Sunday, February 17, 2019

The School of the Prophets and South America

We recently received a comment that caused us a light-hearted moment, since it was a criticism that our South America Land of Promise was not mentioned in the School of the Prophets. Other than being received from a Reader who identifies himself a firm believer in the North American models, we are hard pressed to quite understand the purpose and intent of sending us this article to criticize our writing about South America.
    However, we will answer it, in case others out there think that South America, not being mentioned in the School of the Prophets curricula is a damaging blow to our support of South America.
• Reader: “It is very noticeable that there is no mention of South America during Joseph Smith’s School of the Prophets teachings.”
Response: It is interesting that most members of the Church today have little understanding of the purpose and breadth of the teachings involved in the School of the Prophets that was initiated during the winter of 1832-1833. In this, the Lord commanded Joseph Smith to organize a school for the purpose of training the brethren in all things pertaining to the gospel and the kingdom of God. In fact, between 1833 and 1884, leaders from time to time organized schools for instructing members in Church doctrine and secular subjects and for discussing political and social issues relevant to the Church's mission. Although they varied greatly in form and purpose, these schools were called Schools of the Prophets, or sometimes Schools of the Elders.
    From the initial school came many of the early leaders of the Church. Another school of the prophets or the elders was conducted by Parley P. Pratt in Jackson County, Missouri (D&C 97:1-6) and similar schools were held shortly after the Saints migrated to the West; however, these were soon discontinued.
    The early lessons were mostly lectures of theology (Lectures of Faith), though their instruction was to include both sacred and secular topics, with Sidney Rigdon the main teacher, but according to Heber C. Kimball, “a certain number were appointed to speak at each meeting.” The discussions dealt with quoting scriptural passages that dealt with the subject. On one occasion, Elder Kimball spoke on a personal experience, and there was a focus on secular subjects.
    However, the school expanded, and eventually offered a combined curricula during the period, which included theology, English grammar, writing, reading, common arithmetic, mathematics, geography, history, debating, singing, foreign languages including Hebrew, Latin, and Greek. Elders Sidney Rigdon and William E. McClellin were the teachers of the Kirtland School, being paid $18.00 per month to teach. The school was conducted under the immediate care and inspection of Joseph Smith, F.G. Williams, Sidney Rigdon, and Oliver Cowdery, who were Trustees. Their notice stated: “The Trustees of this institution design introducing the higher branches of English literature, at as early a period as possible.”
According to the Journal History (22 Dec), “a grammar school was organized and commenced in Kirtland, Ohio, taught by Sidney Rigdon and Wm. E. McLellin.  It was held especially for the benefit of the young Elders of the Church, many of whom lacked the necessary education as representatives of the Church and missionaries to preach the gospel to the world.” In fact, “T. Burdick’s arithmetic, S. Kirkham’s grammar and J. Olney’s geography have been used, with N. Webster’s dictionary, as standard.”
    It was said at the time, “Speaking of Church members…They had been previously commanded to seek learning and study the best books, and get a knowledge of countries, kingdoms, languages, etc., which inspired them with an extravagant thirst after knowledge.” William McEllen stated: “Since the year 1827 I have taught school in five different States, and I have visited many schools in which I was not engaged, as teacher; but in none, I can say with certainty, have I seen students make more rapid progress, than in this. I expect myself to leave the institution, but yet, I have a great desire to see it flourish. I therefore most cheerfully recommend it to all those whose circumstances and situation will allow them to attend, as being a place where strict attention is paid to good morals as well as to the sciences.”
    In fact, other schools were established to meet the growing needs of the Church members. Women and older children were invited to attend. There were several sessions of the Elder’s School, a Hebrew school was established; and a variety of evening schools were offered.

A major purpose of the School of the Prophets was to increase the faith of Church members: “And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith” (D&C 88:118). The Setting in which the School of the Prophets was established was a world at the beginning of monumental change.  In his 1991 book The Birth of the Modern, Paul Johnson insightfully described the period between 1815 and 1830 as a time in “which the matrix of the modern world was largely formed.”
    In addition, at this time in the state of Ohio, which became a state in 1803, the population zoomed from 72,000 to over 800,000 by 1826, yet there was little opportunity for education.
    Around this time, on December 27, 1832, a conference of High Priests assembled in the translating room in Kirtland, with Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, Orson Hyde, Joseph Smith, Sr., Hyrum Smith, Samuel H. Smith, N. K. Whitney, F. G. Williams, Ezra Thayer and John Murdock present. Joseph Smith stated that “to receive revelation and the blessing of Heaven it was necessary to have our minds on God and exercise faith and become of one heart and of one mind.” 
    The result of this was their receiving a revelation (D&C 88), which called for the organization of the School (70-77,117-119), the mission statement and curriculum of the School (77-80), the rues of personal student conduct (120-126), rules of classroom conduct (127-133), and the ritual of initiation (134-141). Sidney Rigdon and Frederick G. Williams were stated to be equal to Joseph in the administration of the School (D&C 90:6-8).
    In 1834, ministerial training resumed under the name Elders School or School for the Elders, with additional sessions held in the winter of 1835-1836.
In all of the curriculum of the School of the Prophets, the Elders’ School, etc., the location of the Book of Mormon peoples, the location of the Jaredite Kingdom and the Nephite Nation, are never mentioned. It was not a topic of the school. So having no mention of South America as the location of Lehi’s landing should not be a surprise to anyone. Yet at the same time, since part of the curriculum was geography, no doubt someone at some time mentioned South America, as well as Central and Mesoamerica.
    Finally, it is interesting that this Reader talked about no mention of South America, when they ignored no mention of the name Cumorah regarding the hill in New York. Joseph’s own words in describing this initially were: “Convenient to the village of Manchester, Ontario county, New York, stands a hill of considerable size, and the most elevated of any in the neighborhood. On the west side of this hill, not far from the top, under a stone of considerable size, lay the plates, deposited in a stone box” (Joseph Smith—History 1:51, emphasis added). And again, “The messenger…told me that I should come to that place precisely in one year from that time, and that he would there meet with me, and that I should continue to do so until the time should come for obtaining the plates. Accordingly, as I had been commanded, I went at the end of each year, and at each time I found the same messenger there, and received instruction and intelligence from him at each of our interviews, respecting what the Lord was going to do, and how and in what manner his kingdom was to be conducted in the last days” (Joseph Smith—History 1:53-54, emphasis added).
    In fact, in all of Joseph Smith’s History, the name Cumorah is never mentioned. Nor was it mentioned in the School of the Prophets; nor, in fact, was any site given for Lehi’s landing, the lands of the Jaredites or the Nephites described or suggested in the Schools.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

