modern Messenger, SLC: Deseret Book, 2000, pp. 76-78)

1872            Orson Pratt            Journal of Discourses 14 (11 Feb. 1872), pp. 324-331, 333

 

           When I contemplate the vast number of millions that must have swarmed over this great western hemisphere in times of old, building large cities, towns and villages, and spreading themselves forth from shore to shore from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from the frozen regions of the north to the uttermost extremity of South America. . . . This book . . . (the Book of Mormon) . . . (was) . . . delivered by divine inspiration in ancient times to prophets, revelators and inspired men who dwelt upon this continent, both in North and South America. . . .

           They (Lehi's party) were guided by the Almighty across the great Indian Ocean. Passing among the islands, how far south of Japan I do not know, they came round our globe, crossing not only the Indian Ocean, but what we term the great Pacific Ocean, landing on the western coast of what is now called South America. As near as we can judge from the description of the country contained in this record the first landing place was in Chili, not far from where the city of Valparaiso now stands. . . .

           The Nephites were commanded of the Lord to depart from their midst, that is to leave the first place of colonization in the country which the Spanish now call Chili. They came northward from their first landing place traveling, according to the record, as near as I can judge, some two thousand miles. The Lamanites remained in possession of the country on the South. The Nephites formed a colony not far from the headwaters of the river Amazon, and they dwelt there some four centuries. . . . The Lamanites in the South and in the middle portions of South America, also spread forth and multiplied, and became a very strong and powerful nation. . . . [Later] a certain portion of them (the Nephites) who still believed were commanded of the Lord to leave their brethren . . . and . . . under the guidance of prophets and revelators, came still further northward, emigrating from the head waters of what we now term the river Amazon, upon the western coast, or not far from the western coast, until they came on the waters of the river which we call the Magdalena. On this river, not a great distance from the mouth thereof, in what is now termed the United States of Columbia [sic], they built their great capital city. They also discovered another nation that already possessed that country, called the people of Zarahemla. . . .

           The Nephites and the people of Zarahemla united together and formed a great and powerful nation, occupying the lands south of the Isthmus for many hundreds of miles, and also from the Pacific on the west to the Atlantic on the east, spreading all through the country. The Lamanites about this time also occupied South America, the middle or southern portion of it, and were exceedingly numerous. . . .

           About fifty-four years before Christ, five thousand four hundred men, with their wives and children, left the northern portion of South America, passed through the Isthmus, came into this north country, the north wing of the continent, and began to settle up North America. . . . [The] Nephite nation about this time commenced the art of shipbuilding. They built many ships, launching them forth into the western ocean. The place of the building of these ships was near the Isthmus of Darien. Scores of thousands entered these ships year after year, and passed along on the western coast northward, and began to settle the western coast on the north wing of the continent. . . . I will observe another thing--when they came into North America they found all this country covered with the ruins of cities, villages and towns, the inhabitants having been cut off and destroyed. The timber had also been cut off, insomuch that in many places there was no timber . . . Forty-five years before the coming of Christ there was a vast colony came out of South America, and it is said in the Book of Mormon that they went an exceeding great distance, until they came to large bodies of water and to many rivers and fountains, and when we come to read more fully the description of the country it answers to the great Mississippi Valley. There they formed a colony. We know that to be the region of country from the fact that these plates were taken from a hill in the interior of the State of New York, being the descendants of those same colonists that settled in the valley of the Mississippi. . . . In process of time they spread forth on the right and on the left, and the whole face of the North American continent was covered by cities, towns and villages and population. . . . twelve Nephites who were called by the personal ministry of Jesus, were commanded to go forth and preach the Gospel on all the face of the North and South American continent . . .

           At the time of the crucifixion the Nephites dwelt in North America and also occupied a portion of South America. . . .

           About three hundred and seventy-five years after the birth of Christ, the Nephites occupying North America, the Lamanites South America . . ., the Lamanites began to overpower the Nephites, and they drove them northward from the narrow neck of land which we call the Isthmus of Darien, burning, destroying and desolating every city, town and village through which they passed. The Nephites continued to flee before their conquerors until they came into the interior of the state of New York . . ., the whole Nephite nation (gathering) into that one region, and the Lamanites gathering the whole Lamanite nation into the same region of country. . . . The great and last battle . . . was on the hill Cumorah, the same hill from which the plates were taken by Joseph Smith. . . .

           Mormon, one of the prophets of the Nephites, who had the records in his possession, being commanded of the Lord, hid up the records in the hill Cumorah before the battles commenced. I mean all the records except an abridgment. . . . This abridgment, reserved and not hid up by Mormon, he gave to his son Moroni. . . . Moroni tells us, as a prophet of God, that he was commanded of the Lord to hide up these records in the hill Cumorah, not in the same place where the other records had been hidden by his father Mormon, but in another place. . . .

 

1873      Brigham Young, Jr. and George Q. Cannon      The Latter-Day Saints' Millennial Star,

                                         (35 (33): 513-16), Tuesday, August 19th, 1873

 

     In 1873, apostles Brigham Young Jr. and George Q. Cannon visited the New York Hill Cumorah and wrote up an account of the same which was published.

 

           Undoubtedly great changes had occurred in the appearance of the surrounding country[side] since the days when Mormon and [his son] Moroni had trod the spot where we stood. Still we could readily understand, even now, how admirable a position this would be [from the hilltop] for a general to occupy in watching and directing the movements of armies and in scrutinizing the position of an enemy.

           Around Cumorah is yet a land of many waters, rivers and fountains [just] as Mormon said it was in his day. Our emotions on treading on this sacred hill were of the most peculiar character. They were indescribable. This was the hill Ramah of the Jaredites. In this vicinity, Coriantumr and Shiz, with the people whom they led, fought their last battle. For this great battle they were four years preparing, gathering the people together from all parts of the land, and arming men and women, and even children. The battle lasted eight days, and the result was the complete extermination of the Jaredite nation, none being left but the Prophet Ether and Coriantumr, who succeeded in slaying his mortal enemy Shiz. [Ether] and Coriantumr alone, of all that mighty race which had flourished upwards of fifteen hundred, were left. Who can imagine the feelings which he must have had on such an occasion?

           From the summit of this hill, Mormon and his great son Moroni had also witnessed the gathering of hosts of the Nephites, and the dusky and myriad legions of their deadly enemies, the Lamanites. Around this hill they had marshaled their forces--their twenty-three divisions of ten thousand men each, commanded by the most skillful of their generals, all to be swept away except Moroni.

           It was here that [Mormon] hid the abridgement which he made of the records [of his people], and which is know known by his name [Book of Mormon]. And it was here, thirty-six years after this tremendous battle, that his son Moroni also hid his abridgment of the book of Ether, and the record which he had made from which we learn the fate of his father, Mormon, and his other companions.

           It was to this spot that about fourteen hundred years after these events, Joseph Smith, the Prophet, was led by Moroni in person, and here the records, engraved on plates, were committed to him for translation. Who could tread this ground and reflect upon these mighty events, and not be filled with indescribable emotion?

 

1874?            E.C. Mc McGavin abt. Brigham Young      Mormonism and Masonry, p. 156.

 

     When the site was selected for the St. George Temple, Brigham Young "explained that the Temple must be built at that place because the Nephites had previously dedicated that very site for the erection of a Temple, but had been unable to bring their hopes to a full fruition."

 

Abt. 1874-1880      (abt. Brigham Young)            N.B. Lundwall, Temples of the Most High (Salt Lake

                                         City: Bookcraft, 1962, p. 81)

 

     N. B. Lundwall writes:

           Upon one occasion President Brigham Young was in the tabernacle at St. George and was speaking on the spirit world. He stated that it was not far from us and if the veil could be taken from our eyes there wouldn't be either a man, woman or child who would dare go out of "this tabernacle as the spirits of the Gadianton robbers were so thick out there. This is where they lived in these mountains," said he.

 

1876            Orson Pratt                  Millennial Star, 1876 (38)

 

     Page 691-2: Lehi's landing place, "as is believed, [was] not far from the 30th degree south latitude."

     Page 693: The [Jaredite] colony, . . . landed on the western coast of Mexico, and extended their settlements over all the North American portion of the continent, where they dwelt until about six centuries before Christ . . .

 

1877      Edward Stevenson            Reminiscences of Joseph the Prophet and the Coming Forth of the

                             Book of Mormon (S. L. C.: Edward Stevenson, 1893), pp. 14-15.

 

           It was likewise stated to me by David Whitmer in the year 1877 that Oliver Cowdery told him that the Prophet Joseph and himself had seen this room and that it was filled with treasures, and on the table therein were the breastplate and the sword of Laban, as well as the portion of gold plates not yet translated, and that these plates were bound by three small gold rings, and would also be translated, as was the first portion in the days of Joseph. When they were translated much useful information will be brought to light. But till that day arrives, no Rochester adventurers shall ever see them or the treasures, although science and mineral rods testify that they are there. At the proper time when greed, selfishness and corruption shall cease to reign in the hearts of the people, these vast hoards of hidden treasure shall be brought forth to be used for the cause of the kingdom of Christ.

 

           Before leaving the prophet Mormon standing on the hill in his lamentation, let us still extend the vision over the great battlefield . . . Only for a moment imagine that we see the camp just before the great battle: twenty-three camps each of 10,000 with a general at their head, would be required for the 230,000 soldiers. While I was standing upon this spot of ground [the New York Hill Cumorah] about three years ago, my mind contrasted the various changes of the present with the past and I fancied that I could review, as did Mormon, the sad and gloomy picture of his time, 1472 years ago. The fathers of those who fell around this historic hill came from Jerusalem 600 years B.C.

 

1877            Brigham Young      Journal of Discourses (Liverpool, 1878), vol. 19:36-39.

 

     Just two months and twelve days before his death in 1877, Brigham Young was establishing a new stake in Farmington, Utah. In his discourse he said the following:

 

           Orrin P. Rockwell is an eyewitness to some powers of removing the treasures of the earth. He was with certain parties that lived nearby where the plates were found that contain the records of the Book of Mormon. There were a great many treasures hid up by the Nephites. Porter was with them one night when there were treasures, and they could find them easy enough, but they could not obtain them. When [Porter] tells a thing he understands, he will tell it just as he knows it; he is a man that does not lie. He said that on this night when they were engaged hunting for this old treasure, they dug around the end of a chest for some twenty inches. The chest was about three feet square. One man who was determined to have the contents of that chest took his pick and struck into the lid of it, and split through into the chest. The blow took off a piece of the lid, which a certain lady [Lucy Mack Smith, Joseph's mother] kept in her possession until she died. That chest of money went into the bank. Porter describes it so he says this is just as true as the heavens are. (19:37)

 

           [The] treasures that are in the earth are carefully watched, they can be moved from place to place according to the good pleasure of Him who made them and owns them. . . . This is an incident in the life of Oliver Cowdery, but he did not take the liberty of telling such things in meeting as I take. I tell these things to you, and I have a motive for doing so. I want to carry them to the ears of my brethren and sisters, and to the children also, that they may grow to an understanding of some things that seem to be entirely hidden from the human family. Oliver Cowdery went with the Prophet Joseph when he deposited [i.e., returned] these plates. Joseph did not translate all of the plates. There was a portion of them sealed, which you can learn from the Book of Doctrine and Covenants. When Joseph got the plates, the angel instructed him to carry them back to the hill Cumorah, which he did. Oliver says that when Joseph and Oliver went there the hill opened and they walked into a cave, in which there was a large and spacious room. He says he did not think, at the time, whether they had the sunlight or artificial light; but that it was just as light as day. They laid the plates on a table; it was a large table that stood in the room. Under this table there was a pile of plates as much as two feet high, and there were altogether in this room more plates probably than many wagon loads; they were piled up in the corners and along the walls. The first time they went there the sword of Laban hung upon the wall; but when they went again it had been taken down and laid upon the table across the gold plates; it was unsheathed, and on it was written these words: "this sword will never be sheathed again until the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our God and his Christ! I tell you this as coming not only from Oliver Cowdery, but others who were familiar with it, and who understood it just as well as we understand coming to this meeting. I relate this to you, and I want you to understand it. I take this liberty of referring to those things so that they will not be forgotten and lost. [Don] Carlos Smith [one of Joseph's brothers] was a young man of as much veracity as any young man we had, and he was a witness to these things. [Another brother] Samuel Smith saw some things [as did] Hyrum [who] saw a good many things. But Joseph was the[ir] leader..

 

     Note* The translation was finished in late June, 1829, thus the setting of this story would have been sometime after that. Brigham Young does not state his source for this story. The story is also not the main subject of his talk. It is interesting that Edward Stevenson interviewed David Whitmer in the year 1877 and that Whitmer related this story to him (see the notation for 1877). As to whether Stevenson returned and gave a report to President Young in 1877, I have no record at this time. It is worthy of note that the earliest corroboration of this story seems to be 1855. Although the 1855 account is attributed to W. W. Phelps, he cites Hyrum Smith rather than Oliver Cowdery as his source. Also Heber C. Kimball made a statement in 1856 that implies the events in this account were seen in vision.

 

     Note* Ken Godfrey notes in his 1989 article, ("Joseph Smith, The Hill Cumorah, and Book of Mormon Geography: A Historical Study, 1823-1844") that according to a paper in his possession (Paul Thomas Smith, "A Preliminary Draft of the Hill Cumorah Cave Story Utilizing Seven Secondary Accounts and Other Historical Witnesses," unpublished paper, March, 1980) Joseph and Oliver could not return the plates to the stone box from whence they had been taken because local residents had discovered it and had dug it out of the ground. It is reported that some time after the translation of the record was completed in Fayette, New York, Joseph and Oliver Cowdery returned to the Hill Cumorah. As they were walking up the incline, a door opened into a cavern which led into a large, sixteen-foot underground room. At the request of Moroni, Joseph deposited the plates upon a table in the room. Under the table the two men observed plates piled as much as two feet high. Many hundreds of other plates were stacked in storage compartments along the walls. On one wall was the word of Laban encased in a scabbard. Later Joseph, Oliver, Joseph Smith Sr., Hyrum, Don Carlos and Samuel Smith returned to the cave and saw on a central table a copy of the Book of Mormon, the sealed portion of the plates bound with three small gold rings, the breast plate and the unsheathed sword of Laban upon which was inscribed these words, "This sword will never be sheathed again until the kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of our God and his Christ.

     The evidence upon which this tradition is based comes from minutes and diary entries, written down more than a decade after the death of Joseph Smith, and hence is suspect. Nevertheless, this evidence is considered below.

     William Dame, on January 14, 1855, recorded in his diary:

           Attended meeting a discourse from W. W. Phelps. He related a story told him by Hyrum Smith which was as follows: Joseph, Hyrum, Cowdery and Whitmer went to the Hill Cumorah. As they were walking up the hill, a door opened and they walked into a room about 16 ft. square. In that room was an angel and a trunk. On that trunk lay a Book of Mormon and gold plates, Laban's sword, Aaron's breastplate. (William Horen Dame, Diary, 14 January 1855, found in LDS Church Archives)

 

           Elder Heber C. Kimball, one of the original twelve apostles of the Church and first counselor in the First Presidency under President Brigham Young for many years, mentioned information about Cumorah's internal treasure contents in a meeting in the Bowery on Temple Square in Salt Lake City on September 28, 1856:

           Joseph and others went into a cave in the hill Cumorah and saw more records than ten men could carry. There were books piled on tables, book upon book. Those records this people will yet have, if they accept the Book of Mormon and observe its precepts, and keep the commandments (see Journal History of the Church, September 28, 1856).

 

     More than ten years later in the "Brigham Young Manuscript History" the following is recorded of a speech given by President Heber C. Kimball to a missionary meeting at the Church Historians' Office: "Pres. Kimball [Heber C.] related about Father Smith, Oliver Cowdery and others walking into the Hill Cumorah and seeing records upon records piled upon tables, they walked from cell to cell and saw the records that were piled up!" (Brigham Young Manuscript History, 5 May 1867)

 

     In 1869, two years later (eight years previous to the Brigham Young speech at Farmington), Wilford Woodruff recorded that in a meeting of the Salt Lake City School of the Prophets, Brigham Young mentioned the incident of the cave. (see the notation for 1869)

 

     Elizabeth Kane gives an account of what she was told by Brigham Young and others about what happened in the cave:

           I asked where the plates were now . . . I was answered that they were in a cave, that Oliver Cowdery, though now an apostate, would not deny that he had seen them. He had been to the cave. I did not understand exactly whether Oliver Cowdery was there three times, or whether he accompanied Joseph the third time he went there. And Brigham Young's tone was so solemn that I listened bewildered . . . Brigham Young said that when Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith were in the cave this third time, they could see its contents more distinctly than before, just as your eyes get used to the light of a dim candle, and objects in the room become plain to you. It was about fifteen feet high, and round its sides were hanged boxes of treasure. In the center was a large stone table, empty before, but now piled with similar gold plates, some of which also lay scattered on the floor beneath. formerly, the sword of Laban hung on the walls sheathed, but it was now unsheathed and lying across the plates on the table; and One that was with them said it was never to be sheathed until the reign of righteousness upon the earth. (Elizabeth Kane Journal, quoted in Dan Vogel ed. Early Mormon Documents, Vol. 3. SLC: Signature Books, 2000, pp. 407-408.)

 

     Note* Edwin Goble and Wayne May make this comment in defense of a New York Hill Cumorah:

           Clearly, the angel was indeed in the hill to meet them when he called for them to return the records. "And who is this angel? It was Moroni." "When, according to arrangements, the messenger called for them, I delivered them up to him; and he has them in his charge until this day . . ." (JS-H 1:60). After reviewing all of these accounts, there can be no doubt that this scripture is speaking of the very same incident as they are. Moroni was physically present in the hill, according to the reports. The mere mention of this being a "vision" in [the] account #6 of Heber C. Kimball is hardly proof that things weren't physically there, and that these men and the angel weren't physically in the hill, as some would have us believe. Surely, the apparition of Moroni in Joseph's room is a prime example. Moroni was physically present, yet it was a heavenly visitation, which is easily termed a "vision" (JS-H 1:30). Certainly, the First Vision in which Joseph saw the Father and the Son was referred to as a "vision" (JS-H 1:21), yet we know that this was a physical appearance of both personages (JS-H 1:17). Therefore, the historical evidence is overwhelming that the hill was Cumorah, the hill was the records' depository, and the angel was in the hill. (Edwin Goble and Wayne May, This Land: Zarahemla and the Nephite Nation. Published by Ancient American Archaeology Foundation. Printed by Hayriver Press, Colfax, Wisconsin, March 2002, p. 53.)

 

     Note* Joseph's vision of the angel Moroni occurred in a large upper room where his brothers were sleeping at the time, yet with all the light and conversation mentioned in Joseph's account of the vision his brothers did not report seeing or hearing Moroni. One should take care in implying too much about the physical aspect of a vision.

 

1877      Orson F. Whitney abt. Brigham Young            Life of Heber C. Kimball, (Salt Lake City,

                                         1945, p. 436; 3rd edition, 1967, p. 477)

 

           At the conference held in Ephraim, Sanpete County, June 25, 1875, nearly all the speakers expressed their feelings to have a temple built in Sanpete County, and gave their views as to what point and where to build it, and to show the union that existed, Elder Daniel H. Wells said: "Manti." George Q. Cannon, Brigham Young, Jr., John Taylor, Orson Hyde, Erastus Snow, Franklin D. Richards, Lorenzo Young and A.M. Musser said, "Manti stone quarry." I have given the names in the order in which they spoke. At 4 p.m. that day President Brigham Young said: "The Temple should be built on Manti stone quarry." Early on the morning of April 25, 1877, President Brigham Young asked Brother Warren S. Snow to go with him to the Temple hill. Brother Snow said:

           We two were alone: President Young took me to the spot where the Temple was to stand; we went to the southeast corner, and President Young said: "Here is the spot where the Prophet Moroni stood and dedicated this piece of land for a Temple site, and that is the reason why the location is made here, and we can't move it from this spot; and if you and I are the only persons that come here at high noon today, we will dedicate this ground.

 

     Note* Supposedly the St. George Temple also stands upon ground where Nephites had previously dedicated the site for the erection of a temple. (E. Cecil McGavin Mormonism and Masonry (SLC 1956, p. 158?) This story is detailed by Riley L. Dixon (Just One Cumorah, pp. 97-98):

           The Residents of St. George experienced a similar surprise when, a few years earlier [than the experience in Sanpete County], the same inspired leader [Brigham young] visited that community for the purpose of dedicating a temple site. At that southern city, two sites had been approved by the local brethren. Both of these sites were on an eminence which, like the site at Nauvoo, provided an appropriate location for the temple. When President Young visited the two proposed sites, he requested that his teamster conduct the party to the lowest place in the valley, a veritable swamp, infested with marsh grass and cattails. Pointing out the marsh to the brethren, he explained that the temple must be built at that place, because the Nephites had previously dedicated that very site for the erection of a temple but had been unable to bring their hopes to fruition. It required months to drain the swamp, and with special machinery resembling well-drilling machines, drive [sic] tons of rock into the boggy soil to prepare a suitable foundation. Despite the vast amount of labor required to make this site suitable, Utah's first temple was erected where the Nephites had planned to build. Inspiration from heaven rested upon the mind of the prophet and showed him where the ancient had lived and where they expected to worship.

 

     Note* I think in Richard Cowan's book, Temples to Dot the Earth, it has the specific source of this information on St. George.

 

1878            (abt. David Whitmer)            Millennial Star 40 (1878), p. 722

 

     Note* In an interview with Orson Pratt and Joseph F. Smith, David Whitmer, one of the three witnesses to the plates, told them the following:

  

           When I was returning to Fayette, with Joseph and Oliver, all of us riding in the wagon, Oliver and I on an old-fashioned, wooden spring sea, and Joseph behind us--when traveling along in a clear open space, a very pleasant, nice-looking, old man suddenly appeared by the side of the wagon, and saluted us with, "Good morning, it is very warm," at the same time wiping his face or forehead with his hand. We returned the salutation, and, by a sign from Joseph, I invited him to ride, if he was going our way; but he said very pleasantly, "No, I am going to Cumorah." This name was something new to me. I did not know what Cumorah meant. We all gazed at him and at each other, and as I looked around inquiringly at Joseph, the old man instantly disappeared, so that I did not see him again.

 

     Note* See the report of this in the Deseret News article for March 3, 1928. If this incident had to do with the translation process at the Whitmer home, then it would have been about May or June of the summer of 1829.

 

1878      (abt. David Whitmer)            Joseph F. Smith Journal, April 25, 1918

 

     In the year 1983, H. Donl Peterson, a faculty member of the BYU religion department published a book (Moroni: Ancient Prophet-Modern Messenger, SLC: Deseret Book) in which he writes the following:

           Joseph, Emma, and Oliver Cowdery left Harmony, Pennsylvania, and traveled with David Whitmer to the home of his parents, Peter and Mary Whitmer, in Fayette township, New York. [see illustration below] The following incident was related by President Joseph F. Smith recollecting [what David Whitmer had said in] an interview with David Whitmer forty years before:

                 When they started for New York Joseph told them how they would travel over the rolling country and over the prairie. He [David Whitmer] came to one of those rolling prairies as they were driving along and he [David Whitmer] described his wagon just as an ordinary wagon with two long poles in it at each end across the end gates of the wagon box and then two boards laid across that for seats on those hickory poles. Joseph and Emma were on the hind seat and Oliver and David on the front seat. In the middle of this prairie, all of a sudden, there appeared a man walking along the road, and David said he [the man] raised his hat and rubbed his brow as if he were a little warm, and said good morning to them and they said good morning. Oliver and David looked at each other and began to marvel and wonder: Where did he come from, what does it mean? David described him saying he had on something right across his shoulder, and on his back he was carrying something of considerable weight. They looked round to Joseph inquiringly: What does it mean? And Joseph said, "Ask him to ride." So David, who was teamster, asked him if he would get in and ride with them. He said, "No, I am just going over to Cumorah." David said, "Cumorah? Cumorah? What does that mean?" He had never heard of Cumorah, and he said, "I thought I knew this country all around here, but I never heard of Cumorah" and he inquired about it. While he was looking around and trying to ascertain what the mystery was, the man was gone, and when he looked back he did not see him any more. Then he demanded, "What does it mean?" Joseph informed him that the man was Moroni, and that the bundle on his back contained plates which Joseph had delivered to him before they departed from Harmony, Susquehanna County, and that he was taking them for safety, and would return them when he (Joseph) reached father Whitmer's home. There was a long talk about this. [Joseph F. Smith Journal, April 25, 1918]

 

(Source: H. Donl Peterson, Moroni: Ancient Prophet-Modern Messenger, SLC: Deseret Book, 2000, pp. 124-126)

 

[1878      Illustration: The New York-Pennsylvania Area: Locations of Significance in Joseph Smith's Early Life]

Source: H. Donl Peterson, Moroni: Ancient Prophet-Modern Messenger, SLC: Deseret Book, 2000, p. 125

 

1878      Orson Pratt and Joseph F. Smith            The Latter-day Saints' Millennial Star

                                         (40 (49): 787-89) Monday, December 9th, 1878

 

     In 1878, apostles Orson Pratt and Joseph F. Smith visited the New York Hill Cumorah and wrote up an account of the same which was published.

 

           In a beautiful little grove on this memorable hill, we bowed in humble and fervent prayer, rendering praise and thanksgiving to Almighty God for the treasures of knowledge and truth so long concealed beneath its surface. [This was] brought forth by the gift and power of God to us and the world in this dispensation. The spirit of prayer, of blessing and prophecy rested upon us so that we rejoiced exceedingly. After prayers we laid our hands upon and blessed each other, giving utterance as the Spirit dictated. We spent several hours looking over the hill, viewing the surrounding country, in meditation, prayer and thanksgiving. After which we drove to the little town of Manchester and returned to Palmyra, rejoicing and feeling that we had not spent our time in vain. We cut a few sticks, from near the summit of the hill which we brought with us as mementos of our visit.

 

     Note* Modern readers should not underestimate the authoritative impact of the reported visits by high Church officials to the New York Hill Cumorah. As Joseph Allen notes:

           Very few members of the Church in the 1800's actually ever saw the hill that has become known as Cumorah in New York. Only two yearsr after the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, the headquarters of the Church moved to Ohio, then to Missouri, then to Illinois, and finally to Utah. . . . As a result, the core of the Church members who lived in Utah from 1847 to the middle of the twentieth century had no reason to challenge that concept [that the New York hill Cumorah was the Cumorah referred to in the Book of Mormon]. (Joseph L. Allen, "Letters to the Editor" in The Book of Mormon Archaeological Digest, Vol. III, Issue III (September 2001), p. 13.

 

1879      Orson Pratt            Book of Mormon (Geographical Footnotes), 1879-1920

 

     Joseph Allen (Exploring) writes that primarily as a result of Orson Pratt's philosophy, the footnotes in the Book of Mormon from 1879-1920 included geographical descriptions. Changes in the 1921 edition included the deletion of the geographical statements in the footnotes. Some of the geographical statements that were written in the footnotes are as follows:

     1. The landing of Lehi is believed to be on the coast of Chile, South America. (1 Nephi 2:20)

     2. Statements in the text referring to the nature of the Lamanites were equated to be the same as the present condition of the Indians. (Jacob 1:46; see also 3 Nephi 16:11, 20:15, an 21:2, which also footnotes the term "Indians.")

