Tag Archives: Book of Mormon

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)

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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 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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Joseph-Knew-Book-of-Mormon-Pronunciation-Guide

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Lamanites in North America

Joseph-Knew-Oliver-CowderyIn September 1830 the second general conference of the church was held in Fayette, New York. At the time there were only 62 members of the church. At that conference the Lord, through the Prophet Joseph, commanded Oliver Cowdery to, “go unto the Lamanites and preach my gospel unto them”. (D&C 8:8) This was the first official church mission. Three others, Ziba Peterson, Parley P. Pratt and Peter Whitmer were called to accompany Oliver. Pratt recorded their missionary activities in his autobiography.

“After travelling for some days we called on an Indian nation at or near Buffalo; and spent part of a day with them, instructing them in the knowledge of the record of their forefathers. We were kindly received, and much interest was manifested by them on hearing this news.” (Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, page 47)

Joseph-Knew-Parley-P-PrattThe missionaries traveled from the Buffalo area to Ohio where they met and taught other Lamanites. While there, they baptized Frederick G. Williams who joined them in their missionary efforts into Missouri. It was here that Cowdery, Pratt and Williams met with the Delawares and the Shawnees. The chief of the Delawares, who had taken the Christian name Anderson, was open and receptive. In a letter to Joseph Smith, Cowdery wrote:

“The principal chief says he believes every word of the Book and there are many more in the Nation who believe and we understand there are many among the Shawnees who also believe & we trust that when the Lord shall open our way we shall have glorious times.”

Joseph-Knew-Joseph_Preaching_to_the_Indians_by_C.C.A._ChristensenJoseph Smith saw the Native Americans in a different light than was popular in America at the time. It’s reasonable to assume his view came from the Book of Mormon, which did not portray them as savages, untamed by civilized society. Joseph knew from the Book of Mormon that the Lamanites were a noble people, equal in stature to any people on earth. Joseph’s view of the Lamanites was no doubt reinforced in November 1831 when, at a special conference of the elders of the church, he received a revelation, which would become the first section of the Doctrine and Covenants. The Lord reveals his intention and desire to make the gospel known “unto all flesh,” because he is “no respecter of persons.” (D&C 1:34,35)

The US government did not share this view of Native Americans. In 1830, the same year the Lord sent his first missionaries out to share the gospel with the Lamanites, the US congress passed the Indian Removal Act. This gave the US President power to order the removal of any and all Native Americans to the western territories. By moving the savages out of the east, it opened the way for civilized society to expand.

The attitudes of the Latter-day Saints toward the Native Americans served as kindling for the anti-Mormon fires that were smoldering in Missouri. Oliver Cowdery taught the Delawares that the land should be “held in common with the palefaces”. (Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, page 55) Such teaching could not have set well with landowners.

Joseph traveled to share the gospel with the Lamanites. He also welcomed them into Nauvoo.

When the Lord commanded Joseph to send missionaries among the Lamanites, Joseph did not send them to Central or South America. He sent them into North America. However, Joseph’s understanding of who the Native Americans were did not begin with the translation of the Book of Mormon. As a seventeen year old he was taught by Moroni “concerning the aboriginal inhabitants of this country, and shown who they were, and from whence they came; a brief sketch of their origin, progress, civilization, laws, governments, of their righteousness and iniquity”. (The Wentworth Letter)

Joseph knew that the Native Americans were descended from Joseph of Egypt, and those missionaries who shared the gospel with them understood that fact. After his first mission to the Lamanites, Parley P. Pratt expressed his hope that “at some future day, when the servants of God go forth with power to the remnant of Joseph, some precious seed will be found growing in their hearts, which [was] sown by us in that early day”. (Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, page 57) During Moroni’s first appearance to Joseph Smith, Moroni said he had been “sent to bring the joyful tidings, that the covenant which God made with ancient Israel was at hand to be fulfilled”. That first mission to the Lamanites in 1830 was helping to fulfill that covenant.

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Image credits: Joseph Smith preaching to the Laminates by CCA Christensen

Photos of Oliver Cowdery and Orson Pratt by unknown photographers (in the public domain)

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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.

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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.

