Book of Mormon/Geography/Statements/Nineteenth century/Joseph Smith's lifetime 1842

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Nineteenth Century: Statements on Book of Mormon geography made during Joseph Smith's lifetime: 1842

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: 1842

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Book of Mormon Index (1842): "The discovery of America predicted"

Index of Book of Mormon speaks of discovery of "America"

The discovery of America predicted, --------------------------- 32, 30[1]


Times and Seasons (1 Jan 1842): "Near Newark in the county of Licking, Ohio, is situated one of the immense works or fortifications of the ancient nations of America"

I will next introduce the description of some of these ancient fortifications and military works of defence, as recorded in the American Antiquities, by Josiah Priest, and also introduce a history of the building of these fortifications and works of defence, as recorded in the Book of Mormon; and I will here remark, that the Book of Mormon was published in A.D. 1830, and the American Antiquities, by Josiah Priest, was not published until A.D. 1833, three years after. Antiquities, page 158 and 159, “Near Newark in the county of Licking, Ohio, is situated one of the immense works or fortifications of the ancient nations of America. It embraces in the whole, a circumferance of about six hundred rods, or nearly two miles; a wall of earth about four hundred rods, is raised on the sides of this fort next to the small creek which comes down along its sides from the west and east. It would seem that the people who made this settlement, undertook to encompass, with a wall, as much land as would support its inhabitants, and also sufficient to build their dwellings on, with several fortifications arranged in a proper manner for its defence. There are within its ranges four of these forts, of different dimensions; one contains forty acres, with a wall of about ten feet high; another containing twenty-two acres, also walled, but in this fort is an elevated observatory, of sufficient height to overlook the whole country; a third fort, containing about twenty-six acres, having a wall around it thrown out of a deep ditch on the inside of the wall. This wall is now from twenty-five to thirty feet in height. A fourth fortification encloses twenty acres with a wall of about ten feet high.”[2]


Times and Seasons (15 Jan 1842): "Christopher Columbus...the discovery of America—the land of Joseph—a land more blessed of the Lord than any other land"

Yea, it was because of this decree that Christopher Columbus, a native of Genoa, an obscure individual, was blessed with a largeness of mind which disdained to confine itself to the old beaten track, and was inspired to contend for eight years with the learned ignorance of the courts and councils of Europe, when (after many a fruitless struggle,) a small fleet was fitted out consisting of three small vessels, and placed under his command, which sailed from spain in 1492, under the patronage of Ferdinand and Isabella then on the united thrones of Castile and Arragon, which terminated in the discovery of America—the land of Joseph—a land more blessed of the Lord than any other land “for the precious things of Heaven, for the dew, and for the deep that coucheth beneath, and for the precious fruits brought forth by the Sun, and for the precious things put forth by the Moon, and for the chief things of the ancient mountains and for the precious things of the lasting hills, and for the precious things of the earth and the fullness thereof.”

And be it known unto you, O ye Gentiles, that this Columbus was inspired by the Almighty Jehovah to make this discovery, that the poor and meek of the earth, and the persecuted and oppressed of all nations might have a place to which they could fly and be secure from the iron grasp of poverty, wretchedness and want, and from the cruel unrelenting hand of the oppressor. And when in process of time the tyrants of the Eastern World began to extend their oppressions unto this land, God raised up a Washington and inspired him to resist their oppression and by the strong arm of military power to maintain and defend the rights of the American colonies as free and independent States, and after the definitive treaty was finally signed and the American colonies were acknowledged free and independent States by all the European powers, and the Commissioners, who were the sages of this government, assembled from the different States and met at Philadelphia on the memorable 10th of May 1787, for the purpose of organizing the General Government, God inspired them to frame the American Constitution so as thereby to establish the rights of man upon the broad basis of civil and religious liberty, that here might forever be found an asylum for the oppressed of all nations [657] to flee unto for refuge and protection from the power of their oppressors.[3]

Note that Columbus never reached the United States; he was confined to Mexico and Caribbean.


Joseph Smith, Wentworth letter (1 Mar 1842): "The remnant are the Indians that now inhabit this country"

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....

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…[4]


Parley P. Pratt (Mar 1842): "Mr Stephens...penetrated a dense forest, till then unexplored by modern travellers , and actually finds the ruins of those very cities mentioned by Mormon"

Parley P. Pratt in England wrote of “ruins in Central America” providing Book of Mormon evidence in the Millennial Star. He cited extensively from Stephens and Catherwood's work on Central American archaeology, and then wrote:

We publish the foregoing for the purpose of giving our readers some ideas of the antiquities of the Nephites—of their ancient cities, temples, monuments, towers, fortifications, and inscriptions now in ruin amid the solitude of an almost impenetrable forest; but fourteen hundred years since, in the days of Mormon, they were the abodes of thousands and millions of human beings, and the centre of civil and military operations unsurpassed in any age or country.

