Make Your Own Pilgrimage

  

See if you come to believe as we believe, that Sister Olive’s

Book of Mormon setting is spot on!

Careful attention to scriptural detail is what makes Sister Olive’s setting the best fit for the Book of Mormon’s literary locale. It would be great if more Mormons paid attention to their scriptures instead of surrendering their wits to the pundits and tour guides of this or that “Book of Mormon geography” camp!

To anchor the covenant land setting of the Book of Mormon, we need to know the location of at least one New World Book of Mormon land! Does LDS scripture provide this? Yes indeed! We are given the general whereabouts of the land Cumorah in a land of “many waters, rivers, and fountains”, south of one exceedingly large body of water, called in scripture “Ripliancum”! (Mormon 6: 2-6, Ether 15:8-11)

The “word of the Lord” (LDS D&C 127:10) places Cumorah in the Finger Lakes region of western NY, south of Great Lake Ontario. (LDS D&C 128:20) Notice that the verse does not say “hill of Cumorah”, just “Cumorah”. Mormons forget that Cumorah is a land in a land of “many waters, rivers, and fountains…” The Smith family farm where Moroni declared the fulfillment of ancient prophets-“the book to be revealed” is in Cumorah – the land! (Joseph Smith-History 1:36-41)

You could not ask for a more fitting , yet unintentional description of the Book of Mormon “land of many waters, rivers, and fountains” than that found in a 2012 brochure titled Finger Lakes of New York Wine Country, an official publication of the Finger Lakes Wine Country Tourism Marketing Association. (Finger Lakes Wine Country.com) The article titled “Beyond the Lakes” by Judy McAdoo starts:

“Rolling hills of vineyards, award winning wines, world-class wineries and, of course, the clear sparkling lakes characterize the Finger Lakes Wine Country experience. But that is just the beginning of the story. Mighty rivers and beautiful streams meander through the woodlands, and majestic waterfalls cascade over rocky gorges. Among these “other” waters, relaxation and recreational activities abound and each season brings its own unique sights and sounds.”

Grapes “grow exceedingly” in true Book of Mormon country! The Book of Mormon specifically mentions “wine”, “grapes” and “vineyards” (e.g. Ether 15:22, 3 Nephi 14:16, Mosiah 11:15) Wine (the blood of grapes, Deuteronomy 32:14) was essential to ancient Israelite ordinances. When the Norse arrived in North America they claimed to have found grapes and self-sown wheat. (Hauksbok saga)

Vinyard near Fayette NY

Vineyard up close - near Fayette

We believe that the Book of Mormonland of Zarahemla” near the coast of the “west sea”, simply has to be in the vicinity of Cumorah. The northern land of the Jaredites (including Cumorah and the hill Ramah) was so near to the land of Zarahemla that a search party sent out from the more southern land of Nephi mistook a locale in a “land among many waters” for Zarahemla. (Mosiah 8:7-8; 21:25-26 The Book of Mormon land of Zarahemla cannot possibly be thousands or even hundreds of miles from Cumorah’s land of many waters.

You may have heard about “Zarahemla” in Iowa, across the Mississippi from Nauvoo. Scripture does not say that the early Mormon Iowa community named “Zarahemla”, was built upon the Book of Mormon land of Zarahemla. (LDS D&C 125:3, March 1841) There is no statement by Joseph Smith or his associates indicating that they ever thought, or were told that the Book of Mormon Zarahemla was in Iowa. This is why after the Lord “let the name of Zarahemla be named upon” the Iowa settlement, John Taylor and Wilford Woodruff published the highly speculative notion that Zarahemla” was at Quirigua! (See Cumorah! Not Quiriqua)

No the Iowa Saints did not name their community New Zarahemla, just “Zarahemla”, but this does not prove it to be the original Zarahemla. The Saints gave Book of Mormon namesakes to places they settled in Utah. E.g. “Manti”, “Nephi”, and “Bountiful”. A simple enough reason for giving a town a Book of Mormon namesake is to bring up the subject of the Book of Mormon when strangers ask about the curious name. There could have been additional reasons the Iowa settlement was named Zarahemla:

Sister Olive cites a noted archaeologist (William A. Ritchie) on the possibility of a native site in Iowa being related to a people who anciently inhabited New York; and the Mexican historian Veytia points out that migrating Native Americans had a propensity for naming new settlements after former ones.  Could there have been an ancient site in Iowa with the Book of Mormon namesake? (Choice Above All Other Lands, Chapter Two) We shouldn't be surprised to discover the remains of Mound-builder cities and temples along the Mississippi.