The Black Swamp and the Narrow Passage

An interesting comment was received by a Reader regarding a narrow passage in the Heartland of North America that bears a response, since it is a growing area of interest among members and several have opted to accept what is said about this area without checking it out for themselves to see how fallacious are the arguments favoring the North American model as Lehi’s Isle of Promise.
    The comment received was: “Your belief that narrow neck of land or the narrow passage is in Central or South America is way off. You’ve never heard of the Great Black Swamp which extended eastward from Lake Erie? There was also another swamp that extended southward from Lake Michigan. These two swamps created a narrow passage between them. Google them. These swamps were impassable and were not drained until the 1880s. That’s how Bowling Green, OH got its name because it was founded on a high spot in the swamp. And the Great Lakes are the four seas mentioned in The Book of Mormon. No there are not five Great Lakes as Lake Michigan and Lake Huron are the same lake as they have same elevation” S.R.
    Response: First of all, as we have repeatedly written, the narrow neck we state is the narrow pass between the eastern shore of the Gulf of Guayaquil in Ecuador, South America, and the area of the sharply rising sheer Andean mountains about 25 miles further east. This creates a narrow passage even to this day, that runs along almost the entire length of that eastern shore, that in BC times was a great sea. This eastern sea is referred to by geologists as the Pebasian Sea, which extended eastward into the Amazon Sea that emptied into the Atlantic Ocean, and southward into the Paranense and Paranan seas and southeastward into the Atlantic. The Pebasian Sea also ran northward into what is now the Caribbean Sea, all of which created the island that Jacob claimed the Land of Promise was located upon (2 Nephi 10:20).
The Black Swamp or Great Black Swamp (Red Circle) was located in a southwesterly direction from the area of Toledo at the southwest border of Lake Erie and extended almost to Fort Wayne

As for the Black Swamp, it was a glacially fed wetland in northwest Ohio that extended from the eastern end of Lake Erie across Ohio to just short of Fort Wayne, Indiana. The swamp area existed from the end of the Wisconsin glaciation until the late 19th century, when farmers began to drain the swamp for planting. The area  once encompassed extensive swamps and marshes, with some higher, drier ground interspersed. It occupied what was formerly the southwestern part of proglacial Lake Maumee, a Holocene precursor to Lake Erie, covering what is now ten counties, for a distance of about 120 miles in length from the Sandusky River in the east to almost Fort Wayne, Indiana, in the west, and was 30 to 40 miles wide.
    This area was not deep, and ancient elm and ash trees grew with their roots in the standing waters, with massive oaks and hickories on the sandy beach ridges. Windfalls, mostly tumbled trees uprooted by occasional tornadoes, together with the deep, heavy mud, made the region almost impassable for common traffic. No one knows the origin of the name "Black Swamp,” but its ominous remoteness and dark countryside may well have been the cause of the name, though its soil is black and rich.
    This swamp itself was an oozing mass of water, mud, snakes, wolves, wildcats, biting flies, and clouds of gnats and mosquitoes. At 4,800 square miles, it was nearly big enough to cover the entire state of Connecticut. It was an oozing mass of water, mud, snakes, wolves, wildcats, biting flies, and clouds of gnats and mosquitoes. It stretched south of the Maumee River, 30 to 40 miles wide, for 120 miles from the Sandusky River in the east, nearly to Fort Wayne, Indiana, in the west. It crossed the area of ten counties, and was poorly drained by four rivers: the Maumee, the Auglaize, the Portage, and the Sandusky. Water stood in it during the wetter seasons, and moisture oozed underfoot in all but the driest periods. Beginning with the Indians, almost everyone avoided its knee-deep mud and ravenous mosquitoes.
Map showing the cities built up over the past century that surrounds the swamp, with few settlements within it—Bowling Green now sits in the center of the old swamp area

Indian villages ringed the swamp, and a look at any current map shows that later settlements followed their example. Lakeside, Fremont, Findlay, Cairo, Delphos, Van Wert, Fort Wayne, Napoleon, Maumee, and Toledo fall into a clockwise pattern around the old swampland's edges, with Bowling Green in its heart.
    In trying to ride across the swamp, water, often up to the belly of a horse, stood on the surface until it evaporated in the hot summer months. When it rained, or thawed in the winter, it was water and muck. Much of the swamp was covered with a thick forest of giant oak, sycamore, hickory, walnut, ash, elm, maple and cottonwood trees, except in a few prairie areas where limestone just under the surface would not support timber growth.
    However, the water’s depth was quite shallow, attested by the building of a corduroy road constructed through the swamp lands from Fremont, Ohio, to Perrysburgy, Ohio, in the early 1800s—a corduroy road, or timber trackway, is a long road made by placing logs, perpendicular to the direction of the road over a low or swampy area. While these logs shift and difficult for horse travel, the point is the swamp was a shallow area, and would not have restricted the military movement of warriors on the attack.
The Corduroy Road, created by a Scottish engineer and inventor named John MacAdams, soon after the Revolution. It was useful in swamps because it created a road for people and horses cross over and was much smoother riding on than the bumpy and uneven swamps

In addition, gravel and dirt could be placed over the timbers to make a more useful road, and according to the scriptural record of the extensive road networks built by the Nephites (3 Nephi 6:8), such a road would not have been considered impossible for them to have constructed, again, rendering this shallow swamp area no longer a restriction to travel. However, it still would have been restrictive to settlement because of the shifting ground and moisture oozing up through it, which kept it from settlement until the latter half of the 19th century.
    As for the other swamp that extended south of Lake Michigan, it did not form a “narrow passage between them.” This ancient swamp accessed the short overland portage into the South Branch of the Chicago River, which provided the only total water route from the Great Lakes to the Mississippi during the Spring in a heavy rain year.
    In fact, in 1794, two years before his death, Anthony Wayne, an American Revolutionary General and later U.S. Representative best known for winning the Battle of Fallen Timbers which removed Native American claims to Ohio and the surrounding area, marveled at “the very extensive and highly cultivated fields” that lay at the present site of Defiance, where the Auglaize enters the Maumee. This area, though within the Black Swamp, was planted by local farmers and quite productive.
   Also, Robert Lucas, a Captain in the American Army of whom was said, “As a spy he was productive and brave—as a soldier he had no superior" (Thomas Verchères de Boucherville, War on the Detroit: The Chronicles of Thomas Verchères de Boucherville and the Capitulation by an Ohio Volunteer,” Edited by Milo M. Quaife, Lakeside Press, Chicago, 1940, p314). Lucas later was appointed a Brigadier General in 1810, and much later Governor of Ohio. He crossed the Black Swamp with his men during the War of 1812, spending several nights there, of which soe of his men complained “bitterly of mud that reached their horses’ saddle skirts and that oozed ankle-deep in their tents at night.” General William Hull’s entire army marched completely across the black Swamp from Urbana, Ohio, to Toledo, and then on to Detroit in 1812. The point is, military men, used to uncomfortable and unusual travel problems, crossed the Black Swamp without trouble. It is not conceivable that it would have prevented the Lamanites from crossing it if they had been confronted by it,
Area between the Black Swamp and the Chicago River’s South Branch—the so-called Portage area

