Sunday, September 1, 2019

The Problem With Journals – The Story of Zelph and Onandagus - Part IV

Continuing from the previous post regarding this event and what can be learned from it, and here picking up with the sixth of the five journal entries:
In 1842, two years before Joseph Smith’s death, Willard Richards (left) compiled a number of records in order to produce a history of the church. Among the records examined were the various accounts related to Zelph. In the process of combining the accounts, Richards crossed out Woodruff's references to "hill Cumorah," and Heber C. Kimball's reference to the "last" great struggle with the Lamanites. We should keep in mind that it is not likely that Willard Richards, who served as Second Counselor in the First Presidency under Brigham Young, served a mission to the eastern U.S. and also to Great Britain, was ordained an Apostle in 1840, and in 1842 was called to be the Church Historian and Recorder, and as such, wrote a total of 1,884 pages on the history of Joseph Smith, which B.H. Roberts later incorporated into the “History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” and Richards was also in Carthage Jail with Joseph, Hyrum and John Taylor, and the only one unhurt during the attack that killed Joseph Smith—it is hardly likely that a man of his stature, position, and trust would have just arbitrarily crossed out two extremely important entries, i.e., the hill Cumorah, and last great battle” unless given the reason by his leaders to do so.
    Willard Richards was the only one, as the prophet foretold, not injured or killed in Carthage Jail, supervised the removal of Taylor and the bodies of Joseph and Hyrum. His first-hand account of the event was published in the “Times and Seasons” (Vol.5, No.14, (1. Aug. 1844), titled, "Two Minutes in Jail."
    As Church Historian, it was his responsibility to “keep an accurate and comprehensive record of the church and its activities. His office gathers history sources and preserves records, ordinances, minutes, revelations, procedures, and other documents. The Church Historian and Recorder also chairs the Historic Sites Committee and Records Management Committee, and may act as an authoritative voice of the church in historical matters.” And also “This office is based on revelations to Joseph Smith calling for keeping records and preparing a church history.
The point is, Elder Kimball and Elder Woodruff were not speaking or writing as prophets. They were simply recording what they understood from the comments made by Joseph Smith. While we do not know what Joseph actually said, several people who wrote in their journals at the time had differing views on that subject. As an example, White Lamanite (LH, RM). And no one other than Kimball and Woodruff made any connection with the Hill Cumorah. Now, were Kimball and Woodruff inspired to know and understand that the distance Joseph Smith stated was from the Hill Cumorah, and the others uninspired to know that it was the East Coast?
    As stated earlier, six men wrote of the incident in their journals. Three of which later became prophets, and only one of those—the only one—used the term “Hill Cumorah,” and he did so with a following explanation “or East Sea.”
    The six men who wrote diary accounts concerning Zelph were: (1) George A. Smith, (2) Wilford Woodruff, (3) Heber C. Kimball, (4) Moses Martin, (5) Reuben McBride, and (6) Levi Hancock, which is the order of their statements as found in the first post in this series #1-6).
    To recap some oddities:
George Albert Smith made no mention of the Hill Cumorah, east coast or Rocky Mountains.
Woodrow Woodruff is the only one that commented about the Hill Cumorah in which he said: “…under the great prophet Onandagus that was known from the hill Camorah or east sea to the Rocky mountains…”
Heber C. Kimball wrote: “… he had been an officer who fell in battle, in the last destruction among the Lamanites, and his name was Zelph.” He made no mention of the Hill Cumorah, east coast or Rocky Mountains, nor did he mentioned a last battle between Lamanites and Nephites.
Moses Martin, wrote: “this man [Zelph] was once a mighty Prophet and many other things concerning his people.” No mention is made of the Hill Cumorah, east coast or Rocky Mountains, or last great battle.
Reuben McBride wrote: “his name was Zelph a great warrior under the Prophet Omandagus… he was a white Lamanite was known from the Atlantic to the Rocky Mountains.” No mention of the Hill Cumorah is made.
Levi Hancock (left) wrote: “the last man buried was Zelf, he was a white Lamanite who fought with the people of Onendagus for freedom…” No mention is made of the Hill Cumorah, east coast or Rocky Mountains.
    One of the problems always with journals is a person normally writes in it after the fact. In this case, there were three different dates of the event listed by six men: George Albert Smith dated the event on Monday, June 2; Joseph Smith, Heber C. Kimball, and Reuben McBride listed it as Tuesday, June 3, and Wilford Woodrow stated it was May-June. It should also be noted that Wilford Woodruff actually had three dates for his entries on this matter, the last one in 1893, which would be 59 years later.
    It should also be noted that stating there is a North American location for some Lamanite events does not exclude the possibility of Book of Mormon events having occurred elsewhere. As a matter of fact, it supports the conclusions that the Nephite people first settled in the Andean area of South America at a time when the eastern lands were under water and were not raised until the Andes came up at the time of Christ’s death, that just before that event many Nephites and converted Lamanites sailed north in Hagoth’s ships and settled in Central America where their buildings and achievements rivaled those of the Andean settlements, and from there other Lamanites and Nephites eventually migrated into North America, where their inner fighting and wars are attested to in the finding of the Zelph burial.
Finally, we might again suggest that while journals are a fine thing and we are all grateful for those who kept journals and provide us with some insight into the period and the events of the early Church, we need to use a little intelligence in accepting everything that was written, even by Church leaders, who relied on their memory to record, especially later, what they saw and heard. And it is even more difficult when we take these ancient records out of context in order to make them agree with our point of view and theory.
The facts are, we know there was a white Lamanite named Zelph, a thickset man in build, who was killed by an arrow and buried in a mound in Illinois in some ancient time. We know he lived when a famous man named Onandagus lived. Anything else we are adding to what Joseph Smith is credited as saying.


  1. It is almost certain that there were Nephites and Lamanites in Central and North America that were descendants of those that came on Hagoth's ships around the same time period as the battle of Cumorah; and these two people --with a long history of being enemies-- also began fighting.

    Thus battles in Central and later North America could have continued after Cumorah, and thus would be the final battles of the Lamanites and Nephites even though we do not have a record of them.

    So even the statement that Zelph died in the last great struggle between the Nephites and Lamanites does not necessarily disagree with the Andes model.