NEW ART by Ken Corbett
MORMON, “CARRIED BY MY FATHER… TO THE LAND OF ZARAHEMLA.” MORMON 1:6
The name Mormon represents a great man and a great name by which we are known today as Latter-day Saints. “Such was the goodness, the strength, the power, the faith, the prophetic heart of the prophet-leader Mormon. He was the chief compiler of the book which is called after his name and which has come forth in this period of the world’s history as a voice speaking from the dust in testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ. All of this places upon us of this Church and this generation an incumbent and demanding responsibility to recognize that as we are spoken of as Mormons, we must so live that our example will enhance the perception that Mormon can mean in a very real way, “more good.” Mormon Should Mean “More Good” Gordon B. Hinckley Oct 1990.
“Mormon abridged the entire record of the descendants of Lehi. How did he learn so much about his country? Mormon’s book begins with him at age ten. He writes, “I began to be learned somewhat after the manner of the learning of my people and Ammaron said unto me: I perceive that thou art a sober child, and art quick to observe. Mormon 1:2.” Moroni’s America by Jonathan Neville page 239.
The origin of the name Mormon in the Book of Mormon, is interesting. “Now it was the custom of the people of Nephi to call their lands, and their cities, and their villages, yea, even all their small villages, after the name of him who first possessed them” Alma 8:7. Apparently a great leader named Mormon was in the land of Nephi before the time of Alma, for there was a place called the Waters of Mormon, and the Place of Mormon. Mosiah 18:7-8. Mormon, while abridging the Book of Mormon says, “And behold, I am called Mormon, being called after the land of Mormon, the land in which Alma did establish the church among this people: Yea, the first church which was established among them after their transgression.” 3 Nephi 5:12. Alma’s baptizing seems to be the first time in a few generations that covenants were established again among the Nephites. The name Mormon seems to have reminded the people of the restoration of the covenants and the establishment of Christ’s church at the Place of Mormon in 148 BC or earlier. Latter-day Saints associate with the name of the Book of Mormon as did the Nephites of old, with the restoring of covenants among the people. Also the 1986 addition to the Book of Mormon added a subtitle, “Another Testament of Jesus Christ,” which reinforces these covenants.
In Mormon 1:3-5, Ammaron gives Mormon further instructions regarding his role as a record keeper. Jonathan Neville in his book Moroni’s America writes; “The text gives no information about the location of the “land Antum,” but it does mention “the hill of Shim” in Ether 9:3. In that verse, Omer passes by the hill after he is overthrown. Later, the way Moroni (who abridged Ether) refers to the hill suggests he was familiar with it… Certainly Moroni knew the place where the Nephites were destroyed. According to Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith, this was the valley west of the Hill Cumorah in New York, just south of Palmyra. Moroni refers to “the hill of Shim” specifically. Since he had Mormon’s record and knew all about the hill Cumorah and the plates, I infer Moroni identified the hill of Shim by name so his readers would make the connection. In other words, the hill Shim was in western New York, somewhere in proximity to the hill Cumorah. That would put the land Antum in the general area, which means Ammaron was in that area when he hid the records. Ammaron didn’t have to explain to young Mormon where the land Antum was; I infer from this that as a boy, Mormon lived not too far away from Antum. Later, when he reaches the age of 24, Mormon will do as Ammaron told him (See Mormon 2:17-18), and get the plates of Nephi. Later he will remove all the plates from the hill Shim (Mormon 4:23) to keep them from the Lamanites. But first, Mormon needs to learn about his country. The text doesn’t say why he did it, but Mormon’s father takes his son on a long field trip. I think the father was present when Ammaron told the ten-year-old boy what his calling would be and took it upon himself to educate his son. Mormon 1:6 “And it came to pass that I, being eleven years old, was carried by my father into the land southward, even to the land of Zarahemla.” Mormon’s father waited only about a year before taking his son on the trip. He “carried” the boy, a term that suggests a mode of conveyance. Surely Mormon the father didn’t carry his eleven-year-old son in his arms or on his shoulders. I think the most likely conveyance was a boat, like a canoe. Maybe it was just Mormon and his father, or maybe the entire family went on the journey.” Moroni’s America Page 240
“Canoes were developed over the course of thousands of years by the native peoples of North America. The word ‘canoe’ originated from the word ‘kenu’ – meaning dugout. North American Indians are responsible for creating the more well-known version of the canoe – a frame of wooden ribs covered with the lightweight bark of birch trees, and sometimes elm or cedar trees. These boats, which have remained virtually unchanged in design for thousands of years, proved to be ideal for travelling the numerous streams, rivers and lakes of North America. Birch bark was the perfect choice to build canoes because, not only was it lightweight and smooth, but it was also waterproof and resilient. The joints of the canoes were held together by the root of the white pine and then made waterproof by applying hot pine or spruce resin… Many of the canoes that fur traders used were capable of carrying a crew of up to 12 people and a cargo weighing around 2400 kilograms… At a typical length of 14 ft. and weight of 50 lbs., the canoes were light enough to be portaged, yet could carry a lot of cargo, even in shallow water. Although susceptible to damage from rocks, they are easily repaired.” Bark Canoes Canadian Museum of Civilization. During this journey by canoe it is very likely that young Mormon would have kept a type of journal probably on parchment or papyrus. This way he could recall what to write at age 24 when Ammaron had commanded him to keep a record. It also seems likely that even though this was a time of peace, older Mormon would have brought with him the Sword of Laban and breastplate and others would have their armor, headplates, and weapons nearby. They may have even used the Liahona, or other devices for physical and spiritual guidance.
“Mormon refers to the land of Zarahemla as “the land southward.” What is his frame of reference? Many times in the text, Mormon refers to Zarahemla as the land northward. For example, he explained that “Now the land south was called Lehi, and the land north was called Mulek, which was after the son of Zedekiah; for the Lord did bring Mulek into the land north, and Lehi into the land south” (Helaman 6:10). But here, he refers to Zarahemla as “the land southward.” Obviously he is writing from a reference point north of Zarahemla… Starting from the northern area near the land Antum, Mormon and his father would travel south to reach the Allegheny River, then south to join the Ohio River, then south along the Ohio River until it moves more westerly. Only once he reaches the head of Sidon would he turn north. Mormon wouldn’t be looking at Google Earth or a map of the globe to determine the relative latitude of his destination (although, even technically, Zarahemla is south of his starting point). Mormon would refer to the direction they headed; i.e., they went “into the land southward” from the perspective of someone leaving from the Cumorah area. Later, Mormon will write about how the Lamanites drove the Nephites northward, back to the area of his homeland. During his field trip, the boy Mormon was amazed at what he saw. “The whole face of the land had become covered with buildings, and the people were as numerous almost, as it were the sand of the sea.” Mormon 1:7. The whole face of the land would be the areas through which Mormon traveled. Imagine what it would be like for a young boy to leave his homeland and “see the world” with his parents.
What does it mean that the “land had become covered with buildings” in this context? The Book of Mormon text includes over 100 references to “build,” “building,” and “buildings.” Recall how Dr. Roger Kennedy, the former director of the Smithsonian’s American History Museum, explained this term. “Build and building are also very old words, often used in this text [his book] as they were when the English language was being invented, to denote earthen structures. About 1150, when the word build was first employed in English, it referred to the construction of an earthen grave. Three hundred and fifty years later, an early use of the term to build up was the description of the process by which King Priam of Troy constructed a “big town of bare earth.” So when we refer to the earthworks of the Ohio and Mississippi Valleys as buildings no one should be surprised.” Roger G. Kennedy, Hidden Cities: The Discovery and Loss of Ancient North American Civilization.
All along the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, young Mormon would have passed by these earthworks and mounds. Most of the hundreds of thousands of sites have long since been destroyed, but many can still be visited today. Along the Ohio River, there are sites such as the one in Moundsville, West Virginia that I discussed in the Mosiah chapter. Other sites include Marietta and Portsmouth, Ohio, the Mann site near Evansville, Indiana, and several in Illinois.” Moroni’s America page 241-42
In the painting we show Grave Creek Mound at Moundsville, WV, which can be seen today. “Grave Creek Mound is the largest conical type of any of the mound builder structures. Construction of the mound took place in successive stages from about 250–150 B.C., as indicated by the multiple burials at different levels within the structures. In 1838, road engineers measured its height at 69 feet and its base as 295 feet. Originally a moat of about 40 feet in width and five feet in depth, with one causeway across it, encircled the mound. Inside the mound, archaeological researchers have discovered Adena Hopewell remains and ornaments, along with a small sandstone tablet.” Wikipedia Grave Creek Mound
“Mormon’s father may have taken his son to visit historic sites along tributaries, such as the Scioto and Tennessee Rivers. He could have visited the ancient city of Nephi, [Waters of Mormon] the places where the sons of Mosiah taught the gospel to the Lamanites, and Alma’s land of Helam. He could have visited the battlefields described in Alma. The journey would be the perfect preparation for the future prophet and historian who would compile the history of Lehi’s descendants.” Moroni’s America page 242
In Mormon 1:12 it speaks about peace in the land for four years. This time would have been utilized by young Mormon to read, write, and study more about these events that he was commanded to record on the plates. At the age of 16 Mormon now large in stature, was made the commander of the Nephite army. In this painting you can see the “Title of Liberty” hoisted at the top of the fort in Moundsville, as young Mormon would continue to follow this pledge of; “In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children” Alma 46:12.
