Monthly Archives: November 2014

Zelph’s Mound

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.
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 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.”


Image credits:

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

Zion’s Camp Trail by:

Heber C. Kimball by: Unknown photographer – public domain

They Wrote the Book

On September 21, 1823 the Book of Mormon Prophet Moroni appeared to Joseph Smith. It could be said that at that moment Joseph entered a School of the Prophets. His knowledge of the Book of Mormon, its lands, its people, its customs, practices, and wars, did not begin when he started translating the plates. It started when he met Moroni, the keeper of the plates.

John Wentworth
John Wentworth

In March 1842, at the request of John Wentworth, editor of the newspaper, the Chicago Democrat, Joseph penned a history of the church up to that point. He described that first visit of Moroni and included:

“I was also informed concerning the aboriginal inhabitants of this country and shown who they were, and from whence they came; a brief sketch of their origins, progress, civilization, laws, governments, of their righteousness and iniquity, and the blessings of God being finally withdrawn from them as a people, was made known unto me.” (emphases added)

In her history, Joseph’s mother Lucy Mack Smith tells how his understanding of Book of Mormon people and events grew after that first visit from Moroni.

“From this time forth, Joseph continued to receive instructions from the Lord, and we continued to get the children together every evening for the purpose of listening while he gave us a relation of the same.”

Lucy Mack Smith
Lucy Mack Smith

Describing those evening conversations she wrote:

“During our evening conversations, Joseph would occasionally give us some of the most amusing recitals that could be imagined. He would describe the ancient inhabitants of this continent, their dress, mode of traveling, and the animals upon which they rode; their cities, their buildings, with every particular; their mode of warfare; and also their religious worship. This he would do with as much ease, seemingly, as if he had spent his whole life among them.” (emphases added)

Between that first visit in 1823 and 1827 when Joseph received the plates, Moroni visited the prophet at least twenty times. He was also instructed by other heavenly “teachers”. Again, from the Wentworth letter:

“After having received many visits from the angels of God unfolding the majesty and glory of the events that should transpire in the last days, on the morning of the 22nd of September, A.D. 1827, the angel of the Lord delivered the records into my hands.”

Before Joseph received the plates he had a good understanding of the people of the Book of Mormon, as Lucy Mack Smith put it, the inhabitants “of this continent”.

"The Hill Cumorah" by C.C.A Christensen
“The Hill Cumorah” by C.C.A Christensen

After that first visit from Moroni, during which he saw in a vision, the hill in which the plates were buried, Joseph began referring to that hill as Cumorah. This was not a name he received from the Book of Mormon. It was the name of the hill he received from the very person who showed him the hill. Moroni, who had buried the plates in the hill himself called the hill Cumorah.

From these writings, the Wentworth letter (penned by Joseph Smith himself), and his mother’s autobiography, we learn what Joseph knew about the Book of Mormon lands and people.

He saw them. He knew what they looked like. He knew how they dressed.

He spoke with them. He received firsthand, eye-witness accounts of their lives.

He knew where they came from. He knew they were descendants of Joseph who was sold into Egypt.

He knew where they lived. He saw their cities and buildings.

He saw their progress. He saw their civilizations, their laws and government.

He knew whom and how they worshiped. He saw their righteousness.

He knew what became of them. He saw their wars, and iniquities.

We have an expression we use when we want to identify someone as an expert in a given field. We say, He wrote the book on that subject. The person didn’t literally write the book about the subject, but he or she knows more than pretty much anyone else about it. Joseph Smith knew the lands of the Book of Mormon and he received much of his understanding from the people who lived there. He was taught by Moroni, who literally wrote the book. He met and talked with Nephi, who literally wrote the book. Joseph knew the lands and history of the Book of Mormon.

Copyright © 2014 by Energy Media Works LLC

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



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Copyright © 2014 by Energy Media Works LLC

Joseph Smith Knew

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.

For decades Latter-day Saint archeologists, researchers and historians have searched for evidence of Book of Mormon lands. Long before formally organized and well-funded groups began their search, Joseph Smith taught that the events found in the Book of Mormon took place in North America. In her personal history his mother Lucy Mack Smith recorded that Joseph often entertained his family with “amusing recitals” of the early inhabitants of North America. He described their wars, their weapons, their clothing, and their lands. He saw their day and knew them and their lands.

The land directly across the river from Nauvoo was called, by command of the Lord, Zarahemla. (Doctrine and Covenants 125:3) Joseph knew this was not “New Zarahemla”, but was the Zarahemla from the Book of Mormon.

When the Lord commanded Joseph to send missionaries into the “borders of the Lamanites”, he identified that land as Missouri in North America. (Doctrine and Covenants 54:8) * will present historical records, prophetic statements, and early and current research surrounding the Book of Mormon in North America. We will present the facts so you can draw your own conclusions.

Copyright © 2014 by Energy Media Works LLC

When using portions of this article, please credit:

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


Additional Information:

For more information about the Book of Mormon in North America, we recommend Rod Meldrum’s book:

Joseph Knew is part of the Mormon Media Network.

* For more information about early “Lamanite Missions” listen to this episode of Past Impressions on the Mormon Channel.