Implications of Eight Times and Seasons Articles That Allude to the Book of Mormon in Conjunction with Mesoamerica, Including Seven Articles That Deal with the Explorations of John Lloyd Stephens
Implications of Eight Times and Seasons Articles That Allude to the Book of
Mormon in Conjunction with Mesoamerica, Including Seven Articles
That Deal with the Explorations of John Lloyd Stephens
In 1841, the first two-volume set of John Lloyd Stephens’s books about his Mesoamerica explorations was published. The second two-volume set was published in 1843. The first set is titled Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas, and Yucatan; the second set is titled Incidents of Travel in Yucatan. Through one means or another, both sets eventually found their way to the editorial offices of the Times and Seasons, the “official” newspaper of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Nauvoo from November 1839 to February 1846. Between June 15, 1841 and January 1, 1844, several articles dealing with Mesoamerica and/or Stephens’s books were published in the Times and Seasons. This article deals with eight of those articles.
If the eight Times and Seasons articles about Mesoamerica were authored by, coauthored by, commissioned by, approved by, or, at the very least, never disapproved of by Joseph Smith, the New World Mesoamerica Model for Book of Mormon geography is a valid model. On the other hand, interestingly, if Joseph Smith did not author, coauthor, commission, or approve the Times and Seasons articles about Mesoamerica, the New World Heartland Model for Book of Mormon geography has a significant claim for authentic validity.
This article deals with those issues.
From November 1839 until February 1846, the “official” periodical of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was the Times and Seasons, which was published in Nauvoo throughout that time period. In today’s jargon, the Times and Seasons was a newspaper that contained sixteen pages for each issue and that was published once a month during the first year and twice a month after that.
Editors of the Times and Seasons
As is normal with periodical publications, the editorship of the Times and Seasons changed from time to time. Ebenezer Robinson and Don Carlos Smith, one of Joseph Smith’s younger brothers, were the first editors. In December of 1840, Don Carlos took over as sole proprietor. However, when he suddenly and unexpectedly died in December of 1841, Robinson returned to take over the editorship.
Subsequently, the Twelve Apostles were displeased with several outcomes associated with the publishing of the Times and Seasons, so they voted to change the editorship from Ebenezer Robinson to Willard Richards. Not long thereafter, Joseph Smith became the chief editor, assisted by John Taylor. In the February 15, 1842, issue, Robinson wrote his “farewell editorial” and said the following:
I now take leave of the editorial department of the Times and Seasons. . . . The Editorial chair will be filled by our esteemed brother, President Joseph Smith, assisted by Elder John Taylor, of the Quorum of the Twelve, under whose able and talented guidance, this will become the most interesting and useful religious journal of the day. With these considerations, I feel confident that the agents and friends of the Times and Seasons will exert themselves to support the press; knowing that while it is under the supervision of him whom God has chosen to lead his people in the last days, all things will go right.
The first issue of the Times and Seasons that was edited by Joseph Smith was the March 1, 1842, issue. The fact that he had taken over is evidenced in two ways: (1) by the announcement he made on page 710: “This paper commences my editorial career, I alone stand for it, and shall do for all papers having my signature henceforward” and (2) by the declaration at the end of the issue that he edited this issue: “The Times and Seasons, IS EDITED BY Joseph Smith. Printed and published about the first and fifteenth of every month, on the corner of Water and Bain Streets, Nauvoo, Hancock County, Illinois, by JOSEPH SMITH.”
Joseph functioned as editor from the March 1, 1842, issue to the October 15, 1842, issue. As a reflection of newspaper practices of the day, his “signature” as editor is shown by the abbreviation “Ed.” at the conclusion of articles.
Because of Church matters that required his time and attention, Joseph turned over the Times and Seasons to John Taylor beginning with volume 4 in November 1842. From that point on, Apostle Taylor functioned as publisher and editor. The last issue of the Times and Seasons was published on February 15, 1846, a date in close proximity to the time when the Saints seriously moved ahead with their exodus from Nauvoo.
Out of twenty-four issues in volume three of the Times and Seasons from November 1841 to October 1842, Joseph Smith functioned as chief editor for fifteen of the issues from March 15, 1842, to October 15, 1842. The dates and page numbers for the twenty-four issues of volume three are as follows:
Access to the Times and Seasons
Several years ago, our initial interest in the Times and Seasons was precipitated by its references to the Mesoamerica explorations of John Lloyd Stephens and Frederick Catherwood. We naturally wanted to read the resulting articles via the Times and Seasons itself, so we also naturally went online for assistance. That’s when we discovered the wonderful online resource hosted by Christ’s Restoration Movement. There in front of us was every issue of the Times and Seasons. We downloaded all the files, which resulted in one massive Word file of 3,535 pages in Times New Roman 12 with 1-inch margins.
For the information of readers, here is the URL for the Restoration Movement’s online files of the Times and Seasons: http://www.centerplace.org/history/ts/default.htm.
Though our master file containing all issues of the Times and Seasons in Word format was, indeed, very large, we were able to use it very functionally to search all issues of the Times and Seasons for whatever purpose. With relative ease, readers can use the resources provided by the Restoration Movement and create their own searchable file for the Times and Seasons for research purposes.
Our first purpose in searching all issues of the Times and Seasons was to explore for ourselves its references to the Mesoamerica explorations of John Lloyd Stephens. For purposes of this article, we selected seven articles that were precipitated by Stephens’s books and one additional article that deals with a significant aspect of Mesomerican history. Reviewers of the entire Times and Seasons file will find several other interesting references to Stephens or to Mesoamerica that we have opted not to include in this article.
Although Stephens wrote his two, two-volume books about Mesoamerica explorations in the mid-nineteenth century, his explorations have surfaced again in the twenty-first century because of issues associated with the New World geography of the Book of Mormon.
The Heartland Model vs. the Mesoamerica Model
In that respect, one group of Book of Mormon analysts maintains that most New World events of the Book of Mormon took place in the continental United States between the Great Lakes on the north and the Gulf of Mexico on the south—or the “heartland” of the United States. Because of that geography, this group’s efforts are now commonly referred to as the “Heartland Model” for New World Book of Mormon geography.
A second group of Book of Mormon analysts maintains that all New World events of the Book of Mormon took place in Mesoamerica—from Mexico City on the north to the western parts of Honduras and El Salvador. This group’s efforts are now commonly referred to as the “Mesoamerica Model” for New World Book of Mormon geography.
The Mesoamerica proponents frequently cite references to Times and Seasons articles about the Mesoamerica explorations of John Lloyd Stephens and Frederick Catherwood in support of the Mesoamerica Model for New World Book of Mormon geography. Those citations cause great consternation for the Heartland Model proponents for New World Book of Mormon geography because the contents of the citations, if they are valid, provide significant evidence that the Heartland Model geography is invalid.
In other words, proponents of the Heartland Model must prove that the Times and Seasons articles associated with Mesoamerica or with the explorations of John Lloyd Stephens and Frederick Catherwood are invalid on the premise that the articles were not authored by, coauthored by, commissioned by, or approved by Joseph Smith. In addition, they must prove that they were disapproved or rejected by him. Achieving such outcomes on the part of the Heartlanders has proven extremely difficult because several of the articles were printed in the Times and Seasons during the time when Joseph Smith was chief editor. Obviously, as chief editor, Joseph must have been fully aware that the articles were being published in the Times and Seasons and therefore either authored them, coauthored them, commissioned them, or, at the very least, approved them. Certainly, had he disapproved any of them, then he would have the integrity to reject them and not leave them “dangling in the press” to deceive the Saints.
The Heartlanders seem to put most of their energies into attempts to disprove the Joseph Smith authorship of the three articles in the September 15–October 1, 1842, issues of the Times and Seasons because these articles do not bear the “signature” (Ed.) of Joseph Smith as editor. However, a careful search of all issues of the Times and Seasons shows that its editorial staff made many other extensive as well as minor references to the explorations of John Lloyd Stephens and Frederick Catherwood in Mesoamerica, including one in particular that bears the “signature” of Joseph Smith.
During the time the articles associated with the writings of John Lloyd Stephens were published, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, and Joseph Smith played significant, central roles in determining the content of issues of the Times and Seasons. John Taylor and Wilford Woodruff were Apostles in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Joseph Smith was President of the Church. Eventually, both Taylor and Woodruff became President of the Church. The point behind this information is that none of the three in their very significant roles as prophets and Presidents of the Church ever disputed the legitimacy, validity, content, or authorship of the Times and Seasons articles.
Recently, John Lloyd Stephens has surfaced again, this time in connection with the Heartland Model for New World Book of Mormon geography because of a book written by Jonathan Neville, The Lost City of Zarahemla: From Iowa to Guatemala and Back Again.” In his book, Neville attempts to prove that the three articles from the September 15–October 1, 1842, issues of the Times and Seasons associated with John Lloyd Stephens were written by Benjamin Winchester, a contemporary of Joseph Smith, a missionary for the Church, a leader in the Church during the Nauvoo period, a newspaperman himself, and a journalistic writer. Interestingly, the very first issue of the Times and Seasons contains an article about Joseph Smith, “Extract, From the Private Journal of Joseph Smith Jr.,” as well as a rather lengthy letter dated June 18, 1837, from Benjamin Winchester giving a “short history” of his missionary endeavors for the Church. At the conclusion of his letter, Winchester says, “Since I commenced laboring in the State of N. J. which was chiefly confined to Monmouth, Burlington and Mercer counties, . . . I have preached 200 sermons, baptized 40 persons, visited the saints in the city of N. Y. several times; and I feel myself authorized to say, that the work of the Lord is gaining ground, in the region of country where I have been laboring.”
Obviously, Neville, via his book about Benjamin Winchester, attempts to prove that Joseph Smith had nothing to do with the three critically important Times and Seasons articles associated with the Mesoamerica explorations of Stephens and Catherwood. In that respect, Neville says, “After all this time, energy and expense, not a single piece of evidence of the Book of Mormon civilizations has been discovered in Mesoamerica. At best, scholars find parallels and similarities. They’ve made an honest and sincere—but terribly costly—mistake. All because of one Benjamin Winchester.”
This article will not go into further details associated with Neville’s book about Benjamin Winchester. However, the article (1) will capture sequentially by date in one location eight Times and Seasons articles that deal with John Lloyd Stephens and/or Mesoamerica, (2) provide insights about those articles, and then (3) encourage readers to read the articles and judge for themselves whether Winchester wrote any of them. Fundamentally, those outcomes are the major objectives of this article.
From that point, an understanding of the following procedures will help readers make their way through the eight Times and Seasons articles:
- For each article, a citation is given at the beginning of the article.
- Brackets are used for our comments about an article, and, where appropriate for access or emphasis purposes, our explanatory or analytical comments are highlighted in light blue
- In each instance, the complete article from the Times and Seasons is given.
- For access purposes, the Times and Seasons articles are indented 1/2 inch from the left margin.
- For additional access purposes, some of the content of the three Times and Seasons articles from the September 15–October 1, 1842, issues are shown in italics (articles four, five, and six in this presentation); this italicized content involves the “900 words” that Jonathan Neville uses in an attempt to negate Joseph Smith’s involvement with or approval of the content of any of the articles related to the explorations of John Lloyd Stephens in Mesoamerica.
- Where appropriate, the spelling in each article has been corrected or modernized, and the em dashes are formatted according to conventions in the Chicago Manual of Style.
- Throughout each article, appropriate content is highlighted in yellow for access or emphasis purposes (readers will observe that this content typically, naturally, and inevitably supports the Mesoamerica Model for Book of Mormon geography).
- Bolding or italics (or both) are used for additional special access or emphasis purposes.
- Page numbers from the Times and Seasons are shown inside parentheses at the left margin and refer to content preceding the numbers.
The Eight Articles
Article 1: “American Antiquities—More Proofs of the Book of Mormon,” Times and Seasons 2, no. 16, June 15, 1841, 440–42.
[In this article, the editorial staff of the Times and Seasons quotes extensively from the (New York) Weekly Herald, which reported on the findings in Mesoamerica of John Lloyd Stephens and Frederick Catherwood. The following publication notice appears at the end of this issue: “The Times and Seasons, is edited by D. C. Smith, & R. B. Thompson, And published on the first and fifteenth of every month, on the corner of Water and Bain Streets, Nauvoo, Hancock County, Illinois, by D. C. Smith.” “D. C. Smith” is Don Carlos Smith, one of Joseph Smith’s brothers.]
American Antiquities—More Proofs of the Book of Mormon.
We feel great pleasure in laying before our readers the following interesting account of the Antiquities of Central America, which have been discovered by two eminent travelers who have spent considerable labor, to bring to light the remains of ancient buildings, architecture &c., which prove beyond controversy that, on this vast continent, once flourished a mighty people, skilled in the arts and sciences, and whose splendor would not be eclipsed by any of the nations of Antiquity—a people once high and exalted in the scale of intelligence, but now like their ancient buildings, fallen into ruins.
[From the perspective of all writers of articles in the Times and Seasons, Book of Mormon people lived on the “western continent,” which was one continent—a “vast” continent—consisting of what today is referred to as North America, Central America, and South America. That point is significant because the “promised land” of the Mesoamerica Model—and hence of Book of Mormon authors—involves the entire “western continent,” a “vast” continent consisting of North, Central, and South America. On the other hand, the “promised land” of the Heartland Model is located exclusively within the confines of the continental United States, which is not a continent by itself but is merely part of the so-called “western continent” at the time the Book of Mormon was first published.]
