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Samuel L. Mitchill & Joseph Smith- An interesting Early Connection


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We know that Martin Harris visited at least three scholars, maybe more, when he made his trip back east in February 1828 with the "Anthon Transcript. Those three scholars were: Luther Bradish, Charles Anthon and Samuel L Mitchill (which is often spelled Mitchell.) See Richard Bennett's excellent 2010 JMH article  “READ THIS I PRAYTHEE”: MARTIN HARRIS AND THE THREE WISE MEN OF THE EAST starting on page 178. Mitchill, of course, was one of, if not the leading natural scientist in America at that time, who "believed that a race of men more populous, and much further advanced in civilization preceded the Indians progenitors, "citing the numerous remains of ancient fortifications as evidence" and also believed that the "human race was created in America and that the Garden on Eden was located near Onondaga, New York".

Could any of Mitchill's theories about the early origins of North America have reached a young Joseph Smith?

I was looking at google books the other day, reading a copy of a book known to be in Joseph Smith's possession, when he was 13 years old, called "First Lines in Arithmetic, for the Use of Young Scholars." Hartford [Connecticut]: Printed and Published by William S. Marsh, 1818. by DeWolfe and Brown, and I noticed that the 3rd-4th± page contained a paragraph long recommendation by the same Samuel L. Mitchell.

 

Interesting.

Edited by CA Steve
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If Joseph borrowed from Samuel Mitchell wouldn't he be worried Martin Harris would figure it out? it's George Costanza's "worlds are colliding" theory, i'd think

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2 hours ago, CA Steve said:

We know that Martin Harris visited at least three scholars, maybe more, when he made his trip back east in February 1828 with the "Anthon Transcript. Those three scholars were: Luther Bradish, Charles Anthon and Samuel L Mitchill (which is often spelled Mitchell.) See Richard Bennett's excellent 2010 JMH article  “READ THIS I PRAYTHEE”: MARTIN HARRIS AND THE THREE WISE MEN OF THE EAST starting on page 178. Mitchill, of course, was one of, if not the leading natural scientist in America at that time, who "believed that a race of men more populous, and much further advanced in civilization preceded the Indians progenitors, citing the numerous remains of ancient fortifications as evidence" and also believed that the "human race was created in America and that the Garden on Eden was located near Onondaga, New York.

Could any of Mitchill's theories about the early origins of North America have reached a young Joseph Smith?

I was looking a google books the other day, reading a copy of a book known to be in Joseph Smith's possession when he was 13 years old, called "First Lines in Arithmetic, for the Use of Young Scholars." Hartford [Connecticut]: Printed and Published by William S. Marsh, 1818. by DeWolfe and Brown, and I noticed that the 3rd-4th± page contained a paragraph long recommendation by the same Samuel L. Mitchell.

 

Interesting.

It wouldn't be the first time.

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6 hours ago, Brant Gardner said:

That the influence is more on the reception than the writing comes from a close reading of the text against some of those ideas. Mitchell proposed a Scandanavian (therefore white) race--and we know how that was received and interpreted. 

According to Mitchell, the European groups (Finn, Dane, and Welsh) associated with the Eskimo came to the northeast around the 10th century AD. They would have encountered the Malay somewhere near Onandaga. Both groups were destroyed by the Tartars from China.

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Mitchell had the more advanced civilization die, leaving the uncivilized natives.

Bennett's conclusion was that Mitchell certainly recognized the characters in the Anthon transcript as evidence for his theories:

"Whether he tried to translate Harris’s characters on the spot is not known, but he certainly seems to have studied them carefully enough to deliver a “learned dissertation” on them and to identify them as those of “a nation now extinct which he named.” Finally and almost certainly, he saw in these characters additional evidence for his own richly developed theories on the extinct “delicate” Australasian race that had been destroyed by the more ferocious Tartars somewhere in upstate New York not far from where Harris lived in Palmyra." 