Mormon and his son Moroni were direct descendants of Manasseh (3 Nephi 5:20). Moroni would bury the plates, which Joseph Smith, a direct descendant of Ephraim, would be led to uncover. Once again the covenant of the House of Joseph and the House of Israel would be upon the Promised Land.
Editor: Rian Nelson – firstname.lastname@example.org – 801-931-9031 – worksofjoseph.com
“I, Nephi, Did Build a Temple”
By faith, Nephi obtained the plates of brass, brought Ishmael’s family from Jerusalem, subdued his brothers time and again, obtained food for his family, received revelation from the Lord, taught the Law of Moses, and following the Lord’s instructions said, “I, Nephi, did build a temple.” 2 Nephi 5:16. Nephi is the ultimate example of faith and one who we all look to as a righteous representative of our Savior Jesus Christ. Nephi also said, “And upon the wings of His Spirit hath my body been carried away upon exceedingly high mountains. And mine eyes have beheld great things, yea, even too great for man; therefore, I was bidden that I should not write them.” 2 Nephi 4:25.
In Nephi’s words we feel the magnitude of the sacred relationship that Nephi shared with Jehovah, the Great I Am, whose name is vital in our understanding of Him. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said, “To the Lord’s covenant people, names—particularly proper names—have always been very important. Adam and Eve themselves bore names that suggested their roles here in mortality (see Moses 1:34; 4:26) and, when important covenants were made, men like Abram and Jacob took on new names that signaled a new life as well as a new identity. (See Gen. 17:5; 32:28). Because of this reverence for titles and the meanings they conveyed, the name Jehovah, sometimes transliterated as Yahweh, was virtually unspoken among that people. This was the unutterable name of Deity, that power by which oaths were sealed, battles won, miracles witnessed. Traditionally, he was identified only through a tetragrammaton, four Hebrew letters variously represented in our alphabet as IHVH, JHVH, JHWH, YHVH, YHWH.” Whom Say Ye That I Am? Jeffrey R. Holland Ensign Sept. 1974. Written in Paleo-Hebrew and used from 1000 BC – 400 AD this symbol; , represents the name “Jehovah”, or the tetragrammaton. All throughout the Old Testament, the word ‘LORD’ (all small caps), replaced the sacred name “Yahweh” as described above. “I Am” in Hebrew is Yahweh, and “Adonai” is the Hebrew word for LORD.
An interesting note about the name Nephi. “This is also an Egyptian name, usually given as Knephi, and transliterated into Hebrew as Nebi. It means “prophet” or one who speaks with God. The great Osiris, one of the Egyptian gods, was called Nephi or Knephi and the city in his honor was n-ph (vowels always had to be supplied). It is the city we know today as Memphis, located across the Nile from Cairo, but it is referred to by its original name of Noph (a variant of Nephi) in the writings of Hosea, Isaiah, and Jeremiah.” Treasures from the Book of Mormon by W. Cleon Skousen. See “Noph” in LDS Bible Dictionary.
The Nephites loved and followed Nephi as he taught them about faith in the Lord. “And we did take our tents and whatsoever things were possible for us, and did journey in the wilderness for the space of many days. And after we had journeyed for the space of many days we did pitch our tents. And we did observe to keep the judgments, and the statutes, and the commandments of the Lord in all things, according to the law of Moses. And the Lord was with us; and we did prosper exceedingly; for we did sow seed, and we did reap again in abundance. And we began to raise flocks, and herds, and animals of every kind. And I, Nephi, had also brought the records which were engraven upon the plates of brass; and also the ball, or compass, which was prepared for my father by the hand of the Lord, according to that which is written. And I, Nephi, did take the sword of Laban, and after the manner of it did make many swords, lest by any means the people who were now called Lamanites should come upon us and destroy us; for I knew their hatred towards me and my children and those who were called my people.” 2 Nephi 5:7,10-12,14. The Lord speaks of the importance of earthly tools or sacred relics when he said, “And behold, all things have their likeness, and all things are created and made to bear record of me, both things which are temporal, and things which are spiritual.” Moses 6:63.
The tools of faith shown in this painting, were utilized by Lehi, Nephi and subsequent Prophets, and delivered to Joseph Smith in our day. The Lord said through Joseph Smith, “Behold, I say unto you, that you must rely upon my word, which if you do with full purpose of heart, you shall have a view of the plates, and also of the breastplate, the sword of Laban, the Urim and Thummim, which were given to the brother of Jared upon the mount, when he talked with the Lord face to face, and the miraculous directors which were given to Lehi while in the wilderness, on the borders of the Red Sea. And it is by your faith that you shall obtain a view of them, even by that faith which was had by the prophets of old.” D&C 17:1-2.
As you see the Sword of Laban, “…The hilt thereof was of pure gold, and the workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine…” (1 Nephi 4:9). The sword and breastplate represent Nephi’s commitment to protect his people. This breastplate is not necessarily the one that Joseph Smith found at Cumorah. That breastplate was likely one of those mentioned in Mosiah 8:10, given to Mosiah by Limhi’s explorers. This Jaredite breastplate “and all the things which he had kept”, were handed down to Alma (Mosiah 28:20), and eventually to Moroni to be buried with the other tools of faith. Mosiah the Second used seer stones or interpreters, to translate the twenty-four Jaredite plates (Mosiah 28:13), as his grandfather Mosiah the First interpreted the Jaredite stone record. (Omni 1:20). These seer stones are represented and may have been handed down from Lehi or Nephi. Moses and the Israelites were also blessed with similar tools of faith that physically represented spiritual things. “…The ark of the covenant overlaid roundabout with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant…” Hebrews 9:4-5.
After Nephi and his people were driven into the wilderness and found a place to settle, Nephi continued to instruct and serve his people. “And I did teach my people to build buildings, and to work in all manner of wood, and of iron, and of copper, and of brass, and of steel, and of gold, and of silver, and of precious ores, which were in great abundance. And I, Nephi, did build a temple; and I did construct it after the manner of the temple of Solomon save it were not built of many precious things; for they were not to be found upon the land, wherefore, it could not be built like unto Solomon’s temple. But the manner of the construction was like unto the temple of Solomon; and the workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine.” 2 Nephi 5:15-16 italics added.
The Nephites surely had tabernacles in the wilderness as Moses did to offer sacrifices, so why did the Nephites need temples? The brief account in Alma 10 about Aminadi, who interpreted the writing on the wall of the temple, which was written by the finger of God, may help us understand. It wasn’t about sacrifice, but about the revelation of higher knowledge and how to come into the presence of God, accessing knowledge from Him and becoming more like Him. The temple then was a place for the revelation of higher truths that could only be understood through wisdom given by God’s Spirit.
Nephi wanted his temple to be like Solomon’s, not in size, but in functionality. To perform the rituals prescribed by the Law of Moses his people would need a temple parallel to Solomon’s in rooms and relics. The workmanship of the temple was “exceedingly fine”, and likely required organized building plans, using a measuring reed, a line of flax, and other tools of geometry. Ezekiel 40:2-3. Nephi may have written these plans on parchment. Over 85% of the Dead Sea Scrolls were written on calf skin parchment known as vellum, so it’s easy to imagine that the Nephite culture used similar material. Nephi may have used black inks like those found on the Dead Sea Scrolls that are made up of carbon soot mixed with olive oil, honey, or water, to thin the ink to a proper consistency for writing. In order to apply the ink to scrolls or parchment, its writers used “reed pens” by sharpening a reed straw, or a piece of bamboo. “Arundinaria appalachiana, commonly known as hill cane, is a woody bamboo native to the Appalachian Mountains in the southeastern United States”, and may have been used by Nephi. Wikipedia
One of Lehi’s contemporaries was Jeremiah. “Some of Jeremiah’s prophecies were in the brass plates of Laban secured by Nephi.” LDS Bible Dictionary. Another contemporary of Lehi’s was the Prophet Ezekiel who prophesied from c. 620-580 BC, about a messenger showing him the specific steps in building a temple. It seems possible those instructions to Ezekiel, may have been on the plates of brass or shared with Lehi. The Liahona may also have been used as a tool of instruction to assist Nephi with construction of the temple.
The temple would be built on the highest point of the Nephite settlement. (Scene of the Painting is Lookout Mountain above Moccasin Bend on the Tennessee River). It would be facing directly east symbolic of The Savior’s coming. The altars of the temple were made of stacked stone, not hewn stone. “The word in Exodus 20:25 which is translated as ‘tool’ is the Hebrew חרב which most literally means ‘sword’. There explains that a sword is designed to shorten life, while an altar is designed to lengthen life by being used to achieve atonement. It makes sense, therefore, that one should not be used in the formation of the other.” Rashi, Medieval French Rabbi.