     3. The Land of Zarahemla is supposed to have been north of the headwaters of the River Magdalena, its northern boundary being a few days' journey south of the Isthmus of Panama. (Omni 1:13)

     4. The River Sidon is supposed to be the River Magdalena in Columbia. (Alma 2:15)

     5. The Caribbean Sea was considered to be the "depths of the sea" where the bones of the Lamanites and the Amlicites ended up after their bodies were thrown into the River Sidon. (Alma 3:3)

     6. The area south of the Land of Desolation was considered to be South America. (Alma 46:17)

     7. The land on the north was considered to be North America. (Alma 46:17)

     8. The Land Northward where the Jaredites were destroyed was considered to be North America. (Alma 46:22)

     9. The Land Which Was Northward was considered to be North America. (Alma 50:22)

     10. All references in the 1876-1920 editions that use the term "Land Northward" were considered to be in North America. (Alma 51:30, 52:2, 52:9, 63:4, Helaman 3:8, 3:10, 6:6, 7:1, Mormon 2:20, etc.)

     11. All references in the 1876-1920 editions that use the term "Land Southward" were considered to be South America. (Helaman 3:8, 3:10, 6:6, 7:1, Mormon 2:20, etc.)

     12. The following statement is made in reference to 3 Nephi 10:9 where the conclusion of the destruction at the death of Christ is recorded:

     Making an allowance for the 7 1/2 hours for the difference of longitude between Jerusalem and the Land Bountiful, south of the Isthmus, the three days of darkness must have commenced and ended at 7 hours and 30 minutes in the morning, the beginning of darkness being the time in Bountiful when Jesus expired. (3 Nephi 10:9)

     13. The footnote states that the Lord brought Mulek into North America and Lehi into South America. (Helaman 6:10)

     14. The footnote regarding the Land of Cumorah states that the Hill Cumorah is in Manchester, Ontario County, New York. (Mormon 6:1)

     15. The Jaredites were brought to a land that was choice above all other lands. The 1881 footnotes state that "The Lord brought them upon the western coast of North America--and probably south of the Gulf of California." (Ether 1:42, 6:12)

     16. When Omer arrived at a placed called Ablom, which was by the seashore, the 1881 Book of Mormon footnote states that Ablom was "probably on the shore of teh New England States." (Ether 9:3)

     17. When prophets foretold a Jaredite destruction wherein "their bones should become as heaps of earth," the footnote in the 1881 edition states that the verse refers to "the ancient mounds of North America." (Ether 11:6)

     18. The Waters of Ripliancum were considered to be Lake Ontario (Ether 15:8)

   

1880      George Reynolds            Juvenile Instructor 15 (1 December 1880), p. 274

 

     From an article on "The Lands of the Nephites, The Land of Nephi" regarding the landing place of Lehi's party: "It is generally believed among the Latter-day Saints to have been on the coast of Chili. In fact it is widely understood that the Lord so informed the Prophet Joseph Smith."

 

     Note* George Reynolds' views on Book of Mormon geography were first published in serial form in The Juvenile Instructor from 15 November 1880 to 1 February 1881. This material was later placed in the same form in his book The Story of the Book of Mormon.

 

[1880      Theoretical Model      Reynolds      L.S.=South Amer. / N.N.=Panama / L.N.=North of Panama / H.C.=N.Y.      HEMISPHERIC]

 

1881      (abt. Joseph Smith?)            Diary of Charles L. Walker, A. Karl and Katharine Larson, eds.

                             26 January 1881, (Logan Utah: Utah State University Press,

                             1980), pp. 525-526)

 

     In the year 1983, H. Donl Peterson, a faculty member of the BYU religion department since 1964, published a book (Moroni: Ancient Prophet-Modern Messenger, SLC: Deseret Book) in which he writes the following:

           Book of Mormon geography is very elusive. Where Moroni was born, where he lived, where the Nephite civilization was centered, and so forth, is not presently known. At best, we can draw relationship-type maps . . . but to attempt to superimpose a Nephite map on top of a current map of the Western Hemisphere is, at best, personal supposition.

           However, we are made aware of several localities that Moroni visited during his lonely years. . . .

           On January 26, 1881, Father William McBride, patriarch from Richfield, on the Sevier river, spoke at a prayer meeting held in St. George. He recalled many experiences from the Nauvoo period, quoting the prophet Joseph Smith on several issues. "Father" McBride also "spoke of the Route the old Nephites took traveling to Cumorah from the South and Southwest; of having to bury their tre[a]sures as they journeyed and finally burying the Records and precious things in the Hill Cumorah." The patriarch spoke "of Moroni dedicating the Temple sites of what we now call St. George, Nauvoo, Jackson Co., Kirtland and others we know not of as yet" (in A. Karl Larson and Katharine Miles Larson eds., Diary of Charles Lowell Walker, vol. 2 [Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press, 1979], pp. 524-26).

 

           Whether Moroni traversed such a vast territory solely to dedicate various temple sites or whether he also had other reasons is a question that remains unanswered.

 

(Source: H. Donl Peterson, Moroni: Ancient Prophet-Modern Messenger, SLC: Deseret Book, 2000, pp. 76-79)

     Note* The above diary notation concerning the year 1881 and William McBride speaking about "the Route the old Nephites took traveling to Cumorah from the South and Southwest" and "burying the Records and precious things in the Hill Cumorah" helps to give a time frame and substance to the following information written by H. Donl Peterson:

           Several years ago, I came across two copies of a map in the Archives Division of the Historical Department of the Church relative to Moroni's North American journeys (see Figures 1 and 2). On the back of the map in Figure 1 is written the following:

           A chart, and description of Moroni's travels through this country. Got it from Br. Robert Dickson. He got it from Patriarch Wm. McBride at Richfield in the Sevier and also from Andrew M. Hamilton of the same place. And they got it from Joseph Smith the Prophet.

 

           On the map "land Bountifull [sic]" is listed in "Sentral [sic] America." The cartographer wrote "starting point" below the reference to Central America. Above the "land Bountifull" is "Sand hills in south part of Arizona," and above it to the left is "Salt Lake." To the right is "Independens, Jackson Co, Mo," and above that is "Adam on Diamon, Davis Co, Mo." To the right of that is "Nauvoo, Hancock C. Ill." Below that is "Mound Kinderhook, Pike, Co, Ill, 6 Plates Bell shape were found" (were was was on one copy). Then to the right and above that is "Kirtland, Ohio," and to the right of that is "Commorre [Cumorah], N.Y." Below this on the right-hand side of the map is written: "Moroni's Travels starting from Sentral America to the Sand hills Arizona then to Salt Lake U[tah], T[erritory], then to Adam on Diammon Mo, then to Nauvoo, Ill, then to Independence Mo, then to Kirtland Ohio then to Cumoro NY."

           The second map appears to have been drawn by the same hand and is quite similar to the first, though it twice spells Arizona as Arisony (one "y" has an "a" written over it); "eden" is written near the circle identifying "Independense"; "where adam blessed his posterity" is written near the circle identifying "Adam on Diammon"; the "missisipy river" is listed near Nauvoo; Kirtland is twice misspelled "kertland"; and Cumorah is misspelled "Cunora" and "Cumora."

           It is interesting to note that the brethren mentioned on these documents were contemporaries of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and they credited him with the notion that the travels of Moroni began in the land Bountiful, which was in Central America, and went through the western Great Basin area prior to going east to Cumorah in western New York. Why Moroni took the route he did is still without answers. These men stated that the Prophet Joseph believed Bountiful is in Central America while the Hill Cumorah, the burial place of the plates, is in New York State.

 

Source: H. Donl Peterson, "Moroni, the Last of the Nephite Prophets" in Paul R. Cheesman, Monte S. Nyman, and Charles D. Tate Jr., eds., Fourth Nephi Through Moroni: From Zion to Destruction, Papers from the Ninth Annual Book of Mormon Symposium, 1994. Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1995, pp. 244-247.

 

[Illustration: Figure 1. Figure 2. H. Donl Peterson, "Moroni, the Last of the Nephite Prophets" in Paul R. Cheesman, Monte S. Nyman, and Charles D. Tate Jr., eds.,Fourth Nephi Through Moroni: From Zion to Destruction, Papers from the Ninth Annual Book of Mormon Symposium, 1994. Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1995, pp. 244-247]      

 

Note* McBride accompanied Joseph Smith on the trek of Zion's Camp (see the notation for 1834).

 

Note* One has to wonder why no mention is made of Mormon in these travels.

 

1882            James A. Little                  A Compendium of the Doctrines of the Gospel Salt Lake City:

           Franklin D. Richards            Deseret News, 1882, p. 289 (See also 1884, 1898, 1925)

 

     Reprint of material originally dated to about 1836 but first appearing in a manuscript in 1845. This is a note apparently written down by Frederick G. Williams concerning the direction of Lehi's travels while Williams was a scribe for Joseph Smith. Notice that contrary to the information contained in the notation for 1836, this statement appears to be attributed to Joseph Smith himself rather than Frederick G. Williams. It also has a little different wording:

           LEHI TRAVELS--Revelation to Joseph the Seer. The course that Lehi and his company traveled from Jerusalem to the place of their destination:

           They traveled nearly a south-southeast direction until they came to the nineteenth degree of north latitude; then, nearly east to the Sea of Arabia, then sailed in a southeast direction, and landed on the continent of South America, in Chili, thirty degrees south latitude.

 

     Note* This version has been treated in Frederick G. Williams III, "Did Lehi Land in Chile? An Assessment of the Frederick G. Williams Statement," F.A.R.M.S., WIL-88. Also, Robert J. Matthews, "Notes on 'Lehi's Travels'," BYU Studies 2 (3), 1972, pp. 312-14. For a treatment of an earlier version, see the notation for 1836.

 

1883            William Smith            William Smith on Mormonism (Lamoni, Iowa:Herald Steam Book

                             & Job Office, 1883, p. 36.

 

     One of Joseph's own brothers, William Smith (who was once one of the original twelve apostles of the early Church) wrote this in a small booklet about the last great "terrible war" between the ancient Nephites and Lamanites:

           This war commenced at the Isthmus of Darien [in Panama], and was more or less destructive to both nations. At length the Nephites were driven before their enemies north and north-east to a great distance. [While] gathering their whole nation together both men, women, and children, they encamped on and around about the hill Cumorah near where Palmyra, NY now stands; where the golden records were found, in the town of Manchester, about four miles on the road leading from Palmyra to the city of Canadaigua.

 

1886      A. H. Cannon            Questions and Answers on the Book of Mormon: Designed and Prepared

                       Especially for the Use of the Sunday Schools in Zion,

                       Salt Lake City: Juvenile Instructor Office, 1886, p. 24

 

     "19Q. Where does the Prophet Joseph Smith tell us they landed? A. On the coast of Chili in South America."

 

1887      George Q. Cannon            "Editorial," Juvenile Instructor, 22/4 (1887): p. 221.

 

     Ken Godfrey quotes the words of George Q. Cannon from this magazine article in his own article entitled "What is the Significance of Zelph in the Study of Book of Mormon Geography?," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Vol. 8, Number 2, 1999, p. 77. He writes:

           President George Q. Cannon in 1887 wrote an editorial appearing in the Juvenile Instructor, which called for some caution relative to Book of Mormon geography and noted that there "is considerable anxiety manifested [among Latter-day Saints] to identify the sites of the ancient cities of the Nephites and to locate the exact spots where the stirring scenes described in the Book of Mormon were enacted." Cannon then declared that there are only "a few points which can be identified." The "hill known as Cumorah among the Nephites," he wrote, "and as Ramah among the Jaredites, is a spot which we are now familiar with, it being the place where Moroni concealed the records of his father, and to which the Prophet Joseph was directed by his angel guide." "Joseph Smith," Cannon wrote, "told some of his followers, that the Magdalena River is the Book of Mormon river Sidon" and that Lehi and his family "landed near the Chilean city of Valparaiso." Cannon believed that "beyond these few points, it may be said that the sites of the cities of the Nephties are left to conjecture." Concluding his editorial, President Cannon asserted that he had no confidence in the maps various authors had prepared as aids in studying the Book of Mormon and wrote, "I think it better that we should have no maps at all than to have an incorrect one."

 

[1887      Illustrated Model      HEMISPHERIC?]

     L.S.=South Amer. / N.N.=Panama / L.N.=Chiefly southern Mesoamerica and Central America / H.C.= Unclear

     Source: Plain Facts for Students of the Book of Mormon, with a Map of the Promised Land, (n.p., n.d.)--a four-page pamphlet preceded by an "Outline Map of the Occidental Promised Land." A Photocopy of the dog-eared original exists at BYU) The text cites a letter from President John Taylor dated 1886 to a nameless addressee in Logan, Utah, giving permission to undertake missionary work among Maya Indians but warning that only a single wife was to accompany anybody going. The text, which emphasizes the importance of preaching to the "genuine" Lamanites found in Yucatan, indicates that Pres. Taylor was alive at publication. Since he died in 1887, the pamphlet is taken as published that year. While the "model" is unclear it seems distinctive and notable in its emphasis on Mesoamerica as the defacto land northward.

 

1888      George Reynolds      The Story of the Book of Mormon, SLC: J. H. Parry, 1888.

 

     George Reynolds was asked to serve as the Church's representative in testing the constitutionality of the Morrill Act of 1862 which had made plural marriage illegal. After the case reached the Supreme Court in 1879 and the Church lost, Reynolds was assigned for eighteen months to the Utah Territorial Penitentiary. It was in prison that George began to make his great contribution to the Book of Mormon commentary. He was thrilled to read the new 1879 edition of the Book of Mormon-arranged into chapters and verses by Elder Orson Pratt--and felt motivated to write about the book. And write he did--about eighty published articles in all, most of them about the book. Because almost nothing had been written to teach children about this book, most of the articles were for children's publications, the Juvenile Instructor, as well as several children's readers. After Brother Reynolds was released from prison, his friends urged him to organize his private writings on the Book of Mormon into a single volume. In 1888 his Story of the Book of Mormon appeared, the first complete--though unofficial--commentary on the text of the Book of Mormon. The first half of the book gives a running narrative of the story. The second half contains essays such as "The Women of the Book of Mormon," "Domestic Life among the Nephites," and "The Laws of the Nephites."

     Reynolds was also the first Book of Mormon student to give serious attention to the geography of the Book of Mormon. He was the first to attempt a detailed description of every city, valley, hill, land, and river mentioned in the Book of Mormon and their relationship to each other. No previous student had made such an effort. The basics appeared in Reynolds' series in The Juvenile Instructor between November 15, 1880 and February 1, 1881. This was amplified in The Story of the Book of Mormon, 1888.

(Source: Bruce A. Van Orden, "George Reynolds," in The Ensign, August 1986, pp. 48-50)

 

[1888      Theoretical Model      B. H. Roberts            HEMISPHERIC]

     L.S.=South Amer. / N.N.=Panama / L.N.=North of Panama / H.C.=N.Y.

 

1888            B. H. Roberts            Millennial Star, 50, 1888.

 

     B. H. Roberts first published ten pieces in 1888. They became the basis upon which he published (1909) his three volumes entitledNew Witnesses for God (see notation). The following are some of those 1888 pieces:

           [Lehi's party in Arabia] constructed a vessel by command of God, and sailing in a south easterly direction landed on the west coast of South America, 30 degrees south latitude. (50:377)

           In the second century B.C., a company of Nephites [Limhi's exploring party] wandered into North America, and there discovered evidences of that land having been formerly inhabited by a numerous people . . . (50:409)

           [The Book of Mormon] locates the chief centers of civilization in those parts of the American Continent where the subsequent researches of the American antiquarians prove them to have existed. (50:428)

 

1890            George Q. Cannon            Juvenile Instructor, January 1, 1890 (Editorial)

                                   Reprinted in The Instructor 73, 4 (April), pp. 159-160.

 

           There is a tendency, strongly manifested at the present time among some of the brethren, to study the geography of the Book of Mormon. We have heard of numerous lectures, illustrated by suggestive maps, being delivered on this subject during the present winter, generally under the auspices of the Improvement Societies and Sunday Schools. We are greatly pleased to notice the increasing interest taken by the Saints in this holy book . . .

           It also unravels many mysteries connected with the history of the ancient world, more particularly of this western continent . . .

           We have been led to these thoughts from the fact that the brethren who lecture on the lands of the Nephites of the geography of the Book of Mormon are not united in their conclusions. No two of them, so far as we have learned, are agreed on all points, and in many cases the variations amount to thousands of miles.[see note] These differences of views lead to discussion, contention, and perplexity, and we believe more confusion is caused by these divergences than good is done by the truths elicited.

           How is it that there is such a variety of ideas on this subject? Simply because the Book of Mormon is not a geographical primer. It was not written to teach geographical truths. What is told us of the situation of the various lands or cities of the ancient Jaredites, Nephites, and Lamanites, is usually simply an incidental remark connected with the doctrinal or historical portions of the work; and almost invariably only extends to a statement of the relative position of some land or city contiguous to or surrounding places, and nowhere gives us the exact situation or boundaries so that it can be definitely located without fear of error. . . .

           The First Presidency have often been asked to prepare some suggestive map illustrative of Nephite geography, but have never consented to do so. Nor are we acquainted with any of the Twelve Apostles who would undertake such a task. The reason is, that without further information they are not prepared even to suggest. The word of the Lord or the translation of other ancient records is required to clear up many points now so obscure that, as we have said, no two original investigators agree with regard to them. When, as is the case, one student places a certain city at the Isthmus of Panama a second in Venezuela, and a third in Guiana or northern Brazil, it is obvious that suggestive maps prepared by these brethren would confuse instead of enlighten; and they cannot be thus far apart on this one important point without relative positions being also widely separate.

           For these reasons we have strong objections to the introduction of maps and their circulation among our people which profess to give the location of the Nephite cities and settlements. As we have said, they have a tendency to mislead, instead of enlighten, and they give rise to discussions which will lead to division of sentiment and be very unprofitable. We see no necessity for maps of this character, because, at least, much would be left to the imagination of those who prepare them; and we hope that there will be no attempt made to introduce them or give them general circulation. Of course, there can be no harm result from the study of the geography of this continent at the time it was settled by the Nephites, drawing all the information possible from the record which has been translated for our benefit. But beyond this we do not think it necessary, at the present time, to go, because it is plain to be seen, we think, that evils may result therefrom.

 

     Note* If variations "amounted to thousands of miles," what models were being proposed?

 

1899            Oliver Cowdery      The Improvement Era 2, 1899, pp. 729-734

           (Reprint)            Reprint of Messenger and Advocate, July 1835, pp. 158-159            

 

     [In regards to the hill Cumorah in New York] "At about one mile west rises another ridge of less height, running parallel with the former . . . between these hills, the entire power and national strength of both the Jaredites and Nephites were destroyed."

           . . . By turning to the 529th and 530th pages of the Book of Mormon you will read Mormon's account of the last great struggle as they were encamped round this hill Cumorah. In this valley fell the remaining strength and pride of a once powerful people, the Nephites--once so highly favored of the Lord, but at that time in darkness, doomed to suffer extermination by the hand of their barbarous and uncivilized brethren. From the top of this hill, Mormon, with a few others, after the battle, gazed with horror upon the mangled remains of those who, the day before, were filled with anxiety, hope, or doubt. A few had fled to the south, who were hunted down by the victorious party.

           . . . This hill, by the Jaredites, was called Ramah; by it, or around it, pitched the famous army of Coriantumr their tents. Coriantumr was the last king of the Jaredites. The opposing army were to the west, and in this same valley, and near by, from day to day, did that mighty race spill their blood . . . In this same spot, in full view from the top of this same hill, one may gaze with astonishment upon the ground which was twice covered with the dead and dying . . .

 

1899            James E. Talmage            The Book of Mormon, an Account of its Origin, with Evidences

                                   of its Genuineness and Authenticity (A Pamphlet of two

                                   lectures) 1899, pp. 9-10

 

           Lehi's voyage was across the "South Pacific Ocean to the western coast of South America, whereon they landed. . . . They spread northward, occupying the northern part of South America, then, crossing the Isthmus [Panama], they extended their domain over the southern, central and eastern portions of what is now the United States of America.

 

1900      B. Y. Academy Expedition to South and Central America

 

 

     Terryl Givens writes the following concerning this expedition:

           Benjamin Cluff, Jr., president of Brigham Young Academy (University after 1903), persuaded the church to officially sanction the first actual foray into Book of Mormon archaeology. (note 64) Under Cluff, who was trained in pedagogy and mathematics, a ragtag group made up mostly of students began an audacious expedition to South America in 1900. Although they hoped to amass all manner of scientific date, the main purpose was to discover the Nephite capital of Zarahemla, believed to lie along the banks of the Magdalena River in Columbia. With the preclassic civilizations of Mesoamerica (dating from 2000 B.C. to A.D. 450, contemporary with the Book of Mormon civilizations) yet to be discovered, this first effort to authenticate the New World scripture was premature by any standard. Delays at the Mexican border led to breakdown of morale and discipline, and soon the members/ inexperience and poor organization caused the church to rescind its support. A few continued on, hungry and ill-equipped. They arrived in Colombia at last, only to find that internal chaos made further travel into the interior unthinkable. The six remaining explorers returned home after almost two years on the road. Cluff insisted that the effort succeeded in stimulating interest in the Book of Mormon and Mesoamerican antiquities, though it failed in its purpose. But the church's abrupt withdrawal of its endorsement was the fist sign of a dawning recognition that optimism might need to be tempered with more prudence. (Terryl L. Givens, By the Hand of Mormon: The American Scripture that Launched a New World Religion, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002, p. 108

 

(For another perspective of this expedition, see the write-up in the notation of Hugh Nibley for 1952)

 

1900      George Reynolds      Complete Concordance of the Book of Mormon, SLC: Deseret Book, 1900

 

     In 1900, George Reynolds finally published his Complete Concordance to the Book of Mormon, much of which (25,000 entries) had been completed while in prison in 1880. Until the age of computers, this monumental work would become the standard for students of the Book of Mormon. (See the notation for 1957)

     CUMORAH

           A hill and the district immediately surrounding it in Ontario County, State of New York. It was known as Ramah to the Jaredites. In its vicinity both the Jaredite and the Nephite races were destroyed in battle. Within its bosom the sacred records of the latter race were concealed.

 

     SIDON, River

           The most important river in Nephite History; known to-day as the Magdalena. It runs northward through the United States of Colombia and empties into the Caribbean Sea.

 

1903            Joseph F. Smith      "Book of Mormon Students Meet," Deseret Evening News, 25 May

                             1903, p. 7.

 

     Ken Godfrey quotes the words of Joseph F. Smith from this newspaper article in his own article entitled "What is the Significance of Zelph in the Study of Book of Mormon Geography?," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Vol. 8, Number 2, 1999, p. 77. He writes:

           On the morning of 23 May 1903, President Joseph F. Smith called to order representatives from many parts of the state of Utah who had gathered on the campus of the Brigham Young Academy in Provo for a two-day Book of Mormon convention. Many, if not most, of the church's leading Book of Mormon students were with President Smith and his counselor Anthon H. Lund on the stand. Delegates listened to George Reynolds, B. H. Roberts, Dr. M. H. Hardy, Professor Benjamin Cluff, Charles W. Penrose, Dr. James E. Talmage, and others as they presented sometimes differing views regarding Book of Mormon geography, the site of Zarahemla, and how to properly pronounce the names of people mentioned in the Book of Mormon text.

           The discussions following each presentation were vigorous, and President Smith from time to time suggested that the location of various Nephite cities "was not of vital importance, and if there were differences of opinion on the question it would not affect the salvation of the people." As the convention drew to a close, President Smith again "cautioned the students against making the union question--the location of cities and lands--of equal importance with the doctrines contained in the Book [of Mormon]." President Anthon H. Lund "advised those present to study the Book of Mormon and be guided by the advice of President Smith in their studies." None of the speakers used the story of Zelph to augment their arguments as to where Book of Mormon history took place.

 

     Note* It appears that the only variables on Book of Mormon geography that might have been discussed were concerning the hemispheric model. Placement of cities would have been chosen only with maps using little or no archaeological and cultural evidence. In addition to the material above, there is another bit of information in the article that modern readers might find interesting:

           Elder [B. H.] Roberts took issue with some of the speakers, who thought that but slight physical changes had taken place on this continent at the time of the crucifixion of the Savior; he believed that great changes had taken place. In support of this theory he read from Jacob, the brother of Nephi, who speaks of his people being on an island. He believed that Jacob knew what an island was; and he believed that the country had so changed that it would be difficult now to designate any place mentioned by Book of Mormon writers from the present topography of the country. . . . Prof. B. Cluff, Jr., and others had views different from those of Elder Roberts, and considerable discussion followed.

 

1903            Joel Ricks            Deseret Evening News, Saturday May 23, 1903

 

     "In Book of Mormon Lands"

     "Utah Student and Traveler Writes the Deseret News Concerning Experiences in Central and South America-Into the Wilds"

     "Written for the Deseret News"

           Mr. Joel Ricks, secretary of the Book of Mormon society, an institution founded by the Brigham Young college of Logan, some time ago left on a trip to Central and South America to pursue investigation into the geography of the country described in the Book of Mormon. He is now conducting his researches and the first of his letters which will be printed in the "News" from time to time is presented herewith:

                 Honda Colombia, April 9--I am sitting on a point of rock that pushes itself above the mass about me. . . . At my feet and with almost a sheer descent of 1,200 feet, flows in a great half moon sweep a majestic river, its waters discolored by the red clay of the mountains near its source are rushing madly over the boulders as if in a hurry to reach the sea. . . . I can follow the river in its meanderings for nearly 100 miles and to the northward until it is lost in the great forest covered plains. Book of Mormon students tell us that the great river is the Sidon of the Nephites, that the broken mountainous country to the west is the land Zarahemla. That this hill is the hill Amnihu, where Alma fought the Amelicites [sic]. That the little valley to the eastward is the valley of Gideon, that up beyond the point where this hill terminates was the land of Menon [sic]. If this be true or not every Book of Mormon student will follow me closely through this interesting country and in my humble way I shall try and show him the country as it is. . . .

 

                 Guaduas, Colombia, April 19-- . . . Eastward from this point are two roads. One goes to Bogota, which lies a little south of east and the other over the mountains to the rich valleys tying to the northeast. It was in those valleys that I think the Nephites had many cities as Jushon [sic], Antionum and others. In that event, this valley would have been on the line of communication between them and the city of Zarahemla. There is a reference in the Book of Mormon that would lead us to believe that this was true of the valley of Gideon. . . . JOEL RICKS

 

1904            B. H. Roberts            History of the Church

 

     In his edited seven volume History of the Church, B. H. Roberts left the Zelph incident as Willard Richards had recorded it in 1843. In 1934 and 1948, however, under the direction of Joseph Fielding Smith who became Church historian, another version was substituted for that of Richards version and explicit references to the Hill Cumorah and the Nephites were reintroduced. That phrasing has continued to the present in all reprintings.

     In 1957, Preston Nibley, assistant Church historian, authorized Fletcher Hammond to announce that the 1904 edition was correct (See Hammond 1959):

           . . . Brother Nibley has authorized me to say that the 1904 edition of the Documentary History of the Church Vol. II at pages 79 and 80 correctly reports the "Zelph" incident; and that the part of the 1934 (and the 1948) edition of the same history which differs from it is erroneous. (Palmer 1981:77)

 

[1904      Illustrated Model      Joel Ricks      HEMISPHERIC]

     L.S.=Western S. Amer. / N.N.=Pan. / L.N.=North of Panama / H.C.= N.Y.      