What a satisfaction it is for the lovers of intelligence to realize, that while the minds of Mr. stephens and many others of the learned world have been and still are enveloped in mystery, impenetrable, dark, and drear on the subject of ancient America; and while they contemplate the ruins of a nation, whose very name as they say is lost in oblivion, and whose history they say has not come down to us; we have their entire history,Otheir origin, laws, government, religion, wars, and lastly their destruction; lately discovered in their own hand-writing, unfolded by the power of him whose Nspirit searches all things, yea, the deep things of God by him who has declared that there is nothing secret that shall not be revealed, and nothing hid that shall not be known, and come abroad, and that this history is now extensively published on both sides of the Atlantic, and tens of thousands of copies of it are multiplied and scattered among the people. The "mytery" which Mr. stephens and the wise men of Babylon acknowledge themselves entirely unable to fathom, has by a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, been opened, brought forth from amid the mouldering archives and sepulchral ruins of a nation and a country before unknown to the other parts of the world. It is a striking and extraordinary coincidence, that, in the Book of Mormon, commencing page 563, there is an account of many cities as existing among the Nephites on the "narrow neck of land which connected the north country with the south country;" and Mormon names a number of them, which were strongly fortified, and were the theatres of tremendous battles, and that finally the Nephites were destroyed or driven to the northward, from year to year, and their towns and country made most desolate, until the remnant became extinct on the memorable heights of cumorah (now western New York),OI say it is remarkable that Mr. smith, in translating the Book of Mormon from 1827 to 1830, should mention the names and circumstances of those towns and fortifications in this very section of country, where a Mr Stephens, ten years afterwards, penetrated a dense forest, till then unexplored by modern travellers , and actually finds the ruins of those very cities mentioned by Mormon.

The nameless nation of which he speaks were the Nephites.

The lost record for which he mourns is the Book of Mormon.

The architects, orators, statesmen, and generals, whose works and monuments he admires, are, Alma, Moroni, Helaman, Nephi, Mormon, and their cotemporaries.

The very cities whose ruins are in his estimation without a name are called in the Book of Mormon, "Teancum, Boaz, Jordan, Desolation," &c.[5]


Times and Seasons (2 May 1842): "The Book of Mormon gives an account of a number of the descendants of Israel coming to this continent"

With augmented numbers, and provided with light, they descended and entered, without obstruction, a spacious apartment; the sides and extreme ends were formed into niches and compartments, and occupied by figures representing men. When alarm subsided, and the sentiment of dismay and surprise permitted further research and inquiry, the figures were found to be mummies, preserved by the art of embalming, to as great a state of perfection as was known among the ancient Egyptians, eighteen hundred years before the Christian era; which was about the time that the Israelites were in bondage in Egypt, when this art was in its perfection. * * * * * On this subject Mr. Ash has the following reflections: “How these bodies were embalmed, how long preserved, by what nations, and from what people descended, no opinion can be formed, nor any calculation made, but what must result from speculative fancy and wild conjecture. For my part, I am lost in the deepest ignorance. My reading affords me no knowledge, my travels no light. I have neither read nor known of any of the North American Indians who formed catacombs for their dead, or who were acquainted with the art of preservation by embalming.

Had Mr. Ash in his researches consulted the Book of Mormon his problem would have been solved, and he would have found no difficulty in accounting for the mummies being found in the above mentioned case. The Book of Mormon gives an account of a number of the descendants of Israel coming to this continent; and it is well known that the art of embalming was known among the Hebrews, as well as among the Egyptians, although perhaps not so generally among the former, as among the latter people; and their method of embalming also might be different from that of the Egyptians. [781] Jacob and Joseph were no doubt, embalmed in the manner of the Egyptians, as they died in that country, Gen. 1, 2, 3, 26. When our Saviour was crucified his hasty burial obliged them only to wrap his body in linnen with a hundred pounds of myrrh, aloes, and similar spices, (part of the ingredients of embalming.) given by Nicodemus for that purpose: but Mary and other holy women had prepared ointment and spices for embalming it, Matt. xxviii. 59: Luke xxiii. 56: John xxx. 39, 40.