There is no indication from the records that this swamp area was anywhere near the Black Swamp in Ohio, and in fact, would have been more than a hundred and 150 miles away—hardly a narrow passage (Brad Olsen, Sacred places, North America: 108 Destinations, CCC Publishing, San Francisco, 2008, p249).
    However, the most important thing here, is the narrow passage mentioned by Mormon, was between the East Sea and the West Sea. In the Heartland or Great Lakes model, the reference of a swamp is not a sea, and these two swamps were nothing more than wetlands interspersed with higher ground islands in a basic marshy terrain—hardly the East or West sea as Mormon describes them.
Meldrum’s map of his Land of Promise. Besides many other problems and misplacements of lands according to Mormon’s descriptions, he has all four seas mentioned in the scriptural record basically north of the entire Land Southward, completely contrary to Mormon and Helaman’s descriptions

As for the Great Lakes, they are listed as being five, because the two lobes of the lakes (Michigan and Huron) were considered then, as now by most people to be two lakes; however, hydrologically they are considered one lake, even though separated by the narrow Straits of Mackinac. However, if you name these “four lakes” the north, east, south and west seas, as is shown in the Heartland theorists’ model, they in no way match the scriptural record and Mormon’s descriptive use of the terms.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Buildings, Palaces, Synagogues, and Houses

Is there anyone with any knowledge of history and ancient people really think that if Lehi had landed in North America and the Nephites settled in the Heartland region along the Mississippi River, specifically in the area of Nauvoo and across the river in the area of today’s Montrose, which the early Saints there called Zarahemla, that there would be no physical evidence of their existence?
General Map of the area, showing Zarahemla in Iowa and across the Mississippi River, the site of Nauvoo in Illinois

After all, the Nephites under their first leader, Nephi, son of Lehi, taught his “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 gold, and of silver, and of precious ores, which were in great abundance“ (2 Nephi 5:15). Nephi also built a temple and “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 temple of Solomon; and the workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine“ (2 Nephi 5:16, emphasis added).
    Does anyone really think there would be absolutely no evidence of such things out in the middle of the plains, that even now are not well populated, with almost all this area still basic farmland.
The first temple in Jerusalem, called Solomon’s Temple, after which Nephi built a temple in the Land of Promise, which he said that “the manner of the construction was like unto the temple of Solomon

Does anyone really think that Nephi would have built a temple to his God out of wood that deteriorated away, leaving no trace? Or that the early pioneers destroyed all evidence without leaving a comment as to what they found? Would the Nephites living under the Law of Moses (1 Nephi 1:4; 2 Nephi 5:10) not have built a temple that would have been acceptable to the Lord? After all, the temple of Solomon, which very details plans were given to Solomon by his father, David, said they came from the Lord (1 Chronicles 28:19).
    So where is the remnant or ruins of that building?
    There is no question that the Nephites used heaps of earth to surround the encampments of their armies, where they threw “up banks of earth round about to enclose his armies” (Alma 48:8), and “they had cast up dirt around about to shield them from the arrows and stones of the Lamanites (Alma 49:2,4); and around their cities “he caused that his armies should commence…digging up heaps of earth round about all the cities, throughout all the land which was possessed by the Nephites” (Alma 50:1).
    However, there are numerous scriptural references to non-dirt construction, and non-wood buildings and walls. Such do not disappear without a trace. During BC times in Andean South America, such buildings still exist.
Stonework in Peru dating to about 500 BC. It still stands and is obviously apparent and quite noticeable

So, where are the signs of the many elegant and spacious buildings and the spacious palace (Mosiah 11:9), or the very high tower near the temple (Mosiah 11:12) built in the City of Nephi, or the many buildings built in the land of Shilom (Mosiah 11:13)?
    While we are at it, where are the walls that surrounded the city of Zarahemla (Helaman 1:18,22), or the walls of the prison that tumbled down (wood fences don’t tumble down) in Zarahemla (Helaman 5:27,31), or the walls of Zarahemla that Samuel the Lamanite “stood upon the walls of the city” (you don’t stand on a wood fence) in preaching to the Nephites (Helaman 13:4; 16:1,2,7)?
    Where are the “walls of stone to encircle them about, round about their cities and the borders of their lands” (Alma 48:8)? Where are the “ruins of buildings of every kind” (Mosiah 8:8) that marked the great cities and vast civilization of the Jaredites?
    The point is, there is not a single piece of evidence of any of these scriptural descriptions of the vast civilizations that inhabited the Land of Promise. Only mounds are found on the land of North America. Mounds that for the most part were for the burial of the dead—a practice that was in opposition to the Law of Moses and the practice of the Hebrews in Jerusalem (and everywhere else) anciently, who placed their dead in caves, tombs, and catacombs.
    The mounds claimed to have been defensive by theorists, are low, and do not “enclose” people, but were built in order to raise an area where huts were placed upon the top—nothing like that was mentioned in all the scriptural record.
Top: The Monk’s Mound, built in 900 AD, 500 years after the demise of the Nephites, and is the largest mound at the Cahokia site in Illinois a little east of Nauvoo. It is neither a burial mound, nor a decorative mound and evidently had no purpose other than there being a small wooden structure on the top. It neither is like nor matches anything in the scriptural record; Bottom: View from Monk’s Mound looking east across Illinois showing the flat plains
 
In fact, both the Land Northward and the Land Southward were inhabited by millions of people according to the numbers stated in the scriptural record, yet in North America there is not a single sign of any vast civilization of antiquity found anywhere—only mounds of earth, which were unknown in both Jerusalem from which the Mulekites came, and about Jerusalem from which Lehi came, or in Mesopotamia from which the Jaredites came.
The city of Babylon as viewed in 1932 before any renovation work took place. This was built sometime around that of the Jaredites, and was in the land from wench they came

It is always interesting to see how Heartland and other North American theorists always ignore the structures mentioned in the scriptural record that both the Jaredites and Nephites built. Rather than Jared and his brother coming from a start-up society, where building with sticks and thatch was the order of the day, the Jaredites lived in a land where massive ziggurats were built, where stone walls and adobe brick buildings several stories high were built. It is highly unlikely they would have entered their promised land and built with twigs and thatch, which was the early construction of those indigenous natives who first inhabited North America.
Ruins of the North Palace of King Nebuchadnezzar that was built in Lehi’s time and has not been refurbished or reconstructed—it still stands and is very noticeable; the ancient city wall is in the far background and badly in need of repair but also stands (about 3000 years now)

Nor can it be said that Nephi and Sam, living on the outskirts of Jerusalem in 600 BC, would have been unfamiliar with a type of construction of which Nephi writes about in what he taught his people regarding building, and the temple he constructed.
    The fact that no such edifices nor the remains of any such, as well as stone walls surrounding cities and the land, have ever been found in North America, should give pause to any Heartland, Great Lakes or eastern U.S. theorists.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Can a Florida Landing and Heartland of America Land of Promise Be Compared to Andean South America? – Part III

