Category Archives: Heartland

The Law of Moses Among the Nephites

Joseph-Knew---Oman-by-wikimedia-commons---Hendrik-DacquinAfter taking his family into the wilderness and realizing they were not going back to Jerusalem, Lehi sent his sons back to retrieve the brass plates. The plates were an essential item for a family leaving their homeland and starting a new life in a new land. Lehi’s son Nephi understood that the family “could not keep the commandments of the Lord according to the law of Moses, save they should have the law.” He also knew that “the law was engraved upon the plates of brass.” (1 Nephi 4:15-16)

If retrieving the plates was important enough that Lehi was willing to send his sons into a potentially dangerous situation to get them, and the family was willing to trade everything they had for them,  it stands to reason that when they arrived in the promised land they would strictly live the law of Moses. Throughout the Book of Mormon we read that the righteous did live the law. They built altars and offered sacrifices.

According to the law of Moses, there are two things that must not be part of a sacrificial alter.

Joseph Knew - Mayan AltarIt cannot be made of hewn stone.

“And if thou wilt make me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone: for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it.” (Exodus 20:25)

One is not allowed to cut the stones when making an altar. One is to use no tools upon the stones. If one does use tools, the altar is polluted.

The above photo is an example of the type of altars in Central America which many people believe are Nephite altars. If this is a Nephite altar, the Nephites clearly were not strictly living the law of Moses.

By contrast, we have record of Joseph Smith identifying a Nephite altar in North America while on the Zion’s Camp march. The altar identified was made of un-cut stones, as would be consistent with the law of Moses.

Joseph Knew - Mayan Temple with AltarAltars must have no stairs.

“Neither shalt thou go up by steps unto mine altar, that thy nakedness be not discovered thereon.” (Exodus 20:26)

Altars were on raised structures and getting to them required ramps. Priests wore robes and did not wear anything underneath. If they climbed stairs, those people encircling the structure would see the priest’s “nakedness”.

In the foreground of the above photo we see an altar in Central America. Not only do the cut stones disqualify it as a Nephite altar, but the stairs do as well.

Joseph-Knew---Ramped-AltarThroughout the Mississippi Valley, in what can be described as temple compounds, structures have been found which could have been built for altars. These structures were not made of cut stone and do not have stairs leading up to them. In this drawing from the 1848 book, Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley, we see a raised structure with four ramps, one on each side.

Such ramped altars would have been in keeping with Exodus 20. These types of altars would have been built by the descendants of Lehi, who risked so much to preserve the law.

Copyright © 2016 by Energy Media Works LLC

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

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Image credits:

Oman Wilderness by wikimedia commons, Hendrik Dacquin

Mayan Altar by: wikimedia commons, CEHancock

Mayan Temple and Altar by: morgue file.com, xololounge

The Promised Land

Where is the Promised Land?

If you were to ask 100 Mormons, “Where is the Promised land?” It’s a pretty safe bet that at least 95 of them would say America is the Promised Land. But it’s interesting that if you asked those same 100 people, “Where did the events in the Book of Mormon take place?” the majority would probably say it all happened in Central America . . . and maybe South America.

It’s not possible for America to be the Promised Land and yet NOT be the land of the Book of Mormon. When writers of the Book of Mormon wrote about the Promised Land, they were talking about the land they were living in at the time. Therefore, if we believe America is the Promised Land, then those writers were living in America.

Joseph-Knew-Book-of-EtherArriving in the Promised Land

“And they did land upon the shore of the promised land. And when they had set their feet upon the shores of the promised land they bowed themselves down upon the face of the land, and did humble themselves before the Lord, and did shed tears of joy before the Lord, because of the multitude of his tender mercies over them.” (Ether 6:12 italics added)

Looking at this scripture in the book of Ether, it is clear that the Jaredites landed in the Promised Land. If we accept America as the Promised Land, then we accept that they landed in America. Now, if one believes that the events described later in Ether took place in Central America, the only logical explanation is that the Jaredites landed in America, bowed themselves down upon the face of the land, shed tears of joy for the Lord’s mercies in bringing them there, and packed up and moved to another land.

The same logic must also be applied to the events involving the Nephites and the Lamanites.

“And it came to pass that after we had sailed for the space of many days we did arrive at the promised land; and we went forth upon the land, and did pitch our tents; and we did call it the promised land.” (1 Nephi 18:23 italics added)

If Central America is the land of the Nephites and Lamanites, then they landed, pitched their tents, called it the Promised Land, packed up their tents and moved to Central America.