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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

Ancient Temple Mounds

Jseph-Knew-CahokiaMound-MMNA common argument given to disprove the Book of Mormon is the use of the word synagogue. Critics argue that synagogues were not used in Israel before the Babylonian captivity and, therefore, would not have been known to Jews whose ancestors arrived in North America around 600 BC. Whether or not such meeting places were in use in Israel before the captivity is a topic for another discussion, but for the sake of this discussion, suffice it to say that research over the past few decades has shed new light on the subject. *

The word synagogue appears at least 25 times in the Book of Mormon. The word temple appears 27, and sanctuary 10 times. Religious worship was extremely important and places of worship were an essential part of Nephite cities.

A place for Sabbath meetings was also important in ancient Israel. (See Lamentations 2:6, Ezekiel 44:24) Recent studies in Israel indicate that gated chambers inside cities (before the captivity) served as Sabbath meetings places. These were set apart from the common area of the city.

If Jews in North America were building Sabbath meeting places, one would expect to see this same pattern of construction.

“And Alma and Amulek went forth preaching repentance to the people in their temples, and in their sanctuaries, and also in their synagogues, which were built after the manner of the Jews.” (Alma 16:13 Italics added)

Joseph-Knew-Terraced-Temple-MoundIn their book Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley, G. H. Squire and E. H. Davis describe what they call ancient temple mounds found throughout the Mississippi valley. The Mounds were large flat-topped mounds found in the center of a city. The ruins of structures have been found on top of these mounds, and Squire and Davis believed these structures were temples, or some important building of worship. Building temples or synagogues inside the city and separating them from the common areas of the city is consistent with what Jews in 600 BC would have been familiar with.

Fitting with early gated areas inside cities in Israel, Squire and Davis describe these mounds as being set apart inside walled or enclosed cities.

“These mounds are distinguished by their great regularity of form and general large dimensions. They occur most usually within, but sometimes without, the walls of enclosures.” (G. H. Squire and E. H. Davis, Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley, 1848, page 173)

When not inside an enclosed city, these sanctuaries were still securely placed above the city.

Throughout the Bible we find examples of sacred events taking place on mountaintops: Moses on Mount Sinai, Christ with his Apostles on the Mount of Transfiguration, the Sermon on the Mount. Isaiah, speaking of a temple in the last days, calls it “the mountain of the Lord’s house” in “the top of the mountains.” With such a tradition, it would make sense that Jews, finding themselves in the flat Ohio and Mississippi valleys would build their own “mountains”. The mounds documented by Squire and Davis are all man-made.

Joseph-Knew-Monks-Mound-Cahokia-From the Squire and Davis book, is a drawing of one such mound in Cahokia, Illinois. (Also seen at the top of this article as it looks today). At the left we can see a single ramp or stairway leading up to the top of the mound.

“The form of the mound is that of a parallelogram, seven hundred feet long by five hundred wide at the base. It is ninety feet in height. Upon one side is a broad apron or terrace, which is reached by a graded ascent.” (E. G. Squire and E. H. Davis, Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley, 1848, Page 174)

This man-made mound, known today as Monks Mound, is estimated to have a volume of twenty million cubic feet of dirt.

Joseph-Knew-Diamond-Temple-MoundOften smaller mounds were surrounded by ditches. These ditches were much like those surrounding the fortresses described in an earlier post, Preparing for War. However, unlike the fortress ditches, they did not have earthen mounds with timber palisades. These ditches were not intended for defense. They were most likely designed for privacy.

Seeing the prominent positioning of these temple mounds, and the manner in which the temples were constructed, Squire and Davis conclude that religion played an important part in society.

“We have reason to believe that the religious system of the mound-builders, like that of the Aztecs, exercised among them a great, if not a controlling influence. Their government may have been, for aught we know, a government of the priesthood; one in which the priestly and civil functions were jointly exercised, . . .” (E. G. Squire and E. H. Davis, Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley, 1848, Page 47)

There is one defining feature about the temples constructed upon these mounds in North America that separates them from structures in Central America. They were built of timber rather than stone.

“. . . and they did suffer whatsoever tree should spring up upon the face of the land that it should grow up, that in time they might have timber to build their houses, yea, their cities, and their temples, and their synagogues, and their sanctuaries, and all manner of their buildings.” (Helaman 3:9)

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Additional Information:

* For more detailed information about research into ancient Synagogues see Lee I. Levine’s article, The Nature and Origin of the Palestinian Synagogue Reconsidered. (Journal of Biblical Literature 115 [1996]) Also, his book, The Ancient Synagogue: The First Thousand Years (Yale University Press)

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Monks Mound photo by: Mormon Media Network

Temple Mound etchings from the Squire and Davis book.