Continued from the previous post in which we are answering several comments submitted by a Reader of our blog regarding their Heartland and Great Lakes theories:
• Reader: “We know from the Book of Mormon that the Lamanites occupied the original Land of Lehi and the land southward. The Nephites occupied the land Northward.”
In loose terms, the Land of Lehi was all that land south of the narrow strip of wilderness, however, onece Nephi fled northward and settled in a land and built the city of Nephi, that land around was called the Land of Nephi; later when Mosiah fled northward and found Zarahemla, the Lamanites changed the name to the city and Land of Lehi-Nephi (the Nephites always called it the Land of Nephi)

Response: The original Land of Lehi, mentioned in the lost 116 pages translated from the gold plates, was to the south of the Land of Nephi, centered around where they first landed and the southern part of that was referred to as the Land of First Inheritance (Mosiah 9:1; Alma 23:28; 54:12). The Land of Nephi, was the land to which Nephi fled to escape from his brothers who sought his life (1 Nephi 5:5-8). Thus, the Land of the Lamanites was southward from the narrow strip of land that separated them from the Land of Zarahemla (Alma 22:27). However, the area the Lamanites occupied was not the entire Land Southward, only that part of the Land Southward south of the narrow strip of wilderness. The Land of Zarahemla to the Land of Bountiful were one the north and also in the Land Southward (Alma 22:29).
    Now, within the Land Southward, divided at the narrow strip of wilderness, was the Land South and the Land North, as is stated in: “Now the land south was called Lehi and the land north was called Mulek, which was after the son of Zedekiah; for the Lord did bring Mulek into the land north, and Lehi into the land south. This is verified by the fact that Mulek landed along the West Sea coast near where the city of Zarahemla was later located (Omni 1:16), which, of course was in the Land Southward, as was all of the Land of Zarahemla.
    On the other hand, the Land Northward was the ancient homeland within the Land of Promise of the Jaredites, and not occupied by the Nephites until around 55 BC (Alma 63:9; Helaman 3:3).
Reader: “If we are talking North and South America, that seems like an awful long journey for the two to interact with each other.”
Response:  Keep in mind, we are not saying North and South America was the land promised to Lehi. That was a small portion of the overall land, otherwise, if it was all the and then there would be no place for the tribe of Ephraim, which is to inherit the much greater portion (likely all of North America), while the tribe of Mennasseh would inherit the other overall portion (likely all of South America).
Overall Land of Promise with a portion promised to Lehi and his descendants

However, in the Book of Mormon, that is the complete 522 pages, the record only deals with that land to which the Jaredites were led (the Land Northward), and the land to which Lehi and Mulek were led—referred to overall as the Land of Promise. At the same time, the entire Western Hemisphere is the Land of Promise as described in Ether 13:2, that land “that after the waters had receded from off the face of this land it became a choice land above all other ands, a chosen land of the Lord; wherefore the Lord would have that all men should serve him who dwell upon the face thereof.”
    The problem is, that modern man is so accustomed to think in terms of North Aemrica being one colntinent and South America being another continent, with a narrow isthmus connecting the two called Central America. The Lord does not think in such terms. He, as well as Moroni, do not acknowledge national boundaries that vary, change and are redrawn by man over thousands of years, which are a few days to the Lord (2 Peter 3:8), but sees a “land” as being an area that fits his purpose—which is so long range, the human mind simply does not think in terms like that. As an example, when a loved one is lost, man thinks of it in temporal terms, i.e., they are gone, dead, non-existent now; but God thinks of things on an eternal or spiritual basis (D&C 29:34)—they simply stepped from the temporal sphere into the eternal sphere; no big deal!
    After all, all the land is His. Portions of it He has reserved for certain purposes. The Western Hemisphere was reserved after the Flood for His special purpose, of which He promised a portion of it to Lehi and his righteous posterity (2 Npehi 1:3,5); He also provided a portion to the Jaredites (Ether 7:27), which the lord stated “that they should come forth even unto the land of promise, which was choice above all other land, which the Lord God had preserved for a righteous people” (Ether 2:7).
• Reader: “Seeing that they were constantly at war with each other, and sending missionaries and such that would be very hard. They must have been closer in proximity to each other, so that to me is another reason the heartland model makes more sense.”
The Heartland Model. Area to the west all the way to and into the eastern Rockies is called “Lamanite Lands,” with the other lands out of directional location to that described by Mormon, and all the seas in the north

Response: The Heartland model has certain locations for Book of Mormon cities and places. Using that map, the distance from first landing to the City of Nephi is 815 miles; from the City of Nephi to the City of Zarahemla is 500 miles and the distance from the City of Nephi to the Narrow Neck of Land is either 522 miles or 775 miles, depending on which model is used. These distances are not much different than those using the South American locations. A lot of disparaging example couold be shown between the our maps in South America and Meldrum, Mays and other theorists’ maps in North America, but we are talking distances here.
The Major Area of the Book of Mormon storyline covers a much smaller area than the total land promised to Lehi and his descendants—from the land of Zarahemla to the Land of Nephi

It should also be noted that the actual area of Andean South America in which the Nephites and Lamanites spent the first 550 years occupying the Land of Promise, i.e., that portion of the land promised to Lehi and his descendants, is only the area of Peru. The Land Northward, which has little to do with the Nephite record after Hogoth’s ships are mentioned taking Nephites and Lamanites to “a land which was northward” and never heard from again, was in Ecuador. The distances involved in all of this are not those of all of North and South America—just that portion promised to Lehi.• You: “At any rate, I'm not gonna convince you, and you haven't convinced me. We as I said before need to agree to disagree.”
Response: First: It is very difficult for someone with little knowledge to convince someone with much greater knowledge on a given subject. Secondly, we are not trying to convince you of anything. You responded to our work in a semi-critical way and we simply replied, since you obviously did not know much about the matters on which you spoke and were critical. To us, our job in this matter is to provide information, how someone uses it is up to them—we all have our free agency to use as we see fit. On the other hand, when people tell us something that is blatantly not correct, comparing their opinions and speculations with our use of the scriptural record, we do respond, if not for the person commenting to us, certainly for other people who read the threads that appear after our publications so they know there are legitimate answers to the questions and comments raised.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Can a Florida Landing and Heartland of America Land of Promise Be Compared to Andean South America? – Part II

Continued from the previous post in which we are answering several comments submitted by a Reader of our blog regarding their Heartland and Great Lakes theories, and continuing below with the difference in the flora and fauna of the Mediterranean and Humid Subtropical Climate.
    In referring to the flora or plants (covered in the previous post), nor the fauna or animals in the Mediterranean Climate as opposed to those in the Humid Subtropical Climate, they are not the same in both climate areas. 
Large mosquito infestations in the U.S. is most acute in Florida, southern Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana where humid and moist weather provide ample conditions; however, are at the lowest in Southern California New Mexico and Arizona because of the warm climate conditions

