Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Responding to Another Heartland Theorist - Part I

Answering your comments: First, you speculate a great deal on events not listed in the Book of Mormon, some not even suggested or inferred. You also refer to “My belief,” “I’m guessing,” “Could have been,” which hardly suggests accuracy.

Comment: “Zelph died "during the last great struggle of the Lamanites and Nephites." He would likely have been buried (west bank of the Illinois River) near where he died.”

Response: Zelph was said to have died “during the last great struggle of the Lamanites and Nephites.” If this is true, and there is some doubt based on the other six accounts of the event, the last great struggle was not the numerous battles that began around the waters of Mormon, as Mormon said: “the war began to be among them in the borders of Zarahemla, by the waters of Sidon” (Mormon 1:10, emphasis added). This war was fought in the Land Southward as the Nephites lost portion after portion of their land to the Lamanites, evidently with each battle—but the final battle where 230,000 Nephites were killed, wiping out the existence of the Nephite Nation and all the people other than 24 survivors, including Mormon and Moroni took place at the Hill Cumorah (Mormon 6:9-15).

The Treaty Line between the Nephites and Lamanites resulting from Mormon’s Treaty with the king of the Lamanites


In addition, it should be noted that in the 350th year, Mormon and the Lamanites agreed through treaty to divide the Land of Promise into two segments with the dividing line the Narrow Neck or Land. As Mormon described it: “the Lamanites did give unto us the land northward, yea, even to the narrow passage which led into the land southward. And we did give unto the Lamanites all the land southward” (Mormon 2:29). Hard to have a treaty in the midst of the “the last great struggle of the Lamanites and Nephites.”

In any event, by the time these struggles were taking place, Mormon says the Nephites were in the Land Northward during a ten-year hiatus of peace, at which time “I had employed my people, the Nephites, in preparing their lands and their arms against the time of battle” (Mormon 3:1).

Comment: “I believe the last great struggle began in the Zarahemla area about 321 AD when the 3 Nephites were "taken away out of the land." See Mormon 1.

Response: First of all, the three witnesses were not taken away because of battles, wars, or any such type events, but because of the peoples’ unrighteousness. As Mormon put it: “But wickedness did prevail upon the face of the whole land, insomuch that the Lord did take away his beloved disciples, and the work of miracles and of healing did cease because of the iniquity of the people” (Mormon 1:13, emphasis added). Note that Mormon does not mention any war connected to the event of withdrawing the three witnesses—but they were taken away because of the wickedness and iniquity of the Nephites.

Second: “The last great struggle began in 360 AD according to Mormon, who said: “I did cause my people that they should gather themselves together at the land Desolation, to a city which was in the borders, by the narrow pass which led into the land southward” (Mormon 3:5). In fact, there were heated wars in 360 361, 362, and 363 in which the Nephites came out victorious until the last one. This was not, as is claimed, 39 years earlier, with ten spent in a peaceful hiatus.

However, from 360 onward there was no peace, but constant battles intended to dislodge the Nephites from the pass across the narrow neck, which the Lamanites were able to do, and push the Nephites further northward (Mormon 4:2-3).

Comment: “Many battles were fought between 321 and 385 AD. I'm guessing Zelph died about 321 to 330 AD as the Nephites retreated eastward towards Cumorah.”

Zelph’s Hill where those from Zion’s Camp found the remains of a white Lamanite warrior killed n a battle


Response: We do not know when Zelph died. Joseph Smith himself wrote nothing about the event, though his name appears in the Joseph Smith Papers and the History of the Church—but they were written by John Taylor who was publisher of the Times and Seasons, and had been writing the History of Joseph Smith and included in the January 1, 1846 issue the account of Zelph as though Joseph had done so—a practice used in most of Joseph’s writing who was a poor writer, speller and grammarian, often having scribes write for him.

On the other hand, there are seven members of Zion’s Camp who were present at the time and wrote about the event.

• Heber C. Kimball wrote in 1841 of the discovery of Zelph was published in the Times and Seasons in 1845 under the title “extracts from H. C. Kimball’s journal: “after we continued on our journey, it was made known to Joseph that he had been an officer who fell in battle, in the last destruction among the Lamanites, and his name was Zelph.

Reuben McBride's journal states that "His name was Zelph a warrior under the Prophet Omandagus, a white Lamanite—an arrow was found in his Ribs…which he said he supposed occaisoned his death." McBride also wrote that Zelph "was known from the Atlantic to the Rocky Mountains."

• Moses Martin stated "Soon after this Joseph had a vision and the Lord shewed him that this man was once a mighty Prophet and many other things concerning his dead which had fallen no doubt in some great battles."

• Levi Hancock's (1834) journal also refers to "Onendagus," stating that "Zelph was a white Lamanite who fought with the people of Onendagus for freedom."

Willard Richards compiled a number of records in 1842 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.”

The two groups that formed Zion’s Camp that met at Salt River


• Wilford Woodruff. Woodruff writes that he “visited many of the mounds which were flung up by the ancient inhabitants of this continent probably by the Nephites & Lamanites.” Woodruff also states that he “visited the mound later with Jesse J. Smith, but who the other persons were that dug into the mound & found the body I am undecided.” He added interlinearly (between the lines) “he was a warrior under the great prophet that was known from the hill Cumorah or East sea to the Rocky mountains.” Years later on February 22, 1893 Woofruff wrote: “The Lord showed the prophet Joseph that this was the skeleton of a white Lamanite named Zelph and  that he fought under a great chieftain named Onandagus whose dominion covered an immense body of country—the Book of Mormon does not mention the name of this Indian chief Onandagus.”His account which appeared in the Times and Seasons shortly after Joseph’s death, stated that Zelph was killed “during the last great struggle of the Lamanites and Nephites—however, in Willard Richards and Wilmer Benson manuscripts it read: “during a great struggle with the Lamanites.”

• John A. Widtsoe in 1950 stated that the account of Zelph "is not of much value in Book of Mormon geographical studies, since Zelph probably dated from a later time when Nephites and Lamanites had been somewhat dispersed and had wandered over the country."  Zelph is not an individual mentioned in the Book of Mormon narrative and would therefore not necessarily be associated with any of the events presumed by some people, including many FARMS apologists, to have occurred in Mesoamerica.”

The point is, the difficulty of seven witnesses is that you get seven different viewpoints—so which one do you choose? After all there were three future Presidents of the Church among those recording the event, Levi Hancock who was a General Authority for nearly fifty years, and one of the witnesses of the Book of Commandments; Moses Martin who served three missions; Reuben McBride called to the 2nd Quorum of Seventy. So whom do we believe?

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