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What We Know . . . So Far

As far as we can tell, no one has yet been able to prove that something does not, or did not exist. Yet, that is often an argument used by anti-Mormons in their attempt to disprove the authenticity of the Book of Mormon. Years ago the idea that there are elephants mentioned in the Book of Mormon was proof the book was a fabrication. But now it’s becoming more and more accepted that there were elephants roaming the promised land. Skeptics have had to shift their attention to the mention of horses in the Book of Mormon. And now the argument that horses were not in North America before the Spanish arrived is springing leaks.

When the Winter Olympic games were held in Salt Lake City in 2002, President Gordon B. Hinckley was asked by a reporter if he had a comment about DNA research that seemed to disprove the Book of Mormon. He simply responded that all the information wasn’t in yet. Today DNA is proving a connection between the Middle East and Native Americans.

For decades the big bang theory has been the accepted origin of our universe. Now physicists in Egypt and Canada have made a strong argument that there was no beginning to the universe. It has always existed. This is just another example of a faith-based belief that has been scoffed at by science, and is now becoming self-evident.

More and more, theories placing Book of Mormon events in Mesoamerica and South America are giving way to the heartland of America as Book of Mormon lands. Geographic evidences that have become overgrown by forests, or deliberately destroyed, are coming to light and are being connected to people and places of the Book of Mormon.

Although, as President Hinckley said, not all of the evidence is in yet, a lot of evidence is in, and that evidence is confirming what early church leaders knew, the Heartland of America is the land of the Book of Mormon.

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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.

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Land of Many Waters

The Land of Many Waters
Watkins Glen, NY

And it came to pass that we did march forth to the land of Cumorah, and we did pitch our tents around 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. — (Book of Mormon, Mormon 6:4)

When Mormon leads his people to the Hill Cumorah, he makes a point of recording that it was located in the “land of many waters.” This would indicate that the number of lakes, rivers, streams and springs was unusual. The Hill Cumorah near Palmyra, NY, which we at Joseph Knew believe to be the Hill Cumorah spoken of by Mormon, is located in the Finger Lakes region of Western New York.

The early native people considered this area sacred and blessed by God. Native legend says that after He created the earth, God blessed it by placing his hand on this area, and this left the Finger Lakes. Lakes Cayuga and Seneca are among the deepest lakes in the United States. This area is a central part of the Iroquois homeland. The lakes sit below Lake Ontario and are a central feature in what Willard Bean called Cumorahland.

Land of Many Waters -- NASA Photo
Land of Many Waters — NASA Photo

This area is certainly “a land of many waters, rivers, and fountains.” In New York there are over 1,600 fresh lakes, ponds and reservoirs. There are over 70,000 miles of rivers. The Finger Lakes are a group of eleven long, finger-like lakes.

The Finger Lakes area is a good candidate for The Land of Many Waters for several reasons.

From a military standpoint the terrain is good defensively.

The great number of lakes, rivers and streams would have slowed down the enemies from the south pursuing the Nephites northward. The Book of Mormon emphasizes the fact that the land of many waters was “an exceeding great distance” from the land of Zarahemla and that there were more streams, rivers, lakes, and fountains in that area than were to be found in any lands where these early people had dwelt.

Evidence of great battles in Cumorahland can be found all along the Great Lakes region.

New York Governor DeWitt Clinton, who was the driving force behind the Erie Canal in the early 1800s, lectured about ancient discoveries in the Great Lakes area.

In a lecture before the New York Historical Society in 1831, he spoke about the great number of fortresses found all along the Great Lakes area. He said:

“I have seen several of these works in the western part of this state. There is a large one in the town of Onondaga, one in Pompey, and another in Manlius; one in Camillus, eight miles from Auburn: one in Scipio, six miles, another one mile, and one about half a mile from that village. Between the Seneca and Cayuga Lakes there are several—three within a few miles of each other. Near the village of Canandaigua there are three. In a word, they are scattered all over that county.”

