Monthly Archives: March 2015

Manifest Destiny — Savages in North America

Joseph-Knew-Westward-expansionAmerica’s Move West

In the 19th century, as America pushed westward, there was an obstacle in the way of the U.S. government; there were people already living on the lands identified for expansion. Native Americans had been there for centuries. They had built cities, farmed land, created art, practiced religion, fought wars and studied the stars and planets. Forcing such advanced people off of their own land was not an idea easily justified.

The idea that America was a divinely created country, with a government and constitution designed by God, lead many in the country’s leadership to believe that by virtue of this divine intervention America had a mission and a destiny. The doctrine of Manifest Destiny was adopted. This doctrine stood on three pillars:

  • John-WinthropThere is a Divine virtue inherent in the people and institutions of the United States.
  • It is the mission of  America to redeem and remake the world in the pattern of the United States.
  • America has a destiny under God to fulfill that mission.

In his 1630 sermon “A Model of Charity” (often called the “City Upon a Hill” sermon), Puritan John Winthrop admonished the colonists to become a “city upon a hill”, watched by the rest of the world. That same idea was prevalent during the American Revolution. Thomas Paine’s 1776 pamphlet “Common Sense” promoted the idea that the revolution provided a way to create a new and better society.

A Good Idea Gone Bad

Unfortunately , the ideas presented by Winthrop, Paine and others were distorted and used to force Native Americans off their lands.

Moving westward and forcibly taking land from intelligent, civilized people was not something a shining city upon a hill would do. However, if the natives are primitive, Godless savages, taking their lands is not only acceptable, it can be construed as God’s work.

Joseph-Knew-Indian_Land_for_Sale_PosterAs America entered the 19th century, it was well known and well documented that Native Americans were not savages. Evidence of an advanced civilization was found from the Atlantic to the Rocky Mountains. Researchers, and archeologists had found great cities dedicated to religion, commerce, and science.

To ease the conscience of those determined to fulfill America’s Manifest Destiny, Native American cities were destroyed, artifacts were covered up and evidence of great societies was hidden. With evidence to the contrary destroyed, America’s natives could be classified as savages standing in the way of civilized destiny. The way was now open for America to become a shining city upon a hill stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to beyond the Rocky Mountains.

It should be known that not everyone in America’s leadership supported such tactics. The idea of Manifest Destiny was a contested idea. In his book, “What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America 1815-1848”, Daniel Walker Howe writes, “American imperialism did not represent an American consensus; it provoked bitter dissent within the national polity…. Whigs saw America’s moral mission as one of democratic example rather than one of conquest.” (Daniel Walker Howe, What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America 1815-1848, (2007) pp 705-6)

Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were among the religious leaders who opposed the actions being taken. Smith traveled among them and often welcomed Native American leaders to Nauvoo. Cowdery was against the idea of removing Native Americans from their land by force. He believed the land should be “held in common with the paleface.” (See the article Lamanites in North America)

The forced removal of native people from their lands was justified because they were “savages”. But in a sadly ironic twist, the destruction of evidence of great civilizations and the slaughter of men, women and children in the name of destiny, was true savagery. America had moved far from the “Model of Charity” John Winthrop envisioned.

Lost Civilizations

By destroying or covering up Native American cities, not only was the history of great societies lost, but evidence of the Book of Mormon hidden. Fortunately many of these ruins are being rediscovered and movements are underway to preserve and protect them.

The following is a short segment from the  documentary, “The Lost Civilizations of North America” by Steven E. Smoot, Barry McLerran and Rick Stout. In the documentary scholars such as Dr. Roger Kennedy, former director to the Smithsonian’s American History Museum, discuss the “wanton destruction” of Native American structures in the name of Manifest Destiny.

An up-coming series, “Hidden in the Heartland”, by film maker Kels Goodman, documents evidence of great civilizations in Pre-Columbian America and their connection to the Book of Mormon. The following is a trailer for this series.

