Do Church Leaders Contradict on Book of Mormon Location?

If the Book of Mormon events occurred in North America, as Joseph Smith as well as other mormon geoPresidents of the church have indicated 1, does this make other statements by the leadership of the Church inaccurate?  It appears on initial investigation that the early Brethren contradict what some of the later Brethren, particularly during temple dedications, have taught.  Can both be accurate or must we choose?

Could it be that the Lehite remnant was scattered throughout the world in the same way and for the same reasons that other remnants of Israel were dispersed?  Are the answers found in the Book of Mormon itself and through the statements of latter-day prophets, past and present?

A Covenant Land

It is clear from scripture that there is a covenant on the Promised Land of North America. 2 The Nephites were warned that if they did not live righteously on this choice land, they would be scourged, even unto destruction.  In other words, if they broke the Covenant, the Nephite nation would be dissolved.  The prophet Jacob prophesied that this violation of what has been termed “Nephite deed restrictions” would result in the Lamanites possessing the covenant land of America.  Did the Nephites become extinct as a people?

“. . .  except ye repent the land is cursed for your sakes; and the Lamanites, which are not filthy like unto you, nevertheless they are cursed with a sore cursing, shall scourge you even unto destruction.

“And the time speedily cometh, that except ye repent they shall possess the land of your inheritance, and the Lord God will lead away the righteous out from among you.” (Jacob 3:3–4)

Jacob’s prophecy is followed by a thought-provoking statement.  The Lord foretells that He would lead out the righteous from among them (the Nephite nation that would be destroyed).  So, were the Nephites utterly destroyed?  According to the scriptures and the prophets, they were not.  The righteous among the Nephites, before the great destruction, were led out.  Do we see evidence of this?  Lehi in the Book of Mormon, as well as Latter-day prophets of God have taught that a remnant of Lehi’s seed, including the descendants of Nephi, were preserved throughout the world.

Lehites Among Nations, Kindreds, Tongues & People

After Nephi and his brothers return from acquiring the plates to their father Lehi in the wilderness, Lehi takes those plates and searches them.  After searching the plates for some time, Lehi is filled with the Spirit and prophecies concerning his seed. He explains that these very plates of brass will someday go forth to “all nations, kindreds, tongues and people who are of his seed.”

“. . . when my father saw all these things, he was filled with the Spirit, and began to prophesy concerning his seed—

That these plates of brass should go forth unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people who were of his seed.

Wherefore, he said that these plates of brass should never perish; neither should they be dimmed any more by time. And he prophesied many things concerning his seed.” (1 Nephi 5:17–19)

Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught that the Brass Plates going forth to all nations and people was yet in the future.  He testified that the Lord would yet raise up a prophet, seer and translator to perform this work once the Saints were prepared for additional revelation.

“The perfected Bible of the future will surely include all that was on the brass plates of Laban. Indeed, Lehi prophesied “that these plates of brass should go forth unto all nations, kindred’s, tongues, and people who were of his seed. Wherefore, he said that these plates of brass should never perish; neither should they be dimmed any more by time.” (1 Nephi  5:18-19)

“More than five hundred years later Alma testified that they should “be kept and preserved by the hand of the Lord until they should go forth unto every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, that they shall know of the mysteries contained thereon,” and that they would “retain their brightness.” (Alma 37:4–5.)

“Someday the Lord will raise up a prophet, who will also be a seer and a translator, to whom he will give the brass plates that they may be translated for the benefit and blessing of those in all nations.” 3

It follows that prophetic statements regarding the seed of Lehi are not evidence for the location of Book of Mormon events.  We can conclude from scripture that Lehi’s seed in the Latter-day will be among the nations, kindreds, tongues and people of the world.  The Book of Mormon clearly did not take place in all nations and among all people throughout the world and yet the seed of Lehi has been dispersed.

