Note on Early Book of Mormon Geography

© 2000 by H. Michael Marquardt. All rights reserved.

The earliest missionaries from New York to Ohio preached concerning the Book of Mormon. They were Oliver Cowdery, Parley P. Pratt, Peter Whitmer, Jr., and Ziba Petersen. They had been called by revelation given through Joseph Smith Jr. to proclaim the new book - the Book of Mormon. The following excerpt is from a November 1830 newspaper article that mentions their visit to Ohio:

This new Revelation [the Book of Mormon], they say is especially designed for the benefit, or rather for the christianianizing of the Aborigines of America; who, as they affirm, are a part of the tribe of Manasseh, and whose ancestors landed on the coast of Chili 600 years before the coming of Christ, and from them descended all the Indians of America.

(Observer and Telegraph. Religious, Political, and Literary 1 [18 Nov. 1830]:3; Hudson, Ohio)

These early missionaries who were called and set apart to preached the Book of Mormon. The following is a reprinted article giving the teachings of two such missionaries:

[From the Franklin (Pa.) Democrat.]


We of this place were visited on Saturday last by a couple of young men styling themselves Mormonites. They explained their doctrine to a large part of the citizens in the court house that evening. . . . The Revelation [Book of Mormon] commenced about 600 years before Christ, with a prophet of the name of Lehi, of the tribe of Joseph, and a contemporary of the prophet Jeremiah, who had also warned the inhabitants of Jerusalem of their idolatry, & becoming unsafe in the city, was ordered by God to leave Jerusalem and journey toward the Red Sea. He with another family who accompanied him, built themselves a ship and landed on the coast of South America, where they increased very fast, and the Lord raised up a great many prophets among them.

(The Fredonia Censor 11 [7 March 1832]:[4], Fredonia, New York)

A manuscript in handwriting of Frederick G. Williams contains a copy of a revelation and material concerning the Book of Mormon. This explanation of scripture, like others in the Doctrine and Covenants, apparently originated from Joseph Smith, Jr.

The course that Lehi traveled from the city of Jerusalem to the place where he and his family took ship, they traveled nearly a south south East direction untill they came to the nineteenth degree of North Lattitude, then nearly east to the Sea of Arabia then sailed in a south east direction and landed on the continent of South America in Chile thirty degrees south Lattitude.

(Frederick G. Williams Papers, LDS archives) (1)

The saying that Lehi landed with his Book of Mormon colony in Chili, South America was an early teaching in the church.


1. See Robert J. Matthews, "Notes on 'Lehi's Travels'," Brigham Young University Studies 12 (Spring 1972):312-14 and Matthews, "A Plainer Translation," Joseph Smith's Translation of the Bible: History and Commentary (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1975), 122n9. A copy was included with the John M. Bernhisel manuscript copy of Joseph Smith's revision of the Bible in LDS archives. The statement is on the last leaf of Bernhisel notes made in 1845 while the Bible manuscript was in the possession of Joseph Smith's widow Emma Hale Smith.

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