Copyright © 2015 by Energy Media Works LLC

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The full documentary “The Lost Civilizations of North America” is available here.

You can follow the series “Hidden in the Heartland” on Facebook.

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Image Credits:

Painting of westward expansion by Emanuel Leutze (1816-1868)

Engraving by and unknown artist — original at the New York Public Library

Painting of John Winthrop by Vandyke

Indian Land for Sale — Public Domain

Ancient Burial Sites of New York

Joseph-Knew-Mormon-Media-Network-E-G-SquireAntiquities of New York

In earlier articles we have discussed the skillful and precise construction of great cities, large temple mounds and military defenses. The information in these articles has come from a variety of sources, including personal visits to the sites. Some of the best information on the ancient civilizations of North America has been provided by Ephraim George Squier (1821 – 1888). Along with his research and publishing partner Edwin Hamilton Davis (1811 – 1888), he unknowingly provided us with great insight into the lives, religions, cities and social networks of the people of the Book of Mormon.

In his book, Antiquities of the State of New York, Squier chronicles something much different than is found in his previous publications, Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley and Aboriginal Monuments of the State of New York. Instead of descriptions of beautifully aligned cities, or carefully laid out military forts, he reports of works “constructed in haste for temporary purposes”. He details evidence of “indiscriminate massacres” and “bone-pits”.

Connections to the Book of Mormon

Joseph Knew Mormon Media Network Final Battle near Buffalo NYIn the Book of Mormon, in the 6th chapter of Mormon, the Nephites gather to the land Cumorah for the final battles with the Lamanites. If, as we have proposed in a previous article, the land Cumorah was in upstate New York near the Hill Cumorah, Rochester, and Buffalo, then the following passage from Squier’s chapter Ancient Work near Buffalo takes on significant meaning.

“Tradition fixes upon this spot as the scene of the final and most bloody conflict between the Iroquois and the ‘Gah-kwas’ or Erie — a tradition which has been supposed to derive some sanction from the number of fragments of decayed human bones which are scattered over the area.” (Antiquities of the State of New York, E. G. Squire, M. A., 1851, page 74)

Tens of Thousands Killed

“And Lamah had fallen with his ten thousand; and Gilgal had fallen with his ten thousand; and Limhah had fallen with his ten thousand; and Jeneum had fallen with his ten thousand; and Cumenihah, and Moronihah, and Antionum, and Shiblom, and Shem, and Josh, had fallen with their ten thousand each.” (Mormon 6:14)

The number of people slaughtered at Cumorah seems incomprehensible. Many non-believers cite these passages as evidence of Joseph Smith’s great imagination. Surely there would be evidence today of such large numbers of dead people. While excavating along the banks of the Erie Canal the following was recorded:

“In excavating the canal through the bank bordering the flats, perhaps thirty rods south of the fort, another burial-place was disclosed, evidently more ancient, for the bones crumbled to pieces almost immediately upon exposure to the air, and the deposits were far more numerous than in that near the river. The number of skeletons are represented to have been countless, and the dead had been buried in a sitting posture.” (Antiquities of the State of New York, E. G. Squier, M. A., 1851, page 144)

“One of these pits discovered some years ago, in the town of Cambria, Niagara County, was estimated to contain the bones of several thousand individuals.” (Ibid, page 99)

Joseph-Knew-Mormon-Media-Network-Arrow-HeadSavage Warfare

Squier uncovered evidence of savage warfare, which left “bone-heaps” and “bone-pits” throughout the Finger Lakes region of New York (Cumorahland).

“Besides the various earth-works [ ], there are a number of other interesting objects of antiquarian interest in this county. Among them may be mentioned the ‘bone-pits’ or deposits of human bones. One is found near the village of Brownsville, on Black River. It is described as a pit, ten or twelve feet square, by perhaps four feet deep, in which are promiscuously heaped together a large number of human skeletons.” (Ibid, page 29 – italics in the original)

“Near the town of Fulton, on the west side of Oswego River, is an eminence called ‘Bone Hill’ in which have been found great numbers of human bones promiscuously heaped together. They are much decayed. Intermixed with them were discovered a number of flint arrow-heads.” (Ibid, page 31 – italics in the original)

In Genesee County the ruins of a large enclosure were discovered.

