Included below is a table of all the articles, relating to Book of Mormon lands, from this important period. Please note that there are many more relevant articles besides the ones commonly cited. These include important editorials by Joseph Smith. Joseph's editorials can be readily identified because they end with his "ED". The Times and Seasons articles that many celebrate, in order to defend a Mesoamerican setting, are dubious. We do not know for certain who all contributed to these articles. They do not end with Joseph's "ED". These are sensational pieces extrapolating on John Lloyd Stephens' 1841 bestseller, Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan. These articles were published in the fall of 1842 when the official editor of the Newspaper (Joseph Smith) was publicly absent. For much of the fall of 1842, Joseph found it necessary to go into hiding. He had appointed various business responsibilities to others. (Doctrine and Covenants sections 127:1; 128:1) Many historians believe that John Taylor served as acting editor of the newspaper in Joseph's absence. (Matthew Roper, "Limited Geography and the Book of Mormon: Historical Antecedents and Early Interpretations"; "John Taylor's View", BYU Maxwell Institute, 2004, pp. 237-240)
The first of the unsigned articles is
titled EXTRACT From Stephens' "Incidents of Travel in
On the heel of
the first EXTRACT article came the "FACTS ARE STUBBORN THINGS" article. Joseph
Smith is mentioned in the third person in this piece. The article asserts that Lehi "landed a little south of the Isthmus of Darien". This does
not fit with the final unsigned article which alleges that Zarahemla is in
Central America - many hundreds of miles north of
The ZARAHEMLA article asserts (and
then adds a disclaimer) that the ruins of Quirigua are the very ruins of
Zarahemla. The context of the article with its disclaimer can be openly
interpreted to mean that the ruins of Quirigua, found by Stephens, are the
ruins of the city of
Some choose to regard the unsigned
ZARAHEMLA article (October 1, 1842) as the Times and Seasons' climactic
statement on the whereabouts of Book of Mormon lands. This is a mistake. The
most inspired and authoritative articles are not always front page
eye-catchers. Following the ZARAHEMLA article is a signed LETTER FROM JOSEPH
SMITH (in hiding at the time) which plainly places the land of Cumorah, the
land which the Book of Mormon describes as occupying "a land of many
waters, rivers, and fountains"
(Mormon 6:4), in the Finger Lakes region of North America.
It must be conceded that the sensational ZARAHEMLA article does not deserve to be canonized. The inspired LETTER FROM JOSEPH SMITH, which tells us where Cumorah is, has become Section 128 of the LDS Doctrine and Covenants. The prophet, in fact, tells us that the contents of Section 128 is "the word of the Lord". (Doctrine and Covenants section 127:10)
The ZARAHEMLA article mentions the Book of Mormon's "small neck of
but strangely, the only Isthmus named in the article is Panama's
"Isthmus of Darien". The Mesoamerican Isthmus of Tehuantepec is
never mentioned. It is as if the writer(s) of the article confused the
"small neck of land" north of Zarahemla with the "narrow strip
south of Zarahemla, and thus thought the "Isthmus of Darien", far to the
south, could still be the "small neck of land".
" when in fact it was
The ZARAHEMLA article mentions the Book of Mormon's "small neck of land"
but strangely, the only Isthmus named in the article is Panama's "Isthmus of Darien". The Mesoamerican Isthmus of Tehuantepec is never mentioned. It is as if the writer(s) of the article confused the "small neck of land" north of Zarahemla with the "narrow strip of wilderness"
south of Zarahemla, and thus thought the "Isthmus of Darien", far to the
south, could still be the "small neck of land".
" when in fact it wasAmaleki the son of Abinadom who wrote in the book of Omni about "a large stone" with "engravings on it"; a stone that was brought to Mosiah I (father of King Benjamin).
In November 1842, the Prophet resigned
as editor of the Times and Seasons having improved its reputation as a
newspaper. In his own words:
"I beg leave to inform the
subscribers of the Times and Seasons that it is impossible for me to fulfil
[fulfill] the arduous duties of the editorial department any longer. The
multiplicity of other business that daily devolves upon me, renders it
impossible for me to do justice to a paper so widely circulated as the Times
and Seasons." (Vol. 4, No 1, November 15, 1842)
Yes, Joseph was responsible for the newspaper, but we should not assume that
the absence of a responsible signature implies Joseph's full endorsement. We
can only conclude the Prophet's opinion from what we know he endorsed.