From the (New York) Weekly Herald,
Since the Introductory address of Mr. Stephens, which was noticed in the herald last week, Mr. Catherwood has completed his course of two lectures, on the Antiquities which he has visited in the ruined cities of Central America. Mr. Catherwood and Mr. Stephens left New York in the month of October, 1839, to examine these memorials of a people lost, and landed at Belize, in the Bay of Yucatan, or Honduras, the English Settlement, so remarkable for its produce of mahogany. From thence the travelers proceeded through the interior of the country, into the State of Honduras, one of the States of Central America, and to Copan, where a mass of antiquities was found. This city was situated on the banks of the river Copan, and its ruins consist of massive stone walls, enclosing a considerable space, statues, columns carved to a resemblance of human figures, alters, with bas-reliefs, and pyramids.
The statues here were of very rich carved work; some of them were the idols or divinities of the ancient inhabitants; and not a few were decorated with earrings, bracelets, and complicated head dresses, the backs and side being ornamented with festoons and hieroglyphic characters. The lecture, descriptive of these ruins, was illustrated by a plan of the city of Copan, called by the natives Las Ventana[s], or The Windows, from the appearance of a part of the wall overlooking the river. Several large drawings, representing the carved objects, were also exhibited.
The second lecture commenced with descriptions and illustrations of the ruins of Santa Cruiz del Quiche, once one of the most important cities of Central America, which the lecturer visited after leaving Copan.—This city, he said, had been of immense extent, but its houses had wholly disappeared, and nothing remains but a ruined Palace and Fortress. The fortress, which guarded the entrance to the Royal Palace, is still in a good state of preservation, and is unapproachable, except by a causeway from one point. The space of ground in front of the Palace has an area of a thousand square feet, and bounded by massive stone walls, on which are painted figures of various animals. In the center of the place rises a singular edifice, which is designated the Place of Sacrifice. Of this, the lecturer exhibited a drawing, a sketch of which was taken, during its exhibitions for the Herald, by an incomparable artist, and will appear in our columns hereafter.
This building was forty feet square at the base, and thirty feet high, with a flat, level, but now ruined space on the summit, of twelve feet square, where it is believed an idol was once placed, and human sacrifices were offered up by the ancient inhabitants to their divinities. Access to the top is
attainable only on one side, by a flight of steep steps, the remaining three sides being very precipitous. The whole structure is still distinguishable. In the distance are seen portions of the massive walls or battlements, of which the drawing gives a representation. From a Spanish Priest, with whom the lecturer met in his travels, he learned that a cave in this vicinity had been discovered, containing skulls of a size much larger than the natural head, with many relations to the conformation of the skull of the Indians who are found in that country, of whom en passant, it was remarked that many had embraced the Catholic faith, but had intermixed therewith some of their own heathenish rites. The lecturer also observed, that in that neighborhood the same language was used, as in Yucatan and Central America.
Leaving the City of Santa Cruiz del Quiche, the travelers arrived, after several days’ journey, at Guique tenango, which, like the former city, was found to be of considerable breadth. Here were found pyramids, which there was some reason to believe contained spacious chambers; but on attempting to dig through the side of one of them, stone and mortar alone were met with. In a small adjoining stone cave, or sepulcher, several Terra cotta vases were discovered similar to those found in Italy, called the Etruscan vases. The sepulcher was not sufficiently spacious to contain a body laid out at length but there were the remains of a skeleton which had evidently been doubled up. Other sepulchers were opened, but no skulls were discovered by which a correct judgment could be formed of the people or the race by whom these places had been designed and occupied. For what uses these vases had been intended, the lecturer could not conjecture. He exhibited them to his audience, and there were still observable, painted ornaments inside, and outside, as a part of the vase, where manufactured representations of foliage and the grape.
They next passed to Ocosingo with much difficulty, the native Indian tribes being exceedingly reluctant to visit these ruins, and without a guide the journey was almost hopeless. Chance, however, threw a guide in their way; and the journey was made on horseback through a dense forest, in which the lemon tree was very abundant. At Ocosingo, there are five spacious terraces, and a pyramidal structure, 50 feet in front, and 35 feet deep, with doorways ten feet wide.—Over these doorways are stucco ornaments, which reminded the travelers of the winged globe found over Egyptian portals. These doors led to an ante-chamber, and opposite to them was another door, which was blocked up with rubbish, in which was a large quantity of wood, as hard as lignum vitae. This doorway excited much interest. The Indians believed that beyond it was a cavern which, if an entrance would be effected, would lead the travelers to Palenque in three hours—a distance otherwise of 150 miles. The travelers vigorously engaged in the enterprise, and gained access through the doorway, but they found it was merely an entrance to an apartment ten feet square, ornamented with stucco and painted figures. The place, however, was so hot, and close, and offensive, that they could not long remain to examine its structure; but they remained long enough to ascertain that at the bottom was a bituminous substance, like the bitumen used by the Egyptians to embalm the bodies of their dead.
The great object of their research was Palenque, which is situated in the province of Chiapas, and is distant about a hundred miles from the Atlantic coast; it stands on the bank of a small river, and near a range of lofty hills. The ruins which the travelers here visited, consisted of a group of six buildings, or edifices, and an aqueduct. The palace stands on a pyramidal base, 300 feet in front, 260 in breadth, and 60 feet high. The building of the palace itself, properly so called, is 228 feet in breadth, facing towards, the east. The front is divided into fourteen doorways, with fifteen on the eastern front, each pier being ornamented with one or more figures in stucco, beautifully sculptured and painted. A double corridor, nine feet wide, and twenty feet high, extends all round this building, and altogether, in admeasurement, it is 800 feet. The roofs are a sort of arch, which come nearly to a point, and are constructed of stones which overlap each other, the summit being covered with stones that are large and flat. They are built on the same principle as the Cyclopean structures, which are met with in Greece and Italy.
Passing into the structure, of which a ground plan was exhibited, there is found a courtyard, 80 feet by 70, with descending steps, 30 feet wide, which are flanked by nine colossal figures in stone, each thirteen feet high and in good preservation. Opposite to them are similar figures; all the piers of this court were ornamented with painted stucco figures (of admirable consistency and nearly as hard as stone), some consisting of groups, and some of single figures only.
Their bodies are painted of a red color, which appears, in that country, to have been the color universally used in painting bodies. This is the case also with Egyptian figures, the Egyptians always represented their own nation as red, Europeans as white, and Africans as black. Their Divinities were all represented of a red color. Of these sculptured piers there are many still remaining, the figures of which are surrounded by richly ornamented borders; they are about ten feet high, and six feet wide.
The second court is then seen, and like the principal court, is encumbered with trees, large stones, and rubbish. This courtyard is eighty feet by thirty, and is ornamented with stone figures and hieroglyphics.—On the western side of the edifice several of the piers are in good preservation, with stucco ornaments. A tower is found in the interior of this structure 30 feet square and about 40 feet high, the two upper stories of which have fallen down; it has a smaller tower, however, inside, which may be ascended by a stone staircase. Near to this is a long narrow chamber, 70 feet in length, on one side of which is a richly sculptured tablet, surrounded with stuccoed verdure. Passing
from this, by a flight of descending stairs, the travelers came to three corridors, each 180 feet long. They extend the whole breadth of the building, and are very gloomy, requiring torch lights in their examination.
These corridors are not ornamented, but they contain several stone tables or beds about six or seven feet in length which were supposed to have been used as grateful and cool couches, when the inhabitants retired in the heat of the day. The Palace also contained a small private chapel or altar, which had probably only been used by the inmates of the Royal Family. The other rooms, which were numerous, generally displayed the remains of rich ornaments of Stucco, painted, the paintings in some instances being discovered to be five different subjects painted over each other. The travelers slept in the outer corridor, where they were exposed to terrific storms of thunder, lightning, and rain, which also uniformly came on in the afternoons and nights.
Besides the Palace there were other structures, which are called “stone houses,” and which the travelers supposed to be temples. The first was situated on a pyramidal base of 110 feet on a slope, and the whole were covered with forest trees of a large size. This “stone house” was described with doors and six piers, and as measuring 76 feet in front, which is ornamented with hieroglyphics and stucco figures, representing a female holding a child in her arms. This house is situated 300 or 400 feet southwest of the palace, and so densely surrounded by forest trees, that it is not discernible even a few feet distant, and without the aid of a guide the ruins would not be discovered, though lying at the travelers’ feet. In the interior are found massive stone tablets, thirteen feet long, each tablet having 240 squares of hieroglyphics. Of the uses of this building no satisfactory conclusion can be arrived at; while the travelers supposed it to be a temple, and the Indians called it the school, some Spanish priest has described it as a place of justice, and the tables of hieroglyphics as the tables of the law; and not the least interesting feature, in connection with these tablets, is, that the same hieroglyphics are used there, as were used at other distant places.—There are three other stone houses, very much of the same description, but instead of tablets of hieroglyphics, they contain tablets of sculptured figures. In one of these there is an altar, which bears a large stone tablet, representing two singular personages opposite to each other, making offerings to an object, represented on the tablet as supported by two figures with rows of hieroglyphics on each side. The two figures standing one on each side of this tablet, have the peculiar facial angle before described, with noses and eyes strongly marked, representing a race of people totally different from any now seen on this continent. The headdress of one is coarse and complicated, consisting of leaves and plants, interspersed with the beaks and eyes of birds, and also a tortoise. A leopard’s skin is thrown over the shoulders, and the figure is represented with sandals and with ruffles round the wrists and ankles.—The other figure has a headdress composed of a plume of feathers, in the midst of which a bird may be distinguished, and beneath, certain hieroglyphics which, unfortunately cannot at present be read.
A tablet, or small plaster cast, which was a facsimile of one, of the tables of hieroglyphics, seen in these ruins, was exhibited by the lecturer to his audience.
Another of these houses was represented by a drawing of which we shall hereafter give an engraving. It has a double platform the first of which is 60 feet high. The steps were said to be from 80 to 90 in number, and the upper part of the building to be richly ornamented. Inside the building there are recesses which contain stone tablets of rich and beautiful workmanship. The principal ornament is a cross, but it has no resemblance to the cross of the Christians.
While there the lecturer dug up a statue ten feet high, very much resembling in its general proportions some the Egyptian statues.
It remained now only to describe the Aqueduct. This structure was by the side of the great palace: it was 200 feet in length, as far as could be explored, 12 feet high, and 6 feet wide; with a large body of water passing through it still. There were several other small buildings, which do not cover a large extent of ground. No other were heard of by these travelers in that neighborhood, but so dense is the forest that it is impossible to penetrate many yards in any direction, for these ruins are literally imbedded in a forest of mahogany, and ceiba, and India rubber tree, with a great variety of other descriptions, no human inhabitant remaining to relieve the solitude. Of Uxmal, which is situated in Yucatan, a country, in breadth about 200 miles by 300 miles in length which is doubtless covered by the ruins of former magnificence, and the memorials of early civilization, he could say but a few words, as a full description would occupy more time than he could then command. The buildings are numerous—they are in a good state of preservation, but they are of a character distinguished from those at Palenque and Copan, not having either statues of bas-reliefs. The fronts were, in some instances, 300 feet in length, and they were richly ornamented with sculptured stone, a specimen of which the lecturer exhibited, to give some idea of the workmanship, at a time when the use of iron was unknown. The lecturer supposed the chisels then in use to have been of copper, but that those people had some mode of hardening copper which is unknown to the present generation.
These travelers visited eight ruined cities, situated at great distances apart, to which they had to travel by roads of the worst possible description.
Article 2: Joseph Smith, “Traits of the Mosaic History, Found among the Aztaeca Nations,” Times and Seasons 3, no. 16, June 15, 1842, 818–20.
[Twenty-first-century writers seldom, if at all, refer to the article that follows, probably because it does not deal with Stephens and Catherwood’s explorations in Mesoamerica. However, the article contains the traditional “signature” (-ED.) of Joseph Smith—because he was the editor of the June 15, 1842, issue of the Times and Seasons. A careful examination of three of his statements about Book of Mormon geography shows that Joseph did not know—by revelatory means—where the New World lands of the Book of Mormon were located: (1) his statements made during the march of Zion’s Camp to Missouri, (2) his statements about Mesoamerica based on the content of the explorations of Mesoamerica by Stephens and Catherwood, and (3) his factually incorrect comments about the origin of the Aztecs as given in the article below.
[The first part of the article below is probably taken from one of the accounts of the day about Baron Alexander von Humboldt, who spent a year in Mexico and then published the results of his travels. Joseph then compares that account with content from the Book of Mormon. He then routinely associates the Book of Mormon as discovered in upstate New York with the writings of Humboldt from Mexico as he notes that both came from the same continent. Finally, he “jumps on the bandwagon of the day” as he mistakenly expresses his belief that the Aztecs originated in Wisconsin near the Great Lakes. The incorrectness of that “thinking of the time” has subsequently been proven false by numerous Mesoamerican analysts.]
Traits of the Mosaic History, Found Among the Aztaeca Nations.
The tradition commences with an account of the deluge, as they had preserved it in books made from the buffalo and deerskin, in which account there is more certainty than if it had been preserved by mere oral tradition, handed down from father to son.
They begin by painting, or as we would say by telling us that Noah, whom they call Tezpi, saved himself with his wife, whom they call Xochiquetzal, on a raft or canoe. Is not this the ark? The raft or canoe rested on or at the foot of a mountain, which they call Colhuacan. Is not this Ararat? The men born after this deluge were born dumb. Is not this the confusion of language at Babel? A dove from the top of a tree distributes languages to them in the form of an olive leaf. Is not this the dove of Noah, which returned with that leaf in her mouth, as related in Genesis? They say that on this raft, besides Tezpi and his wife, were several children, and animals, with grain, the preservation of which was of importance to mankind. Is not this in almost exact accordance with what was saved in the ark with Noah, as stated in Genesis?