As one example of the fauna shows, the mosquito season in Florida lasts nearly all year-round because of the warmth and moisture, and where heavy rains produce thriving mosquito populations. On the other hand, there is no mosquito season in Mediterranean Climates of Jerusalem and La Serena Chile. In addition, there are no alligators in Jerusalem or La Serena, but there are a lot along the coasts of Florida, as well as inland in swampy regions.
    Historically, the Humid Subtropical Climate animals of northern Florida are the Armadillo, coyote, bobcat, black bear, mink, wolf, shrew, and wild hog, which are not found in Jerusalem or La Serena, Chile. Jerusalem with its Mediterranean Climate, on the other hand, had the cheetah, leopard, sand cat, onyx, fox, ibex, brown bear, lion, wild ass and jungle cat, as well as the crocodile, turtle, viper and monitor—none of which were found in northern Florida. Also, in Andean South America are the huemul, taruca and pudu (all deers), oppossum, puma, mountain lion, fox, llama, alpaca, guanacos, rhea, flamingo and condor, none of which are found in northern Florida.
    As for ores, while a variety of minerals are found in Florida's heavy mineral sand deposits, including ilmenite, leucoxene, rutile, and zircon, as well as having the nation’s largest known deposits of phosphate, there are no known occurrences of natural gold found anywhere within Florida. While there is native copper, there is only very limited silver. In fact, a majority of the world’s silver mines are located in Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Mexico, China, Australia, and Poland. There are no major silver deposits in North America with what silver there is found in the western U.S.
    Internationally, Chile leads all other countries in the world in copper production, with Peru second, China third and the U.S. a distant fourth, with 90% of the U.S. copper production in the far west (not in the areas of the Heartland or Great Lakes “land of promise” areas. Chile alone produces almost twice as much copper as China and the U.S. combined; and both Chile and Peru out produce the next eight top producing countries in the world in combined total tonnage produced. Combined, Chile and Peru produce 7,720,000 metric tons of copper per year; with China producing 1,860,000 tons; the U.S. 1,270,000 tons, for a combined total of 3,130,000 tons; and the other top 6 countries combined, produce 4,550,000 tons.
    As for the Heartland there are very few areas of copper deposits east of the Rocky Mountains, and those are almost all located in the Canadian area north of the Great Lakes. There are no deposits at all in Florida or most of the southern part of the Hartland states.
Simply put, there are no geological conditions in Florida where gold is found, and there are no known occurrences of natural gold within the State of Florida; there are also no known silver deposits or silver mining done in Florida; also no copper in Florida 

Regarding gold, Internationally, the United States is the world’s fourth largest producer of gold, while tiny Peru is 6th, and Mexico 8th; however, the gold production in the U.S. is prevalent in the West, with Nevada producing 80% of the gold in the U.S., with Nevada and Alaska combined, producing over 90% of the gold in the US. In addition, California, Alaska, Arizona, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming, Washington, and South Dakota produce just about all the rest of the gold in the U.S. Almost no gold little comes from anywhere east of the Rocky Mountains, i.e., the Heartland and Great Lakes areas.
    As for silver production, Mexico is the leading silver producer, with China second and Peru third. Bolivia is sixth, Chile seventh and the U.S. is ninth. Combining Peru and Chile would make them the second largest silver producers in the world. Peru alone has four times the amount of silver production as the U.S., with Alaska producing one half of the silver in the U.S., then Nevada and Idaho, these three states producing almost all of the silver production in the U.S., while importing 63% of their silver needs from Mexico, Canada, Peru and Chile.
    It simply cannot be said, as Heartlanders and Great Lakes theorists do, that there is a match regarding the ores mentioned in the scriptural record and northern Florida, the Heartland, or the Great Lakes. Ore cannot be imagined into existence, and saying it exists is not the same as it actually existing. 
• Reader: “So far your biggest argument for South America is a landing spot and climate.”
Response: What a ridiculous statement. It is hard to believe when we quote and match some 45 different scriptural references that match precisely the South American land, that anyone can write or claim that only two incidents is all we be base our reference Andean South America land upon. Wow! Perhaps one should read what we have written in over 3200 blog articles, four books, and numerous videos, before making such a ridiculous and self-serving statement.
• Reader: “All of that, a landing spot and climate can be matched in Florida for the Heartland theory.”
Response: Perhaps one should consider what the Heartland theory is based upon, mostly modern comments and not much in the way of scriptural references, before making such wide-sweeping comparisons that cannot be factually supported. We provide chapter and verse out of the Book of Mormon for every point we make—but the same cannot be said of the Heartland theory.
• Reader: “How about Joseph Smith who trekked across the lands of the Nephites? He was traveling from Ohio to Missouri.” 
Zion’s Camp moved across the plains of Missouri, Illinois and Indiana on the way to Ohio. These Plains were considered the Plains of the Indians by Washington and people of the time in general, part of the Great Plains and the Canadian Prairies of the North American Indian

Response: While that was the route of Zion’s camp, you misquote Joseph Smith. Joseph did not tell Emma he “trekked across the lands of the Nephites.” He referred to the “plains of the Nephites,” a term not found in the scriptural record, but certainly an area, like most of Central America, Mexico and the U.S., Nephites and Lamanites were in all those areas between about 55 BC and the time the Europeans arrived.
• Reader: “Also, I've noticed you put more stock in Frederick G. Williams than Joseph himself.”
Response: Joseph Smith was a prophet, a very important and integral prophet in this Last Dispensation. Williams, on the other hand, was a member of the First Presidency. The two people are not comparable, and that is not to lessen the stature of Williams, but state that of Joseph in an accurate light. On the other hand, the importance we place on Williams is the result of so many people, especially North American and Mesoamerican theorists, who try to downplay his role and the importance of his statements.
    At the same time, unlike those theorists who say Williams claimed his comment about the route of Nephi’s ship and the location of Lehi’s landing, was received from Joseph Smith, we show Williams own statements about it. Joseph Smith was not involved in that comment or in that writing according to any written document of the time. Nor was it ever considered a revelation, though it was written on a paper with another revelation.
    Williams written information of Lehi’s landing he claimed was given him by an angel in the Kirtland temple as we have continually said, and not from Joseph. There is no record that Williams ever said anything to Joseph about it at all. After all, personal revelation is just that—personal.
(See the next post, “Can a Florida Landing and Heartland of America Land of Promise Be Compared to Andean South America? – Part III,” for more answers to Heartland and North American theorists) 

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Can a Florida Landing and Heartland of America Land of Promise Be Compared to Andean South America? – Part I