All of the unsigned articles contain the first person plural "we" or "us",
possibly indicating that the articles were a collaborative effort. We should
not be surprised to find that the unsigned articles use some of Joseph
Smith's expressions and terminology. Edits and contributions to an article
can drastically change content and meaning without drastically changing the average word-length of sentences. Who edited what, and the extend to
which the Prophet agreed with all of the conflicting ideas in these
articles, is not certain. Unlike writings signed and endorsed by Joseph
Smith, the unsigned newspaper articles lack authority to speak on the Book
of Mormon's original setting. See
"Lies - Darned Lies and Statistics".
Joseph Smith's AMERICAN
ANTIQUITIES editorial deserves attention. The full commentary by Joseph
Smith plainly shows that the Prophet had a northern American Book of Mormon
setting in mind, which he supports with quotes from the book American
Antiquities by Josiah Priest.
Priest published the view that peoples of Mexico and Central America came from
the north. Joseph's editorial shows that he had come to believe that the peoples
the end of the AMERICAN ANTIQUITIES article Joseph briefly refers to "Stephens
and Catherwood's researches in
is important to realize that Joseph had read Stephens' publications
several months before writing the AMERICAN ANTIQUITIES editorial. We know this
from Joseph's personal letter to John Bernhisel (November 16, 1841, in
the handwriting of John Taylor). As much as Joseph approved of Stephens'
work, he only made minor mention of it in the AMERICAN ANTIQUITIES article of
July 15, 1842. Evidently Stephens' book did not change the Prophet's
conviction about Book of Mormon lands residing in northern
Some Mexican / Mesoamerican Cumorahists have alleged that that the Bernhisel letter, in which Joseph expresses his appreciation for the gift of Stephens’ two-volume work, somehow shows Joseph’s endorsement of those conflicting, unsigned articles published during the Prophet’s public absence. The letter shows nothing of the sort. Here is what the letter actually says:
“Nauvoo November 16, 1841
"I received your kind present by the hand of Er Woodruff & feel myself under many obligations for this mark of your esteem & friendship which to me is the more interesting as it unfolds & develops many things that are of great importance to this generation & corresponds with & supports the testimony of the Book of Mormon; I have read the volumes with the greatest interest & pleasure & must say that of all histories that have been written pertaining to the antiquities of this country it is the most correct luminous & comprehensive….Joseph Smith” (The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, compiled and edited by Dean C. Jessee, S.L.C, Deseret Book, 2002, pg. 533)
As you can see, there is nothing in the letter indicating that Book of Mormon lands reside in Central America. Other articles, explicitly published with Joseph’s “ED”, indicate his view that Book of Mormon peoples migrated to Mexico and Central America from his own country. Apparently Joseph interpreted certain statements by Stephens to be “the most correct, luminous & comprehensive” and to pertain to “this country” meaning Joseph’s own country. Stephens’ bestseller does in fact elucidate on the history and “antiquities of this country” - northern America:
“…a new flood of light has poured upon the world, and the field of American antiquities has been opened.”
“…In our own country, the opening of forests and the discovery of tumuli or mounds and fortifications, extending in ranges from the lakes through the valleys of the Ohio and Mississippi, mummies in a cave in Kentucky, the inscription on the rock at Dighton…the ruins of walls and a great city in Arkansas and Wisconsin Territory, had suggested…the strong belief that powerful and populous nations had occupied it and had passed away, whose histories are entirely unknown. The same evidences continue in Texas, and in Mexico they assume a still more definite form.” (Incidents of Travel in Central America, pp. 97-98)
From Joseph Smith’s 1842 AMERICAN ANTIQUITIES article, it is clear, that Stephens’ book only served to confirm the Prophet’s conviction that Book of Mormon events took place in his own country (northern America). Having “read the volumes with the greatest interest”, it is unlikely that Joseph Smith failed to notice that Stephens devoted an entire chapter to the conclusion that the Central American ruins are relatively recent and not of great antiquity. (Incident of Travel in Central America, Vol. II, Chapter XXVI, “COMPARATIVE MODERN DATE OF RUINS”, pp. 442-443)
ARTICLES PERTAINING TO BOOK OF MORMON LANDS,
PUBLISHED WHILE JOSEPH SMITH WAS EDITOR
No, Date, pg):
Who wrote and or endorsed the LDS commentary?