What if one of the reasons the Lord requested (or approved) that “the name of Zarahemla be named upon” one of the gathering places of the saints (LDS D&C 125:1-4), is simply because of the meaning of the ancient name? See In Search of the Meaning of "ZARAHEMLA"; see also Zarahemla and a verse from Torah.

Bible scholars recognize “Zion” as an ancient place name. It’s the name of the monumental fortress city on a hill in the mountains of Jerusalem. (1 Kings 8:1) Surely no one thinks that when the Lord placed the name of Zion in Missouri (LDS D&C 57:1-2), he was identifying the celebrated ancient site of Hebrew scripture? Surely no one thinks that when Latter-day Saints named a place in Iowa Mount Pisgah”, they were designating the Pisgah of ancient scripture?  (Deuteronomy 3:27; TEACHINGS OF THE PRESIDENTS OF THE CHURCH - LORENZO SNOW, pp. 107-109) Of course not! Neither does requesting (or permitting) that “the name of Zarahemla be named upon” a Mormon settlement in Iowa prove it to be the site of Book of Mormon renown. Scripturally speaking, there are serious problems with placing the Book of Mormon’s Zarahemla in Iowa:

The idea that a search party could start out from the South in search of the Iowa / Mississippi River coast, end up in western New York, and then think they had found Iowa is preposterous!

The Zarahemla in Iowa cannot be the Zarahemla of the Book of Mormon. The original Zarahemla was near the coast of a “west sea”. Given the location of Cumorah, that western sea can only be Lake Erie!

Principal Nephite lands situate near the northern Erie coast. The Finger Lakes are eastern seas relative to the Nephite lands of Zarahemla and Bountiful. Anciently, there were even more lakes to the east of principal Nephite and Lamanite lands. The eastern seas now called the Finger Lakes are a short distance southward from the Smith family farm in the land Cumorah.

We believe scripture shows Cumorah was eastward from the Jaredite land and seat of power at Moron. (Ether 7:5-6; 9:3; 14:6-7, 11, 26) Moron was near the land of Desolation. The land of Desolation featured a small neck of land or narrow pass. (Ether 7:6, Alma 52:9, Mormon 3:5, Ether 9:31)

There really was a small  land-bridge westward from scriptural Cumorah. Geologists know it today as the Batavia Moraine. Unlike much bigger isthmuses which have water on the north and south (obtusely popularized by tour guides), the small and narrow, almost inconspicuous Batavia Moraine really did have a sea “on the west and on the east” of it - exactly as scripture describes! (Alma 50:34) In fact to this day there are wetlands nearby - remnants of an ancient inland sea called Tonawanda that extended from Lake Erie.

Narrow Pass near Batavia

The true “small neck of land” passing through the watery remnants of ancient Lake Tonawanda, along route 77 in western NY. Lake Tonawanda is “the sea” mentioned in Alma 50:34. This inland sea extended eastward for more than 70 kilometers from what is now the Niagara River.

Batavia Moraine Narrow Pass

The almost inconspicuous “small neck of land” “pass” or “passage” passing diagonally through what was ancient Lake Tonawanda (arm of Lake Erie) with water “on the west and on the east.” (Alma 22:32; 50:34) The ancient sea persisted till several centuries CE, and exists today as wetlands.

The Narrow Neck of Land Revealed!

Map from geologist Heidi Natel’s thesis: The Batavia Moraine (small neck of land) situates on the borders of the east-west running line of the Onondaga Escarpment. South of the escarpment, the Book of Mormon land of Bountiful situates at higher elevation than the land northward – exactly as described in Alma 22:30-32

We believe that the vast heartland of America is genuine Book of Mormon territory and is sacred land, (LDS D&C 84:54-59) but we’re convinced much of the American heartland is the “south countries” spoken of in both the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants – south, that is, of Lake Erie. (Mormon 6:15, LDS D&C 75:8)

Book of Mormon peoples eventually migrated to and settled a number of regions. Joseph Smith clearly stated, however that the Jaredites “arrived in … the Lake country of America” (region of Lake Ontario) and agreed with non-Mormon historians Josiah Priest and Alexander von Humboldt on an eventual migration as far south as Mexico and Central America. (“American Antiquities”, Times and Seasons, 15 July, 1842, Vol. 3, No. 18, pp. 858-860; signed “ED” by Joseph Smith. Compare Joseph’s signed editorial with Josiah Priest, American Antiquities, “Traits of the Mosaic History found among the Azteca Nations”, pg. 202, 1833 edition.)