In addition to the word of scripture, have Latter-day prophets confirmed these teachings?  Have Latter-day prophets made statements indicating that Lehi’s seed can be found in many nations and among many kindreds, tongues and people?  It appears that in general the words of the latter-day leadership of the Church is in harmony with the prophecies of ancient Nephite seers.

Statements

There are numerous statements by latter-day prophets which identify Lehi’s seed as scattered across the world.  The following are a small sampling.

United States

Lehi’s seed among Sac and Fox in Heartland of North America

“I [Joseph Smith] conducted them [Sac & Fox Indians] to the meeting grounds in the grove, and instructed them in many things which the Lord had revealed unto me concerning their fathers, and the promises that were made concerning them in the Book of Mormon. I advised them to cease killing each other and warring with other tribes; also to keep peace with the whites; all of which was interpreted to them.” 4

Lehi’s seed in Rocky Mountains

“Could we have preached to the Lamanites, if we had staid in Nauvoo? No, we could not; but the people have driven us to a place where we can do much more good, than we could have accomplished by remaining in Nauvoo; they have driven us into the midst of the Lamanites, where we can preach the Gospel unto them.” 5

Lehi’s seed in Arizona

“We beseech Thee, O Lord, that Thou wilt stay the hand of the destroyer among the descendants of Lehi who reside in this land and give unto them increasing virility and more abundant health, that they may not perish as a people but that from this time forth they may increase in numbers and in strength and in influence, that all the great and glorious promises made concerning the descendants of Lehi may be fulfilled in them; that they may grow in vigor of body and of mind, and above all in love for Thee and Thy Son, and increase in diligence and in faithfulness in keeping the commandments which have come to them through the gospel of Jesus Christ, and that many of them may have the privilege of entering this holy house and receiving ordinances for themselves and their departed ancestors.” 6

“Thou didst acknowledge the role of the Lamanite, especially in this temple, and numerous of the sons and daughters of Lehi have found in these sacred precincts peace, knowledge and solace to their souls.” 7.

Lehi’s seed in Vernal, Utah

“May there come about a reconciliation of feelings between the descendants of Lehi and those who have come to reside in these valleys. May old animosities be dispelled, and may there come a renewed spirit of brotherhood and love and respect.” 8

Canada

Lehi’s seed in Alberta

“We beseech Thee, O Lord, that Thou wilt stay the hand of the destroyer among the descendants of Lehi, who reside in this land….that all the great and glorious promises made concerning the descendants of Lehi…” 9

Polynesia

Lehi’s seed in Polynesia

“It has been the position of the Church that Polynesians are related to the American Indians as descendants of Father Lehi, having migrated to the Pacific from America . . . .Our belief in this regard is scriptural (see Alma 63:4–10).” 10

Japan

Lehi’s seed in Japan

According to Alma Taylor’s reminiscences of the event [Elder Heber J. Grant’s prayer dedicating the land of Japan for missionary work in 1901], Elder Grant “spoke of those who, because of iniquity, had been cut off from among the Nephites . . . and said we felt that through the lineage of those rebellious Nephites who joined with the Lamanites, that the blood of Lehi and Nephi [and of all Israel] had been transmitted unto the people of this land, many of whom have the features and manners of the American Indians, [and he] asked the Lord that if this were true that He would not forget the integrity of His servants Lehi and Nephi and would verify the promises made unto them concerning their descendants in the last days upon this [the Japanese] people for we felt that they were a worthy nation”. 11

New Zealand

Lehi’s seed in New Zealand

“O God, our Eternal Father, on this significant and hallowed occasion, we unite our hearts and lift our voices in gratitude, praise and honor to Thy Holy name. We express gratitude that to these fertile Islands Thou didst guide descendants of Father Lehi, and hast enabled them to prosper, to develop and to become associated in history with leading and influential nations among mankind.”12

“Again, there was something prophetic about it. Here were two great strains of the house of Israel the children of Ephraim from the isles of Britain, and the children of Lehi from the isles of the Pacific.” 13

