Zelph’s Mound

Joseph-Knew---Zions-Camp-map
Zion’s Camp Trail

In May of 1834 Joseph Smith organized a group of Latter-day Saints that came to be known as Zion’s Camp. During May and June, this group of approximately 200 men, several women and a few children traveled on foot from Kirtland, Ohio to Western Missouri. Although it was not the main goal of the expedition, the march gave Joseph Smith and the Saints a greater understanding of Book of Mormon lands. It was clear to Joseph that they were traveling across the very lands occupied by the Nephites. In a letter to his wife Emma, he wrote:

“The whole of our journey, in the midst of so large a company of social honest and sincere men, wandering over the plains of the Nephites, recording occasionally, the history of the Book of Mormon, roving over the mounds of that once beloved people of the Lord, picking up their skulls & their bones, as proof of its divine authenticity, and gazing upon a country the fertility, the splendor and the goodness so indescribable, all serves to pass away time unnoticed.” (The complete letter is in the possession of the Community of Christ church.)

From this letter we learn two things:

  1. Joseph knew North America was where the Book of Mormon took place.
  2. Joseph knew the many man-made mounds in the Heartland of America were created by the Nephites.
Joseph-Knew---Heber-C-Kimball
Heber C. Kimball

On the morning of June 3 near Grigsville, Illinois Joseph took several men to the top of a hill, known today as Naples-Russell Mound 8. About this event, Heber C. Kimball wrote:

“On the top of this mound there was the appearance of three altars, which had been built of stone, one above another, according to the ancient order; and the ground was strewn over with human bones.”

Seeing this, Joseph sent for a shovel and a hoe and they began to excavate at the top of the hill. Again, Kimball reports:

“At about one foot deep we discovered the skeleton of a man, almost entire; and between two of his ribs we found an Indian arrow, which had evidently been the cause of his death. We took the leg and thigh bones and carried them along with us to Clay County. All four appeared sound.”

Another account was recorded by Elder Burr Riggs:

“The brethren procured a shovel and a hoe, and removing the earth to the depth of about one foot, discovered the skeleton of a man, almost entire, and between his ribs the stone point of a Lamanitish arrow which evidently produced his death.”

There are several written accounts of what Joseph Smith said about the man whose remains they had uncovered. The accounts vary somewhat. However, in 1842 Willard Richards was assigned by Joseph Smith to compiled and record a History of the Church. The following was recorded by Richards as part of that official history. It appears to have been gleaned from the many different accounts spoken or recorded in journals of those who were in attendance at the event.

“The contemplation of the scenery around us produced peculiar sensations in our bosoms; and subsequently the visions of the past being opened to my understanding by the spirit of the Almighty, I discovered that the person whose skeleton was before us was a white Lamanite, a large, thick set man and a man of God. His name was Zelph. He was a warrior and chieftain under the great prophet Onandagus, who was known from the Hill Cumorah, or eastern sea, to the Rocky Mountains . . . He was killed in battle by the arrow found among his ribs, during the last great struggle with the Lamanites and Nephites.” (History of the Church, Vol. 2, pg. 79-80, June 3, 1834, 1948 edition)

From this account we learn four things:

  1. The last great struggle with the Lamanites and the Nephites took place in North America.
  2. The Hill Cumorah is in the Eastern Part of North America.
  3. The people of the Book of Mormon spread across North America from at least as far west as the Rocky Mountains to at least as far east as the Hill Cumorah.
  4. Joseph knew North America was where the Book of Mormon took place.

Zelph’s Mound (Naples-Russell Mound 8) is a man-made mound. Mounds such as this can be found throughout the heartland of America. Whether Zelph’s mound was a burial mound specifically for the warrior Zelph, or was a mound burying others is not known for certain. Many burial mounds have been found to have many people buried in them, but upon further examination, it has been found that is was a common practice for people centuries later to bury their loved one’s in such mounds.

Zion’s Camp was a pivotal event in church history. It served to strengthen the resolve of the saints in adversity. It strengthened their faith in the Lord, and it solidified testimonies of the Book of Mormon.

Copyright © 2014 by Energy Media Works LLC

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Joseph-Knew---Zelph-ArrowheadYou can purchase a Zelph arrowhead replica at This is the MarketPlace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Additional information:

Joseph Knew is part of the Mormon Media Network.

Heber C. Kimball was called as an Apostle by the Three Witnesses in February, 1835.

Elder Burr Riggs was a Seventy who served in the first Quorum of the Seventy. He was a physician by profession. He was excommunicated in February 1833, but was re-baptized the following year. He became disaffected from the church in 1838 and in 1839 became one of the few members of the church to be excommunicated twice. Riggs is spoken of in the Doctrine and Covenants when he is called to travel south to do missionary work. (Doctrine and Covenants 75:17)

In these two “Past Impressions” episodes on The Mormon Channel, Dr,. Alex Baugh and Dr. Max Parkin discuss Zion’s Camp. “Establishing Zion’s Camp – Part 1”, “Establishing Zion’s Camp – Part 2.”

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Image credits:

Main title image – Naples-Russel Mound 8 (Zelphi’s Mound) by: wikimedia commons, HotWheels53

Zion’s Camp Trail by: lds.org

Heber C. Kimball by: Unknown photographer – public domain

One thought on “Zelph’s Mound

  1. Thank you for this information about Zelph. I would like to know if the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints now has the arrow in their possession, and if so, is it possible to view it. Has anyone you know actually seen this arrowhead. I checked with the LDS museum this past week when visiting there and they do not know anything about it.
    Pleased to hear your thoughts.
    Best Regards,
    Maureen

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