In reference to Solomon’s temple, the LDS Bible Dictionary says; “The temple walls were composed of hewn stone made ready at the quarry. The roof was of cedar and the walls were paneled with it. The cedar was carved with figures (cherubim, palm trees, and flowers) and was overlaid with gold fitted to the carving. All the materials for the house were prepared before they were brought to the site… There were two temple courts. The inner court was surrounded by a wall consisting of three rows of hewn stone and a row of cedar beams.” 1 Kgs. 6:36. “And Solomon’s builders and Hiram’s builders did hew them, and the stonesquarers: so they prepared timber and stones to build the house.” 1 Kings 5:18. “In front of the porch stood two great pillars of hollow brass, called Jachin and Boaz… The names denote “He will establish” and “In Him is strength.” The outside of the temple may have been finished with a mortar cement made out of limestone which was prevalent in the Promised Land. We also find mention of cement houses in the Book of Mormon. Heleman 3:7. “Lime mortar is a type of mortar composed of lime and an aggregate such as sand, mixed with water. It is one of the oldest known types of mortar, dating back to the 4th century BC and widely used in Ancient Rome and Greece.” Lucas, A. 2003 Ancient Egyptian Materials and Industries. After processing, products derived from limestone have the unique ability to return fairly quickly to their original chemical form.
Between the altar and the porch of Solomon’s temple was the brazen sea for the washing of the priests which laid upon 12 oxen representing the tribes of Israel and the strength upon which God’s work rests. Cleansing and covenant making are fundamental principles for the house of Israel in every age. It is easy to imagine a similar brazen sea and oxen for the Nephite temple. Lehi is a descendent of Manasseh, and Ishmael a descendant of Ephraim. Thus these descendants of Joseph grew together upon this land of America, with a sprinkling from the house of Judah, through Mulek. Zoram brought his unknown lineage and Mulek may have brought remnant tribes with his people.
Nephi’s building of the temple was to bless the lives of his people. Elder Maxwell explained the significance of temple worship in our day when he said, “The real act of personal sacrifice is not now nor ever has been placing an animal on the altar. Instead, it is a willingness to put the animal that is in us upon the altar—then willingly watching it be consumed! Such is the ‘sacrifice unto [the Lord of] a broken heart and a contrite spirit.’ (3 Nephi 9:20).” Neal A Maxwell, Meek and Lowly 1987. Joseph Smith during Zion’s Camp, stopped some men from killing rattlesnakes and then said, “…Let man first get rid of his destructive propensities and then we may look for a change in the serpents’ disposition.” The Prophet Joseph Smith also taught us about faith and sacrifice saying, “A religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation; for, from the first existence of man, the faith necessary unto the enjoyment of life and salvation never could be obtained without the sacrifice of all earthly things.” Joseph Smith Jr. Lectures on Faith. President Ezra Taft Benson succinctly restated the message of Abraham 3:25 when he said: “The great test of life is obedience to God… We are not here to test or “prove” God, but to be tested and proved ourselves. We are on trial, not God.” Ensign, May 1988.
Nephi ordained his brother Jacob and others to teach in the temple. Jacob 1:17. Nephi knew his people needed the greater light that a temple would provide. Nephi’s faith is a great example to us all of passing this important test of life, and the building of the first Nephite temple was a sign to all, of his devotion to the Great Jehovah. (Painting by Ken Corbett, kencorbettart.com)
Zelph in Vision by Ken Corbett
The primary source for the information about Zelph comes from diaries kept by members of the 1834 Zion’s Camp including, Wilford Woodruff, Heber C. Kimball, George A. Smith, Levi Hancock, Moses Martin, and Reuben McBride.
This Hopewell culture mound site is located in Pike County, Illinois three miles east of the city of Griggsville. The mound today is known as Naples-Russell Mound #8, or Zelph Mound.
A scientific excavation of this mound was carried out in 1990 by The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, in cooperation with the Center for American Archaeology at Kampsville, Illinois. The dig was funded by the Illinois Department of Transportation and supervised by archaeologist, Ken Farnsworth. The artifacts found during the excavation confirmed the mound to be a Hopewell burial mound, dating from 100 B.C. to 500 A.D. The artifacts are now located in the Illinois State Museum.
From the volume titled History of the Church Volume 2: pp.79-80, we read; “During our travels we visited several of the mounds which had been thrown up by the ancient inhabitants of this country—Nephites, Lamanites, etc., and this morning I went up on a high mound, near the river, accompanied by 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 the ancient order; and the remains of bones were strewn over the surface of the ground. The brethren procured a shovel and a 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 a Lamanitish arrow, which evidently produced his death. Elder Burr Riggs retained the arrow. The contemplation of the scenery around us produced peculiar sensations in our bosoms; and subsequently the visions of the past being opened to my understanding by the Spirit of the Almighty, I discovered that the person whose skeleton 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. The curse was taken from Zelph, 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 the last great struggle of the Lamanites and Nephites.”
In LDS Church History we hear about a similar ancient altar found near Adam-Ondi-Ahman in Missouri. In Orson F. Whiney, Life of Heber C. Kimball, page 209, we read; “The Prophet Joseph called upon Brother Brigham, myself and others, saying, “Brethren, come, go along with me, and I will show you something,” He led us a short distance to a place where were the ruins of three altars built of stone, one above the other, and one standing a little back of the other, like unto the pulpits in the Kirtland Temple, representing the order of three grades of Priesthood; “There,” said Joseph, “is the place where Adam offered up sacrifice after he was cast out of the garden.” The altar stood at the highest point of the bluff. I went and examined the place several times while I remained there.”
In another account of the History of Church 3:35 it says, “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.”
Today’s Adam-Ondi-Ahman is just a little over 200 miles from the location of Zelph Mound in Illinois, both of which fit within the geography of the Heartland Model of The Land of Zarahemla.
Remarkably, items discovered in the Zelph Mound area fit precisely within the parameters of the Book of Mormon historical chronology. (100 B.C. to 500 A.D.) This general collection of evidence points to a strong possible North American Book of Mormon geographic location.
According to Wilford Woodruff, “I brought the thigh bone to Missouri. I desired to bury it in the Temple Block in Jackson County; but not having this privilege, I buried it in Clay County, Missouri, near the house owned by Col. Arthur and occupied by Lyman Wight. The arrowhead referred to is now in the possession of President Joseph F. Smith, Salt Lake City, Utah.” Wilford Woodruff Journal Page 41.
“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 to him in a vision.” Life of Heber C. Kimball, by Orson F. Whitney
Zelph a Man of God by Ken Corbett
Zelph was a warrior, a chieftain, an officer, a man of God, a thick set man, and a white Lamanite who had the curse removed from him. He fought for the Nephites in one of the last battles between the Nephites and Lamanites, and served under the Prophet Onandagus, who was known from Hill Cumorah to the Rocky Mountains. (See History of the Church 2:79-80)
We will consider a possible scenario of where Zelph may fit into the history of the Book of Mormon, by using information from journals, scriptures and other quotes. (This is only speculation with our belief of Heartland Geography)
- Zelph fought for the Nephites and died in one of the last battles with the Lamanites. This battle would have had to be in the Land of Zarahemla, near present day Valley City, Illinois as this is where Zelph was buried.
- The beginning battle of the last battles between the Nephites and Lamanites began in Zarahemla near the Sidon River in 322 AD (Mormon 1:10). The last battle in the Land of Zarahemla was probably in 328 AD near the borders of the west sea. (Possibly Lake Michigan or Lake Erie. Mormon 2:6)
- According to Joseph Fielding Smith, “In the Book of Mormon story the Lamanites were constantly crowding the Nephites back towards the north and east. If the battles in which Zelph took part were fought in the country traversed by the Zion’s Camp, then we have every reason to believe from what is written in the Book of Mormon, that the Nephites were forced farther and farther to the north and east until they found themselves in the land of Ripliancum, which both Ether and Mormon declare to us was the land of Ramah or Cumorah, a land of “many waters,” which “by interpretation, is large, or to exceed all.” This being true, what 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 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.”
- In 327 AD, Mormon was now 16 years old and chosen to be the Nephite leader. (Mormon 2:1) In Mormon’s first battle, his army was afraid and headed toward the north countries to the city of Angola, which was probably still in the land of Zarahemla. Zelph may have been a contemporary of Mormon while together in the Land of Zarahemla.
The possible conclusion of where Zelph may fit into the historicity of the Book of Mormon is either, Zelph may have died in 322 AD before Mormon became the Nephite leader or, Zelph may have died in 327 AD in Mormon’s first battle against the Lamanites in the City of Angola before the Nephites went even farther north and east toward Cumorah.
In this painting, Zelph is shown sometime between 322-327 AD, on the same mound above the Illinois River where the Prophet Joseph Smith received a vision of this great warrior in 1834. Prophet Onandagus is seen praying for the freedom of his people. Nearby is, “the appearance of three altars having been erected one above the other, according to the ancient order”, as Joseph’s vision had indicated. In the distance you see some Lamanites in a canoe on the Illinois river.
