“Manti” in MO

Is there a verified statement by Joseph Smith placing the Book of Mormon land and city of Manti in Missouri?


 Tyler Journal

What are the facts?

In Commentary on the Book of Mormon, George Reynolds and Janne M. Sjodahl had this to say about “Manti” in Missouri:

Another Manti

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 Zion 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)

There 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.

Here are some important facts leading up to the Kirtland Camp's arrival at its destination in Adam-ondi-Ahman, MO: 

September 27, 1837 (Wednesday)

Joseph 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 Jenson)

November 7, 1837 (Tuesday)

An important conference was held at Far West, Mo., Joseph Smith, jun., having arrived from Kirtland …” (Church Chronology, Andrew Jenson)

October 4, 1838 (Thursday)

The 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 Manti…” (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 settingBook of Mormon geography followers) who read D&C 125:3 and interpret it to mean that the Book of Mormon land of Zarahemla is literally on the Iowa 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 Iowa saints were to build up.

Before Andrew 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 Manti…” (Millennial Star, “History of Joseph Smith,” May 13, 1854, Vol. 16, pg. 296)

It’s 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. RobertsHistory 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 Huntsville 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.” (History 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 Salt Lake:

“…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…” (Journal 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. (The 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).

In conclusion:

There is 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.

Levi Hancock recorded that Joseph Smith apparently told Sylvester Smith that the land of Desolation is in Ill. (Autobiography 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)

But wait! Manti was on the southeastern borders of Nephite territory – south of Gideon which was east from Zarahemla. (Alma 16:6-7; 17:1; 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. (D&C 125:3) Does this prove that Joseph wanted the Iowa 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.

What does 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:

More 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 Chile 30 degrees south latitude. The source is a dubious, unsigned document in the handwriting of 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 discoveries in 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 Stephens’ discoveries.

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 Cumorah, where Moroni declared 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”!

It is regrettable that any Latter-day Saint would prefer unsubstantiated “pottage” over 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  

Vincent Coon כּוּן וִינְסֶנט Copyright 2013

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