Samoa

Lehi’s seed in Samoa

“We are grateful for these beautiful islands of Samoa, and for Thy faithful saints who dwell here. Jacob, son of Lehi, declared anciently: “Great are the promises of the Lord unto them who are upon the isles of the sea.” We have witnessed the fulfillment of Thy covenant, for Thou hast not forgotten them.” 14

Mexico

Lehi’s seed in Mexico City

“When I was in Mexico in 1946, I was dreaming for the people of Mexico. I had a dream of your progress and development. Now this is precisely what I dreamed; this was my vision for the people of the Lamanites. I got up from my bed and wrote my dream. Maybe it was a vision rather than a dream. This is what I wrote: As I looked into the future, I saw the Lamanites from the isles of the sea and the Americas rise to a great destiny. I saw great numbers of Lamanites and Nephites in beautiful homes that have all the comforts that science can afford. I could see you children of Lehi with your herds and flocks on a thousand hills. . . . I saw the church growing with rapid strides, and I saw them organized in wards and stakes. (I think there was not a single stake or ward in all of Mexico when I dreamed this dream.) I saw a temple of God and expect to see it filled with men and women and young people.” 15

Guatemala

Lehi’s seed in Guatemala

“Thou kind and gracious Father, our hearts swell with gratitude for Thy remembrance of the sons and daughters of Lehi, the many generations of our fathers and mothers who suffered so greatly and who walked for so long in darkness. Thou hast heard their cries and seen their tears. Now there will be opened to them the gates of salvation and eternal life…. We thank Thee for the restored record of our ancestors, the record of Lehi, Nephi and Jacob, of Alma and Mosiah, of Benjamin and Mormon and Moroni.” 16

Peru

Lehi’s seed in Peru

“We are particularly mindful this day of the sons and daughters of Lehi. They have known so much of suffering and sorrow in their many generations. They have walked in darkness and in servitude. Now Thou hast touched them by the light of the everlasting gospel. The shackles of darkness are falling from their eyes as they embrace the truths of Thy great work. Surely father Lehi has wept with sorrow over his posterity. Surely he weeps today with gladness, for in this holy house there will be exercised the fullness of the priesthood to the blessing, not only of those of this and future generations, but also to the blessing of those of previous generations.

“Bless Thy work that it shall blossom and grow in this nation and in its neighbor nations of South America. Remember, Father, Thine ancient covenant with the children of Lehi that in the latter days Thou wouldst favor them and bring to them a knowledge of their Redeemer. Make them strong in faith and magnify them in leadership in Thy kingdom.” 17

Please see the article “Lehite Remnant Found Throughout the World” for a larger sampling.

Without question, statements from the leadership of the Church indicate that Lehi’s seed was dispersed among many nations, kindreds, tongues and people.  This appears to be a partial fulfillment of Lehi’s prophecy concerning his seed.  While Lehi’s seed can be found in many nations, these many nations were not where the Book of Mormon took place.  Again, identifying Lehi’s seed in a certain location does not imply that Book of Mormon events occurred in that location.

Israel Among the Nations

The fact that Israel was scattered among all nations does not justify the conclusion that all individuals in all nations are of Israel.  In like manner, statements declaring that there are descendants of Lehi in Japan does not imply that most Japanese are descendants of Lehi.  This is also true for Central and South America.  If the statements by some Church leaders are correct, there are Lehite descendants in Guatemala, but it does not follow that most Guatemalans are Lehites.   Nor does it follow that the Book of Mormon took place in Guatemala.

Some confuse Lehi’s seed with the House or seed of Israel.  They conclude that because millions have joined the Church in Latin America that this is evidence that Lehi’s seed is numerous in these areas.  The Gospel net is gathering the House of Israel from among the nations. Being of Israel, or an Israelite remnant does not imply that one is necessarily of Lehi’s seed.  Other Israelite families were led out from time to time.