We believe that the covenant inheritance of Lehi’s seed could have extended as far south as seasons permitting the observance of Torah, “in all things”. (2 Nephi 5:10) As for the placement of principal Nephite, Lamanite lands, we’re convinced that Sister Olive is most correct, sticking to scripture as she does:

We believe therefore that principal lands of the Book of Mormon are on the coast of that western inland sea now called Lake Erie. We are talking about a coastal land that extends only about a day to a day and a half’s journey inland. (Helaman 4:7) A coastal land, comparable in size to the biblical kingdoms of Israel and Judah combined. We are talking about small kingdoms situated between inland yamim (Hebrew for “seas”) – not Oceans; but accessible from the Ocean. That an inland body of water can qualify as a “sea” is evident from the King James Bible. (Joshua 12:3)

Desolation - Bountiful Line

“And now it was only the distance of a day and a half’s journey for a Nephite, on the line Bountiful and the land of Desolation, from the east to the west sea…” (Alma 22:32)

Above is the approximate distance between Lake Erie on the west, and an eastern chain of ancient lakes that existed along northward flowing Tonawanda Creek, south of Batavia.  The line between Batavia and Lake Erie runs more or less parallel to the Onondaga Escarpment. It can be walked in ~1.5 days! Tonawanda Creek turns westward and spills over the Onondaga Escarpment at Indian Falls.

See Why Lake Erie, and not Lake Tonawanda, is the Western Terminus of the Land Bountiful.

Indian Falls

Tonawanda Creek spilling over the limestone capped Onondaga Escarpment at Indian Falls, not far from "a small neck of land" (the Batavia Moraine).

Indian Falls Restraunt

There is a nice little restaurant at Indian Falls where you and a friend or loved one can dine, while discussing the significance of where you are!

Not far from Indian Falls and “the narrow pass”, which passes through the remnants of ancient Lake Tonawanda, stands this marker. Here you are not only standing on Book of Mormon and Church History ground, you are standing on the soil of American History. Makes sense right? Nephi saw in vision the American War of Independence upon “the land of their inheritance”. (1 Nephi 13:14-19, 30)

We believe, as scripture records, that Lehi’s company didn’t just cross the Ocean to the Promised Land, they crossed “the large waters into the promised land…” The First Book of Nephi summary)

The Lord sent missionaries in the early days of the Church to preach to the “Indian tribes in the West”, identified as Book of Mormon “Lamanites”, living near the shores of Lake Erie. (LDS D&C 32:1-2) It was from the coast of this west sea that Book of Mormon peoples “spread” after a period of drought in ancient times; as recorded in scripture. (Helaman 11:20) Scripture therefore indicates that the “west sea” was a source of freshwater.

LDS scripture clearly places the NY, PA region in the “free” land upon which faithful Book of Mormon peoples left a blessing. (LDS D&C 10:48-51)

The principal lands of the Book of Mormon (Desolation, Bountiful, Zarahemla, Nephi and, yes, the land of first inheritance) are definitely not spread over the heartland of America but are so localized near the coast of the “west sea”, that inland elevation consistently rises as you journey south. This matches the terrain near Lake Erie perfectly. (Alma 22:27-33; 26:9, 23) It is one of the few regions in America where rivers flow northward – unlike the heartland.

Southward "up", Northward "down"

Southward rise in elevation with northward flowing rivers, and northern plains

We believe the river Tsidon (Sidon, King James Bible pronunciation) is a northward flowing nahal (Hebrew for “brook” or “river”) comparable in size to the northward flowing Kishon river or brook in the land of Israel. This small but famous biblical river actually swept away dead bodies of Israel’s enemies in the days of Deborah and Barak. (Judges 5:21) This is the same little land of Israel whose location is undisputed even though there is presently little to no archaeological proof of the Bible’s enormous population claims in ancient times. (Numbers 1:45-49)

Though famous to Israelites, Kishon is not a mighty river like the Nile to the South or the Euphrates to the east, but is a famous local brook or river like the Nephite Sidon. That Sidon is a local river like the Kishon, is evidenced by the fact that it is the only river named in the Book of Mormon’s American setting. Of course there were other rivers; it’s just that the principal setting of the Book of Mormon, like the biblical land of Israel, is small.

