One’s belief in the Book of Mormon should be solidly grounded on a spiritual witness obtained by personal study and prayer. I have a personal witness of the truthfulness of this book and admonish others to seek the same witness. Once I gained a testimony of its divine authenticity, I found myself fascinated with the prospect of finding and visiting the lands of the Nephites which led me to researchers who have compiled insights from the man who talked with the Nephite Prophet Moroni face to face.
Joseph Smith has done many things to enlighten the understanding of men throughout the restoration of the gospel. In regards to the geography of the Book of Mormon, he has left us his testimony.
The following are quotes from Joseph Smith (and a few others) that shed much light on the subject. I’ve highlighted in bold the particular parts of these statements that recount geography.
JOSEPH SMITH’S JOURNAL ACCOUNT REGARDING MORONI’S FIRST VISIT, NOVEMBER 1835
“He told me of a sacred record which was written on plates of gold, I saw in the vision the place where they were deposited, he said the indians were the literal descendants of Abraham…” (Joseph Smith History 1:34 )
NOTE: Indians refers to the Native Americans all around upstate New York.
LUCY MACK SMITH RECOUNTS JOSEPH AFTER THE FIRST VISION:
“From this time forth, Joseph continued to receive instructions from the Lord, and we continued to get the children together every evening, for the purpose of listening while he gave us a relation of the same…. He would describe the ancient inhabitants of this continent, their dress, mode of traveling, and their animals upon which they rode; their cities, their buildings, with every particular; their mode of warfare; and also their religious worship. This he would do with as much ease, seemingly, as if he had spent his whole life with them.” (History of Joseph Smith by his mother, 1954 edition, pp. 82-83)
PURPOSE OF THE BOOK OF MORMON
“Wherefore, it is an abridgment of the record of the people of Nephi, and also of the Lamanites—Written to the Lamanites, who are a remnant of the house of Israel; and also to Jew and Gentile—Written by way of commandment.” (The Book of Mormon)
IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE CHURCH IS ORGANIZED, THE LORD COMMANDS THE FIRST MISSIONARIES TO GO TO THE REMNANT OF THE LAMANITES. SEPTEMBER 8, 1830
“ 8 And now, behold, I say unto you that you (Oliver Cowdery) shall go unto the Lamanites and preach my gospel unto them: …..” (D&C 28:8)
“1) And now concerning my servant Parley P. Pratt…
2) And that which I have appointed unto him is that he shall go with my servants, Oliver Cowdery and Peter Whitmer, Jun., into the wilderness among the Lamanites.” (D&C 32:1-2 October 1830)
WHERE DID THEY GO?
“Thus ended our first Indian mission, in which we had preached the Gospel in its fullness and distributed the record of their forefathers among three tribes…. the Cattaraugus Indians, near Buffalo, N.Y.; the Wyandots, of Ohio: and the Delawares, west of Missouri.” (Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, p 56-61)
(NOTE; The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints didn’t send missionaries to Central America until 1947. Almost 100 years after this commandment was issued by revelation.)
JOSEPH ALSO WENT PERSONALLY TO PREACH TO THE LAMANITES. AUGUST 12, 1841
“I accordingly went down, and met Keokuk, Kis-Ku-Kosh, Appenoose, and about one hundred chiefs and braves of those tribes (Sac, Fox), with their families.”
“I conducted them to the meeting grounds in the grove, and instructed them in many things which the Lord had revealed unto me concerning their fathers, and the promises that were made concerning them in the Book of Mormon.” (History of the Church: 4: 401-2 )
JOSEPH SMITH’S LETTER TO MR. JOHN WENTWORTH MARCH 1842
“March 1, 1842.—At the request of Mr. John Wentworth, editor and proprietor of the Chicago Democrat, I have written the following sketch of the rise, progress, persecution, and faith of the Latter-day Saints, of which I have the honor, under God, of being the founder. ….all that I shall ask at his hands is that he publish the account entire, ungarnished, and without misrepresentation.”
(Note: this letter is one of the most important letters written by Joseph Smith because from it we get many details from the first vision, meetings with Moroni and this is also where the articles of faith originate.)
“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… “(History of the Church 1: 301)
JOSEPH SMITH’S LETTER TO THE AMERICAN REVIVALIST FEB 2, 1833
“The Book of Mormon is a record of the forefathers of our western tribes of Indians… By it, we learn that our western tribes of Indians, are descendants from that Joseph that was sold into Egypt, and that the land of America is a promised land unto them.
