An Old Map Offers More Potential Evidence on Joseph’s Views on Book of Mormon Lands

On this blog, I’ve previously discussed statements showing Joseph Smith’s views in support of Mesoamerica as the primary location for Book of Mormon events in the New
World. Thanks to Warren Aston, I just learned of another factor to consider. In the archives of the Church is a map from some early Latter-day Saints allegedly giving information obtained from Joseph Smith about the travels of Moroni from Bountiful in Book of Mormon lands to the burial place of the Book of Mormon in the Hill Cumorah of New York State. Bountiful, according to the map, was in “Sentral America” (Central America). For details, see H. Donl Peterson, “Moroni, the Last of the Nephite Prophets” in The Book of Mormon: Fourth Nephi Through Moroni, From Zion to Destruction.

The map claims that Moroni stopped in Manti, Utah on his way to New York. Well, I guess that could happen. But to me the interesting point for now is that the statements of the men involved are again consistent with the idea that Joseph Smith was open to Mesoamerica/Central America as a setting for ancient Book of Mormon events. Potentially another piece of evidence for understanding Joseph’s views.

Author: Jeff Lindsay

73 thoughts on “An Old Map Offers More Potential Evidence on Joseph’s Views on Book of Mormon Lands

  1. An institute teacher that I had told me of this favorite Mormon myth that Moroni had passed through Manti and dedicated that spot for the Manti temple. The teacher told me (he had a PhD in history) that this story originated from a bishop (if I remember correctly) who lived in the Manti area. Given that Joseph Smith had no knowledge of the area of Manti Utah, this story was probably more wishful thinking than fact.

    Steve

  2. Thanks for the link. It was John A Peterson mentioned in the article who was my institute teacher. I loved his classes.

    Steve

  3. Ardis' blog post that JimD referenced is a definite reading for anyone interested in that map.
    Ardis put the whole story in her "myths binder".

  4. Such a difficult topic. Was there a conspiracy to shoot JFK can't even be solved, much less the topics you discuss.

    BTW, I have determined without a doubt in my mind Oswald acted alone.

  5. Two hill cummorahs, the garden of Eden is in Missouri and now Moroni passed through Manti UT.

    What's funny Jeff, it sounds like even YOU can hardly believe that one!

  6. Two Cumorahs (actually one major Hill Cumorah and one little bump in New York misnamed the Hill Cumorah, in light of a somewhat sloppy of the text and easy but inaccurate assumptions) is a pretty simple matter, Fig. Interested in understanding the real issues? It's actually a pretty interesting story with a convergence of evidences pointing to Mesoamerica as the location for Book of Mormon events.

    I don't know how Moroni got from Mesoamerica to New York. Long journey, but not an impossible one, even with a Manti stop on the way, But I consider that simply speculation. What isn't speculation but is based on publications under Joseph's control is the idea that he was quite open to the idea of Book of Mormon lands being in southern Mexico and parts further south.

  7. The link to Ardis Parshall's piece, along with the final comment there showing that the Moroni myth is being downplayed (if not erased), suggests that these maps are "potential evidence" not of Joseph's views but that the entire Mesoamerican theory is premised on folk beliefs.
    Joseph never referred to Salt Lake City or Utah, as these maps do. Nor did he ever place the land Bountiful in Central America.

  8. … suggests that these maps are "potential evidence" not of Joseph's views but that the entire Mesoamerican theory is premised on folk beliefs.

    Of course it does no such thing, anymore than fingering the "George Washington cut down a cherry tree" story as a myth, and identifying Parson Weems as the mythmaker, suggests that the existence of George Washington as an historical figure is premised on folk beliefs.

    The story of Moroni in Manti is almost certainly a status-boosting tale by Warren Snow. The map is definitely a late 19th century artifact. The map's claimed provenance is so questionable that it cannot be accepted at face value. BUT — folklore like this takes root when it fits in generally with what the folk already believe, which may suggest that by the time this map was drawn, and who knows how much earlier, the folk already accepted a Mesoamerican setting for the Book of Mormon. Did that belief exist as early as Joseph Smith? I don't know, that's not my area of expertise. But the map *is* suggestive of 19th century acceptance of that belief, which is, I think, Jeff Lindsay's only point in this post.

    (It was fun to see so many commenters familiar with my old Keepa post. Thanks!)

  9. Jeff, your speculation is unauthorized.

    "Doctrinal interpretation is the province of the First Presidency. The Lord has given that stewardship to them by revelation. No teacher has the right to interpret doctrine for the members of the Church"

    President Ezra Taft Benson
    "The Gospel Teacher and His Message -Charge to Religious Educators," pp.51-52