Conclusion

Is there a chance that some of the many statements concerning Lehi’s seed given by Latter-day leaders are incorrect?  Sure.  Only the Lord is infallible.  But we believe it is unwise to summarily dismiss statements that seem to contradict when there is no justification for such assumptions.  Finally, locating the Book of Mormon lands in the Heartland of North America is in no way a justification for dismissing statements by the leadership of the Church.

Notes:

  1. May, Wayne N. (2002). Prophetic Statements About GeographyJoseph Smith Forum Papers.
  2. Meldrum, Rod L. (2012). The Scriptural Basis for the Heartland ModelJoseph Smith Forum Papers
  3. The Joseph Smith Translation: The Restoration of Plain and Precious Things, pg. 15-16 
  4. Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 4:401 
  5. Parley P. Pratt to Brigham Young, 13 March 1852, in Parley P. Pratt, Autobiography, 368. 
  6. Heber J. Grant, Mesa Arizona Temple dedication, 23-26 October 1927 
  7. Spencer W. Kimball, Rededicatory Prayer for the Mesa Arizona Temple, 15–16 April 1975 
  8. Gordon B. Hinckley, Dedication Prayer for the Vernal Utah Temple, 2–4 November 1997 
  9. Heber J. Grant, Dedicatory Prayer for the Cardston Alberta Temple, 26–29 August 1923 
  10. Howard W. Hunter, “Islands of the Pacific,” Beneficial Life Insurance Company Convention, Waikokloa, Hawaii, 19 July 1984; cited in Clyde J. Williams, ed., The Teachings of Howard W. Hunter (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1997), 57. 
  11. Reminiscences by Alma Taylor of Elder Heber J. Grant’s 1901 prayer dedicating the land of Japan to receive the restored gospel, Palmer, Spencer J., and Roger R. Keller. Religions of the World: A Latter-day Saint View. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University, 1989, p. 91 
  12. David O. McKay, dedication of Hamilton New Zealand temple, 20-22 April 1958 
  13. Gordon B. Hinckley’s comment at the dedication of the New Zealand temple upon observing Europeans assembling with the Maoris of the Pacific, “Temple in the Pacific.” Improvement Era (July 1958) 61:506–509, 538 
  14. Gordon B. Hinckley, Dedicatory Prayer for the Apia Samoa Temple, 5-6 August 1983 
  15. Spencer W. Kimball, Official Reports of the Mexico City Area Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, held in the Sports Palace in Mexico City, Mexico, February 13,1977 (Salt Lake City: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1978), 31. 
  16. Gordon B. Hinckley, Dedicatory Prayer for the Guatemala City Guatemala Temple, 14–16 January 1984 
  17. Gordon B. Hinckley, Dedicatory Prayer for the Lima Peru Temple, 10-12 January 1986

About Joseph Smith Foundation

James F. Stoddard III and L. Hannah Stoddard contributed to this article originally published http://josephsmithfoundation.org/
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19 Responses to Do Church Leaders Contradict on Book of Mormon Location?

  1. I saw the following book at a secondhand book shop: The Zuni Enigma: A Native American People’s Possible Japanese Connection. I was fascinated because I served part of my mission in Zuni, but now I am even more fascinated. I had never heard that quote about Japan before. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Walter Buller says:

    My only questions are these? Why is it that after 10,000 native Americans in North and South America and Polynesians have had their DNA tested by both LDS and non-LDS researchers, not one was found to have Hebrew ancestry as the BOM claims. On the contrary, 99.6% of them had East Asian, i.e., Siberian ancestry. The other .4% had African or European ancestry. Also, why does this ancestry go back at least 60,000 years, probably as much as 200,000 years, according to even BYU scientists, when we are taught that the earth has so far only 6000 years of temporal existence? I understand that some things have to be accepted on faith alone, yet how far do we go in accepting something that directly contradicts proven science? Anti’s have a field day with this kind of info.

