Who was Zelph?

The story of Zelph – even though it’s outside the narrative of the Book of Mormon - comes from a tendency of Joseph Smith to make up revelation on the fly to suit his purposes and to bolster faith in his followers.
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Let me tell you what I’ve read in LDS church history about this Zelph character. 

Joseph Smith and about 200 men, along with women and children calling themselves Zion’s Camp were marching from Kirtland, Ohio to Jackson County Missouri to redeem Zion. During their travels, on June 3, 1834, they came upon an earthen mound near the bank of the Illinois River.  

“The brethren procured a shovel and a hoe, and removing the earth to the depth of about one foot, discovered the skeleton of a man, almost entire, and between his ribs the stone point of a Lamanitish arrow, which evidently produced his death.  Elder Burr Riggs retained the arrow.  The contemplation of the scenery around us produced peculiar sensations in our bosoms; and subsequently the visions of the past being opened to my understanding by the Spirit of the Almighty, I discovered that the person whose skeleton was before us was a WHITE Lamanite, a large, thickset man, and a man of God.”

“His name was Zelph.  He was a warrior and chieftain under the great prophet Onandagus, who was known from the Hill Cumorah, or eastern sea to the Rocky Mountains.  The curse was taken from Zelph, or at least, in part – one of his thigh bones was broken by a stone flung from a sling, while in battle, years before his death.  He was killed in battle by the arrow found among his ribs, during the last great struggle of the Lamanites and Nephites.”

History of the Church, by Joseph Smith, volume 2, pages 79 and 80

And it’s supported by primary source material from the diaries kept by members of Zion’s Camp, including three future Presidents of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – Wilford Woodruff, Heber C. Kimball, and George A. Smith.  There is remarkable harmony between all the accounts. 

And, who else but the prophet Joseph Smith would know that some ordinary-looking Indian bones belonged to a ‘white Lamanite named Zelph’?

That would prove that the Book of Mormon took place in North America and not in Central America – as other scholars have argued.

If Zelph, a righteous man, was fighting under a great prophet-general in the last battles between the Nephites and Lamanites, and if that great prophet-general was known from the Rocky Mountains to the Hill Cumorah or eastern area, then some of those battles, and evidently the final battles took place within the borders of what is now the United States.  

It is logical to assume that the Hill Cumorah located in New York, where Joseph dug up the plates that Moroni buried, must be the same Hill Cumorah that was the location of the two massive battles described in the Book of Mormon.

That’s right.  The hill where supposedly a total of 2.2 million Lamanite, Nephite, and Jaredite warriors battled to their deaths using steel swords and other weapons of war. 

If that is the case, then since no evidence of these massive battles has never been found in Cumorah, New York – no evidence of bones or weapons – those stories might be mere fiction.  If those two key stories are fiction – then it stands to reason the entire Book of Mormon may not be real history either. 

But Joseph was a prophet and he would never have fabricated the Book of Mormon. Right?

 

You know what I think?   The story of Zelph – even though it’s outside the narrative of the Book of Mormon – comes from a tendency of Joseph Smith to make up revelation on the fly to suit his purposes and to bolster faith in his followers.  

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