Either America is the Promised Land spoken of in the Book of Mormon or it isn’t.

Joseph-Knew-3-NephiChrist in the Promised Land

When the resurrected Christ visited the Nephites it was in this land. It was in North America that he reaffirmed the covenant he made with their father Jacob. He miraculously provided bread and wine to the multitude and said:

“And behold, this people will I establish in this land, unto the fulfilling of the covenant I made with your father Jacob; and it shall be a New Jerusalem. And the powers of heaven shall be in the midst of this people; yea, even I will be in the midst of you.” (3 Nephi 20:22 italics added)

Those 100 Mormons will confirm that the New Jerusalem will be in this land of America. In the above scripture Christ says that the New Jerusalem with be in “this land”, the land in which he is standing at the time. He wasn’t standing in Central America and talking about this land up north. He was standing in America and talking to the Nephites about their land, North America.

In January 2012, Elder L. Tom Perry delivered a devotional address at Brigham Young University-Idaho. The address, The Tradition of Light and Testimony, was reprinted in the December 2012 edition of the Ensign magazine. In that address, Elder Perry said:

“The United States is the promised land foretold in the Book of Mormon—a place where divine guidance directed inspired men to create the conditions necessary for the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It was the birth of the United States of America that ushered out the Great Apostasy, when the earth was darkened by the absence of prophets and revealed light. It was no coincidence that the lovely morning of the First Vision occurred just a few decades after the establishment of the United States.”

Elder Perry is reaffirming what Christ said about this land.

Joseph-Knew-Moroni-Monument-AutumnProphets troughout history have known what Elder Perry knew. When Moroni was finishing his record concerning the destruction of his people, he said:

“Behold, Ether saw the days of Christ, and he spake concerning a New Jerusalem upon this land.

“And he spake also concerning the house of Israel, and the Jerusalem from whence Lehi should come—after it should be destroyed it should be built up again, a holy city unto the Lord; wherefore, it could not be a new Jerusalem for it had been in a time of old; but it should be built up again, and become a holy city of the Lord; and it should be built unto the house of Israel—

“And that a New Jerusalem should be built up upon this land, unto the remnant of the seed of Joseph, for which things there has been a type.” (Ether 13:4-6 italics added)

When we consider statements from ancient prophets, modern-day prophets, and the Lord himself, it’s clear that America, the land of the restoration, is the Promised Land.

Copyright © 2015 by Energy Media Works LLC

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

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Does it Matter Where Book of Mormon Events Took Place?

In nearly any conversation about Book of Mormon geography, the discussion turns to events happening in Central and South America verses North America. Inevitably, this statement comes up:

“It doesn’t matter where it happened. It only matters that it happened.”

The sentiment is understood. It means physical proof of the Book of Mormon is not necessary; it’s a spiritual witness that is important. However, it is important where Book of Mormon events took place. North America is the promised land. Lehi knew it. Nephi knew it. Ether knew it. Joseph Smith knew it and the founders of the United States of America knew it.

Joseph-Knew-George-WashingtonOn April 6, 1789 , in the first joint session of congress, George Washington was declared the elected President of the United States of America. On April 30, on the second floor balcony  of Federal Hall in New York City, Washington took the presidential oath of office. A bible was retrieved upon which he could place his hand and swear to defend the constitution of the United States. Rather than simply placing his hand on the bible, Washington opened the book to Genesis, chapter 49 and placed his hand on that passage. This was not happenstance. In this chapter of Genesis, Jacob blesses his sons and their descendants. Joseph is described as a fruitful bough near a well. His branches (the Nephites and the Lamanites) will run over the wall (the Atlantic Ocean)and the Shepherd (Jesus Christ)  will bless the children of Joseph temporally and spirituaully.

Others that came to this country, such as the ancestors of the founders of America, were also descendents of Joseph, that bough which had run over that wall.

Joseph-Knew-Benjamin-Franklin's-Great-SealWashington knew that America was the promised land to which the children of Joseph had come and would continue to come. Others understood this as well. Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin each proposed designs for the Great Seal of the United States. Franklin’s design depicted the children of Israel crossing the Red Sea during their escape from bondage. The seal depicted the pillar of fire sent by the Lord which gave them light, protection and direction. (See Exodus 13:21-22)

Joseph-Knew-Thomas-Jefferson's-Great-SealJefferson’s design also depicted the Israelites fleeing into the wilderness. In his depiction the cloud from the Lord stands before them. (Exodus 13:21-22)

It’s true that these two seal designs stood as metaphors for the American colonies escaping the bondage of English rule, but the symbolism went beyond that. The founders of America understood that America was a covenant land. They understood the covenant the Lord made with the Hebrew nation. There are several accounts of this covenant in the Old Testament, and this one in Leviticus clarifies it well.