Joseph Smith’s account of the history of Zelph was recorded by Wilford Woodruff in the Documentary History of the Church. The following is President Woodruff’s testimony regarding the truthfulness of that history, particularly the events that transpired during Zion’s Camp: “I am now called to preside over the only Temple there is on the earth, built for the salvation of the living and the dead. There are but a few of us living who were in Zion’s Camp. I will here say that God has inspired me to keep a journal and write the history of this Church, and I warn the future historians to give credence to my history; for my testimony is true, and the truth of its record will be manifest in the world to come. All the words of the Lord will be fulfilled upon the nations, which are written in this book. Wilford Woodruff, His Life and Labors, Matthias F. Cowley
Notice how careful Woodruff was to preserve every detail about Zion’s Camp. As late as 1879 (while hiding from federal authorities and speaking at Kanab, Utah Territory) he was still relating the story: “Joseph had a vision which showed him this man’s name was Zelph who lived in the days of Onandagus (he was a Lamanite and was white), he was a great Warrior.” The Journal of L. John Nuttall, entry for March 9, 1879; Mormon Parallels: A Bibliographic Source © 2014 Rick Grunder
The name of Onandagus mentioned by Joseph, sounds very similar to Onondaga, one of the five Indian nations that comprised the Haudenosaunee or Iroquois Confederacy. Haudenosaunee means “the people of the long house”. This confederacy assisted the United States in forming a similar government as the Iroquois. The tribe of Onandaga are native peoples of New York and are known to have built houses of timber. (Alma 19:17-18; 26:28-29). The Onandaga are also the leading tribe, or “fire keepers” of this current confederacy. Another people of the Haudenosaunee are the Oneida, which is strikingly similar to the Book of Mormon place name “Onidah”. (Alma 32:4; 47:5) It is also likely no coincidence that the Lamanite title of deity, “Great Spirit” is a native North American appellation. (Alma 18:4-5)
Author L. Taylor Hansen wrote intriguingly of a site in New York State: “On the authority of some older inhabitants of Onondaga, it is stated that on a ledge of rocks, about a mile south of Jamesville, (Near Syracuse and Oneida Castle) is a place which used to be pointed out by the Indians as a spot where the Great Spirit once came down and sat and gave good advice to the chiefs of Onondagas. That there are the prints of his hands and his feet, left in the rocks, still to be seen. In the former years the Onondagas used annually to offer, at this place, tobacco and pipes, and to burn tobacco and herbs as a sacrifice to the Great Spirit, to conciliate his favor and which was a means of preventing diseases.”
“Blood sacrifice was forbidden and replaced by the use of tobacco, today an important element in all traditional Native American ceremonies. Among many eastern tribes, East Star Man is regarded as the son of the Great Spirit, the Creator.” Wayne May, Christ in North America.
In 1927, Janne M. Sjödahl a Swedish immigrant and convert to the LDS church, wrote a book on one of the founding works in the area of Book of Mormon studies. In his book he said; “The Onondagas: These have special interest… It appears from this, that this warrior, Zelph, was an Onondaga, as well as a “white” Lamanite, and that the Onondagas (of New York), consequently must be of Lamanite lineage. It also appears that at least some of the mounds in the Ohio Valley were erected by the descendants of Lehi” J.M. Sjodahl, An Introduction to the Study of the Book of Mormon.
Perhaps the name Zelph is a masculine version of the Hebrew “zalaphah”, meaning “Raging Heat” – a fitting name for a zealous warrior. (Brown – Driver – Briggs – Gesenius Hebrew – Aramaic Lexicon, 2152, pg 273)
The Plains of the Nephites by Ken Corbett
“On the banks of the Mississippi, June 4th. 1834. My Dear Companion, I now embrace a few moments to dictate a few words that you may know how it is with us up to this date. We arrived this morning on the banks of the Mississippi, and were detained from crossing the river, as there was no boat that we could cross in, but expect a new one to be put into the river this evening, so that we are in hopes, to be able to cross tomorrow, and proceed on our journey. A tolerable degree of union has prevailed among the brethren or camp up to the present moment, and we are all in better circumstances of health apparently than when we started from Kirtland… The whole of our journey, in the midst of so large a company of social honest men and sincere men, wandering over the plains of the Nephites, recounting occasionaly 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…” (Signed Personally) Joseph Smith Jr.” Joseph to Emma, 6.4.1834. Retained copy in handwriting of James Mulholland, Joseph Smith Letterbook 2, pp. 56–58, LDS Church Archives
In this personal love letter to Emma, Joseph says Zion’s Camp traveled on the same plains as those Nephites of the Book of Mormon. Joseph also explains these “once beloved people of the Lord” built these mounds. These are the same lands as the Hopewell Mound Builder Civilization that thrived in the heartland of the United States from 100 BC to 500 AD according to archeologists and scientists.
What better description from Joseph Smith than “the plains of the Nephites” when speaking about the heartland of North America. Imagine rolling hills, vast prairies, rivers, lakes, streams, majestic meadows, areas of wilderness, pastures, flatlands and timberland, just as spoken of in places of scripture. “…And it came to pass that when they had come to the city of Nephihah, they did pitch their tents in the plains of Nephihah, which is near the city of Nephihah.” Alma 62:18 (see D&C 117:8, Ether 14:15). It seems very unlikely that you could confuse the plains with the jungles of South and Central America.
Zion’s Camp brethren said they picked up the bones of ancient Nephites on the plains. From the mound they visited just a day or so earlier, they brought with them some bones of Zelph in their wagon. “Some of his bones were brought into the Camp and the thigh bone which was broken was put into my wagon and I carried it to Missouri.” Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, ed. Scott G. Kenney, 1:10. “We took the leg and thigh bones and carried them along with us to Clay County. All four appeared sound.” Heber C. Kimball, Times and Seasons, 6:788. “…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 who is upwards of 6 feete high which would have constuted some 8 or 9 feete high.” Moses Martin Diary, LDS Church Archives, spelling not corrected).
“As we look into the record, we find that after the first visit to the Hill Cumorah, Joseph told the story of the history of the early American inhabitants to his family. His mother wrote: “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.” This sounds like the first family home evening of this dispensation.
Then she continued to say: “We were now confirmed in the opinion that God was about to bring to light something upon which we could stay our minds, or that would give us a more perfect knowledge of the plan of salvation and the redemption of the human family. This caused us greatly to rejoice, the sweetest union and happiness pervaded our house, and tranquility reigned in our midst. 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.” Lucy Mack Smith, History of Joseph Smith by His Mother, pp. 82-83. This was before he received the plates. He must have received this by revelation, for he knew the whole story of the content of the record that is now the Book of Mormon. He had had five long visits with Moroni, and his mother says he received many revelations.” Eldred G. Smith, Conference Report, October 1967, pp. 82-84
“From the time Father Bosley located near Avon, he found and plowed up axes and irons, and had sufficient to make his mill irons, and had always abundance of iron on hand without purchasing. In the towns of Bloomfield, Victor, Manchester, and in the regions round about, there were hills upon the tops of which were entrenchments and fortifications, and in them were human bones, axes, tomahawks, points of arrows, beads and pipes, which were frequently found; and it was a common occurrence in the country to plow up axes, which I have done many times myself.
I have visited the fortifications on the tops of those hills frequently, and the one near Bloomfield I have crossed hundreds of times, which is on the bluff of Honeyoye River, at the outlet of Honeyoye Lake.
In that region there are many small deep lakes, and in some of them the bottom has never been found. Fish abound in them. The hill Cumorah is a high hill for that country, and had the appearance of a fortification or entrenchment around it. In the State of New York, probably there are hundreds of these fortifications which are now visible, and I have seen them in many other parts of the United States. Readers of the Book of Mormon will remember that in this very region, according to that sacred record, the final battles were fought between the Nephites and Lamanites. At the hill Cumorah, the Nephites made their last stand prior to their utter extermination, A. D., 385. Thus was Heber preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles, above the graves of the ancients of Israel, whose records with the fullness of that Gospel, and the relics of their prowess and civilization, were now whispering from the dust.” Life of Heber C. Kimball by Orson F. Whitney Mounds at Cumorah
Christ Visits the Nephites in America’s Heartland by Kendra Burton
“The record of the Nephite history just prior to the Savior’s visit reveals many parallels to our own day as we anticipate the Savior’s second coming. The Nephite civilization had reached great heights. They were prosperous and industrious. They had built many cities with great highways connecting them. They engaged in shipping and trade. They built temples and palaces. But, as so often happens, the people rejected the Lord. Pride became commonplace. Dishonesty and immorality were widespread. Secret combinations flourished because, as Helaman tells us, the Gadianton robbers “had seduced the more part of the righteous until they had come down to believe in their works and partake of their spoils. (Hel. 6:38).
…Then a voice began to speak—a voice from the heavens that was heard throughout the entire land. The voice spoke of the terrible destruction and announced that this was a direct result of the wickedness and the abominations among the people. Imagine the feelings of the people when the voice asked, “Will ye not now return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you?” (3 Ne. 9:13).
Then the voice identified itself: “Behold, I am Jesus Christ the Son of God” (3 Ne. 9:15). It was the voice of the very person who had been mocked and ridiculed and rejected by the wicked! It was the voice of Him whom the prophets proclaimed and for whom they were stoned and killed! It was the voice of the Master! He declared that by Him redemption came, that in Him the Law of Moses was fulfilled, and that they were to offer a sacrifice unto Him of a broken heart and a contrite spirit.
When the darkness had dispersed, a great multitude gathered around the temple in the land of Bountiful. Twenty-five hundred men, women, and children had come together. As they were conversing about this Jesus Christ, of whom the sign had been given concerning his death, they once again heard the voice.
Mormon tells us that “it was not a harsh voice, neither was it a loud voice; nevertheless, and notwithstanding it being a small voice it did pierce them that did hear to the center, insomuch that there was no part of their frame that it did not cause to quake; yea, it did pierce them to the very soul, and did cause their hearts to burn” (3 Ne. 11:3). The first time and the second time the voice spoke, the people heard it but could not understand it.