Tsidon literally means “catchery” but can be interpreted “fishery” (no explicit reference to fish or fishing). Nahal Tsidon originates in the southern highlands “up” near Manti (Alma 16:6-7; 22:27; 43:22, 32) and flows northward on the east of the land of Zarahemla before turning out to sea (Lake Erie). (Alma 2:15; 3:3; 6:7; 8:3; 16:6-7; 22:29) 

 Buffalo Creek (Sidon)

The high banks of the passable, northward flowing Buffalo Creek (Sidon), east of East Aurora (Zarahemla). At seasons, the runoff is indeed sufficient to carry away bloated carcasses. (Alma 2:34; 3:3)

In antiquity, the river held additional water, discharged from a glacial lake in the  high valley south of Johnsonburg NY. (Geologist Frank Leverett, Glacial Formations and Drainage Features of the Erie and Ohio Basins, pg. 210)

No, scripture doesn’t explicitly say that Sidon flows northward. It doesn’t have to! Scripture implicitly tells us this based on the simple fact that water flows down hill! The head of Sidon near Manti was “up” near the “south wilderness” (southeast of Zarahemla). (Alma 16:6-7; 22:27) The headwaters of Sidon were even above the borders of the land Manti. (Alma 43:22, 32) The Book of Mormon defines the “head” of a “river of water” as its source from whence it comes. (1 Nephi 8:13-14)

When it comes to the head of the river Sidon, some LDS affiliated tour guides desperately want to redefine a river’s head or make it seem ambiguous when it’s not. They mention how the word “head” is used in the context of a “conflux” or “confluence” of anatomical fluids (not rivers), so they can wave their hands and argue that the mouth (confluence) of the Missouri River is the head of the Mississippi. They want folks to believe that the southward rolling Mighty Mississippi is the Book of Mormon river Sidon. The same Sidon which ancient armies crossed on foot in more than one location – no kidding! Never mind that the confluence of the Blue and White Nile is not called the head of the Nile. See Scriptural River Heads

Lamanites who had invaded the land of Manti from the elevated south could “cross the head of Sidon, over to the city of Nephihah” which was by “the east sea”. (Alma 51:26; 56:13-14, 25) We know from scripture that this position was elevated relative to the more northern Zarahemla, for the invaders would have had to “march down against the city of Zarahemla from there. (Alma 56:25)

Thus the original Manti of the Book of Mormon, near the headwaters of Sidon, was not only at higher elevation than Zarahemla, it was near the body of water the Nephites called “the east sea”.  (Alma 59:5-8; 50:13; 51:22-26) As for the location of Manti, here too scripture and verifiable statements by the Prophet Joseph Smith should be given far greater weight than apocryphal Mormon commentary. See for instance, the Much Ado About  “Manti” in MO.  

Java Lake Region

Rochester Museum mural of the region where the Nephite “east sea” may have been - today reduced to marshland.

Sidon is never mentioned flowing through the lands of Bountiful and Desolation to the north, and of course Sidon is never mentioned in the southern land of Nephi because Nephi is at higher elevation than Zarahemla. (Alma 51:11; 52:12; 53:10)

The headwaters of the river SIdon was by the eastern end of a “narrow strip of wilderness” that divided the land Zarahemla from the land of Nephi. (Alma 22:27; 27:14; 50:8-11) The head of Buffalo Creek / River is featured in the relief map, just north of the eastern end of the Cattaraugus River Corridor (by present day Arcade). At the eastern end of this corridor an ancient lake (the Nephite “east sea”) once resided. (Geologist Frank Leverett, Glacial Formations and Drainage Features of the Erie and Ohio Basins, pp. 210-213)