    Apostle Joseph Fielding Smith taught:
    "Within recent years there has arisen among certain students of the Book of Mormon a theory to the effect that within the period covered by the Book of Mormon, the Nephites and Lamanites were confined almost entirely within the borders of the territory comprising Central America and the southern portion of Mexico—the isthmus of Tehauntepec probably being the "narrow neck" of land spoken of in the Book of Mormon rather than the isthmus of Panama.
    This theory is founded upon the assumption that it was impossible for the colony of Lehi's to multiply and fill the hemisphere within the limits of 1,000 years, or from the coming of Lehi from Jerusalem to the time of the destruction of the Nephites at the Hill Cumorah. Moreover, they claim that the story in the Book of Mormon of the migrations, building of cities, and the wars and contentions, preclude the possibility of the people spreading over great distances such as we find within the borders of North and South America….This modernistic theory of necessity, in order to be consistent, must place the waters of Ripliancum and the Hill Cumorah some place within the restricted territory of Central America, notwithstanding the teachings of the Church to the contrary for upwards of 100 years. Because of this theory some members of the Church have become confused and greatly disturbed in their faith in the Book of Mormon. It is for this reason that evidence is here presented to show that it is not only possible that these places could be located as the Church has held during the past century, but that in very deed such is the case. It is known that the Hill Cumorah where the Nephites were destroyed is the hill where the Jaredites were also destroyed. This hill was known to the Jaredites as Rama. It was approximately near to the waters of Ripliancum, which the Book of Ether says, "by interpretation, is large, or to exceed all." Mormon adds: "And it came to pass that we did march forth to the land of Cumorah, and we did pitch our tents round about the hill Cumorah; and it was in a land of many waters, rivers, and fountains; and here we had hope to gain advantage over the Lamanites."

    It must be conceded that this description fits perfectly the land of Cumorah in New York, as it has been known since the visitation of Moroni to the Prophet Joseph Smith, for the hill is in the proximity of the Great Lakes and also in the land of many rivers and fountains. Moreover, the Prophet Joseph Smith himself is on record, definitely declaring the present hill called Cumorah to be the exact hill spoken of in the Book of Mormon.

    Further, the fact that all of his associates from the beginning down have spoken of it as the identical hill where Mormon and Moroni hid the records, must carry some weight. It is difficult for a reasonable person to believe that such men as Oliver Cowdery. Brigham Young, Parley P. Pratt, Orson Pratt, David Whitmer, and many others, could speak frequently of the Spot where the Prophet Joseph Smith obtained the plates as the Hill Cumorah, and not be corrected by the Prophet, if that were not the fact. That they did speak of this hill in the days of the Prophet in this definite manner is an established record of history…."
    (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, Vol.3, Bookcraft, 1956, p.232-43.)

    There's more if you look up this important teaching

  10. ….. so JFS had an opinion about where Cumorah is and your point is that Jeff is somehow not allowed to speculate?

  11. JFS is clearly teaching doctrine, Pierce. This teaching is found in "DOCTRINES of Salvation" If you'd like to reduce it to an opinion, well that's your choice.
    Ezra Taft Benson is very clear when he said "Doctrinal interpretation is the province of the First Presidency. The Lord has given that stewardship to them by revelation. No teacher has the right to INTERPRET doctrine for the members of the Church"

    Those are the words of your First Presidency, not mine

  12. Never mind the fact that "Doctrines of Salvation" is not canonical, nor has it ever been accepted as such. This most recent conference made it pretty clear to me what is doctrine. See Elder Nelson, Elder Ballard, and those they cited in their talks. More to the point, see D&C 107:27, which itself is canonical.

  13. Apostle JFS's statement is clearly adamant and is presented as much more than opinion.
    "the Prophet Joseph Smith himself is on record, definitely declaring the present hill called Cumorah to be the exact hill spoken of in the Book of Mormon"

    "It is difficult for a reasonable person to believe that such men as Oliver Cowdery. Brigham Young, Parley P. Pratt, Orson Pratt, David Whitmer, and many others, could speak frequently of the Spot where the Prophet Joseph Smith obtained the plates as the Hill Cumorah, and not be corrected by the Prophet, if that were not the fact. That they did speak of this hill in the days of the Prophet in this definite manner is an established record of history…."

    Are you telling me an Apostle such as JFS and all these other men are wrong?

  14. I'm telling you it doesn't bother me if they are. At least not on trivial matters like where the Cumorah of the Book of Mormon was. Maybe they're right. In this case it doesn't matter to me in the slightest.

  15. I appreciate you honesty. This is obviously not as trivial to many confused members, Jeff or JFS. The implications of BOM geography make a huge difference concerning archaeological evidence or a lack thereof, not to mention the implications of this list of LDS prophets and apostles being so of base

  16. Jeff, in reading the statement from the apostle Joseph Fielding Smith in Doctrines of Salvation,(see above) Vol.3, Bookcraft, 1956, p.232-43.

    Will you say the apostle is wrong?

  17. I agree that the implications of BoM geography make a difference where archeology is concerned. But whether JFS or anyone else was right or wrong about BoM geography doesn't matter. I don't have to know with certainty where Cumorah was in order to have a relationship with the Savior. I don't have to know where the sword of laban is, or where Lehi landed, or anything of the sort in order to know that God loves me, and that He has restored His gospel to the earth. So a prophet or anyone else being wrong about the physical details of the BoM without making the BoM false, and without leading me astray.

