Is there a verified statement by Joseph Smith placing the
Book of Mormon
land and city of Manti
What are the
In Commentary on the Book of Mormon,
George Reynolds and Janne M. Sjodahl had this to say about “Manti” in
In 1836, the Prophet Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and others, found it best,
on account of apostasy and bitterness, to leave Kirtland and go to Far West, Mo.,
where the Saints were endeavoring to establish themselves. On September 25,
they passed through Huntsville, Randolph Co., and the Prophet is
said to have told the brethren that that place, where a stake of
had been established, was "the ancient site of the city of Manti." (Andrew
Jenson, Hist. Rec., p. 601.)
Whether "the ancient site of Manti" refers to the Manti in the Book of
Mormon is a question that has been debated. Some prefer to regard it as a
reference to a later City of Manti,
built by descendants of Nephi in Missouri.1967 In either case, the
information is both important and interesting.”
(Commentary on the Book of
Mormon, Vol. 2, by George Reynolds and Janne M. Sjodahl, 1960, pg. 324)
seems to have been some confusion in the minds of Reynolds and Sjodahl about
the dates of Joseph Smith’s departure from Kirtland for
Far West, and the later departure of the Kirtland Camp. The 1836
date cited by Reynolds and Sjodahl is incorrect. Saints started to settle
Shoal Creek, attached to Ray County, MO (later named Far West, Caldwell Co.)
in September of 1836, but The Kirtland Camp passed through Huntsville,
Randolf Co. on September 25, 1838. Joseph Smith was not with them.
some important facts leading up to the Kirtland Camp's arrival at its
in Adam-ondi-Ahman, MO:
“September 27, 1837 (Wednesday)
Smith, jun., and Sidney Rigdon left Kirtland, O., to establish other places
of gathering for the Saints, and to visit with the Saints in
Missouri, where they arrived in the latter part of
October.” (Church Chronology, Andrew
“November 7, 1837 (Tuesday)
important conference was held at
Far West, Mo., Joseph Smith, jun., having arrived from
Kirtland …” (Church Chronology, Andrew
“October 4, 1838 (Thursday)
Kirtland Camp arrived at its destination, Adam-ondi-Ahman.”
(Church Chronology, Andrew Jenson)
Reynolds and Sjodahl relied on Assistant Church Historian
Andrew Jenson writings. In a monthly magazine called the Historical
Record, Andrew Jenson wrote a redacted history of the 1838
“Kirtland Camp”. Jenson had this to say about Manti in MO:
“Tuesday 25th. The camp passed through Huntsville, Randolf
Co., which had been appointed as one of the Stakes of Zion, and which the
Prophet said was the ancient site of the City of
(The Historical Record, “Kirtland Camp”,
Vol. VII, July 1888, pg. 601)
What source was Jenson quoting or redacting when he
alleged that Joseph Smith said that Huntsville was the ancient
site of Manti?
Jenson notes that “Elias
Smith was chosen clerk and historian” for the camp, but I have found no
reference to a Missouri Manti in the Elias Smith journals. So where did
Jenson get his information from, and how much of it really is information?
What if Joseph Smith simply planned for the saints to
name some of their settlements after Book of Mormon place names? Could word
of mouth have embellished the reasons for naming settlements after Book of
Mormon namesakes? To this day there are Mormons (“Heartland setting”
Mormon geography followers) who read
and interpret it to mean that
the Book of Mormon land of Zarahemla is literally on the
side of the Mississippi River across from
Nauvoo. But the scripture does not say that the land opposite Nauvoo is the land of Zarahemla. It simply says “let the name
of Zarahemla be named upon” the town the
saints were to build up.