“It was called the ‘Bone Fort’ from the circumstance that the early settlers found within it a mound, six feet in height by thirty at the base, which was entirely made up of human bones slightly covered with earth. A few fragments of these bones, scattered over the surface, alone mark the site of the aboriginal sepulcher. The popular opinion concerning this accumulation is, that it contained the bones of the slain, thus heaped together after some severe battle.”

“There have also been discovered some heaps of small stones; which have been supposed to be the missiles of the ancient occupants of the hill, thus got together to be used in case of attack.” (Ibid, pages 66 and 69)

Joseph-Knew-Mormon-Media-Network-Ancient-burial-sites-in-VIctor-New-YorkThe “bone-pits” found in New York differ in one important way from burial grounds in the Mississippi Valley. Unlike those in Mississippi, the Cumorahland pits and mounds appear to be created in great haste. A mound near Greene Township, NY, near the Chenango River was discovered and excavated.

“Great numbers of human bones were found ; and beneath them, at a greater depth, others were found which had evidently been burned. No conjecture could be formed of the number of bodies deposited here. The skeletons were found lying without order, and so much decayed as to crumble on exposure. At one point in the mound a large number, perhaps two hundred, arrowheads were discovered, collected in a heap. They were of the usual form, and of yellow or black flint.” (ibid, pages 47 and 48)

The End of Two Great Nations

The Book of Mormon tells of two great battles of genocide that took place in Cumorahland, the Jaradites and centuries later the Nephites. Could the two layers of burials described above be evidence of the end of these great civilizations?

In a previous article, we discussed the bones, arrowheads, and weapons that continue to be found in the Finger Lakes region of New York. There are many contemporary firsthand accounts of massive graves throughout the area known as Cumorahland. Students of the Book of Mormon looking for evidence of the great battles of the Jaradites and the Nephites can look in the Land of Many Waters in Upstate New York.

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Image Credits:

Antiquities of the State of New York, E. G. Squire, M. A., 1851

How We Acquired the Hill Cumorah

THE RETURN TO PALMYRA

Approximately 85 years after the first saints were forced to leave the Palmyra area, a young Mormon couple returned and took up residence in the Joseph Smith home. Newlyweds Willard and Rebecca Bean were called as missionaries to leave their home in Richfield, Utah, move to Palmyra, farm the land, make friends, preach the gospel, baptize converts, and organize a branch of the church. They were set apart for “five years or more”. They served nearly 25 years arriving in Palmyra as newlyweds and leaving as grandparents.

In the following video Alvin Bean, the oldest son of Willard and Rebecca, talks about growing up on the Joseph Smith farm, his dad purchasing the Hill, reforesting the Hill, and meeting a young missionary named Gordon Hinckley who stopped by on his way home from England.

PURCHASING THE HILL

Willard Bean facilitated the purchase of several important church historical sites in and around Palmyra. One of the most interesting transactions was the purchase of the Hill Cumorah.

The following is from the personal journal of Willard Washington Bean.

Joseph-Knew-Mormon-Media-Network-Palmyra-Main-StreetWhen I arrived in Palmyra, with my family, in 1914, to take over the Joseph Smith farm and act as caretaker, we found the sentiment toward Joseph Smith not unlike that which prevailed at Nazareth toward the Master when he began his earthly ministry. I realized more than ever before the full significance of Jesus’ saying: “No prophet is accepted in his own country.” Joseph Smith was commonly referred to as a tow-headed, illiterate dreamer and fortune teller, an idle jack-knife swapper, a musk-rat and wood-chuck trapper, a chicken thief, sheep thief, smoke purloiner, visionary gold digger, etc.