  18. In that last sentence I meant to say "a prophet CAN BE wrong without making the BoM false, and without leading me or anyone else astray," not "a prophet BEING wrong…" Sorry

  19. Hi Flying Fig,

    "Doctrinal interpretation is the province of the First Presidency. The Lord has given that stewardship to them by revelation. No teacher has the right to interpret doctrine for the members of the Church"

    President Ezra Taft Benson
    "The Gospel Teacher and His Message -Charge to Religious Educators," pp.51-52

    Did I miss a statement from the First Presidency about the location of the Hill Cumorah? I've seen other statements from the First Presidency but the location of the Hill Cumorah was not one of them.

    Steve

  20. Sure, apostles can be wrong. So can prophets, bloggers, scientists, and anonymous commenters, even though we humans always think we are right.

    Where the Hill Cumorah is matters very little to most people and is a minor point in terms of the meaning of the Book of Mormon, but for those of us interested in pinning down details and understanding the Book of Mormon from many angles, searching for evidence and insights requires careful enough reading of the text so that we're not looking in clearly wrong places. The battles at Cumorah are clearly not in New York State. The Hill Cumorah of the Book of Mormon was NOT the place where the Book of Mormon was buried, but where the Nephite records MINUS the Book of Mormon were kept.

    Joseph's excitement about the finds in Mesoamerica and statements linking Mesoamerica to the Book of Mormon in Church publications from Nauvoo that he oversaw and edited, greatly damage the claims some people make regarding the Great Lakes area as the scene for the Book of Mormon. Understanding that Joseph was interested in Mesoamerica as a plausible setting for the Book of Mormon can be valuable in helping curious Latter-day Saints be open-minded enough to consider the evidence. It's the only area in the Americas that makes any sense if we are to find the setting for the Book of Mormon. Apostles who grew up with with common but sloppy views on Cumorah do not automatically gain inspired cartological, geological, or anthropological information upon being ordained, and can be forgiven for holding on to errant old assumptions based on sloppy readings of the text.

  21. Fig engages in the favorite exercise of antis, showing random statements from church leaders that we can disagree with today, claiming that they are somehow OFFICIAL doctrine (behold, "Doctrine" in the title!), and then expecting us to lose respect for our leaders because they were not suddenly infallible in all their views upon ordination to some high office. Yawn! Moses, Noah, Jonah, Peter, Joseph, Brigham, and JFS all got some things wrong at times. They made mistakes. Said things in ways we wouldn't say them today. Understood some things improperly. Even sinned sometimes. Get over it.

    Mortal leaders, mortal results, with occasional but awesome divine inspiration and real authority, in spite of flaws–and the power of the Book of Mormon is evidence of that, for those willing to exercise a little faith.

  22. Jeff, you accuse me of using the common"anti" tactics of using a GA's own words against him and you deflect with the common and oh-so convenient LDS tactic of "we believe everything a GA says as doctrine until it is proven wrong, becomes too controversial, or is no longer culturally acceptable and is now considered an "opinion", disregarded, disavowed and thrown out.
    Matters that were one accepted as gospel truth are spun into oblivion with masterful skill as to cast doubt on the words of your very own prophets! It's very impressive

  23. "Did I miss a statement from the First Presidency about the location of the Hill Cumorah? I've seen other statements from the First Presidency but the location of the Hill Cumorah was not one of them."

    Hi Steve,
    Yes, JFS has made very clear and adamant teachings about BOM geography and hill cumorah locations specifically (see post above), but according to Jeff the apostle was very wrong.
    I'm just wondering who we're supposed to believe

  24. Jeff is of course right to point out that prophets are not infallible when making statements below the level of revealed-and-canonized doctrine.

    But in addition to the question of prophetic infallibility is that of prophetic authority. History demonstrates again and again that, when speaking sub-cathedra, as it were, the prophets have been embarrassingly wrong on any number of important issues. So, when they make such statements today, why should anyone trust them?

    For example, when members were told to work for the passage of California's Proposition 8, how were they to know their leaders would not later to prove as wrong on homosexuality as Brigham Young proved to be on the question of race?

  25. Strange that Jeff would immediately assume fig is an "anti." Fig wasn't saying anything counter to the church, Jeff, he was merely proving that your speculation is not condoned by the church. Given the recent rise of bloggers being excommunicated for expounding on doctrine, maybe it's time to watch your words more carefully. Does this thought make me an anti too?

  26. "the prophets have been embarrassingly wrong on any number of important issues. So, when they make such statements today, why should anyone trust them?"

    My point exactly. Should we ignore anything a GA says until it's officially ratified as doctrine? Otherwise they'll always have an out. Eden in Missouri? Adam is God? Blacks are a cursed race? As long as it's not "official", a prophet or apostle can apparently say anything he wants and be excused for it later as an "opinion"

  27. Hi Flying Fig,

    A statement from the First Presidency will have all three involved and not a just a statement from a single person.

    Steve

  28. Anon,

    It is you that is making assumptions. Jeff said that he is engaging in a favorite practice of anti's (not that he is)–which is to use antiquated statements of Church leaders that were speaking unofficially and absent revelation in order to discredit efforts to gain a better understanding of something.

    Someone who is not anti allows US to determine what our beliefs are on a given subject, and allows US the ability to apply the litmus of what is doctrine and what isn't. Fig is doing the opposite.