The record then states that “again the third time they did hear the voice, and did open their ears to hear it. … “And behold, the third time they did understand the voice which they heard; and it said unto them: “Behold my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name—hear ye him” (3 Ne. 11:5–7). How few people in all the history of the world have heard the actual voice of God the Father speaking to them. As the people looked heavenward, “they saw a Man descending out of heaven; and he was clothed in a white robe; and he came down and stood in the midst of them” (3 Ne. 11:8). A glorious, resurrected being, a member of the Godhead, the Creator of innumerable worlds, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, stood before their very eyes!
“And it came to pass that he stretched forth his hand and spake unto the people, saying: “Behold, I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world… The whole multitude fell to the earth. Jesus commanded them to rise and come forth unto Him. He invited them to thrust their hands into his side and feel the prints of the nails in His hands and feet. One by one each of the twenty-five hundred present went forth. Indeed they “did see with their eyes and did feel with their hands, and did know of a surety and did bear record, that it was He, of whom it was written by the prophets, that should come” (3 Ne. 11:15).” Ezra Taft Benson April 1987 Ensign “The Savior’s Visit to America.”
Joseph Smith said, “Through the medium of the Urim and Thummim I translated the record by the gift, and power of God. In this important and interesting book the history of ancient America is unfolded, from its first settlement by a colony that came from the tower of Babel, at the confusion of languages 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 first were called Jaredites and came directly from the tower of Babel. The second race came directly from the city of Jerusalem, about six hundred years before Christ. They were principally Israelites, of the descendants of Joseph. The Jaredites were destroyed about the time that the Israelites came from Jerusalem, who succeeded them in the inheritance of the country. 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. This book also tells us that our Saviour made his appearance upon this continent after his resurrection, that he planted the gospel here in all its fulness, and richness, and power, and blessing; that they had apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers and evangelists; the same order, the same priesthood, the same ordinances, gifts, powers, and blessing, as was enjoyed on the eastern continent…” The Wentworth Letter, Joseph Smith Jr.
3 Essential Truths about Nephite Observance of the Law of Moses
“First Truth: Not only did the Nephites “strictly” keep the law of Moses (as indicated in 37 verses in the Book of Mormon (see Alma 30:3, Mosiah 13:29-30, Jarom 1:5), but they did so with delight as it was seen by them as both a collection of types of Christ and a means of coming unto Him. Occasionally even the Lamanites were known to “strictly” observe the law (Hel. 13:1). Second: In “observing to keep the commandments of the Lord in all things, according to the Law of Moses” (2 Ne. 5:10), the Nephites would have necessarily observed all the feasts or “holy days” given to Moses by Jehovah. These are recorded in Exodus and Leviticus and are known as “holy convocations” or “rehearsals” and they typify the life and mission of Jesus Christ in profoundly beautiful ways. Third: It was absolutely essential for these Jewish Lehites to be brought to a land that would provide an abundance of all the plants and animals required to keep the Law of Moses, with its concomitant Holy Days or festivals. Based on the latest archeological findings, it can now be irrefutably shown that the Heartland of North America is the only location in the Western Hemisphere where all ten of the essential items were found anciently including; lambs, oxen, goats, doves, barley, wheat, grapes, and altars made of stacked, unhewn stones. These aforementioned items have not been found in the archaeological record of the pre-Columbian peoples of Mesoamerica.” Amberli Nelson MBA Hebrew/Jewish Symbology Expert
“An altar of earth thou shalt make unto me… in all places where I record my name I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee. And if thou wilt make me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone: for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it. Neither shalt thou go up by steps unto mine altar…” Exodus 20:24 – 26
There is a temple mound situated above the Ohio River near Cincinnati. “Fragments of burnt limestone may still be seen on the top. The mound is a rectangle two hundred and twenty-five feet long by one hundred and twenty feet broad, and seven feet high.” In contrast to the hewn stone buildings and altars of Mexico, the Ohio mound has the right dimensions to have accommodated a timber and burnt lime plaster (“cement”) building of the size and proportions of Solomon’s Temple.” J. P. Maclean, The Mound Builders – Archaeology of Butler County, Ohio, 1904, pp. 222-223.
“Few realize that some of the oldest, largest and most complex structures of ancient archaeology were built of earth, clay, and stone right here in America, in the Ohio and Mississippi valleys. From 6,000 years ago until quite recently, North America was home to some of the most highly advanced and well organized civilizations in the world – complete with cities, roads, and commerce.” Dr. Roger Kennedy, former director of the Smithsonian’s American History Museum
“This painting shows Christ descending in a shaft of light to visit multitudes of Nephites who are streaming up a ramped earthen platform mound reminiscent of other earthen monuments made by the civilization now known as the Hopewell Mound Builders. The background is a vast plain with interspersed massive grass-covered mounds, wooden homes with thatched roofs and hardwood forests, while the foreground shows a large wooden temple atop a monumental ramped earth structure. The scene is one that is true to the Book of Mormon record, without stone pyramids or thick jungle vegetation since nowhere in the text is there any mention of stone buildings, palm trees, monkeys or a tropical climate.
The Heartland geography research has overwhelmingly demonstrated through Book of Mormon prophesies, Joseph Smith’s writings, DNA, archaeological, linguistic and cultural evidences that the most likely location for the setting of the Book of Mormon was in America’s Heartland. This painting is consistent with Joseph Smith’s known and historically documented statements and actions in such accounts as the those found in D&C 28, 30, and 32, the Wentworth Letter, the American Revivalist account, the Zelph accounts, Joseph’s hand-written letter to his wife while on Zion’s camp, and many additional sources.” Rod Meldrum, Author “Exploring the Book of Mormon in America’s Heartland”
Contrasting the works of the mound builders with Mesoamerica stone ruins, Hugh Nibley observes: “A closer approximation to the Book of Mormon picture of Nephite culture is seen in the earth and palisade structures of the Hopewell and Adena culture areas than in the later stately piles of stone in Mesoamerica… Though such piles as the great pyramid-temple of Chichen Itza are surpassed by few buildings in the world in beauty of proportion and grandeur of conception, there is something disturbing about most of these overpowering ruins… The great monuments do not represent what the Nephites stood for; rather they stand for what their descendents, mixed with the blood of their brethren, descended to…” Hugh Nibley, The Prophetic Book of Mormon, pp. 272-273
North America, A Land of Promise by Brooke Malia Mann
The Lord has always promised his covenant people who are faithful, four principle blessings. Posterity, prosperity, security and freedom, and a land of promise. The first recorded instance of a “land of promise” in scripture is a land called Cainan, named after a great-grandson of Father Adam (Moses 6:17). We understand through the scriptures that this land was near current day Adam-ondi-Ahman, Missouri (D&C 116:1).
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said, “Temporarily, we call it America. But it began with the single, primeval continent of Genesis, and the miracle of millennial healing will bring that unity again…
The most sacred of places, then, will always be those locations which God has designated for holy and eternal purposes, locations where he is the “doer of the deed.” These places are revered forever by his faithful children wherever they may be.
America is such a place, but of course it wasn’t always called America nor has it always been identified by a distinctive continental shape. Originally it was simply a portion of that large, single land mass which God in his creative process called “Earth” and which, when completed, was pronounced “good.” (Gen. 1:10.) Whatever its name and geographical configuration, however, it was from the beginning a land of divinity as well as a land of destiny.
The choicest part of this earthly creation was a garden “eastward in Eden” where God placed our first parents, Adam and Eve. This resplendent place filled with paradisiacal glory was located on that part of the land mass where the city Zion, or the New Jerusalem of the earth’s last days, would eventually be built… After Adam and Eve were driven out of the Garden, they dwelt at a place called Adam-ondi-Ahman, located in what is now Daviess County, Missouri. In that region this first family lived out their days, tilling the soil, tending the flocks, offering sacrifices, and learning the gospel of Jesus Christ from on high. There Adam prophesied concerning all the families of the earth and, three years before his death, called together the righteous remnant of his posterity and bestowed upon them his last blessing. The Lord appeared unto this faithful group and Adam’s family rose up “and blessed Adam, and called him Michael, the prince, the archangel… Never before had one spot of earth been favored with such a meeting, nor provided the stage for such sacred scenes from the drama of man’s ultimate destiny.
But even as such sacred manifestations and proclamations were recorded, the land was being polluted with unrighteousness. The willful Cain had already made his covenant with Satan and taken the life of his younger brother, Abel…
Two generations later the Lord was so pained by that generation “without affection” (Moses 7:33) that he opened the windows of heaven and cleansed the entire earth with water. Thus, the “everlasting decree” (Ether 2:10) was first taught that he who will not obey the Lord in righteousness will be swept from his sacred land. The lesson would be tragically retaught in dispensations yet to come.
Holy Scripture records that “after the waters had receded from off the face of this land it became a choice land above all other lands, a chosen land of the Lord; wherefore the Lord would have that all men should serve him who dwell upon the face thereof.” (Ether 13:2.) Such a special place needed now to be kept apart from other regions, free from the indiscriminate traveler as well as the soldier of fortune. To guarantee such sanctity the very surface of the earth was rent. In response to God’s decree, the great continents separated and the ocean rushed in to surround them. The promised place was set apart. Without habitation it waited for the fulfillment of God’s special purposes.