When the Great Spirit, Tezcatlipoca, ordered the waters to withdraw, Tezpi sent out from his raft a vulture, which never returned, on account of the great quantities of dead carcasses which it found to feed upon. Is not this the raven of Noah, which did not return when it was sent out the second time, for the very reason here assigned by the Mexicans? Tezpi sent other birds one of which was the humming bird; this bird alone returned, holding in its beak a branch covered with leaves. Is not this the dove?—Tezpi, seeing that fresh verdure now clothed the earth, quitted his raft near the mountain of Colhuacan. Is not this an allusion to Ararat of Asia? They say the tongues which the dove gave to mankind, were infinitely varied; which when received, they immediately dispersed.—But among them were 15 heads or chiefs of families, which were permitted to speak the same language, and these were the Taltecs, the Aculhucans and Azteca nations who embodied themselves together, which was very natural, and traveled they knew not where, but at length arrived in the country of Aztalan, of the lake country of America.
The plates or engraving presented here is a surprising representation of the deluge of Noah; and of the confusion of the ancient language at the building of the tower of Babel, as related in the Book of Genesis. (See chap. vii and xi.)
We have derived the subject of this plate from Baron Humboldt’s volume of Researches in Mexico, who found it painted on a manuscript book, made of the leaves of some kind of tree, suitable for the purpose, after the manner of ancient nations of the sultry parts of Asia around the Mediterranean.
The plate, however here presented shows no more than a picture of the flood, with Noah afloat on a raft, or as the traditions of some of the nations say on a tree, a canoe, and some say in a vessel of huge dimensions. It also shows by the group of men approaching the bird, a somewhat obscure history of the confusion of the ancient language at the building of Babel, by representing them as being born dumb, who receive the gift of speech from a dove, which flutters in the branches of the tree, while she presents the languages to the mute throng, by bestowing upon each individual a leaf of the tree, which is shown in the form of small commas suspended from its beak.
Among the different nations, according to Humboldt, who inhabited Mexico, were found paintings which represented the deluge, or flood of Tezpi.
The painting of which the plate is the representation, shows Tezpi, of Noah, in the midst of the waters laying on his back. The mountain, the summit of which is crowned by a tree and rises above the waters is the peak of Colhucan, the Ararat of the Mexicans. At the foot of the mountain on each side appear the heads of Noah and his wife. The woman is known by the two points extending up from her forehead, which is the universal designation of the female sex among the Mexicans.; The horn at the left hand of the tree with a human hand pointing to it, is the character representing a mountain and the head of a bird placed above the head of Tezpi or Noah, shows the vulture which the Mexicans say Tezpi sent out of his acalli or boat to see if the waters had subsided.
In the figure of the bird with the leaves of a tree in his beak, is shown the circumstance of the dove’s return to the ark, when it had been sent out the second time bringing a branch of the olive in its mouth; but in their tradition it had become misplaced, and is made the author of the languages. That birds have a language was believed by the nations of the old world. Some of those nations retain a surprising traditional account of the deluge; who say that Noah embarked in a spacious acalli or boat, with his wife, his children, several animals, and grain, the preservation of which was of great importance to mankind. When the Great Spirit, Tezcatlipoca, ordered the waters to withdraw, Tezpi or Noah sent out from his boat a vulture. But the bird’s natural food was that of dead carcasses, it did not return on account of the great number of dead carcasses with which the earth now dried in some places abounded.Tezpi sent out other birds one of which was humming bird; this bird alone returned again to the boat, holding in his beak a branch covered with leaves. Tezpi now knowing that the earth was dry, being clothed with fresh verdure, quitted his bark near the mountain Colhucan or Ararat. A tradition of the same fact, the deluge, is also found among the Indians of the Northwest. I received, says a late traveler, the following account from a Chief of one of the tribes in his own words, in the English. “An old man live great while ago, he very good man, he have three sons. The great spirit tell him go make a raft—build wigwam on top; for he make it rain very much.—When this done, Great spirit say, put into of all the creatures, then take sun moon—all the stars, put them in—get in himself with his Equa (wife) children, shut door, all dark outside.—Then it rain much, hard many days. When they stay there long time—Great Spirit say, old man go out. So he take, living animal. say go see if find the earth; so he went, come back, not find anything. Then he wait few days—send out mushquash see what he find. When he come back, brought some mud in he paw; old man very glad; he tell mushquash he very good, long this world stand be plenty mush-quash, no man ever kill you all. Then few days more he take very pretty bird send him out see what it find; that bird no come back; so he sent out one white bird that come back, have grass in he mouth. So old know water going down. The great Spirit say, old man, let sun, moon, stars go out, old man too. He go out, raft on much big mountain when he see pretty bird he sent out first, eating dead things—he say, bird you do no right, when me send you out no come back, you must be black, you no pretty bird any more—you always eat bad things. So it was black.”
There are many things contained in the above that go to support the testimony of the Book of Mormon, as well as that of the Mosaic history. The Mexican records agree so well with the word of the book of Ether (found by the people of Limhi, which is contained in the Book of Mormon) in relation to the confounding of languages, that we insert the following:
BOOK OF ETHER—CHAP. I.
* * * Which Jared came forth with his brother and their families, with some others and their families, from the great tower at the time the Lord confounded the language of the people, and swear in his wrath that they should be scattered upon all the face of this earth; and according to the word of the Lord the people were scattered. And the brother of Jared being a large and mighty man, and being a man highly favored of the Lord; for Jared his brother said unto him, cry unto the Lord, that he will not confound us that we may not understand our words. And it came to pass that the brother of Jared did cry unto the Lord, and the Lord had compassion upon Jared; therefore he did not confound the language of Jared; and Jared and his brother were not confounded. Then Jared said unto his brother, cry again unto the Lord, and it maybe that he will turn away his anger
from them who are our friends, that he confound not their language. And it came pass that the brother of Jared did cry unto the Lord and the Lord had compassion upon their friends and their families also, that they were not confounded. And it came to pass that Jared spoke again unto his brother, saying, go and inquire of the Lord whether he will drive us out of the land, and if he will drive us out of the land, cry unto him whither we shall go.—And who knoweth but the Lord will carry us forth into a land which is choice above all the earth. And if it so be, let us be faithful unto the Lord, that we may receive it for our inheritance.
And it came to pass that the brother of Jared did cry unto the Lord according to that which had been spoken by the mouth of Jared. And it came to pass that the Lord did hear the brother of Jared, and had compassion upon him and said unto him, go to and gather together thy flocks, both male and female of every kind; and also of the seed of the earth of every kind, and thy families; and also Jared thy brother and his family; and also thy friends and their families, and the friends of Jared and their families. And when thou hast done this, thou shalt go at the head of them down into the valley that is northward. And there will I meet thee, and I will go before thee into a land which is choice above all the land of the earth. And there will I meet thee, and I will go before thee into a land which is choice above all the earth. And there will I bless thee and thy seed, and raise up unto me of thy seed, and of the seed of thy brother, and they who shall go with thee, a great nation.—And there shall be none greater than the nation which I will raise up unto me of thy seed; upon all the face of the earth. And thus I will do unto thee because this long time ye have cried unto me.
Here, then, we have two records found upon this continent, that go to support the words of eternal truth—the Bible; and whilst these records, both of them, sanction the testimony of the scriptures in regard to the flood, the tower of Babel, and the confusion of languages; the tradition and hieroglyphics of the Zaltees, the Colhuacans, and the Azteca nations, in regard to the confusion of languages and their travels to this land, is so like that contained in the Book of Mormon, that the striking analogy must be seen by every superficial observer.
[Clearly, as shown by his signature at the end of the article (-ED.), Joseph Smith takes full credit for the content of this article. That is an important, even significant, outcome for several reasons, one of which is associated with the wording above, “we have two records found upon this continent.” In those words, Joseph routinely and without equivocation shows his understanding as of 1842 that the “continent of America” did not exclusively include only territory found in the continental United States. In this instance, both the United States and Mexico are viewed by Joseph as being part of the territory of “this continent,” and both nations are included in the “western continent” as viewed by the populace of the United States in the nineteenth century.
[Thus, as a “spinoff” of the Articles of Faith of the Wentworth Letter as published in the March 1, 1842, issue of the Times and Seasons, when Joseph subsequently says in the tenth Article of Faith that “Zion . . . will be built upon the American continent,” he is not expressing exclusivist thinking that only territory of the continental United States is involved. The subtle outcome from the perspective of the “promised land” of the Book of Mormon is that the promised land includes the New World territory of North, Central, and South America rather than the exclusive territory of the continental United States.
[In other words, just two words, “this continent,” give tangible, unqualified, prophetic evidence that the Mesoamerica Model for New World Book of Mormon geography is valid and that the Heartland Model is invalid. Readers should note the other instances that follow in which the Times and Seasons articles refer to both the United States and Mesoamerica as components of “this continent,” the western continent.]
In regard to the confusion of languages it is said of the above nations, that there were “fifteen heads, or chiefs of families, that were permitted to speak the same language.” The Book of Mormon, concerning the same event, says: “And it came to pass that the brother of Jared did cry unto the Lord; and the Lord had compassion on Jared, therefore he did not confound the language of Jared”—and it further states that Jared’s brother’s language was not confounded; and they then prayed for their families and friends also, and the Lord heard them in their behalf; and their language was not confounded. These accounts, then, precisely agree, one of which was found in Ontario county, N. Y., and the other in Mexico.
Again, those nations, of families, embodied themselves together and traveled they know not where, but at length arrived in the country of Aztalan, of the lake country of America. The Book of Mormon says, that the brother of Jared cried unto the Lord, that he would give them another land; the Lord heard him, and told him to go to a certain place, “and there I will meet thee and go before thee into a land which is choice above all the land of the earth.” This it further speaks is the land of America. The coincidence is so striking that further comment is unnecessary.-ED.
[Somewhat subtly hidden in those last two paragraphs is tangible evidence that Joseph Smith did not have revelatory knowledge about the New World geography of the Book of Mormon. First, analysts will recognize that the paragraphs must be attributed to Joseph because of his “signature” at the end of the article (-ED). Second, Joseph joined the popular thinkers of the day (he “jumped on the bandwagon”) in maintaining that the Aztecs of Mexico originated “in the country of Aztalan, of the lake country of America” (near Aztalan, Wisconsin, which is located near the Great Lakes and is named after Aztlan, the place of origin of the Aztecs).
[“Judge (Nathaniel) Hyer . . . gave Aztalan its name. The name Aztalan comes from the mistaken idea, prevalent in the early nineteenth century, that the site may have been the northern place of origin of the Aztecs of Mexico as mentioned in their legends and oral traditions. Judge Hyer related Aztalan to the Aztecs based on the resemblance he saw between its mounds and the Aztec pyramids; he was heavily influenced by the writings and observations of Prussian naturalist and scientific traveler Baron Alexander Von Humboldt . . . who wrote about his travels in Mexico. Humboldt stated that the Aztecs’ original homeland was to the north and was called Aztlan. Hyer’s early written account of Aztalan was eventually widely published in newspapers, magazines, and journals in the United States, helping to fuel great public interest in the site and its antiquities.”
[Joseph Smith must have read contemporary published accounts about Aztalan, Wisconsin, in connection with the Aztecs, and those accounts apparently prompted him to “jump on the bandwagon” and declare that Aztalan, Wisconsin, was, indeed, Aztlan, the Aztec place of origin. That conclusion on his part and on the part of many other people of the time period eventually proved to be entirely wrong. Thus, the fact that Joseph made this critical mistake about Book of Mormon geography provides further evidence that he did not understand New World Book of Mormon geography via revelatory means.
[Readers should notice particularly that the Aztalan event, as written by Joseph Smith and published in the Times and Seasons, took place after the Zion’s camp march and only two years prior to Joseph’s death. Therefore, the Aztalan event gives subtle but confirmatory evidence that Joseph’s other geographic comments, such as those reported by his mother or those he made to his wife Emma about the plains of the Nephites during the Zion’s camp march, were probably not based on revelation but were “best-guess conclusions” on his part.]
Article 3: Joseph Smith, “American Antiquities,” Times and Seasons 3, no. 18, July 15, 1842, 858–60.
[This is the July 15, 1842, issue. The article below has Joseph Smith’s signature of “Ed.” Therefore, analysts must unequivocally attribute its content to him, as shown by his name as author in the above citation. His use of the word “continent” in the concluding paragraph once again shows that its definition in 1842 encompassed more than the continental United States. John Lloyd Stephens and Frederick Catherwood are spoken of very positively by Joseph Smith in the concluding paragraph of the article below. The first part of the article, pages 858–59, is probably written by Josiah Priest (“Priests American Antiquities”). The second part of the article, beginning on page 859 of the Times and Seasons, extracts several paragraphs from the Book of Mormon, followed by a lengthy paragraph summary that must be attributed to Joseph Smith because the entire article at the end bears his signature (-ED.).]
Some have supposed that all the great works of the west, of which we have been treating, belong to our present race of Indians; but from continued wars with each other, have driven themselves from agricultural pursuits, and thinned away their numbers, to that degree, that the wild animals and fishes of the rivers, and wild fruit of the forests, were found sufficient to give them abundant support: on which account, they were reduced to savagism.