And they could prove it to their entire satisfaction from the accepted history of Wayne County, which has a wilfully and contemptibly written chapter on the Smith family and Mormonism. This was read by each generation as it grew up, and the junior and senior high school students seemed to pride themselves in basing one of their oratoricals each year on this particular chapter. It was a popular theme, as the history was taken at face value. It also mentions, among other things, that an attempt was made in 1830 to proselyte the people of Palmyra to “Joe Smith’s delusions,” and Oliver Cowdery gave a talk in the ”Young Men’s Club” hall, but met with so cold a reception that he never made a second attempt and “Palmyra is well rid of a bad lot.”

So, naturally, when the good people of Palmyra learned that a Mormon family had settled on the old Smith homestead near Palmyra, they were a little curious to see us, but didn’t seem to warm up much toward their new neighbors. But that was quite natural and rather to be expected, especially after I had familiarized myself with local history and listened to the old stories that had been handed down from one generation to another. We were pointed out and discussed in all assemblies. Another thing that possibly gave occasion for some of the more fertile imaginations to work overtime on gossip, was that my [second] wife happens to be some years younger than myself, and we brought two children, 12 and 14 years of age, from a former marriage. This, of course, was the latest addition to my harem, and that it was customary to live with each new one for seven years, etc. To help keep this gospel alive, five different anti-Mormon lecturers were booked to lecture in the churches on the four corners. Resolutions were passed by various auxiliary organizations of the churches, farmers’ grange association, etc., pledging themselves to discourage any attempt at Mormon propaganda and to show their disapproval by non-attendance.

Joseph-Knew-Mormon-Media-Network-Hill-Cumorah-with-horse-and-buggyBut they soon learned to tolerate us and, in time, to respect us; and, finally, decided that we were good citizens and an asset to the community. About five years ago [abt. 1923] we purchased the J.H. Inglis farm, consisting of 97 acres, situated on the state highway and taking in part of the hill Cumorah. About three years ago [abt. 1925] we negotiated a deal whereby we came into possession of the Peter Whitmer farm in Fayette, Seneca County. This farm consists of 100 acres, and is historic by reason of its being the birth place of the Church, where part of the Book of Mormon was translated, where a number of the early revelations recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants were received, and where the three special witnesses saw the angel Moroni and the gold plates.

While Pliny T. Sexton was alive, he phoned me to call at his office as he had a matter of interest to our people to talk over with me.

Joseph-Knew-Mormon-Media-Network-HJ-Grant-and-Pres-NibleyPresident Grant and his counselor, C. W. Nibley, accompanied Willard to visit with Sexton at his bank. The banker suggested a price of $100,000 for the purchase of the hill. Willard told Sexton he had been listening to tales of the fabulous wealth of the Mormon Church and informed him that the Church had done quite well without the hill for nearly a hundred years and would continue to do so until a more realistic offer was made.

As they drove back to the farm, President Nibley said,  “When the Lord wants us to get possession of that hill, the way will be opened up.”

Again from Willard’s journal:

Subsequently, he [Sexton] died, leaving his vast property accumulations to one hundred two heirs, the nearest of kin being two nieces. When the question of disposing of the hill Cumorah property came up, certain of the principal heirs, influenced, more or less, by prejudice, were opposed to selling it to the Mormons at any price and were even willing to lose their share, if need be, to keep it from falling into our hands. Death removed some of those opposed and, early in the present year [1928], it seemed that the coast was about clear of obstacles. I had a talk with the attorney who represented some of the more obstreperous ones and during the next meeting of the executors and heirs, or their representatives, there was no protest registered. The attorney for the estate called me by phone and wanted to see me at once. He seemed ready and eager to talk business; was in a very pleasant mood. After examining a number of propositions, one came up that I thought we might accept. I told him to put it in writing, sign it and get the other executor (one had previously died) to sign it, and I would make a deposit if necessary, and start negotiations. The agreement was written and signed. I went home and immediately wrote to the authorities, enclosing the proposition with signed agreement, asking them to consider it if they felt that the right time had arrived for us to acquire the hill Cumorah. This was on February 2, and, in a few days, I received the following letter, dated also February 2:

“See lawyer of Sexton estate and get definite offer for Hill Cumorah alone if possible, if not with adjacent properties. Put it in writing and put up forfeit and let us hear from you at earliest convenience.”