“For I will have respect unto you, and make you fruitful, and multiply you, and establish my covenant with you.

“And I will walk among you, and will be your God, and ye shall be my people.” (Leviticus 26:9, 12)

The Hebrew nation with which the Lord made this covenant included those that came to the promised land about 2,200 BC (Jaredites) and those who arrived in 600 BC. (Lehi)

As early as 2,200 years before Christ the North American continent was recognized as the promised land, the Lord’s covenant land. From the Book of Ether, the record of the Jaredites:

“Behold, Ether saw the days of Christ, and he spake concerning a New Jerusalem upon this land.

“And that a New Jerusalem should be built up upon this land, unto the remnant of the seed of Joseph, for which things there has been a type.

“And then cometh the New Jerusalem; and blessed are they who dwell therein, for it is they whose garments are white through the blood of the Lamb; and they are they who are numbered among the remnant of the seed of Joseph, who were of the house of Israel.” (Ether 13:4, 6, 10, emphasis added)

“Wherefore, this is the land of promise, and the place for the city of Zion.” (Doctrine and Covenants 57:2, emphasis added)

George Washington may not have known about the coming of the Jaredites, or the Nephites and Lamanites, but he understood the Lord’s covenant with the people of the promised land. He understood that the covenant promised temporal and spiritual blessings to those in the promised land if they would keep the Lord’s commandments. Throughout the revolutionary war he continually called upon his officers, soldiers, and the citizens to repent and keep the commandments of God in order to receive the covenant blessings promised.

Joseph-Knew-Golden_Plates_by-David-A-Baird-Historical-Arts-and-CastingsIf we dismiss America as the land of the Book of Mormon, and place those events anywhere other than North America, we dismiss the importance of the covenant God made with the house of Israel.

Passage after passage use the term “this land” when referring to the promised land. It is indisputable that “this land” was referring to the land in which Nephi, Jacob, Ether and others were living when they wrote those passages.

In 2 Nephi the Lord confirms his covenant with the House of Israel. He tells Jacob:

“But behold, this land, said God, shall be a land of thine inheritance, and the Gentiles shall be blessed upon the land.

“And this land shall be a land of liberty unto the Gentiles, and there shall be no kings upon the land, who shall raise up unto the Gentiles.

“And I will fortify this land against all other nations.” (2 Nephi 10:10-12, emphasis added)

When the resurrected Christ visited the Nephites it was in this land. It was in North America that he reaffirmed his covenant he made with their father Jacob. He miraculously provided bread and wine to the multitude and said:

“And behold, this people will I establish in this land, unto the fulfilling of the covenant I made with your father Jacob; and it shall be a New Jerusalem. And the powers of heaven shall be in the midst of this people; yea, even I will be in the midst of you.” (3 Nephi 20:22 emphasis added)

When we talk about the Book of Mormon and the events recorded, it is important that it happened, but it is also important where it happened. It happened in this land, the promised land, a covenant land, the heartland of America.

Copyright © 2015 by Energy Media Works LLC

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

If you have comments or questions, we would like to hear them. Just click on leave a comment below.

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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”.

________________________________

Additional Information:

“The Founding Fathers of the United States believed that religious faith was fundamental to the establishment of strong government . . .

“This position was set forth by the first U.S. President, George Washington, in his farewell address . .

“The United States is the promised land foretold in the Book of Mormon — a divine place where divine guidance directed inspired men to create the conditions necessary for the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It was the birth of the United Sates of America that ushered out the Great Apostasy, when the earth was darkened by the absence of prophets and revealed light. It was no coincidence that the lovely morning of the First Vision occurred just a few decades after the establishment of the United States.” — Elder L. Tom Perry, devotional address delivered January 24, 2012 at Brigham Young University-Idaho 

Download a complete transcript of George Washington’s Farewell Address.

For more information on this subject, we recommend the book, “The American Covenant” by Timothy Ballard. — Kindle version available here.

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Image credits:

World Map in the public domain

Portrait of George Washington by: Rembrandt Peale (1778 – 1860)

Franklin and Jefferson seals in the public domain

Golden Plates and Breast Plate by: David A. Baird, Historical Arts and Castings

 

Who Said THAT Hill was Cumorah?