The Chief Joseph Tablet

Joseph-Knew-Cheif-JosephIn 1877 the respected leader of the Nez Perce tribe surrendered to the U. S. Government. At his surrender, Chief Thunder Rolling Down the Mountain (known by his Christian name Joseph), presented General Nelson Appleton Miles with a pendant, a 1 inch square clay tablet with writings unrecognizable to General Miles. The writing, which was translated by Dr. Robert D. Biggs, Assyyriology Professor at the University of Chicago, turned out to be a sales receipt dating back to 2042 B.C. in Assyria. It read:

“Nalu received 1 lamb from Abbashaga on the 11th day of the month of the festival of An, in the year Enmahgalanna was installed as high priestess of Nanna.” Joseph-Knew-Cheif-Joseph-Tablet

Chief Joseph said the tablet had been passed down in his family for many generations. How would his family come into possession of a nearly 4,000-year-old tablet? According to the Chief, they inherited it from their white ancestors.

Other tablets with an Assyrian connection have been found throughout North America. A tablet similar in size and appearance to The Chief Joseph tablet was found in 1963 in northwestern Georgia near the Chatahoochee River. Like the Chief Joseph tablet, this one was a receipt for the sale of sheep and goats that were to be used in a ceremonial sacrifice. Joseph-Knew-Hearn-TabletFrom other information contained on the tablet, it appears to have been created in 2040 B.C. One difference is the Georgia tablet was made of lead.

When Chief Joseph surrendered to General Miles, he had the tablet in his medicine bag. That bag was itself an interesting connection to Ancient Assyria.

In an April, 2001 article published in Assyria Times, Benjamin Daniali points out a connection between an Assyrian symbol known as the Ashur Star and the design on Chief Joseph’s medicine bag.

Joseph-Knew-the-god-Ashur

In this photo of an ancient relief sculpture we can see the Assyrian god Ashur upon his throne. In front of him is a disc with the symbol known as the Assyrian Star or the Ashur Star. It is a four-pointed star with a circle in the center. Radiating out from between the four points of the star are rays of light.

 

Joseph-Knew-Assyrian_Flag-by-Assyrian612

 

 

In 1971 Assyria adopted a new flag depicting the Assyrian Star.

 

 

In photos of Chief Joseph we can see this same design on his medicine bag.

Joseph-Knew-Cheif-Joseph-with-Medicine-Bag-01Joseph-Knew-CU-Cheif-Joseph-Medicine-Bag

How could the Nez Perce and other tribes in North America have 4,000-year-old Assyrian artifacts handed down for generations? Why would Chief Thunder Rolling Down the Mountain have a Star of Ashur beaded on his medicine bag?

Sometime near the beginning of the Assyrian Empire — which ran from 2,500 B.C. to 605 B.C. — a tower was built in Assyria (modern day Iraq) to reach heaven. As a result, languages were confounded and families were scattered.

Mahonri Moriancumer, the brother of Jared, pleaded with the Lord to not confound his language and that of his closest friends. They left Assyria and traveled “across many waters” to a promised land. They became a mighty nation in the place they called Moriancumer. Could the Chief Joseph tablet have come with them across the waters? Could the Jaredites have preserved their language and Assyrian culture in North America?

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Preparing for War

Joseph Knew - Alma 47-8To protect his people from the Lamanites, Captain Moroni ordered fortifications erected. In chapters 48 and 49 of Alma we find descriptions of these forts.

“Yea, he had been strengthening the armies of the Nephites, and erecting small forts, or places of resort; throwing up banks of earth round about to enclose his armies, and also building walls of stone to encircle them about, round about their cities and the borders of their lands; yea, all round about the land.” (Alma 48:8)

“And behold, the city had been rebuilt, and Moroni had stationed an army by the borders of the city, and they had cast up dirt round about to shield them from the arrows and the stones of the Lamanites; for behold, they fought with stones and with arrows.” (Alma 49:2)

Although we don’t know for sure where Captain Moroni erected these fortifications, the ruins of such cities have been found all along the Great Lakes area of western New York. In his 1850 book, Orasmus Turner describes ancient fortresses found scattered between Rochester and Buffalo, NY. What he describes has many similarities to the forts spoken of in Alma.