The letter was signed by each member of the First Presidency – President Heber J. Grant, A. W. Ivins and C. W. Nibley.  By the time the First Presidency’s letter arrived, Willard had already gotten the offer they requested.

The following day Willard received a telegram reading:

“Terms satisfactory. Close deal.”

Willard remembered President Nibley’s words when he said, “When the Lord wants us to get possession of that hill, the way will be opened up.”

President Grant remarked at General Conference in Salt Lake City, “We have recently come into possession of the Hill Cumorah, and it looks very much like it came about providentially.”

Copyright © 2015 by Energy Media Works LLC

When using portions of this article, please credit: JosephKnew.com

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DVD front JPG for other usesA new documentary about Willard and Rebecca Bean is now available. “Love Unfeigned” is a three-part DVD.

The Biography of Willard Bean chronicles his youth, his mission in the Southern States, his acting and political experiences in New York City, and his successful boxing career. — (17 minutes)

The Biography of Rebecca Bean tells of her family’s conversion in Denmark, her growing up in Richfield, Utah and her sacred experiences living in the Joseph Smith home in Palmyra, NY. (26 minutes) 

Love Unfeigned celebrates the 100-year legacy of Willard and Rebecca’s influence in Palmyra, NY. It includes interviews with Bean family members, local Palmyra residents and Book of Mormon scholars. The DVD includes never before seen photos from the Bean family collection. (60 minutes)

To order your copy visit “This is the MarketPlace”.

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Information about Rebecca Bean.

Information about Willard Bean’s boxing career.

The Bean family reforests the Hill Cumorah.

LEARN MORE from the books available on the Joseph Knew home page.

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Image Credits:

Hill Cumorah in Autumn — CastleGate Media LLC

Main Street Palmyra — Fellowcrafts Studio

Hill with horse and buggy — From the Willard and Rebecca Bean family collection

Heber J. Grant with others — From the Willard and Rebecca Bean family collection

Nephite Cities in America’s Heartland

Joseph-Knew-Mormon-Media-Network-Great-Circle“Few realize that some of the oldest, largest and most complex structures of ancient archaeology were built of earth, clay, and stone right here in America, in the Ohio and Mississippi valleys. From 6,000 years ago until quite recently, North America was home to some of the most highly advanced and well organized civilizations in the world – complete with cities, roads, and commerce.” — Dr. Roger Kennedy, former director of the Smithsonian’s American History Museum

In the heartland of North America the Hopewell civilization built some of the largest and grandest earthworks in the world. The Hopewell and Nephite cultures thrived during the same time frame, 400 BC – 300 AD and many students of the Book of Mormon believe they are one and the same.

Mound cities appear to have been designed for defense. For this defense, great ditches, 6 feet deep were dug around the outsides. That dirt was then piled 6 feet high as a second defense. On top of the mound tall timbers were embedded making a palisade as a third defense.

It’s hard to call it a coincidence that Nephite Captain Moroni defended his cities in the same manner.

  • And now it came to pass that Moroni did not stop making preparations for war, or to defend his people against the Lamanites; for he caused that his armies should commence in the commencement of the twentieth year of the reign of the judges, * that they should commence in digging up heaps of earth round about all the cities, throughout all the land which was possessed by the Nephites.
  • And upon the top of these ridges of earth he caused that there should be timbers, yea, works of timbers built up to the height of a man, round about the cities.
  • And he caused that upon those works of timbers there should be a frame of pickets built upon the timbers round about; and they were strong and high. (Alma 50:1-3) * 72 B.C.