Not to be confused with the narrow pass or “the narrow neck of land” , situated on the Desolation / Bountiful borders to the north (Alma 22:31-32; 50:34; 52:9; 63:5, Mormon 2:29; 3:5, Ether 10:19-21), the “narrow strip of wilderness” runs east to west, between the lands of Zarahemla and Nephi to the south. Here we find present day Zoar Valley Canyon in the Cattaraugus River Corridor. “Zoar” is a biblical place name meaning “small”. (Genesis 14:8)  This name was given the locale by early colonists. It is particularly appropriate because “Zoar” (really pronounced “Tsoar”) is similar in spelling and sound to the Hebrew word “zar” or “tsar” (צר) translated “narrow” , “strait” and “enemy” in the Bible. (e.g. Numbers 22:26, Job 36:16; 6:23, 1 Nephi 21:19 or Isaiah 49:19) In Isaiah 59:19 the Hebrew word “tsar” may intend to evoke a “narrow” river, or an “enemy” invading like a torrent - or both!

Looking South from the Cattaraugus River Corridor

The elevated land Nephi is seen in the distance (looking south) from the Cattaraugus River Corridor – the “narrow strip of wilderness”.

  

Zoar Valley Canyon and Cattaraugus River Corridor

Cattaraugus Creek flows to the “west sea” along a wilderness corridor. The eastern end of the corridor is by the head of the northward flowing Buffalo Creek / River, north of present day Arcade. (Alma 22:27; 50:11)

 

Narrow Strip of Wilderness

Zoar Valley Canyon in the Cattaraugus River Corridor, the “narrow strip of wilderness”.

Sister Olive has picked the surroundings of Canandohta Lake in Pennsylvania for a possible site of the “land of pure water” called Helam.  From Helam, it’s about a 12 day journey (old and young with livestock and belongings on foot) north to Zarahemla (perhaps near East Aurora). (Mosiah 24:25) Helam is 8 days south of the waters of Mormon which was near the site of the city of Lehi-Nephi. (Mosiah 23:3-4, 19) So the minimum distance (if you don’t get lost in tall forests) is only about 12 – 8 = 4 days journey directly between the heart of the land of Nephi and the land of Zarahemla. Sister Olive’s setting fits the scriptural math!

The land Bountiful (northward from Zarahemla) is as scripture records, only about a day’s march from the north-eastern border of the land of Nephi where the city Mulek was situated. Indeed, the Nephite city by the “east sea” (a lake) was actually in the land of Nephi. (Alma 53:6; 51:26; 52:19-31) We are talking about small coastal regions nearly surrounded by water, especially when one considers the inland seas that really and truly were there in former times, but which have since become marshes. (Alma 22:32)

Mormon to Helam

It was about an eight day journey on foot from Cassadaga Lakes (possible waters and forest of Mormon, environs of Lehi-Nephi, A) to Canandohta Lake in Pennsylvania (possible site of the land Helam, B). (Mosiah 23:3-4, 19)

 

Helam to Zarahemla

It was about a twelve day journey on foot from Canandohta Lake, PA (possible “land of pure water”, Helam, A) to East Aurora, NY (possible site of Zarahemla, B). (Mosiah 24:25)

 

Nephi to Zarahemla 

Estimated four or more days journey between the city of Lehi-Nephi and Zarahemla

 

Mulek to Bountiful

It was only a day’s march from the northeaster borders of the land of Nephi, near the city of Mulek and the “east sea”, to the northern Nephite land of Bountiful.  (Alma 53:6; 51:26; 52:19-31)

The “east sea” was likely a lake (as is the “east sea” of the Bible, Joel 2:20, Ezekiel 47:18). It may have been the very lake that situated in the Java Lake marshland region, near the Clarendon-Linden fault line. (A) The land Bountiful is proposed to be near Batavia NY. (B)

When you pay attention to what is written, you realize that principal Book of Mormon lands were not spread over the western Hemisphere, or even over a large portion of North America.

NY State Earthquake Fault System

Yes, western New York has experienced tremors and earthquakes, as well as tornadoes and town inundating floods. Even in colonial times, Canada just to the north experienced days of thick darkness possibly the result of massive fire storms. (“THE DARK DAYS AND EARTHQUAKES IN CANADA”, The Historical Magazine and Notes and Queries Concerning the Antiquities, History and Biography of America, editor John G. Shea, New York, Vol. VIII, 1864, pp. 60-65)

You may notice, as you study the Book of Mormon, that the “west sea” is not mentioned north of the Desolation / Bountiful borders. (Alma 63:5) Instead there are references to “the furthermost parts of the land northward” (3 Nephi 4:23) or “northernmost part of the land” (3 Nephi 7:12) as if northern lands come up against watery barriers. This, as you can see, fits both western New York and Ontario Canada! The more distant northern land (Ontario Canada) is bounded in each of the cardinal directions by inland seas (Helaman 3:8); but its sea on the west (“sea west”) is never called the “west sea”. The  “west sea” is the name of the sea west of Zarahemla and Bountiful.