     Sources: Brigham Young College Society of American Archaeology. Society Report: Book of Mormon Geography. Brigham Young College Bulletin 3 (2) December 1904 (Logan, Utah). Ricks wrote this report as chairman of their Committee on Book of Mormon Geography; the two maps are specifically "by Joel Ricks." The model is essentially unchanged in Joel Ricks, Helps to the Study of the Book of Mormon, 1916. Also the same as in Ricks' The Geography of the Book of Mormon, n.p., (1939). See also Ricks' Whence Came the Mayas?, n.p., 1943.

 

1904      Joel E. Ricks      "A Study of Book of Mormon Geography" in Brigham Young College Bulletin: Society

                 Report 3, December 15, 1904: 1-19.

 

     Ricks believes that Book of Mormon geography is discernible. He suggests that the land northward is North America, the land southward is South America, the "narrow neck of land" is the Isthmus of Panama and the "River Sidon" is the river Magdalena. The Hill Cumorah mentioned in the Book of Mormon is the same as the Hill Ramah of the Jaredites and is where Joseph Smith discovered the plates. Ricks continues to suggest precise locations for almost all cities mentioned in the Book of Mormon. Maps included. [A Guide, p. 242]

 

1906            Joel Ricks            "The Land of Zarahemla" in The Juvenile Instructor, 41

                             (1, 15 April, November 15, 1906: 193-96, 225-28, 673-77)

 

     In 1906 Joel Ricks published a series of articles in The Juvenile Instructor which specified his model (which largely followed Reynolds' ideas) in some detail, but he moved beyond previous models in concrete details. Ricks had previously visited Colombia and published a report on Book of Mormon geography for the Deseret Evening News in 1903 and the "Society of American Archaeology in 1904, which gave his articles some academic perspective (see the notations). Ricks identifies an area in Bogota, Colombia as the Land of Zarahemla. He presents photographs and a description of the geography, climate, and vegetation of the area, drawing parallels with passages of the Book of Mormon text. [A Guide, p. 242]

 

1908            (abt. Joseph F. Smith)            Diary of Ruth May Fox, June 7, 1908

 

     On June 7, 1908 in a special Temple fast meeting, according to the diary of Ruth May Fox, "Pres. Jos. F. Smith said that he stood on the hill by Orson Pratt when he pointed out the site where General Moroni made his last stand against the Lamanites."

 

1909            B. H. Roberts                  New Witnesses for God , Vol. II. (3 Volumes)

                                   Deseret News: Salt Lake City, 1909, pp. iii-viii

 

           While desiring to make it clear that our chief reliance for evidence to the truth of the Book of Mormon must ever be the witness of the Holy Spirit, . . . I would not have it thought that the evidence and argument presented . . . are unimportant, much less un-necessary. Secondary evidences in support of truth, like secondary causes in natural phenomena, may be of firstrate importance, and mighty factors in the achievement of God's purposes.

 

 

1909            B. H. Roberts                  New Witnesses for God , Vol. II. (3 Volumes)

                                   Deseret News: Salt Lake City, 1909,

 

     B. H. Roberts, a great champion of the Book of Mormon concluded that between 600 B.C. and 46 B.C., the Nephites were confined to a relatively small area. He refers to the 55 B.C. migration of the Nephites into "the land which was northward" and makes the following statement:

 

           Pages 199-200: Here it will be proper to dispel what I regard as a misapprehension of the extent of Nephite occupancy of the North Continent, at this period of Nephite history. From the fact that in the foregoing quotation it is said that the Nephites removing from Zarahemla traveled "to an exceeding great distance, insomuch that they came to large bodies of water, and many rivers," some have supposed that the Nephites at this time extended their colonization movements as far north as the great lakes in the eastern part of North America; and from the fact that it is also said that "they began to cover the face of the whole earth, from the sea south, to the sea north, from the sea west, to the sea east," it has been supposed that these expressions meant to convey the idea that the Nephites at this time had extended their settlements over both continents; and that "from the sea south to the sea north" meant from the sea at the southern extremity of South America (south of Cape Horn), to the Arctic Ocean, north of North America. There is no evidence, however, in the Book of Mormon that warrants such a conclusion as to the extent of Nephite occupancy of the western hemisphere in 46 B.C. Allowance for hyperbole must be made in the expression, "They began to cover the face of the whole earth," since the facts set forth in the whole history of the Nephites in the Book of Mormon are against the reasonableness of the such an expression if taken literally. From the landing of Lehi's colony early in the sixth century B.C., to the date corresponding to the year 55 B.C., when the first considerable migration into the north land took place, Nephite occupancy of the promised land was confined to a portion of the west and the extreme north part of what is now the south continent of America; an as compared with the rest of South America, as now known to us, the extent of country occupied was but a very small part of the continent. . . .

           I conclude, therefore, that this migration of Nephites at this time extended no further northward than southern parts of Mexico, say about the twenty-second degree north latitude; in other words, the Nephites were occupying the old seat of Jaredite empire and civilization, and the land of Moron, which the Nephties called "desolate."

 

     Roberts also comments on the Frederick G. Williams note about Lehi's travels:

 

           Pages 501-502: The only reason so far discovered for regarding the [Lehi's Travels statement] as a revelation is that it is found written on a loose sheet of paper in the hand writing of Frederick G. Williams, for some years second Counselor in the First Presidency of the Church in the Kirtland period of its history; and follows the body of the revelation contained in Doctrine and Covenants, section vii., relating to John the beloved disciple, remaining on earth, until the glorious coming of Jesus to reign with his Saints. The handwriting is certified to be that of Frederick G. Williams, by his son, Ezra G. Williams, of Ogden, and endorsed on the back of the sheet of paper containing the . . . passage and the revelation pertaining to John. . . . But there is no heading to the passage . . . about Lehi's travels. The words "Lehi's Travels" and the "Revelation to Joseph the Seer," are added by the publishers, justified as they supposed. . . . But the one relating to Lehi's travels was never published in the life-time of the Prophet, and was published no where else until published in the Richards-Little Compendium . . . Now, if no more evidence can be found to establish this passage in Richards and Little's Compendiumas a "revelation to Joseph the Seer," than the fact that it is found in the hand writing of Frederick G. Williams, and on the same sheet of paper with the body of the revelation about John. . . ., the evidence of its being a "revelation to Joseph, the Seer," rests on a very unsatisfactory basis.

 

           Pages 503-504: And let me here say a word in relation to new discoveries in our knowledge of the Book of Mormon, and for matter of that in relation to all subjects connected with the work of the Lord in the earth. We need not follow our researches in any spirit of fear and trembling. We desire only to ascertain the truth; nothing but the truth will endure; and the ascertainment of the truth and the proclamation of the truth in any given case, or upon any subject, will do no harm to the work of the Lord which is itself truth. Nor need we be surprised if now and then we find our predecessors, many of whom bear honored names and deserve our respect and gratitude for what they achieved in making clear the truth, as they conceived it to be--we need not be surprised if we sometimes find them mistaken in their conceptions and deductions; just as the generation who succeed us in unfolding in a larger way some of the yet unlearned truths of the Gospel, will find that we have had some misconceptions and made some wrong deductions in our day and time. . . . All which is submitted, especially to the membership of the Church, that they may be prepared to find and receive new truths both in the Book of Mormon itself and about it.

 

     Note* This is the first known change from the hemispheric concept of Book of Mormon geography.

 

1909            B. H. Roberts                  New Witnesses for God , Vol. III. (3 Volumes)

                                   Deseret News: Salt Lake City, 1909,

 

     Pages 502-503: Roberts discovered that in the Frederick G. Williams manuscript, the phrase "revelation to Joseph the Seer" was added by the publishers. He then wrote:

           If this is not a revelation, the physical description relative to the contour of the lands occupied by the Jaredites and Nephites, that being principally that two large bodies of land were joined by a narrow neck of land--can be found between Mexico and Yucatan with the isthmus of Tehuantepec between. If the investigation now going on shall result in relieving us of the necessity of considering ourselves bound to uphold as a revelation the passage in Richards and Little's Compendium, here considered, many of our difficulties as to the geography of the Book of Mormon--if not all of them in fact, will have passed away.

 

     Appendix A: I may also say that as these pages go to press the question of Book of Mormon geography is more than ever recognized as an open one by students of the book. That is to say, it is a question if Mormon views hitherto entertained respecting Book of Mormon lands have not been a misconception by reason of premises forced upon its students by the declaration of an alleged revelation [the "Lehi's Travels" statement].

 

[1910 Illustrated Model      RLDS            HEMISPHERIC]

     L.S.=South Amer. / N.N.=Pan. / L.N.= N. of Panama / H.C.=N.Y.

     Source: Report of Committee on American Archaeology .l . . Lamoni, Iowa: Herald Publishing Co: 1910. (The committee was appointed by the church's general conference in 1894. The 1910 report is evidently a revision of one about 1900 which already contained G. F. Weston's maps, for which the committee furnished him all information.

 

1916      Joel E. Ricks      Helps to the Study of the Book of Mormon, Independence, MO, Zion's, 1916

 

     This instructional aid intended to increase understanding of the Book of Mormon and included a chronology, maps, photos, . . . etc. Ricks uses geography, archaeology, ancient traditions, and biblical prophecies to demonstrate the divinity of the Book of Mormon. [A Guide, p. 242]

 

1917            Louis Edward Hills            The Geography of Mexico and Central America from 2234

                                   B.C. to 421 A.D.

                                   (Independence, Missouri)

 

     A member of the RLDS Church, Louis Edward Hills is credited with being the first to develop a Book of Mormon geography model that was strictly limited to Mexico and Central America (see illustration below). He wrote a number of books which derived their geography from the traditional histories of the ancient Americans written by Ixtlilxochitl and others, and the Popol Vuh. For him the hill Cumorah was in central Mexico, the first place ever suggested other than New York. In the preface of his book he states the following:

           after years of teaching and defending the Book, I am convinced that the geography, taken from a close study of location as found in the record itself, is the very best evidence that can be furnished to authenticate the record. Confident that the record gives a true history of ancient Americans who once lived upon this Western Continent, I have tried to make the Book itself give to us the much-to-be-desired map. To God be the honor.

 

[1917      Illustrated Model      Louis E. Hills      LIMITED MESOAMERICA]

     L.S.=South. & East. Mesoamerica / N.N.=Tehuantepec / L.N.=Northern & western Mesoamerica / H.C.= in Valley of Mexico      

     Sources: Louis Edward Hills, Geography of Mexico and Central America from 2234 B.C. to 421 A.D., n.p.: Independence, Missouri, 1917. Also Hills' A Short Work on the Popol Vuh and the Traditional History of the Ancient Americans by Ixt-lil-Xochitl, Independence, MO; Also A Study of the Geography of the Book of Mormon, n.p., 1920. Also A Friendly Discussion of the Book of Mormon Geography, n.p.: Independence, Missouri, 1924. See also Hills' Historical Data from Ancient Records and Ruins of Mexico and Central America, 1919.

     

1918 or earlier            (abt. Joseph F. Smith)            The Instructor 73, no. 4, April 1938, p. 160

 

     In the Instructor of 1938, following a reprinting of the 1890 statement by George Q. Cannon, a letter is printed which is signed, "Frederick J. Pack, Chairman, Gospel Doctrine Committee." It questions the correctness of the statement in the 1882 Richards and LittleCompendium supposedly revealing the route followed by Lehi. (see 1882 notation) Immediately following the Pack letter is this note:

           (Note. The present associate editor [George D. Pyper] of The Instructor was one day in the office of the late President Joseph F. Smith [who died in 1918] when some brethren were asking him to approve a map showing the exact landing place of Lehi and his company. President Smith declined to officially approve of the map, saying that the Lord had not yet revealed it, and that if it were officially approved and afterwards found to be in error, it would affect the faith of the people.--Asst. Editor)

 

[Pre-1920      Theoretical Model      Willard Young      LIMITED CENTRAL AMERICA]

     L.S.=Honduras / N.N.=East. end of Guatemala / L.N.=Guatemala-->Chiapas / H.C.= near Jalapa, Guatemala      

     Source: See Janne M. Sjodahl, An Introduction to the Study of the Book of Mormon, 1927. Sjodahl indicates that Young was among four persons who in 1921 presented their opinions at "what appears to be a quasi-official meeting at Church headquarters on the question of geography."

     Note* The real contribution of Young was to deal with the external scene in real world terms instead of just a map. He knew and talked about the topography, climate, vegetation and travel conditions in tropical America in a more concrete way as he had worked in Panama.

 

1921      LDS Church Committee Reviews Geography for the 1921 Edition of the Book of Mormon      

 

     In 1921 a Church committee (composed of Orson F. Whitney, Anthony W. Ivins, Joseph Fielding Smith, Melvin J. Ballard, George E. Richards, and James E. Talmage) was given the assignment of preparing a new edition of the Book of Mormon. They met "to give certain brethren an opportunity to state their views regarding the geography of the Book of Mormon." After hearing many hours of presentations on the geography of the Book of Mormon, they saw fit to delete all of Orson Pratt's geographical footnotes from the new edition of the Book of Mormon.

 

 

1922            B. H. Roberts Presents a 141-Page Report on "Book of Mormon Difficulties" to Top

           Church Officials

 

     In August of 1921, James Talmage received a letter from a young member named W. E. Riter. Riter had been studying the Book of Mormon with non-Mormons, who had proposed a number of questions that he couldn't answer, so he forwarded five of them to Elder Talmage. They asked (1) why there was so much diversity in Indian languages if they were all descendants of the Lamanites; (2) how one might account for the mention of the horse in the Book of Mormon if it wasn't introduced until the Conquest; (3) how one might account for Nephi's "steel" bow; (4) why to Book of Mormon mentioned "cimiters before their supposed use in the Near East; and (5) how the mention of "silk" could be accounted for if it was unknown in America at the time of the Book of Mormon.

     Talmage forwarded the letter to B. H. Roberts in a normal fashion, however Roberts had a difficult time answering the letter to his own satisfaction: "I found the difficulties more serious than I had thought." After a delay of some months he asked the First Presidency if he might present to them his results. In two long sessions on January 4-5, 1922, B. H. Roberts presented his response to these scholarly difficult-to-answer questions regarding the cultural and geographical background of the Book of Mormon: "These questions are put by me . . . to bring to the consciousness of myself and my brethren that we face grave difficultiles in all these matters. . . . I am sure that neither an appeal to the books written by men, nor even to the books of scripture now in our possession, will solve our present difficulties." ("Book of Mormon Difficulties," in Studies of the Book of Mormon, p. 115.)

     This put the Brethren on notice that there were some Book of Mormon geographical and cultural questions that could be a concern at that time.

     Although he did not publish his results, later in 1922 Roberts would take the same critical approach with his studies of Ethan Smith'sView of the Hebrews, which had been published in 1823 and 1825 in which he wrote a short summary of possible relationships between the Book of Mormon and the View of the Hebrews. (see A Parallel between the Book of Mormon and A View of the Hebrews by Ethan Smith, N.p. Reprinted in Studies of the Book of Mormon, edited by Brigham D. Madsen, 321-344. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1985.

 

     Note* All of these questions have since been addressed by the FARMS organization (see the notation for 1980).

 

1923      Rey L. Pratt            Conference Reports, April 1923, p. 39

 

     B. H. Roberts' cautionary tone was contrasted in 1923 by the words of Elder Rey Pratt, who had just returned from presiding over the Mexican missions. In the April General Conference he said:

           "It has been my good fortune to travel somewhat in fields rich in archaeology in this country and I bear you my testimony that not one spade of earth has been overturned that has revealed a single thing except what is corroborative of the Book of Mormon and its being a divine record."

 

1923      James E. Talmage            Letter to Jean R. Driggs, February 23, 1923

 

Dear Brother Driggs:

 

     For your letter of February 17th, with enclosure of list of Book of Mormon passages bearing on the subject of Book of Mormon geography, please accept my thanks. As you say President Grant has already informed you, he handed me the extra copy of your paper together with the map that you sent him. It is very pleasing to know that you are turning your careful attention to this very important subject; and I hope that an examination of the data you present will disclose consistent facts, as you feel assured that your study has already demonstrated such to yourself.

     I shall hope for an early opportunity of reading your paper, examining the references and map, and otherwise considering the whole subject; though, it is but fair to say to you, that just now I have so many manuscripts awaiting my examination that I do not know when I shall have opportunity to give your presentation the attention it deserves.

     The more capable workers we have in this field the better. Somewhat over a year ago a committee of the Council of Twelve sat for days listening to the presentation of the subject of Book of Mormon geography by several of our brethren who have given particular study to the subject, and we found that their views differed as widely as the continents. It was there and then decided that until we have clearer knowledge in this matter, the Church could not authorize or approve the issuance of any map, chart, or text, purporting to set forth demonstrated facts relating to Book of Mormon lands. . . .

     I trust that you will continue in your work of research and investigation, and I pray that you may be divinely assisted in this worthy undertaking.

                 With best wishes for your continued welfare, I remain

 

                       Very truly your brother in the gospel

 

                                   (Signed J. E. Talmage)

 

1923            Joseph Fielding. Smith            Doctrines of Salvation, Vol. 3, p. 242.

 

     Joseph Fielding Smith was attending the first general conference of the Eastern States Mission, convened at the Joseph Smith Farm near Palmyra on September 21, 1923--the one hundredth anniversary of the appearance of Moroni to Joseph Smith--when he said the following:

           As I stood upon the summit of the Hill Cumorah, in the midst of a vast multitude, only a few of whom belonged to the Church, I tried to picture the scenes of former days. Here were assembled vast armies filled with bitterness and bent on destruction. I thought of the great promises the Lord had made through his prophets concerning those who should possess this choice land, and how those promises were not fulfilled because the people violated his commandments. Here a people perished because of their extreme wickedness. There is something in the destiny of things that would cause a repetition of this terrible scene on the same spot many centuries later. I reflected and wondered if this unhappy time would ever come when another still mightier people would incur the wrath of God because of wickedness and likewise perish. If so, would this same spot witness their destruction? (See 1866 notation--Heber C. Kimball prophecy)

 

1925      J. M. Sjodahl            "Archaeology and the Book of Mormon," in Millennial Star 87,

                       February 26, 1925, pp. 132-34.

 

     Sjodahl writes that the conclusions of modern research of the mound builders coincides with the Book of Mormon account of the Jaredite people. Modern archaeologists conclude that the Indians are of one race, their migrations were from south to north, the original inhabitants of America bear an unmistakable relationship to the Semitic branches of eastern culture and Egypt. [A Guide, p. 267]

 

1926            The Church Institutes of Religion Are Established

 

1927      Janne Sjodahl            "Suggested Key to Book of Mormon Geography," The Improvement Era,

                       30, September 1927, 974-87, 1002.

 

     Bruce A. Van Orden writes in his paper, "George Reynolds and Janne M. Sjodahl on Book of Mormon Geography" (August 1981), that Janne Sjodahl's feelings on Book of Mormon geography seem to be much more refined than those of Reynolds. Sjodahl for many years had investigated various theories before he published his own conclusions. In 1921 he met in what appears to be a quasi-official meeting at Church headquarters on the question of geography. Joel Ricks and Colonel Willard young presented their individual feelings at the meeting. Sjodahl recorded these theories together with another one by Stuart Bagley as well as Reynolds's theory in The Improvement Era in 1927 ("Suggested Key to Book of Mormon Geography," The Improvement Era, 30, September 1927, 974-87, 1002) and in his bookAn Introduction to the Study of the Book of Mormon published the same year (see pp. 418ff.).

     Sjodahl agreed with Reynolds on the landing place of Lehi. But from there their points of view diverge. Sjodahl used another alleged statement of Joseph Smith to place Zarahemla in Central America. The narrow neck of land then became the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in Mexico. The land of Nephi was part of the greater land of Lehi and was in South America. The land of Zarahemla was identified with the ancient Mayan empire in southern Mexico and the United States were Mulek or Desolation. The hill Cumorah was in New York State. Sjodahl used a "great amount of archaeological and ethnological material concerning the American Indians" to arrive at his conclusions which identified certain cities and areas. Sjodahl broke new ground in Book of Mormon scholarship by stating that not all American Indians are descendants of Lehi or Mulek and their companions, but that there were probably many other immigrants to America besides those reported in the Book of Mormon.

 

     Note* Davis Bitton (Guide to Mormon Diaries and Autobiographies, Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1977, item no. 2243) reports the existence in the LDS archives of a diary of Janne M. Sjodahl covering the years 1920-22. Bitton reported in his synopsis of the diary about the 1921 meeting and the participants. Unfortunately the Sjodahl diary is unavailable for use (according to James L. Kimball, Jr., an archivist) due to the diary's present unorganized condition.

     Colonel Willard Young was a son of President Brigham Young. He had extensive military and engineering experiences in the eastern United States.

 

1927      J. M. Sjodahl      An Introduction to the Study of the Book of Mormon,SLC: Deseret News Press

 

     J. M. Sjodahl writes in detail of things having to do with configuration, dimension, direction, and topography. He includes the data from all the very early Book of Mormon geography experts. He summarizes (1) the Reynolds 1880 model first, yet he granted it was only one of a number of "theories," and then he includes Joel Ricks of Logan, Utah; Col. Willard Young; Stuart Bagley and himself. He presented (2) The 1906 Joel Ricks model--(a modified Reynolds theory); (3) the Stuart Bagley model (the land southward in Central America, the narrow neck at the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, and the final battles in New York; and (4) the 1920 Willard Young model--A model in which all the action of the Book of Mormon was strictly limited to Central America., He writes:

           In view of the many differing opinions concerning this subject, an endeavor to find the correct one might be thought fruitless. But it should not be, since the divine promise, "Seek, and ye shall find," never fails. . . . In trying to form a consistent theory on Book of Mormon geography, we have as material, in the first place, the statements in the Book, itself. . . . Then we have certain statements concerning the subject, which can be traced back to some of the first leaders of the Church, who were the associates of the Prophet Joseph himself, and these cannot be set aside lightly, even if they are regarded as mere individual opinions; . . . In the third place, we have now a great amount of archaeological and ethnological material concerning the American Indians, most of whom, if not all, are the descendants of the Jaredites, the Nephites, the Lamanites and the Mulekites. [pp. 418-419]

 

[1927      Charles Stuart Bagley      LIMITED HEMISPHERIC]

     L.S.=Yucatan & Guatemala / N.N.=Isth. of Tehuantepec / L.N.= Note Specified / H.C.= N.Y.      

     Sources: J.M. Sjodahl, An Introduction to the Study of the Book of Mormon, 1927. The fact that Sjodahl felt the need to summarize Bagley's theory indicates that it had not been previously published. See also Bagley's "A New Approach to the Geography of the Book of Mormon," in Papers of the Fourteenth Annual Symposium on the Archaeology of the Scriptures, ed. by Forrest R. Hauck, pp. 70-86, Provo: BYU Dept. of Extension Publications, 1963. See also two unpublished manuscripts by Bagley: "The Limhi Expedition," and "A Textual Geography of the Book of Mormon," both dated 1985, copies in FARMS archives.

 

[1927      Janne M. Sjodahl      HEMISPHERIC]

     L.S.=South of Isth. of Tehuantepec / N.N.= Isth. of Tehuan. / L.N.=N. of Isth. of Tehuan. / H.C.= N.Y.      

     Source: J.M. Sjodahl, "Suggested Key to Book of Mormon Geography," in Improvement Era 30 (September 1927), pp. 974-87. Also An Introduction to the Study of the Book of Mormon, 1927

 

1928            Acquisition of the New York Hill Cumorah by the LDS Church

 

     The Church acquired the site of the hill Cumorah in New York state as a prelude to the upcoming centennial celebration of both the Church's beginnings and the first printing of the Book of Mormon.

     George Albert Smith purchased the Joseph Smith farm from W. A. Chapman for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1907. Chapman asked to stay on the farm until he could find another place to live. He lived there until 1914. President Joseph F. Smith was looking for someone to move his family to Palmyra and live on the farm. At a conference held in Richfield, UT in 1915, Willard Bean came in the side door and President Smith called out, "Will Willard Bean come to the stand? Willard, I have a mission for you. After the service I'll tell you about it."

     Willard was called to move to Palmyra "for a few years" to purchase property of historical significance to the Church. When he arrived in Palmyra, a committee of three men invited Willard and his family to move out or to suffer the consequences. Willard said that he had come in peace, but that he was willing to fight one, or all three, or the whole town if necessary. Willard and his family were in Palmyra over 24 years.

     Willard was able, with the help of the Lord, to purchase the Hill Cumorah and the Martin Harris and Peter Whitmer farms.

     Willard and his family came to a hostile land, but when they left, the whole town turned out to wish them well

     Source: Ensign, June 1985, Vicki Bean Zimmerman.

 

     Note* Willard was a scholar, a man of learning, with a lot of time on his hands. He spent some of that time researching the history of western New York. E. Cecil McGavin compiled some of his notes into a book, Book of Mormon Geography (See the notation for 1948).

 

.1928            B. H. Roberts            The Deseret News, 3 March 1928

 

     This article appears as follows:

           Ramah-Cumorah in the Land of Ripliancum: A Jaredite-Nephite Historical Landmark Identified with Western New York and the Region of the Great Lakes," Written for the Deseret News by B. H. Roberts.

           Map Shows Western New York: The Region of the Land of Cumorah and of Ramah; the Land of "Ripliancum," Large Waters,--To Exceed All." Below is a Photograph Reproduction of the Hill Cumorah with Its Landscape Foreground, and the Statue of the Angel Moroni on the East Center Tower of the Salt Lake Temple.

 

           The recent purchase of the Hill Cumorah by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints awakens wide spread interest in the sacred depository of the record called the Book of Mormon. . . .

           First as to "Ramah," Moroni, speaking of the approaching great battle in the civil war among the Jaredites and the gathering together of the hosts of that nation under the leadership of Shule and Coriantumr respectively: "And it came to pass that the army of Coriantumr did pitch their tents by the hill Ramah, and it was that same hill where my father Mormon did hide up the records unto the Lord which were sacred." (Ether Chap. 15) It seems in the battles preceding this about the Hill Ramah where Mormon had hidden the records that the Jaredite armies had been maneuvering northward about the waters called by them--the Jaredites--"Ripliancum, which by interpretation is large, or to exceed all." Then after this region of the large waters, which exceed all, Coriantumr and his forces retreated southward until they came to this Hill Ramah, where they made their last stand and around which the Jaredites perished early in the fifth century B.C. This is about all that is said of Ramah in the record of the Jaredites.

           Now we take up "Cumorah" and find much made of it in the sixth chapter of the Book of Mormon . . . It is to be noted that this description of Mormon's as to the land of Cumorah being a land of many waters, rivers, and fountains is in strict accordance with the description of Ramah as the land of many waters, "Ripliancum, which by interpretation is large or to exceed all." . . .