But this is answered by the Antiquarian Society, as follows: “Have our present race of Indians ever buried their dead in mounds by thousands? Were they acquainted with the uses of silver or copper? These metals curiously wrought have been found. Did the ancients of our Indians burn the bodies of distinguished chiefs, on funeral piles, and then raise a lofty tumulus over the urn containing their ashes? Did the Indians erect anything like the “walled towns,” on Paint Creek? Did they ever dig such wells as are found at Marietta, Portsmouth, and above all, such as those in Paint Creek? Did they manufacture vessels from calcareous breccia equal to any now made in Italy?
To this we respond, they never have: no, not even their traditions afford a glimpse of the existence of such things, as forts, tumuli, roads, wells, mounds, walls enclosing between one and two hundred, and even five hundred acres of land; some of them of stone, and others of earth, twenty feet in thickness, and exceeding high, are works requiring too much labor for Indians ever to have performed.
An idol found in a tumulus near Nashville, Tennessee, and now in the Museum of Mr. Clifford, of Lexington, is made of clay, peculiar for its fineness. With this clay was mixed a small portion of gypsum or plaster of Paris. This Idol was made to represent a man, in a state of nudity or nakedness, whose arms had been cut off close to the body, and whose nose and chin have been mutilated, with a fillet and cake upon its head.
Some years since a clay vessel was discovered, about twenty feet below the surface, in alluvial earth, in digging a well near Nashville, Tennessee, and was found standing on a rock, from whence a spring of water issued. This vessel was taken to Peale’s Museum, at Philadelphia. It contains about one gallon; was circular in its shape, with a flat bottom, from which it rises in a somewhat globose form, terminating at the summit with the figure of a female head; the place where the water was introduced, or poured out, was on the one side of it, nearly at the top of the globose part.
Another idol was, a few years since, dug up in Natchez, on the Mississippi, on a piece of ground where, according to tradition, long before Europeans visited this country, stood an Indian temple.—This idol is of stone, and is nineteen inches in height, nine inches in width, and seven inches thick at the extremities.—On its breast, as represented on the plate of the idol, were five marks, which were evidently characters of some kind, resembling as supposed, the Persian; probably expressing, in the language of its authors, the name and supposed attributes of the senseless god of stone.
One of the arts known to the builders of Babel, was that of brick making; this art was also known to the people who built the works in the west. The knowledge
of copper was known to the people of the plains of Shinar, for Noah must have communicated it, as he lived an hundred and fifty years among them after the flood; also, copper was known to the antediluvians. Copper was also known to the authors of the western monuments. Iron was known to the antediluvians; it was also known to the ancients of the west; however, it is evident that very little iron was among them, as very few instances of its discovery in their works have occurred; and for this very reason we draw a conclusion that they came to this country very soon after the dispersion, and brought with them such few articles of iron as have been found in their works in an oxidized state.
Copper ore is very abundant in many places of the west; and therefore, as they had a knowledge of it, when they first came here they knew how to work it, and form it into tools and ornaments. This is the reason why so many articles of this metal are found in their works; and even if they had a knowledge of iron ore, and knew how to work it, all articles made of it must have become oxidized as appears from what few specimens have been found, while those of copper are more imperishable. Gold ornaments are said to have been found in several tumuli. Silver very well plated on copper, has been found in several mounds, besides those at Circleville and Marietta. An ornament of copper was found in a stone mound near Chilicothe; it was a bracelet for the ankle or wrist.
The ancients of Asia, immediately after the dispersion, were acquainted with ornaments made of the various metals; for in the family of Terah, who was the father of Abraham and Nahor, we find these ornaments in use for the beautifying of females. See the servant of Abraham, at the well of Bethel in the country of “Ur of the Chaldeans,” or Mesopotamia, which is not very far from the place where Babel stood—putting a jewel of gold upon the face or forehead of Rebecca, weighing half a shekel, and two bracelets for her wrists, or arms. Bracelets for the same use have been found in the west; all of which circumstances go to establish the acquaintance of those who made those ornaments of silver and copper found in the mounds of the west, equal with those of Ur in Chaldea. The families of Peleg, Reu, Serug, and Nahor, who were the immediate progenitors of Abraham, lived at an era but little after the flood; and yet we find them in the possession of ornaments of this kind; from which we conclude a knowledge both of the metals, and how to make ornaments, as above described, was brought by Noah and his family from beyond the flood.
On the shores of the Mississippi, some miles below Lake Pepin, on a fine plain, exists an artificial elevation of about four feet high, extending a full mile, in somewhat of a circular form. It is sufficiently capacious to have covered 5,000 men. Every angle of the breastwork is yet traceable, though much defaced by time. Here, it is likely, conflicting realms as great as those of the ancient Greeks and Persians, decided the fate of ambitious Monarchs, of the Chinese, Mongol descent.
Weapons of brass have been found in many parts of America, as in the Canadas, Florida, &c., with curiously sculptured stones, all of which go to prove that this country was once peopled with civilized, industrious nations,—now traversed the greater part by savage hunters.—Priests American Antiquities.
[The preceding material in this article is apparently an extract from Josiah Priest’s American Antiquities. At this point, the article shifts to an extract from the Book of Mormon and then contains a summary paragraph that must be attributed to Joseph Smith because it bears his “signature” (-ED.).]
The Book of Mormon speaks of ores, swords, cities, armies, &c., and we extract the following:—
And it came to pass that we did find upon the land of promise, as we journeyed in the wilderness, that there were beasts in the forests of every kind, both the cow and the ox, and the ass, and the horse, and the goat, and the wild goat, and all manner of wild animals, which were for the use of men. And we did find all manner of ore, both of gold, and of silver, and of copper.
And it came to pass that the Lord commanded me, wherefore I did make plates of ore, that I might engraven upon them the record of my people. * * *
And it came to pass that we began to prosper exceedingly, and to multiply in the land. And I, Nephi, did take the sword of Laban, and after the manner of it did make many swords, lest by any means the people who were now called Lamanites, should come upon us and destroy us: for I knew their hatred towards me and my children, and those who were called my people. And I did teach my 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 abundance. And I, Nephi, did build a temple; and I 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 exceeding fine.
In regard to there being great wars, the following will show:—
And it came to pass when Coriantumr had recovered of his wounds, he began to remember the words which Ether had spoken unto him . . . he saw that there had been slain by the sword already nearly two millions of his people, and he began to sorrow in his heart; yea, there had been slain two millions of mighty men, and also their wives and their children. He began to repent of the evil which he had done; he began to remember the words which had been spoken by the mouth of all the prophets, and he saw them that they were fulfilled, thus far, every whit; and his soul mourned, and refused to be comforted. . . .
And it came to pass that they did gather together all the people, upon all the face of the land, who had not been slain, save it was Ether. And it came to pass that Ether did behold all the doings of the people; and he beheld that the people who were for Coriantumr, were gathered together for the army of Coriantumr; and the people who were for Shiz, were gathered together to the army of Shiz; wherefore they were for the space of four years gathering together the people, that they might get all who were upon the face of the land, and that they might receive all the strength which it was profitable that they could receive. And it came to pass that when they were all gathering together, every one to the army which he would with their wives and their children; both men, women, and children being armed with weapons of war, having shields and breast plates, and head plates, and being clothed after the manner of war, they did march forth one against another, to battle; and they fought all that day, and conquered not. And it came to pass that when it was night they were weary, and retired to their camps; and after they had retired to their camps, they took up a howling and a lamentation for the loss of the slain of their people; and so great were their cries, their howlings and lamentations, that it did rend the air exceedingly.
If men, in their researches into the history of this country, in noticing the mounds, fortifications, statues, architecture, implements of war, of husbandry, and ornaments of silver, brass, &c.—were to examine the Book of Mormon, their conjectures would be removed, and their opinions altered; uncertainty and doubt would be changed into certainty and facts; and they would find that those things that they are anxiously prying into were matters of history, unfolded in that book. They would find their conjectures were more than realized—that a great and a mighty people had inhabited this continent—that the arts sciences and religion, had prevailed to a very great extent, and that there was as great and mighty cities on this continent as on the continent of Asia. Babylon, Ninevah, nor any of the ruins of the Levant could boast of more perfect sculpture, better architectural designs, and more imperishable ruins, than what are found on this continent. Stephens and Catherwood’s researches in Central America abundantly testify of this thing. The stupendous ruins, the elegant sculpture, and the magnificence of the ruins of Guatemala, and other cities, corroborate this statement, and show that a great and mighty people—men of great minds, clear intellect, bright genius, and comprehensive designs inhabited this continent. Their ruins speak of their greatness; the Book of Mormon unfolds their history. -ED.
[Book of Mormon analysts must attribute the above paragraph to Joseph Smith because of his “signature” (-ED.) at the conclusion of the paragraph. Frankly, proponents of the Heartland Model tend to skip over or ignore the above paragraph because it is so detrimental to the validity of the Heartland Model. Why?
[First, Joseph again confirms the fact that the western continent of the time consists of more nations than just the United States. In fact, Joseph includes Central America as part of the same continent involving the United States. This information is extremely important because it supports the contention of Mesoamerica Model analysts that the promised land of the Book of Mormon is not exclusively that of the United States as claimed by the Heartlanders.
[Second, Joseph clearly, in his own words, confirms that he supports the findings of John Lloyd Stephens and Frederick Catherwood from Central America. For emphasis purposes, that specific aspect of his concluding paragraph in this July 15, 1842, Times and Seasons article is repeated here:
Stephens and Catherwood’s researches in Central America abundantly testify of [the things on this continent]. The stupendous ruins, the elegant sculpture, and the magnificence of the ruins of Guatemala, and other cities, corroborate this statement, and show that a great and mighty people—men of great minds, clear intellect, bright genius, and comprehensive designs inhabited this continent. Their ruins speak of their greatness; the Book of Mormon unfolds their history.
[Third and frankly, because of Joseph Smith’s signature at the conclusion of the article, readers have no option but to accept without controversy or question the fact that Joseph, at the very least, approved the content of the ending quotation of the article and other Times and Seasons articles that allude to the findings of Stephens and Catherwood in Central America.]
Article 4: “Extract from Stephen’s ‘Incidents of Travel in Central America,’” Times and Seasons 3, no. 22, September 15, 1842, 910–15.
[Joseph Smith’s “signature” (Ed.) does not appear at the end of this article. However, the usual notice stating that Joseph is the editor of this issue appears at the end of the article: “The Times and Seasons, Is edited, printed and published about the first fifteenth of every month, on the corner of Water and Bain Streets, Nauvoo, Hancock County, Illinois, by JOSEPH SMITH.” Book of Mormon analysts cannot ignore that information, which leads to the conclusion that Joseph, at the very least, approved of the content of the article that follows. It begins with a lengthy extract from John Lloyd Stephens’s book, Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas, and Yucatan. It concludes with references to Book of Mormon content and comments about the ramifications of the quoted content of John Lloyd Stephens’s book and related Book of Mormon content.]
EXTRACT From Stephen’s “Incidents of Travel in Central America.”
“As at Copan, it was my business to prepare the different objects for Mr. Catherwood to draw. Many of the stones had to be scrubbed and cleaned; and as it was our object to have the utmost possible accuracy in the drawings, in many places scaffolds were to be erected on which to set up the camera lucida. Pawling relieved me from a great part of the labor. That the reader may know the character of the objects we had to interest us, I proceed to give a description of the building in which we lived, called the palace.
A front view of this building is given in the engraving. It does not, however, purport to be given with the same accuracy as the other drawings, the front being in a more ruined condition. It stands on an artificial elevation of an oblong form, forty feet high, three hundred and ten feet in front and rear, and two hundred and sixty feet on each side. This elevation was formerly faced with stone, which has been thrown down by the growth of trees, and its form is hardly distinguishable.
The building stands with its face to the east, and measures two hundred and twenty eight feet front by one hundred and eighty feet deep. Its height is not more than twenty-five feet, and all around it had a broad projecting cornice of stone. The front contained fourteen doorways, about nine feet wide each, and the intervening piers are between six and seven feet wide. On the left (in approaching the palace) eight of the piers have fallen down, as has also the corner on the right, and the terrace underneath is cumbered with the ruins. But six piers remain entire, and the rest of the front is open.
The engraving opposite represents the ground-plan of the whole. The black lines represent walls still standing; the faint lines indicate remains only, but, in general, so clearly marked that there was no difficulty in connecting them together.
The building was constructed of stone with a mortar of lime and sand, and the whole front was covered with stucco and painted. The piers were ornamented with spirited figures in bas-relief, one of which is represented in the engraving opposite. On the top are three hieroglyphics sunk in the stucco. It is enclosed by a richly ornamented border, about ten feet high and six wide, of which only a part now remains. The principal personage stands in an upright position and in profile, exhibiting an extraordinary facial angle of about forty-five degrees. The upper part of the head seems to have been compressed and lengthened, perhaps by the same process employed upon the heads of the Choctaw and Flathead Indians of our own country. The head represents a different species from any now existing in that region of country; and supposing the statues to be images of living personages, or the creation of artists according to their ideas of perfect figures, they indicate a race of people now lost and unknown. The headdress is evidently a plume of feathers. Over the shoulders is a short covering decorated with studs, and a breastplate; part of the ornament of the girdle is broken; the tunic is probable a leopard’s skin; and the whole dress no doubt exhibits the costume of this unknown people. He holds in his hand a staff or scepter, and opposite his hands are the marks of three hieroglyphics, which have decayed or been broken off. At his feet are two naked figures seated cross-legged, and apparently suppliants. A fertile imagination might find many explanations for these strange figures, but no satisfactory interpretation presents itself to my mind. The hieroglyphics doubtless tell its history. The stucco is of admirable consistency, and hard as stone. It was painted, and in different places about it we discovered the remains of red, blue, yellow, black, and white.