With care and selectivity, the Lord began almost at once to repeople the Promised Land. The Jaredites came first, with stories of the great flood fresh in their memories and the Lord’s solemn declaration ringing in their ears… (Ether 2:8.) Despite such counsel, however, the Jaredite civilization steadily degenerated into a violent society which forced a man to keep “the hilt of his sword in his right hand” (Ether 14:2)…
But even as the last light flickered on Jaredite civilization, a bold new sun rose to illuminate a thousand years of Nephite-Lamanite experience on the same soil. Despite periods of war and rebellion, these people nevertheless had great moments of power and purity, including the personal ministry of the resurrected Christ, who walked and talked and prayed with these New World inhabitants for three indescribable days. There in the meridian of time the land enjoyed three generations of peace and perfection, which it would not know again until the Master’s millennial reign.
But the lessons of history, if not learned well, are certain to be taught again, and a lone father with his son lived to see the self-destruction of these people of promise. The Nephite-Lamanite morality descended from “sorceries, and witchcrafts, and magics” (Morm. 1:19) into rape, murder, and cannibalism…
A thousand years after God had given such choice land to their fathers and a thousand years before he would attempt to do it again, Mormon wrote to his son Moroni: “O the depravity of my people! They are without order and without mercy…
In spite of such grief and despair the Lord of the vineyard determined to “spare it a little longer” (Jacob 5:50) long enough for one final attempt, long enough for one more dispensation, long enough for one final experiment focused on the Promised Land.
So, after a thousand years of preparation, the Spirit of God rested upon a young Italian [Columbus] sailing under the flag of Spain, and, as Nephi had seen in vision, “he went forth upon the many waters, even unto the seed of my brethren, who were in the Promised Land.” (1 Ne. 13:12.) This “Christian of almost maniacal devoutness”… was not to be denied…
As Elder Paul H. Dunn recently declared to a Church-wide audience: “(Joseph) grew up toward adolescence just like the new land. He fitted it. He was young, clean, unspoiled—a lad without a past, kneeling in a grove. This pristine land—this innocent young man—and thus the Lord reached out and kept his promise. He established his conditions over centuries; you see, God has time. His plan made it possible for the holy priesthood and the Church to be restored upon the earth—the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ—but only in America…The purpose of America was to provide a setting wherein that was possible. All else takes its power from that one great, central purpose.” (Ensign, Nov. 1975, p. 54.)
Elder Holland continues, “Thus in one final moment worthy men and righteous principles came together for the restoration of heavenly things. With his center stake in America, God began stretching the cords of his tabernacle to all the world… “And the land of Jerusalem and the land of Zion shall be turned back into their own place, and the earth shall be like as it was in the days before it was divided.” (D&C 133:23–24.)
These two cities, Zion (the New Jerusalem) and the ancient city of Jerusalem, will be those capitals out of which both the word and law of the Lord shall go forth and to which all nations shall flow. (See Isa. 2:2–3.)
It is good that the historical celebration of the United States bicentennial allows us to focus on a land in which God has done so much of his work. It has not always looked the same geographically nor has it always been governed the same politically. But that all seems appropriate since the meaning of America, in its most theological sense, is something more than borders and boundaries, something above nativism and nationalism. It is an ideal, a thing of the spirit… As with temple sites, missionary service, and area general conferences, gospel experience transcends the borders—and, if necessary, the flames of nationalism…” Selected portions of a talk titled, “A Promised Land”, by Jeffrey R. Holland June 1976 Ensign
In Salt Lake City, July 4, 1854 Orson Hyde said, “The progressive spirit of the times, on the one hand, and the chains of cruelty and oppression, on the other, inspired the apostles of American freedom to raise the standard of liberty, and unfurl its banner to the world as a warning to oppressors, and as the star of hope to the oppressed. The very name of America causes a thrill of patriotic devotion to her best interests to quiver in the heart of every citizen of Utah, with a zeal and a pride for the welfare of our country that does honor to the memory of those departed heroes whose ashes are mingled in our soil, and made rich and dear to us by their own blood…
In those early and perilous times, our men were few, and our resources limited. Poverty was among the most potent enemies we had to encounter; yet our arms were successful; and it may not be amiss to ask here, by whose power victory so often perched on our banner? It was by the agency of that same angel of God that appeared unto Joseph Smith, and revealed to him the history of the early inhabitants of this country, whose mounds, bones, and remains of towns, cities, and fortifications speak from the dust in the ears of the living with the voice of undeniable truth. This same angel presides over the destinies of America, and feels a lively interest in all our doings. He was in the camp of Washington; and, by an invisible hand, led on our fathers to conquest and victory; and all this to open and prepare the way for the Church and kingdom of God to be established on the western hemisphere, for the redemption of Israel and the salvation of the world.
This same angel was with Columbus, and gave him deep impressions, by dreams and by visions, respecting this New World. Trammeled by poverty and by an unpopular cause, yet his persevering and unyielding heart would not allow an obstacle in his way too great for him to overcome; and the angel of God helped him—was with him on the stormy deep, calmed the troubled elements, and guided his frail vessel to the desired haven. Under the guardianship of this same angel, or Prince of America, have the United States grown, increased, and flourished, like the sturdy oak by the rivers of water.
To what point have the American arms been directed since the Declaration of our National Independence, and proven unsuccessful? Not one! The peculiar respect that high Heaven has for this country, on account of the promises made to the fathers, and on account of its being the land where the mustard seed of truth was planted and destined to grow in the last days, accounts for all this good fortune to our beloved America…
So sure and certain as the great water courses wend their way to the ocean, and there find their level—so sure as the passing thundercloud hovers around yonder Twin Peaks of the Wasatch Mountains, and upon their grey and barren rocks pours the fury of its storm, just so sure and certain will the guardian angel of these United States fly to a remote distance from their borders, and the anger of the Almighty wax hot against them in causing them to drink from the cup of bitterness and division, and the very dregs, stirred up by the hands of foreign powers, in a manner more cruel and fierce than the enemies of the Saints in the day of their greatest distress and anguish; and all this because they laid not to heart the martyrdom of the Saints and Prophets, avenged not their blood by punishing the murderers, neither succored nor aided the Saints after they were despoiled of their goods and homes.
Would to God that we could forget this part of our experience in the land of our fathers! But we cannot forget it. It is incorporated in our being. We shall carry it to our graves, and in the resurrection it will rise with us. Had the United States been as faithful a guardian to the Latter-day Saints as the angel of God has been to them, she would never know dissolution, nor be humbled in dishonor by the decrees of any foreign powers…
When Justice is satisfied, and the blood of martyrs atoned for, the guardian angel of America will return to his station, resume his charge, and restore the Constitution of our country to the respect and veneration of the people; for it was given by the inspiration of our God.
One positive decree of Jehovah, respecting this land, is, that no king shall ever be raised up here, and that whosoever seeketh to raise up a king upon this land shall perish. The spirit of this decree is that no king shall bear rule in this country. And the islands contiguous to this land belong unto it by promise, for they are a part and parcel of the land of Joseph, and they geographically belong to it—belong to it by the covenants of the fathers: they also philosophically incline to this nearer and greater land.” Moroni Guardian Angel of America Orson Hyde Journal of Discourses 6:65.
Indeed this land of America and its leaders have been blessed with the protection of the Lord. “As details of the battle emerged, it turns out that either George Washington was extremely lucky, was bulletproof, or was being supernaturally protected. One Indian warrior testified that he had shot at him 17 times. He exclaimed that “Washington was never born to be killed by a bullet!” Another Indian, Red Hawk, had shot and missed him 11 times. He had not missed a shot before, and became convinced that Washington was being supernaturally protected by the Great Spirit. In 1770, fifteen years after the battle, an old Indian told Washington that he had sought out to meet him. He had been fighting in the battle that day, and he had told all the Indians with him to shoot at him, and make sure that he died. When they all missed, he told them to stop. On that evening, he predicted that Washington would never die in battle, and would be “the founder of a mighty empire.” David.Barton, The Bulletproof George Washington.
Many locations in this land of America have been blessed by its guardian angel. “Moroni had the great privilege, as he walked across this American Continent, of finding a place and designating the place where the St. George temple was to be built. He also designated where the Manti Temple was to be. And it’s been written that he designated Kirtland and Nauvoo and probably others. Moroni appeared to the Prophet Joseph Smith 22 different times during the life of the Prophet Joseph that we know of.” The Angel Moroni by Elder Glen L. Rudd
While serving as Mission President in Central Florida Brother Murray Rawson had the responsibility to work on the Seminole Indian reservation. While there he had numerous visits with the chief. While attempting to present the Book of Mormon the chief interrupted his message by saying: “We had a war long ago with the light skinned people around the Great Lakes. We conquered them but we had so much respect for their warrior chief that we buried him at the mouth of the Oswego River which is in New York State. We don’t discuss this very much because it is an embarrassment to us”. President Rawson asked why is this an embarrassment? “Our history is written on metal plates and buried in a hill in New York, but we don’t know which hill”! The Mystic Symbol, by Wayne N. May. Talk given to missionaries in training at the MTC, Provo, Utah 1979, by President Murray J. Rawson, Orem, Utah.