Evidently, floodgates about the Heartland are opening all over the place. It is amazing that while Rod L. Meldrum, Wayne May, and other theorists have been touting the Heartland of America as the Land of Promise, they seem to neglect to use scriptural evidences and Mormon’s descriptions in doing so but rely on modern Church leaders opinions as their source.
    They also believe that their theory is superior to all other views, and often neglect to consider their own views in the light of reality, history, and the scriptural record. Take this last inquiry we received from a reader who uses opinions and speculations and personal feelings as his criteria.
    • Reader: Your opinions about South America is just your belief and theory. It is no different from any other theory about the land of promise, just as my theory about the Heartland of North America is my belief and theory”
Response: A theory is defined as “a supposition or a system of ideas intended to explain something, especially one based on general principles independent of the thing to be explained.” Nearly 200 years ago the meaning was about the same: “a speculation; a doctrine or scheme of things, which terminates in speculation or contemplation, without a view to practice.”
    Our statements relating to South America are neither based on supposition nor speculation, but completely based on the scriptural record. They are not theories. At best, it could be said that our comparison between the scriptural record and Andean South America’s history is subject to our interpretation and understanding; however, we explain quite thoroughly with our lengthy connection between the description of Mormon, Nephi, Jacob and Moroni, as well as the other ancient prophets, to show that the interpretation and comparison is based on factual information and knowledge and not opinion and speculation, as is the Heartland Theory, and supported by numerous comparisons within the scriptural record itself.
• Reader: “Clearly you believe in your theory,”
Response: Our statements relating to South America are all based on the scriptural record, while those of North America and the Heartland Theory, are not based on scriptural descriptions and information, but peripheral descriptive information not contained within the scriptural record and written or stated by those who were not present at any time in the Land of Promise where the Jaredites and Nephites dwelt. Thus, we do not have a theory. We take an exact scriptural statement and apply it to a real place in a real manner that is quite factual historically, as well as descriptively as Mormon wrote it. The Heartland location, on the other hand, is a theory.
• Reader: “You give a good defense of your south American theory, with all your reasoning and interpretations, but it is still just your opinions and theory.”
Response: Obviously, you do not seem to know what a theory is, and it is this type of dogged-unknowledgeable responses we often find from Heartland theorists. It’s like “To heck with the actual scriptures, to heck with the meaning of words, I’ll just state my feelings and opinions as though they are facts and above reproach and not investigate anything that challenges them.”  
    It would be better to study and know of your own volition rather than take Meldrum’s word for things, before one speaks and writes.
    The reason we make such a good defense of our South American location is that everything about it matches the exact wordage or descriptions of Mormon’s writings, as well as the other ancient prophets, just as we have shown in many articles we have posted in this blog. As for your view, we might be more impressed with it if that view was stated along with scripture and verse, and show how it matches—just your opinions, feelings and speculations have little value in the factual pursuit of truth. Mirroring what Wayne May and Rod L. Meldrum write and state is of little value to seeking the truth unless you search out the information yourself—try comparing their information with the Book of Mormon scriptural record, not their interpretation of it.
• Reader: “Lehi landing in Florida makes a lot more sense than his sailing to South America, and more importantly, Florida is a better match for Nephi’s descriptions of the landing site.”
Rod L. Meldrum’s locations within his Land of Promise. Note a landing (Red Arrow) at Crystal River, Florida, along the Gulf Coast, which is not his Sea West (which is Lake Michigan), nor is his West Sea to the West of Zarahemla; nor his East Sea (Lake Ontario) near his Land of Nephi, and his South Sea (Lake Erie) is north of Bountiful); in addition, his Land of Bountiful is east of his Land of Zarahemla, and his land of Bountiful borders on the north with his Land of Nephi—all of these points are contrary and opposed to Mormon’s descriptions in Alma 22:27-34)

Response: Meldrum’s Heartland theory has Lehi landing in Crystal River, Florida, about 79 miles north of Tampa Bay. Crystal River is the northern arm of an inland water system around this area between King’s Bay and the Gulf waters, an area crowded with hundreds of large and small islands, swamps, marshes, quags and seeps. From there Meldrum says the party walked 412 miles to an area near present-day Mobile, Alabama, where they settled into their first home in the Land of Promise.
    Now that walk would have been quite taxing for old people, which Nephi described his parents at the time, and before landing, said of them, “my parents being stricken in years, and having suffered much grief because of their children, they were brought down, yea, even upon their sick-beds.” It seems highly unlikely that they would have been able to trek over 400 miles just for a place to settle. Why not just sail there in the first place? If a ship could get from Oman to Crystal River, Florida, it certainly could have sailed another few hundred miles to Pensacola Bay or Mobile Bay, both better landing sites than Crystal River.
    Still, even reaching Florida would have been a problem for Lehi since they would have passed the many Caribbean Bahama Islands which beckoned a landing of Columbus, who never sailed further north to find Florida and the entire North American continent. To have kept Laman, Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael from taking over the ship once they came in sight of substantial land.
    In addition, as we have pointed out in previous articles, the distance from the Indian Ocean to Florida is longer than the distance from the Indian Ocean to South America, because of the shrinking distance around the globe at that point as well as the swiftness of the winds and currents to drive a vessel much quicker than a route up the Atlantic to Florida.
• Reader: “In my opinion, Florida meets the needs for climate and animals, and ores, as you claim South America does”
Map showing the Climate areas of the United States. Note the Red Circle showing the area of Meldrum’s landing for Lehi and the area of First Inheritance where Lehi and his party first settled and where Lehi died

Response: The problem is, and it cannot be denied merely because one chooses to do so, that the climate of northern Florida along the Gulf (Humid Subtropical Climate) where it is claimed Lehi landed and Nephi planted the seeds they brought from Jerusalem (1 Nephi 18:24), is neither the same nor matches in any way other than being and providing pleasant weather, the Mediterranean Climate of Jerusalem or La Serena, Chile.
(See the next post, “Can a Florida Landing and Heartland of America Land of Promise Be Compared to Andean South America? – Part II,” for more answers to Heartland and North American theorists, and continuing with the differences between the flora and fauna of the Mediterranean and Humid Subtropical climates)

Monday, February 11, 2019

The Real Pachacámac: the God and the Land

The Inca worshiped a god called Pachacámac; however, that name, and that entity of the Inca was adopted by them from previous cultures they conquered along the maritime area of Peru. In fact, after the Incas conquered the coast, they did not attempt to replace the ancient and deeply rooted worship of Pachacámac but instead incorporated the god into their own pantheon. In doing so, they believed Pachacámac was simply a god of fire and a son of the sun god—one that was invisible for he had never before been represented in art by other cultures.
    The Inca also thought Pachacámac revitalized the world originally created by their god Viracocha, and eventually syncretized or combined him with Viracocha, as the supreme god of the Inca, the father of all other Inca gods as the one who formed the earth heavens, sun, moon, and all living beings.
The later examples of the God Pachacámac as seen in varying cultures scattered throughout the Andes, and especially along the coast