Mormon-Media-Network-Joseph-Knew-Great Octagon Max-S-RiseThe largest of these mound cities is found in Newark, Ohio. Known as the Great Octagon and the Great Circle, this city was not a place of defense, but it was a place of worship and a center for learning and Astronomical study. In 1982, professors Ray Hively and Robert Horn of Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana studied the layout of the city and determined that the people who built it had a keen understanding of astronomy and geometry. The great octagon, in conjunction with the great circle, was laid out in such a way as to line up with the rising and setting of the moon.

Mormon-Media-Network-Joseph-Knew-Great-Octagon-Max-S-SetThe Nephites of the Book of Mormon were aware of moon cycles and we know at the very least they used those cycles to chronicle time.

  • And they gave an account of one Coriantumr, and the slain of his people. And Coriantumr was discovered by the people of Zarahemla; and he dwelt with them for the space of nine moons. (Omni 1:21)

The Nephites had enough awareness of the heavens to recognize when a new star appeared. They recognized, and presumably had names for, constellation patterns.

  • Mormon-Media-Network-Joseph-Knew-Great-Octagon-Max-N-setAnd behold, there shall a new star arise, such an one as ye never have beheld; and this also shall be a sign unto you. (Helaman 14:5)
  • For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light; the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine. (2 Nephi 23:10)

Mormon-Media-Network-Joseph-Knew-Great-Octagon-Max-N-Rise

The Moon travels through a cycle from north to south that takes 18.6 years to complete. Hively and Horn noted that the Octagon and Circle are aligned with the points on the horizon that mark the rising and setting of the moon at its southern and northern most points. It has been estimated that the odds of this being accidental or coincidental are approximately one in forty million. The people who built this city recognized not only the 28 day cycle of the moon, but also understood its 18.6 year pattern. 

Joseph-Knew-Mormon-Media-Network-Great-Circle-2It is believed by many scholars that the Great Circle and Octagon were used for religious services. Just inside the Octagon, in front of the eight gates or entrances, are eight flat-topped mounds. They stand 6 feet high, and are 75 to 90 feet long and 40 to 60 feet wide. It’s unknown for certain what these mounds were, but it’s possible they were placed there to prevent people on the outside from seeing the religious ceremonies taking place inside the Octagon. Is it possible that this, being the largest Nephite religious structure, was the temple in the Land Bountiful? Was it here that the righteous gathered after the great destruction at the time of the crucifixion?

  • Joseph-Knew-Mormon-Media-Network-Great-Circle-3And now it came to pass that there were a great multitude gathered together, of the people of Nephi, round about the temple which was in the land Bountiful; and they were marveling and wondering one with another, and were showing one to another the great and marvelous change which had taken place.
  • And they were also conversing about this Jesus Christ, of whom the sign had been given concerning his death. (3 Nephi 11:1-2)

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Newark Great Circle and Octagon photos — Energy Media Works LLC

Great Octagon and Circle etchings — Public Domain

 

Three Messengers

Iroquois_6_Nations_map_c1720-by-RA-NonenmacherThe Seneca are one of the six nations that make up the Iroquois Confederacy. The six are: Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Tuscarora and Seneca.

The Seneca lived in Western New York in what is known as the Finger Lakes area. The town of Palmyra sits in the center of Seneca land.

Handsome Lake (Sganyadai:yo) was a Seneca religious leader and prophet. He was born about 1735 near present-day Avon, New York. Not much is known about his parents. We do know that he was born into the Wolf clan of his mother and was later adopted into the Turtle clan.

Joseph Knew Iroquois_western_goodsAt the time of Handsome Lake’s birth, the Seneca nation was prosperous. Living in the Finger Lakes area, which has an abundance of lakes, rivers and streams, they were successful trappers and fur traders. They traded not only with other members of the Iroquois Confederacy, but also with the ever-growing influx of Europeans that was moving further and further inland.