Bennet is suggesting that Samuel Mitchell identified the characters on the Anthon transcript as being Malay, the nation that once inhabited the Manchester/Onandaga region. 

This is why the angel who delivers the plates to Joseph shares names with the great warrior chief from Kedah (Burma/Malaysia/Siam), Rajah Maroni. 

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49 minutes ago, Rajah Manchou said:

According to Mitchell, the European groups (Finn, Dane, and Welsh) associated with the Eskimo came to the northeast around the 10th century AD. They would have encountered the Malay somewhere near Onandaga. Both groups were destroyed by the Tartars from China

I am very sorry, I have not followed your posts closely so I find this VERY confusing.

We have Welsh eskimos Maylays and Tartars duking it out in upstate New York?

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3 minutes ago, strappinglad said:

Stranger Things !!!

I just have never been able to put together his big picture.

So there were all these ethnicities in upstate NY? Possible, ok

The events in the BOM happened in SE Asia? Possible, ok

Which is it or something else?

Is there a webpage that presents the big picture of the overall theory that I have missed? Sorry to be so far behind where others seem to be...

 

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33 minutes ago, mfbukowski said:

So there were all these ethnicities in upstate NY? Possible, ok

I think he is just discussing theories held at the time, in this case by Mitchell, not his own. 

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1 hour ago, Calm said:

I think he is just discussing theories held at the time, in this case by Mitchell, not his own. 

Yes I think you are right- upon really reading the posts carefully,  but I really would like to understand his theories as well.  They seem well thought through and certainly unconventional, which is a combination I find very interesting, and the apparent parallels he draws are fascinating, I just wish I could at least  see a hypothesis about how it all fits together.

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21 hours ago, Brant Gardner said:

It is difficult to know how Mitchell's ideas might have influenced Joseph, but I think we can be pretty clear that they were among the ideas that interpreted the reading of the Book of Mormon. Much of the way it was received and understood came from the popular ideas of the times, and these are not only reflected, but quoted, as the early Saints tried to place the Book of Mormon in the real world.

Thanks Brant, I was hopeful you might comment on this, given your interests in the topic. As far as how influenced he was by these ideas, this little discovery only adds to the evidence of what Joseph might have been exposed to at an early age. This lines up quite well, in my opinion, with those stories from Lucy Mack Smith's autobiography that have Joseph,  telling long involved stories about the early inhabitants of America previous to actually obtaining the Gold Plates.

 

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.From this time forth Joseph continued to receive instructions from time to time and every evening we gathered our children togather [together]...In the course of our evening conversations Joseph would give us some of the most ammusing [amusing] recitals which could be immagined [imagined]. he would describe the ancient inhabitants of this continent their dress their man[n]er of traveling the animals which they rode The cities that were built by them the structure of their buildings with every particular of their mode of warfare their religious worship as particularly as though he had spent his life with them

Of course it can be argued that these stories he was telling might of been the result of the instruction he was getting from Moroni not from what he had absorbed from current beliefs around him. 

 

21 hours ago, Brant Gardner said:

That the influence is more on the reception than the writing comes from a close reading of the text against some of those ideas. Mitchell proposed a Scandanavian (therefore white) race--and we know how that was received and interpreted. However, the text actually uses that term metaphorically, and in places where skin color differences would have been obvious, they are not present.

Mitchell had the more advanced civilization die, leaving the uncivilized natives. The Book of Mormon has been read that way. However, if we look at the nuggets of culture we see when the focus of the Book of Mormon is on Lamanite lands, the idea that the Nephites were more civilized is put to the lie. It actually appears to me that the Lamanites were a more advanced culture.

So, I think the idea that Mitchell's ideas had an influence is probably true, but in the same way Josiah Priest's ideas were influential. They influenced the reception, but not the creation.