           It is urged by some that this hill in which Mormon deposited these many records of the Nephites was not necessarily located up in what we now call the western part of New York, and where Joseph Smith directed by Moroni, found the single collection of plates known as the Book of Mormon. It is held that Moroni in his peregrinations after the death of his father and the destruction of his people in his effort to keep out of the hands of his enemies the Lamanites, might have wandered far away from the hill Ramah-Cumorah and that possibly Ramah-Cumorah may have been in some part of Central America, where topographical conditions may be found which would correspond with the description of this place given in the Book of Mormon. Strangely enough there is little that the Prophet Joseph Smith has left on record that speaks of this Hill Cumorah where he found the Book of Mormon under the direction of Moroni. And this only in an esctatic[sic] review of early events in the Church: "And again what do we hear? Glad tidings from Cumorah. Moroni, an angel from heaven, declaring the fulfillment of the prophets--the Book to be revealed. (Doc. and Cov. sec 128:20)

           But while this direct testimony from the Prophet himself is lacking, it is not lacking from those who are competent to speak on the subject--and who did speak of it and who published their statements, and one of these in the life time of the prophet, Oliver Cowdery, close associate with Joseph Smith in bringing forth the Book of Mormon, and his chief amanuensis in the translation of it, declares this hill from which the Book of Mormon was taken to be the Hill Cumorah, the place where Mormon deposited "all the records in his possession, except his abridgment from the plates of Nephi which he gave to his son; and also emphatically declares it to be the scene of the destruction of both the Jaredite and Nephite people. This statement Oliver published in the Church organ at the time, called the "Saints Messenger and Advocate," Kirtland, Ohio, 1834. There are nine letters published under the title of "Early Scenes and Incidents in the Church." These letters were reproduced in the Improvement Era, Vol. II, 1898-9.

 

     [QUOTE FROM 1834 ARTICLE BY OLIVER COWDERY--see 1834 notation]

 

           The importance of this statement lies in the fact that it is made by the second elder of the Church, when it was organized; he was Joseph Smith's amanuensis in the translation of Mormon's record. It is written and published in the life time of the Prophet Joseph Smith, with his knowledge and approval; It is published in the Saints Messenger and Advocate, the organ of the Church at that time, 1834; and it is inconceivable that the Prophet Joseph would permit the publication of such an article identifying this hill where he found the record called the Book of Mormon with the hill called Ramah by the Jaredites, and Cumorah by the Nephites, and the scene of the successive battles which destroyed both of these nations in the region; and also identifying it with the hill in which Mormon deposited "all of the Nephite records" which had been given into his custody--if it did not state the truth.

           A testimony also comes from David Whitmer, one of the three witnesses to the truth of the Book of Mormon. When Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery found it necessary to move from Harmony, Pennsylvania, to Fayette, New York, David Whitmer drove them from Harmony to the home of his father in Fayette. Before starting on this journey Moroni came to the Prophet and took possession of the plates in order to insure their safety in transit to the Whitmer home. On the way the three brethren, Joseph, Oliver and David overtook Moroni carrying the plates. (see note#1) Joseph suggested to David that he ask the "stranger" to ride. David stopped his team and invited him to ride, if by chance he would be going in their direction. "No," said the one addressed, very pleasantly, "I am going to Cumorah." "This name was somewhat new to me," says David, "and I did not know what 'Cumorah' meant." They all gazed at him and at each other. When David looked around again, after turning to Joseph for instruction or information, the man had disappeared. "It was the Messenger (Moroni) who had the plates, who had taken them from Joseph just prior to our starting form Harmony." says David Whitmer in closing the story of the incident. (See Orson Pratt and Joseph F. Smith's report of an interview with David Whitmer. Millennial Star, Vol,. 40, pp. 769-774. The report bears date of September 17, 1878.

           Another circumstance which verifies all that is here said about this hill in western New york from which Joseph Smith obtained the Book of Mormon, being identical with Ramah-Cumorah of the Book of Mormon, is the fact of agreement between the description in the Book of Mormon of the Hill Ramah-Cumorah and the region round about, and the topography of western New York. It is a region of "many waters"--"Ripliancum" by interpretation "large, or to exceed all"; and here in western New York, immediately to the north of Cumorah, is Lake Ontario; to the west and northwest are Lake Erie, Lake Huron, Lake Michigan and Lake Superior--the greatest group of fresh water lakes in the world, while immediately to the south of Cumorah are the noted "finger lakes" of New York, beginning on the east side of the region is the lake bearing the modern name of Otisco; and moving westward the following named lakes: Skaneateles Lake, Owasco Lake, Cayuga Lake, Seneca Lake--with its elongation, Keuka Lake; Canadaigua Lake and a number of others westward in the same line. All these, and beside them numerous streams and rivers throughout the whole region.

           The identification both in the recorded facts of the Book of Mormon about the Hill Ramah-Cumorah and the physical characteristics of this region of western New York--extending westward to include the whole great five lake basin--"Rippliancum[sic]"--"to exceed all"--is sufficient to eliminate all doubt about the hill recently purchased by the Church, being the very site of the destruction of both the Jaredite and the Nephite people, also the place where Mormon deposited the great collection of sacred records which had been entrusted to him and where later his son Moroni kept concealed the gold plates of the Book of Mormon.

           And now, behold, how fortunate it is that the Church has possessed herself of so many of the sacred places connected with the coming forth of the new dispensation of the gospel in these last days. . . . The Smith farm near Palmyra, New York . . . Scant three miles away is the Hill Cumorah, surrounded by several hundred acres of farm lands including the whole of the hill Ramah-Cumorah, the sacred depository of Jaredite and Nephite records, including the Book of Mormon gold plates given to Joseph Smith to translate for the enlightenment of the world and also the site of the destruction of the two great peoples of ancient America--the Jaredites and Nephites.

           Eastward less than a score of miles is the old "Peter Whitmer Farm," in Fayette township near the present prosperous town of Waterloo, where the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized on the sixth of April, 1830, with its six charter members, an event soon to be a century old. The Carthage prison . . . How complete is the circle of sacred places, now in possession of the Church, connected with the life and mission of the prophet of the new dispensation! The Saints should be thankful for possession of these sacred places.

 

     Note#1 See the notation on 1829 and 1878.

 

1928            Anthony W. Ivins            Improvement Era 31, 1928, pp. 674-681

 

     In the April Conference of 1928, President Anthony W. Ivins, first counselor in the First Presidency, said the following:

           Reference has been made by the President of the acquisition of the Church of the spot of ground in the state of New York known as the hill Cumorah. . . . There have been some differences of opinion in regard to it, and in order that I might be correct in the statements which I make, I have this morning finished a short manuscript which I would like to read . . . The passages which I have quoted from the Book of Mormon and the more extended discussion of this subject by Elder B. H. Roberts, which was published in theDeseret News of March 3 definitely establish the following facts. That the hill Cumorah, and the hill Ramah are identical. That it was around this hill that the armies of both the Jaredites and Nephites fought their great last battles. That it was in this hill that Mormon deposited all the sacred records which had been entrusted to his care by Ammaron except the abridgment which he made from the plates of Nephi, which were delivered in the hands of his son, Moroni. We know positively that it was in this hill that Moroni deposited the abridgment made by his father, and his own abridgment of the record of the Jaredites, and it was from this hill that Joseph Smith obtained possession of them.

 

1928            Jean Driggs            The Palestine of America, SLC: n.p., March 16, 1928

 

     In 1928 Jean Driggs finally published his writings in a pamphlet called "The Palestine of America." It consisted of three plates of maps with eight typewritten pages. After reading the material, it is apparent that he conveyed sound scriptural reasoning on the limited extent of Book of Mormon geography to the Church by at least 1928, and as early as 1923 to James E. Talmage (see notation). The following is a selected summary of Drigg's reasoning on the limited extent of Book of Mormon lands as well as for a hill Cumorah within those limited lands.

       On page 5, Driggs discusses the proximity of Bountiful and Desolation, and then relates it with the 21 day journey of Limhi's men:

           "And it (Bountiful) bordered upon the land which they called Desolation, it being so far northward that it came into the land which had been peopled and been destroyed, of whose bones we have spoken, which was discovered by the people of Zarahemla, it being the place of their first landing. And they came from there up into the south wilderness. Thus the land on the northward was called Desolation, and the land on the southward was called Bountiful, it being the wilderness which is filled with all manner of wild animals of every kind, a part of which had come from the land northward for food." --Alma 22:30-31. "And it came to pass that their flocks began to flee before the poisonous serpents toward the land southward, which was called by the Nephites Zarahemla, * * * there were many of them which did perish by the way; nevertheless, there were some which fled into the land southward." --Ether 9:31-32. "I (Limhi) caused that forty and three of my people should take a journey into the wilderness, that thereby they might find the land of Zarahemla, that we might appeal unto our brethren to deliver us out of bondage. And they were lost in the wilderness for the space of many days, yet they were diligent, and found not the land of Zarahemla, but returned to this land, having traveled in a land among many waters, having discovered a land which was covered with bones of men, and of beasts, and was also covered with the ruins of buildings of every kind, having discovered a land which had been peopled with a people who were as numerous as the hosts of Israel. And for a testimony that the things they have said are true, the have brought 24 plates which are filled with engravings, and they are of pure gold."--Mosiah 8:7-9. [He also quoted Mosiah 22:25-27 concerning the Limhi party.]

           This Limhi was the grandson of Zeniff, who, with a company of Nephites left Zarahemla to inherit the land of Nephi. In three generations it is not likely that their conception of the distance between Nephi and Zarahemla would be so uncertain that they would travel from Central America up into the state of New York and think they had found a land; which, as above noted [Mosiah 24:17-25, which was quoted on the previous page discussion], was a 21 days' journey for people driving their flocks. It is more reasonable to consider the land of many waters, rivers, and fountains as being just north of the land of Desolation, or a part of the land of Desolation, which in this treatment would be considered to be within the limits of Central America and probably in Guatemala.

 

     On page 6, Driggs quotes from Vol. 2 of the "New Witness for God," by B. H. Roberts, pp. 199-200 [see the notation for 1909] in which Roberts writes concerning the probable limited extent of Nephite/Lamanite lands (as opposed to all of South America and North America. Drigg's highlights the phrase: "as now known to us, the extent of country occupied was but a very small part of the continent."

     On pages 7-8, Driggs writes:

           The following passages from the Book of Ether support the idea that the home lands of the Jaredites were near the narrow pass that led into the land southward, and that this was the seat of the Jaredite empire, even to the final battle at the Hill Ramah. "And the Lord warned Omer in a dream that he should depart out of the land; wherefore Omer departed out of the land with his family, and traveled many days, and CAME OVER AND PASSED BY THE HILL OF SHIM, AND CAME OVER BY THE PLACE WHERE THE NEPHITES WERE DESTROYED, (Cumorah) and from thence eastward, and came to a place which was called Ablom, by the seashore, and there he pitched his tent, and also his sons and his daughters, and all his household, save it were Jared and his family."--Ether 9:3. "And it came to pass that Nimrah gathered together a small number of men, and fled out of the land and came over and dwelt with Omer." "And there began to be a war between the sons of Akish which lasted for the space of many years, yea, unto the destruction of nearly all the people of the kingdom, yea, even all, save it were thirty souls and they who fled with the house of Omer. Wherefore Omer was restored again to the land of his inheritance."--Ether 9:13-14. "The land from which Omer departed, the scene of the wars and the land of his inheritance, to which he was restored is the land of Moron, which was near the land of Desolation of the Nephites. "And when he (Corihor) had gathered together an army he came up unto the land of Moron, where the king dwelt, and took him captive. * * * NOW THE LAND OF MORON, WHERE THE KING DWELT WAS NEAR THE LAND WHICH IS CALLED DESOLATION BY THE NEPHITES." This is substantial evidence that the land of Moron, the land of Desolation, the seashore to the east, the hill Shim and the hill Cumorah are all comparatively close to each other, in a section corresponding to Central America, certainly not so remote as the state of New York, approximately three thousand miles to the north.

           In the 14th and 15th, chapters of Ether the closing battles of the Jaredites are described. They are fighting in the land of Moron, the plains of Agosh, the wilderness of Akish, and in the east, by the seashore, and finally by the hill Ramah, where later the Nephite records were buried by Mormon, and the Nephites destroyed. Ether hid the Jaredite record, after the destruction of his race. Ether 15:33: * * * And he went forth and beheld that the words of the Lord had all been fulfilled; and he finished his record * * * and he hid them in a manner that the people of Limhi did find them."

           The first eight chapters of the writings of Mormon are so full of action that they should be read and studied as they are written; a few special references are given to emphasize the idea that the movements north of the narrow pass were but comparatively short distances. The time interval between the time the Nephites were fighting at the narrow pass until they were destroyed at Cumorah would not permit such extensive migrations as would bring the final scene to the state of New York.--Mormon 1:10. "And it came to pass that the war began to be among them in the borders of Zarahemla, by the waters of Sidon." It will be noted that this is the beginning of the final series of wars that ended at Cumorah some 60 years later. For fifty years, starting A.D. 325 and until A.D. 375 the Nephites and Lamanites are fighting, at intervals, back and forth across the narrow pass, sometimes in the land southward and sometimes in the land northward, with no decisive advantage on either side. For nearly a thousand years these people had been living in these same lands of Nephi, Zarahemla, Bountiful and Desolation. For 50 years they are fighting on approximately the same battle grounds.--Mormon 4:15-16. From the 375th year they are forced to yield ground, holding as best they can the strategic points until Mormon asks for time to gather his people to Cumorah. During this last period, between the year 375 and 380 Mormon goes to the hill Shim and obtains all the Nephite records.--Mormon 5:23. After completing his writings on the plates of Nephi, Mormon hides all the sacred records except the plates of Nephi (which he gives unto Moroni), in the hill Cumorah and when 384 years had passed away,--ten or eleven years after they had been fighting at the narrow pass,--the final battle is waged. Moroni writes in the records in the 420th year--Mormon 8:6. He writes again when more than 420 years have passed away--Moroni 10:1. This gives an interval of approximately 35 years since his father and associates were killed, at the battle of Cumorah. He is wandering wherever he can, for the safety of his own life.--Moroni 1:3. What is more natural than that he would take his course northward, to avoid his enemies; and, under the directing power of God, would be led to deposit his precious record where it was revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith. Moroni may have named the hill in New York, where he hid the plates, the hill Cumorah. It fits the description of the original hill Cumorah, or Ramah, where the closing battles were fought. The hill in New York retains its importance as the place where the plates were revealed from which the Book of Mormon was translated, but the writer sees no reason for the continued assertions to the effect that the great battles were fought in that portion of the American continent. The Book of Mormon is one of the four standard works of the church. The 8th Article of Faith establishes our stand to the effect that, "we believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God." Therefore, if there be seeming contradictions between what men have said and the correct interpretation of the Book of Mormon, the latter record must be considered as correct.

           It is the sincere desire of the writer that this brief treatment of the home lands of the Book of Mormon will increase the study and stimulate an interest in the sacred record, a fuller knowledge of the location of the lands serving only to better acquaint the reader with the vital portions of the book, pertaining to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. (Jean R. Driggs, Salt Lake City, Utah, March 16, 1928)

 

     Note* Thomas Stuart Ferguson writes: "Norman C. Pierce, in the little Book entitled "Another Cumorah, Another Joseph, published in 1954, places Nephi near Tegucigalpa, Honduras, and Zarahemla on the westerly side of the Ulua River (which is his "Sidon"--as it was to Colonel Young long before 1954). Pierce places Cumorah in southeastern Guatemala. Although Pierce published his book in 1954, he had it all figured out and on a relief map in 1923. (His map was drawn for him by Jean R. Driggs in 1923, who acknowledged receiving help from Col. Willard Young.) ( Response to the 1974 "Symposium of Book of Mormon Geography")

 

[1928      Illustrated Model      Jean R. Driggs      LIMITED CENTRAL AMERICA]

     L.S=South of Motagua River / N.N=Bay of Honduras / L.N.=North to Isthmus of Tehuantepec / H.C.=In eastern Guatemala      

     Source: Jean Russell Driggs, The Palestine of America, 1928.

 

1930's            Beginnings of Serious Mesoamerican Archaeological Work

 

     The 1930's brought the beginning of serious archaeological excavation work in Mexico and Central America. Silvanus Morely, father of Archaeology of Yucatan, excavated the Classic ruins of Chichen Itza and Uxmal.

 

1935            Heber J. Grant            Dedicatory Prayer, Angel Moroni Monument

 

     Interestingly, President Heber J. Grant in the dedicatory prayer for the Angel Moroni Monument in 1935 made no mention of the Hill Cumorah being the same one as in the Book of Mormon, although he did mention in the prayer many external evidences of the Book of Mormon. (As noted by Bruce A. Van Orden, "The Debate of the Hill Cumorah," August 1971, p. 9)

 

 

1934            Altered Reprint*      The History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

           Joseph Fielding Smith (Hist.)      Reprinted again in 1948      

 

     According to John Sorenson, the original publication of The History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was edited by B. H. Roberts and appeared in 1904 (see notation). After the death of Roberts in 1933, the new Church historian, Joseph Fielding Smith, reprinted the series, with a significant change in a key statement regarding the geography of Book of Mormon events. The History's treatment of the Zelph incident, which took place during the march of Zion's Camp in 1834 (see notation) was changed. Under Smith's direction, previously excised portions of the story were put back in, and they have remained to the present. The effect of these changes were compounded by the fact that the Zelph incident was written in a "false" first person style when originally published. Because of the reprinted History for over half a century virtually all LDS readers of it have thought that Joseph positively said that Zelph fought in Illinois as part of the fourth century A.D. retreat of the Nephites to the New York hill Cumorah. The fact is that we cannot be sure what he said about Zelph in detail (see Godfrey 1989).

     In a Church News article of 1938 (see notation), historian Smith said that this was "the correct" reading without commenting on the basis. It is clear enough that his motive was to protect the reputation of his great-uncle, Joseph Smith, as a prophet, and he strongly opposed any who implied that Joseph did not know the answer to the geography question or had been in error in regard to it. Thus the late 1930's members of the Church were under strong pressure to stay with the traditional view on geography as expressed by theHistory and Elder Smith's article.

 

Source: John L. Sorenson, The Geography of Book of Mormon Events: A Source Book, Part 1. A History of ideas: The Geography of Book of Mormon Events in Latter-day Thought." Provo: FARMS, 1990, pp. 33-34).

 

1937      Stuart Meha and      "The Personal Testimony of Stuart Meha," Waipawa, H. B., New Zealand.

     Elwin W. Jensen       A signed manuscript, recorded May 20, 1937, in the Missionary Journal,

     (abt. Joseph F. Smith)      First Mission, Elder Elwin W. Jensen, Salt Lake City.

 

     Although some scholars insist that the Polynesian ancestors came from the Orient and sailed east to settle Polynesia, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has always taught that they sailed west from America. In 1818, Stuart Meha, a Maori Latter-day Saint from New Zealand, sent a telegram to the Church leaders thanking them for the privilege of allowing a group of Maori saints to travel to Salt Lake to go through the temple. In the telegram, Brother Meha added the words: "Who knows but that some of Hagoth's people have returned--perhaps!"

           Later, the First Presidency of the Church, and some of the General Authorities, gave a welcome, in Wandermere Park, in honor of this party of Maori Saints from New Zealand. In a speech delivered on that occasion, President [Joseph F.] Smith replied to the telegram: "I would like to say to you brethren and sisters from New Zealand, you are some of Hagoth's people, and there is NO PERHAPS about it!" Continuing, President Smith told how it had been given to him by the spirit, while laboring in Hawaii, that the Polynesians were descendants of Lehi. Brother Meha testifies that these statements touched his heart, and he had no more uncertainties as to whether the Polynesians were truly of the House of Israel. (From "The Personal Testimony of Stuart Meha," Waipawa, H. B., New Zealand. A signed manuscript, recorded May 20, 1937, in the Missionary Journal, First Mission, Elder Elwin W. Jensen, Salt Lake City.

 

Source: Allen H. Richardson, David E. Richardson and Anthony E. Bentley. 1000 Evidences for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: Part Two-A Voice from the Dust: 500 Evidences in Support of the Book of Mormon. Salt Lake City: Envision Press, 2001, p. 33.

 

1937      The Hill Cumorah Pageant Begins to Be Staged at the New York Hill: "America's Witness for Christ"

 

     Terryl Givens writes:

           Around the turn of the century, a play with a popular run in the Salt Lake Valley was "Corianton," based on the wayward son of Book of Mormon prophet Alma. Written originally by B. H. Roberts, then adapted by Orestes Bean for the stage, it even had a run on Broadway. . . . B. H. Roberts [also] planned and wrote an elaborate centennial [1927] commemoration of Joseph Smith's first view of the golden plates at Hill Cumorah in upstate New York . . . . Soon thereafter, the church acquired the hill and environs, and before long the spectacle described by Roberts was being reenacted annually on a grand scale. The first performance of "America's Witness for Christ" took place in 1937, and within ten years annual attendance would surpass 100,000. [Truman G. Madsen, "B. H. Roberts and the Book of Mormon," BYU Studies 19.4 (summer 1979):435. Also B. H. Roberts, Comprehensive History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Provo, Utah: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1957), 6:524-26. Also Richard O. Cowan, The Church in the Twentieth Century (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1985), 168.]

Source: Terryl L. Givens, By the Hand of Mormon, p. 244.

 

     Note* This pageant brought tremendous attention to the Church, but it also authoritatively reinforced the idea that the final battles of the Nephites were fought around this hill. The Church would not ease away from this geographical scenario for another 53 years (see the letter to Al Shumate--1990).

 

1938            George D. Pyper      Statement of Book of Mormon Geography, appended to Frederick J.

                             Pack, "Route Traveled by Lehi and His Company," The Instructor,

                             Vol. 73, no. 4, April 1938, p. 160.

 

     In the Instructor of 1938, following a reprinting of the 1890 statement by George Q. Cannon (see notation), a letter is printed which is signed, "Frederick J. Pack, Chairman, Gospel Doctrine Committee." It concerns the statement in the 1882 Richards and LittleCompendium supposedly revealing the route followed by Lehi. (see notation) Pack notes that the 1857 English edition of theCompendium lacked the Lehi statement, but American editions beginning with 1882 have included it. Then he says the following:

           Its authenticity, however, is subject to grave doubt, as witness the following: The only known source of authority is a single sheet of manuscript presented to the Church Historian's office, in 1864, by Ezra G. Williams, son of Frederick G. Williams . . . But theCompendium caption is not on this sheet, although the writing "bears a good deal of evidence of having been written in the hand" of G. F. Williams. The Church has issued no information concerning the route followed by Lehi. . . . Until this is done, teachers of the Gospel Doctrine department should refrain from expressing definite opinions.

 

     Note* Immediately following the Pack letter is this note:

           (Note. The present associate editor [George D. Pyper] of The Instructor was one day in the office of the late President Joseph F. Smith [who died in 1918] when some brethren were asking him to approve a map showing the exact landing place of Lehi and his company. President Smith declined to officially approve of the map, saying that the Lord had not yet revealed it, and that if it were officially approved and afterwards found to be in error, it would affect the faith of the people.--Asst. Editor)

 

1938            Lynn C. Layton            The Improvement Era 41, July 1938:394-95, 439

 

     In 1938 Lynn C. Layton drew the first published "internal" model of Book of Mormon geography. This was the first time in eleven years that the Improvement Era had published a piece on the geography of Book of Mormon events. In his article he said the following:

           Many individual members of the Church, in private capacity, have expressed their views and their theories concerning the Book of Mormon geography . . . this presentation is unique in that it does not attempt to place the scene of action on the present-day map, but merely indicates the relative positions of one place with respect to another, as inferred from a study of the text itself.

 

     Finally, after 108 years, members of the Church were being shown that it was possible and even desirable to develop such a map. Layton's map was rudimentary yet basically sound. It, however, was lacking any positioning for the hill Cumorah. This might have been a reason why the Era chose to publish it rather than the internal map which had been developed by the Washburns during the latter half of the 1930's and which had been shown to Church authorities. (see the Washburn notation for 1939)

 

[1938      Illustrated Model      Lynn C. Layton      INTERNAL (Hemispheric--H.C. not shown)]      

     Source: Lynn C. Layton, "An 'Ideal' Book of Mormon Geography, Improvement Era 41 (July 1938):394-395. (see 1940)

  

1938            Joseph Fielding Smith            The Church News September 10, 1938

 

     In 1938 Joseph Fielding Smith, then a member of the Council of the Twelve and Church Historian, wrote a very lengthy article disclaiming the Middle America theory of the Hill Cumorah. We read:      

           Speculation about Book of Mormon Geography. Within recent years there has arisen among certain students of the Book of Mormon a theory to the effect that within the period covered by the Book of Mormon, the Nephites and Lamanites were confined almost entirely within the borders of the territory comprising Central America and the southern portion of Mexico--the isthmus of Tehuantepec probably being the "narrow neck" of land spoken of in the Book of Mormon rather than the isthmus of Panama.

           This theory is founded upon the assumption that it was impossible for the colony of Lehi's to multiply and fill the hemisphere within the limits of 1,000 years, or from the coming of Lehi from Jerusalem to the time of the destruction of the Nephites at the Hill Cumorah. Moreover, they claim that the story in the Book of Mormon of the migrations, building of cities, and the wars and contentions, preclude the possibility of the people spreading over great distances such as we find within the borders of North and South America. . . .

           Locale of Cumorah, Ramah, and Ripliancum. This modernistic theory of necessity, in order to be consistent, must place the waters of Ripliancum and the Hill Cumorah some place within the restricted territory of Central America, notwithstanding the teachings of the Church to the contrary for upwards of 100 years. Because of this theory some members of the Church have become confused and greatly disturbed in their faith in the Book of Mormon. It is for this reason that evidence is here presented to show that it is not only possible that these places could be located as the Church has held during the past century, but that in very deed such is the case.

           Early Brethren Locate Cumorah in Western New York. It must be conceded that this description fits perfectly the land of Cumorah in New York, as it has been known since the visitation of Moroni to the Prophet Joseph Smith, for the hill is in the proximity of the Great Lakes and also in the land of many rivers and fountains. Moreover, the Prophet Joseph Smith himself is on record, definitely declaring the present hill called Cumorah to be the exact hill spoken of in the Book of Mormon.

           Further, the fact that all of his associates from the beginning down have spoken of it as the identical hill where Mormon and Moroni hid the records, must carry some weight. It is difficult for a reasonable person to believe that such men as Oliver Cowdery, Brigham Young, Parley P. Pratt, Orson Pratt, David Whitmer, and many others, could speak frequently of the Spot where the Prophet Joseph Smith obtained the plates as the Hill Cumorah, and not be corrected by the Prophet, if that were not the fact. . . .

 

           The quibbler might say that this statement from Oliver Cowdery [denoting the hill in New York as the Hill Cumorah] is merely the opinion of Oliver Cowdery and not the expression of the Prophet Joseph Smith. It should be remembered that these letters in which these statements are made were written at the Prophet's request and under his personal supervision. Surely, under these circumstances, he would not have permitted an error of this kind to creep into the record without correction.

           Later, during the Nauvoo period of the Church, and again under the direction of the Prophet Joseph Smith, these same letters by Oliver Cowdery, were republished in the Times and Seasons, without any thought of correction had this description of the Hill Cumorah been an error.

 

     Note* Smith's article entitled "Where is the Hill Cumorah?" has been also printed under the notation of 1956 where it appears in an expanded form in Doctrines of Salvation vol. 3, pp. 232-243.