Bordered in Each  Direction by Seas

Traveling hundreds of kilometers northward from western NY to beyond Lake Simcoe, one truly encounters “large bodies of water and many rivers.” (Helaman 3:3-4)

The biblical expression “spread abroad upon all the earth”, can simply mean over a local land or region. (1 Samuel 30:16, Helaman 3:8) In this land northward, there are inland seas in each of the cardinal directions, exactly as scripture describes.

Compared to the hilly southern countryside, the northern NY coast (along Lake Ontario) is considerably more flat. This matches the plains of the Jaredites in the land northward. (Ether 13:28-29; 14:16) See for yourself as you travel near the coast of Lake Ontario. Contrast the lay of the land northward with the southern hill country. Mountains are never mentioned in the Nephite lands near Zarahemla - only hills. It should be noted though, that what many tourists esteem to be a hill in the land of Israel, may be translated “mount” or “mountain” in the Bible. We don’t know for certain where the city of Moronihah was located. There are mountains in the land northward and in the land southward relative to the coastal lands of the Nephites. (3 Nephi 8:10)

All throughout western New York there once were impressive Native American earth and timber fortifications and towns with picket walls (palisades), just like those described in the Book of Mormon. (Alma 50:1-4; 53:4)  A veritable trove of mammoth and mastodon remains have also been found (Ether 9:19), heaps of human skeletons (Alma 16:11, Mormon 2:15, Ether 11:6) and even mounds containing metal implements removed by eighteenth and nineteenth century armatures called “money diggers”. (E.G. Squier, Aboriginal Monuments of the State of New York)

While you’re in the vicinity of Cumorah, stop at the Rochester Museum of Science and view some of the artifacts on display.

Young NY Mastodon

Young NY mastodon - Rochester Museum. The ancient biblical word for “elephants” may be “habim” (1 Kings 10:22; “ivory” = tusk of habim = שֶנְהַבִּים), but what in the ancient world were “curelom” and cumom”? (Ether 9:19)

You don’t have to pay a tour guide to conduct you through sacred Book of Mormon and Church history sites. You can plan your own pilgrimage as my wife and I have done!  We rented a car, brought along our GPS, and of course our scriptures. If you actually experience the land and the distances between sites, we think you will see that Sister Olive’s setting is scripturally spot on! Ask yourself, as you travel between sites, could it be so many days on foot (as scripture indicates) from here to there? Journeying from site to site, I think it will become evident to you just how preposterous larger proposed geographies are. 

Should we be at all surprised that the authentic land of the Book of Mormon is right where the work came forth – speaking to us, as it were, from the selfsame ground? (Mormon 8:23-26) All you have to do is accept the location of Cumorah, given in LDS D&C 128:20, and not flinch. Following scripture, details about the Promised Land fit into place!

 

Native NY Long House 

NY Native Long House Reconstruction  (Alma 19:17-18)

NY Artifacts and the Book of Mormon's Literary Locale:

Ephraim George Squier was a member of the AMERICAN ETHNOLOGY SOCIETY, the NEW YORK HISTORICAL SOCIETY, and the HISTORICAL AND ANTIQUARIAN SOCIETY OF TENNESEE. His classic work, Aboriginal Monuments of the State of New York (A.M.S.NY) was published by the Smithsonian Institution in 1849.

The Book of Mormon mentions heaps of dead bodies covered over with shallow coverings of earth. (Alma 16:11, Mormon 2:15) E.G. Squier states “The purpose of the mounds of New York, so far as can be determined, seem uniformly to have been those of sepulture. They generally occur upon commanding or remarkable positions. Most of them have been excavated by “money diggers,” …of which… representatives may be found in almost every village.”  See A.M.S.NY, chapter 4, “MOUNDS, BONE-HEAPS, ETC.”

Native American artifacts of copper (including “copper arrow-heads”), brass and iron (iron axes) were recovered from “Indian” “bone-pits” which contained “a large number of skeletons”. Squire attributes the artifacts to both “modern and remote date”. The Book of Mormon mentions articles of copper, brass and iron. Similar metallic objects feature in nineteenth century literary works on the American Mound-builders.