The piers which are still standing contained other figures of the same general character, but which, unfortunately, are more mutilated, and from the declivity of the terrace it was difficult to set up the camera lucida in such a position as to draw them. The piers which are fallen were no doubt enriched with the same ornaments. Each one had some specific
meaning, and the whole probably presented some allegory or history; and when entire and painted, the effect in ascending the terrace must have been imposing and beautiful.
The principal doorway is not distinguished by its size or by any superior ornament, but is only indicated by a range of broad stone steps leading up to it on the terrace. The doorways have no doors, nor are there the remains of any. Within, on each side, are three niches in the wall, about eight or ten inches square, with a cylindrical stone about two inches in diameter fixed upright, by which perhaps a door was secured. Along the cornice outside, projecting about a foot beyond the front, holes were drilled at intervals through the stone; and our impression was, that an immense cotton cloth, running the whole length of the building, perhaps painted in a style corresponding with the ornaments, was attached to this cornice, and raised and lowered like a curtain, according to the exigencies of sun and rain. Such a curtain is used now in front of the piazzas of some haciendas in Yucatan.
The tops of the doorways were all broken. They had evidently been square, and over every one were large niches in the wall on each side, in which the lintels had been laid. These lintels had all fallen, and the stones above formed broken natural arches. Underneath were heaps of rubbish, but there were no remains of lintels. If they had been single slabs of stone, some of them must have been visible and prominent; and we made up our minds that these lintels were of wood. We had no authority for this. It is not suggested either by Del Rio or Captain Dupaix, and perhaps we should not have ventured the conclusion but for the wooden lintel which we had seen over the doorway at Ocosingo; and by what we saw afterward in Yucatan, we were confirmed, beyond all doubt, in our opinion I do not conceive, however, that this gives any conclusive data in regard to the age of the buildings. The wood, if such as we saw in the other places, would be very lasting: its decay must have been extremely slow, and centuries may have elapsed since it perished altogether.
The building has two parallel corridors running lengthwise on all four of its sides. In front these corridors are about nine feet wide, and extend the whole length of the building upward of two hundred feet. In the long wall that divides them there is but one door, which is opposite the principal door of entrance, and has a corresponding one on the other side, leading to a courtyard in the rear. The floors are of cement, as hard as the best seen in the remains of Roman baths and cisterns. The walls are about ten feet high, plastered, and on each side of the principal entrance ornamented with medallions, of which the borders only remain; these perhaps contained the busts of the royal family. The separating-wall had apertures of about a foot, probably intended for purposes of ventilation Some were of this form [symbol somewhat like a T], and some of this [symbol somewhat like a cross +], which has been called the Greek Cross and the Egyptian Tau, and made the subject of much learned speculation.
The ceiling of each corridor was in this form. . . . The builders were evidently ignorant of the principles of the arch, and the support was made by stones lapping over as they rose, as at Ocosingo, and among the Cyclopean remains in Greece and Italy. Along the top was a layer of flat stone, and the sides, being plastered, presented a flat surface. The long, unbroken corridors in front of the palace were probably intended for lords and gentlemen in waiting; or perhaps, in the beautiful position, which, before the forest grew up, must have commanded an extended view of a cultivated and inhabited plain, the king himself sat in it to receive the reports of his officers and to administer justice. Under our dominion Juan occupied the front corridor as a kitchen, and the other was our sleeping apartment.
From the center door of this corridor a range of stone steps thirty feet long leads to a rectangular courtyard, eighty feet long by seventy broad. On each side of the steps are grim and gigantic figures, carved on stone in basso-relievo, nine or ten feet high, and in a position slightly inclined backward from the end of the steps to the floor of the corridor. The engraving opposite represents this side of the courtyard, and the one next following shows the figures alone, on a larger scale. They are adorned with rich headdresses and necklaces, but their attitude is that of pain and trouble. The design and anatomical proportions of the figures are faulty, but there is a force of expression about them which shows the
skill and conceptive power of the artist. When we first took possession of the palace this courtyard was encumbered with trees, so that we could hardly see across it, and it was so filled up with rubbish that we were obliged to make excavations of several feet before these figures could be drawn.
On each side of the courtyard the palace was divided into apartments, probably for sleeping. On the right the piers have all fallen down. On the left they are still standing, and ornamented with stucco figures. In the center apartment in one of the holes before referred to of the arch, are the remains of a wooden pole about a foot long, which once stretched across, but the rest had decayed. It was the only piece of wood we found at Palenque, and we did not discover this until sometime after we had made up our minds in regard to the wooden lintels over the doors. It was much worm-eaten, and probably, in a few years, not a vestige of it will be left.
At the farther side of the courtyard was another flight of stone steps, corresponding with those in front, on each side of which are carved figures, and on the flat surface between are single cartouches of hieroglyphics. The plate opposite represents this side.
The whole courtyard was overgrown with trees, and it was encumbered with ruins several feet high, so that the exact architectural arrangements could not be seen. Having our beds in the corridor adjoining, when we woke in the morning, and when we had finished the work of the day, we had it under our eyes. Every time we descended the steps the grim and mysterious figures stared us in the face, and it became to us one of the most interesting parts of the ruins. We were exceedingly anxious to make excavations, clear out the mass of rubbish, and lay the whole platform bare; but this was impossible. It is probably paved with stone or cement; and from the profusion of ornament in other parts, there is reason to believe that many curious and interesting specimens may be brought to light. This agreeable work is left for the future traveler, who may go there better provided with men and materials, and with more knowledge of what he has to encounter; and, in my opinion, if he finds nothing new, the mere spectacle of the courtyard entire will repay him for the labor and expense of clearing it.
The part of the building which forms the rear of the courtyard, communicating with it by the steps, consists of two corridors, the same as the front, paved, plastered, and ornamented with stucco. The floor of the corridor fronting the courtyard sounded hollow, and a breach had been made in it which seemed to lead into a subterraneous chamber; but in descending, by means of a tree with notches cut in it, and with a candle, we found merely a hollow in the earth, not bounded by any wall.
In the farther corridor the wall was in some places broken, and had several separate coats of plaster and paint. In one place we counted six layers, each of which had the remains of colors. In another place there seemed a line of written characters in black ink. We made an effort to get at them; but, in endeavoring to remove a thin upper stratum, they came off with it, and we desisted.
This corridor opened upon a second courtyard, eighty feet long and but thirty across. The floor of the corridor was ten feet above that of the courtyard, and on the wall underneath were square stones with hieroglyphics sculptured upon them. On the piers were stuccoed figures, but in a ruined condition.
On the other side of the courtyard were two ranges of corridors, which terminated the building in this direction. The first of them is divided into three apartments, with doors opening from the extremities upon the western corridor. All the piers are standing except that on the northwest corner. All are covered with stucco ornaments, and one with hieroglyphics. The rest contain figures in bas-relief, three of which, being those least ruined, are represented in the opposite plates.
The first was enclosed by a border, very wide at the bottom, part of which is destroyed. The subject consists of two figures with facial angles similar to that in the plate before given, plumes of feathers and other decorations for headdresses, necklaces, girdles, and sandals; each has hold of the same curious baton, part of which is destroyed, and opposite their hands are hieroglyphics, which probably give the history of these incomprehensible personages. The others are more ruined, and no attempt has been made to restore them. One is kneeling as if to
receive an honor, and the other a blow.
So far the arrangements of the palace are simple and easily understood; but on the left are several distinct and independent buildings, as will be seen by the plan, the particulars of which, however, I do not consider it necessary to describe. The principal of these is the tower, on the south side of the second court. This tower is conspicuous by its height and proportions, but on examination in detail it is found unsatisfactory and uninteresting. The base is thirty feet square, and it has three stories. Entering over a heap of rubbish at the base, we found within another tower, distinct from the outer one, and a stone staircase, so narrow that a large man could not ascend it. The staircase terminates against a dead stone ceiling closing, all farther passage, the last step being only six or eight inches from it. For what purpose a staircase was carried up to such a bootless termination we could not conjecture. The whole tower was a substantial stone structure and in its arrangements and purposes about as incomprehensible as the sculptured tablets.
East of the tower is another building with two corridors, one richly decorated with pictures in stucco, and having in the center the elliptical tablet represented in the engraving opposite. It is four feet long and three wide, of hard stone set in the wall, and the sculpture is in bas-relief. Around it are the remains of a rich stucco border. The principal figure sits cross-legged on a couch ornamented with two leopards’ heads; the attitude is easy, the physiognomy the same as that of the other personages, and the expression calm and benevolent. The figure wears around its neck a necklace of pearls, to which is suspended a small medallion containing a face; perhaps intended as an image of the sun. Like every other subject of sculpture we had seen in the country, the personage had earrings, bracelets on the wrists, and girdle round the loins. The headdress differs from most of the others at Palenque in that it wants the plumes of feathers. Near the head are three hieroglyphics.
The other figure, which seems that of a woman, is sitting cross-legged on the ground, richly dressed, and apparently in the act of making an offering. In this supposed offering is seen a plume of feathers, in which the headdress of the principal person is deficient. Over the head of the sitting personage are four hieroglyphics. This is the only piece of sculptured stone about the palace except those in the courtyard. Under it formerly stood a table, of which the impression against the wall is still visible, and which is given in the engraving in faint lines, after the model of other tables still existing in other places.
At the extremity of this corridor there is an aperture in the pavement, leading by a flight of steps to a platform; from this a door, with an ornament in stucco over it, opens by another flight of steps upon a narrow, dark passage, terminating in other corridors, which run transversely. These are called subterraneous apartments; but there are windows opening from them above the ground, and, in fact, they are merely a ground-floor below the pavement of the corridors. In most parts, however, they are so dark that it is necessary to visit them with candles. There are no bas-reliefs or stucco ornaments; and the only objects which our guide pointed out or which attracted our attention, were several stone tables, one crossing and blocking up the corridor, about eight feet long, four wide, and three high. One of these lower corridors had a door opening upon the back part of the terrace, and we generally passed through it with a candle to get to the other buildings. In two other places there were flights of steps leading to corridors above. Probable these were sleeping apartments.
[As noted previously, one aspect of the resurfacing of John Lloyd Stephens in the twenty-first century relates to additional analyses of three articles in the Times and Seasons in an attempt to determine their authorship and their implications for the New World geography of the Book of Mormon. This article is the first of those three articles, none of which contains the “signature” of Joseph Smith (-Ed.).
[Most Book of Mormon analysts agree that the stakes are high in connection with these three articles. That is, if the articles were authored by, coauthored by, commissioned by, or, at the very least, approved by Joseph Smith, the Mesoamerica Model for New World Book of Mormon geography is valid, and the Heartland Model is invalid. Obviously, then, if Joseph did not author, coauthor, commission, or approve of the articles, the Heartland Model for New World Book of Mormon geography has a significant claim for authentic validity.
[As noted previously, in an attempt to prove that Joseph Smith did not agree with the thinking that the New World events of the Book of Mormon took place in Mesoamerica, Jonathan Neville has written a nonfiction book with that end result in mind—The Lost City of Zarahemla: From Iowa to Guatemala and Back Again. Neville’s main character in the book is Benjamin Winchester, whom Neville attempts to document as the author of the three “unsigned” articles in the Times and Seasons.
[Neville points out that about nine hundred words are involved in the authorship dispute of the three Times and Seasons articles, which Neville refers to as the “900 words.” Those “900 words” will be identified via italics in this article, “Extract from Stephen’s ‘Incidents of Travel in Central America,’” and via italics in the two other articles that follow sequentially in the Times and Seasons.
[Neville states that “around 207 words” are contained in the “Extract” article, beginning at this point.]
The foregoing extract has been made to assist the Latter-Day Saints, in establishing the Book of Mormon as a revelation from God. It affords great joy to have the world assist us to so much proof, that even the most credulous cannot doubt. We are sorry that we could not afford the expense to give the necessary cuts referred to in the original.
Let us turn our subject, however, to the Book of Mormon, where these wonderful ruins of Palenque are among the mighty works of the Nephites:—and the mystery is solved.
[Some Heartlander analysts point out that Joseph Smith could not have written this “Extract” article because of the first person plural “we.” However, an analysis of all articles in all issues of the Times and Seasons shows that the first person plural “we” is very routinely used in articles that were obviously written by singular individuals who then published the articles in the Times and Seasons.]
On the 72d page of the third and fourth edition of the Book of Mormon it reads as follows:
[Next is the following excerpt that is not included among the “900 words”:]
And it came to pass that we began to prosper exceedingly, and to multiply in the land. And I, Nephi, did take the sword of Laban, and after the manner of it did make many swords, lest by any means the people who were now called Lamanites, should come upon us and destroy us: for I knew their hatred towards me
and my children, and those who were called my people. And I did teach my 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. And I, Nephi, did build a temple; and I 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 exceeding fine.
[The first group of 207 of the “900 words” then begins again.]
And on page 280-1 is full description of the Isthmus.
Mr. Stephens’ great developments of antiquities are made bare to the eyes of all the people by reading the history of the Nephites in the Book of Mormon. They lived about the narrow neck of land, which now embraces Central America, with all the cities that can be found. Read the destruction of cities at the crucifixion of Christ, pages 459–60. Who could have dreamed that twelve years would have developed such incontrovertible testimony to the Book of Mormon? surely the Lord worketh and none can hinder.
[That ends the first 207 words of the “900 words.”
[The “narrow neck of land” alluded to in the previous paragraph could be the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in Mexico, or it could have reference to the whole of Central America, which by itself could have been seen by Joseph Smith and others as a narrow neck of land from Panama to Mexico. By itself, this paragraph does, indeed, reflect “incontrovertible testimony” about the Book of Mormon—especially about the New World geography of the Book of Mormon in Mesoamerica.
