Book of Mormon/Geography/Statements/Nineteenth century/After Joseph's death

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Nineteenth Century: Statements on Book of Mormon geography made after Joseph Smith's death: 1844-1899

A FairMormon Analysis of: Statements about Book of Mormon geography, a work by author: Various

Nineteenth Century: Statements on Book of Mormon geography made after Joseph Smith's death: 1844-1899

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Times and Seasons (15 Dec 1844): "As to the original inhabitants of the continent of America, the Book of Mormon, backs up the description of immense 'ruins' in central America"

Recently so much is said about the discoveries of ancient ruins, that we feel inclined to offer a few ideas upon the subject. were it necessary, in order to establish the truth of their reality, just as they are found, showing that civilized nations, possessing the highest attainments in the arts and sciences, once occupied this whole land....

But to the point: ruins are almost the lion of the day. In our last paper may be seen the "Interesting discovery in South America,"....

If, then, men have strayed so far from the just idea of the true God, is it any thing strange that they should lose the true knowledge of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof? Talk about "ruins" of cities in America; and "ruins" of ancient splendor in Asia; and what of them?—until the people believe in revelation....

As to the original inhabitants of the continent of America, the Book of Mormon, backs up the description of immense "ruins" in central America, dispels all doubt. And while that book opens the sleeping history of two or three thousand years past, we can see the two families that came out from the tower, spreading from sea to sea, waxing more and more, greater and greater, until they had occupied the entire country fifteen hundred years, In honor of one of the two first families, they were called 'Jaredites.'

After they had almost covered the land with cities, and probably made the present prairies [746] by extensive cultivation. The Book of Mormon says:[quotes Ether 10:5-8]....

The 'Jaredites,' were destroyed for their wickedness, but how many "spacious buildings," and doleful "prisons," remain among the ruins of departed things, as witnesses of their fame and folly....If the "ruins," of Egypt, Balbec, Babylon, and Pompeii, exhibit in the smallest degree, the greatness and glory of the oriental world, in past ages; so do the "ruins" of central and south America declare the splendor, genius, intellect, refinement, and power that once actuated the master spirits and their hosts upon these uttermost parts of the earth ., It takes some men a great while to consider upon the reality of revelation; they want the privilege of bringing up their "strong reasons" to refute it, when at the same time, a novel or other trite matter, will pass along for truth, without even a hint that all is vanity....

To turn the attention of such as may read the works of Stevens' [sic] upon the "ruins" of central America, we ask a perusal of the following from the writings of Nephi in the Book of Mormon: [cites 3 Nephi 9:3-12

Now, gentle reader, with all these facts before you, and the light and knowledge of the nineteenth century to explain them, what think ye of the "ruins," and what think ye of the spirit of revelation? what has the boasted wit, wisdom, and learning, of the Gentile world performed in the space of four thousand years? Ah! the problem is easily solved. They have made a great noise in piling up monuments of their greatness which after generations discover as "ruins." so let us say once for all:—without revelation from God the world is but a wilderness.[1]


John Taylor (1 Apr 1845): "cities have been discovered by Mr. Stevens in Central America, exactly were the Book of Mormon left them"

NOTE: Page 863 of this issue of the Times and Seasons states: "The Times and Seasons, Is Printed and Published about the first and fifteenth of every month, on the corner of Water and Bain Streets, Nauvoo, Hancock County, Illinois, by JOHN TAYLOR, EDITOR AND PROPRIETOR."

For this reason we copy the foregoing eulogy on General Joseph Smith, one of the greatest men that ever lived on the earth; emphatically proved so, by being inspired by God to bring forth the Book of Mormon, which gives the true history of the natives of this continent; their ancient glory and cities:-which cities have been discovered by Mr. Stevens [Stephens] in Central America, exactly were the Book of Mormon left them (emphasis added).[2]

Thus, Joseph Smith and other leaders were quite willing to modify their ideas about Book of Mormon geography: this indicates that they had no revealed geography to which they felt bound.


