Question: Did Joseph Smith have access to materials related to Nahom at Allegheny College?

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Question: Did Joseph Smith have access to materials related to Nahom at Allegheny College?

At least two critical websites have asserted that Joseph could have accessed materials related to Nahom at Allegheny College because, they claim, it was only "50 miles from Harmony"

A 1782 map by Carsten Niebuhr shows "Nehem" in the proper location. (See the map at http://www.davidrumsey.com/luna/servlet/detail/RUMSEY~8~1~31563~1150042:A-new-map-of-Arabia-divided-into-it) Could Joseph Smith have accessed a copy of this map?

1782 map by Carsten Niebuhr shows the name "Nehem". A copy of this map was located at Allegheny College, which was 320 miles away from Harmony Township, Pennsylvania, during the time that Joseph translated the Book of Mormon

Several websites that are critical of the Church have presented the following argument:[1]

This FAIR Link mentions Niebuhr's and d'Anville's books. It also says that neither were at Dartmouth when Joseph was a boy, nor were they available in Manchester, New York in the lending library.

Now for the rest of the story. Allegheny College in Meadville Pennsylvania is about 50 miles from Harmony. Its library began through donations from private individuals. In 1824, Thomas Jefferson wrote that he hoped his University of Virginia could someday possess the richness of Allegheny's library.

In the Allegheny's collection were both books that apologists claim were not available to Joseph Smith. Here is an 1823 catalog:

D'Anville's book on ancient geography is on page 18
[Carsten] Niebuhr [1782 map] is on page 44

The critics conclude with the following assertion:

Both books were fifty miles away from where the translation was being done.

This is not, however, the case. These books were actually 320 miles from where Joseph Smith lived.

The "Harmony" located 50 miles from Allegheny College is not the same as the Harmony Township where Joseph Smith lived

Actually, the "Harmony" located 50 miles from Allegheny College is not the same as the Harmony Township where Joseph Smith lived. Indeed, if one simply types “Harmony, Pennsylvania” into Google Maps, it does indicate that a town called “Harmony” is located approximately 50 miles from Allegheny College in Meadville. However, the critics got it wrong. The Harmony Township in which Joseph lived is located 320 miles from Allegheny College. This is easily confirmed by typing “Harmony Township, Susquehanna, PA” into Google Maps.

Allegheny College, at 320 miles distance, was too far from Harmony Township for Joseph to have seen the name “Nahom” on one of the maps located there

FairMormon has acknowledged that two books were available at Allegheny College in Meadville Pennsylvania containing maps which showed the location of Nahom (alternatively spelled Nihm or Nehem). We concluded that even though these books were present, that they were not located close enough to Harmony Township for Joseph to have utilized them. The critics, however, appear to have utilized a faulty Google search to assert that these books were located close enough to where Joseph Smith lived for him to have used them. For example, the critical website MormonThink attempted to refute FairMormon's argument on their "Book of Mormon Problems" page. MormonThink stated in June 2014: "Now for the rest of the story. Allegheny College in Meadville Pennsylvania is about 50 miles from Harmony. ...In the Allegheny's collection were both books that apologists claim were not available to Joseph Smith." However, after Neal Rappleye and Stephen Smoot pointed out in the paper "Book of Mormon Minimalists and the NHM Inscriptions: A Response to Dan Vogel" that the critics had selected the wrong town of Harmony for their Google map search, MormonThink removed the claim and it no longer appears as of October 2014. The claim still appears on at least one other critical website.[2]

  • Harmony Township, Forest County, Pennsylvania is located 50 miles from Allegheny College, however, this is not the Harmony Township in which Joseph Smith lived.
  • The second possibility is Harmony Township, Beaver County, Pennsylvania, which is located 86 miles from Allegheny College. But this isn’t the location at which Joseph Smith lived either.
  • Finally, we have Harmony Township, Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania. This is where Joseph Smith lived and translated the Book of Mormon. The Harmony Township in which Joseph lived is located 320 miles from Allegheny College. This is easily confirmed by typing “Harmony Township, Susquehanna, PA” into Google Maps.

FairMormon therefore stands by its assertion that Allegheny College, at 320 miles distance, was too far from Harmony Township for Joseph to have seen the name “Nahom” on one of the maps located there.

Distance from harmony township susquehanna PA to Allegheny College Meadville PA.png


Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture, "Book of Mormon Minimalists and the NHM Inscriptions: A Response to Dan Vogel"

Neal Rappleye and Stephen O. Smoot,  Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture, (2014)
These maps were not accessible to Joseph Smith. The claim in the online article that “Allegheny College in Meadville Pennsylvania is about 50 miles from Harmony” is simply false. There is a Harmony, Pennsylvania, that is close to 50 miles from Meadville, but the Harmony Township where Joseph Smith did most of the translating of the Book of Mormon is where Oakland, Pennsylvania, is now located. Oakland is approximately 275–325 miles of travel from Allegheny College.

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Notes

  1. MormonThink.com and Mormon Curtain (accessed 4 June 2014). As of 18 October 2014, MormonThink has removed it, while it is still present on Mormon Curtain.
  2. The claim still appears on Mormon Curtain as of 18 October 2014.