[As noted previously, Joseph Smith’s “signature” (-Ed.) does not appear at the end of this article. Nor does it appear at the end of any of the subsequent Mesoamerica-related articles in volume 3 for which Joseph was the editor. However, the usual notice stating that Joseph is the editor of this issue appears at the end of the article: “The Times and Seasons, Is edited, printed and published about the first and fifteenth of every month, on the corner of Water and Bain Streets, Nauvoo, Hancock County, Illinois, by JOSEPH SMITH.”]
Article 5: “Facts Are Stubborn Things,” Times and Seasons 3, no. 22, September 15, 1842, 921–22.
[This article contains the second group of Neville’s “900 words,” which he says is “around 279 words.” This group of 279 words commences at the start of this article, as shown in italics.]
“FACTS ARE STUBBORN THINGS.”
From an extract from “Stephens’ Incidents of Travel in Central America,” it will be seen that the proof of the Nephites and Lamanites
dwelling on this continent, according to the account in the Book of Mormon, is developing itself in a more satisfactory way than the most sanguine believer in that revelation, could have anticipated. It certainly affords us a gratification that the world of mankind does not enjoy, to give publicity to such important developments of the remains and ruins of those mighty people.
[Mesoamerica Model analysts tend to skip over the preceding paragraph and therefore fail to recognize the impact of the meaning of “the most sanguine believer in that revelation” and “this continent.” That wording has three implications: (1) the word “sanguine” here is an adjective that, according to Noah Webster’s 1828 dictionary, means “confident” (or “the most confident believer in that revelation”); (2) the term “that revelation” refers to the Book of Mormon, including the part thereof that shows the Nephites and Lamanites dwelling on this continent or in Central America, according to the article; and (3) the terminology of “this continent” has to include the territory of Mesoamerica and therefore negates the Heartlander thinking about the exclusivity of the United States as the “promised land” of the Book of Mormon. Indeed, could readers of the Times and Seasons articles, in those early years of the Church, have built a case for Joseph Smith’s reception, by revelatory means, of the knowledge that Book of Mormon people inhabited the entire continent of North, Central, and South America, as the next paragraph confirms?
[The second group of “around 279 words,” shown in italics, continues below.]
When we read in the Book of Mormon that Jared and his brother came on to this continent from the confusion and scattering at the Tower, and lived here more than a thousand years, and covered the whole continent from sea to sea, with towns and cities; and that Lehi went down by the Red Sea to the great Southern Ocean, and crossed over to this land and landed a little south of the Isthmus of Darien, and improved the country according to the word of the Lord, as a branch of the house of Israel, and then read such a goodly traditionary account, as the one below, we can not but think the Lord has a hand in bringing to pass his strange act, and proving the Book of Mormon true in the eyes of all the people. The extract below, comes as near the real fact, as the four Evangelists do to the crucifixion of Jesus.—Surely “facts are stubborn things.” It will be as it ever has been the world will prove Joseph Smith a true prophet by circumstantial evidence, in experiments, as they did Moses and Elijah. Now read Stephen’s story:
[That point marks the end of the group of “around 279 words” in the second group of Neville’s “900 words.”
[Again, the wording of this editorial expresses the belief of the populace of the United States about the definition of “continent” in 1842. Obviously, the phrase “this continent” included Central America. Further, the geographical extent of the Book of Mormon is reflected in the thinking of the editorial’s author via the wording that the Jaredites “covered the whole continent from sea to sea.” Such wording, which undoubtedly had, at the very least, the approval of Joseph Smith, negates the Heartlanders’ exclusivity claim that the promised land of the Book of Mormon involves territory exclusively within the continental United States.
[What follows next is a quotation in the article, and this quotation is not included among Neville’s “900 words.”]
“According to Fuentes, the chronicler of the kingdom of Guatemala, the kings of Quinche and Cachiquel were descended from the Toltecan Indians, who, when they came into this country, found it already inhabited by people of different nations. According to the manuscripts of Don Juan Torres, the grandson of the last king of the Quiches, which was in the possession of the lieutenant general appointed by Pedro de Alvarado, and which Fuentes says he obtained by means of Father Francis Vasques, the historian of the order of San Francis, the Toltecas themselves descended from the house of Israel, who were released by Moses from the tyranny of Pharaoh, and after crossing the Red Sea, fell into Idolatry. To avoid the reproofs of Moses, or from fear of his inflicting upon them some chastisement, they separated from him and his brethren, and under the guidance of Tanub, their chief, passed from one continent to the other, to a place which they called the seven caverns, a part of the kingdom of Mexico, where they founded the celebrated city of Tula.”
[As noted, Joseph Smith’s “signature” (-Ed.) does not appear at the end of this article. However, the usual notice stating that Joseph was the editor of this issue appears at the end of the article: “The Times and Seasons, Is edited, printed and published about the first and fifteenth of every month, on the corner of Water and Bain Streets, Nauvoo, Hancock County, Illinois, by JOSEPH SMITH.”]
Article 6: “Zarahemla,” Times and Seasons 3, no. 23, October 1, 1842, 927–28.
[This is the third article that contains the third installment of the “900 words” involved in Jonathan Neville’s analysis and book, The Lost City of Zarahemla: From Iowa to Guatemala and Back Again. According to Neville, this article contains “around 398 words,” all of which are shown below in italics. The article begins with three sentences that contain significant content about Mesoamerica and the Book of Mormon. A short quotation from the Book of Mormon is then given, which is not counted as part of Neville’s “900 words.” Three paragraphs follow with additional significant content about Mesoamerica and the Book of Mormon. Those paragraphs are followed by another interesting extract from John Lloyd Stephens’s book, Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas, and Yucatan.]
Since our “Extract” was published from Mr. Stephens’ “Incidents of Travel,” &c., we have found another important fact relating to the truth of the Book of Mormon. Central America, or Guatemala, is situated north of the Isthmus of Darien and once embraced several hundred miles of territory from north to south.—The city of Zarahemla, burnt at the crucifixion of the Savior, and rebuilt afterwards, stood upon this land as will be seen from the following words in the book of Alma:
[The words in the following quotation from the Book of Mormon are not included in Neville’s “398 words” from this third Times and Seasons article.]
“And now it was only the distance of a day and half’s journey for a Nephite, on the line Bountiful, and the land Desolation, from the east to the west sea; and thus the land of Nephi, and the land of Zarahemla was nearly surrounded by water: there being a small neck of land between the land northward and the land southward.” [See Book of Mormon 3rd edition, pages 280–81.]
It is certainly a good thing for the excellency and veracity, of the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon, that the ruins of Zarahemla have been found where the Nephites left them: and that a large stone with engravings upon it as Mosiah said; and a ‘large round stone, with the sides sculptured in hieroglyphics,’ as Mr. Stephens has published, is also among the left remembrances of the, (to him,) lost and unknown. We are not going to declare positively that the ruins of Quirigua are those of Zarahemla, but when the land and the stones, and the books tell the story so plain, we are of opinion, that it would require more proof than the Jews could bring to prove the disciples stole the body of Jesus from the tomb, to prove that the ruins of the city in question, are not one of those referred to in the Book of Mormon.
It may seem hard for unbelievers in the mighty works of God, to give credit to such a miraculous preservation of the remains, ruins, records and reminiscences of a branch of the house of Israel: but the elements are eternal, and intelligence is eternal, and God is eternal, so that the very hairs of our heads are all numbered. It may be said of man he was and is, and is not; and of his works the same, but the Lord was and is, and is to come and his works never end; and he will bring everything into judgment whether it be good, or whether it be evil; yea, every secret thing, and they shall be revealed upon the house tops. It will not be a bad plan to compare Mr. Stephens’ ruined cities with those in the Book of Mormon: light cleaves to light, and facts are supported by facts. The truth injures no one, and so me make another: EXTRACT .
[The above three paragraphs contain monumental, far-reaching implications for the geography of the Book of Mormon—whether Joseph Smith authored the words, coauthored them, commissioned them, or merely approved them. Without any doubt, the employees of the Times and Seasons newspaper must have had many work-related discussions about the implications of John Lloyd Stephens’s observations in his book, Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas, and Yucatan. Via their content, the above three italicized paragraphs give unqualified, monumental, and indisputable support for the Mesoamerica Model and, in turn, sound a death knell for the thinking of those associated with the Heartland Model. Why? How?
[The Prophet Joseph Smith was not stupid, ignorant, or afraid. He was a prophet of God and could not have been so deceptive and dishonest to the Lord and to the Saints past, present, and future as to have allowed so many bold assertions that Central America was where the Book of Mormon took place and then to persist and not correct them and not set the record straight. Nor could two other prophets, John Taylor and Wilford Woodruff, who must have also been fully aware of the content of the Times and Seasons articles about the explorations of John Lloyd Stephens.
[From the pages of the Book of Mormon itself, readers will discern than Zarahemla is in the land southward. In this editorial, Zarahemla is unequivocally connected to Guatemala. Therefore, the thinking of Joseph Smith and the other Times and Seasons editorial staff members at this point seems to be that Guatemala is part of the land southward of the Book of Mormon. That is precisely one of the primary geographic outcomes of the Mesoamerica Model—the land southward is east and south of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec and includes all of Guatemala. As was pointed out in the editorial, Guatemala was a much larger country at one time than it was in 1842. In other words, the land southward of the Book of Mormon seriously overlaps Maya country in Central America.
[Finally, the full impact of John Lloyd Stephens’s explorations seems to have settled in to the mind of Joseph Smith and others in October of 1842—as evidenced by the following concluding sentence of the editorial material that precedes the extract from Stephens’s writings: “It will not be a bad plan to compare Mr. Stephens’ ruined cities with those in the Book of Mormon: light cleaves to light, and facts are supported by facts.” In other words, Joseph Smith and others in the Times and Seasons editorial office seem to be leaning toward a Book of Mormon geography that took place in Mesoamerica. Speaking of Quirigua in Guatemala, Joseph Smith or someone he trusted (perhaps a joint effort by the Times and Seasons personnel) composed what perhaps is an ultimate statement about the Mesoamerican cities that were explored by Stephens and Catherwood: “It would require more proof than the Jews could bring to prove the disciples stole the body of Jesus from the tomb, to prove that the ruins of the city in question, are not one of those referred to in the Book of Mormon.”
[At this point, Joseph Smith or someone approved by him has coined wording that perhaps unknowingly in 1842 supports the validity of the Mesoamerica Model for New World Book of Mormon geography and subtly gives reasons for the invalidity of the Heartland Model.
[The rest of the Times and Seasons “Zarahemla” article, introduced with the heading “EXTRACT From Stephens’ ‘Incidents of Travel in Central America,’” follows the three paragraphs shown above in italics. The words of the extract are not included among Neville’s “900 words.”]
“On a fine morning, after a heavy rain, they set off for the ruins. After a ride of about half an hour, over an execrable road, they again reached the Amates. The village was pleasantly situated on the bank of the river, and elevated about thirty feet. The river was here about two hundred feet wide, and fordable in every part except a few deep holes. Generally it did not exceed three feet in depth, and in many places was not so deep; but below it was said to be navigable to the sea for boats not drawing more than three feet water. They embarked in two canoes dug out of cedar-trees, and proceeded down the river for a couple of miles, where they took on board a negro man named Juan Lima, and his two wives. This black scoundrel, as Mr. C. marks him down in his notebook, was to be their guide. They then proceeded two or three miles farther, and stopped at a ranch on the left side of the river, and passing through two cornfields, entered a forest of large cedar and mahogany trees. The path was exceedingly soft and wet, and covered with decayed leaves, and the heat very great. Continuing through the forest toward the northeast, in three quarters of an hour they reached the foot of a pyramidal structure like those at Copan, with the steps in some places perfect. They ascended to the top, about twenty-five feet, and descending by steps on the other side, at a short distance beyond came to a colossal head two yards in diameter, almost buried by an enormous tree, and covered with moss. Near it was a large altar, so covered with moss that it was impossible to make anything out of it. The two are within an enclosure.
Retracing their steps across the pyramidal structure, and proceeding to the north about three or four hundred yards, they reached a collection of monuments of the same general character with those
at Copan, but twice or three times as high.
The first is about twenty feet high, five feet six inches on two sides, and two feet eight on the other two. The front represents the figure of a man, well preserved; the back that of a woman, much defaced. The sides are covered with hieroglyphics in good preservation, but in low relief, and of exactly the same style as those at Copan.
Another, represented in the engraving, is twenty-three feet out of the ground, with figures of men on the front and back, and hieroglyphics in low relief on the sides, and surrounded by a base projecting fifteen or sixteen feet from it.
At a short distance, standing in the same position as regards the points of the compass, is an obelisk or carved stone, twenty-six feet out of the ground, and probably six or eight feet under, which is represented in the engraving opposite. It is leaning twelve feet two inches out of the perpendicular, and seems ready to fall, which is probably prevented only by a tree that has grown up against it and the large stones around the base. The side toward the ground represents the figure of man, very perfect and finely sculptured. The upper side seemed the same, but was so hidden by vegetation as to make it somewhat uncertain. The other two contain hieroglyphics in low relief. In size and sculpture this is the finest of the whole.
A statue ten feet high is lying on the ground, covered with moss and herbage, and another about the same size lies with its face upward.
There are four others erect, about twelve feet high, but not in a very good state of preservation, and several altars so covered with herbage that it was difficult to ascertain their exact form. One of them is round, and situated on a small elevation within a circle formed by a wall of stones. In the center of a circle, reached by descending very narrow steps, is a large round stone, with the sides sculptured in hieroglyphics, covered with vegetation, and supported on what seemed to be two colossal heads.
