Book of Mormon/Geography/Statements/Nineteenth century/Joseph Smith's lifetime 1841

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Nineteenth Century: Statements on Book of Mormon geography made during Joseph Smith's lifetime: 1841

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

Nineteenth Century: Statements on Book of Mormon geography made during Joseph Smith's lifetime: 1841

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Levi O. C. Nicklin (18 Jan 1841): "To prove the divinity of the book he assured us that a prophecy, and the description of certain cities in South America were accurately laid down"

A hostile author reports missionary tactics. Levi O. C. Nicklin to Walter Scott (Pittsburgh, 18 January 1841):

To prove the divinity of the book he [John E. Page] assured us that a prophecy, and the description of certain cities in South America were accurately laid down, and that recent discoveries made by Stevens and Catherwood in 1840 confirmed the sayings of the book and together with other discoveries made in Guatemala and elsewhere, were internal evidences of the book to prove beyond doubt its authenticity, and he defied a successful confutation at the hands of any man.[1]


Parley P. Pratt (Feb 1841): "What heart can be so indifferent as not to wish to peruse the record of half a world?"

What heart can be so indifferent as not to wish to peruse the record of half a world? Bringing to light Gods dealings with them, together with their history of the past, and their prophesies of the future.—I repeat the declaration, strange as it may seem, that a knowledge of the things contained in this record is of more value to every one of them than the gold and silver of Europe. (emphasis added)[2]


Benjamin Winchester (1 Mar 1841): "The antiquities of America spread from the great lakes of the North and the West to Central America, and the Southern parts of Peru on the South"

We shall now proceed to prove; first, from various relics of antiquity, that America has been inhabited by an enlightened people, far in advance of the savage state of the red men of the forest....

Now when the antiquarian traverses the Western wilds, he has the privilege to behold the relics of a once enlightened nation, who understood arts and sciences to some extent. He there can walk upon the ruins of once magnificent cities abounding in wealth and prosperity, but now depopulated, and lying in heaps of massive ruins. And if he is onward with his researches—he gazes upon numerous forts, mounds, obelisks, and catacombs, which he marks with wonder and amazement. When he surveys the Southern part of North America—he there can feast his mind upon the works of antiquity until it is absorbed in contemplating the scenes of destructien that have come upon this nation of the dead, and leveled their cities in ruins. In Guatemala he can survey the ruins of a once splendid, beautiful, and populous city, perhaps as ever was on the globe; (we allude to the city of Otolum near Pulenque,) and while wandering through these heaps of massive ruins, he beholds the remains of large temples, and palaces, which exhibit the work of human ingenuity. With a more close observation he discovers a fine display of architectural genius in the construction of these once splendid edifices. In viewing with more avidity still he beholds in these huge buildings the works of science—an immense quantity of hieroglyphics. Hence he no longer doubts but what America was inhabited by an enlightened nation anterior to its discovery by Columbus....

To prove the foregoing statements with regard to American antiquities, we extract the following from different authors. First, Rev. A. Davis in his lecture on the discovery of America by the Northmen says:

“The ruins of a city in Central America are among the most striking of such. This city, called Palenque (the name of a town not far off: other antiquarians call it Otolum) lies two hundred and fifty miles from Tobasco, lat. about 15° N.” “And there were discovered not such buildings as those erected by the Druids, of rough and misshapen stones; but such as those in which kings dwell—built of hewn stones. The appearance of these ruins shows a nation once existed there highly skilled in mechanical arts, and in a state of civilization far beyond any thing that we have been led to believe of the aborigines, previous to the time of Columbus....

How immense this city! It is supposed to have been sixty miles in circumference, and that it contained a population of nearly three millions. Great were its commercial privileges—even now the broad and beautiful Otolum rolls along its desolated borders.”

“One of the principal structures revealed to the eye of the antiquarian is the teaculi or temple. Its style of architecture resembles the Gothic. It is rude, massive and durable. Though resembling the Egyptian edifices, yet this and the other buildings are peculiar, and are different from all others hitherto known. The entrance of the temple is on the east side by a portico more than one hundred feet in length, and nine feet broad. The rectangular pillars of the portico have their architraves adorned with stucco work of shields and other devices.” “The antiquity of this city is manifest not only from its nameless hieroglyphics and other objects; but from the age of some of the trees growing over buildings where once the hum of industry and the voice of merriment were heard. The concentric circles of some of these trees were counted, which showed that they were more than nine hundred years of age.” “The antiquities of America spread from the great lakes of the North and the West to Central America, and the Southern parts of Peru on the South; from the Alleghany Mountains on the East, to the Rocky Mountains on the West, and even from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean.”[3]


Walter Scott (1 May 1841): "Having already shown that the Book of Mormon describes the christian religion as being on the Western Continent..."