In 1777 Handsome Lake was part of an Iroquois war council that met with the British concerning the revolutionaries battling Britain for independence. It was Handsome Lake’s opinion that the war was a family squabble between Europeans and of no concern to the Iroquois. However, in 1778 he went along with the decision of his people and fought along side the British against the revolutionaries.

After the war, and as retribution for Iroquois support of the British, American Major General John Sullivan led a campaign against the  Iroquois. It was his intent, “…to destroy everything that contributes to their support”.

Archeologist Arthur C. Parker wrote:

“Forty towns were obliterated, 60,000 bushels of corn destroyed, fruit orchards uprooted, girdled or chopped down, one containing 1500 trees. Ruin was spread like a blanket over the Iroquois country and their garden valley reduced to a desolate blighted and forsaken region dotted with blackened ruins. Hardly a food plant remained for the coming winter.” (Arthur C. Parker, Iroquois Uses of Maize and Other Food Plants, 1919, page 20)

Cornplanter-by-F-Bartoli-1796The Iroquois began to fight back and destroyed many white villages. Cornplanter, being the Seneca War Chief, was summoned to Washington DC by George Washington. It was the desire of both men to end the fighting and to live peaceably.

As a result of this retribution, the Seneca people had suffered greatly, both temporally and emotionally.  Their once great nation fell into depression, alcoholism, and immorality.

By this time Handsome Lake was an alcoholic and in poor health. He realized he had wasted much of his life. Rather than being a spiritual leader and example to his people, he had fallen into disgrace. Preparing to die, he asked his daughter to send for his half brothers, Black Snake and Cornplanter. Laying on his cot, Handsome Lake pleaded with the Great Spirit to let him die.

Handsome-Lake-largerWhile working in the back of the lodge, his daughter heard someone shout “Niio” (alright or so be it). When she went to find out what was happening, she found her father lying on the ground near the door of the lodge. He appeared to be dead. When his half brothers arrived, Cornplanter found warm spots on the body and decided to postpone the burial.

The next day, Handsome Lake still appeared to be dead. At midday he woke and sat up. He related a vision he had had while presumed dead.

“Some voice from without said, ‘Come forth’. I hesitated, first thinking that I was speaking to myself. But after it was repeated three times, I arose to investigate. I, with much difficulty, got to the door of my lodge where I saw standing before me three looking alike, all dressed in clean white raiment, standing in clear swept space. Never before have I seen such handsome, commanding men. They held in their hands branches from bushes bearing berries of different colors.”

The men told Handsome Lake that He who created the world in the beginning  sent them.  He sent them to visit Handsome Lake because “He is grateful for my creations, furthermore, he wishes to rise from sickness and walk again upon the earth. Go down and help him to recover.”

The men told him “Take of these berries and eat of every color. They will give you strength: then come with us.”

The men then took him on a journey where he saw many of his people. He saw their sins and sufferings. After that first visit, they visited him many times and gave him instructions for the people. Handsome Lake became a great religious leader to his people. When the three messengers visited him, he then imparted the message fearlessly to his people. The religion he established among his people was called Gai’wiio meaning The Good Message or New Gospel. 

Who were these three messengers? Could they have been earlier inhabitants of North America?

In the Book of Mormon, in the book of 3 Nephi, Christ called and ordained twelve Nephite disciples. When asked what they desired, nine of them asked to live to an old age and then to be taken quickly into Christ’s presence. The other three asked to remain on earth until Christ’s second coming. They were granted that request.

3 Nephi, Chapter 28

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Image Credit:

Painting Handsome Lake and the Three Messengers by Ernie Smith, from the Collections of the Rochester Museum & Science Center, Rochester, NY.

Iroquois Nation Map — R.A. Nonenmacher, wikimedia commons

Iroquois Trading with Europeans — Public Domain

Seneca War Chief Cornplanter — F. Bartoli (1796)