Joseph-Knew-Hill-Cumorah-with-BuggySeveral years ago I was speaking to a good friend about events that took place in Palmyra, New York. We talked about Joseph Smith’s First Vision, Moroni’s visit, Joseph receiving the Golden plates, the publishing of the Book of Mormon and a few other 19th century events. I then moved the conversation back about 1,600 years. I talked about the final battle that virtually annihilated the Nephites. At this point the conversation took an interesting turn.

My friend asked, “So you believe the hill in New York is the hill Cumorah from the Book of Mormon?”

I have to say I was a little surprised by the question. “Of course I do.” I said. “Don’t you?”

“Well, no. Everything in the Book of Mormon took place in Central America didn’t it?”

I won’t say anymore about that conversation other than to say that it continued and finally ended in a very friendly way.

But that conversation gave me cause to really think about the Mesoamerica vs North America question. I especially thought about the Cumorah question. Could I be mistaken about the location of Cumorah spoken of in the Book of Mormon? After much research and contemplation, I have determined that if I am mistaken about the location of the Book of Mormon Cumorah, I’m in very good company. Here is a list of others who were mistaken:

Oliver Cowdery, Heber J. Grant, Martin Harris, Heber C. Kimball, J. Golden Kimball, Moroni, Orson Pratt, Parley P. Pratt, B. H. Roberts, Hyrum Smith, Joseph Smith Jr., Joseph F. Smith, Joseph Fielding Smith, Lucy Mack Smith, James E. Talmage, Wilford Woodruff, Brigham Young.

Before we quote some of the above individuals, let’s first look at Doctrine & Covenants 128:20. Section 128 is an epistle from Joseph Smith to the members of the church. In it he reminds them of the great coming forth of the Book of Mormon by the hands of Moroni.

“And again, what do we hear? Glad tidings from Cumorah! Moroni, an angel from heaven, declaring the fulfilment of the prophets—the book to be revealed.”

Joseph-Knew-BH-Roberts-at-Hill-CumorahIn his comprehensive history of the church, Church Historian Elder B. H. Roberts wrote:

“Encouraged by this repetition of the vision of the previous night, and strengthened by the assurances of his father that the visitation was of God, Joseph repaired that same day to the hill he had seen in vision, the place where the sacred record was concealed, some two miles distant from the Smith home. The hill is about four miles south of the town of Palmyra, in Wayne county. It stands on the east side of the Cananandaigua road, and is the most conspicuous landmark in all that section of New York. In the Book of Mormon the hill is known as Ramah, and Cumorah, referred to more frequently, however, by the latter name.” (B. H. Roberts, A Comprehensive History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Century 1, Brigham Young University Press, Vol. 1, 1965, pg. 75)

Again, from Elder Roberts:

“This time it will have to do with so important a matter as a war of extinction of two peoples, the Nephites and the Jaredites, on the self same battle site, with the same ‘hill’ marking the axis of military movements. By the Nephites this ‘hill’ was called the ‘Hill Cumorah,’ by the Jaredites the ‘Hill Ramah’; it was that same ‘hill,’ in which the Nephite records were deposited by Mormon and Moroni, and from which Joseph Smith obtained the Book of Mormon, therefore the ‘Mormon Hill’, of today—since the coming forth of the Book of Mormon—near Palmyra, New York. (B.H. Roberts, Studies of the Book of Mormon, p.277)

Joseph-Knew-Oliver-CowderyWhen Oliver Cowdery and Parley P. Pratt were serving their mission to the Lamanites, Oliver related a brief history of the Book of Mormon to the Delaware Chief. Elder Pratt recorded Oliver’s discussion in his autobiography. Explaining how the Book of Mormon was a history of the Lamanite people, Oliver said:

“This book, which contained these things, was hid in the earth by Moroni, in a hill called by him, Cumorah, which hill is now in the state of New York, near the village of Palmyra, in Ontario county.” (Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, pg. 59)

Joseph-Knew-Orson-PrattApostle Orson Pratt spoke many times about the hill Cumorah and never placed it anywhere but New York.

“Thirty-six years prior to this time his [Moroni’s] nation was destroyed in what we term the State of New York, around about a hill, called by that people the Hill of Cumorah, when many hundreds of thousands of the Nephites-men, women and children, fell, during the greatest battle that they had had with the Lamanites.” (Journal of Discourses Vol. 20, pg. 62)

In a conference address in October, 1975, Elder Marion G. Romney spoke of his personal experience at the Hill.

“In the western part of the state of New York near Palmyra is a prominent hill known as the “Hill Cumorah.” On July twenty-fifth of this year, as I stood on the crest of that hill admiring with awe the breathtaking panorama which stretched out before me on every hand, my mind reverted to the events which occurred in that vicinity some twenty-five centuries ago—events which brought to an end the great Jaredite nation.”