 

1938            J. Reuben Clark            "The Charted Course of Church Education"

 

     According to John Sorenson, in a landmark 1938 speech to Church educators, President J. Reuben Clark limited options in thinking new thoughts. In it he called for retrenchment against liberal social, economic and political ideas that had crept into some Seminary and Institute classrooms. He insisted that all instruction must be gospel related and doctrinally based. That emphasis has continued in the schools to the present with the result that only limited reference is made to information or insights from secular sources. Church teachers who might have had a tendency to pursue geographical study of the Book of Mormon were pulled up short in 1938 and discouraged from public expression of such interests and the policy continues still. (See the notation for 1974)

 

Source: John L. Sorenson, The Geography of Book of Mormon Events: A Source Book, Part 1. A History of ideas: The Geography of Book of Mormon Events in Latter-day Thought." Provo: FARMS, 1990, pp. 34-35.

 

1938            "Itzan Society" Organized

 

     In 1938 Wells Jakeman, along with law student Thomas Stuart Ferguson and Franklin S. Harris, Jr., were instrumental in organizing "The Itzan Society," dedicated to studying the archaeological and cultural background of the Book of Mormon in the Americas, especially in Yucatan and Mexico.

(See the notation for 1946)

 

1939      Joel E. Ricks      The Geography of the Book of Mormon, Logan: n.p., 1939

 

     Ricks notes that his purpose in writing this text is to "emphasize the geographic references in the [Book of Mormon], and to . . . identify those locations in the light of modern geography." Ricks concludes that the Book of Mormon events covered both the North and South American continents, basing these ideas on the supposition that Panama is the "narrow neck of land." Several maps are included.[A Guide, p. 242]

 

1939      J. N. Washburn            An Approach to the Study of Book of Mormon Geography,

                             Provo: New Era Publishing Co., 1939, pp. 110-111.

 

     J. N. Washburn spent many years analyzing the text of the Book of Mormon in order to formulate the ideas that he put into his books. Although his analysis in this book was almost entirely internal, J. N. Washburn made some interesting cultural comments regarding the traditional North America-Panama-South American model. In regards to the traditional narrow neck of land at Panama he writes:

           Is it not altogether likely that the limited distances of Central America have given us who are unacquainted with the country a wrong idea of the time required to traverse it? Should we be surprised to learn that it is no small matter to cross the Isthmus of Panama? In times past many have found to their dismay that a few miles could easily constitute a journey of no mean proportions. . . Writing of Panama, Harold Rugg (A History of American Civilization, p. 47) says, in connection with the Spaniards: "It is a difficult trip of 45 miles through the tropical forests, those dark forests of high trees festooned so thickly with vines and creepers. Even with the ax the Spaniards can hardly break through."

           Another illustration from William Robertson (History of America, p. 203) is more to the point. He tells that in 1513 Balboa landed on the east coast of Darien. He had 190 men and one thousand Indians to carry his provisions. But he found that his progress was impeded by many obstacles. There were, of course, human enemies. But whereas the guide had represented to Balboa that the isthmus could be crossed in six days, the company spent more than twenty-five. Thus they made little more than two miles a day. [pp. 110-111]

 

     Another comment by Washburn deals with the idea that the setting of the Book of Mormon extended into the United States all the way to New York:

           One phase of the problem merits a special comment. If, as suggested above, the Mound Builders were related to some of the peoples of the Book of Mormon, how shall we account for the fact that whereas their friends in the homelands [of Mexico & Central America] left the world magnificent monuments and buildings in imperishable stone, they [the Mound Builders] have bequeathed to posterity nothing more than some mounds of dirt? Might it not with good reason be urged that such great differences in their works argue against any close relationship between them? [p. 211]

 

     Commenting on the distance Alma and his group had to travel with "their flocks," between the land of Nephi and the land of Zarahemla, Washburn writes:

           In 1636, writes a historian, "the Little River settlements were re-inforced by the coming of the entire church congregation from Dorchester, Winterton, and Newton, which settled separately at Windsor, Weatherfield, and Hartford. The Newton (or Cambridge) congregation was under the leadership of its ministers Thomas Hooker and Samuel Stone. They marched through the wilderness, driving their hogs and cattle along in true pioneer fashion. Arriving at the Connecticut, after having spent a fortnight in going the one hundred miles, they settled around the Dutch fort." (Chittwood, History of Colonial America)

           These people made about seven miles a day, and Alma and his people could have done no better. Indeed, it is altogether likely that the Nephite colony made the slower progress in view of the nature of the country through which it had to move. From this it appears that the distance between the two capital cities could probably not have exceeded one hundred to three hundred miles. This was not the era of roads. The "Mormon" Pioneers averaged about eleven miles a day. Yet, even here the authors desire that these figures be taken only as suggestions. [pp. 106-107]

 

     Washburn writes: 'It is commonly supposed among the Latter-day Saints that some of the Pacific islands were peopled by the Nephites, presumably by Hagoth, but the historian of the Book of Mormon tells nothing of this. [p. 201]

 

     According to John Sorenson, the Washburns' book represented by far the most detailed and careful study of geography to that time, but it was concerned with the internal map. As to external correlations, J.A. Washburn in a 1940 thesis at BYU concluded, without elaboration, "Central America appears best suited to the requirements of the text." Yet, the Washburns refused to be drawn into an argument about externals, so their detailed internal treatment stood on its own. They demonstrated convincingly that the scale of a map of Book of Mormon events was restricted by the text itself to a few hundred miles in extent. While Layton had got the internal basic relationships down, he paid little attention to scale. The Washburns, on the other hand, were the first to put all the major scriptural pieces together on a fairly consistent internal map, and then they added a scale of miles. Unfortunately, the Washburns were caught in a time period when the Church had just renewed emphasis on traditional ideas, specifically the hill Cumorah in New York. Their ideas were also overshadowed by the Depression and World War II.

 

     Note* In a 1975 letter, J. N. Washburn wrote about the climate of Church at this time regarding Book of Mormon geography:

           In 1939, after many years of careful and earnest study, my father, the late esteemed writer and seminary teacher, J. A. Washburn, and I published our An Approach to the Study of Book of Mormon Geography (see notation for 1939). This work was confined strictly to the inside of the text. It was "Book-of-Mormon" geography. At no time did either of us feel qualified, or have any particular urge, to go into so-called external evidences, to attempt such a thing as a "correlation." I still do not have the background in travel for such as assignment, for which reason I am deeply interested in and envious of those who have been more fortunate or had more courage.

           In our book father and I were forced to five conclusions which came as a surprise to nearly everyone, including ourselves. Up to the time of the beginning of that study we had gone along passively with the rest of the members of the Church in our attitude toward all this. If I remember correctly, we were preceded and sparked by a small but significant work, The Palestine of Ancient America. The name of the author I can't now recall with certainty though it runs in my mind that it was Colonel Willard Young [Actually it was Jean Driggs--see the notation for 1923]. My own copy disappeared long ago, nor have I been able to find another, not even in the B.Y.U. Library. This is unfortunate; it was far too good a contribution to be thus relegated to obscurity.

           Father and I, reacting to the soundness of that little folder, prompted by its suggestions, provoked by its implications, took up the challenge which precipitated us into one of the most important projects of our lives. I doubt that there is anything of consequence that could be added to the geography of the Book of Mormon. It remained, and still remains, to find a geography for the Book of Mormon. To that endeavor I can add little.

           For fifteen years we delved intensively and exhaustively into the record, in the end putting our findings into black and white. The result was surprising to say the least, and one would have had to be among those present at that time to feel the impact. By "those present" I mean all who were interested in this subject and keeping up with what was being said.

           Perhaps I should add that all the time the leading Brethren knew exactly what we were doing, indeed supervised much of our study. How wide its influence was I have no way of knowing, but in some places I think it was epochal.

           I can give an idea of the reaction of many. I offered a copy of the "geography" for sale to a member of a Stake High Council in Idaho, a very good man. He put his hands in front of his face (if I remember rightly, he recoiled a step) and expostulated, "I wouldn't touch it with a ten-foot pole. It would destroy my faith." . . .

           Thus I have been in this thing a long time, and deeply, which is why I may have such pronounced, even entrenched, views. However, nothing that I know, think, believe, or hope is of any consequence if it is not true. I simply would like to know what is. I shall gladly accept anything that is right. (signed, J. N. Washburn)

 Source: 1975, J.N. Washburn, "Response Letter to the Book of Mormon Geography Symposium of 1974.")

 

[1939      Illustrated Model      Washburn & Washburn      INTERNAL (Limited Mesoamerica)]

     L.S.= Central America / N.N.=Isth. of Tehuantepec / L.N.=N. of Tehuantepec a few hundred miles / H.C.=Near the Narrow Neck / Sidon R.=not specified

     Sources: J.A. Washburn and J.N. Washburn, An Approach to the Study of Book of Mormon Geography, Provo: New Era, 1939. Jesse A. Washburn, Masters Thesis, BYU, 1940. J. Nile, the son, in later publications continued presenting the model without further external correlations, although with increased internal detail. See Book of Mormon Guidebook (Where They Went and How They Got There--with Sundry Related Matters), n.p., 1968; see Book of Mormon Lands and Times, Bountiful: Horizon Pub., 1974; see The Miracle of the Book of Mormon, Orem, 1984.

   

1939      Genet Bingham Dee      A Voice From the Dust: SLC: The Deseret News Press, 1939.

 

     In 1939, Genet Dee wrote a narrative commentary of the Book of Mormon including cultural illustrations--written "particularly to the youth." In regard to Book of Mormon geography, the following quote is pertinent:

                 Many thousands of ancient mounds have been identified throughout the eastern part of the United States, from Texas to the Atlantic Ocean and from the Gulf of Mexico to the Great Lakes. Their forms and functions vary greatly, and include pyramid-temples, fortifications, burial tumuli and effigy mounds. The pyramids, maize cultivation, ceramic styles and artistic motifs of the Mound Culture point strongly to their introduction from the advanced Maya-Toltec centers of eastern Mexico, as the result either of ethnic movements or of trade."--Dr. M. Wells Jakeman, The Itzan Society.

 

           Might this not indicate the colonization or migration of the Nephites and Lamanites to the east and northeast of the "Land Northward", even to the Hill Cumorah in western New York, where the Nephites made their final stand against the Lamanites?

 

(See the notation for 1946)

 

1939-43      Matthew Stirling Publishes Archaeological Reports of Veracruz, Tabasco (La Venta) & Izapa

 

 

[1940      Theoretical Model      Lynn C. & H. J. Layton      LIMITED CONTINENTAL]

     L.S.=Mesoamerica S. of Isth. of Tehuan. / N.N.=Isth. of Tehuan. / L.N.=N. of Isth. of Tehuan. / H.C.=New York / Sid. R.=Usumacinta / Nephi=Copan

     Source: Lynn C. and H. J. Layton, Book of Mormon Lands, n.p., n.d. 1940.

 

1941            Thomas Stuart Ferguson            "Some Important Book of Mormon Questions" in The

                                          Improvement Era 44, September 1941: 528, 569-71.

 

     In this article, Ferguson deals with the problem of the geographical area encompassed by the events described in the Book of Mormon. After discussing the North America-Panama-South America model and the Middle America-Tehuantepec model, and also using a map prepared by Wells Jakeman, he concludes that the peoples of the Book of Mormon occupied a limited area in Mesoamerica and that the "narrow neck of land" was the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.

 

1941      E. Cecil McGavin and Willard W. Bean            "Cumorah-Land, An Ancient Battlefield," in The

                                         Improvement Era 44, September 1941, 526, 571-72.

 

     McGavin and Bean explain their point of view concerning the identity of the Hill Cumorah as an ancient battlefield. The authors conclude that the scholars "need not search for [Cumorah] in Mexico or Yucatan" [A Guide, p. 165] (See the notation for 1948)

 

1941      J. Golden Kimball (abt. Heber C. Kimball)      N. B. Lundwall, Temples of the Most High, SLC:

                                          Bookcraft, 1941, p. 52.

 

     J. Golden Kimball is quoted as saying the following:

           "Heber C. Kimball said it was revealed to him that the last great destruction of the wicked would be on the lakes near the Hill Cumorah."

 

1946      Archaeological Reports on Kaminaljuyu Published by Carnegie Institute

 

1946            The Department of Archaeology (BYU) Is Organized

 

     According to John Sorenson, in 1946 Elder John A. Widtsoe, a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles of the Church, organized the Department of Archaeology at Brigham Young University. Dr. Wells Jakeman, a 1939 recipient of a Ph.D. in archaeology from the University of California at Berkeley, was appointed as the chairman. While at Berkeley, Jakeman worked on the geography and history of the peoples of Yucatan just before the Spaniards arrived. Jakeman saw in the "chronicles" (native traditions recorded after the conquest) many parallels to the Book of Mormon. In 1938 Jakeman, along with law student Thomas Stuart Ferguson and Franklin S. Harris, Jr., were instrumental in organizing "The Itzan Society," dedicated to doing research and publishing on the same areas that Jakeman had studied while at Berkeley. Through the war years only a few of their plans came to pass and when Jakeman came to the BYU faculty in 1946 the organization evaporated.

     To Jakeman, Book of Mormon archaeology was a branch of conventional archaeology waiting to be born and nurtured and he saw himself in a unique position. He encouraged studies of the Book of Mormon by a variety of persons and approaches. Jakeman continued to serve as chairman until 1965. His primary contributions were: (1) the many students which he influenced academically; (2) the settling, for many people, of the basic "where?" of the geography of Book of Mormon events (those who studied systematically with him ended up with no question but that the entire story took place in Mesoamerica and related significantly to what can be learned from the native Mesoamerican traditions; (3) the proposition that the ultimate test for correlating the Book of Mormon in space and time with one particular set of sites and localities would involve comprehensive study of the ancient world, not just geography; ultimately traditions, archaeology, physical anthropology and linguistics had to combine. He was the first student of the geography of Book of Mormon events to gain professional standing as an "archaeologist" and to see that geography must connect with cultural contexts through meticulous scholarship.

 

Source: John L. Sorenson, "A History of Ideas: The Geography of Book of Mormon Events in Latter-day Saint Thought," in The Geography of Book of Mormon Events: A Source Book, F.A.R.M.S. 1990, pp. 36-40; See also Joseph L. Allen, Exploring, p. 187.

 

[1946      Illustrated Model      M. Wells Jakeman      LIMITED MESOAMERICA]

     L.S.=Honduras & El Salvador / N.N.=Isth. of Tehuan. / L.N.=N. of Tehuan. to Valley of Mexico / H.C.=Valley of Mexico / Sid. R.=Usumacinta

     Sources: M. Wells Jakeman, "The Book of Mormon Civilizations: their Origin, and Their Development in Space and Time," in Progress in Archaeology: An Anthology, comp. and ed. Ross T. Christensen, pp. 81-88; see University Archaeological Society Special Publication no. 4, Provo; see also Discovering the Past, Provo:BYU, 1954, pp. 81-84 (Summarized in Paul R. Cheesman, These Ancient Americans, SLC: Deseret Book, 1974, pp. 164-166. See also Ross T. Christensen, "The River of Nephi: An Archaeological Commentary on an Old Diary Entry," in Newsletter and Proceedings of the Society for Early Historic Archaeology 158 (December 1984), pp. 1-8, who discusses a statement attributed to Joseph Smith (1844) equating "the river of Copan" with "the river of Nephi." Christensen notes that this agrees well with Jakeman's placement of the city of Nephi on a classroom map which the latter prepared and used at BYU in the 1950's.

 

1947      Thomas Stuart Ferguson            Cumorah-Where? Independence, MO: Zion's, 1947

 

     In 1947, Thomas Stuart Ferguson wrote a 78-page booklet, Cumorah-Where?. Ferguson had became an avid enthusiast of Book of Mormon studies in relation to archaeology. He made his first of 25 trips to Mexico in 1946. Like Jakeman, Ferguson favored the Mesoamerica or "Limited Tehuantepec" theory.      In this book Ferguson looks at the conflicting theories that the original Hill Cumorah was in New York or in Mesoamerica and concludes that it was in Mesoamerica. [A Guide, pp. 79-80]

   

[1947      Theoretical Model      Thomas S. Ferguson      LIMITED MESOAMERICA]

     L.S.=Mesoamerica S. of Tehuan. / N.N.=Isth. of Tehuan. / L.N. =N. of Tehuan. to Valley of Mexico / H.C.=Veracruz

     Source: Thomas Stuart Ferguson, Cumorah--Where?, Oakland, 1947.

 

 1947            John A. Widtsoe            Preface to Cumorah Where? (Thomas Stuart Ferguson,

                                   Oakland, California

 

     "Out of the studies of faithful Latter-day Saints may yet come a unity of opinion concerning Book of Mormon geography."

  

1948      E. Cecil McGavin and Willard W. Bean            Book of Mormon Geography, SLC: Bookcraft

                                         

     This book argues that the Hill Cumorah and the Hill Ramah as geographical locations in the Book of Mormon were located in upstate New York. It therefore challenges the theory that the Hill Cumorah was located somewhere in Latin America. In the preface we find the following:

           In recent years there has been a tendency among certain students of the Book of Mormon to orientate Book of Mormon cultures far to the south. Many students of the subject are convinced that the three colonies that came to America had their existence in Central America and Mexico. They are thought to have lived within a radius of a few hundred miles of Zarahemla, never pushing northward many miles, certainly not thrusting out their branches as far north as the Great Lakes along our Canadian border. . . .

           Most students who accept this theory do not consider the Hill Cumorah in western New York as the hill where the gold plates were originally deposited, nor the area immediately south of the Great Lakes as the site of the Jaredite and Nephite battlefields. This theory leads to the assumption that Moroni buried the gold pates in a hill in Middle America known as Cumorah. After Joseph Smith's family moved to Palmyra, New York, it is thought that the Angel Moroni took the plates from the Hill Cumorah in Central America and deposited them in the largest hill near the Smith homestead in western New York. . . .

           The following pages are a plea in defense of the old theory--the interpretation of Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, Orson Pratt, and a countless number of the Authorities of the Church. It is our humble opinion that there is no occasion to fling aside the old interpretation and accept the new, thus restricting the Book of Mormon races to the restricted confines of Central America.

           We are indebted to Elder Mark E. Petersen, of the Quorum of the Twelve, for reading the manuscript and encouraging us to hasten its publication. He wrote these lines after reading it:

           I greatly enjoyed my perusal of your manuscript, and was very much impressed with the array of information you have gathered together from archaeological and other sources to prove your points. I recall that many of our people who have made studies in the region of the Hill Cumorah in western New York are convinced that the Nephites and Lamanites fought their last battles there because of the discovery of so many evidences of an ancient battle in that region. I am glad for anything that strengthens the faith of our people, and I believe that this new book will do that, particularly with respect to their attitude toward the Book of Mormon. I hope many people will read it and enjoy it as I did.

 

     Note* The interpretations put on the "archaeological" information referred to in the text was very questionable. (see Joseph Allen's editorial in "Book of Mormon Digest")

 

1948            Verla Birrell                  Book of Mormon Guidebook, SLC: Stevens and Wallis, 1948

 

     Verla Birrell writes in the Preface:

           The reader may approach the study of the Book of Mormon from one of many angles: there is the story proper which recounts the history of certain ancient peoples on the Western Hemisphere; . . . there is a large collection of scientific data, concerning architecture, archaeology, geography, etc., which is to be found incidentally included along with the history of the ancient peoples; and finally, there is a wealth of religious teaching, the content of which constitutes the most important single contribution of the Book of Mormon. . . . The reader will soon discover that the Book of Mormon contains a great store of information which is unique and which is sufficiently challenging as to attract the attention and to enlist the consideration of the serious research student. A plan is suggested here that . . . the best way to approach a comprehensive study of it is to concentrate upon one of its many phases.

 

     Birrell then proceeds to categorize the many internal aspects of the Book of Mormon in a thorough internal manner not done before. She lists her categories as follows: Prophecies; The Ancient Records; Topography; Major Migrations; Minor Migrations; Governmental, Judicial, and Political Customs of the Ancient People; Military Customs, Social Customs and Various Other Customs of the Ancient People; The Language, Writing, Knowledge, and Science of the Ancient Americans; Types of Human, Animal, and Plant Life; Archaeology; Religious Tradition; Religious Doctrines; Religious Practices; Religious Leaders; Traditions of the Devil and of "Hell"; The House of Israel; Appendix A-The Origin of the Book of Mormon; Appendix B-Statements by the Author; Appendix C.-The Geography of the Book of Mormon Lands; Appendix D-A Correlation Survey.

     In the last "Correlation Survey," Birrell correlates her geographical setting for the Book of Mormon with the western part of South America.

 

[1948      Illustrated Model      Verla Birrell      INTERNAL--Limited Western South America influence]

     Note* Her chart 28 offers three models, each a variant on a basic Andean theme:

     L.S.=from Ecuador to Peru / N.N.= Andean Passes at 3 various locations / L.N.=Ecuador to Colombia / H.C.-3 different hills in Ecuador

     Source: Verla Birrell, Book of Mormon Guidebook, SLC: Stevens and Wallis, 1948

 

[1948      Illustrated Model      Verneil W. Simmons      INTERNAL-Mesoamerican influence]

     L.S.=Southern Mesoamerica / N.N.=Isth. of Tehuan. / L.N. Mesoamerica N. of Isth. of Tehuan. / H.C.=Veracruz inland / Sid. R.=Usumacinta

     Source: Verneil W. Simmons, "Lest We Forget the Lamanite," in Saints' Herald, September 25, 1948. Also Peoples, Places and Prophecies: A Study of the Book of Mormon, 1977.

 

1949                  University Archaeological Society (UAS) Founded

 

     The University Archaeological Society (UAS) was founded in Provo, Utah on the BYU campus on April 18, 1949, as a result of suggestions by Dr. John A. Widtsoe, a long-time advocate of its field of study among Latter-day Saints. Final arrangements were authorized at a previous meeting of December 17, presided over by Dr. Widtsoe of the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees of Brigham Young University, President of BYU Howard S. McDonald and Dr. Francis W. Kirkham. Also present were Dr. Wells Jakeman and Dr. Sidney B. Sperry. The Society was created as an adjunct or affiliate of the Department of Archaeology and was considered to be a continuation of the old Itzan Society founded at Los Angeles, California, in 1938. Its purpose was to assist the Department in its task of research and publication, particularly in the archaeology of the scriptures They used Department people, facilities and supplies to further research and publications. Wells Jakeman became the first chairman, succeeded by Ross Christensen.

     Jakeman was allowed to teach classes on Book of Mormon Archaeology, but when the College of Religious Instruction was formed in 1959, the administration at BYU asked that all religion credit be in that college.

     An incident occurred in which a woman donated about 2000 dollars to UAS however it was kept by BYU officials for a time. When confronted, they turned the money over to UAS but revised policy such that money went to BYU first and then they had the power to give it to any departments. They also advised that UAS be separated from BYU, so in 1961 SEHA was formed and registered as a non-profit organization through the State of Utah rather than being part of BYU. SEHA continued to operate on campus with support from Professor Ross Christensen. In about 1965 BYU decided to consolidate the anthropology program and the archaeology program, resulting in the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, for which Merlin Meyers became chairman. This encompassed the previous Department of Archaeology. Meyers was not fond of the science of Archaeology; moreover he viewed Book of Mormon archaeology as a hindrance to his academic affiliation with other universities. In 1971 John Sorenson replaced Meyers as head of the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, and within two years the department had become merely "Anthropology." Sorenson had been a student under Wells Jakeman but found that Jakeman tended to be dogmatic. As Sorenson developed differing viewpoints, he tended to separate himself from both Jakeman and also SEHA which Jakeman and Christensen were leading. In 1979 the Department of Anthropology was slated to move into the new Kimball Tower, but there was no separate space for the SEHA in the new quarters allotted. Moreover, Professor Christensen, who was the faculty person concerned at that time with the SEHA, was being given a medical early retirement. Dean Martin Hickman, the dean over the College of Social Sciences of which the Anthropology department was a part, decided that SEHA, not being officially a part of BYU, should be housed independently. As a courtesy, the university provided space in an edge-of-campus house down by the Physical Plant. In 1980 FARMS came to BYU with John Welch and approached Sorenson to be a part of it. SEHA still prospered, however, with the support of Ross Christensen and BYU students. In about 1981-2 the house was demolished, however, and Christensen died. All the SEHA material was moved to the home of assistant professor of archaeology Bruce Warren in Orem. Without continued University financial or student support, SEHA projects declined. In 1988 SEHA affiliated itself with Ancient America Foundation, led by Rick Hauck and T. Michael Smith.

 

Source: A conversation with Bruce Warren, April 10, 2002. Also written communication from John Sorenson, April 16, 2002.

 

1950      Milton R. Hunter & Thomas Stuart Ferguson      Ancient America and the Book of Mormon,

                                         Oakland, CA: Kolob Book, 1950.

 

     Thomas Stuart Ferguson became a driving force in Mesoamerican archaeology and the Book of Mormon. In 1950, he and Milton R. Hunter, a member of the Quorum of Seventy, published the book Ancient America and the Book of Mormon. In this book they made a comparison between the Book of Mormon and Spanish, Mexican, and Guatemalan sources, such as Works of IxtlilxochitlPopul Vuh, and Totonicapan.

 

[1950      Theoretical Model      Ferguson & Hunter      INTERNAL-Mesoamerican influence]

     L.S.=Mesoamerica S. of Isth. of Tehuan. / N.N.=Isth. of Tehuan. / L.N.=N. of Isth. of Tehuan. to Valley of Mexico / H.C.=Tuxtla Mountains of southern Veracruz / Sid. R.=Usumacinta

     Source: Milton R. Hunter and Thomas Stuart Ferguson, Ancient America and the Book of Mormon, Oakland:Kolob Book, 1950

 

1950            John A. Widtsoe            Improvement Era, 53, 7 (July), 1950, pp. 547, 596-597

                                   "Is Book of Mormon Geography Known?"

 

           The actual geographical locations of Book of Mormon events and places have always intrigued students of the book. Several volumes and many articles on the subject have been published. . . . An earnest, honest search is being continued by enthusiastic Book of Mormon students. . . . All such studies are legitimate, but the conclusions drawn from them, though they may be correct, must at the best be held as intelligent conjectures.

           As far as can be learned, the Prophet Joseph Smith, translator of the book, did not say where, on the American continent, Book of Mormon activities occurred. Perhaps he did not know. However, certain facts and traditions of varying reliability are used as foundation guides by students of Book of Mormon geography. . . .

           There is a controversy, however, about the Hill Cumorah--not about the location where the Book of Mormon plates were found, but whether it is the hill under that name near which Nephite events took placed. A name, says one, may be applied to more than one hill; and plates containing the records of a people, sacred things, could be moved from place to place by divine help.

           [An article in the Times and Seasons in 1842 reviewing the book on the Mayan ruins, by Stephens and Catherwood] seems to place many Book of Mormon activities in that region. The interesting fact in this connection is that the Prophet Joseph Smith at this time was editor of the Times and Seasons, and had announced his full editorial responsibility for the paper. This seems to give the subjoined article an authority it might not otherwise possess.

 

     Note* In a reprint of this article in his book Evidences and Reconciliations, Widtsoe adds to the above information about the Times and Seasons article by saying that it "offers the only solid Church authoritative base upon which one may pursue a study of Book of Mormon geography. Out of diligent, prayerful study, we may be led to a better understanding of times and places in the history of the people who move across the pages of the divinely given Book of Mormon."