The Hill Cumorah is the largest hill in the area and would have served as a good look-out post. (Mormon 6:11)

Archeological evidence suggests two great nations perished in the Finger Lakes area.

Arrowheads from the Hill Cumorah
Arrowheads from the Hill Cumorah

In 1925 a farmer in Palmyra was digging a well and uncovered several large skeletons. The age of the skeletons was determined to be approximately 3,000 years old. This would fit in the time frame of the Jaradite Nation.

The Rochester Herald reported that, “In this pit were found an axe of peculiar shape, wide bit and other implements that bore signs of ancient warfare. There are dozens of similar ruins near Rochester. Upon these steep heights invading armies may have pressed a desperate assault, while all along the brow of the hills behind the rude fortifications of the great forest, stood the defenders of camp and home.”

Implements of war such as arrowheads, spearheads, axes and clubs have been found throughout the area which indicate great battles took place there around 600 – 300 B.C. and another 300 – 500 AD.

Remains of a giant race of people have been found in the area.

In his 1888 book Pioneers of the Western Reserve, Harvey Rice recorded the recovery of human remains in the Finger Lakes area. He wrote:

“Human bones of gigantic proportions were discovered in such a state of preservation as to be accurately described and measured. The cavities of the skulls were large enough in their dimensions to receive the entire head of a man of modern times, and could be put on one’s head with as much ease as a hat or cap. The jaw-bones were sufficiently large to admit of being placed so as to match or fit the outside of a modern man’s face.”

Many church leaders believed the Finger Lakes area was the land of Cumorah.

Moroni Monument at Cumorah
Moroni Monument at Cumorah

Oliver Cowdery taught that the final battle of both the Jaredites and the Nephites took place in the valley west of the Hill Cumorah.

In 1935 Gordon B. Hinckley attended the dedication of the Moroni monument atop the Hill. He recognized the fields around the hill as a great battlefield. He wrote: “. . . the canvas shroud fell from the monument and the figure of Moroni looked out across the quiet fields, which is his day of life, had been scenes of carnage and sorrow.”

In a 1975 General Conference address, Marion G. Romney said: “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.”

Orson Pratt said: “[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)

Joseph-Knew-old-Book-of-MormonIn their book Geography of the Book of Mormon, Willard Bean and Cecil McGavin wrote:

“In the light of this evidence it would be useless to argue with these reputable historians that a war of extermination had not been fought in Cumorahland and that a great nation had not been exterminated.

“The imperishable inscriptions of metal plates have told us the history of that mysterious people who fought their final battles in the land of many waters.

“Furthermore, the Book of Mormon emphasizes the fact that the land of many waters was ‘an exceeding great distance’ from the land of Zarahemla; that there were more streams, rivers, lakes, and fountains in that area than were to be found in any lands where these early people had dwelt.

“Middle America is not a land of many waters. Its ancient hills are not marked with tokens of fortifications; its skeletal remains do not tell of a bitter war of extermination, comparable at all to the evidence in western New York. If we are to find that historic land where the drums of war called forth the warriors until the land was covered with the bodies of the dead, we must go northward ‘an exceeding great distance,’ as the Jaredites and Nephites did many centuries ago.

“These aboriginal monuments, the tell-tale tokens of ancient warfare by highly civilized nations, are not to be flung aside as one ‘fights against the pricks’ to confine these ancient people to the narrow and restricted domain of Middle America. Inscriptions on metal have told us the story, which is otherwise a great mystery. These mysteries vanish as ancient historians speak from the dust.”

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

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Hear what Gordon B. Hinckley had to say about the Hill Cumorah in this short video clip. (1:27)

 

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Hill of Ancient Seers and Prophets

In September 1827, the Book of Mormon Prophet Moroni visited Joseph Smith. During that first visit from Moroni, Joseph saw in a vision the hill in which the plates were buried. After that, Joseph began referring to that hill outside Palmyra, NY  as Cumorah. This was not a name he received from the Book of Mormon. It was the name he received from Moroni.