Later in his address he said the following:

“This second civilization to which I refer, the Nephites , flourished in America between 600 B.C. and A.D. 400. Their civilization came to an end for the same reason, at the same place, and in the same manner as did the Jaredites.” (Talk given by President Marion G. Romney in General Conference, October 4, 1975, Ensign Nov. 1975 pg. 35)

In his book, Doctrines of Salvation, Hyrum Smith’s grandson Joseph Fielding Smith wrote:

“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.)

Joseph-Knew-James-E-TalmageIn the early part of the 20th century, Apostle James E. Talmage was a frequent visitor to Palmyra. In his book Articles of Faith he wrote:

“The hill, which was known by one division of the ancient peoples as Cumorah, by another as Ramah, is situated near Palmyra in the State of New York .” (James E. Talmage, Articles of Faith, chapter 14)

We could cite quote after quote by early and present-day church leaders placing the hill from the Book of Mormon in New York, but the most compelling argument is this. After Moroni’s first visit to the Prophet Joseph Smith, Joseph began calling the hill “Cumorah”. Joseph had not yet received the plates, and could not have heard the name “Cumorah” from any other source than Moroni himself.

In the early days of the church no other location besides New York was ever considered for the Hill Cumorah.  Moroni deposited his plates in the hill and called it Cumorah, and Joseph Smith returned the plates to that very same hill and called it Cumorah.

Copyright © 2015 by Energy Media Works LLC

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

If you have comments or questions, we would like to hear them. Just click on leave a comment below.

________________________________

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”.

________________________________

Additional Information:

________________________________

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

Like Joseph Knew on Facebook to keep up on what’s happening.

Joseph Knew is a member of the Mormon Media Network. Visit us for:

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

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Book of Mormon Geography — Early Research

Joseph-Knew-Willard-and-Rebecca-Bean-Wedding-PhotoOne-hundred years ago this month (February 2015) newlyweds Willard and Rebecca Bean moved into the Joseph Smith home near Palmyra, New York. President Joseph F. Smith had called and set them apart as missionaries. Their assignments were to

1. Make Friends

2. Farm the land

3. Preach the gospel

4. Baptize converts

5. Organize a branch of the church

They were set apart to serve for five years with a parenthetical “or more” attached to the call. Assignment number one, make friends, took nearly a decade. Before leaving their field of labor, they accomplished everything they were asked to do. The “or more” seemed prophetic when their mission stretched into nearly 25 years. They arrived in Palmyra as newlyweds and returned to Utah as grandparents.

More details about their extraordinary mission will be available this year when several books, including Willard’s autobiography, will be published.

Joseph-Knew-Willard-Bean-Geography-of-the-Book-of-Mormon-BookAs if making friends, farming the land, preaching the gospel, baptizing converts and organizing a branch of the church were not enough to keep him busy, Willard did some of the most detailed research into Book of Mormon geography that had been done up to that point in the church. With his co-author Cecil McGavin, he published the book “The Geography of the Book of Mormon”.

Wayne May, creator and publisher of Ancient American magazine, credits Willard Bean’s research with sparking his own interest in Book of Mormon lands in North America.

In this short video, Wayne talks with Lori Bean Henderson, a granddaughter of Willard and Rebecca. (4:13)

Watch for more information about Willard and Rebecca Bean here on Joseph Knew. We will keep you up to date on the publication of Willard’s books.

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CastleGate-Nedia---Geography-of-the-Book-of-Mormon

REPUBLISHED — Some of the earliest research into the lands of the Book of Mormon

“Geography of the Book of Mormon”

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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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 Ancient-American-cover

Wayne May’s Ancient American magazine is available here.

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The 1909 Book of Mormon Convention

Joseph-Knew-Brigham-Young-AcademyOn Saturday and Sunday, May 22-23, 1909 a convention was held at College Hall on the campus of Brigham Young Academy in Provo, Utah. The subject of the convention was The Book of Mormon. Lecture topics ranged from the proper pronunciation of Book of Mormon Names to the Location of Zarahemla and the River Sidon. Because the Book of Mormon is not a book about geography, there are many differing opinions about where cities were or where things took place. It was no different in 1909 at the convention. The Deseret News reported that throughout the two days President Joseph F. Smith had to remind those in attendance to calm down when debates got a little heated.