These are all at the foot of a pyramidal wall, near each other, and in the vicinity of a creek which empties into the Motagua. Besides these they counted thirteen fragments, and doubtless many others may yet be discovered.
At some distance from them is another monument, nine feet out of ground, and probably two or three under, with the figure of a woman on the front and back, and the two sides richly ornamented, but without hieroglyphics.
The next day the negro promised to show Mr. C. eleven square columns higher than any he had seen, standing in a row at the foot of a mountain; but after dragging him three hours through the mud, Mr. C. found by the compass that he was constantly changing his direction; and as the man was armed with pistols, notoriously a bad fellow, and indignant at the owners of the land for coming down to look after their squatters, Mr. C. became suspicious of him, and insisted upon returning. The Payes were engaged with their own affairs, and having no one to assist him, Mr. Catherwood was unable to make any thorough exploration or any complete drawings.
The general character of these ruins is the same as at Copan. The monuments are much larger, but they are sculptured in lower relief, less rich in design, and more faded and worn, probably being of a much older date.
Of one thing there is no doubt: a large city once stood there: its name is lost, its history unknown; and, except for a notice taken from Mr. C.’s notes, and inserted by the Senores Payes in a Guatemala paper after the visit, which found its way to this country and Europe, no account of its existence has ever before been published. For centuries it has lain as completely buried as if covered with the lava of Vesuvius. Every traveler from Yzabal to Guatemala has passed within three hours of it; we ourselves had done the same; and yet there it lay, like the rock built-city of Edom, unvisited, unsought, and utterly unknown.”
[Again, the “Zarahemla” article does not show Joseph Smith’s “signature” (-Ed.) at the end. However, the usual publication notice documents the fact that Joseph Smith was in charge: “The Times and Seasons, Is edited, printed and published about the first and fifteenth of every month, on the corner of Water and Bain Streets, Nauvoo, Hancock County, Illinois, by JOSEPH SMITH.”]
Article 7: “Stephen’s Works on Central America,” Times and Seasons 4, no. 22, October 1, 1843, 346–47.
[The following article is post–Joseph Smith’s editorship of the Times and Seasons. This article was prompted by the publication of John Lloyd Stephens’s second book on Mesoamerica, Incidents of Travel in Yucatan, published in 1843. The article does not contain a “signature,” but it was probably written by John Taylor or perhaps jointly by John Taylor and Wilford Woodruff. The first person plural “we” strongly suggests a joint effort, and the publication notice at the end of the issue identifies both Taylor and Woodruff as the “publishers.” If they are the authors of this unsigned article, readers should note that the article was written by two prophets—both of whom eventually became Presidents of the Church.]
STEPHEN’S WORKS ON CENTRAL AMERICA.
We have lately perused with great interest, Stephen’s works on Central America, Chiapas, and Yucatan.
Mr. Stephens published about two years ago, a very interesting work entitled “Incidents of travel in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan,” in which he details very many interesting circumstances; discovered the ruins of magnificent cities, and from hieroglyphical representations, sculpture and rich specimens of architecture, proved one important fact, which had been disputed by many of our sages; that America had once been peopled by a highly polished, civilized and scientific race, with whom the present aborigines could not compare.
This work has been read with great interest throughout this continent, and tens of thousands of copies have been sent to, and sold in Europe, where it has been investigated with the greatest scrutiny and interest. It has already passed through twelve editions; it is published in two volumes, 8 vo.
[By now, readers should see and understand clearly that “this continent” at the time of Joseph Smith refers to all the territory of North, Central, and South America. Again, that outcome has far-reaching implications for anyone trying to decide which New World model for Book of Mormon geography is valid—the Mesoamerica Model or the Heartland Model. Without question, this Times and Seasons article supports the New World Book of Mormon geography of the Mesoamerica Model—if for no other reason than readers’ recognition that the prophecies and promises of the Book of Mormon cannot exclusively be tied to the territory of the United States—as the Heartlanders strongly maintain. It is also clear that Benjamin Winchester, Jonathan Neville’s proposed author of the “900 words,” was back in Philadelphia at the time of this article number seven and therefore had nothing to do with the Times and Seasons and thus played no part in the decisions and publication of articles seven and eight in the Times and Seasons.]
Since the publication of this work, Mr. Stephens has again visited Central America, in company with Mr. Catherwood, and other scientific gentlemen, for the purpose of making further explorations among those already interesting ruins. They took with them the Daguerreotype, and other apparatus, for the purpose of giving views and drawings of those mysterious relics of antiquity. His late travels and discoveries, have also been published in two volumes of the same size, entitled “Incidents of travel in Central America.”
[Actually, the second two-volume book about John Lloyd Stephens’s explorations in Mesoamerica is entitled Incidents of Travel in Yucatan.]
It is a work of great interest, written with precision and accuracy. The plates are elegantly executed, and its history unfolds the ruins of grandeur, civilization and intelligence. It is published by Harper & Brothers, N. Y.
This is a work that ought to be in the hands of every Latter Day Saint; corroborating, as it does the history of the Book of Mormon. There is no stronger circumstantial evidence of the authenticity of the latter book, can be given, than that contained in Mr. Stephens’ works.
[At this point, readers should ask themselves, “What does ‘evidence of the authenticity of the Book of Mormon’ mean?” Those words represent another way of looking at the validity of the Book of Mormon based on the writings of John Lloyd Stephens. Thus, this Times and Seasons article is merely confirming that the content of the Book of Mormon is valid—it is what it purports to be. In other words, the Book of Mormon, based on the explorations of Stephens, is a real account about real people who, according to the Times and Seasons articles, lived in Mesoamerica. In fact, a careful analysis of the contents of the Book of Mormon will show that the Book of Mormon’s geography is quite limited, which means that the New World events of the Book of Mormon took place in Mesoamerica. Frankly, “there is no stronger circumstantial evidence of the authenticity” of that statement than the content of the Times and Seasons articles that connect the Book of Mormon with Mesoamerica as opposed to North America.
[Having made those strong statements, we admit we must recognize that the editorial office of the Times and Seasons in 1842 also strongly favored North America as a setting for events of the Book of Mormon—as evidenced by the inclusion in the Times and Seasons of quotations from Josiah Priest’s book that was being widely read when the Book of Mormon was published, American Antiquities, and Discoveries in the West. The reality of the situation appears to be that the editorial staff of the Times and Seasons, because of their reading of Stephens’s books, probably changed their opinions from North America to Central America as the primary location of the New World events contained in the Book of Mormon.]
Mr. Stephens gives an account of ancient cities he has visited, where once dwelt the powerful, the wise, the scientific, and to use his own words; ‘architecture, sculpture and painting, all the arts which embellished life had flourished in this overgrown city; orators, warriors, and statesmen, beauty, ambition, and glory, had lived and passed away, and none knew that such things had been, or could tell of their past existence.’ In the last clause, Mr. Catherwood is mistaken. It has fallen to his lot to explore the ruins of this once mighty people, but the “Book of Mormon” unfolds their history; and published as it was, years before these discoveries were made, and giving as it does, accounts of a people, and of cities that bear a striking resemblance to those mentioned by Mr. Stephens, both in regard to magnificence and location, it affords the most indubitable testimony of the historical truth of that book, which has been treated so lightly by the literati and would be philosophers of the present age.
[The last sentence above seems to express very plainly the thinking of the Times and Seasons editorial staff as of October 1843—undoubtedly influenced by John Taylor and Wilford Woodruff and probably also by Joseph Smith from the past and in October of 1843. Thus, a primary, logical conclusion that readers can draw from the sentence is that “the Book of Mormon (gives) accounts of a people, and of cities that bear (such) a striking resemblance to those mentioned by Mr. Stephens, both in regard to magnificence and location (that) it affords the most indubitable testimony of the historical truth of (the Book of Mormon).”
[The word “location” says a great deal here because it places the New World geography of the Book of Mormon squarely in Mesoamerica rather than in North America. Without any question, Taylor and Woodruff are not only “publishers” of the Times and Seasons at this point but also prophets of God by virtue of their callings in the Church. Let’s be honest with ourselves at this point: As Apostles/prophets, the Times and Seasons publishers are merely prompted by Stephens’s new book, Incidents of Travel in Yucatan, to reiterate what they must have heard Joseph Smith say on more than one occasion just a year previously as a result of Stephens’s first book, Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas, and Yucatan.
[Natural questions to ask Jonathan Neville at this point are the following: Why don’t you add the words of this article to the “900 words” that were presumably written by Benjamin Winchester? Isn’t the likelihood that Winchester wrote this article just as great as the likelihood that he wrote the “900 words” of the articles in the September 15 and October 1, 1842, issues? How can you get away with illegitimately circumventing the “most indubitable testimony” of the Book of Mormon that the location of the New World events of the Book of Mormon is Mesoamerica and not the continental United States?]
For the information of our friends who do not possess this work, we may at a convenient time collect and compare many of the important items in this work, and in the Book of Mormon, and publish them. To give some idea of the nature of the last work, we publish the following from the preface:
[The above paragraph contains a challenge that so far has not been acted upon by any Book of Mormon scholar—to read carefully John Lloyd Stephens’s two books, Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas, and Yucatan and Incidents of Travel in Yucatan, for the purpose of identifying and discussing the correlations in the two books with the contents of the Book of Mormon. Those correlations would undoubtedly support the validity of the Mesoamerica Model for New World Book of Mormon geography and give multitudinous reasons for understanding the invalidity of the Heartland Model.]
“In his ‘Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan,’ the author intimates his intention to make a thorough exploration of the ruins of the latter country. That intention has been carried into effect, and the following pages are the result. They describe, as the author has reason to believe, the most extensive journeying ever made by a stranger in that peninsula, and contain the account of visits to forty-four ruined cities or palaces, in which the remains or vestiges of ancient population, were found. The existence of most of these ruins was entirely unknown to the residents of the capital—but few had ever been visited by white inhabitants—they were desolate and overgrown with trees. For a brief space, the stillness that reigned about them was broken
and they were again left to solitude and silence. Time and the elements are hastening them to utter destruction. In a few generations, great edifices, their facades covered with sculptured ornaments, already croaking and yawning, must fall, and become mere shapeless mounds. It has been the fortune of the author to step between them and the destruction to which they are destined, and it is his hope to snatch from oblivion these perishing, but still gigantic memorials of a mysterious people.”
[The above quotation is from the preface of Stephens’s second publication, Incidents of Travel in Yucatan. This second two-volume account of Stephens and Catherwood’s explorations in Mesoamerica is probably the impetus that prompted this Times and Seasons article in the October 1, 1843, issue. As can be seen, the content has the same “flavor” in many respects as that of the September 15 and October 1, 1842, issues that contained the three “unsigned” editorials from which Jonathan Neville derived the “900 words” he used in analyzing the authorship of the three editorials.
[The following editing/publication notices appear at the end of this issue: “The Times and Seasons, IS EDITED BY JOHN TAYLOR.” “Printed and published about the first and fifteenth of every month, on the corner of Water and Bain Streets, Nauvoo, Hancock county, Illinois, by JOHN TAYLOR AND WILFORD WOODRUFF.”]
Article 8: John Taylor, “Ancient Ruins,” Times and Seasons, 5, no. 1, January 1, 1844, 390–91.
[Because John Taylor is listed as the “editor” of this issue via his “signature” (-Ed.), he can be shown as the “author” of this article. In the paragraph that follows the article’s title, he shows that the personnel working in the Times and Seasons office as 1844 got underway were still influenced by the writings of Josiah Priest about North America and the writings of John Lloyd Stephens about Mesoamerica. John Taylor also routinely reflects the fact that “this continent” in 1844 included far more territory than just that of the United States.]
Every day adds fresh testimony to the already accumulated evidence on the authenticity of the “Book of Mormon.” At the time that book was translated there was very little known about ruined cities and dilapidated buildings. The general presumption was, that no people possessing more intelligence than our present race of Indians had ever inhabited this continent, and the accounts given in the Book of Mormon concerning large cities and civilized people having inhabited this land, was generally disbelieved and pronounced a humbug. Priest, since then has thrown some light on this interesting subject. Stephens in his “Incidents of Travels in Central America,” has thrown in a flood of testimony, and from the following statements it is evident that the Book of Mormon does not give a more extensive account of large and populous cities than those discoveries now demonstrate to be even in existence. -Ed.
(From the Texas Telegraph, Oct. 11.)
We have been informed by a gentleman who has traversed a large portion of the Indian country of Northern Texas, and the country lying between Santa Fe and the Pacific, that there are vestiges of ancient cities and ruined castles or temples on the Rio Puerco and on the Colorado of the west. He says that one of the branches of the Rio Puerco, a few days travel from Santa Fe, there is an immense pile of ruins that appear to belong to an ancient temple. Portions of the walls are still standing, consisting of huge blocks of limestone regularly hewn, and laid in cement. The building occupies an extent of more than an acre. It is two or three stories high, has no roof, but contains
many rooms generally of a square form, without windows, and the lower rooms are so dark and gloomy that they resemble caverns rather than apartments of an edifice built for a human habitation.—Our informant did not give the style of architecture, but he believes it could not be erected by Spaniards or Europeans, as the stones are much worn by the rains, and indicate that the building has stood several hundred years. From his description we are induced to believe that it resembled the ruins of Palenque or Otulun. He says there are many similar ruins on the Colorado of the west, which empties into the California sea. In one of the valleys of the Cordileras traversed by this river, and about four hundred miles from its mouth, there is a large temple still standing, its walls and spires presenting scarcely any trace of dilapidation, and were it not for the want of a roof it might still be rendered habitable. Near it, scattered along the declivity of a mountain, are the ruins of what must have been once a large city. The traces of a large aqueduct, part of which is however in the solid rock, are still visible. Neither the Indians residing in the vicinity, nor the oldest Spanish settlers of the nearest settlements, can give any account of the origin of these buildings. They merely know that they have stood there from the earliest periods to which their traditions extend. The antiquarian who is desirous to trace the Aztec or Toltec races in their migrations from the northern regions of America, may find in these ancient edifices many subjects of curious speculation.