Other early leaders, who were close to Joseph Smith, called the hill Cumorah as well. Orson Pratt believed that the hill was not only the place where Moroni buried the Book of Mormon record, but was also the hill in which Moroni’s father Mormon deposited hundreds of other records. In the church publication, Millennial Star, Pratt wrote:

Joseph Knew - Young Orson Pratt
Orson Pratt

“And all the ancient plates, Mormon deposited in Cumorah, about three hundred and eighty-four years after Christ. When Moroni, about thirty-six years after, made the deposit of the book entrusted to him, he was, without doubt, inspired to select a department of the hill separate from the great sacred depository of the numerous volumes hid up by his father. The particular place in the hill, where Moroni secreted the book, was revealed, by the angel, to the Prophet Joseph Smith, to whom the volume was delivered in September, A.D. 1827. But the grand repository of all the numerous records of the ancient nations of the western continent, was located in another department of the hill, and its contents under the charge of holy angels, until the day should come for them to be transferred to the sacred temple of Zion.

“There is no spot on this wide world of ours, which is calculated to excite more vivid reflections, than the wonderful hill of Cumorah. There the history of one-half of our globe, reposed, for fourteen centuries, in profound unbroken silence: there, ‘the everlasting Gospel,’ engraved, not on tablets of stone, but on plates of gold, awaited the voice of the heavenly angel to reveal the priceless treasure: there, buried in the holy archives of Cumorah’s sacred hill, are plates of brass, plates of gold, undimmed by time; sacredly guarded as the temple of heaven: there shines the Urim and Thummim, the stones of light, the gems of immortality: there, reposes in words of light, the hidden knowledge of ages past, the prophetic history of ages to come: there wisdom has selected her palace, and understanding her dwelling place, until ‘the spirit is poured out from on high’ and ‘the skies pour down righteousness;’ then, ‘the earth opens and brings forth salvation.’

Joseph-Knew-Two-Cumorahs-533
The Hill Cumorah c. 1920

“All the wealth of ages is valueless, compared with the records of eternal wisdom, the inexhaustible fountain of understanding, hidden in the secret recesses of the wonderful—the beautiful—the lovely hill Cumorah! O, Cumorah! The hill of ancient Seers and Prophets! The hill
of God! Sanctified by holy angels’ feet! From thy bowels is heard a voice, low, sweet, mild, of heavenly tones! Yet it thrills through every fiber of the heart! It speaks of man—of God— of earth—of heaven—of hell! It speaks of the past—of the future—of the destiny of nations— the reign of Messiah—the resurrection—the final judgment! O holy, lovely mount! The sacred resting place of Zion’s law! In thy chambers dwell eternal riches! In thy lovely bosom are fountains that never dry! Speak! O speak again! Let Zion hear thy voice! For thy voice is not the voice of feeble helpless man! But the voice of the Eternal One, speaking from the ground.” (Millennial Star, 1866)

In 1835, Oliver Cowdery wrote a number of letters he called The Rise of the Church. These appeared in the church publication, The Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate. They were also reprinted in the Times and Seasons. In letter VII he wrote about the hill and described the area around it. It was his belief that the great and final battle in Cumorahland took place west of the hill, between the Hill Cumorah and a smaller hill about a mile west. Cowdery, like Orson Pratt, believed that the hill was not important only to the Nephite prophets, but to the Jaredites as well.