  3. marginalizedmormon says:

    It all depends upon what a person chooses to believe. I choose not to believe that dna has anything to do with this book–

    I also choose not to believe anything anyone has said about where the “Book of Mormon people” were or are–

    the book is enough on its own; it doesn’t need to be clouded with all of this extra information–

    none of which can be proven anyway–

    And who cares what anti-Mormons think? Many “mainstream” LDS are doing a good enough job of muddying water, and they aren’t the extremists that some believe are ‘destroying faith’–

    why does everything have to be a battle?

    I’ve been in the church for many decades now, and nobody (from the time I was tiny) except one grandparent told me that the Book of Mormon needed to be read on its own and

  4. marginalizedmormon says:

    without having bits of the bible or any other scripture pasted in it and without worrying about where it took place–

    the contents of the book are what matters; all the other things can wait until *we* Gentiles repent and understand the true message of the book–

    including the fact that it isn’t about dna.

    To think of the hours academics have spent on this, and what has been the point?

    The book just needs to be read–on its own. Without being diluted or explained or . . . whatever else so many people seem fond of doing to it–

  5. marginalizedmormon says:

    sorry–

    if my theory has any value it seems to negate the value of the original post–

    I apologize for that; I mean no insult–

    I just think that we’re spending too much time digging around in the straw trying to organize the stable instead of riding the horse–

    • Walter Buller says:

      However, your position depends on the premise that the BOM is a literal translation of an ancient record. Eyewitnesses to the “translation” process, i.e., Emma Smith, David Whitmer, Martin Harris, Oliver Cowdery, etc., have all stated that the gold plates were not even present during the “translation process”, and were therefore not even referred to. Instead, they all said that Joseph Smith would place his magical peep atone, the little brown rock he found in a hole he was digging, for which he claimed gave him enhanced ability to find buried treasure, although he never found any; they testified that he would put this magic rock into the bottom of his hat, put his face into the hat, then read the writing he saw appearing on this rock. The plates were not even in the

      • Walter Buller says:

        house. This account by David Whitmer was even included in an article in the Ensign several years ago in response to critics complaining about the discrepancy between the Church’s official artistic depiction of the translation process which shows Joseph Seated at a small table on which are the plates while he translates to a scribe in the background; the discrepancy between this obviously fraudulent depiction versus the testimony by eyewitnesses to the process, i.e., the very people who acted as his scribes, who stated that the plates were almost never even in the house, and that when they were, they were hidden under a cloth such that none of them ever saw them. Why do you choose to ignore these facts? .

      • jerry sutton says:

        Why is it the blind will not see and the deaf will not hear? I say that today almost everyone has an Urim and Thurim. We were told that everyone would have a seer stone which would enable us to see the past,present and future. It was written over 150 years ago in an age of horses and mules by our beloved Prophet.. Look around and what do you see SEERSTONES! Rocks grown in labs. crystalls, — Crystal Balls, Urim’s and Thurim’s. ANDROIDS, Ipads, in our children’s hands, in fact even a 2 year old niece of mine can operate one. We can see and talk to someone 10,000 miles away, even someone on the moon. We can see the past through recorded video and sound. We can see the future with visualation through film, prophetic filmmakers, scientists and citizens.

        • jerry sutton says:

          The world will not hear the words of the Lord for the truth is not in them nor the desire to know the truth.. Should they See or Hear they still will not DO what is right or confess that a Loving God exists because their God is one of vanity, pride, and LIES. Deceit is their heart and misery is their thoughts. The desire to drag others into their pit is their only happiness.