Walter Scott, hostile author reporting LDS views

Having already shown that the Book of Mormon describes the christian religion as being on the Western Continent, and received there on the testimony of prophecy alone, hundreds of years before the facts occurred of which it consists and consequently that the Book is its own confutation, we come to our second proposition namely: that In affecting to describe a religion in operation at the Isthmus of Darien 600 years before Christ, which it styles the law of Moses....[4]


Times and Seasons (15 Jun 1841): "We feel great pleasure in laying before our readers the following interesting account of the Antiquities of central America"

Times and Seasons: quotes from Catherwood and Stephens' book

"American Antiquities—More Proofs of the Book of Mormon"

We feel great pleasure in laying before our readers the following interesting account of the Antiquities of central America, which have been discovered by two eminent travellers who have spent considerable labor, to bring to light the remains of ancient buildings, architecture &c., which prove beyond controversy that, on this vast continent, once flourished a mighty people, skilled in the arts and sciences, and whose splendor would not be eclipsed by any of the nations of Antiquity a people once high and exalted in the scale of intelligence, but now like their ancient buildings, fallen into ruins.

From the (New York) weekly Herald....[5]


Book of Mormon and the Mormonites (Jul 1841): "The history of the settlements of the emigrants in North and South America"

July 1841: Anonymous hostile author reporting LDS views

The history of the settlements of the emigrants in North and South America contains some romantic and some very puerile incidents; but, passing these by....[6]


Millennial Star (2 Jul 1841): "Canada on the north, Oregon on the West, Mexico on the south, together with all the tribes in central and South America"

2 July 1841: Millennial Star on Amerindians

Their attention has already been called to their ancient records. Some of them have become Latter-Day Saints; it remains for them to be brought to the knowledge of their forefathers as a people, and to know their origin as Israelites, and to receive the fulness of the Gospel, as written in their own records, and obey it.

The power and spirit of God will then rest upon them, and they will constitute a standard, or rallying point, for all the other tribes which are scattered in the vast regions of Canada on the north, Oregon on the West, Mexico on the south, together with all the tribes in central and South America. These all must come into the covenant, and be gathered and consolidated in one great national compact, under the nursing care of the Gentiles,—that highly favoured government, the United States, or that portion of it which by cleaving to the righteous and holy principles of liberty, justice, mercy, and truth, will be preserved from that overthrow which awaits the wicked.

These tribes now consist of more than ten millions of souls, and are scattered over a country of more than seven thousand miles long, and two thousand broad, extending from the frozen and scarcely explored regions of Hudson’s Bay on the north, to the extremity of Cape Horn, or the southern end of South America, and from the Atlantic to the Pacific, east and west.

While these movements are proceeding with such rapidity in regard to the tribes of the Lamanites, the great valley of the Mississippi is beginning to be an asylum for the oppressed, and is rapidly filling up by emigrants from all nations.[7]


Times and Seasons (15 Jul 1841): "I have always thought that there had been a more enlightened people on this continent, than the present Indians"

15 July 1841: Times and Seasons sample dialogue:

Mr. M. I have always thought that there had been a more enlightened people on this continent, than the present Indians. The remains of ancient buildings, monuments &c., are evident proofs on this point.

Mr. R. There can be no doubt on this subject. In the recent researches in Central America, the ruins of very large and splendid buildings have been found, but it does not necessarily follow that the Book of Mormon is true.[8]


Chas. W. Wandell (27 Jul 1841): "in speaking of the writing found on the ruins of the stone city found in Mexico"

I suppose that Proff. Anthon considered that this would be an incontrovertible argument against the Book of Mormon; but let us see: The celebrated antiquarian Proff. Rafinesque says, in speaking of the writing found on the ruins of the stone city found in Mexico, “The glyphs of Otolum are written from top to bottom like the Chinese, or from side to side, indifferntly like the Egyptian and the Demonic Libian. [9]


Christian Advocate and Journal (29 Jul 1841): "This little band, after wandering long and far, came at last to America, and planted themselves in the western part of the present State of New York"

Note that this author gets the Book of Mormon story wrong; his version is obviously distorted by poor attention or second-hand information:

It gives account of a company of Jewish Christians of the tribe of Joseph, who left Judea by Divine direction, a little before the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus, under the guidance of Lehi, their priest and prophet. This little band, after wandering long and far, came at last to America, and planted themselves in the western part of the present State of New York.[10]


Wilford Woodruff (13 Sep 1841): "a flood of testimony in proof of the book of mormon in the discovery & survey of the city Copan"

Wilford Woodruff on John L. Stephens, Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas, and Yucatan:

I felt truly interested in this work for it brought to light a flood of testimony in proof of the book of mormon in the discovery & survey of the city Copan in Central America…[11]


Parley P. Pratt (15 Nov 1841): "with it their prophecies and their testimony of Jesus as the risen Messiah and the Saviour of the world, not of Asia only, but of America also"

A nation whose “bones are dried” and whose ruined temples and monuments have reposed for ages in silent, solmn, and awful grandeur, has now spoken from the dust and revealed to the world their history, and with it their prophecies and their testimony of Jesus as the risen Messiah and the Saviour of the world, not of Asia only, but of America also.[12]

Note Pratt's use of Asia (the Eastern hemisphere) as contrasted with American (the Western hemisphere).