Where did the evidence come from that is cited in support of the Book of Mormon?
Article subject matter and opinion.
A CATACOMB OF MUMMIES FOUND IN
A CATACOMB OF MUMMIES FOUND IN
3, No 13, May 2, 1842, pg 781)
Priest's American Antiquities
3, No 15, June 1, 1842, pg 813)
is no LDS commentary.
Traits of the Mosaic History, Found Among the Azteca Nations.
3, No 16, June 15, 1842, pg 818)
3, No 18, July 15, 1842, pg 858)
Northern and Central America.
Nephite works, and Jaredite wars fought in mound builder country -
Stephen's "Incidents of Travel in
3, No 22, Sept 15, 1842, pg 911)
No signed endorsement
No signed endorsement.
(The Prophet was in seclusion at the time. John Taylor may have acted as editor)
"FACTS ARE STUBBORN THINGS."
3, No 22, Sept 15, 1842, pg 922)
No signed endorsement.
(The Prophet was in seclusion at the time. John
Taylor may have acted as editor.)
3, No 23, Oct 1, 1842, pg 927)
No signed endorsement.
(The Prophet was in seclusion at the time. John Taylor may have acted as editor.)
3, No 23, Oct 1, 1842, pg 935)
Cumorah located in the Finger Lakes region of North America, D&C
relevant Times and Seasons articles published in 1842:
Shortly before the Prophet became
editor, the Times and Seasons published EVIDENCES IN PROOF OF THE BOOK
OF MORMON, excerpting a book by Charles Blancher Thompson (Vol.
3, No. 5, January 1, 1842, pg. 640). The article describes ancient northern
American fortifications in defense of the Book of Mormon: A
treacherous mountain stronghold and Moroniesque defenses; deep ditches, walls
of earth and rows of pickets are cited from Josiah Priest's American
Antiquities, the same
work later editorialized by Joseph Smith.
Just after the Prophet resigned as
editor, the Times and Seasons published an article titled RUINS
RECENTLY DISCOVERED IN YUCATAN MEXICO. The article describes the stone ruins
of "Chi-Chen" but does not speculate on their origin. The
"The subject is one that should
excite the deepest interest in the minds of Americans. It is as yet wrapped in
profound mystery, which will doubtless require many years of laborious
research to unfold." (Vol. 4, No. 1, November 15,
1842, pg. 15)
This article is more careful than the
unsigned Times and Seasons articles which dote on Stephens'
publications. There is no overt written attempt to connect the
The Prophet Joseph
letter (published October 1, 1842, in the Times and Seasons) is
scripture. This epistle is the Times and Seasons peremptory word on the
location of the land Cumorah, and therefore on the general location of Book of
Mormon lands. Whether or not it was fully appreciated at the time, this
divinely inspired epistle corrects the previous ZARAHEMLA article. The true
lands of the Book of Mormon cannot be thousands of miles distant from the land
scripture designates as Cumorah. The ZARAHEMLA article conflicts with the previous two unsigned extrapolations on Stephens'
Zarahemla is in
It has taken this writer, years to find a convincing setting for the Book of Mormon. Daily scripture study has actually made it more difficult for me to go along with the much publicized Mesoamerican setting. A few years ago I read Phyllis Carol Olive’s The Lost Lands of the Book of Mormon. As my wife and I have reread the Book of Mormon, we have put Sister Olive’s map to the test. It is a delight to study the Book of Mormon with family, having a geographic map that makes detailed scriptural sense - at last!
The Book of Mormon informs us that the American soil on which Joseph translated the plates and out of which the voice of the Nephite dead effectively spoke, is the same ground the saints of the Book of Mormon possessed in life. (2 Nephi 26:15-16, Mormon 8:23, 25-26) More than a decade after the first publication of the Book of Mormon came the unsigned Times and Seasons articles featuring extracts from John Lloyd Stephens’ 1841 best seller. These sensational articles started a romance that directed the attention of generations of Latter-day Saints to locations thousands of miles away from where Joseph obtained the plates. It is my experience that many who come to recognize this misadventure for what it is, are generally not inclined to bring railing accusations against those who think differently or who do not understand. Here is an opportunity to practice, patience, tolerance and love. Because the subject of covenant lands matters, the opportunity is real.