Of course, mainstream American History and Literature specialists do not regard the Book of Mormon as a work of ancient history. The fact that NY amateur excavators, “diggers” (like the youthful Joseph) were made aware of precisely these kinds of finds, is all that is needed to evince archaeological support for the literary locale of the Book of Mormon – set in Joseph Smith’s own country. In other words, archaeological support for the Book of Mormon’s setting is not the same as proof that the Book of Mormon comes from an ancient document. A similar relationship exits between the Bible and mainstream archaeology. Showing that an archaeological find fits the Bible's literary setting is one thing; arguing that a find proves the Bible to be completely historical, is quite another.

Native NY Artifacts

Squier contends that archeological discoveries in western New York were construed to evince the nineteenth century Mound-builder sensation and mythology:

“The Indians … little dreamed that his work would ultimately come to be regarded as affording indubitable evidence of Hebrew … colonization in America; and the builders of the rude defenses of Western New York, as little suspected…” (A.M.S.NY, chapter 6, Concluding Observations, pg. 81)

Regarding the earth and timber fortified towns and citadels which the Book of Mormon describes (e.g. Alma 48:8), Squier writes:

“...Their positions, general close proximity to water, and other circumstances not less conclusive, imply a defensive origin. The unequivocal traces of long occupation found within many of them, would further imply that they were fortified towns and villages, and were permanently occupied. Some of the smaller ones, on the other hand, seem rather designed for temporary protection,- citadels in which the builders sought safety for their old men, women, and children, in case of alarm or attack.” (A.M.S.NY, chapter 6, Concluding Observations, pg. 81)

Regarding the date of the fortified earthworks and “castles” of the NY “Indians”, Squier remarks:

“…I have seen trees from one to three feet in diameter standing upon the embankments and in the trenches; which would certainly carry back the date of their construction several hundred years, perhaps beyond the period of the discovery in the fifteenth century. There is nothing, however, in this circumstance, nor in any other bearing upon the subject, which would necessarily imply that they were built by tribes anterior to those found in occupation of the country by the whites.” (A.M.S.NY, pg. 82)

Squier is willing to admit that some of the trench and timber ruins could be quite old, as long as no body tries to claim they are the works of some non-native lost race, e.g. Israelites. LDS scripture doesn’t totally disagree, in as much as the Book of Mormon teaches that the surviving Lamanites and the decimated Nephites were related.

Few remains of the numerous and impressive earth and timber works that once dotted the New York l landscape are visible today. But they truly were there! Many of them, now lost, were surveyed and documented by respected authorities like E.G. Squier. The Native American sites were disappearing under the farmer’s axe and plow even in Squier’s day.

So there is, or was, considerable archeological support for the Book of Mormon’s literary setting in western NY - in exactly the region LDS D&C 128:20 places Cumorah.

The question remains:

Do Mormon affiliated tour guides and Book of Mormon geography" groupies, who promote more exotic and spectacular locales, have ulterior motives when they tell people there’s no archaeological support for the Book of Mormon’s setting in western New York? Or are they just plain nescient?

Why do so many Mormons look to archaeology to settle theBook of Mormon geography” controversy anyway? Surely the Savior’s words apply in this case: “...why is it that the people should murmur and dispute because of this thing? Have they not read the scriptures...?” (3 Nephi 27:4-5)

Doesnt it make sense that God would place details in sacred scripture as a service to his covenant people Israel; whereby they could identify the covenant lands of their inheritance - if they did not treat what was written lightly?

If we dismiss inconvenient passages like LDS D&C 128:20, and vainly set other works ahead of scripture (e.g. John Lloyd Stephens 1841 bestseller), should we be surprised if we end up flummoxed, wandering for years in a wilderness of embarrassing contradictions - unable to say for sure whether Cumorah is where scripture says its is, or in southern Mexico? (LDS D&C 84:54-59)

Good grief! We claim to know where Jerusalem’s mount Moriah is, even though there is very little "archaeological proof" that Solomon’s temple actually stood there. (2 Chronicles 3:1) We should accept the location of Cumorah given in scripture! (LDS D&C 128:20)

 

Vincent Coon וִינְסֶנט כּוּן Copyright 2013

 

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