Joseph-Knew-Oliver-Cowdery
Oliver Cowdery

“You are acquainted with the mail road from Palmyra, Wayne Co. to Canandaigua, Ontario Co. N.Y. and also, as you pass from the former to the latter place, before arriving at the little village of Manchester, say from three to four,
 or about four miles from Palmyra, you pass a large hill on the east side of the road. Why I say large, is, because it is as large perhaps, as any in that country. To a person acquainted with this road, a description would be unnecessary, as it is the largest and rises the highest of any on that route. The north end rises quite sudden until it assumes a level with the more southerly extremity, and I think I may say an elevation higher than at the south a short distance, say half or three fourths of a mile. As you pass toward Canandaigua it lessens gradually until the surface assumes its common level, or is broken by other smaller hills or ridges, water courses and ravines. I think I am justified in saying that this is the highest hill for some distance round. . . .

“At about one mile west rises another ridge 
of less height, running parallel with the former, leaving a beautiful vale between. The soil is of the first quality for the country, and under a state of cultivation, which gives a prospect at once imposing, when one reflects on the fact, that here, between these hills, the entire power and national strength of both the Jaredites and Nephites were destroyed.” (Oliver Cowdery,The Rise of the Church, letter VII)

Both of these men were close to the Prophet Joseph Smith. We can assume that much of the information they gained about Book of Mormon lands came from him. They were also both prophets themselves and would be entitled to their own personal insights.

Many leaders have shared their beliefs that the hill outside Palmyra, NY is the Hill Cumorah in the Book of Mormon.

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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.

Hear what Gordon B. Hinckley had to say about the Hill Cumorah in this short video clip. (1:27)

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Image credits: All images in the public domain. The painting of Moroni appearing to Joseph Smith is by the artist C.A.A. Christiansen

Battles in Cumorahland

The Book of Mormon tells of many battles, but none fiercer than those fought in Cumorahland. The Jaredite nation was destroyed near the hill Ramah and approximately 1,000 years later the Nephites were slaughtered near that same hill, then called Cumorah.

We have already established in earlier articles that the hill at Palmyra, NY that we call Cumorah is that same hill from the Book of Mormon.

Joseph Knew Great Lakes Area map - Covens & Mortimier 1757
Cumorahland — Western New York

Is There Evidence of Great Battles Near the Hill Cumorah?

The Great Lakes area of the United States is covered in ruins that match the cities and fortresses of Cumorahland described in the Book of Mormon. Unfortunately many of those ruins have been destroyed or covered over in the last 200 years

In a lecture before the New York Historical Society in 1831, Governor DeWitt Clinton said:

Joseph-Knew---DeWitt_Clinton_by_Rembrandt_Peale
NY Governor DeWitt Clinton

“I have seen several of these works in the western part of this state. There is a large one in the town of Onondaga, one in Pompey, and another in Manlius; one in Camillus, eight miles from Auburn: one in Scipio, six miles, another one mile, and one about half a mile from that village. Between the Seneca and Cayuga Lakes there are several—three within a few miles of each other. Near the village of Canandaigua there are three. In a word, they are scattered all over that county.”

As we have discussed in an earlier post, common attitudes of the 18th and 19th centuries labeled Native Americans as backward, savages and therefore not the descendants of the people who had created such great civilizations. One of the things Joseph Smith knew was that the Native Americans were not savages and they were the descendants of that great society.

The descriptions of fortresses in the book of Alma bear striking similarities to those found in the Great Lakes area.

Governor Clinton described:

Joseph Knew -- Alma 48 8“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. [ ] 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 elipsis; and in some of them fragments of earthenware and pulverized substances, supposed to have been originally human bones, were to be found. [ ]

“These numerous works could never have been supplied with provisions without the aid of agriculture. Nor could they have been constructed without the use of iron or copper, and without perseverance, labour, and design which demonstrate considerable progress in the arts of civilized life.” (O. Turner, Pioneer History of the Holland Purchase of Western New York. 1850, pages 20-21)

It’s interesting that even though the idea that an ancient Mediterranean people inhabited the great lakes area was a common school of thought in the 1800s, when Joseph Smith presented a reasonable and logical explanation in the Book of Mormon, he was labeled a liar and a fraud. Ten years after the publication of the Book of Mormon, long after Joseph and the other saints had left New York, a newspaper, the New York Star, scolded people for scoffing.