Joseph-Knew-Joseph-F-SmithIn his opening remarks, President Smith introduced their objective. He said the purpose of the convention was to consider the Book of Mormon and the people to whom it gave a history, and the lands to which it refers. The convention was not organized to discuss the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon. That, he said, had been accepted when we accepted the divine mission of Joseph Smith and the testimony of the witnesses to the book.

President Smith reminded those attending the convention that where things took place in the Book of Mormon was certainly of interest; it was not of vital importance. He advised against placing the same level of importance on Book of Mormon geography as on gospel principles.

From the lectures that were presented at that Book of Mormon convention, it is clear that not only has there always been great interest in Book of Mormon geography, but there have also been great debates between the various schools of thought.

Joseph-Knew-James-E-TalmageElder James E. Talmage, who studied chemistry and geology at Lehigh University and Johns Hopkins University, presented what he called Internal Evidence of the Book of Mormon. His lecture dealt with the various writing styles found in the book, which he and others believed confirmed the idea that the book was written by several different people in different places and at different times.

Lectures were presented arguing that the city of Zarahemla was located in various places from Venezuala to Honduras to North America.

Proposals were given for the River Sidon being in Central America, South America and North America.

Joseph-Knew-BH-RobertsElder B. H. Roberts took issue with those at the convention who believed the destruction and changes in the land at the time of the crucifixion were minimal. Elder Orson F. Whitney, who had served as assistant Church Historian from 1899 to 1906 concurred with Roberts and presented evidence of great destruction.

It seems the only thing that everyone could agree on was a pronunciation guideline for Book of Mormon names. That information was shared by Elder Charles W. Penrose and, on motion of Professor J. B. Keeler, was adopted by the committee. That pronunciation guide can be found at the end of this article.

At the conclusion of the convention, President Joseph F. Smith again cautioned those in attendance to avoid making the geography of the Book of Mormon of equal importance with the doctrine contained in the book.

For members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Book of Mormon is the cornerstone of their religion. Although knowing where Book of Mormon events took place is not essential for a testimony, knowing where the Land Bountiful was may help bring 3 Nephi alive and can even strengthen a testimony. More important than knowing where the resurrected Christ visited with the Nephites is knowing who Jesus Christ was, what he taught, and what his resurrection means for each of us.

Although we at Joseph Knew believe that North America was the Promised Land where Lehi and his family disembarked, and although we believe there was only one Cumorah where both the Jaredites and the Nephites perished, we will always be respectful of other opinions. We may strongly disagree with another viewpoint, and we may present evidence and facts that contradict that viewpoint, but that does not mean we don’t respect the view and the thought and research that went into it. We believe it is through mutual respect and the sharing of ideas that we can gain greater understanding of the Book of Mormon, its lands and people.

The goal at Joseph Knew is, as President Joseph F. Smith told conventioneers in 1909, to consider the Book of Mormon and the people to whom it gives a history, and the lands to which it refers. We are not here to discuss the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon. That was accepted when we accepted the divine mission of Joseph Smith and the testimony of the witnesses to the book.

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The Hopewell Culture — Were They the Nephites of the Book of Mormon?

Many people believe, and we at Joseph Knew share the belief, that the North American people known as the Hopewell were the Nephites of the Book of Mormon.

Because many of our future articles will talk about these people and their connection to the Book of Mormon, we want to share information about them now. It’s important to understand who they were, where they lived, how they lived and what became of them.

Who Were the Hopewell?

The Hopewell people were one of the most influential cultures in North America. They were artists, architects, astronomers, scholars and theologians. They are most commonly known as mound builders. They built mounds for religious reasons, as burials sites, for protection, and as effigies.

The name Hopewell comes from Mordecai Hopewell, a landowner in Chillicothe, Illinois. It was on his property the first mounds were excavated in the 1800’s.

Joseph-Knew-Hopewell-Cement-WallWhere did They Live?

This was a Native American culture that developed and spread throughout the Midwest. It is not associated with any specific tribe, but rather is a way of life that was common throughout the heartland of North America, Indiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, Mississippi, and the Ohio Valley. The main concentration was found in these areas, but evidence of them can be found in other areas as well.

They built their cities mainly near waterways such as rivers and lakes that could support their trade system.

They created large enclosures of earthen walls 2 -3 meters high. These walls outlined shapes such as squares, circles and octagons. They created entire cities using geometry and astronomy. Their sacred enclosures often occupied spaces of over 100 acres and were laid out in distinctive patterns aligned with the sun, moon and stars.

Joseph-Knew-Hopewell-Culture-Cement-Houses-Helaman-3-11How did They Live?