Times and Seasons (15 Nov 1841): "The bible was written by a people upon the Eastern continent, but the Book of Mormon by a people upon this continent"

The bible was written by a people upon the Eastern continent, but the Book of Mormon by a people upon this continent.[13]

These missionaries see "this continent" as the entire Western hemisphere.


Joseph Smith (16 Nov 1841): "I received your kind present...of all histories that have been written pertaining to the antiquities of this country it is the most correct"

John Bernhisel joined the LDS Church in 1837 while practicing medicine in New York City. In 1841 he was ordained bishop of the congregation in New York City. Bernhisel was a well-educated man, and in 1841 read Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas, and Yucatan by John L. Stephens.

Impressed by the book, Bernhisel gave the two-volume work to Wilford Woodruff in September 1841 with instructions to make sure it was given to Joseph Smith. Woodruff, who was on his way back from England to Nauvoo, delivered the book, as requested.

It would appear that Joseph appreciated receiving the book, as he wrote a letter to Bernhisel acknowledging the gift. Dated November 16, 1841, the first paragraph of the letter is as follows:

I received your kind present by the hand of Er Woodruff & feel myself under many obligations for this mark of your esteem & friendship which to me is the more interesting as it unfolds & developes many things that are of great importance to this generation & corresponds with & supports the testimony of the Book of Mormon; I have read the volumes with the greatest interest & pleasure & must say that of all histories that have been written pertaining to the antiquities of this country it is the most correct luminous & comprihensive.[14]

Notes

  1. Levi O. C. Nicklin to Walter Scott (Pittsburgh, 18 January 1841), “Mormonism in Pittsburgh,” The Evangelist (Carthage, Ohio) 10, no. 2 (1 February 1842): 32–34. off-site
  2. Parley P. Pratt, "Book of Mormon," Millennial Star 1 no. 10 (February 1841), 263–264. off-site
  3. Benjamin Winchester, “The Object of a Continuation of Revelation,” The Gospel Reflector (Philadelphia) 1, no. 5 (1 March 1841): 97–120. off-site
  4. Walter Scott, “Mormon Bible–No. IV,” The Evangelist (Carthage, Ohio) 9, no. 5 (1 May 1841): 111–115. off-site
  5. "American Antiquities—More Proofs of the Book of Mormon," Times and Seasons 2 no. 16 (15 June 1841), 440–442. off-site GospeLink (requires subscrip.) off-site
  6. “The Book of Mormon and the Mormonites,” Athenaeum, Museum of Foreign Literature, Science and Art 42 (July 1841): 370–374. off-site
  7. "Present Condition and Prospects of the American Indians, or Lamanites," Millennial Star 2 no. 3 (2 July 1841), 40–42. off-site
  8. "Dialogue on Mormonism No II," Times and Seasons 2 no. 18 (15 July 1841), 472–474. off-site GospeLink (requires subscrip.) off-site
  9. Chas. W. Wandell, "To the Editors of the Times & Seasons, New Rochelle, Westchester County, New York, 27 July 1841," Times and Seasons 2 no. 22 (15 September 1841), 544–45. off-site GospeLink (requires subscrip.) off-site
  10. [Letter on Mormonism, 29 July 1841,] Christian Advocate and Journal (New York) 15, no. 52 (11 August 1841). off-site
  11. Wilford Woodruff, Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 9 vols., ed., Scott G. Kenny (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1985), 2:126 (journal entry dated 13 Sept 1841). ISBN 0941214133.. Underlining in original.
  12. Parley P. Pratt, "“A Letter to the Queen of England," Times and Seasons 3 no. 2 (15 November 1841), 591–596. off-site GospeLink (requires subscrip.) off-site
  13. E. Snow and Benjamin Winchester, "An Address to the Citizens of Salem (Mass.) And Vicinity [concluded]," Times and Seasons 3 no. 1 (15 November 1841), 578–584. off-site GospeLink (requires subscrip.) off-site
  14. Dean C. Jessee, The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, revised edition, (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 2002), 533.