Joseph Knew Mormon Media Network Final Battle near Buffalo NY
Battlefield Near Buffalo, NY

“We must, as a nation, relinquish our believing propensities, our uniform practices of doubting everything which we cannot exactly comprehend, and believing everything to be a hoax or a humbug, and prepare ourselves by a proper study and discipline of mind to know and to believe that this New World, [ ] was settled by the descendants of Peleg . . .

“Let our people know that the red men spread over this continent are the descendants of what was called the lost tribes, who bear, at this day, the proofs in their religion, language and ceremonies, of their early origin. So far, all is conjecture; but these discoveries will in time ripen into fixed and positive evidence.”  (The New York Star, July 11, 1840)

In his 1850 book, Pioneer History of the Holland Purchase of Western New York, Orsamus Turner  wrote extensively about the ancient people that preceded the 19th century Europeans living in America.

“We are surrounded by evidences that a race preceded them [the Europeans], farther advanced in civilization and the arts, and far more numerous. 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)

JosephKnew-Land-of-Many-Waters-with-red-dot
The Finger Lakes — Upstate New York

The area we call Cumorahland is a land full of evidence of fortresses, great battles and mass destruction. Again for his book, Turner records:

“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.” (Ibid, page 19)

“We are prone to speak of ourselves as the inhabitants of a new world; and yet we are confronted with such evidences of antiquity! We clear away the forests and speak familiarly of subduing a ‘virgin soil’;—and yet the plough up-turns the skulls of those whose history is lost ! We say that Columbus discovered a new world. Why not that he helped to make two old ones acquainted with each other.” (Ibid, pages 18 and 19)

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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.

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DNA and the Book of Mormon

Joseph-Knew-Hollowhorn-Bear--by-Edward-Curtis-1907NATIVE AMERICAN ANCESTRY

Over the past several years there has been a lot of debate over DNA and the Book of Mormon. Anti-Mormon groups claim that a lack of DNA evidence connecting the people of South and Central America to the Middle East is proof that the Book of Mormon is not a true record of Jewish people in the new world.

There are two major problems with this DNA argument. First, it assumes that Mesoamerica is the land of the Book of Mormon. Second, it assumes that DNA studies done 15 years ago or longer are the final word on Native American ancestry.

NEW INFORMATION

When the Winter Olympic games were held in Salt Lake City in 2002, President Gordon B. Hinckley was asked by a reporter if he had a comment about the DNA Book of Mormon question. He simply responded that all the information wasn’t in yet.

Eleven years later, in 2013, National Geographic Magazine published an article titled “Great Surprise” – Native Americans Have West Eurasian Origins.

In his article, reporter Brian Handwerk reported: “Nearly one-third of Native American genes come from west Eurasian people linked to the Middle East and Europe, rather than entirely from East Asians as previously thought, according to a newly sequenced genome.”

Joseph-Knew---Baring-Strait-map-byJ.-Bayly-1784-Before this new DNA evidence, the prevailing theory proposed that Native American ancestors came to North America from Asia across the Bering Strait some 16,000 years ago. That theory may very well hold water, but it doesn’t mean that crossing the Bering Strait was the only way people came to North America. We sometimes jump to false conclusions or make erroneous assumptions because we see known facts as the only facts. We sometimes assume that if we have this, then we cannot have that. If it is a fact that today’s Native Americans have ancestors that came from Asia, it doesn’t mean that they don’t have ancestors and DNA from another area as well. According to the genome study’s co-author Eske Willerslev, “This study changes this idea because it shows that a significant minority of Native American ancestry actually derives not from East Asia but from a people related to present-day western Eurasians.” (Great Surprise – Native Americans Have West Eurasian Origins, Brian Handwerk, National Geographic Magazine, November 22, 2013)

Joseph-Knew---Indian-Head-NickelMISSING THE SIMILARITIES WE WOULD EXPECT

We know that Native Americans have a DNA connection to East Asia, but a nagging question has always been there. Why don’t contemporary Asian populations closely resemble Native Americans? Professor Willersley’s response to this question is: “It’s not like you can say that they [Native Americans] are really closely related to Japanese, Chinese, or Koreans, so there seems to be something missing. But this result makes a lot of sense regarding why they don’t fit so well genetically with contemporary East Asians—because one-third of their genome is derived from another population. Maybe, if he looks like something else, it’s because a third of his ancestry isn’t coming from East Asia but from something like the western Eurasians.”