They planted and harvested crops. They hunted and fished. They used tools of not only stone and flint, but of metals. Through a sophisticated trade system, they acquired shells from the Gulf Coast, obsidian from the Rocky Mountains, and copper from the Great Lakes region. They worked in copper, lead, gold, and silver creating not only tools and weapons, but also works of art.

Joseph-Knew-Hopewell-Culture-Newark-Works“They possessed a decided system of religion, and a mythological connection with astronomy, which with its sister science geometry, was in the hands of the priesthood.” (Alexander W. Bradford, American Antiquities and Research into the Origin and History of the Red Race, 1843, pages 69-71)

They built roads of cement. They built their houses, temples and sanctuaries out of timber and cement. They had a definite system of religion and the priesthood was influential in their government. God, religion, family, peace and freedom were extremely important.

Joseph-Knew-Hopewell-Culture-Title-of-Liberty-Alma-46-12When did They Live? What Happened to them?

The influential Hopewell culture flourished for approximately 700 years, beginning about 300 BC, and died out suddenly about 400 AD. Although historians cannot explain their sudden disappearance, if they were, as we believe, the Nephites, the Book of Mormon explains their demise at the hand of their enemies the Lamanites. Moroni, in about 420 AD writes:

“Now I, Moroni, after having made an end of abridging the account of the people of Jared, I had supposed not to have written more, but I have not as yet perished; and I make not myself known to the Lamanites lest they should destroy me.

“For behold, their wars are exceedingly fierce among themselves; and because of their hatred they put to death every Nephite that will not deny the Christ.

“And I, Moroni, will not deny the Christ; wherefore, I wander whithersoever I can for the safety of mine own life.” — Moroni 1:1-3

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Hopewell artifact images by: World Heritage Ohio. Visit their website here.

Background photo of mounds in the mist by: National Parks Service/Hopewell Culture (HOCU-NPS). Visit their website here.

Timber and concrete wall photo by: Mormon Media Network

Great Destruction in the Land

Joseph-Knew-3-NephiIn the Book of Mormon we read of great destruction at the time of Christ’s death. Some who believe Central and South America to be the land of the Book of Mormon cite the destruction recorded in the eighth chapter of 3 Nephi as evidence, believing the heartland of North America is not prone to such destruction. As evidence to the contrary we can look at the earthquakes of 1811 and 1812. Named for a Missouri town on the Mississippi River, the quakes have become known as the New Madrid earthquakes.

At 2:15 AM on December 16, 1811 an 8.1 magnitude earthquake hit the central United States. The epicenter was in northeast Arkansas. It was strongly felt over an area of 50,000 square miles (130,000 square kilometers) and moderately felt across 1 million square miles (nearly 3 million square kilometers). By comparison, the devastating 1906 San Francisco quake was felt over approximately 6,200 square miles (16,000 square kilometers).

Four days later another 8.1 quake hit; followed by a 7.8 on January 23, 1812 and an 8.0 on February 7, 1812. From December 16 to February 7 the area was hit by over 2,000 earthquakes or after shocks.

The similarities between the destruction recorded in 3 Nephi and the destruction in America’s heartland are undeniable. Below is a verse-by-verse comparison of events in the Book of Mormon at the time of the crucifixion and events in and around New Madrid, Missouri.

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THUNDER AND LIGHTNING

3 Nephi 8:12

. . . for behold, the whole face of the land was changed, because of the tempest and the whirlwinds, and the thunderings and the lightnings, and the exceedingly great quaking of the whole earth;

New Madrid Eye-witness Accounts

There was a great shaking of the earth this morning. Tables and chairs turned over and knocked around – all of us knocked out of bed. The roar I thught (sic) would leave us deaf if we lived. – George Heinrich Grist

Many witnesses reported hearing distant thunder and loud explosions. “Earthquake Booms” can be caused by small earthquakes deep underground which are too small to be recorded. They often have the roar of distant thunder.

There were many reports in New Madrid of flashes of light coming from the ground. This is caused by quartz crystals being squeezed. This phenomenon, which can look like lightning, is called “seismoluminescence.”

________________

SMOOTH PLACES BECAME ROUGH

3 Nephi 8:14, 17-18

And many great and notable cities were sunk, and many were burned, and many were shaken till the buildings thereof had fallen to the earth, and the inhabitants thereof were slain, and the places were left desolate. 

And thus the face of the whole earth became deformed, because of the tempests, and the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the quaking of the earth.

And behold, the rocks were rent in twain; they were broken up upon the face of the whole earth, insomuch that they were found in broken fragments, and in seams and in cracks, upon all the face of the land.