The name Pachacámac, or more accurately Pacha Kamaq, and means “Earth Maker,” or “Earth Creator,” literally the “Creator of the Earth” or “Maker of the Earth.” In Quechua he was the “architect of the world and creator of all its creatures" (James Higgins, Lima: A Cultural History, Oxford University Press, New York, 2005).
    In the pre-Inca period, this God was found in numerous cultures scattered throughout Peru and even Ecuador, and known by such names as Apu Qun Tiqsi Wiraqutra, Con-Tici, Viracocha and Inti, with varying histories, but all showed Him to be the creator of the Earth and all things, including people (Robert V. Dover, et. al., Andean Cosmologies through Time, Indiana University Press. 1992, p274).
    Unfortunately, in Inca times, human sacrifice was common, but the site originally and in an ancient time when sacrifice was not human, but of objects, such as animals, plants, crops, etc. He was known in BC times to the earliest settlers of Andean Peru, including the Chavín, Chimú, and later to the Early Lima, Maranga, Moche, the Nazca, and Tiahuanaco.
    In fact, throughout the Andean area, all ancient cultures believed in one supreme God who created the Earth, Heavens, Man and all things—he was acknowledged by all that he was the maker of the Earth; the soul that animated the world; the God not only of creation but also fire and earthquakes, with a visage too glorious for mere humans to gaze upon. His name for the most part was Pachacámac who, without a doubt, was the major deity of all the Andean cultures.
    Consequently, it is hardly surprising that a settlement named after God, and centered around a shrine dedicated to him, would end up being extremely important anciently in the Andes as well. Pilgrimages from all over the lands brought people from far and wide to visit this sacred city bearing his name where a shrine and temple were constructed to honor him.
The Temple at Pachacámac was built on an eight-level stepped earthen platform
 
Situated inside a large complex built on a natural hill overlooking a colonnaded plaza and sitting on an eight-level platform on a natural hill, the temple buildings dominated the huge site. Each level of the adobe brick platform was about 3½ feet high and painted in bright colors with plant and animal designs, made more striking with a black outline—having as much as 16 coats of paint applied anciently. A set of artist’s brushes (of human hair and reeds) and a bag of pigments were found buried at the site by archaeologist in 1935. The temple itself was well-maintained, and the accommodation buildings on the highest platform were arranged around a courtyard.
    The city, known anciently as Wak’a Pacha Kamaq, became the most distinguished pilgrimage destination along the coastal region, drawing worshipers from all over Peru to render tribute and to consult the high priest (called by archaeologists an “oracle”).
    Located on the coast with a 180º view of the sea, about 20 miles southeast of Lima, in what is today the Valley of the Lurín River, it was both a well-known and the preeminent sacred site in all of the Andes during ancient times, and the destination of pilgrims of many ancient Andean cultures for over 2,000 years, later including the Incas.
    After the temple, the common buildings were added around 200 AD, which was about 1200 years before the Inca began and about 1300 years before the arrival and conquest of the Spanish. So far, while several pyramids have been uncovered; archaeologists have identified at least 17 pyramids and numerous, though uncovered outbuildings around the site.
The original settlement grew larger in the BC period, expanding beyond its original settings

The city started out as a settlement by the early cultures and included not only the “Earth-Maker’s” temple but also the god’s high priest or “oracle,” who was believed to be able to predict the future and control the movement of the Earth, and whom pilgrims consulted for help, advice, and prophecy. Though originally a religious center with only local significance in the first millennium BC, after a desperate drought when the rains were stopped as punishment for humanity’s wickedness, its influence spread after coming under the control of a larger culture that followed and spread into the Rimac valley.
    It is known that a High Priest interpreted the information from the gods in the privacy of a chamber only he was permitted to enter. Pilgrims coming to the temple had to undergo many weeks of initiation, fasting and cleansing rituals before they could be considered worthy of consulting the gods through the High Priest. They were also expected to make offerings. Indeed, the priests of Pachacámac established a network of subsidiary shrines throughout the region which provided opportunity for contributions or tributes from local populations.
    Such was the popularity of the site that the historian Alden Mason described Pachacámac as “the Mecca of Peru,” which is attested by the finds in tombs of pottery and textiles coming from many different cultures such as the Lambayeque Nazca, Wari, Tiwanaku and Chimú, representing various areas throughout the land. It thus became the largest center in central and southern Peru. In the residential zones many of the floors and column bases, which must have supported roofs, survive.
    While the city is now a barren heap of sand and sandstone without a shred of vegetation, anciently it was a sacred city for over 1000 years and the god Pachacámac was still worshiped there when the Spaniards came and destroyed the city. There were large and wide city streets separating the buildings, and some of the palaces which were several stories high, with ramps going up to the upper floors, were separated by lesser roads and alleys. The Temple of the Sun with a view of the valley extending to the sea where irrigated agriculture was visible, overlooked valleys that were once green and supported large populations. There was also a large marketplace where rows of colonnades once stood, now just their bases exist to show the once heavily populated area. In addition, a barely visible road shows where Pilgrims trod, making their way to the city for more than a thousand years.
    The importance of Pachacámac was such that even the conquering Inca had to respect it when they took control in 1470. In an unprecedented move, the Inca admitted the god Pachacámac to a top spot in their pantheon and allowed the religious activity in the city to carry on independent of the Inca state religion. Such was the significance of this centuries-old religious center, that once contained a Temple of the Son, that overtime became a temple of the sun.
    The rediscovery and excavation of Pachacámac began in 1939 and continues to this day, providing a site complex covering almost 1,500 acres with 20 different sites including several temples, mausolea, and other ritual buildings and complexes, so far discovered.
Pachacámac situated along the coast where Mulek landed after being “brought by the hand of the Lord across the great waters”

Depending on the time of the year, it can get very hot at Pachacámac, as it does in all the desert coastal regions of Peru. Being the site of the original Zarahemla, it is probably why Mormon wrote: “And there were some who died with fevers, which at some seasons of the year were very frequent in the land—but not so much so with fevers, because of the excellent qualities of the many plants and roots which God had prepared to remove the cause of diseases, to which men were subject by the nature of the climate” (Alma 46:40), and what may have caused some of the people under Mosiah who discovered Zarahemla along the coast to later return with Zeniff to the city of Nephi to reinhabit their ancestral home in the mountains (Mosiah 7:13), in a much cooler climate.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