Some scholars who want to hold onto the Bering Strait theory as the only answer for Native American ancestors arriving in North America are proposing that the Middle Eastern DNA was mixed with Asian DNA while still in the old world. While that is a reasonable hypothesis, the Book of Mormon presents another possibility.

The Book of Mormon tells of three groups of people who came to the Promised Land from West Eurasia.

  1. The Jaredites left Babel (modern day Iraq) sometime around 2,200 BC.
  2. The people of Zarahemla, commonly called the Mulekites, came out of Israel sometime around 700 – 600 BC.
  3. Lehi, father of the Nephites and the Lamamnites, left Jerusalem with his people in 600 BC.

When we combine Book of Mormon history with evidence of Jewish rituals and Hebrew artifacts found in North America, the Book of Mormon can answer the question of where this newly discovered DNA connection came from.

Copyright © 2015 by Energy Media Works LLC

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

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Image credits:

DNA Strand – pond5.com, cherezoff

Sketch of effigy pipes – Squier and Davis

Hollowhorn Bear – by Edward Curtis, 1907

Bering Strait map – J. Bayly, 1784

Indian Head Nickel – Wikimedia commons, Bobby131313

No Nephite Books?

There is a fairly popular paper floating around the Internet. It is attributed to Dr. John L. Sorenson *. The paper is titled ”A Whole Bunch of Reasons Why Book of Mormon Geography could not Have Included North America.” It lists 37 things that, in the opinion of the author, prove that North America is not the land of the Book of Mormon.

Now and then we will take one of these 37 points and discuss it here on Joseph Knew. In this article we will discuss point number 15 which says there is no evidence of Nephite “books” in North America. It reads:

  • At least the Nephites are said to have possessed “many” books covering many subjects. No ancient North American books at all are evidenced.

Joseph-Knew-old-Book-of-MormonWe at Joseph Knew can think of at least one Nephite book found in North America. It’s a fairly well know chronicle called the Book of Mormon. It has a companion book, which is not yet in print; it  goes by the working title the Sealed Two Thirds. This Nephite record, or “book” was deposited by Moroni in the Hill Cumorah in New York, North America.

We understand that there are those who believe that there were two Cumorahs, one in Mexico where Moroni hid the plates and a hill in New York where Moroni re-hid them after retrieving them from the Mexico hill and carrying them to New York. We at Joseph Knew believe there was only one Cumorah, and it was in New York. For information on why we support the one hill theory,  please see this article.

Cumorah was not the only hill in Book of Mormon times to contain Nephite records.

“And now I, Mormon, make a record of the things which I have both seen and heard, and call it the Book of Mormon.

“And about the time that Ammaron hid up the records unto the Lord, he came unto me, (I being about ten years of age, and I began to be learned somewhat after the manner of the learning of my people) and Ammaron said unto me: I perceive that thou art a sober child, and art quick to observe;

“Therefore, when ye are about twenty and four years old I would that ye should remember the things that ye have observed concerning this people; and when ye are of that age go to the land Antum, unto a hill which shall be called Shim; and there have I deposited unto the Lord all the sacred engravings concerning this people.” (Mormon 1:1-3)

“And now I, Mormon, seeing that the Lamanites were about to overthrow the land, therefore I did go to the hill Shim, and did take up all the records which Ammaron had hid up unto the Lord.” (Mormon 4:23)

The book we have today known as the Book of Mormon is an abridgment of many records like those Ammaron compiled and hid. The Book of Ether is also an ancient record which was hidden and then became part of the Book of Mormon.