This art was no doubt transmitted from Jerusalem to this continent, by the before mentioned emigrants, which accounts for the finding of the mummies, and at the same time is another strong evidence of the authenticity of the Book of Mormon.—[ED.[6]


John E. Page (1 Jul 1842): "The city...was in some region on the South of what is called at this time, North America"

The city [Moronihah] was in some region on the South of what is called at this time, North America, and at the time our Lord Jesus Christ was crucified, near Jerusalem, in Asia. At that time there was a terrible destruction on this continent, because of the wickedness of the people, at which time those cities were destroyed . . . . And how was you destroyed? was the inquiry of those efficient antiquarians Messrs. Catherwood and Stephens, the charge d’affairs of these United States, as they sit on the wondrous walls of “Copan” . . . . Read book of Mormon, 3d edition, page 549. Let the reader observe, that the book of Mormon was published A. D. 1830. The discovery of this city by Messrs. Catherwood and Stephens was in 1840. Read Stephens’ travels in Central America, vol. i. page 130, 131, &c. Mr. Stephens states, “There is no account of these ruins until the visit of Col. Galindo in 1836, before referred to, who examined them under a commission from the Central American government.” Question.—If the book of Mormon is a fiction, no difference who wrote it, how did it happen to locate this city so nicely before it was known to exist till 1836 by any account that was extant in America, from which it could have been extracted?....

[Speaking of the destruction mentioned in 3 Nephi] The Lord of heaven could not allow sin on this continent in the character of the people, no more than he could on the Eastern continent.

The days are but few, thank the most high, before the Book of Mormon will be ranked with the Bible, as one of the best of heaven’s blessings: one the ecclesiastical history of the eastern and the other of the western continent....[7]


Millennial Star (9 Jul 1842): "the American Indians were once an enlightened people and understood the arts and sciences, as the ruined cities and monuments lately discovered fully prove"

He introduced an account of many American antiquities together with the discoveries lately made by Mr. Stevens, that all go to prove that the American Indians were once an enlightened people and understood the arts and sciences, as the ruined cities and monuments lately discovered fully prove....

He declared that Jesus did visit both the above named branches of the house of Israel during the forty days before his final ascension from the Mount of Olives, and that the Book of Mormon was not only a history of the dealings of God with his descendants of Joseph on this continent, previous to the crucifixion of our Lord, but also an account of the gospel as established among them by the personal appearance of Christ on this continent; and that the account of the gospel in the Book of Mormon agreed with account in the bible, thereby proving that the gospel of Christ is the same in every nation, composed of the same eternal truths, the same gifts, the same offices, the same ordinances, and everything the same as when Christ has an organised church on the earth....[8]


Joseph Smith (15 Jul 1842): "Stephens and Catherwood's researches in Central America abundantly testify of this thing"

NOTE: Page 862 of this issue of the Times and Seasons states: "The Times and Seasons, Is edited, printed and published about the first and fifteenth of every month, on the corner of Water and Bain Streets, Nauvoo, Hancock County, Illinois, by JOSEPH SMITH"

If men, in their researches into the history of this country, in noticing the mounds, fortifications, statues, architecture, implements of war, of husbandry, and ornaments of silver, brass, &c.-were to examine the Book of Mormon, their conjectures would be removed, and their opinions altered; uncertainty and doubt would be changed into certainty and facts; and they would find that those things that they are anxiously prying into were matters of history, unfolded in that book. They would find their conjectures were more than realized-that a great and a mighty people had inhabited this continent-that the arts sciences and religion, had prevailed to a very great extent, and that there was as great and mighty cities on this continent as on the continent of Asia. Babylon, Ninevah, nor any of the ruins of the Levant could boast of more perfect sculpture, better architectural designs, and more imperishable ruins, than what are found on this continent. Stephens and Catherwood's researches in Central America abundantly testify of this thing. The stupendous ruins, the elegant sculpture, and the magnificence of the ruins of Guatamala [Guatemala], and other cities, corroborate this statement, and show that a great and mighty people-men of great minds, clear intellect, bright genius, and comprehensive designs inhabited this continent. Their ruins speak of their greatness; the Book of Mormen [Mormon} unfolds their history.-ED.[9]

This statement was signed "ED," which attributes it directly to Joseph Smith.


Times and Seasons (15 Sep 1842): "these wonderful ruins of Palenque are among the mighty works of the Nephites"

NOTE: Page 926 of this issue of the Times and Seasons states: "The Times and Seasons, Is edited, printed and published about the first fifteenth of every month, on the corner of Water and Bain Streets, Nauvoo, Hancock County, Illinois, by JOSEPH SMITH."