The Wentworth Letter and the Americas

It is amazing how often theorists quote and use comments from Church leaders, isolating a specific quote or comment that agrees with their personal point of view and their Land of Promise model, but then ignores other quotes and comments made by the same person that disagrees or counters what they claim. Some call this “Cafeteria Style Reporting,” that is, one picks an chooses those scriptures, comments, quotes, circumstances or ideas that agree with their personal view, but ignore those that do not.
    Take for an example the following statement made by a Reader who disagrees with our South American location and tries to claim we do not accept the words of the Prophet Joseph Smith, when he wrote in and said, “Why don't you rely on the Prophet Joseph Smith? Smith mentioned where the descendants of the Book of Mormon people were in the Wentworth Letter.”
In 1842,  John “Long John” Wentworth (left), the New Hampshire giant who was the editor of a Chicago Democrat newspaper, wrote a letter to Joseph Smith asking about the basic beliefs and history of the LDS Church. Joseph answered the letter, which has come to be known in the Mormon church as the Wentworth letter.
    Now the Wentworth Letter is the Prophet Joseph Smith’s account of “the rise, progress, persecution, and faith of the Latter-day Saints,” including the statements known as the Articles of Faith, and covers a lot of information, but it does not state Joseph’s opinions or declarations regarding the location of Lehi’s landing, the placement of Nephi and where he settled or anything specific about location. What it does contain is a recount of the events of Joseph’s encounter with the Angel Moroni and what the Angel told him as it relates to the general, overall comments that include, country and continent. Interestingly, the words “descendants,” “Lehi,” “Nephi,” “Nephites,” “Lamanites,” “landing,” “United States,” or any other similar words do not appear anywhere in the Wentworth Letter.
    Joseph wrote: “tells us that our Savior made His appearance upon this continent after His resurrection; that He planted the Gospel here in all its fulness, and richness, and power, and blessing; that they had Apostles, Prophets, Pastors, Teachers, and Evangelists, the same order, the same priesthood, the same ordinances, gifts, powers, and blessings, as were enjoyed on the eastern continent” (emphasis added).
    We should not forget when reading “this continent” that in Joseph Smith’s time and up until about World War II, both North and South America were referred to as a single continent. This is pointed out that Joseph’s above statement shows that the other “continent” was the “eastern continent.” That is, at the time, there were the “western continent” (North and South America) and the “eastern continent” Europe and Asia, etc. In fact, even today, a significant part of the world think of both North and South America as a single continent, including Latin America here in the Western Hemisphere, i.e., most of Central and South America consider the Americas a single continent.
Moroni taught Joseph much about the original inhabitants of the Land of Promise as found in the Book of Mormon, describing many aspects of their lives, which Joseph then told his parents, recounting to them the details of Nephite living

Joseph also wrote: “I was also informed concerning the aboriginal inhabitants of this country and shown who they were, and from whence they came; a brief sketch of their origin, progress, civilization, laws, governments, of their righteousness and iniquity, and the blessings of God being finally withdrawn from them as a people, was made known unto me” (emphasis added).
    There is no question regarding the location of Lamanites throughout the Western Hemisphere. Moroni is referring to the inhabitants of North America, for “this country” at the time if interpreted to mean the United States, would have limited the location of the “original inhabitants” to only a very small portion of the existing indigenous people or “Indians” then residing in all of North America, and would eliminate the “Indians” throughout Central and South America.
    Consequently, the continuation of the above sentence, Joseph also wrote in addition, “I was also told where were deposited some plate on which were engraven an abridgment of the records of the ancient Prophets that had existed on this continent” (emphasis added). Obviously, his meaning was expanded from “this country” to “this continent.” Once again, referring to the term “continent,” which at the time, meaning both North and South America as described above.
    Joseph also wrote: “that Zion will be built upon this [the American] continent” (emphasis added), again referring to “this continent” as ”the American Continent,” a term that has been used in history beginning with Martin Waldesmuller’s 1507 map of the so-called “New World,” called “Universalis cosmographia secundum Ptholomaei traditionem et Americi Vespucii aliorumque lustrationes” (The Universal Cosmography according to the Tradition of Ptolemy and the Discoveries of Amerigo Vespucci and others, named both North and South America as “The American Continent,” which name and location continued until about World War II, and was certainly so called at the time of Joseph Smith. In fact, the name America was originally placed on what is now called South America on the main map. As explained in the Cosmographiae Introducio, the name was bestowed in honor of the Italian Amerigo Vespucci.
The 1507 Waldseemüller Map showing the known world at the time,and using the name “America” to denote South America and the Western Hemisphere

This 1507 wall map consisted of twelve sections printed from woodcuts measuring 18 by 24.5 inches, and was drafted on a modification of Claudius Ptrolemy’s second projection, expanded to accommodate the Americas and the high latitudes (John P. Snyder, Flattening the Earth: 2000 Years of Map Projections, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1993, p33). In addition, it might also be noted that while some maps after 1500 show, with ambiguity, an eastern coastline for Asia distinct from the Americas, the Waldseemüller map indicates the existence of a new ocean between the trans-Atlantic regions of the Spanish discoveries and the Asia of Ptolemy and Marco Polo as exhibited on the 1492 Behaim globe.
    Thus, we can say that the Wentworth Letter does not tell us where Lehi landed, nor even refer to any area except the American continent, which from 1507 through the time of World War II (late 1930s), the American continent was both North and South America, as this Reader implied.
    As to relying on the Prophet Joseph Smith, how about relying on all that he said, not just the ones that verify a singular view of North America. As an example, an interesting event in the history of the Church took place during a thirteen-month period between September 1841 and October 1842. The Prophet Joseph Smith was given a two-volume set of books as a gift by Dr. John M. Berhisel, a bishop of the Church in New York City, and delivered to Joseph in Nauvoo by Wilford Woodruff, who was returning from a mission abroad and passed through New York on his way back to Nauvoo, arriving on October 6, 1841 (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 1833-1898, Signature Books, Salt Lake, 1983, 2:14).
    The books were entitled Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan, by John Lloyd Stephens, an Ambassador to Central America in 1839, diplomat and writer (and self-proclaimed adventurer, explorer, and amateur archaeologist) regarding his travels in Mesoamerica and the discovery of ancient ruins and vanished civilizations. These books were filled with extremely accurate and meticulously detailed drawings by Frederick Catherwood who accompanies Stephens of all the places they visited. The pictures revealed temples and cities that had been lost in the jungles of Central America for centuries (the two also published two other volumes: Incidents of Travel in Egypt, Arabia Petraea, and the Holy Land, 1837, and Incidents of Travel in Greece, Turkey, Russia and Poland in 1838).
Several lengthy extracts from Stephens’s volumes of Central America were published in the Times and Seasons between February and October 1842 while Joseph Smith was editor of the paper. These extracts and the accompanying editorial articles about a lost and advanced civilization as evidence of the validity of the Book of Mormon. Through the years since their publication, these editorials often have been cited by some researchers as evidence that Joseph Smith believed Mesoamerica was the geographical setting for the events in the Book of Mormon.
    In addition, on June 25, 1842, Joseph recorded that Stephens and Catherwood had succeeded in collecting in the interior of America “a large amount of relics of the Nephites, or the ancient inhabitants of America treated of in the Book of Mormon,” which relics had recently landed in New York (History of the Church 5: 44). Obviously, the relics were thought to be of the Nephites, but that, of course, was unknown; however, it illustrates Joseph’s frame of reference at that early date. The important thing is that Joseph viewed the antiquities as a witness for the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon.
    So we repeat your question and direct it to you: “Why don't you rely on the Prophet Joseph Smith?”—that is, all the words of Joseph Smith.