This United States of America is indeed, “A Land of Promise.” Moroni presides over the destinies of the United States, holds the keys of the Stick of Ephraim (D&C 27: 5), and is the guardian angel of this wonderful land. The Lord has said, “…repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon…” (D&C 84:57). As we study The Book of Mormon, we learn to love even more this blessed America we call “A Promised Land.”
Zion and our Western Tribes in North America
“You know there has been great discussion in relation to Zion–where it is, and where the gathering of the dispensation is, and which I am now going to tell you. The prophets have spoken and written upon it; but I will make a proclamation that will cover a broader ground. 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. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith)
“The Book of Mormon is a record of the forefathers of our western Tribes of Indians, having been found through the ministration of an holy Angel translated into our own Language by the gift and power of God, after having been hid up in the earth for the last fourteen hundred years containing the word of God, which was delivered unto them, By it we learn that our western tribes of Indians are desendants from that Joseph that was sold into Egypt, and that the Land of America is a promised land unto them, and unto it all the tribes of Israel will come. with as many of the gentiles as shall comply with the requesitions of the new co[v]en ant. But the tribe of Judah will return to old Jerusalem, The City, of Zion, spoken of by David in the 102 Psalm will be built upon the Land of America and the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to it with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads, and then they will be delivered from the overflowing scourge that shall pass through the Land But Judah shall obtain deliverence at Jerusalem see Joel 2. 32. Isaiah 26, 20 & 21, Jer. 31, 12, Psalm 50. 5, Ezekiel 34, 11, 12 & 13, These are testamonies that the good Shepherd will put forth his own sheep and Lead them out from all nations where they have been scattered in a cloudy and dark day, to Zion and to Jerusalem beside many more testamonies which might be brought——
And now I am prepared to say by the authority of Jesus Christ, that not many years shall pass away before the United States shall present such a scene of bloodshed as has not a parallel in the hystory of our nation pestalence hail famine and earthquake will sweep the wicked off this generation from off the face of this Land to open and prepare the way for the return of the lost tribes of Israel from the north country— The people of the Lord, those who have complied with the requsitions of the new covenant have already commenced gathering togethe[r] to Zion which is in the State of Missouri. Therefore I declare unto you the warning which the lord has commanded me to declare unto this generation, rembring [remembering] that the eyes of my maker are upon me and that to him I am accountabl for evry word I say wishing nothing worse to my fellow men then their eternal salvation therefore fear God, and give glory to him for the hour of his Judgment is come, <Repent ye> Repent, ye and imbrace the everlasting Covenant and flee to Zion before the over flowing scourge overtake you, For there are those now living upon the earth whose eyes shall not be closed in death until they see all these things which I have spoken fulfilled Rem[em]ber these things, call upon the Lord while he is near and seek him while he may be found is the exhortation of your unworthy servant
Joseph Smith Jr” Letter to Noah C. Saxton, 4 January 1833 from Joseph Smith Papers
THE MISSION TO THE LAMANITES
As the “mission to the Lamanites” is a very prominent event in early Church history, it is proper that the labors of the brethren engaged in at should be spoken of more fully than appears anywhere in the Prophet’s narrative and at this point following the letter of Oliver Cowdery seems as appropriate a place as will be found to speak of it. It has already been said that the brethren of the mission called upon the Cattaraugus tribe, near Buffalo, New York. (p. 120 note) After leaving Kirtland on their journey westward they visited the Wyandot tribe of Indians near Sandusky, Ohio with whom they spent several days. “We were well received,” writes Elder Parley P. Pratt, “and had an opportunity of laying before them the record of their forefathers, which we did They rejoiced in the tidings bid us Godspeed and desired us to write to them in relation to our success among the tribes further west, who had already removed to the Indian territory, where these expected soon to go.”–Aut. P. P. Pratt, p. 54.
On arriving at Independence two of the company secured employment, while the other three crossed the frontier and began their labors among the Indians They visited the Shawnees spending one night with them and the next day crossed the Kansas river and began their labors among the Delawares. They sought an interview with the chief of the Delawares, known among the whites as Chief Anderson. He was the grand sachem of ten nations or tribes and consequently possessed of large influence. He had always opposed the introduction of missionaries among his people and therefore did not at first extend a very hearty welcome to the brethren. However, through an interpreter the brethren made known their errand and explained to him the Book of Mormon and the information it contained for his people. They asked to be heard before a full council of his nation a proposition which the chief took under consideration until the next day. Next morning the conversation with the Delaware Chief was renewed, but he was not inclined at first to call the council. But as he began to understand better the nature of the Book of Mormon he changed his mind and asked the brethren to suspend their conversation until the council could be assembled. A runner was dispatched to the tribes and in about an hour forty leading men were assembled and seated in grave silence to hear the message concerning the book of their forefathers. At the request of the chief Oliver Cowdery in substance delivered the following address:
OLIVER COWDERY’S SPEECH TO THE DELAWARES.
“Aged Chief and venerable Council of the Delaware nation; we are glad of this opportunity to address you as our red brethren and friends. We have traveled a long from towards the rising sun to bring you glad news. We have traveled the wilderness crossed the deep and wide rivers and waded in the deep snows and in the face of the storms of winter, to communicate to you great knowledge which has lately come to our ears and hearts and which will do the red man good as well as the pale face.
“Once the red men were many; they occupied the country from sea to sea–from the rising to the setting sun; the whole land was theirs; the Great Spirit gave it to them, and no pale faces dwelt among them. But now they are few in numbers: their possessions are small, and the pale faces are many.
“Thousands of moons ago, when the 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, together with their history and the things which should befall their children in the latter days.
“This Book was written on plates of gold and handed down from father to son for many ages and generations.
“It was then that the people prospered and were strong and mighty; they cultivated the earth built buildings and cities and abounded in all good things, as the pale faces now do.
“But they became wicked; they killed one another and shed much blood; they killed their prophets and wise men, and sought to destroy the Book. The Great Spirit became angry and would speak to them no more; they had no more good and wise dreams; no more visions, no more angels sent among them by the Great spirit; and the Lord commanded Mormon and Moroni, their last wise men and prophets to hide the Book in the earth that it might be preserved in safety and be found and made known in the latter-day to the pale faces who should possess the land that they might again make it known to the red men, in order to restore them to the knowledge of the will of the Great Spirit and to His favor. And if the red men would then receive this Book and learn the things written in it and do according thereunto, they should be restored to all their rights and privileges; should cease to fight and kill one another; should become one people; cultivate the earth in peace, in common with the pale faces who were willing to believe and obey the same Book and be good men and live in peace.
“Then should the red men become great and have plenty to eat and good clothes to wear, and should be in favor with the Great Spirit and be His children while He would be their Great Father and talk with them, and raise up prophets and wise and good men among them again who should teach them many things.
“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.
“In that neighborhood there lived a young man named Joseph smith who prayed to the Great Spirit much in order that he might know the truth, and the Great Spirit sent an angel to him and told him where this Book was hid by Moroni, and commanded him to go and get it. He accordingly went to the place and dug in the earth and found the Book written on golden plates.
“But it was written in the language of the forefathers of the red men; therefore this young man, being a pale face, could not understand it; but the angel told him and showed him and gave him knowledge of the language and how to interpret the Book so he interpreted it into the language of the pale faces, and wrote it on paper and caused it to be printed, and published thousands of copies of it among them, and then sent us to the red men to bring some copies of it to them, and to tell them this news. So we have now come from him, and here is a copy of the Book, which we now present to our red friend, the Chief of the Delawares which we hope he will cause to be read and known among his tribe; it will do them good.”
We then presented him with a Book of Mormon.
There was a pause in the council and some conversation in their own language, after which the chief made the following reply:
THE CHIEF’S REPLY.
“We feel truly thankful to our white friends who have come so far and been at such pains to tell us good news, and especially this new news concerning the Book of our forefathers; it makes us glad in here,–placing his hand on his heart “It is now winter we are new settlers in this place; the snow is deep, our cattle and horses are dying our wigwams are poor; we have much to do in the spring–to build houses and fence and make farms, but we will build a council house and meet together, and you shall read to us and teach us more concerning the Book of our fathers and the will of the Great Spirit.
Elder Parley P. Pratt in his report of the matter adds; “We continued for several days to instruct the old Chief and many of his tribe. The interest became more and more intense on their part, from day to day, until at length nearly the whole tribe began to feel a spirit of inquiry and excitement on the subject. We found several among them who could read and to them we gave copies of the Book, explaining to them that it was the Book of their forefathers, some began to rejoice exceedingly and took great pains to tell the news to others in their own language. The excitement now reached the frontier settlements in Missouri, and stirred up the jealousy and envy of the Indian agents and sectarian missionaries to that degree that we were soon ordered out of the Indian country as disturbers of the peace, and even threatened with the military in case of non-compliance. We accordingly departed from the Indian country and came over the line, and commenced laboring in Jackson county, Missouri, among the whites We were well received and listened to by many, and some were baptized and added to the Church.