New Madrid Eye-witness Accounts

“In all the hard shocks mentioned, the earth was horribly torn to pieces – the surface of hundreds of acres, was, from time to time, covered over, in various depths, by the sand which issued from the fissures, which were made in great numbers all over this country, some of which closed up immediately after they had vomited forth their sand and water, which it must be remarked, was the matter generally thrown up. In some places, however, there was a substance somewhat resembling coal, or impure stone coal, thrown up with the sand. It is impossible to say what the depths of the fissures or irregular breaks were; we have reason to believe that some of them are very deep.” – Eliza Bryan

“The surface was sinking and a black liquid was rising up to the belly of my horse, who stood motionless, struck with a panic of terror … [ ] …water spouts, hundreds of them throwing water and sand were to be observed on the whole face of the country, the sand forming miniature volcanoes, whilst the water spouted out of the craters; some of the spouts were quite six feet high… In a few minutes, on both sides of the road as far as the eye could see, was vast expanse of sand and water, water and sand. The road spouted water, and wide openings were to be seen across it ahead of me, then under me, and my [vehicle] sank while the water and sand bubbled, and spat and sucked till my axles were covered.” – J Fletcher

“I went ashore, and found the chasm really frightful, as it was not less than four feet in width and besides the bank had sunk at least two feet. I took the candle, examined to determine its length and concluded that it could not be less than eighty yards long.” – John Bradbury (on the Mississippi River)

“The earth was broken in many places and the openings filled with water. The houses much injured – the only brick chimney in the place entirely demolished . . .” – Daniel Bedinger

Maps from the mid 1800’s referred to some lakes in the area as “Earthquake Lakes”.

In 1912, areas around the Mississippi river were identified and named “Sunklands”. Geologist Myron Fuller believed those lands were created during the New Madrid earthquake.

One terrifying phenomenon that occured in the New Madrid area was that of sand blows or sand boils. Liquefaction can cause geysers of sand, water and tar to gush from the earth. These sand blows can blow up to twenty feet high and can completely cover acres of land.

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A VAPOR OF DARKNESS

3 Nephi 8:19-20

And it came to pass that when the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the storm, and the tempest, and the quakings of the earth did cease—for behold, they did last for about the space of three hours; and it was said by some that the time was greater; nevertheless, all these great and terrible things were done in about the space of three hours—and then behold, there was darkness upon the face of the land. 

And it came to pass that there was thick darkness upon all the face of the land, insomuch that the inhabitants thereof who had not fallen could feel the vapor of darkness;

New Madrid Eye-witness Accounts

“We were visited by a violent shock of an earthquake, accompanied by a very awful noise resembling loud but distant thunder, but more hoarse and vibrating, which was followed in a few minutes by the complete saturation of the atmosphere, with sulphurious vapor, causing total darkness.” – Eliza Bryan

“A dense black cloud of vapor overshadowed the land.” – Godfrey LeSieur

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NO FIRE OR LIGHT

3 Nephi 8:21-23

And there could be no light, because of the darkness, neither candles, neither torches; neither could there be fire kindled with their fine and exceedingly dry wood, so that there could not be any light at all;

And there was not any light seen, neither fire, nor glimmer, neither the sun, nor the moon, nor the stars, for so great were the mists of darkness which were upon the face of the land.

And it came to pass that it did last for the space of three days that there was no light seen; . . .

New Madrid Eye-witness Accounts

“My maw tried to light the lamps; but the darkness was so dense they didn’t help at all.” – Eliza Bryan

Not being able to light fires, burn candles, etc., is not unheard of. Fire requires approximately 18% oxygen to burn. At sea level our air contains about 21% oxygen. Although fire cannot “breathe” below 18%, humans can.

________________

The 1811-1812 destruction in the heartland was not an isolated incident. Geologists believe similar events happened 600 years earlier around 1200 AD, and 600 years before that in 600 AD. Perhaps 600 years before that people in the heartland witnessed the same devastation and it was recorded in 3 Nephi.

Copyright © 2015 by Energy Media Works LLC

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

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Additional Information:

See: Fuller, Myron L. 1912. The New Madrid Earthquakes. US. Geol. Survey. Bulletin.

JosephKnew.com has assembled several historical documents about the New Madrid Earthquakes. You can find these documents in PDF format here:

Document 1               Document 2               Document 3               Document 4

Document 5               Document 6               Document 7               Document 8

Document 9               Document 10             Document 11             Document 12

Document 13             Document 14             Document 15             Document 16