 

[1950      Illustrated Model      Walter M. Stout      LIMITED COSTA RICA-NICARAGUA]

     L.S.=Costa Rica / N.N. Base of Nicoya peninsula / L.N.=Nicaragua / H.C.=At southeast end of Lake Nicaragua / Sid. R.=unnamed

     Source: Walter M. Stout, Landing Places of Book of Mormon Colonies, n.p., n.d. ('copyright 1950" on map]. Also Book of Mormon Practical Geography, Upland, California, 1970. Also A Synopsis of the Book of Mormon Practical Geography, Upland, California, 1972.

 

1952            Hugh Nibley, Ph.D            Lehi in the Desert and The World of the Jaredites

                                   Salt Lake City: Bookcraft

 

     Hugh Nibley was and is considered one of the foremost LDS scholars of his time. His opinion has always been held in high regard. Consider the following introduction to Nibley's book:

           The study of the Jaredites, of Lehi in the Desert, and of Mulek covers a territory of historical research not formerly invaded by modern scholars. The book could not have been written except with vast acquaintance with sources of historical learning. . . . Evidences for the Book of Mormon are increasing every day. For this reason this book, which becomes a powerful witness of the Book of Mormon, becomes also doubly precious to the leaders of the latter-day faith. Dr. Nibley and the publishers should be congratulated upon bringing the articles which ran originally in The Improvement Era into book form. . . . John A. Widtsoe.      

 

     Thus Nibley's ideas were disseminated to the Church readership and became a standard for study and teaching for many years. This book would even be reprinted in 1988 by F.A.R.M.S. With this in mind, it is interesting that Nibley has this to say concerning the New York hill Cumorah:

           Since the Jaredite kings with their migratory armies were constantly on the move in the best Asiatic manner, is there any reason why they should not have covered Asiatic distances? Then why all the fuss about Cumorah? From the Narrow Neck of Land to New York state is a distance that staggers us, but for Juji or Timur it would be a milk-run. Because we think of journeys in terms of hours or days at the most, we are liable to forget that people who never stop moving think of space not in terms of time but of stages, and that when it is broken down into stages the longest route on earth becomes negotiable even to the most primitive means of transportation--in a word, distance is not object. A glance at the map will show that the vast extent of territory covered by the Jaredites is really rather moderate by Asiatic standards. . . .

           When King Omer was overthrown by his son Jared he had to travel "many days" before he was beyond the reach of the usurper who had seized a kingdom that was "spread upon all the face of the land." (Ether 9:3: 7:11) In fact he fled as far as he possibly could, from Central America to the Great Lakes and New England coast regions, which were to become the classic hiding and fighting grounds of the latest Jaredites. It is here that we must seek the bones and burial mounds of the Jaredites, but not their cities. (pages 226-227)

 

     In Appendix II, under the title, "How Far to Cumorah?" Nibley writes:

           To Mr. Eugene L. Roberts and Mrs. Eldon Reed Cluff in their fascinating book Benjamin Cluff (Provo, 1947, ms.) we are indebted for valuable chapters (7 through 12) on the Brigham Young Academy Expedition to South and Central America. In those pages the reader may find a clear answer to the question: What geographical barriers would definitely bar an army from passing from Central America to the north country? The answer is--none.      

           On April 17, 1900 a troop of twenty-five men with mules and wagons left Provo, Utah, with the purpose of seeking information casting light on the Book of Mormon in lands to the south. Upon reaching the Mexican border the expedition was disbanded (August 12, 1900) by order of the General Authorities--not because it had reached impassable terrain but because of the expense involved in a large-scale operation. Proceeding into Mexico with a reduced force of nine men and without wagons, the party found far easier and pleasanter going . . . they were able to make eighteen to twenty miles a day. Even the terribly rugged Sierra Madre Mountains were crossed in three weeks. Since the object of the expedition was to gather information, it moved very slowly. Each of the nine men was a specialist and each was allowed to do a thorough job. . . . Nowhere is the jungle described as an impenetrable barrier: There were always trails and ancient roads to follow. Swollen streams seem to have presented the only serious obstacles to travel, yet they were all successfully crossed, and had the party not been unwise enough to attempt Central America during the rainy season, they could have been avoided almost entirely. . . .

           Yet even with all these things to slow them to a crawl, the party reached the first "Narrow Neck of Land" on February 16, 1901, less than ten months after leaving Provo. Fully four of these months had been spent in Utah and Arizona, while more than a month more had been wasted in negotiations on the Mexican border. The second "Narrow neck" was reached April 13, 1901, less than a year from Provo, and the narrowest neck of all was entered but two weeks later--it was a revolution that delayed arrival at Panama City until the fall of the year. . . .

           In Panama City they were joined by other members of the expedition (so far were they from being downhearted), and then some of the men took the mules across the isthmus to Colon in only three days, though they had only "uncertain and indefinite trails" to follow. From Colon the party went to Colombia by boat--solely because of Indian troubles, and not because of geographical obstacles, for the worst of the jungles and streams were already behind them. In Bogota the expedition finally came to an end not because the country had become impassible, but because the Colombian government advised them against proceeding further . . . [thus] we find that the actual time on the road is to be measured rather in weeks than in months. . . .

           The B. Y. Academy Expedition occasionally ran across ancient roads some of which they took to be Nephite. Needless to say, such jungle ways would have been in infinitely better repair in the days of old. The marching of armies would in a very short time establish a system of clearly marked and easily traveled strategic roads, and these would improve from year to year after each campaign. Tough native troops, adequately supplied with every means of accomplishing rapid forced marches, could easily pass from the Narrow Neck of Land to the North Country in a matter of days. In World War II, the Japanese demonstrated that the "impenetrable jungles" of Malaya, on which British strategy relied very heavily, were simply a myth. As Professor Spears points out in his book Deserts on the March, there are no "impenetrable jungles" in nature. According to the famous military maxim of Suvorov, "where a deer can go, a man can go, and where a man can go, an army can go." It has been proved time and again.

           The remarkable journey of the B. Y. A. Expedition, made more than fifty years ago by a very poorly equipped company during the rainy season through territories of hostile Indians and revolutionaries, proves that Jaredite armies could easily have followed the old established pattern of making yearly raids of continental scope. (pp. 270-272)

(See the notation for 1900 and 1939)

 

[1950-s      Illustrated Model (27 Maps)      J. Karl Wood?            INTERNAL-Book of Alma only]

     Source: Tom Tyler, who obtained them as a student from Alice Bragg, an early morning seminary teacher in Southern California. The graphics of these maps were later improved upon. (As per information communicated to John Sorenson by Tom Tyler in a letter dated February 14, 1991)

 

1952            New World Archaeological Foundation (NWAF) Established

 

     Thomas Stuart Ferguson had a great desire to carry out professional archaeological work in Mesoamerica. He had remarked to the non-Mormon Alfred V. Kidder of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, D.C. in 1951: "Let the evidence from the ground speak for itself and let the chips fall where they may." In April of that year Ferguson and Kidder formally presented a plan to the Church for "proposed explorations and excavations in the Tehuantepec area" and asked that the Church provide financial support to the amount of $150,000. But the plan was rejected. In spite of his disappointment, Ferguson began to raise funds privately and in October 1952 he organized the New World Archaeological Foundation (NWAF) with himself as president (serving from 1952 to 1961), Kidder as the first vice-president, Milton R. Hunter as another vice-president. Board members included church leaders John A. Widtsoe of the Quorum of the Twelve and Hunter, and the advisory panel of prominent non-Mormon scholars included Alfred V. Kidder, Gordon F. Ekholm (of the American Museum of Natural History), and Gordon R. Willey (of Harvard). Concerning the purpose of the NWAF Kidder wrote the following:

           The purpose of the Foundation is to carry on explorations and excavations to add to knowledge of Mesoamerican archaeology and to test the several theories as to the origin of the high civilizations of the Americas: 1) That they were autochthonous; 2) That, as set forth in the Book of Mormon, they were derived from ancient Israel; 3) That their rise was due to stimuli from some Asiatic source.

           Mr. Ferguson is an advocate of the second of these theories; Dr. Ekholm . . . views with some favor the third; I feel that, although the problem is still unsolved, these civilizations were essentially the product of native American Indian creativeness. So all shades of opinion are represented!

 

     In 1953 Ferguson appealed to Church leaders and was granted $15,000 with the condition that "no publicity whatever in any way or at any time" be given to this private donation." No money was granted for 1954, however in March 1955 Ferguson received a commitment from the Church for $200,000, enough for four seasons of archaeological excavations.

     After Church funding ran out in 1959, Ferguson was assured that NWAF would continue to receive funds through Brigham Young University. In June 1960 a delegation of Church officials went to Mexico to observe the NWAF operations. Subsequently in 1961 Elder Howard W. Hunter of the Quorum of the Twelve was designated as chairman of the new Book of Mormon Archaeology Committee (essentially taking over control of NWAF). The organization became known as BYU-NWAF. Emphasis was placed on academically oriented archaeological research in Mexico and Guatemala without inference to the Book of Mormon. Ferguson was relegated to the role of secretary, which role he retained until his death in 1983.

     The following is a quote of a letter to Thomas Stuart Ferguson from Joseph Anderson, secretary to the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, dated 18 January 1952:

           Indeed, the Brethren feel that careful exploratory work may very well develop faith-promoting corroborative evidence of the historical value of the Book of Mormon. [But] The Brethren feel that it may be that no discovery will be made which shall establish the historical value of the Book of Mormon.

 

     Quote from a letter to Thomas Stuart Ferguson dated 17 April 1953 from J. Reuben Clark, Jr., Second Counselor in the First Presidency: "We, of course, wish you the fullest success in your efforts to discover something that will help to coordinate American Archaeology with the Book of Mormon"

 

(Sources: Bruce W. Warren and Thomas Stuart Ferguson, The Messiah in Ancient America. Provo: Book of Mormon Research Foundation, 1987, Appendix A: "History of the New World Archaeological Foundation," pp. 247-283. Also Stan Larson, "The Odyssey of Thomas Stuart Ferguson" in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, ( ), pp. 58-66.)

 

1953            Mark E. Petersen            LDS Conference Reports, Sunday afternoon, April 5, 1953

 

           I do not believe that the classrooms or the pulpits of our Church are for laboratory purposes in which to experiment with new doctrines and speculative notions. They are exclusively for the use of those who are willing to convert men and women and boys and girls to the truth. . . .

           I do not believe we should give credence to the highly speculative theories about Book of Mormon geography.

           I do not believe that there were two Hill Cumorahs, one in Central America and the other one up in New York, for the convenience of the Prophet Joseph Smith, so that the poor boy would not have to walk clear to Central America to get the gold plates.

           I do not believe we can be good Latter-day Saints and question the integrity of Joseph Smith.

           I do not believe we can be good Latter-day Saints and question the testimony of the eleven witnesses of the Book of Mormon.

           I do not believe you have a testimony of the truth if you question the accuracy of the translation of the Book of Mormon

 

1954            Joseph Fielding Smith            Church News: Deseret News, February 27th, 1954, p. 2

 

     In this article Elder Smith denounces "this modernistic theory" of two Cumorahs, which he complains has done nothing but create "confusion and disturb[ance] in [the] faith in the Book of Mormon" of "some members of the Church."

 

           The Prophet Joseph Smith himself is on record, definitely declaring the present hill called Cumorah to be the exact hill spoken of in the Book of Mormon. Further, the fact that all his associates from the beginning down have spoken of it as the identical hill where Mormon and Moroni hid the records, must carry some weight. It is difficult for a reasonable person to believe that such men as Oliver Cowdery, Brigham Young, Parley P. Pratt, Orson Pratt, David Whitmer and many others, could speak frequently of the spot where the Prophet Joseph Smith obtained the plates, such as the Hill Cumorah, and not be corrected by the Prophet, if that were not the fact. That they did speak of this hill in the days of the Prophet in this definite manner is an established record of history.

 

1954      Norman C. Pierce      Another Cumorah, Another JosephN.P., 1954

 

     A geographical and archaeological look at events found in the Book of Mormon. Author argues for the existence of two Cumorahs, one in Palmyra, New York, and the other in Central America. Suggests that the existing oceanic currents aided the Nephties and Jaredites in their destinations from the Old to the New World. Sees a connection between the mound builders of the Mississippi and Ohio Valleys and the mass migration of Hagoth and the other boats to the land northward. [A Guide, C.W.B., p. 212]

 

1954      Illustrated Model      Norman C. Pierce      LIMITED SOUTHERN MESOAMERICA]

     L.S.=Honduras and Costa Rica / N.N.=between Lake Izabal-Rio Dulce and Bay of Honduras / L.N.=Yucatan Peninsula / H.C.=Lake Izabal area / Sid. R. Ulua River

     Source: Norman C. Pierce, Another Cumorah, Another Joseph, n.p., 1954

 

1955            LeGrande Richards            April 1955 Conference Reports, p. 123f

 

           I have never seen this in print, but I heard President Callis make this statement: that after the Book of Mormon came forth the Prophet Joseph was terribly worried about what the world would say, and he said, "O Lord, what will the world say?" And the answer came back, "Fear not, I will cause the earth to testify of the truth of these things" and from that day until now, and only the Lord knows what is yet ahead, external evidences have been brought forth of the divinity of that book.

 

1955-59      $200,000 Granted by the LDS Church to the NWAF

 

     (See the notation for 1952)

 

1955      John L. Sorenson      "Where in the World? Views on Book of Mormon Geography" (Book of

                         Mormon Working Paper No. 8), 1955. Revised 1963, 1971,

                       Revised and extended 1973, 1974

 

     In 1955 John Sorenson composed a paper called "Where in the World?" which he began to send to friends and students who requested information regarding his views on Book of Mormon geography. This paper, together with a lengthy appendix in which secular materials on Mesoamerican geography and cultures were mustered to show how his views fit the literature, outlined the rudiments of a Book of Mormon geography model which Sorenson had worked out in the Central Depression of Chiapas, Mexico in April 1953. As a graduate student in archaeology, he and Thomas Ferguson were in Chiapas doing archaeological reconnaissance instrumental in setting the agenda from which the NWAF would begin to excavate. Over the next two decades this important paper would be revised and edited as it was passed out to an ever increasing group of interested students of Book of Mormon geography. The importance of Sorenson's model lay in the fact that it was not only grounded on current academic research and principles, but that current archaeological and anthropological research was now at a point that certain things about ancient American cultures and their geographical setting could be said with some degree of confidence. Sorenson would present this paper at the 1974 "Book of Mormon Non-Conference Symposium" (see notation). The model called for a limited Mesoamerican setting for the events of the Book of Mormon.

 

[1955      Theoretical Model      John Sorenson      LIMITED MESOAMERICA]

     L.S.=Mesoamerica S. of Isth. of Tehuan. to El Salvador / N.N. Isth. of Tehuan. / L.N.=N. of Isth. of Tehuan. a few hundred miles / H.C.=Cerro El Vigia / Sid. R.=Grijalva

     Note* John Sorenson formulated the basics of his model (published in 1985) as a duplicated working paper (entitled, "Where in the World?") which underwent several modifications in wording thereafter. A version of it (together with, Appendix: Some Specific Tests of the Correlation) was circulated in manuscript form late in 1974 to participants in the "Book of Mormon Non-Conference Symposium" arranged by David A. Palmer.

 

1955      G. Reynolds and J. Sjodahl            Commentary on the Book of Mormon (7 vols), SLC: Deseret

     (Philip C. Reynolds comp.)                  Book, 1955

 

     This multivolume work contains verse-by-verse commentary on the Book of Mormon. The text of the Book of Mormon is included. In the forward to Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Philip C. Reynolds wrote this concerning Book of Mormon geography:

           The writers of the sacred record gave little space and did not make much of an effort to describe, in so many words, the physical features of the regions, wherein took place, the events they recorded. . . . It is folly to associate oneself with any peculiar notion and say of some particular ruin, "This is Zarahemla" or "There is the land of Bountiful." Such ventures in thought are merely guesses, and such speculation leads to confusion. . . . [If] the time comes, or that it is expedient for the saints to have this information, it will come to them through the regularly established source, the prophet, seer, and revelator, the Presiding High Priest of the Church and no one else.

 

     However, in order to gain perspective on this statement, one must understand that this commentary was prepared many years earlier. Although compiled and published in 1955 by Philip Reynolds, George Reynolds had actually prepared his voluminous notes on the Book of Mormon at least 45 years previous to this date as he died in 1909. Janne Sjodahl died in 1939. Thus Philip Reynolds' words on Book of Mormon geography in the preface were apparently derived from writings nearly five decades old.

 

1956            Joseph Fielding Smith            Doctrines of Salvation, Vol. 3, Bookcraft, 1956, pp. 232-243

 

     This is partly a reprint and partly an expansion of an article that appeared in The Church News, September 10, 1938 (see notation).

 

     Where is the Hill Cumorah?

 

     Speculation about Book of Mormon Geography. Within recent years there has arisen among certain students of the Book of Mormon a theory to the effect that within the period covered by the Book of Mormon, the Nephites and Lamanites were confined almost entirely within the borders of the territory comprising Central America and the southern portion of Mexico--the isthmus of Tehuantepec probably being the "narrow neck" of land spoken of in the Book of Mormon rather than the isthmus of Panama.

     This theory is founded upon the assumption that it was impossible for the colony of Lehi's to multiply and fill the hemisphere within the limits of 1,000 years, or from the coming of Lehi from Jerusalem to the time of the destruction of the Nephites at the Hill Cumorah. Moreover, they claim that the story in the Book of Mormon of the migrations, building of cities, and the wars and contentions, preclude the possibility of the people spreading over great distances such as we find within the borders of North and South America. . . .

     Locale of Cumorah, Ramah, and Ripliancum. This modernistic theory of necessity, in order to be consistent, must place the waters of Ripliancum and the Hill Cumorah some place within the restricted territory of Central America, notwithstanding the teachings of the Church to the contrary for upwards of 100 years. Because of this theory some members of the Church have become confused and greatly disturbed in their faith in the Book of Mormon. It is for this reason that evidence is here presented to show that it is not only possible that these places could be located as the Church has held during the past century, but that in very deed such is the case. It is known that the Hill Cumorah where the Nephites were destroyed is the hill where the Jaredites were also destroyed. This hill was known to the Jaredites as Ramah. It was approximately near to the waters of Ripliancum, which the Book of Ether says, "by interpretation, is large, or to exceed all." Mormon adds: "And it came to pass that we did march forth to the land of Cumorah, and we did pitch our tents round about the hill Cumorah; and it was in a land of many waters, rivers, and fountains, and here we had hope to gain advantage over the Lamanites."

     Early Brethren Locate Cumorah in Western New York. It must be conceded that this description fits perfectly the land of Cumorah in New York, as it has been known since the visitation of Moroni to the Prophet Joseph Smith, for the hill is in the proximity of the Great Lakes and also in the land of many rivers and fountains. Moreover, the Prophet Joseph Smith himself is on record, definitely declaring the present hill called Cumorah to be the exact hill spoken of in the Book of Mormon.

     Further, the fact that all of his associates from the beginning down have spoken of it as the identical hill where Mormon and Moroni hid the records, must carry some weight. It is difficult for a reasonable person to believe that such men as Oliver Cowdery, Brigham Young, Parley P. Pratt, Orson Pratt, David Whitmer, and many others, could speak frequently of the Spot where the Prophet Joseph Smith obtained the plates as the Hill Cumorah, and not be corrected by the Prophet, if that were not the fact. That they did speak of this hill in the days of the Prophet in this definite manner is an established record of history. . . .

     Nephite and Jaredite Wars in Western New York. In the face of this evidence coming from the Prophet Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, and David Whitmer, we cannot say that the Nephites and Lamanites did not possess the territory of the United States and that the Hill Cumorah is in Central America. Neither can we say that the great struggle which resulted in the destruction of the Nephites took place in Central America.

     If Zelph, a righteous man, was fighting under a great prophet-general in the last battles between the Nephites and Lamanites; if that great prophet-general was known from the Rocky Mountains to "the Hill Cumorah or eastern sea," then some of those battles, and evidently the final battles did take place within the borders of what is now the United States. . . .

     Cumorah Once Site of Carnage and Destruction. As I stood upon the summit of the Hill Cumorah, in the midst of a vast multitude, only a few of whom belonged to the Church, I tried to picture the scenes of former days. Here were assembled vast armies filled with bitterness and bent on destruction. . . .

     Importance of Cumorah Unknown to World. . . . "Here it was that Moroni, commanded by the Lord, hid up the sacred records of his people. Here it was 1,400 years later, that he, then a resurrected being, came to Joseph Smith and committed these same records to the young man's care. At the time of the Prophet first visit to the hill, it was covered with trees; today (1923) it is stripped and bare, save for the grass which grows abundantly."

 

1956      Joseph Fielding Smith            Doctrines of Salvation, Vol. 3, Bookcraft, 1956, pp. 232-243

 

           It makes no difference what is written or what anyone has said, if what has been said is in conflict with what the Lord has revealed, we can set it aside. My words, and the teachings of any other member of the Church, high or low, if they do not square with the revelations, we need not accept them. Let us have this matter clear. We have accepted the four standard works as the measuring yardsticks or balances, by which we measure every man's doctrine. You cannot accept the books written by the authorities of the Church as standards in doctrine, only in so far as they accord with the revealed word in the standard works.

     

1957      J.M. Sjodahl      A Suggested Key to Book of Mormon GeographySLC: Deseret Book, 1957

 

     A large map of the North and South American continents marked with names of cities, rivers, and locations that are found in the Book of Mormon text. [A Guide, p. 269]

 

1957      George Reynolds            Book of Mormon Geography: The Lands of the Nephites and      

     Ed. & Arr. by Philip C. Reynolds            Jaredites SLC: Deseret Book, 1957

 

     This is a reprint by Philip Reynolds of all of George Reynolds' material from the 1980's, which in theory subscribed to a hemispheric model (South America / Panama / North America). The material was close to 70 years old. (see the notation for 1888)

 

1957      George Reynolds      Complete Concordance of the Book of Mormon      SLC: Deseret Book, 1957

     Ed. & Arr. by Philip C. Reynolds

 

     This is a reprint by Philip Reynolds of George Reynolds' Concordance material from 1904. Although certain references implied a hemispheric model (South America / Panama / North America), the work continued to be the concordance reference for dedicated students of the Book of Mormon until the age of computers. (see the notation for 1900)

 

     CUMORAH

           A hill and the district immediately surrounding it in Ontario County, State of New York. It was known as Ramah to the Jaredites. In its vicinity both the Jaredite and the Nephite races were destroyed in battle. Within its bosom the sacred records of the latter race were concealed. [p. 161]

 

     SIDON, River

           The most important river in Nephite History; known to-day as the Magdalena. It runs northward through the United States of Colombia and empties into the Caribbean Sea. [p. 633]

 

1958            Riley Dixon                  Just One Cumorah, S.L.C.: Bookcraft, 1958

 

     Dixon argues that the Hill Cumorah, where the Nephites and Lamanites fought their last battle, was the Hill Cumorah in New York state. The author also believes that the Nephites landed in Chile thirty degrees south latitude, according to a statement attributed to Joseph Smith. [A Guide, p. 67]

     Dixon writes:

           What purpose do these students of the alleged "advanced thought" hope to accomplish? In the first place, it is not within the province of lay or priesthood members to give new information to the Church. This right is reserved only for the prophets of God, the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with the approval of the Council of the Twelve, as a product of divine revelation. It is a sacred privilege, one not to be infringed upon by other men. None of the prophets of God from the beginning of the Church has announced such a theory, nor any of the members of the Council of the Twelve suggested such an hypothesis. The Book of Mormon is written in simple language, so everyone may understand. Ideas should not be read into this sacred book which are not there. It should be as it is. [p. 13]

 

[1958      Theoretical Model      Riley Dixon      HEMISPHERIC]

     L.S.=S. of Panama / N.N.=Panama / L.N.=N. of Panama / H.C.=New York

     Source: Riley Dixon, Just One Cumorah SLC, 1958.

 

1958            Bruce R. McConkie            "Cumorah" in Mormon Doctrine,

 

(See the notation for 1966)

 

1958      NWAF Ecavates Chiapa de Corzo in Chiapas, Mexico & Makes Plaster Cast of Stela 5 at Izapa

   

     Beginning in 1958, the NWAF made an extensive excavation of the ruins at Chiapa de Corzo in Chiapas, Mexico.

     In 1953, Wells Jakeman wrote a 4-part series of articles for the UAS Bulletin concerning the correlation of Stela 5 at Izapa with Lehi's dream of the Tree-of-Life in the Book of Mormon. This created sufficient interest in this stela such that in 1958 a plaster cast was made of Stela 5 by Ross Christensen, Carl H. Jones, Welby Ricks, and Alfred Bush. Wells Jakeman also published a book on Stela 5 in 1958. (For further details see Joseph Allen, Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon, chapter 9.)

 

1959            The College of Religious Instruction at BYU Is Organized

 

     In January of 1959, the College of Religious Instruction was organized at BYU. In the previous Division of Religion, they had sought more attention for their work. The Division of Religion, which in the beginning had five faculty members (not all of whom taught courses in religion exclusively), had grown to twenty-eight members. They petitioned the Board of Education for college status.

     With the establishment of the College of Religious Instruction came the responsibility to offer doctorates in several areas. In 1966 it became fully accredited. The question of whether or not graduate degrees in religion should be granted, however, continued to be a subject of discussion. On May 3, 1972, the Board of Education decided that no doctor's degrees would be awarded by the College of Religious Instruction and that courses of study leading to the master's degree in religion were to be discouraged. The College of Religious Instruction was eventually dissolved in 1974. (See the notation for 1974)

 

1959      Fletcher B. Hammond      Geography of the Book of Mormon, SLC: Utah Printing Company, 1959;

                             Reprinted in 1964

 

     Hammond presents information to support the idea that the Book of Mormon lands are located in Central America or Mexico. He suggests that a Hill Cumorah was located both in Palmyra New York and in Central America. A number of maps and diagrams are presented. [A Guide, p. 96]

     Hammond utilized only internal Book of Mormon maps with no actual geographical setting.

 

[1959      Illustrated Model (Multiple Maps)      Fletcher Hammond       INTERNAL-Mesoamerica influence]

     Source: Fletcher Hammond, Geography of the Book of Mormon, 1959.

 

1959            Preston Nibley & Fletcher Hammond      Geography of the Book of Mormon , SLC: Utah

                                          Printing Company, 1959

 

     The 1904 first edition of the B.H. Roberts' edited History of the Church in seven volumes had the account [A-1] as Richards had left it. In 1934 and 1948, however, under the direction of Joseph Fielding Smith who became Church historian, Benson's version [A-2] was substituted for that of Richards version [A-1] and explicit references to the Hill Cumorah and the Nephites were reintroduced. That phrasing has continued to the present in all reprintings.

     In 1957, Preston Nibley, assistant Church historian, authorized Fletcher Hammond to announce that the 1904 edition was correct (See Hammond 1959):

           . . . Brother Nibley has authorized me to say that the 1904 edition of the Documentary History of the Church Vol. II at pages 79 and 80 correctly reports the "Zelph" incident; and that the part of the 1934 (and the 1948) edition of the same history which differs from it is erroneous. (Palmer 1981:77)

[Kenneth W. Godfrey, "The Zelph Story," F.A.R.M.S., 1989; see also Joseph L. Allen, Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon, pp. 352-353]

 

1959            Harold B. Lee            Quarterly Historical Report for the Andes Mission, Nov. 11, 1959

 

     ". . . from the writings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and of other inspired men, it seems all are in agreement that the followers of Lehi came to the western shores of South America. . . . I believe we are (today) not far from the place where the history of the people of Lehi commenced in western America."