“Thus ended our first Indian mission, in which we had preached the Gospel in its fulness and distributed the record of their forefathers among three viz. The Cattaraugus Indians, near Buffalo, N. Y., the Wyandots, of Ohio and the Delawares, west of Missouri.–Aut. P. P. Pratt, pp. 56-61.(BHR)
One Cumorah (Not Painted Yet)
“Joseph Smith locates Cumorah in Western New York. Perhaps this matter could rest at this point, but the question of the territory now embraced within the United States having been in possession of Nephites and Lamanites before the death of Mormon, carries some weight in the determining of this matter. In the light of revelation it is absurd for anyone to maintain that the Nephites and Lamanites did not possess this northern land. While Zion’s camp was marching on the way to Jackson County, near the bank of the Illinois River they came to a mound containing the skeleton of a man. The history of this incident is as follows: “The brethren procured a shovel and a 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 a Lamanitish arrow, which evidently produced his death. Elder Burr Riggs retained the arrow. The contemplation of the scenery around us produced peculiar sensations in our bosoms; and subsequently the visions of the past being opened to my understanding by the Spirit of the Almighty, I discovered that the person whose skeleton was before us was a white Lamanite, a large, thickset 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. The curse was taken from Zelph, 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 the last great struggle of the Lamanites and Nephites.” (HC 2: 79-80)
“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… 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.” Joseph Fielding Smith Doctrines of Salvation
Visit of the Sac and Fox Indians to Nauvoo
“Thursday, 12.—A considerable number of the Sac and Fox Indians have been for several days encamped in the neighborhood of Montrose. The ferryman brought over a great number on the ferryboat and two flat boats for the purpose of visiting me. The military band and a detachment of Invincibles [part of the Legion] were on shore ready to receive and escort them to the grove, but they refused to come on shore until I went down. I accordingly went down, and met Keokuk, Kis-ku-kosh, Appenoose, and about one hundred chiefs and braves of those tribes, with their families. At the landing, I was introduced by Brother Hyrum to them; and after salutations, I conducted them to the meeting grounds in the grove, and instructed them in many things which the Lord had revealed unto me concerning their fathers, and the promises that were made concerning them in the Book of Mormon. I advised them to cease killing each other and warring with other tribes; also to keep peace with the whites; all of which was interpreted to them.” HC 4:401
Joseph Smith Wentworth Letter
“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 blessings 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 abridgement [abridgment] of the records of the ancient prophets that had existed on this continent…
In this important and interesting book the history of ancient America is unfolded, from its first settlement by a colony that came from the tower of Babel, at the confusion of languages 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 first were called Jaredites and came directly from the tower of Babel. The second race came directly from the city of Jerusalem, about six hundred years before Christ. They were principally Israelites, of the descendants of Joseph. The Jaredites were destroyed about the time that the Israelites came from Jerusalem, who succeeded them in the inheritance of the country. 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. This book also tells us that our Saviour [Savior] made his appearance upon this continent after his resurrection, that he planted the gospel here in all its fulness [fullness], and richness, and power, and blessing; that they had apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers and evangelists; the same order, the same priesthood, the same ordinances, gifts, powers, and blessing, as was enjoyed on the eastern continent, that the people were cut off in consequence of their transgressions, that the last of their prophets who existed among them was commanded to write an abridgement [abridgment]of their prophesies, history &c., and to hide it up in the earth, and that it should come forth and be united with the bible for the accomplishment of the purposes of God in the last days. For a more particular account I would refer to the Book of Mormon, which can be purchased at Nauvoo, or from any of our travelling [traveling] elders.” Joseph Smith
Ether and Moroni, One Cumorah
“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 these promises were not fulfilled because the people violated his commandments. Here a people perished because of their extreme wickedness. There must be 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? Joseph F. Smith Doctrines of Salvation, Vol. 3. p. 242
“The hill Cumorah is a high hill for that country, and had the appearance of a fortification or entrenchment around it. In the State of New York, probably there are hundreds of these fortifications which are now visible, and I have seen them in many other parts of the United States.” Readers of the Book of Mormon will remember that in this very region, according to that sacred record, the final battles were fought between the Nephites and Lamanites. At the hill Cumorah, the Nephites made their last stand prior to their utter extermination, A.D. 385. Thus was Heber preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles, above the graves of the ancients of Israel, whose records with the fullness of that Gospel, and the relics of their prowess and civilization, were now “whispering from the dust.” (Life of Heber C. Kimball by Orson F. Whitney page 41)
“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 light of the sun 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 than, probably, 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 kingdom of our God and His Christ.” Brigham Young in J of D 19:38.
“Consider how very fortunate we are to be living in this land of America … Many great events have transpired in this land of destiny. This was the place where Adam dwelt; this was the place where the Garden of Eden was; it was here that Adam met with a body of high priests at Adam-ondi-Ahman shortly before his death and gave them his final blessing, and the place to which he will return to meet with the leaders of his people (D&C 107:53-57). This was the place of three former civilizations: that of Adam, that of the Jaredites, and that of the Nephites.” Ezra Taft Benson, The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 587-588
“This then becomes the Lord’s base of operations in these latter days. And this base will not be shifted out of its place—the land of America. This nation will, in a measure at least, fulfil its mission even though it may face serious and troublesome days. The degree to which it achieves its full mission depends upon the righteousness of its people. God has, through his power, established a free people in this land as a means of helping to carry forward his purposes. It was his latter-day purpose to bring forth his gospel in America, not in any other place. It was in America where the Book of Mormon plates were deposited. That was no accident. It was his design. It was in this same America where they were brought to light by angelic ministry. It was” . . . [here] “where he organized his modern Church, where he, himself made a modern personal appearance,” The Lord’s Base of Operations Elder Ezra Taft Benson, Conference Report, April 1962
“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… 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. “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.” Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, Vol.3, p.232
“Thus perished at the foot of Cumorah the remnant of the once mighty Jaredite nation, of whom the Lord had said, “There shall be none greater … upon all the face of the earth.” (Ether 1:43.)… This second civilization to which I refer, the Nephites, flourished in America between 600 B.C. and A.D. 400. Their civilization came to an end for the same reason, at the same place, and in the same manner as did the Jaredites’… The tragic fate of the Jaredite and the Nephite civilizations is proof positive that the Lord meant it when he said that this “is a land of promise; and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall serve God, or they shall be swept off when the fulness of his wrath shall come upon them. And the fulness of his wrath cometh upon them when they are ripened in iniquity.” (Ether 2:9.) This information, wrote Moroni, addressing himself to us who today occupy this land, “cometh unto you, O ye Gentiles” (now, Gentiles is the term used by the Book of Mormon prophets to refer to the present inhabitants of America and to the peoples of the old world from which they came)” America’s Destiny Marion G. Romney October 1975
“…Behold I, Mormon, began to be old;…and hid up in the hill Cumorah all the records which had been entrusted to me by the hand of the Lord, save it were these few plates which I gave unto my son Moroni.” Mormon 6:6 “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 15:11
Ether and Moroni, One Cumorah
“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 these promises were not fulfilled because the people violated his commandments. Here a people perished because of their extreme wickedness. There must be 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?
(Source: Joseph F. Smith Doctrines of Salvation, Vol. III, p. 242)
“The hill Cumorah is a high hill for that country, and had the appearance of a fortification or entrenchment around it. In the State of New York, probably there are hundreds of these fortifications which are now visible, and I have seen them in many other parts of the United States.”
Readers of the Book of Mormon will remember that in this very region, according to that sacred record, the final battles were fought between the Nephites and Lamanites. At the hill Cumorah, the Nephites made their last stand prior to their utter extermination, A. D., 385.
Thus was Heber preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles, above the graves of the ancients of Israel, whose records with the fullness of that Gospel, and the relics of their prowess and civilization, were now “whispering from the dust.” (Life of Heber C. Kimball by Orson F. Whitney page 41)
“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 light of the sun 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 than, probably, 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 kingdom of our God and His Christ.” Brigham Young in J of D 19:38. [The following informative statement was made by President Young as part of a public address at Farmington, Utah, on 17 Jun 1877, two months prior to his death.]
“Consider how very fortunate we are to be living in this land of America … Many great events have transpired in this land of destiny. This was the place where Adam dwelt; this was the place where the Garden of Eden was; it was here that Adam met with a body of high priests at Adam-ondi-Ahman shortly before his death and gave them his final blessing, and the place to which he will return to meet with the leaders of his people (D&C 107:53-57). This was the place of three former civilizations: that of Adam, that of the Jaredites, and that of the Nephites.” Ezra Taft Benson, The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 587-588
This then becomes the Lord’s base of operations in these latter days. And this base will not be shifted out of its place—the land of America. This nation will, in a measure at least, fulfil its mission even though it may face serious and troublesome days. The degree to which it achieves its full mission depends upon the righteousness of its people. God has, through his power, established a free people in this land as a means of helping to carry forward his purposes.
“It was his latter-day purpose to bring forth his gospel in America, not in any other place. It was in America where the Book of Mormon plates were deposited. That was no accident. It was his design. It was in this same America where they were brought to light by angelic ministry. It was” . . . [here] “where he organized his modern Church, where he, himself made a modern personal appearance” (Editorial, Church News). The Lord’s Base of Operations Elder Ezra Taft Benson, Conference Report, April 1962, pp. 103-106
“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… 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.” Joseph Fielding Smith
“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.” Joseph Fielding Smith
Giclees and Prints
The Plains of the Nephites
Christ Visits the Nephites in America’s Heartland