You may have never heard of Joseph Smith's American Antiquities editorial. So very many supporters of a Mesoamerican setting avoid mentioning this editorial and certainly don't present it in its entirety. Here it is. You will notice, that unlike those unsigned articles published in the fall of 1842 (during the Prophet's public absence) this article ends with Joseph's "-ED". Yes, Joseph believes that Book of Mormon peoples (or their descendents) migrated to Central America, but notice that he never says that Book of Mormon cities are to be found there. What Promised Land setting does the Prophet Joseph Smith give for the Book of Mormon? Read and see:
TIMES AND SEASONS.
"Truth will prevail."
Vol. III. No. 18.]
have supposed that all the great works of the west, of which we have been
treating, belong to our present race of Indians; but from continued wars with
each other, have driven themselves from agricultural pursuits, and thinned
away their numbers, to that degree, that the wild animals and fishes of the
rivers, and wild fruit of the forests, were found sufficient to give them
abundant support: on which account, they were reduced to savagism.
this is answered by the Antiquarian Society, as follows: "Have our
present race of Indians ever buried their dead in mounds by thousands? Were
they acquainted with the uses of silver or copper? These metals curiously
wrought have been found. Did the ancients of our Indians burn the bodies of
distinguished chiefs, on funeral piles, and then raise a lofty tumulus over
the urn containing their ashes? Did the Indians erect any thing like the
"walled towns," on Paint Creek? Did they ever dig such wells as are
this we respond, they never have: no, not even their traditions afford a
glimpse of the existence of such things, as forts, tumuli, roads, wells,
mounds, walls enclosing between one and two hundred, and even five hundred
acres of land; some of them of stone, and others of earth, twenty feet in
thickness, and exceeding high, are works requiring too much labor for Indians
ever to have performed.
idol found in a tumulus near
years since a clay vessel was discovered, about twenty feet below the surface,
in alluvial earth, in digging a well near Nashville, Tennessee, and was found
standing on a rock, from whence a spring of water issued. This vessel was
taken to Peale's Museum, at
idol was, a few years since, dug up in Natchez, on the Mississippi, on a piece
of ground where, according to tradition, long before Europeans visited this
country, stood an Indian temple. - This idol is of stone, and is nineteen inches
in height, nine inches in width, and seven inches thich [thick] at the
extremities. - On its breast, as represented on the plate of the idol, were five
marks, which were evidently characters of some kind, resembling as supposed,
the Persian; probably expressing, in the language of its authors, the name and
suppssed [supposed] attributes of the senseless god of stone.
of the arts known to the builders of
copper was known to the people of the plains of Shinar, for Noah must have
communicated it, as he lived an hundred and fifty years among them after the
flood; also, copper was known to the antediluvians. Copper was also known to
the authors of the western monuments. Iron was known to the antediluvians; it
was also known to the ancients of the west; however, it is evident that very
little iron was among them, as very few instances of its discovery in their
works have occurred; and for this very reason we draw a conclusion that they
came to this country very soon after the dispersion, and brought with them
such few articles of iron as have been found in their works in an oxydized
ore is very abundant in many places of the west; and therefore, as they had a
knowledge of it, when they first came here they knew how to work it, and form
it into tools and ornaments. This is the reason why so many articles of this
metal are found in their works; and even if they had a knowledge of iron ore,
and knew how to work it, all articles made of it must have become oxydized
[oxidized] as appears from what few specimens have been found, while those of
copper are more imperishable. Gold ornaments are said to have been found in
several tumuli. Silver very well plated on copper, has been found in several
mounds, besides those at Circleville and
the shores of the
of brass have been found in many parts of
Book of Mormon speaks of ores, swords, cities, armies, &c., and we extract
it came to pass that we did find upon the land of promise, as we journeyed in
the wilderness, that there were beasts in the forests of every kind, both the
cow and the ox, and the ass, and the horse, and the goat, and the wild goat,
and all manner of wild animals, which were for the use of men. And we did find
all manner of ore, both of gold, and of silver, and of copper.