Jenson’s magazine history, an account mentioning “Manti” in MO was published
overseas in the Mormon Millennial Star. This account was based on the
Manuscript History of the Church by Willard Richards. The account was written after
the Prophet’s death:
“The camp passed through Huntsville,
in Randolph County,
which has been appointed as one of the stakes of Zion,
and is the ancient site of the City of
(Millennial Star, “History of Joseph Smith,” May
13, 1854, Vol. 16, pg. 296)
significant that Willard Richards, a contemporary of Joseph Smith, did not
explicitly attribute the ancient site of Manti
claim to the Prophet. What source
was Willard Richards relying on when he wrote his account?
The redacted History of the Church makes is sound
like the Kirtland camp’s journal kept by Judge Elias Smith was used.
History of the Church, like other revised works, takes liberties with
original material. Here is how
B. H. Roberts’ History of the Church
rendered the account:
“Tuesday, September 25.—Thomas Nickerson lost his horses and could not find
them before the camp started, and did not overtake us at night.
We came through Huntsville, the county seat of Randolph county, eleven miles, where we were
told before we arrived there, that we should be stopped, but nothing of the
kind occurred when we came through the town, and we even heard no threats
whatever, but all appeared friendly. A mile and a half west of
we crossed the east branch of Chariton, and one and a half miles west of the
river we found Ira Ames and some other brethren near the place where the
city of Manti is to be built, and
encamped for the night on Dark creek, six miles from Huntsville. Traveled this day seventeen miles.
Distance from Kirtland, seven hundred and fifty-five miles.”
of the Church, Volume 3, pg. 144)
So what is the actual
historical source for all the reworked “Manti” in MO accounts?
Here it is, from
the Journal of Brother Samuel D. Tyler, an actual member of the Kirtland
Camp who kept a diary. The original handwritten version can be viewed on
microfilm at the Church History Library in
“…We passed through Huntsville, Co. seat of Randolph Co. Pop. 450,
and three miles further we bought 32 bu. of corn off one of the brethren who
resides in this place. There are several of the brethren round about here
and this is the ancient site of the City of Manti,
which is spoken of in the Book of Mormon and this is appointed one of
the Stakes of Zion…”
of Samuel D. Tyler, September 25, 1838, pp. 66-67)
Please notice that
Brother Tyler’s journal entry does not attribute the Book of Mormon “Manti”
in MO idea to the Prophet Joseph Smith. Andrew Jenson presumed that the
Prophet was the source of the claim. In no way does Brother Tyler’s journal
entry constitute a firsthand verifiable statement by Joseph Smith. End of
story, except for a few remaining details.
The Kirtland Camp arrived in the vicinity of Far West on 2 October 1838 and was met by Joseph Smith and
others who escorted them into town. No, Joseph Smith was not with the
Kirtland camp on the date of Samuel Tyler’s “Manti” journal entry.
Papers of Joseph Smith,
Vol. 2, Journal 1832-1842, Edited by Dean C. Jessee, pg. 307, footnote 1.)
Joseph did not go out to receive the Kirtland Camp until several days later
(early in October 1838).
nothing in Joseph Smith’s journal or his letters about Manti in MO. I have
found no verifiable statement by the Prophet anywhere, mentioning an ancient
Manti in MO! As best I can tell, this is just another Big Mormon
misattribution, and Much Ado about Nothing! Am I being too harsh here? I
don’t think so. I’ve seen too many unfounded claims relative to “Book of
Mormon geography” so called.
Hancock recorded that Joseph Smith apparently told Sylvester Smith that the
land of Desolation is in Ill.
of Levi Hancock (1803-1882), copied from his journal by Clara E. H.
Lloyd, great-grand daughter, pg. 27)
Brother Hancock’s journal entry about the land of Desolation being in
Illinois is more authoritative than Heartland setting arguments placing
“Manti” in MO, and Zarahemla in Iowa. Thanks to Brother Hancock
(a contemporary of Joseph Smith) we
actually have a record relating that Joseph told
so and so, such and such!
(See W. W. Phelps' LAND OF DESOLATION)
wait! Manti was on the southeastern borders of Nephite
territory – south of Gideon which was east from Zarahemla.
