Thursday, May 22, 2014

Was the Land of Promise Manti in Missouri—Being Careful With Using Historical Statements to Verify a Location of the Land of Promise

There are certain people, writing about the Heartland of the U.S. as being the site of the Land of Promise, and often use as a source, the Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol 2, 1960, p 324, George Reynolds and Janne M. Sjodahl. In this work, Reynolds and Sjodahl write, quoting Andrew Jenson Historical Record, p 601: 
Dedicated temple site at Far West, Missouri. One of the four cornerstones laid by the Apostles in 1886 can partially be seen in the far right foreground
    “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."
    However, 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, Missoursi (later named Far West, Caldwell County) in September of 1836, but The Kirtland Camp passed through Huntsville, Randolf County on September 25, 1838.
    Joseph Smith, however, was not with them.
Map of Caldwell County, created by Governor Boggs at Joseph Smith’s request, had a 6 mile buffer around it to keep the Mormons and Missourians separate. Note the numerous settlements (yellow circles) and the site of Far West (larger yellow square)
    From the Assistant Church Historian, Andrew Jenson, in Church Chronology, Joseph Smith, and Sidney Rigdon left Kirtland, on Wednesday, September 27, 1837, 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. On Tuesday, November 7, an important conference was held at Far West, when Joseph Smith arrived from Kirtland, and on October 4, 1838, the Kirtland Camp arrived at its destination at Adam-ondi-Ahman.”
    Reynolds and Sjodahl relied on Assistant Church Historian Andrew Jenson writings. In a monthly magazine called the Historical Record, Andrew Jenson wrote a redacted (edited) history of the 1838 “Kirtland Camp” in which he wrote: “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).
Jenson also noted that Judge “Elias Smith (left) was chosen clerk and historian” for the Council of the Kirtland Camp, and he was also one of the commissioners leading the Camp. He kept a daily journal (right) of the uninterrupted history of the camp
    However, there is no reference to a Missouri Manti in the Elias Smith journals.
    From the Journal of Samuel D. Tyler, an actual member of the Kirtland Camp who kept a handwritten diary:
    “…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).
    Note that Tyler’s journal entry does not attribute the Book of Mormon “Manti” in Missouri idea to the Prophet Joseph Smith, who was not even in the group, since the Kirtland Camp arrived in the vicinity of Far West on 2 October 1838 and was met there by Joseph Smith according to the Papers of Joseph Smith, Vol 2, Journal 1832-1842, p 307.
    As was stated in the last post on Zarahemla, Iowa, Joseph Smith may well have planned to name some of the Saint’s settlements after Book of Mormon place names. And it is always possible that word of mouth passage of the name Manti may have embellished the reasons for naming settlements after Book of Mormon namesakes.
Before Andrew Jenson’s magazine history, an account mentioning “Manti” in Missouri was published overseas in the Millennial Star. This account was based on the Manuscript History of the Church by Willard Richards (left). The account was written after Joseph Smith’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 might be significant to note that Willard Richards, a contemporary of Joseph Smith, did not obviously attribute the ancient site of Manti claim to the Prophet. So 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. However, the History of the Church, like other revised works, takes liberties with original material. So setting that aside, B.H. Roberts’ in History of the Church (Vol 3, p 144) wrote this about the event:
    “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.”
    It should be of interest, too, that there is nothing in Joseph Smith’s journals or his letters about the Book of Mormon Manti being in Missouri. There is also no verifiable statement by the Prophet anywhere, mentioning an ancient Manti in Missouri.
    In fact, there is no firsthand record in any journal of what Joseph said of this matter, and 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 Missouri.
This 1844 Carey & Hart Map shows the last portion of the route (red line) of the 1838 Kirtland Camp in Missouri; it highlights Randolph County, where Huntsville (red box) is located
    It also might be of interest to recall that in the last post, we discussed Zarahemla, Iowa, which many Heartland Theorists have tried in vain to claim D&C 125 states that this was the location of the original Book of Mormon Zarahemla. Once again, Joseph Smith merely wrote regarding this name: “…advised that a town be built there, and called Zarahemla” on Tuesday July 2, 1839 (History of the Church 3:382). But the revelation specifying that “the name of Zarahemla be named upon” a city in Iowa was given March 1841.
    In fact, of this day, Joseph Smith recorded in his Journal on 2 July 1839 “…Advised that a town be built there” with no town name given. It is entirely possible that Joseph’s statement taken from his journal and recorded in Church History, the name Zarahemla was added to identify for the reader the settlement later named Zarahemla.
    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. He never even gave a name for the town in his Journal when recording that a town was to be built in Iowa that was later given the name Zarahemla. The saints are asking for trouble if they rely on less authoritative sources than the scriptural record and statements written in Joseph Smith’s own hand—not just ones repeated over and over again until they seem legitimate. As Joseph said of himself that he did not enjoy the right vouchsafed to every American citizen; that of free speech, and when he ventured to give his private opinion on any subject of importance his words were often garbled and their meaning twisted and then given out as the word of the Lord because they came from him ("LaFayette C. Lee, Notebook, LDS Church Archives).

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