Joseph Knew - Earthen wall and ditch Newark“These forts were, generally speaking, erected on the most commanding ground. The walls or breastworks were earthen. The ditches were on the exterior of works. On some of the parapets, oak trees were to be seen, which, from the number of concentric circles, must have been standing 150, 260, and 300 years; and there were evident indications, not only that they had sprung up since the creation of those works, but that they were at the least a second growth. The trenches were in some cases deep and wide, and in others shallow and narrow; and the breastworks varied in altitude from three to eight feet. They sometimes had one, and sometimes two entrances, as was to be inferred from there being no ditch at those places. When the works were protected by a deep ravine or a large stream of water no ditch was to be seen. The areas of these forts varied from two to six acres; and the form was generally an irregular ellipsis; and in some of them fragments of earthenware and pulverized substances, supposed to have been originally human bones, were to be found.” (O. Turner, Pioneer History of the Holland Purchase of Western New York. 1850, pages 20-21)

Such fortresses have been discovered throughout the heartland of North America, but the greatest concentration is found in western New York, in the area around Cumorah.

JosephKnew-Land-of-Many-Waters-with-red-dotAgain from Turner’s book:

“Although not peculiar to this region, there is perhaps no portion of the United States where ancient relics are more numerous. Commencing principally near the Oswego River, they extend westwardly over all the western counties of our State, Canada West, the western Lake Region, the vallies of the Ohio and the Mississippi.” (O. Turner, Pioneer History of the Holland Purchase of Western New York. 1850, page 19)

Turner described the land Cumorah as an area favorable for living, because of an abundance of wildlife and because of its agricultural opportunities and access to rivers and lakes.

“The Forest invited to the chase; the Lakes and Rivers to local commerce, —to the use of the net and the angling rod; the soil, to agriculture.” (O. Turner, Pioneer History of the Holland Purchase of Western New York. 1850, page 19)

But the area was not only a desirable place to live, it was also a place well positioned for defense against the enemy.

Joseph Knew - Holland purchase - light“Here and there upon the brows of our hills, at the head of our ravines, are their fortifications; their locations selected with skill, adapted to refuge, subsistence and defense. (O. Turner, Pioneer History of the Holland Purchase of Western New York. 1850, page 18)

In an 1843 book, Alexander W. Bradford came to several conclusions about the early inhabitants of western New York.

“The best military judges have observed the skill with which the sites of many of the fortifications have been selected, and the artful combination of natural advantages with artificial means of defense exhibited in their construction. The care taken in their erection must have been necessary for the protection against a powerful external enemy, or from internal wars.

“Upon the whole, we may with justice say of these nations, from a review of their relics and monuments thus far,

  1. That they were all of the same origin, branches of the same race, and possessed of similar customs and institutions.
  2. That they were populous, and occupied a great extent of territory.
  3. That they had arrived at a considerable degree of civilization, were associated in large communities, and lived in extensive cities.
  4. That they possessed the use of many of the metals, such as lead, copper, gold, silver, and probably the art working in them.
  5. That they sculptured in stone, and sometimes used that material in the construction of their edifices.
  6. That they had the knowledge of the arch of receding steps; of the art of pottery, — producing utensils and urns formed with taste, and constructed upon the principles of composition: and of the art of brick-making.
  7. That they worked in salt springs, and manufactured that substance.
  8. That they were an agricultural people, living under the influence and protection of regular forms of government.
  9. That 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.
  10. That they were skilled in the art of fortification.
  11. That the epoch of their original settlement, in the United States, is of great antiquity.” (Alexander W. Bradford, American Antiquities and Research into the Origin and History of the Red Race, 1843, pages 69-71)

In his book, Aboriginal Monuments of the State of New York, 1849, E. G. Squire documented more than 1,000 such sites in Ontario, Livingston, Genesee and Monroe Counties. Squire researched ancient cities throughout America’s heartland and concluded, “There is not an area of like size in the United States east of the Ohio and south of the Mason and Dixon Line where evidence of aboriginal occupation are so abundant.”

1 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.

2 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.

3 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.

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Additional information:

For information about the evidence of wars in the Great Lakes area, see the Joseph Knew article “Giants in the Land”.

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Fortress drawing from the book, Aboriginal Monuments of the State of New York by E.G. Squire, 1849