And it came to pass that the Lord commanded me, wherefore I did make plates of ore, that I might engraven upon [upon] them the record of my people.
* * *
it came to pass that we began to prosper exceedingly, and to multiply in the
land. And I, Nephi, did take the sword of Laban, and after the manner of it
did make many swords, lest by any means the people who were now called
Lamanites, should come upon us and destroy us: for I knew their hatred towards
me and my children, and those who were called my people. And I did teach my
people to build buildings; and to work in all manner of wood, and of iron, and
of copper, and of brass, and of steel, and of
and of silver, and of precious ores, which were in abundance. And I, Nephi,
did build a temple; and I did construct it after the manner of the temple of
Solomon, save it were not built of so many precious things: for they were not
to be found upon the land; wherefore it could not be built like unto Solomon's
temple. But the manner of the construction was like unto the
regard to there being great wars, the following will shew [show]:-
it came to pass when Coriantumr had recovered of his wounds, he began to
remember the words which Ether had spoken unto him...he saw that there had
been slain by the sword already nearly two millions of his people, and he
began to sorrow in his heart; yea, there had been slain two millions of mighty
men, and also their wives and their children. He began to repent of the evil
which he had done; he began to remember the words which had been spoken by the
mouth of all the prophets, and he saw them that they were fulfilled, thus far,
every whit; and his soul mourned, and refused to be comforted. . . . . .
it came to pass that they did gather together all the people, upon all the
face of the land, who had not been slain, save it was Ether. And it came to
sass [pass] that Ether did behold all the doings of the people; and he beheld
that the people who were for Coriantumr, were gathered together for the army
of Coriantumr; and the people who were for Shiz, were gathered together to the
army of Shiz; wherefore they were for the space of four years gathering
together the people, that they might get all who were upon the face of the
land, and that they might receive all the strength which it was profitable
that they could receive. And it came to pass that when they were all gathering
together, every one to the army which he would with their wives and their
children; both men, women, and children being armed with weapons of war,
having shields and breast plates, and head plates, and being clothed after the
manner of war, they did march forth one against another, to battle; and they
fought all that day, and conquered not. And it came to pass that when it was
night they were weary, and retired to their camps; and after they had retired
to their camps, they took up a howling and a lamentation for the loss of the
slain of their people; and so great were their cries, their howlings and
lamentations, that it did rend the air exceedingly.
men, in their researches into the history of this country, in noticing the
mounds, fortifications, statues, architecture, implements of war, of
husbandry, and ornaments of silver, brass, &c. - were to examine the Book of
Mormon, their conjectures would be removed, and their opinions altered;
uncertainty and doubt would be changed into certainty and facts; and they
would find that those things that they are anxiously prying into were matters
of history, unfolded in that book. They would find their conjectures were more
than realized-that a great and a mighty people had inhabited this
continent-that the arts sciences and religion, had prevailed to a very great
extent, and that there was as great and mighty cities on this continent as on
the continent of
* * *
Times and Seasons, Is edited, printed and published about the first and
fifteenth of every month, on the corner of Water and Bain Streets, Nauvoo,
Hancock County, Illinois, by JOSEPH SMITH
A Quote from History of the Church, Some Wrongly Attribute to Joseph Smith:
For the date 25 June, 1844, History of the Church (Vol. 5, pg 44) states:
business with Brother Hunter, and Mr. Babbitt, and sat for a drawing of my
profile to be placed on a lithograph of the map of the city of
"The Work of Stephens and Catherwood.
"Messrs. Stephens and Catherwood have succeeded in collecting in the
Without looking more closely into sources, the context of the above statement has led some to attributed it to Joseph Smith. The first part of the History of the Church entry comes from the Journal of Joseph Smith found in the handwriting of Willard Richards (clerk). The original reads:
“25 June 1842 – Saturday
Transacted Business with Bro. Hunter, Mr Babbit. & sat for the drawing of his profile. for Lithographing on city chart” (The Papers of Joseph Smith Vol. 2, Journal, 1832 – 1842, edited by Dean C. Jessee, pg. 391)
Unfortunately, this journal entry was
in first person and inserted in History of the Church along with
the more recent comment on the work of Stephens and Catherwood. There is no mention in Joseph Smith’s journal of the work of Stephens and Catherword
or of relics belonging to "…ancient inhabitants of