 

[1960      Theoretical Map      Bruce Warren      LIMITED MESOAMERICAN

     Note* Warren begins formulating maps which would eventually culminate in the published map appearing in his 1987 publication. (see 1987)

 

[1960      Illustrated Model      Joseph E. Vincent      LIMITED MESOAMERICA]

     L.S.=Southern & eastern Mesoamerica / N.N.=Isth. of Tehuan. / L.N.=N. of Isth. of Tehuan. to just beyond Valley of Mexico / H.C.=Valley of Mexico / Sid. R.=Unclear (Grijalva or Usumacinta)

     Source: Joseph E. Vincent, Book of Mormon Lands, Mentone, California, 1960. Also "Some Views on Book of Mormon Geography," Papers of the Fourteenth Annual Symposium on the Archaeology of the Scriptures, edited by Forrest R. Hauck, pp. 61-69, BYU Dept. of Extension Publications: Provo, Utah, 1963.

 

1961      The NWAF Becomes Affiliated with BYU---(BYU-NWAF)

 

     In 1961 the New World Archaeology Foundation received funding and support from B.Y.U. Research, however, was to be undertaken with strict objectivity, with no reference to the Book of Mormon.

 

1961      The UAS Becomes the Society for Early Historic Archaeology (SEHA)

 

     The University Archaeological Society (UAS) becomes a non-profit organization through the state of Utah rather than B.Y.U. Its name is changed to the Society for Early Historic Archaeology (SEHA).

(See the notation for 1949)

 

1962-1967      LDS Church                  The Book of Mormon (Large Print Student Edition)

 

     In 1962 the Church published a special large-print student edition of the Book of Mormon that included a number of colored prints illustrating Book of Mormon culture. This was to be purchased and used by all Seminary students for use in their classes for a number of years. Included with an array of Arnold Friberg illustrations were pictures of cultural artifacts from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Columbia and Peru. However most distinctively at the beginning of the book was a large print of the New York hill Cumorah with the word "CUMORAH" carved out of foliage on the hill and with the title "The Hill Cumorah" at the bottom of the page (see illustration). The implication of the prints was a hemispheric model with a New York hill Cumorah.

 

[1962      Illustration: "The Hill Cumorah," The Book of Mormon, 1962, preface.]

 

1964            Sidney B. Sperry            The Problems of the Book of Mormon, SLC: Bookcraft, 1964

 

     In this book, Sperry divides the "problems" of the Book of Mormon into two categories. The first are technical, doctrinal, and interpretive problems for members of the Church. The second relates to those raised by critics of the book and the Church. [A Guide, p. 296]

 

     Note* In his original manuscript of this book, Problems of the Book of Mormon, dated July 18, 1963, Sperry had a chapter entitled "Were There Two Cumorahs?" wherein he laid out his reasoning for abandoning the idea that the New York hill Cumorah was the site of the final battles of both the Nephites and Jaredites. He was advised by President Joseph Fielding Smith not to print it. This chapter or article was later published by FARMS in the 1980's.

 

1966            Bruce R. McConkie            "Cumorah" in Mormon Doctrine, pp. 174-175

 

           Both the Nephite and Jaredite civilizations fought their final great wars of extinction at and near the Hill Cumorah (or Ramah as the Jaredites termed it), which hill is located between Palmyra and Manchester in the western part of the state of New York. It was here that Moroni hid up the gold plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated. (Mormon 6; Ether 15.) Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, and many of the early brethren, who were familiar with all the circumstances attending the coming forth of the Book of Mormon in this dispensation, have left us pointed testimony as to the identity and location of Cumorah or Ramah.

 

     Note* McConkie then cites Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 3, pp. 232-242 as the source of what he wrote (see the notation of 1956 for content). Mormon Doctrine was originally published in 1958 but I have not consulted that work to determine if the quote and the page location are the same.

 

1966-70      NWAF Surveys the Grijalva River, Especially Santa Rosa in Chiapas, Mexico

 

     Beginning in 1966, the NWAF made an extensive survey of the Grijalva River, especially the archaeological site of Santa Rosa, in the Chiapas Depression before the areas immediately adjacent to the river were flooded by dams.

 

[1966      Illustrated Model      V. Garth Norman      LIMITED MESOAMERICA]

     L.S.=Mesoamerican S. of Isth of Tehuan. / N.N.=Isth. of Tehuan. / L.N.=N. of Isth of Tehuan. / H.C. southern Tamaulipas state / Sid. R.=Usumacinta

     Source: V. Garth Norman, "Book of Mormon Geography Study on the Narrow Neck of Land Region" Book of Mormon Geography Working Paper No. 1, St. Michaels, Ariz., 1966, 1972, 1974. Also "Reconstruction and Correlation of the Geography of the Land Southward, Border Regions of the Book of Mormon" Book of Mormon Geography Working Paper No. 2, St. Michaels, Arizona, 1966, 1974, 1975.

 

1968-73      The Archaeological Site of Kaminaljuyu in Guatemala City Is Extensively Excavated

 

     Building on the previous studies of 1946, the archaeological site of Kaminaljuyu in Guatemala City was extensively surveyed and excavated under the direction of Pennsylvania State University.

 

1968            Sidney B. Sperry            Book of Mormon Compendium, SLC: Bookcraft, 1968

 

     In 1968 the former Dean of Religious Studies at Brigham Young University, Dr. Sidney Sperry wrote a thorough commentary on many aspects of the Book of Mormon. At least one chapter is devoted to each book of the Book of Mormon, plus chapters on special topics. In the preface to his book he writes the following in regards to Book of Mormon geography:

           In this volume I have reversed my views, held many years ago, that the Hill Cumorah, around which the last great battles of the Nephites and Jaredites took place, was in the State of New York. The Book of Mormon data are very clear and show quite conclusively that that Hill (Ramah to the Jaredites) was in the land of Desolation, somewhere in Middle America. I have summed up my arguments and conclusions in connection with the discussion of Mormon, Chapter 6. My conclusions have been tested in a number of classes of graduate students who were challenged to demonstrate their falsity. Up to the present time, no one has done so. The Hill Cumorah in New York, from which the Prophet Joseph Smith obtained the Nephite plates, may have been so named by Moroni in commemoration of the Cumorah in the land of Desolation, around which his father and fellow Nephites lost their lives in their last struggles with the Lamanites.

 

     On page 447, Sperry states the following:

           It is now my very carefully studied and considered opinion that the Hill Cumorah to which Mormon and his people gathered was somewhere in Middle America. The Book of Mormon evidence to this effect is irresistible and conclusive to one who will approach it with an open mind. This evidence has been reviewed by a few generations of bright students in graduate classes who have been given the challenge to break it down if they can. To date none has ever been able to do so. Let us now sum up the main evidence, part of which has already been considered in earlier pages.

     Sperry then cites the following:

     1. The implications of Omni 20-21 . . .

     2. The implications of Mosiah 8:7-12; Alma 22:30-32 . . .

     3. The implications of Mormon 1-5 . .

     4. The implications of Ether 9:3 . . .

     5. The implications of Ether 14,15 . . .

     6. The implications of the Documentary History of the Church, Vol. 2:79-80 (early edition). (Sperry, 447-451)

 

1968            Daniel Ludlow            A Companion To Your Study Of The Book of Mormon

 

     Starting in 1968, this manuscript book began to be used for Religion 121, 122, 421, and 422 at B.Y.U. This was carefully prepared by Daniel Ludlow to avoid the subject of geography in the New World. Most interesting is his quote of the Frederick G. Williams information regarding Lehi's travels through Arabia (Richards & Little "Compendium, 1925 edition), which is cut off before the mention of Lehi's landing in Chile. No maps are included in the commentary. (An internal map was apparently drawn by Ludlow in 1964. This map would later be published in the CES manual for Religion 121 & 122 for 1989 (see notation). The book would be formally published in 1976 (see notation).

 

1968            Paul Cheesman      "Archaeology and the Book of Mormon" in The Instructor, November

                                    1968, pp. 428-432

 

     In 1968 the following appeared in The Instructor, a magazine published by the Church:

 

           The geography of a country always helps us to understand its people better. Evidently it was not considered of prime importance to the writers of the Book of Mormon, however, since sufficient detailed information is not provided for us to determine with certainty the location of the areas or cities of the history. This should not discourage continuous study in this field, since future findings may help to establish the geography and thus clarify some aspects of the Book of Mormon.

           There are those who believe that there are two Hill Cumorahs. Their theory is that the hill on which Mormon fought the last battle with the Lamanties is not the same hill in which Joseph Smith found the gold plates. Advocates of this theory establish their analysis primarily from the internal evidences of the Book of Mormon. Others conclude that there is only one Hill Cumorah, and that the place where Joseph Smith and Moroni met was the same place Mormon and Moroni visited in the fifth century. There is no official Church view.

           Some say the "narrow neck of land' is Panama, and other the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in Mexico. The landing place of Lehi is still unknown. (UAS Newsletter 6.2, 22.00, 46.6, 80.1.)

           That some immigrants came by the Bering Strait is the most widely accepted theory among archaeologists regarding the early migrations. It could be true that some groups came across the Strait. The Book of Mormon does not say.

           Perhaps the most interesting of all these comments is found in Times and Seasons. Joseph Smith as editor of the paper, is responsible for this statement:

           ...Central America, or Guatemala [the whole of what we now call Central America was then known as Guatemala] is situated north of the Isthmus of Darien [Panama] and once embraced several hundred miles of territory from north to south. The city of Zarahemla, burnt at the crucifixion of the Savior, and rebuilt afterwards, stood upon this land as will be seen from the following words in the book of Alma. . . . (Times and Seasons, Vol. III, No. 23; October 1, 1842; P. 927.

 

           Commenting on this statement in an article published in Progress in Archaeology, Dr. Ross T. Christensen says:

           Here the prophet takes up the passage which speaks of 'a day and a half's journey for a Nephite.' (Alma 22:32) Further on, he strongly speculates on the identity of the ruins of Zarahemla with those of Quirigua', Guatemala, which had only recently been discovered.

           Now if the ruins of Zarahemla lie somewhere in what is now Central America, as the Prophet wrote, that fact automatically disqualifies the Panama theory, for the Nephite record makes it abundantly plain that that city was located in the land southward, whereas , in the Panama theory, Central America would be part of the land northward. If Joseph Smith was correct in these statements, then Zarahemla cannot have been in South America, nor can the Isthmus of Panama have been the 'small neck of land.' (Progress in Archaeology, compiled and edited by Ross T. Christensen; published at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 1963; p. 195).

 

[1970's      Illustrated Model      Gareth W. Lowe      LIMITED MESOAMERICA]

     L.S.=Central Chiapas, Honduras, El Salvador / N.N.=Pacific coastal lowland strip around Tonala, Chiapas / L.N.=Tonala northward through Isth. of Tehuan. & beyond / H.C.=Tuxtla Mountains / Sid. R.=Grijalva

     Source: Personal communication to John L. Sorenson, exact date unrecoverable but probably early in the 1970's

 

1971-1972      W. Cleon Skousen      Hidden Treasures from the Book of Mormon, 4 vols., Provo and SLC:

                             Dana Press and Publisher's Press.

 

     This 4 Volume commentary series on the Book of Mormon has been published multiple times up to the present and studied by many Church members. It has this to say about "the final stages of the Nephite-Lamanite conflict":

           Apparently it was not until the Mormon pioneers reached the territory of Utah that it was learned that Moroni had spent part of his ministry in the tops of the Rocky Mountains. It was revealed by Brigham young that Moroni had dedicated two or more temple sites in what is now Utah and apparently had spent considerable time in this region. This would indicate that during the final stages of the Nephite-Lamanite conflict, the Nephite leaders hoped to make the valleys in the tops of the Rocky Mountains a refuge for at least some of the people. (Vol. 4, p. 4208)

 

     Note* If with the phrase "the final stages of the Nephite-Lamanite conflict" Skousen means the final battles, then he would be supporting a limited hemispheric-New York hill Cumorah model. However, if Skousen implies that "some" Nephites resided in the Rocky Mountain area after the final battles at Cumorah (in Mesoamerica) but yet were still in the midst of "the final stages of the Nephite-Lamanite conflict," then he would be supporting a limited Mesoamerica model. Here Skousen is unclear.

 

1971      Bruce A. Van Orden       "The Debate of the Hill Cumorah"

 

     This is a paper written for Graduate Religion 523: Book of Mormon-External Evidences, August 1971, in which he examines a number of historical quotes from Church authorities. Van Orden concludes with the following:

           I personally believe that if Elder Cowdery, President Ivins, and President Smith had thoroughly studied and thought out all the internal evidences in the Book of Mormon concerning the Hill Cumorah at the time they gave their statements, they would have arrived at different conclusions. At any rate they certainly did not give answers to some of the perplexing questions posed by many of these internal evidences. I also feel that Joseph Smith himself did not know where the original Hill Cumorah was located. He did not presume to officially know where Zarahemla was located, but voiced only an opinion when archaeological evidence in his life-time was unearthed. [p. 18]

  

1972            N. Eldon Tanner            Letter of Correspondence on letterhead of the First

           Marion G. Romney             Presidency September 6, 1972

 

           In your letter of September 6, 1972, you ask if the Polynesian people are Lamanites or Nephites. There has been much speculation about the origin of these people. We have, however, no scriptural evidence or revelation from the Lord that would tell us exactly where these people came from or their background.

 

     Note* At a 1990 Mormon History Association meeting held in Hawaii, the linking together of these people with the people of Hagoth was treated:

           The Israelite descent of the Polynesians is more difficult to trace in Mormon doctrine. Indeed, there is no evidence that Joseph Smith or the first Mormon missionaries sent to Polynesia in the 1840's ever made the connection. As far as is known, the doctrine was first preached publicly by Tahitian LDS missionary Louisa Pratt who identified the Nephites as "the ancient fathers of the Tahitians" at a meeting in 1851.

 

Source: Ian G. Barber, "Mormonism Among the Tangata Whenua." Paper delivered at the annual Mormon History Association Conference, Hawaii, June 1990--quoted in Robert E. Parsons, "Hagoth and the Polynesians," in The Book of Mormon: Alma, The Testimony of The Word, Provo: BYU Religious Studies Center, 1992, p.

 

     Note* There is a big difference in telling people that they came from Hagoth as opposed to telling them that they descended from the Nephites or Lamanites. One statement is specific to time and place, the other is general. As to a general connection, cultural similarities between the Polynesian Islands and the Americas have been substantiated with scientific investigation.

 

1972            Marion G. Romney            The Ensign, September 1972, p.

 

     "The Book of Mormon reveals the fact that Jesus, following his post-resurrection ministry among his disciples in the land of Jerusalem, came to America and ministered among them. It is highly probable that his visit was within the boundaries of Mexico and/or Central America."

 

     Note* Jesus appeared to the Nephites at the temple in the land of Bountiful (3 Nephi 11), which was in the land southward from the "small neck" (Alma 22)

 

1972      Paul Cheesman      Early America and the Book of Mormon--A Photographic Essay of Ancient

                       America, SLC: Deseret Book, 1972.

 

     In this book Cheesman presents a photographic essay of Mesoamerica and the narrow coastal region and highlands of the Middle Andes, which includes Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia. [A Guide, p. 46]

 

      Note* Cheesman refrained from labeling any geographical land mass with the Book of Mormon. His efforts were concentrated in researching external evidences such as stone boxes and gold plates.

 

1973, 1976      Garth Norman      Izapa Sculpture

 

 

1974            Boyd K. Packer            Talk: "Seek Learning even by Study and Also by Faith",

                                         pp. 13-15

 

     On April 10, 1974, Boyd K. Packer, a member of the Council of the Twelve and a member of the Board of Education of the Church and the Board of Trustees of Brigham Young University--serving on the Executive Committee of both of those groups, delivered a talk to members of the College of Religious Instruction. It was in honor of the retirement of Roy W. Doxey as dean of Religious Instruction at Brigham Young University, an event which also marked the dissolution of the College of Religious Instruction at BYU. Although the talk doesn't specifically center on Book of Mormon geography, the thoughts and actions communicated in this speech would not only keep Book of Mormon geography out of the classrooms of the BYU Religion Department for years to come, but it would also severely diminish the research and study of Book of Mormon geography by these men, as well as other Church Education System instructors, well into the 1980's. After a brief review of the history of the religious instruction at BYU and what brought about the dissolution, Elder Packer gives the following words of advice to the educators present:

           If faculty members from other disciplines make disparaging remarks about you--as some might--because you do not fit anywhere, be wise enough to accept the remark as a compliment and know that you fit everywhere. . . . On the other hand, be careful lest you be condescending toward your brethren in the seminaries and institutes of the Church . . .

           May I counsel you as to where you might stumble. First, avoid the tendency to feed meat when milk would suffice. Surely that reference needs no explanation to you. . . .

           Next, many of you are specialists, and you ought to continue to specialize. But please know that however specialized you become in one thing, you must remain expert in several others. For instance, if you are a specialist in the archaeology of the Old Testament, there is not the slightest excuse for you to be deficient as a teacher of the Book of Mormon or of the Doctrine and Covenants or of the New Testament. If you are assigned to teach these areas to undergraduates and feel that you are being misused because you are a specialist, you need to repent. If you have a tendency to set aside these things, you are drifting from what it is all about. . . .

           I add the tendency to be diverted from your teachings to do research and writing. Now that may sound strange to you, but it seems to me that writing and research are, in true perspective subsidiary to teaching. Both can make teaching more effective. Each has a proper place. I do not say ignore them; I say do not be diverted by them.

           May I mention something about writing? Some of you are very interested in writing and in compiling (there is a very big difference). It is easy to become a good deal more interested in what writing or compiling the work of others will draw from the marketplace than in what it might yield to a student.

           Finally, I speak of pedagogical hobbies. A teacher may see something to which others may not be paying adequate attention. He may appoint himself to see that it is not neglected, and then overdo it. Almost anything can be overemphasized, as well as neglected. We have examples of that in religious education as it relates to economics or politics, to patterns of Church government, even to the Priesthood. I advise you to be careful and remember this Book of Mormon definition:

           Priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion. [2 Nephi 26:29]

     In the words of President J. Reuben Clark:

                 You teachers have a great mission. As teachers you stand upon the highest peak in education, for what teaching can compare in priceless value and in far-reaching effect with that which deals with man as he was in the eternity of yesterday, as he is in the mortality of today, and as he will be in the forever of tomorrow. Not only time but eternity is your field. Salvation of yourself not only, but of those who some within the purlieus of your temple, is the blessing you seek, and which, doing your duty, you will gain. How brilliant will be your crown of glory, with each soul saved an encrusted jewel thereon.

                 But to get this blessing and to be so crowned, you must, I say once more, you must teach the gospel. You have no other function and no other reason for your presence in a Church school system. . . . [The Charted Course of the Church in Education, pp. 9-11]

 

     Note* See the notation for 1938.

 

1974            A Non-Conference on Book of Mormon Geography

 

     In 1974 David A. Palmer sent the papers by V. Garth Norman and John L. Sorenson to a couple of dozen people inviting them to comment. Fewer than ten did so. Palmer interpreted the responses as a strong endorsement of the Sorenson model over the Norman model.

 

1974            J. Nile Washburn            Book of Mormon Lands and Times, Bountiful: Horizon

                                   Publishers, 1974.

 

     In the introduction to this book, J. Nile Washburn writes:

           There are two aspects to this matter of setting. The one has to do with where to put our history with respect to modern lands, whether in South America, Central America, Mexico, the United States, or possibly in all of them. We are not in this study primarily concerned with this problem.

           The other phase of setting, the relationships of places to each other, of travels, landing places, wars, battles, missions, directions, distances, elevations, towns, and countries, and the like, is the focus of this work. Moreover, it may be said with some assurance that this kind of information is more plentiful in the Book of Mormon than many readers suppose.

 

     With this in mind, it is worth noting that on pages 280-281 Washburn writes the following:

           How long was Ether in the Cave? . . . Even if there is some duplication [of time mentioned in the verses just cited--Ether 13:18, 24, 31; 14:7, 11; 15:14] it is still abundantly clear that many years, perhaps ten or even fifteen, went by while Ether remained [in the cave] an outcast from his people. Nor should we miss the significance of this: that toward the end he followed the conflict with such immediacy that he was able from day to day to give the actual number of men who fell in the fighting and the number who survived. His is certainly the testimony of an eye-witness, and more than that, a deeply concerned eye-witness.

           The relevance of all this will doubtless have occurred to the interested reader before this. In relation to it let us go back for a moment to a portion of that quotation from Brother B. H. Roberts:

           . . . nearly all of their [the Jaredites'] great civil wars throughout their national existence, down to, and including the last, raged in and about Moron except the last great battles of the last war which were fought about the hill Ramah, the Cumorah of the Nephites." (B. H. Roberts, New Witnesses for God (Salt Lake City, Utah: The Deseret News, 1909), Vol. II, p. 143.)

 

           In this he is asserting that the last great battles of that last war were fought at some place very different from the land of Moron, or, though he does not say it, in present New York State. That is to say that the Jaredites fought their long war, down to the final contests, in one place and then--by common consent of the antagonists?--they supposedly moved thousands of miles for the purpose of winding up the affair. . . . Isn't it strange that Ether, with all his particularity of detail, happened to miss that treaty and the five- or six-thousand mile journey to the north and east? Why does he not tell us that to his great astonishment he emerged from the cave one day only to find everyone vanished? Why does he not mention so sensational an event? Of course, if they went, he went too, for he was in on the last fearful act. It is not impertinent to enquire whether he followed along, hopping from cave to cave. This is almost a reductio ad absurdum, an argument reduced to absurdity. I do not find in the record a single word to justify this gross liberty with fact and logic.

 

     After listing movement by year and verse from the final battles chronicled in the book of Mormon chap. 2 -6) Washburn notes:

     The New York Migration Theory Would Include Nephites, Lamanites, and Jaredites: Now to shift ground: it is not enough to postulate a five-thousand-mile journey for half-a-million Nephites; anyone who does this must also postulate the same journey for an army of Lamanites. Nor is that by any means all. At the same time we must invent that same journey for two groups of Jaredites, hating each other just as much as the Lamanites hated the Nephites. Did the leaders-and members-of four armies get together and agree that on that tremendous exodus nobody would strike a blow at anybody else? Or did they string out, by common consent, one army after the other? Which went ahead? And what did the following horde do for food after the first had passed along? . . . And in the case of the Jaredites, why did Coriantumr make that endless return journey? . . . And much more to the point, why is there not so much as one word of all this in the Book of Mormon? How long would these mass movements require? [p. 216]

     

1975            J.N. Washburn            "Response to the 1974 Symposium on Book of Mormon

                                    Geography"

     Washburn writes:

           We seem to get lost in speculation, in gratuitous commentary, even in forced interpretations. Some years ago Elder Joseph Fielding Smith, in an article in the Church supplement to the Deseret News categorically stated that the [southeastward flowing] Missouri is the Sidon, completely ignoring the fact that, if anything in the story is clear, the Sidon flowed north. . . . The B. Y. U. has a syllabus, "The Book of Mormon and Its Teachings," in which the river Sidon flows untroubled over the western mountains and into the Pacific, and the seven cities "on the east borders by the seashore" are scattered promiscuously throughout the hinterland, in complete violation of the arrangement of Alma 51.

 

1975            Marion G. Romney            Conference Report, October 1975, pp. 51-53; or

                                   Ensign, November 1975, pp. 35-36.      

 

     Marion G. Romney relates the following in a Conference speech in 1975:

           In the western part of the state of New York near Palmyra is a prominent hill known as the "hill Cumorah." (Mormon 6:6) On July twenty-fifth of this year, as I stood on the crest of that hill admiring with awe the breathtaking panorama which stretched out before me on every hand, my mind reverted to the events which occurred in that vicinity some twenty-five centuries ago--events which brought to an end the great Jaredite nation. . . .

           As I contemplated this tragic scene from the crest of Cumorah and viewed the beautiful land of the Restoration as it appears today, I cried in my soul, "How could it have happened?"

 

[1975      Illustrated Model      Venice Priddis      LIMITED SOUTH AMERICA]

     L.S.=Andean area S. of Ecuador to northern Chile / N.N. constriction of the cordillera with the Gulf of Guayaquil on the west and the "Amazon Sea" (at sea level then) on the east / L.N.=Northern Ecuador and Colombia / H.C.=Mount Imbabura, northern Ecuador.

     Source: Venice Priddis, The Book of the Map: New Insights into Book of Mormon Geography, SLC:Bookcraft, 1975. (See Verla Birrell model of 1948)

 

1976            Spencer W. Kimball            Talk to the Samoans, 1976

           (also abt. Joseph F. Smith)

 

     In 1976 Spencer W. Kimball said the following in a talk given to the Samoans:

           I thought to read to you a sacred scripture which pertains especially to you the islanders of the Pacific. It is in the sixty-third chapter of Alma. . . . [He then read the account of Hagoth.]

           As so it seems to me rather clear that your ancestors moved northward and crossed a part of the South Pacific. . . .

           [President Kimball continued by quoting former President Joseph F. Smith as saying]: "I would like to say to you brethren and sisters from New Zealand, you are some of Hagoth's people, and there is No Perhaps about it!" He didn't want any arguments about it. That was definite. So you are of Israel. You have been scattered. Now you are being gathered." (15) [For the possible source of this quote, see the 1937 notation]

 

Source: Quoted in Robert E. Parsons, "Hagoth and the Polynesians," in The Book of Mormon: Alma, The Testimony of The Word, Provo: BYU Religious Studies Center, 1992.

 

1976      Daniel Ludlow            A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon, SLC: Deseret Book

 

     In 1976 Daniel Ludlow published a Book of Mormon study guide that includes a verse-by-verse commentary, five appendices, a number of charts and maps, and several expositions. [A Guide, p. 144] (See the notation for 1968)

 

[1976      Illustrated Model      Daniel Ludlow      INTERNAL-Hemispheric influence]

     Originally prepared by Daniel H. Ludlow with later adaptations by J. Grant Stevenson, F. Kent Nielsen, and Richard Cowan. Forty seven features are mapped; only the land southward and the narrow neck are involved.

     Source: Daniel H. Ludlow, A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon, SLC: Deseret Book, 1976.

     

 

1976      Lynn and Hope Hilton            In Search of Lehi's Trail, SLC: Deseret Book, 1976

                             See also "In Search of Lehi's Trail" in Ensign 6 (Sept.-Oct. 1976):

                             32-54, 34-63

 

     Building on the earlier efforts of Hugh Nibley (Lehi in the Desert) and examining the text of the Book of Mormon in detail, the Hiltons attempt to identify specific sites and routes followed by Lehi's party as they traveled from Jerusalem to the coast of the Indian Ocean of the Arabian Peninsula. The Hiltons believe that modern Salalah, Oman, is the Book of Mormon Bountiful.