  6. Walter Buller says:

    Thanks for the reminder. I downloaded it again to refresh my memory of the first time I listened to it. I was as unimpressed this time as the first. Like all Mormon apologists, it bases its arguments on the premise that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. Therefore, nothing he did has to make sense to us, and shouldn’t offend our sense of justice or truth or morality because God’s ways or not man’s ways. If Joseph had shown more than just a modicum of honor and integrity during his formative years, I wouldn’t necessarily have a problem with this premise. However, inasmuch as he made money by lying about his ability to find buried treasure, even later confessing to his Father-in-Law Isaac Hale that it was all fake, plus the fact that he seduced countless women, some

  7. Walter Buller says:

    as young as 14, and 11 of whom were already married to living husbands, plus the fact that he smoked and drank according to several of his Nauvoo neighbors, I just cannot bring myself to support that premise. There is also the problem of the thorough study that was done about the BoM and the translating process by the Church’s most renowned historian B.H. Roberts by the title of “Studies of the Book of Mormon”, which I own and have read. On pages 243-263, he writes that Joseph Smith was “uneducated but brilliant”, and that he exhibited a degree of “genius”. He said the distinguishing characteristic of Joseph’s mind was a “vivid and strong and creative imagination…That Joseph possessed such a gift of mind there can be no question”. He said the BoM was “as it were

    • Walter Buller says:

      a tale told by a child, with utter disregard for consistency”. He concluded that Joseph had the necessary ability to write the BoM by himself. Now, Joseph’s story might be more believable if at least one other example of a prophet using a rock to translate languages could be found in the scriptures, but none are there. Ditto if the original Urim and Thummim was used to translate languages, but it wasn’t. Perhaps the biggest failing that B.H. Roberts found about the BoM is its many anachronisms, things that are just impossible or out of place, like the apparent mention by God of glass windows not being suitable for the Jaredite barges, when in fact glass wouldn’t be invented yet for another 1000 years, or barges that or designed to flip upside down on a .

      • Walter Buller says:

        routine basis even though they are full of the thousands of pounds of people, animals, provisions, tools, weapons, food, water, etc. necessary for a 344 day ocean voyage during which time these people cannot bathe to wash off the human and animal excrement that gets dumped on them every time the barge flips, not to mention the fact that bones break under such circumstances, or the fact that their only source of air was a hole cut in the top, and one in the bottom ,which somehow was water tight, and which became the top hole when a flip took place. The whole story is utterly preposterous, “as if it were a tale told by a child”. I cannot believe that a lying, fornicating story teller has any worthy credentials. I just can’t.

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  9. Rex says:

    It was not until the re-discovery of the pyramids in Mexico and Central America in the 1840s(?) that Church members began to identify those places with the BoM. Until then, it was assumed that the BoM chronicle took place in the vicinity of where the plates were found. And just because descendants of Lehi’s family are found in a certain place, doesn’t meant that that was the geographical place of the BoM history. We know of at least a couple of migrations at the time of Hagoth. If there were migrations at that time, how do we know that others didn’t follow suit, or even precede them? Perhaps people like that were led away by the Lord to preserve a righteous branch, as the Nephites fell into apostasy.

  10. romdos says:

    I personally see the whole DNA thing as a non-issue. We know Abraham’s seed is dispersed throughout all the world. We know Jacob’s children are all over the world as well. Who is to say that some other relative of Lehi migrated/was captured/or driven to another part of the Old World like Asia or Siberia? Is anybody really naive enough to think that the BOM people’s descendants should have “Hebrew” DNA? What is “Hebrew” DNA? Samples from people currently living in the Middle East? The Hebrews living there now certainly haven’t been occupying that region for centuries. In fact, a large number of them resettled in the state of Israel from Asia, so it even makes sense that there would be common DNA. Not to mention that it was prophesied that other peoples

    • romdos says:

      would come there and inhabit the land. If you just look at facial morphology, you can see that some modern day natives have a very Asian appearance. If Lehi’s people were nearly all destroyed it makes sense that you wouldn’t find a concordance with the modern DNA of the Lamanites and the Hebrews (whoever they are). There would be a mixture that was diluted over and over. Then you throw in some Vikings, Spanish and Portuguese in the mix. Also don’t forget entire North American tribes were decimated or destroyed early on when the Gentiles arrived. Maybe they had more Hebrew blood. I do know that going from the Jaredites to the Lehites didn’t take very long. Those people were destroyed and it wasn’t long before Zarahemla’s people were there to take over.

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