Although Joseph Smith is listed as the editor at this time, opinions vary on whether it may have actually been either John Taylor or Wilford Woodruff who wrote this unsigned article.[10] [11] John Taylor later became the editor of Times and Seasons. Regardless of whether it was Joseph Smith, Wilford Woodruff, or John Taylor who wrote this article, its publication occurred prior to the death of Joseph Smith. The subject being discussed is a very popular book by John L. Stephens, Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas, and Yucatan, which Joseph Smith read and enjoyed:

Mr Stephens' great developments of antiquities are made bare to the eyes of all the people by reading the history of the Nephites in the Book of Mormon. They lived about the narrow neck of land, which now embraces Central America, with all the cities that can be found. Read the destruction of cities at the crucifixion of Christ...Let us turn our subject, however, to the Book of Mormon, where these wonderful ruins of Palenque are among the mighty works of the Nephites:—and the mystery is solved...Mr. Stephens' great developments of antiquities are made bare to the eyes of all the people by reading the history of the Nephites in the Book of Mormon. They lived about the narrow neck of land, which now embraces Central America, with all the cities that can be found. Read the destruction of cities at the crucifixion of Christ, pages 459-60. Who could have dreamed that twelve years would have developed such incontrovertible testimony to the Book of Mormon?(emphasis added)[12]


Times and Seasons (15 Sep 1842): "we read in the Book of Mormon that Jared and his brother came on to this continent...and covered the whole continent from sea to sea"

When we read in the Book of Mormon that Jared and his brother came on to this continent from the confusion and scattering at the Tower, and lived here more than a thousand years, and covered the whole continent from sea to sea, with towns and cities; and that Lehi went down by the Red sea to the great southern ocean, and crossed over to this land, and landed a little south of the Isthmus of Darien, and improved the country according to the word of the Lord, as a branch of the house of Israel, and then read such a goodly traditionary account, as the one below, we can not but think the Lord has a hand in bringing to pass his strange act, and proving the Book of Mormon true in the eyes of all the people. The extract below, comes as near the real fact, as the four Evangelists do to the crucifixion of Jesus.—Surely "facts are stubborn things." It will be as it ever has been, the world will prove Joseph smith a true prophet by circumstantial evidence, in experiments, as they did Moses and Elijah. Now read Stephens' story:

"According to Fuentes, the chronicler of the kingdom of Guatimala, the kings of Quinche and cachiquel were descended from the Toltecan Indians, who, when they came into this country, found it already inhabited by people of different nations. According to the the manuscripts of Don Juan Torres, the grandson of the last king of the Quiches, which was in the po ssession of the lieutenant general appointed by Pedro de Alvarado, and which Fuentes says he obtained by means of Father Francis vasques, the historian of the order of san Francis, the Toltecas themselves descended from the house of Israel, who were released by Moses from the tyranny of Pharaoh, and after crossing the Red sea, fell into Idolatry. To avoid the reproofs of Moses, or from fear of his inflicting upon them some chastisement, they separated from him and his brethren, and under the guidance of Tanub, their chief, passed from one continent to the other, to a place which they called the seven caverns, a part of the kingdom of Mexico, where they founded the celebrated city of Tula."[13]

Note that the author regards south of the isthmus of Darien (Panama) as being part of "the whole continent." He likewise invokes purported myths from Guatemala and other Central American areas as evidence for the Book of Mormon.


Millennial Star (Sep 1842): "as the western continent is separate from the eastern"

Therefore the oracles, the institutions, laws, government, ordinances and revelations in the Book of Mormon, together with the Urim and Thummim connected with it, have been perpetuated, preserved, and handed forth to this generation as entirely independent of, and separate from all the institutions and forms of the governments of the image, as the moon is separate from the earth; or rather as the western continent is separate from the eastern. They have come forth from Mount Cumorah without hands; that is, by the immediate interposition of the Almighty and his angels—so much for the oracles....

Empires might rise and flourish and pass away—thrones might crash amid the wreck of thrones, nations clash against nations, and in turn devour and be devoured, and still the western world reposed in security from all the commotions of the eastern hemisphere; its wall of waters secured it from foreign invasion, and bid defiance to their fleets and armies, and engines of war....