 

1978, 1984      Paul Cheesman      World of the Book of Mormon SLC: Deseret Book

 

     Note* Paul Cheesman, professor of Religion at Brigham Young University, wrote several books, but refrained from labeling any geographical land mass with the Book of Mormon. His efforts were concentrated in researching external evidences of the Book of Mormon, such as archaeological ruins, stone boxes and gold plates, etc. Yet in this book Cheesman does write on the various theories of Book of Mormon geography. He notes:

           Some of the major theories concerning the positions of these Book of Mormon lands follow. The maps depict the relative positions of the lands described in each theory. It is important to note that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not take an official position on the geography of the Book of Mormon sites.

 

     Cheesman then details: South American Theory; Tehuantepec Theory; Limited Tehuantepec Theory; Yucatan Theory; Costa Rican Theory; Southern Yucatan Theory; New York-Panama Theory; Internal Geography.

 

[1978      Illustrated Theory Models      Paul Cheesman

     Source: Paul Cheesman, World of the Book of Mormon, SLC: Deseret Book.

 

1978            Author not cited      Church News, July 29, 1978, p. 16

 

           The geography of the Book of Mormon has intrigued some readers of that volume ever since its publication. But why worry about it? Efforts to pinpoint certain places from what is written in the book are fruitless because the record does not give evidence of such locations in terms of our modern geography. Attempts to designate certain areas as the Land Bountiful or the site of Zarahemla or the place where the Nephite city of Jerusalem sank into the sea "and waters have I caused to come up in the seat thereof" can bring no definitive results. So why speculate?

           To guess where Zarahemla stood can in no wise add to anyone's faith. But to raise doubts in people's minds about the location of the Hill Cumorah, and thus challenge the words of the prophets concerning the place where Moroni buried the records, is most certainly harmful. And who has the right to raise doubts in anyone's mind? Our position is to build faith, not to weaken it, and theories concerning the geography of the Book of Mormon can most certainly undermine faith if allowed to run rampant.

           Why not leave hidden the things that the Lord has hidden? If He wants the geography of the Book of Mormon revealed, He will do so through His prophet, and not through some writer who wishes to enlighten the world despite his utter lack of inspiration on the point.

           Some authors have felt "called upon" to inform the world about Book of Mormon geography and have published writings giving their views. These books, however, are strictly private works and represent only their personal speculations.

 

     Note* As far as I can determine, nobody ever challenged the fact that Moroni buried the records in the hill Cumorah in New York. Their challenge was over where the final battles took place. I also can not find any authoritative support for the idea that nobody has a right to raise doubts over any Book of Mormon geography. Whoever the author was here seems to be speaking for himself.

 

1979      Church Educational System            Book of Mormon Student Manual Religion 121 and 122

 

     In 1979 the Church Educational System prepared a commentary for use in all its Religion 121-122 classes for the next 10 years. There were a few cultural pictures from Mexico, Guatemala and Peru. However while there were some outline maps of Lehi's travels through Arabia, there were no maps of the New World (in America). Most telling, however, is a quote from Doctrines of Salvation, 3:233-34 (see the notation for 1956) with the heading as follows: Mormon 6:1-6. Where Did the Last Great Nephite-Lamanite Battle Take Place?" The following words are in italics: "the Prophet Joseph Smith himself is on record, definitely declaring the present hill called Cumorah to be the exact hill spoken of in the Book of Mormon."

 

     Note* Thus, whether directly or indirectly, the concept of a hemispheric model with a New York hill Cumorah was apparently the Book of Mormon geography model authorized by the Church Educational System to be conveyed to the students.

 

1979      The Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) Is Organized

 

     The Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) was organized by John Welch in 1979. In a FARMS 20th anniversary interview, a number of individuals who figure prominently in the history of the organization responded to some questions:

 

How did FARMS begin?

Welch: Very modestly. In the 1970s I practiced law in Los Angeles, . . . Speaking often at firesides, I saw a great need for an organization that could coordinate and distribute research on the Book of Mormon. One day, after doing the legal work to form two nonprofit corporations, I put together a set of articles of incorporation for a third. The name for this organization, FARMS, was selected while I was riding home that day in a car pool. My two car pool friends, Lew Cramer and Clark Waddoups, agreed to serve with me as the initial board of directors. . . .

 

How would you describe the status of Book of Mormon studies when FARMS came to Provo in 1980?

Sorenson: The field of Book of Mormon studies was tiny and fragmented into little enclaves, each focusing on different areas of endeavor. Moreover, there was no effective communication among the various camps or individual scholars.

 

Welch: Looking back, it is hard to realize how far the discipline of Book of Mormon studies has come in the last 20 years. In 1980 the library of significant Book of Mormon scholarship was very small. Today that body is large, and it is still growing at a rapid pace. One of the main differences between then and now is that we have come to appreciate the profound depths and subtle complexities of this amazing book, and we allow ourselves to be surprised and instructed by this book in many ways. I think we have learned in recent years to read the Book of Mormon more carefully and to place greater value on its every detail, word by word.

 

Source: "FARMS through the Years, Part 1: A Conversation with John Welch and John Sorenson," pp. 1-2.

 

Of what value is scholarly research on the Book of Mormon?

Ricks: To answer this I would like to quote from Austin Farrer, who in writing about C. S. Lewis said: "Though argument does not create conviction, lack of it destroys belief. What seems to be proved may not be embraced; but what no one shows the ability to defend is quickly abandoned. Rational argument does not create belief, but it maintains a climate in which belief may flourish." This is precisely what FARMS has been able to do: through presentation of evidence create a climate in which belief may flourish.

 

Source: "FARMS through the Years, Part 2: A Conversation with Stephen D. Ricks and Noel B. Reynolds, p. 4.

 

1980's      The Ruins of Tenochtitlan Are Excavated and Developed by the Mexican Government

 

     Beginning in 1980, the ancient ruins of Tenochtitlan were excavated and developed by the Mexican government

 

[1980      Illustrated Model      Ralph F. Lesh (RLDS)      LIMITED MESOAMERICA]

     L.S.=Mesoamerica S. & E. of Tehuan. / N.N.= Isth. of Tehuan. / L.N.=Mesoamerica N. & W. of Tehuan. / H.C.=In Veracruz, on Papaloapan River where it emerges from the mountains / Sid. R.=Usumacinta

     Source: Ralph F. Lesh, Ancient Mesoamerica: A Preliminary Study of Book of Mormon Geography, Independence: Zarahemla Research Foundation, 19880. Also "Lesh discusses Development of the Map" in Recent Book of Mormon Developments: Articles from The Zarahemla Record, ed. by Raymond C. Treat, pp. 81-82, Independence: Zarahemla Research Foundation, 1984.

 

1980      Paul Thomas Smith       "A Preliminary Draft of the Hill Cumorah Cave Story Utilizing Seven

                        Secondary Accounts and Other Historical Witnesses," unpublished

                        paper, March, 1980)

 

     (See the notation for 1877)

 

1980      Hugh W. Nibley      "The Book of Mormon and the Ruins; the Main Issues," FARMS,

                             July 13, 1980, pp. 5-6.

 

     "Cumorah, a Hill Too Far?

           What were the people of Zarahemla doing in New York State? Some have made this a major stumbling block to the accepting of the Book of Mormon. The Peruvian archaeologist F. Kauffmann-Diog shows us that this is a premature and naive way of thinking." The following is from his Manual de Arqueologia Peruana (Lima: Peisa, 1973), p. 174.

           The Fallacy of Distance: A variety of things has contributed to hindering the progress of thinking about the intercommunications between remotely-separated American cultures. A superficial concept of distances . . . reinforced by a false perception of present-day boundaries of the Americas is one of those things, perhaps the most popular, not to say vulgar position, which absolutely refuses to admit cultural contacts and derivations. But let us bear in mind that global distances were no impediment to the arrival of man in America, and that upon arrival there were no barriers preventing him from occupying every part of the continent. The same fundamental . . . comparative archaeology shows that in the Mexican area the Formative period . . . is older than in Peru. The adjoining map [see illustration below] may appear elemental but we see that it offers interesting information. It is designed to correct the usual geographical perspective. It shows in the first place that the boundaries of the Incan Empire, between Ancasmayo and Maulo or the Bio Bio River embrace a distance equivalent to that between the northern boundary of Incaland (Ancasmayo) and New York. That fact, elementary as it seems, though none has made use of it, raises salutary reflections on how small a world it is.

 

     [Dr. Nibley continues:]

           From the northern limit of the Incan Empire to Mexico City is almost as far as from Mexico City to Cumorah in New York State. Incan armies which marched from end to end of the Empire through the Andes covered more distance and a far more difficult terrain than the stretch between Mexico and New York Sate covered in the great military withdrawal occupying many years.

     

[1980      Illustration      Hugh W. Nibley      HEMISPHERIC]

     Source: Hugh W. Nibley, "The Book of Mormon and the Ruins; the Main Issues," FARMS, July 13, 1980, pp. 5-6. "Cumorah, a Hill Too Far?"

 

1981      David A. Palmer      In Search of Cumorah, Bountiful: Horizon Publishers, 1981

 

     According to David Palmer, there is not one single directional statement given, from the time of the battles at the city of Desolation to the battle at Cumorah. There is nothing to suggest that the Nephites were not still within a few hundred kilometers of the narrow neck. Based on direct statements from the text of the Book of Mormon, and in a few cases, strong inferences drawn from statements in the text, Palmer develops a list of topographic and geographic criteria for Mormon's Cumorah . These criteria are as follows:

     1. It was near an eastern seacoast (Ether 9:3).

     2. It was near a narrow neck of land (Alma 22:29-32, Mormon 2:29, Mormon 3:5) (Alma 43) (Alma 56) Alma 50:33-34, 52:9) (Mormon 2:29, 3:5-7, Alma 63:5) (Ether 10:22-28).

     3. It was on a coastal plain, and possibly near other mountains and valleys (Ether 14:12-15).

     4. It was one day's journey south (east-south-east in modern coordinates) of a large body of water (Ether 15:8-11).

     5. It was in an area of many rivers and waters (Mormon 6:4).

     6. It was in the presence of fountains (Mormon 6:4).

     7. The abundance of water apparently provided a military advantage (Mormon 6:4).

     8. There was an escape route to the land ("country") southward (Mormon 8:2).

     9. The hill was large enough to provide a view of hundreds of thousands of bodies (Mormon 6:11).      10. The hill was apparently a significant landmark (Ether 9:3; Mormon 6:6).

     11. The hill was apparently free standing so people could camp around it (Mormon 6:2, 6:11).

     12. The climate was apparently temperate with no cold or snow (No record of cold or snow) (Enos 1:20) (Alma 46:40)

     13. The hill was located in a volcanic zone susceptible to earthquakes (3 Nephi 8:6-23)

[pp. 42, 53]

 

     David Palmer listed the following reasons for labeling the Cerro Vigia located in the state of Veracruz, Mexico as the Hill Cumorah:

     1. Near an Eastern seacoast: The Gulf of Mexico constitutes an eastern seacoast 30-40 miles from the Hill Vigia.

     2. Near the Narrow Neck of Land (Narrow Pass): The Hill Vigia is about 60 miles from the top of a pass that runs through the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.

     3. On a Coastal Plain and Possibly Near Other Mountains (hill Shim?) and Valleys: The Hill Vigia is situated so it overlooks a coastal plain. Looking inland, there is another expansive plain. Towards the Gulf of Mexico and stretching down towards the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, lies the heart of the volcanic Tuxtla mountain chain.

     4. One Day's Journey South of a Large Body of Water: About 20 kilometers "north" of Cerro (Hill) Vigia is the beginning of the vast expanse of water known as the Papaloapan lagoon system. Large oceangoing vessels are used to fish those waters. . . . Since this area is neither a lake nor a river it is a good candidate for "Ripliancum" which was interpreted as "large, or to exceed all."

     5. In an Area of Many Rivers and Waters: The Tuxtla mountain range is encompassed by two great drainage systems, the Papaloapan, and the Coatzacoalcos. The general area of the Cerro (Hill) Vigia was known anciently as "nonohualco," which means "place where water is everywhere."

     6. Presence of Fountains: The Hill Vigia is located in a land of pure water where streams of underground water spring forth.

     7. The Abundance of Water Must Provide a Military Advantage: The Tuxtla Mountain area is the Hawaii of Mexico. What does all this information about climate and water have to do with a military advantage? Palmer postulates that the military advantage sought was attraction of people. The battle was basically a numbers game. People could only be attracted to an army if they were fed, and how does one go about providing food for an army of a quarter million people? The way Mormon chose to provide food for his peopled during the four year gathering period was to choose as the place of his last stand one of the most fertile areas of the Western Hemisphere.

     8. Escape Route to the Land Southward: Those escaping to the "south countries" would have followed the route . . . skirting the northern flank of the Tuxtlas and approaching the sea. From there they would have been able to travel down to the isthmus virtually undetected, having a mountain range between them and the Lamanites.

     9. Hill Must Be Large Enough to Provide a View of Hundreds of Thousands of Bodies: The Hill Vigia is about 2,400 feet high. A person can make a round trip to the top in 3-4 hours.

     10. The Hill Must be a Significant Landmark: Cerro Vigia is easily distinguishable since it sits on the plain out of the main line of the Tuxtla chain. Friedlander found in 1922 that the Indians considered Cerro Vigia sacred. This may be related to the fact that a number of the Olmec monuments were carved from basalt taken from Cerro Vigia. This hill also appears to have been used for astronomical sightings. . . . These were important for maintenance of the calendar which was used for a guide in the planting of crops.

     11. The Hill Should be Free Standing so People Can Camp Around it: Cerro Vigia stands apart from the rest of the Tuxtla Mountain chain, separated from it by the city of Santiago Tuxtla.

     12 The Hill Should be in a Temperate Climate with no Cold or Snow: The Tuxtlas are a year-round resort for the Mexican tourists. The area is the Hawaii of Mexico.

     13. The hill is in a Volcanic Zone Subject to Earthquakes: Mesoamerica has been an area of very heavy volcanic activity. Mexico has about 37 recent volcanoes, twelve currently active. In Central America there are 67 recent volcanoes, 32 presently active. Both Mexico and Central American countries are plagued by earthquakes.

 

     From a purely logical point of view, the Latter-day Saint "Hill Cumorah" in New York meets only partially the above Book of Mormon requirements for the Nephite Hill Cumorah. (David A. Palmer, In Search of Cumorah, pp. 96-101)

     

     The hill in New York meets criteria 2 (minimally), 4, 5, and 11. It does not meet the others. The hill Vigia in Mexico, proposed by Palmer (In Search of Cumorah, pp. 89-123) and Sorenson (An Ancient American Setting, p. 350) meets all of them. [David A. Palmer, Book Review in Review of Books on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 2, 1990, pp. 69-71]

 

     The Book of Mormon itself must stand as the best witness of the criteria necessary to locate the Nephite, Lamanite, and Mulekite cultures. Therefore, fifteen cultural criteria were determined from the text:

     1. cities in the vicinity of the hill: 3 Nephi 8:8-14; 9:3-10;

     2. towers or stepped pyramids for religious purposes: Mosiah 2:7; 11:12-13; 20:8; Helaman 7:10

     3. efficient agriculture: Mosiah 7:22; 9:9; 9:14

     4. metallurgy: 1 Nephi 18:25; 2 Nephi 5:15; Jarom 1:8; Mosiah 22:12

     5. formal political states with centralized law enforcement: Mosiah 29:38-42; Alma 10:14-15; 3 Nephi 1:1

     6. organized religion: 2 Nephi 5:18; Alma 4:4-5; 3 Nephi 11-28; 4 Nephi 1:26-41

     7. idolatry at certain times:

     8. craft specialization such as textiles:

     9. trade and commerce: Alma 63:5-8; Helaman 3:10; Helaman 6:7-8; 3 Nephi 3:24; 4 Nephi 1:46

     10. writing: Alma 63:12; Mormon 9:32

     11. weaponry in the immediate vicinity of the hill:

 

     Criteria applicable only for the Nephites. (However, the absence of mention of these four traits for the Jaredites does not preclude their presence during those times.)      

 

     12. astronomy: Alma 30:44; Helaman 12:15; 3 Nephi 1:21;

     13. calendar systems:

     14. cement: Helaman 3:9-11;

     15. wheels: Alma 19:6; 3 Nephi 3:22

 

     The Cerro Vigia in Mexico meets all of these cultural criteria. The hill in New York meets none of them. Modern archaeological research shows that there was little culture there until A.D. 1100. (David A. Palmer, Book Review in Review of Books on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 2, 1990, pp. 69-71)

 

     According to David Palmer, fifteen traits and types of archaeological information are required for any candidate hill to be called the "hill Cumorah" (Mormon 6:4). The following is an evaluation of Cerro Vigia ("Lookout Hill") in Mesoamerica:

 

     1. Cities in the Vicinity of the Hill: The Cerro Vigia is surrounded by ruins dating to the Jaredite and Nephite times. . . . The more ancient ruins are found in southern Veracruz, where the Cerro Vigia is located.

     2. Towers or stepped Pyramids for Religious Purposes: In the Nephite period there were large pyramids located in the following archaeological sites: in Guatemala (Kaminaljuyu), in the state of Chiapas, Mexico (Izapa, Chiapa de Corzo, etc.), in the state of Oaxaca (Dainzu) and in the valley of Mexico (Cuicuilco, Teotihuacan, Tlapacoya, and Cholula).

     The pyramid at La Venta, in the state of Tabasco, Mexico is entirely manmade. It apparently served as a focal point for the Olmec religion from about 1000 B.C. to 600 B.C. Another Jaredite time period pyramid is seen at the site of San Jose Mogote, in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico.

     3. Efficient Agriculture: Stantley (1982) has found strong evidence for intensive early Preclassic (400-600 B.C.) farming in the Tuxtla mountains of southern Veracruz, Mexico. Work by Flannery in Oaxaca, Mexico has shown that the people exploited the high water table by digging wells and carrying water to irrigate their crops. As many as ten wells would be located in a one-acre plot. This technological advance allowed such efficient food production that at least half the population was able to turn to craft manufacture and mining. (Flannery, 1967) Three crops per year are possible using intensive irrigation. The use of canal systems for irrigation can be firmly dated to at least 400 B.C. in Oaxaca, with some village runoff canals going back to 1000 B.C. (Flannery, 1976)

     4. Metallurgy: In Nephite times the presence of iron is found at the archaeological site of Kaminaljuyu in Guatemala City (a proposed site for the city of Nephi). . . . However, the antiquity of use of ancient metals in Mesoamerica is placed at 1500 B.C. This is based on language studies called glotto-chronology (Campbell and Kaufman, 1976).

     5. Formal Political States: Mesoamerica offers the best examples of organized political states in America during Jaredite and Nephite times. The Olmec (Jaredite time period) centers of San Lorenzo and La Venta, with their monumental sculptures [of the heads of their leaders] are the best examples. During Nephite times the centers of Kaminaljuyu, Izapa, Chiapa de Corzo, Monte Alban, Dainzu, Santa rosa, and Teotihuacan are just a few examples.

     6. Organized Religion: No one seriously questions the fact that organized religion was a very important cultural and historical factor in Mesoamerica from the very earliest times. This is documented in the accounts of ancient Mesoamerican history, such as the writings of Ixtlilxochitl.

     7. Idolatry at Certain Times: From Mesoamerican archaeology we have been able to learn quite specifically what types of idols were worshipped in Lamanite-Nephite times and even in Jaredite times. The reason is that many of the idols were made in either stone or ceramic, and have survived.

     8. Craft Specialization: Professions which can be archaeologically documented in Mesoamerica developed in Jaredite and Nephite time periods. These include spinners, weavers, architects, rock quarryers, sculptors, transportation experts, paper makers, artists, and workers of obsidian. In Teotihuacan alone, over five hundred craft workshops have been found.

     9. Trade: Long distance trade developed in Mesoamerica at least by 1500 B.C. and was an important factor thereafter.

     10. Writing: The earliest Mesoamerican writing system of which we have evidence appeared about 600 B.C. in Oaxaca, Mexico. Secondary evidence suggest strongly the use of writing on paper in early times. Scripts are found on cylinder seals as well as monuments. Such seals, which are similar to those in use in Mesopotamia, have been found in a number of places in Mesoamerica, including the Cerro Vigia.

     11. Weaponry in Immediate Vicinity of Hill: The museum in Santiago Tuxtla at the base of the Cerro Vigia has on display only a few artifacts from the vicinity of the hill. Yet not only are there arrowheads and spear points, but also a variety of axe heads and other fearsome stone weapons.

     12 & 13. Astronomy and Calendar: Observation of the heavenly bodies was intimately tied to the development of an accurate calendar. So accurate were the observations recorded that the Maya possessed a calendar superior to that of the Europeans who came to "civilize" them.

     14. Cement: The use of cement and concrete spread throughout Mesoamerica in a time span from at least as early as 100 B.C.through A.D. 400. The tourist sees it in great abundance at Teotihuacan. At Kaminaljuyu the concrete mix was similar.

     15. Wheels: The only direct evidence thus far encountered for wheels in Mesoamerica is on toys. About thirty examples of wheeled toys have been found, the earliest of which were discovered at the archaeological site of Tres Zapotes, near the Cerro Vigia.

 

     In summary, though the Cerro Vigia passes all the criteria set down in the pages of the Book of Mormon, that does not necessarily prove that the correct hill has been identified. Any proposed alternative, however, must be subjected to the same stringent tests and pass them all. (David A. Palmer, In Search of Cumorah, pp. 106-123)

 

 

[1981      Illustrated Model (10 Maps)      David A. Palmer      LIMITED MESOAMERICA]

     L.S.=S. of Isth. of Tehuan. to El Salvador / N.N.=Isth. of Tehuantepec / L.N.= N. of Isth. of Tehuan. to Valley of Mexico / H.C.=Cerro El Vigia, Veracruz, Mexico / Sid. R.=Grijalva

     Source: David A. Palmer, In Search of Cumorah: New Evidences for the Book of Mormon from Ancient Mexico, Bountiful: Horizon, 1981.

 

 

[1983      Illustrated Model      Vernal Holley      LIMITED GREAT LAKES]

     L.S.=Western New York, western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio / N.N.=isth. immediately west of the Niagara river / L.N.=Lower Ontario / H.C.=New York / Sid. R.=Genesee River

     Source: Vernal Holley, Book of Mormon Authorship: A Closer Look, Ogden: Zenos Publications, 1983.

     Note* Holley's underlying assumption was that the Book of Mormon originated when Joseph Smith, Jr., plagiarized the "Spaulding Manuscript" and that the basic geography and place names were taken from the area where Joseph lived. The site names on Holley's model are derived (according to Holley's reasoning) from historical names in the states and province indicated.

 

1984      John Sorenson            "Digging into the Book of Mormon: Our Changing Understanding of Ancient

                        America and Its Scripture" The Ensign 14, September 1984, pp. 26-37.

 

     After the 1974 Non-Conference on the Book of Mormon, David Palmer made contacts in the Church office building in Salt Lake City which resulted in a series of weekly presentations which John Sorenson made over the fall months to a varying group of people from the magazines, curriculum, education, etc. As a result, Jay Todd, managing editor of The Ensign invited Sorenson to prepare a series of articles for the magazine-a project which Sorenson completed by 1976. For the next nine years they worked together trying to find a style and range of content acceptable for publication in that Church magazine. The delays were on account of reluctance manifested by various constituencies that would be affected by such a discussion appearing in the Church periodical. "Digging into the Book of Mormon" contained a brief section on "The Nephite and Jaredite Lands," which gave the basic arguments favoring a limited-scale model and recapped a little of the history of LDS study of geography. Most importantly, this article represented the first printing of any information about external models in a Church magazine for many decades. As one consequence, the major publishers to the LDS trade decided that they had received a green light from Church headquarters to publish on the geography of Book of Mormon events where before they wouldn't.

 

Source: John L. Sorenson, Source Book

 

1985            John L. Sorenson            An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon.

 

     This book detailed and supported a cultural and geographical setting in Mesoamerica for all the events of the Book of Mormon. It followed in the same pattern as Palmer's book in proposing an altered directional system (In actuality, Palmer followed Sorenson's ideas but published earlier.)

     According to Joseph Allen, John Sorenson opened the door for further research by presenting the Book of Mormon in relation to Mesoamerica archaeological sites. His detailed analysis culminated a lifetime of work as an anthropologist and a Mesoamerican scholar. His scholarly work set the stage for additional study on the subject. Sorenson served as chairman of the Department of Anthropology at Brigham Young University from 1978 until 1986, when he retired.

 

[1985      Illustrated Model (Multiple Maps)      John L. Sorenson      LIMITED MESOAMERICA]

     L.S.=Mesoamerica S. & E. of Isth. of Tehuan. / N.N. Isth of Tehuan. / L.N.=South-central Mexico W. & N. of Isth. of Tehuan. / H.C.=Cerro Vigia / Sid. R.=Grijalva

     Source: John L. Sorenson      An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon

 

[1985      Illustrated Model      Gail B. Porritt      LIMITED MESOAMERICA]

     L.S.=Mesoamerica S. & E. of Isth. of Tehuan. / N.N. Isth of Tehuan. / L.N.=South-central Mexico W. & N. of Isth. of Tehuan. / H.C.=Cerro Vigia / Sid. R.=Grijalva

     Source: Gail B. Porritt, "The Jaredites." Also "Location of the Nephite Hill Cumorah." Papers in the possession of John Sorenson.

 

1986      Ezra Taft Benson      "Cleansing the Inner Vessel" Ensign 16, May 1986, 4-7,

                       "A Sacred Responsibility" Ensign 16, May 1986, 77-78

 

     On November 10, 1985, Ezra Taft Benson was set apart as Prophet, Seer, and Revelator and President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In his first General Conference address as President, in April 1986, he vividly proclaimed the importance of the Book of Mormon with strong words that continue to this writing:

           Unless we read the Book of Mormon and give heed to its teachings, the Lord has stated in Section 84 of the Doctrine and Covenants that the whole Church is under condemnation: "And this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, even all." (D&C 84:56) The Lord continues: "And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written." (D&C 84:57)

           Now we not only need to say more about the Book of Mormon, but we need to do more with it. . . . ("Cleansing the Inner Vessel")

 

     In the same Conference, Elder Benson also said the following:

           I bless you with increased understanding of the Book of Mormon. I promise you that from this moment forward, if we will daily sup from its pages and abide by its precepts, God will pour out upon each child of Zion and the Church a blessing hitherto unknown--and we will plead to the Lord that He will begin to lift the condemnation--the scourge and judgment. Of this I bear solemn witness. ("A Sacred Responsibility")

 

1987      Bruce Warren      The Messiah in Ancient America

 

     This book gave multiple cultural details supporting the visit of the Messiah to Mesoamerica.

 

[1987      Illustrated Model      Bruce Warren      LIMITED MESOAMERICAN

     L.S.=Mesoamerica S. of Isth. of Tehuan. / N.N.=Isth. of Tehuan. / L.N.=N. of Isth. of Tehuan. to Valley of Mexico / H.C.=Cerro Vigia / Sid. R.=Grijalva

     Source: Bruce L. Warren and Thomas Stuart Ferguson, The Messiah in Ancient America, Provo: Book of Mormon Research Foundation, 1987.

 

1987      Illustrated Model (Multiple Maps)      Harold K. Nielson      INTERNAL]

     Source: Harold K. Nielson, Mapping the Action Found in the Book of Mormon, Orem: Cedar Fort, 1987.

 

1988      Illustrated Model      Charles H. Quilter      LIMITED MESOAMERICA-Yucatan Narrow Neck]

     L.S.=Hig