Joseph-Knew-Oliver-CowderyThere are many accounts recorded of the Hill Cumorah containing many Nephite records. Not only did the hill contain records in the days of Moroni, but in the 1800s as well. Oliver Cowdery, who is mentioned in several accounts, said of the Hill Cumorah:

“In my estimation, certain places are dearer to me for what they now contain than for what they have contained.” (Latter-day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate, October 1835, 2:196; emphasis in the original)

Oliver was with Joseph Smith when the plates were returned to the hill after the translation was completed.

Brigham Young recorded:

“Oliver Cowdery went with the Prophet Joseph when he deposited these plates . . . When Joseph got the plates, the angel instructed him to carry them back to the hill Cumorah, which he did. Oliver says that when Joseph and Oliver went there, the hill opened, and they walked into a cave, in which there was a large spacious room . . . They laid the plates on a table; it was a large table that stood in the room. Under the table there was a pile of plates as much as two feet high, and there were altogether in this room more plates than probably many wagon loads; they were piled up in the corners and along the walls.” (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 19:37-39)

Joseph-Knew---Heber-C-Kimball-from-LDS-Church-ArchivesHeber C. Kimball, speaking of Joseph Smith and others inside a cave in the hill Cumorah, said:

“There were books piled up on tables, books upon books. Those records this people will yet have, if they accept of the Book of Mormon and observe its precepts, and keep the commandments. . . . Joseph Smith said the cave contained tons of choice treasures and records.” (Hebrew C. Kimball, Journal of Discourse 4:105)

Brigham Young recorded hearing Heber C. Kimball talk about Joseph, Joseph Smith Sr., and Oliver Cowdery “walking into the hill Cumorah and seeing records upon records piled upon table[s,] they walked from cell to cell and saw records that were piled up . . .” (Manuscript History of Brigham Young, 5 May, 1867, Family and Church History Department Archives)

If one uses the argument that no Nephite records have been found in North America and therefore, the Book of Mormon did not take place in North America, one must apply that same logic to Central and South America. Where are the Nephite records that have been found there? We have the Book of Mormon which came from a Nephite book in North America and that is one more record than has been found in Guatemala.

Joseph-Knew-Hill-Cumorah-about-1830We have the testimony of many people that there were Nephite books in North America. It’s true that first hand accounts are the best and most trusted accounts. However, second hand accounts from trusted sources such as Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Wilford Woodruff, and many others can be valuable as well.

Because such records were hid up by prophets of the Lord, it stands to reason that such records have not been found. Such records will remain hidden until the Lord wants them revealed. In an interview in 1877, David Whitmer  said that even if science proved the records were there in the hill, no one would be able to obtain them until the Lord desired it. **

We have witnesses testifying that there were many Nephite books in Cumorah and we have the definitive Nephite book, the Book of Mormon, found in North America.

Copyright © 2015 by Energy Media Works LLC

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

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* Dr. Sorenson is an emeritus professor of anthropology at Brigham Young University. He has done great research in Central America and proposes that area as the land of the Book of Mormon.

** The 1877 interview with David Whitmer was for a book called Reminiscences of Joseph, the Prophet, and the Coming Forth of the Book of Mormon by Edward Stevenson.

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Additional Information:

For more on Cumorah’s Cave we recommended Cameron Packer’s article.

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

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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

 

Manifest Destiny — Savages in North America

Joseph-Knew-Westward-expansionAmerica’s Move West

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

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

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

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

A Good Idea Gone Bad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lost Civilizations

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

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

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

Copyright © 2015 by Energy Media Works LLC

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

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

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Find all previous posts on the Joseph Knew home page.

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Image Credits:

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

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

Painting of John Winthrop by Vandyke

Indian Land for Sale — Public Domain