Parley P. Pratt (13 Mar 1852): "Four-fifths, or perhaps nine-tenths of the vast population of Peru, as well as of most other countries of Spanish America, are of the blood of Lehi"

Should Peru sustain her liberties, a field is opened in the heart of Spanish America, and in the largest, best informed and most influential city and nation of South America, for the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the fulness of the Gospel to be introduced. Four-fifths, or perhaps nine-tenths of the vast population of Peru, as well as of most other countries of Spanish America, are of the blood of Lehi.[3]


Brigham Young (15 Aug 1852): "it takes North and South America to make the land of Joseph"

The land of Joseph is the land of Zion; and it takes North and South America to make the land of Joseph.[4]


Orson Pratt (15 Feb 1871): "they landed on the south-west coast of South America"

Discourse by Elder Orson Pratt, Delivered in the Tabernacle, Salt Lake City, Feb. 19, 1871. (Reported by John Q. Cannon)

Let me here observe that the Book of Mormon, which has been published for forty-one years, gives an account of the first settlement of this country by these inhabitants, showing that they are not the ten tribes, but they are the descendants of one tribe, and they came to this country about six hundred years before Christ. The people when they first landed consisted of only two or three families; and instead of landing on the northwest coast of North America, they landed on the south-west coast of South America. A history of the escape of these few families from Jerusalem is contained in the Book of Mormon. How they traveled on the eastern borders of the Red Sea, and how they built a vessel or ship to cross the Indian and Pacific oceans; they were instructed how to build this vessel, and when they had embarked on it, they were brought by the special direction of the Lord to this land. He guided their vessel, or instructed them how to guide it, until they landed on the west coast of South America. One portion had become wicked and had apostatized from the religion of their fathers and sought the destruction of the righteous portion. The righteous portion of these families left the first settlement and traveled several hundred miles to the north, and formed settlements, and became a powerful nation. The others—the wicked portion—became a powerful nation. About fifty years before Christ the Nephites, as the righteous portion was called, sent forth numerous colonies into North America. Among these colonies there was one that came and settled on the southern borders of our great lakes. Both nations became very wicked, notwithstanding their prophets foretold great destruction if they would not repent. They predicted that at the time of the crucifixion darkness, earthquakes and great destruction of cities should transpire. While they were standing near their temple, conversing about this sign which had been given them of the crucifixion, they heard a voice in the heavens, and they looked up and beheld their, Messiah descending. He came down and stood in their midst, and showed them the scars in his hands and feet, and in his side; and after visiting them for several days successively, he told them that he was going to the ten tribes of Israel. He also chose twelve disciples to administer his Gospel on this land and for the ministration of the Holy Ghost. The twelve disciples went forth and preached the Gospel, commencing in South America, and then went into North America, until all the people both in North and South America were converted, receiving the principles of the Gospel—namely, baptism, and the laying on of hands, and all the other principles as preached in our day. About two centuries after this, the Nephites fell into wickedness: the Lamanites, who dwelt in the southern portion of South America, also apostatized; and they began to wage war with the Nephites, who were their enemies; and being exceedingly strong they drove all the Nephites out of South America and followed them with their armies up into the north country, and finally overpowered them. They were gathered together south of the great lakes in the country which we term New York. The Lord ordered that the plates on which the records were kept should be hid, and one of the prophets knowing that it was the last struggle of his nation, hid them in the hill Cumorah, in Ontario county, in the State of New York, with the exception of those which his son Moroni, who was also a prophet, had. The last account that we have is furnished to us by Moroni, who states that, after keeping himself hid for several years, and being commanded of the Lord, he hid away the records, about 420 years after Christ. Thus, I have given you a very brief history of the settlement of our country.[5]


Brigham Young, Jr. (25 Mar 1883): "The leaders of the Church have in view the 5,000,000 of Lamanites located in Mexico"

the time is now come to preach to the Lamanites. The leaders of the Church have in view the 5,000,000 of Lamanites located in Mexico.[6]


George Q. Cannon (1 Jan 1890): "For these reasons we have strong objections to the introduction of maps and their circulation among our people which profess to give the location of the Nephite cities and settlements"

There is a tendency, strongly manifested . . . among some of the brethren, to study the geography of the Book of Mormon. . . . We are greatly pleased to notice the . . . interest taken by the Saints in this holy book. . . . But valuable as is the Book of Mormon both in doctrine and history, yet it is possible to put this sacred volume to uses for which it was never intended, uses which are detrimental rather than advantageous to the cause of truth, and consequently to the work of the Lord. . . .

