Question: Does the story of Zelph have implications for Book of Mormon geography?

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Question: Does the story of Zelph have implications for Book of Mormon geography?

Joseph Smith was of the opinion that the natives of the area had something to do with Book of Mormon peoples

Whatever the case with the Zelph reports, Joseph Smith was of the opinion that the natives of the area had something to do with Book of Mormon peoples, calling them "Nephites." In a statement in a letter to his wife, dated June 3, 1834, he wrote:

The whole of our journey, in the midst of so large a company of social honest and sincere men, wandering over the plains of the Nephites, recounting occasionally the history of the Book of Mormon, roving over the mounds of that once beloved people of the Lord, picking up their skulls and their bones, as a proof of its divine authenticity, and gazing upon a country the fertility, the splendour and the goodness so indescribable, all serves to pass away time unnoticed.[1]

But keep in mind, that even in the Book of Mormon, groups such as the Mulekites and the people of Ammon joined the Nephite Nation over time and were called by the name Nephite, only because they had given their allegiance to that faction politically. This had nothing to do with ancestry in a great many cases. Therefore, Joseph Smith's use of the word here doesn't necessarily imply ancestry of the peoples in the area. Furthermore, Joseph Smith's opinions on these points are not necessarily based on revelation, nor are they necessarily any more reliable than the rest of the opinions previously held by other General Authorites, some of whom later held the same office that Joseph Smith held. Since their opinions were not all the same, there is no reason to assume that anyone had actual revelation on these points. Only future revelation can clarify these points.

Joseph Smith would also make later remarks that included Central America and its inhabitants as also being relevant to Book of Mormon geography and peoples

Joseph Smith would also make later remarks that included Central America and its inhabitants as also being relevant to Book of Mormon geography and peoples. (See Bernhisel letter and July 1842 Times and Seasons Wilford Woodruff, who wrote one of the Zelph accounts, also regarded a book on Central American ruins to be evidence for the Book of Mormon account (See City of Copan). Parley P. Pratt (March 1842 and Orson Pratt (August 1843) were of a similar view.

Notes

  1. Dean C. Jessee, The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, revised edition, (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 2002), 324.