6:7) If the
Book of Mormon northern land
of Desolation is in Ill, this contradicts “Manti” in MO and
“Zarahemla” across from Nauvoo. Of course we don’t really know firsthand
what Joseph said to Sylvester Smith, but there isn’t even a secondhand
statement by one of Joseph’s contemporaries claiming he said that Manti of
the Book of Mormon, is at Huntsville, MO.
When it comes to locating the covenant lands of the Book of Mormon we’re all
better off sticking with scriptures and signed statements by Joseph Smith.
The saints are asking for trouble if they rely on less authoritative
sources. Here’s another example of one:
Under the date Tuesday July 2, 1839, History of the
Church (3:382) records; “…advised that a town be built there, and called
Zarahemla.” But the revelation specifying that “the name of Zarahemla be
named upon” a city in Iowa
was given March 1841.
Does this prove that Joseph wanted
settlement to have the Book of Mormon namesake before it was officially
approved by the Lord? Does it prove that Joseph knew that Zarahemla was in Iowa from his youth? No!
Don’t forget that History of the Church is a redacted work.
the source document (Joseph Smith’s Journal, 2 July 1839 - Tuesday) actually
say? It reads “…Advised that a town be built there,…” No mention of the name Zarahemla. (The Joseph Smith Papers, Vol. 1,
pg. 344) Assistant Church Historian B. H. Roberts may have allowed the
added line “...and called Zarahemla”
to identify for the reader the settlement later named “Zarahemla”.
Heartland setting tour guides are as guilty of propagating spurious Joseph Smith
statements as Central and South American setting tour guides. Sadly, through
the years members of the Church have demonstrated a propensity for pinning
statements on Joseph Smith which are unsubstantiated. Here is a short list:
discordant statements attributed to Joseph without proof
Franklin D. Richards
and James A. Little published
A Compendium of the Doctrines of the Gospel in 1887 in which they
claimed (pg. 298) as a “Revelation to Joseph the Seer”, that
Lehi landed on the coast of
30 degrees south latitude. The source is a dubious, unsigned document in the
Frederick G. Williams.
George Q. Cannon published in the
July 15, 1887 Juvenile Instructor (pg. 221)
that Joseph Smith had
told some person or persons unknown that the Magdalena River of Colombia is
the Book of Mormon river Sidon.
Joseph Fielding Smith’s compilation
Teachings of the
Prophet Joseph Smith (1938) slips in an unsigned September 15th, 1842
Times and Seasons newspaper article claiming that Lehi landed, not on
the coast of Chile, but a little south of Panama’s Isthmus of Darien. Even
though the article uses the first person plural and
mentions Joseph Smith in the third person, it has
recently propagated like a virus from Joseph Fielding Smith’s compilation to
Encyclopedia of Joseph Smith’s Teaching, edited by Larry E. Dahl and
Donald Q. Cannon, 1997, pg. 89.
Mesoamerican setting tour guides so want to attribute to the
Prophet the added commentary about
John Lloyd Stephens
Central America found in the redacted History of the Church (5:44).
But, the Prophet’s original journal entry for June 25 1842 - Saturday says nothing about
The real thing
Contrast the forgoing un-authoritative statements with
LDS D&C 128. Note that
LDS D&C 127:10
introduces LDS D&C 128 as “the word of the Lord”.
LDS D&C 128:20 identifies the
land where the smith family cabin stood, as the land
the fulfillment of the prophets, and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon.
The hill from which the plates were recovered is not explicitly mentioned. This
canonized epistle to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is
signed “JOSEPH SMITH”!
regrettable that any Latter-day Saint would prefer unsubstantiated “pottage”
LDS D&C 128:20. I have chosen to specify LDS D&C because members of the
RLDS church, who dismissed LDS D&C 128, were the first to place Cumorah in
southern Mexico; closer to the anachronistic
ruins described in John Lloyd Stephens’ 1841 bestseller.
See Promised Lands
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