The brethren who lecture on the lands of the Nephites or the geography of the Book of Mormon are not united in their conclusions. No two of them, so far as we have learned, are agreed on all points, and in many cases the variations amount to tens of thousands of miles. These differences of views lead to discussion, contention and perplexity; and we believe more confusion is caused by these divergences than good is done by the truths elicited.

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

The First Presidency has often been asked to prepare some suggestive map illustrative of Nephite geography, but have never consented to do so. Nor are we acquainted with any of the Twelve Apostles who would undertake such a task. The reason is, that without further information they are not prepared even to suggest [a map]. The word of the Lord or the translation of other ancient records is required to clear up many points now so obscure....

For these reasons we have strong objections to the introduction of maps and their circulation among our people which profess to give the location of the Nephite cities and settlements. As we have said, they have a tendency to mislead, instead of enlighten, and they give rise to discussions which will lead to division of sentiment and be very unprofitable. We see no necessity for maps of this character, because, at least, much would be left to the imagination of those who prepare them; and we hope that there will be no attempt made to introduce them or give them general circulation. Of course, there can be no harm result from the study of the geography of this continent at the time it was settled by the Nephites, drawing all the information possible from the record which has been translated for our benefit. But beyond this we do not think it necessary, at the present time, to go, because it is plain to be seen, we think, that evils may result therefrom.[7]


James E. Talmage (1899): "The hill, which was known by one division of the ancient peoples as Cumorah, by another as Ramah, is situated near Palmyra in the State of New York"

On the occasion of his first visit to Joseph Smith, Moroni told of the existence of the record, which, he said, was engraved on plates of gold, at that time lying buried in the side of a hill near Joseph's home. The hill, which was known by one division of the ancient peoples as Cumorah, by another as Ramah, is situated near Palmyra in the State of New York....The final struggles between Nephites and Lamanites were waged in the vicinity of the Hill Cumorah, in what is now the State of New York, resulting in the destruction of the Nephites as a nation, about 400 A.D. The last Nephite representative was Moroni, who, wandering for safety from place to place, daily expecting death from the victorious Lamanites, wrote the concluding parts of the Book of Mormon, and hid the record in Cumorah. It was the same Moroni who as a resurrected being, gave the records into the hands of Joseph Smith in the present dispensation. [James E. Talmage, The Articles of Faith (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company, 1981[1899]), 255-256, 260.]


Notes

  1. "Ancient Ruins," Times and Seasons 5 no. 23 (15 December 1844), 744–748. off-site GospeLink (requires subscrip.) (italics in original) off-site
  2. John Taylor (editor), "The Mormon Prophet," Times and Seasons 6 no. 6 (1 April 1845), 855. off-site GospeLink (requires subscrip.)
  3. Parley P. Pratt to Brigham Young, 13 March, 1852, in Parley P. Pratt, Autobiography, 368.
  4. Brigham Young, (15 Aug 1852) Journal of Discourses 6:296.
  5. Orson Pratt, (15 Feb 1871) Journal of Discourses 14:10.
  6. Minutes of Eastern Arizona Stake Conferences, 1883-1885, March 25, 1883, in Charles W. Peterson, Take Up Your Mission: Mormon Colonizing along the Little Colorado River 1870-1900 (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1973), 216.
  7. George Q. Cannon, "Editorial Thoughts: The Book of Mormon Geography," The Juvenile Instructor 25 no. 1 (1 January 1890)), 18–19.