NOTE: At the time, anything west of the Alegehny and appalacian mountains was part of the West.
NOTE: For those who claim that Joseph Smith was merely stating his opinion, his follow up letter clearly refutes that. After his first letter was not published in its entirety Joseph Smith sent a second follow up letter to N. E. Seaton, Rochester. In it he states:
I was somewhat disappointed on the receiving my paper with only a part of my letter inserted in it. The letter which I wrote you for publication I wrote by the commandment of God. ” (History of the Church 1: 326)
LETTER PENNED BY JOSEPH SMITH TO EMMA DURRING ZION’S CAMP MARCH WHICH TRAVELED FROM EASTERN OHIO THROUGH ILLINOIS TO MISOURI. JUNE 4, 1834.
“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 & 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.” (The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, by Dean C. Jessee (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1984), p 324 in care of Community of Christ church)
THE ZELPH MOUND DISCOVERY DURING ZION’S CAMP MARCH AFTER CROSSING THE ILLINOIS RIVER. JUNE 3, 1834
Photograph by Ryan Fisher
“During our travels we visited several of the mounds which had been thrown up by the ancient inhabitants of this country-Nephites, Lamanites, etc., and this morning I went up on a high mound, near the river, accompanied by the brethren. From this mound we could overlook the tops of the trees and view the prairie on each side of the river as far as our vision could extend, and the scenery was truly delightful.
On the top of the mound were stones which presented the appearance of three altars having been erected one above the other, according to the ancient order; and the remains of bones were strewn over the surface of the ground. The brethren procured a shovel and a hoe, and removing the earth to the depth of about one foot, discovered the skeleton of a man, almost entire, and between his ribs the stone point of a Lamanitish arrow, which evidently produced his death. Elder Burr Riggs retained the arrow. The contemplation of the scenery around us produced peculiar sensations in our bosoms; and subsequently the visions of the past being opened to my understanding by the Spirit of the Almighty, I discovered that the person whose skeleton was before us was a white Lamanite, a large, thick-set man, and a man of God. His name was Zelph. He was a warrior and chieftain under the great prophet Onandagus, who was known from the Hill Cumorah, or eastern sea to the Rocky mountains. The curse was taken from Zelph, or, at least, in part-one of his thigh bones was broken by a stone flung from a sling, while in battle, years before his death. He was killed in battle by the arrow found among his ribs, during the last great struggle of the Lamanites and Nephites.” (History of the Church Vol. 2: 79-80, June 3, 1834, 1948 edition)
NOTE: The “Zelph” mound was excavated recently and carbon dated to 385 AD.
THE LORD REVEALS WHERE ZARAHEMLA IS TO BE REBUILT
3 Let them build up a city unto my name upon the land opposite the city of Nauvoo, and let the name of Zarahemla be named upon it. (D&C 125:3)
ONE MONTH BEFORE JOSEPH’S MARTYRDOM HE TAUGHT THE LAMANITES. MAY 23, 1844
“1PM held council with the Indians Sac & Fox in my back kitchen. I replied….Great Spirit wants you to be united and live in peace. (I) found a book, (presenting the Book of Mormon) which told me about your fathers and Great Spirit told me you must send to all the tribes you can, and tell them to live in peace, and when any of our people come to see you treat them as we treat you.” (Joseph Smith Diary entry, Thursday, May 23rd, 1844)
These statements from Joseph Smith clearly state where the Nephite lands are. Not only what continent, but what Country, and even which states within the United States are Nephite Lands along with specific tribes who are Lamanite descendants. Joseph even digs up the grave of a fallen rightous Lamanite warrior and receives revelation about his name, when and how he died. And if that isn’t enough the Lord reveals to Joseph Smith the location of Zarahemla, the capital of the Nephite nation, in the Doctrine and Covenants. Can it be any clearer or more specific? Hardly.
Why some believe that the events of the Book of Mormon took place elsewhere is a topic for another discussion. One may interpret the revelation on Zarahemla in different ways, but when read in light of all that Joseph Smith left us, the simplest understanding makes perfect sense. All I hope to accomplish with this post is to draw attention to these precious statements and add these enlightenments to the long list of revelations from the prophet Joseph Smith.
Please share your views on these statements by adding comments below.