We might further add that in the covenants and oracles given to the Jaredites, the western continent is called a chosen land of the Lord, “choice above all others;” that it was destined by the God of heaven and held in re-[93]serve for a righteous people, a land of liberty that all nations who should dwell thereon should be free from bondage and from all other nations under heaven, if they would serve the true God; but if not, they should be destroyed when they were ripe in iniquity. No tyrannical government such as is so fearfully pourtrayed in the beasts and images of the book of Daniel should prevail, or long maintain its dominion in the “land of the free and the home of the brave.” (italics in original)[14]

He introduced an account of many American antiquities together with the discoveries lately made by Mr. Stevens, that all go to prove that the American Indians were once an enlightened people and understood the arts and sciences, as the ruined cities and monuments lately discovered fully prove . . . . The Book of Mormon was not only a history of the dealings of God with the descendants of Joseph on this continent, previous to the crucifixion of our Lord, but also an account of the gospel as established among them by the personal appearance of Christ on this continent . . .[15]


Times and Seasons (1 Oct 1842): "The city of Zarahemla, burnt at the crucifixion of the Savior, and rebuilt afterwards, stood upon this land"

NOTE: Page 942 of this issue of the Times and Seasons states: "The Times and Seasons, Is edited, printed and published about the first fifteenth of every month, on the corner of Water and Bain Streets, Nauvoo, Hancock County, Illinois, by JOSEPH SMITH."

[W]e have found another important fact relating to the truth of the Book of Mormon. Central America, or Guatimala [Guatemala], is situated north of the Isthmus of Darien and once embraced several hundred miles of territory from north to south.-The city of Zarahemla, burnt at the crucifixion of the Savior, and rebuilt afterwards, stood upon this land as will be seen from the following words in the book of Alma...It is certainly a good thing for the excellency and veracity, of the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon, that the ruins of Zarahemla have been found where the Nephites left them: and that a large stone with engravings upon it as Mosiah said; and a 'large round stone, with the sides sculptured in hieroglyphics,' as Mr. Stephens has published, is also among the left remembrances of the, (to him,) lost and unknown. We are not going to declare positively that the ruins of Quirigua are those of Zarahemla, but when the land and the stones, and the books tell the story so plain, we are of opinion, that it would require more proof than the Jews could bring to prove the disciples stole the body of Jesus from the tomb, to prove that the ruins of the city in question, are not one of those referred to in the Book of Mormon...It will not be a bad plan to compare Mr. Stephens' ruined cities with those in the Book of Mormon: light cleaves to light, and facts are supported by facts (emphasis added).[16]


Notes

  1. Robert P. Crawford, An Index or Reference to the Second and Third Editions of the Book of Mormon, Alphabetically Arranged (Philadelphia: Brown, Bicking & Guilbert, 1842), 4–21. off-site
  2. "Evidences in Proof of the Book of Mormon," Times and Seasons 3 no. 5 (1 January 1842), 640–644. off-site GospeLink (requires subscrip.) off-site
  3. "Extract [from C. Thompson’s Proclaimation and Warning]," Times and Seasons 3 no. 6 (15 January 1842), 657–59. off-site GospeLink (requires subscrip.) off-site
  4. Joseph Smith, "Church History," Times and Seasons 3 no. 9 (1 March 1842), 707. off-site GospeLink (requires subscrip.). See also History of the Church, 4:535–541. Volume 4 link.
  5. "Ruins in Central America," Millennial Star 2 no. 11 (March 1842), 161–65. off-site
  6. "A Catacomb of Mummies Found in Kentucky," Times and Seasons 3 no. 13 (2 May 1842), 781–782. off-site GospeLink (requires subscrip.) off-site
  7. John E. Page, "To a Disciple," Morning Chronicle (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) (1 July 1842). off-site
  8. "Reprinted from Weekly Bostonian (9 July 1842)," Millennial Star 3 no. 5 (September 1842), 86–88. off-site
  9. Joseph Smith (editor), "American Antiquities," Times and Seasons 3 no. 18 (15 July 1842), 858–860. off-site GospeLink (requires subscrip.) [{{{url}}} off-site]
  10. Kenneth W. Godfrey, "What is the Significance of Zelph In The Study Of Book of Mormon Geography?," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 8/2 (1999): 70–79. off-site wiki Godfrey believes that the author was either John Taylor or Wilford Woodruff.
  11. John E. Clark, "Archaeology, Relics, and Book of Mormon Belief," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 14/2 (2005): 38–49. off-site wiki Clark believes that the author was Joseph Smith.
  12. "Extract from Stephens' 'Incidents of Travel in Central America'," Times and Seasons 3 no. 22 (15 September 1842), 911–915. off-site GospeLink (requires subscrip.) off-site
  13. "Facts are Stubborn Things," Times and Seasons 3 no. 22 (15 September 1842), 921–922. off-site GospeLink (requires subscrip.) off-site
  14. "The Kingdom of God," Millennial Star 3 no. 5 (September 1842), 92–94. off-site
  15. Weekly Bostonian, 9 July 1842. Reprinted in the Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star 3/5 (September 1842): 87.
  16. "Zarahemla," Times and Seasons 3 no. 23 (1 October 1842), 927. off-site GospeLink (requires subscrip.) off-site