[John Taylor evidently continued to believe in 1844 that the Aztecs of Mexico originated near the Great Lakes in Wisconsin. Eventually, that thinking was proven to be totally incorrect. However, the central message of this article reflects an origination issue that perhaps was not resolved totally until radiocarbon dating was discovered. The issue is the following: Where did the cultures of the Americas originate? Unbiased analysts who have explored that question using the outcomes of radiocarbon dating say that Mesoamerican cultures (1) preceded North American cultures in time and (2) very favorably match the dates of origination shown in the Book of Mormon. In other words, such cultures as the Mound Builders or Hopewell of North America are more probably “hinterland” cultures that were “spinoff” cultures from Mesoamerica rather than vice versa. The bottom lines are that (1) all New World events of the Book of Mormon took place in Mesoamerica and (2) those events give clear hints that there were some migrations of cultures that took place from Mesoamerica to North America.
[The following notice appears at the end of the January 1, 1844 issue: The Times and Seasons, IS EDITED BY JOHN TAYLOR. Printed and published about the first and fifteenth of every month, on the corner of Water and Bain Streets, Nauvoo, Hancock county, Illinois, by JOHN TAYLOR AND WILFORD WOODRUFF.]
The preceding discussions and analyses of the eight Times and Seasons articles selected for this article suggest at least the following implications:
1. In the Heartland Model, the “American continent” is viewed exclusively as the continental United States of America. That distinction is important because thereafter, the promised land of the Book of Mormon, according to the Heartland Model, with all attendant prophecies and promises, is found exclusively in the continental United States.
That exclusivist thinking on the part of Heartlanders is invalid based on the contents of the Times and Seasons articles associated with the explorations of John Lloyd Stephens and Frederick Catherwood. That is, the definition of continent as given in Noah Webster’s 1828 dictionary is as follows: “In geography, a great extent of land, not disjoined or interrupted by a sea; a connected tract of land of great extent; as the Eastern and Western continent. It differs from an isle only in extent.”
Thus, to the editorial staff of the Times and Seasons, the expression “this continent” is synonymous with “Western continent.” Therefore, “this continent” in the John Lloyd Stephens articles over and over clearly encompassed all of North, Central, and South America rather than exclusively the United States. Bottom line: The word “continent” or the expression “this continent” in the Times and Seasons articles supports the validity of the Mesoamerica Model for New World Book of Mormon geography and says much about the invalidity of the Heartland Model. Furthermore, the promised land of the Book of Mormon is the “vast continent” consisting of North, Central, and South America.
2. Heartlander Jonathan Neville wrote the book The Lost City of Zarahemla: From Iowa to Guatemala and Back Again in an attempt to prove that Joseph Smith did not write, commission, or approve the three September 15–October 1, 1842, Times and Seasons articles about the explorations of John Lloyd Stephens. In his book, Neville proposes that Benjamin Winchester, a contemporary of Joseph Smith, authored the “900 words” of the three Times and Seasons articles. In these respects, an examination of all issues of the Times and Seasons shows the following:
First, during the years 1841–44, the Times and Seasons contains other substantive articles about the explorations of John Lloyd Stephens beyond the three “unsigned” articles of September 15–October 1, 1842. In fact, the July 15, 1842, article, which preceded the “900 words” articles in time, clearly contains Joseph’s “signature.” The obvious scenario at the Times and Seasons office, based on the number of times that Stephens is mentioned casually or in depth, is one in which the staff undoubtedly discussed among themselves on many occasions the implications of Stephens’s explorations of Mesoamerica in relation to the legitimacy of the Book of Mormon.
Second, analysts could legitimately ask a question and then answer it as follows:
Question: “What does it matter if Benjamin Winchester did, indeed, write the three September 15–October 1, 1842, articles involving the ‘900 words’?”
Answer: “It doesn’t matter if Winchester authored the articles containing the ‘900 words.’ In fact, for all we know today, Joseph might have commissioned Winchester to write them, although that option is very, very doubtful. The evidence shows that the three articles involving the ‘900 words’ are legitimate Times and Seasons articles that had to be at least approved by Joseph Smith as a function of the editorial process. However, he just as legitimately could have authored, coauthored, or commissioned them, as has been pointed out time and again in this article. Further, the ‘signed’ Joseph Smith article of July 15, 1842, which preceded the ‘900 words’ articles by two months, shows that Joseph was ‘on board’ in believing that both Josiah Priest’s and John Lloyd Stephens’s writings supported a Book of Mormon geography that involved both North America and Central America. Finally, however, it doesn’t matter because all three of the primary editorial personnel at the Times and Seasons, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, and Joseph Smith, were prophets of God who singularly or jointly authored, coauthored, commissioned, or approved—and certainly never retracted or denied—the contents of any of these articles.”
Third, the issue of whether Benjamin Winchester wrote the “900 words” articles of September 15–October 1, 1842, has presumably been resolved via the research of Matthew Roper. We will not go into depth about Roper’s comprehensive responses to Jonathan Neville’s proposal about Winchester other than to quote a colleague: “The probability that the Central America editorials belong with the Winchester texts is less than one in a thousand.”
3. Individually and as a whole, the Times and Seasons articles about Mesoamerica suggest strongly that Joseph Smith did not know, by revelatory means, the specifics of the New World geography of the Book of Mormon. In particular, the June 15, 1842, article, “Traits of the Mosaic History, Found among the Aztaeca Nations,” which unquestionably contains Joseph’s “signature,” shows his proclivity for associating accounts in the Book of Mormon with cultures of Mesoamerica. Noticeably, this article about the Aztecs is another article with Joseph’s “signature” that precedes the publication of the September 15–October 1, 1842, articles that the Heartlanders want to attribute to someone other than Joseph in their misguided attempts to separate Joseph from any kind of positive attitude toward the John Lloyd Stephens articles and Mesoamerica.
4. To document the validity of the Heartland Model, its proponents must prove that Joseph Smith did not agree with the Times and Seasons articles about John Lloyd Stephens’s explorations and, in fact, that he actually disapproved of the content of the articles. If they cannot successfully accomplish these tasks, the Heartland Model is bogus.
When all eight of this article’s Times and Seasons articles associated with Mesoamerica are examined, Book of Mormon analysts must recognize the impossibility of separating Joseph Smith from the outcomes of mid-nineteenth-century Mesoamerican explorations and findings.
It is one thing for Heartlanders to attempt to remove Joseph Smith as the architect of the three unsigned editorials in the September 15–October 1, 1842, issues of the Times and Seasons. However, it is an impossible task for anyone to remove Joseph from the authorship of the July 15, 1842, article, “American Antiquities,” because this article clearly contains Joseph’s “signature.” Joseph’s concluding words in this article cannot be ignored by Heartlanders or by any Book of Mormon analysts: “Stephens and Catherwood’s researches in Central America abundantly testify of [the great and mighty cities on this continent]. The stupendous ruins, the elegant sculpture, and the magnificence of the ruins of Guatemala, and other cities, corroborate this statement, and show that a great and mighty people—men of great minds, clear intellect, bright genius, and comprehensive designs inhabited this continent. Their ruins speak of their greatness; the Book of Mormon unfolds their history.”
5. Although this article forcefully speaks out against the efforts of Jonathan Neville and other Heartlanders in attempting to separate Joseph Smith from the Times and Seasons articles about the explorations of John Lloyd Stephens and Frederick Catherwood, the fact obviously remains that readers must analyze what is said in this article and then decide for themselves about the validity or invalidity of both the Mesoamerica Model and the Heartland Model for New World Book of Mormon geography. However, two outcomes from this article seem obvious: First, at the very least, Joseph Smith must have approved the Times and Seasons articles about the Mesoamerica explorations of John Lloyd Stephens and Frederick Catherwood. Second, and still “at the very least,” Joseph Smith never disapproved of the Times and Seasons articles.
6. The Times and Seasons articles that are reviewed in this article provide significant support for the historicity of the Book of Mormon. That is, the Book of Mormon is a real account about real people who lived on the vast western continent of America. Specifically, however, the New World events of the Book of Mormon took place in Mesoamerica.
. Ebenezer Robinson, “Valedictory,” Times and Seasons 3, no. 8, February 15, 1842, 695–96.
. Joseph Smith, “To Subscribers,” Times and Seasons 3, no. 9, March 15, 1842, 710.
. Times and Seasons 3, no. 9, March 15, 1842, 718.
. See Jonathan Neville, The Lost City of Zarahemla: From Iowa to Guatemala and Back Again,” (Rochester, NY and Cottonwood Heights, UT: Legends library publishing, 2015).
. Benjamin Winchester, Letter dated June 18, 1839, from Payson, Illinois, with a salutation of “Messrs. Robinson and Smith,” Times and Seasons 1, no. 1, November 1839, 9–11.
. The word continent was defined as follows in 1830 when the Book of Mormon was first published: “In geography, a great extent of land, not disjoined or interrupted by a sea; a connected tract of land of great extent; as the Eastern and Western continent. It differs from an isle only in extent.” (Noah Webster, An American Dictionary of the English Language [New York: S. Converse, 1828], s.v. “continent”)
. At one point, John Lloyd Stephens purchased the entire site of Copan and everything at the site for a mere $50 and made tentative, idealistic plans to ship all the artifacts to the United States for display purposes. Those plans didn’t materialize. However, Stephens and Catherwood did successfully ship many small artifacts to the United States with the intention of displaying them to the public.
Referring to that event, the Church of Jesus Christ historian responsible for preparing the history of the Church after the death of Joseph Smith inserted the following into the history:
Messrs. Stephens and Catherwood have 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 have recently been landed in New York. (History of the Church, June 25, 1842, 5:44; see also churchhistorylibrary.lds.org, image 242, Historians Office Journal History of the Church 1896–2001, eadview.lds.org/findingaid/viewer?pid=IE285175)
Preceding the insertion of this paragraph, the historian, as reflected in image 242, said, “Joseph also writes . . . ” That insertion is not included in the History of the Church.
Stephens and Catherwood’s plans never materialized because the building where the artifacts were being stored burned and was destroyed, along with the artifacts. Through the years since that time, historians have frequently asked, “What would displays of those artifacts have produced in terms of exposure of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its teachings if those artifacts had been displayed as Stephens and Catherwood initially planned?”
. For an analysis of this Times and Seasons article, “Traits of the Mosaic History, Found Among the Aztaeca Nations,” in relation to Joseph Smith’s misunderstanding of Aztlan and its geographical implications for the Book of Mormon, see Ted Dee Stoddard, “An Analysis of Joseph Smith’s Statements Associated with the Origins of the Aztecs in the Country of Aztlan” (http://www.bmaf.org/articles/analysis_aztecs_aztlan__stoddard).
. “How Did Aztalan Get Its Name,” http://www.mpm.edu/research-collections/anthropology/online-collections-... (accessed October 9, 2015).
. See also http://content.wisconsinhistory.org/cdm/ref/collection/tp/id/50196: “Mormon archaeologists theorize that the Olmec civilization in Mexico, considered by many to be the first civilization established in the Americas, bears a striking resemblance to that of the Jaredites in the Book of Mormon. In 1839, an unnamed Mormon writer visited Wisconsin and the remains of Aztalan, and proposed that the ancient mounds there were actually built by a people who would eventually move on to Mexico and become this first civilization. This article describes his trip and the evidence he used to support his claims.” That article is as follows: “The Journey of Lehi and His Family from Jerusalem to the Continent of America, in the First Year of the Reign of Zedekiah King of Judeah, Previous to the Babylonish Captivity. The Vision of Lehi,” The Prophet, March 8, 1845, online facsimile at http://www.wisconsinhistory.org/turningpoints/search.asp?id=1435.
. Webster, American Dictionary of the English Language, s.v. “sanguine.”
. Interestingly, the Book of Mormon wording here about a small neck of land between the land northward and the land southward is conveniently omitted or diminished by Neville because the Heartland Model for Book of Mormon geography contains no such landmark. He merely alludes to the small neck of land between the land northward and the land southward as follows: “This neck of land could be an escape route or a risk of invasion.” (Neville, The Lost City of Zarahemla, 306)
. See Bruce H. Porter and Rod L. Meldrum, Prophecies and Promises: The Book of Mormon and the United States of America (New York: Digital legend, 2009).
. Webster, American Dictionary of the English Language, s.v. “continent.”
. See Matthew Roper, “The Treason of the Geographers: Mythical ‘Mesoamericn’ Conspiracy and the Book of Mormon,” Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 16, (2015): 161–205, www.mormoninterpreter.com/ (accessed August 21, 2015); Matthew Roper, “John Bernhisel’s Gift to a Prophet: Incidents of Travel in Central America and the Book of Mormon,” Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 16 (2015): 207–53, www.mormoninterpreter.com/john-bernhisels-gift-to-a-prophet-incidents-of... (accessed August 28, 2015); Matthew Roper, Paul Fields, and Larry Bassist, “Zarahemla Revisited: Neville’s Newest Novel,” Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 17 (2016): 13–61, www.mormoninterpreter.com/zarahemla-revisted-nevilles-newest-novel/ (accessed September 25, 2015). The three articles are also available at www.bmaf.org.