Joseph was brilliant at observing the culture and information that surrounded him, reaching into it and pulling seemingly disparate parts out, which he formed into something entirely new and cohesive.  I think that too often the impulse is to either dismiss wholesale any influence his surroundings may have had on his writings or completely credit that same milieu for everything he produced, when it probably was a strong combination of both. Rather than try and read his mind to determine the extent of the influence another writer had on a particular text Joseph produced, perhaps a more interesting question it to try and determine how his writings fit within the intellectual climate within which they were produced.

 

Given that climate, Mitchill's own theories, and this little tidbit about Mitchill endorsing a book owned by Joseph from a very early age, it would not surprise me that Joseph explicitly instructed Martin Harris to visit Mitchill, knowing there was a good chance Mitchill would recognize many of his theories in the background story to the transcript, and hopefully endorse it.

 

We may never know but it is fun to speculate.

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Regarding the famous Lucy Mack Smith biography quote, I discussed some neglected aspects in my review of Taves:

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There are some unexamined oddities about the Lucy Smith quote. Before I would take it as an interpretive foundation, I must consider that, even though a first-hand account, it is not an autograph account, and it is late,12 dating to an 1844 dictation in Nauvoo to the non-LDS, 24-year old Martha Jane Coray regarding events in Palmyra 1823 and then not published until 1853. That is, the quote is six years older than Joseph Smith’s official history from 1838, which Taves takes notable interest in dissecting and comparing with earlier sources. In her discussion of method and sources for Mormonism, she observes:

Apart from the 1825 agreement with Josiah Stowell and the 1826 court record, both of which are preserved in later versions, we have no real-time access to events until July 1828, when D&C 3 — the first real-time recorded revelation — opens a window in the wake of the loss of the first 116 pages of the manuscript. Chapter 1 thus opens with an in-depth analysis of D&C 3, read as a window on that moment rather than as it was interpreted and reinterpreted in later accounts. (21)

The Lucy Smith quote, aside from being a late account, rather than early and contemporary (not “real time access,” not a direct “window on the moment”), turns out to be notably odd and unique with respect to Joseph Smith, rather than well supported from a range of sources. Certainly much in Lucy’s biography is well supported, but let us recognize the anomaly here. Odd accounts do occur in history, yes, but the account raises questions that should be faced and mentioned before building one’s structure there. First of all, the Book of Mormon we have has no descriptions of people riding animals in over 500 pages that include several major migrations and 100 distinct wars. It provides no notably detailed descriptions of clothing (other than armor) and no detailed descriptions of the structure of later buildings. The most detail we get involves descriptions of fortifications with palisaded walls and ditches.

Then there is the unasked question as to why — if Joseph Smith as a youth was capable of this kind of detailed, immersive, evening-filling recital on the everyday particulars of Book of Mormon peoples and culture — do we have no further record anywhere of his performing the same service as an adult? Perhaps the closest circumstance on this topic involves the Zelph story on Zion’s Camp, but in that case the notable differences in the details recorded by the different people who reported it, even those writing close to the event, should give pause to a person trying to build an interpretive foundation on an isolated, late, anomalous account related to far longer and complex narrative than the Zelph gossip.13 It bears mentioning that if Joseph Smith had been telling stories about the Book of Mormon peoples, animals, clothing, and culture, such stories should have had an obvious influence on Abner Cole’s 1830 parody version, the Book of Pukei, which “tells in mocking fashion about the sorts of things that Joseph’s neighbors expected to find in the Book of Mormon.”14 Yet the most notable thing about the Book of Pukei is how utterly different it is from the actual Book of Mormon.15 The book Joseph Smith produced was emphatically not what his neighbors expected.

It is true the Book of Mormon does contain abundant details about “their religious worship” and their “modes of warfare,” but we have no other accounts of Joseph Smith’s filling anyone’s evening or afternoon with amusing or serious recitals on those topics either. Again, why not? This is not a frivolous question but one addressed to a foundation stone upon which Taves chooses to build.

https://www.mormoninterpreter.com/playing-to-an-audience-a-review-of-revelatory-events/#sdfootnote12sym

I footnoted a timely and relevant comment from a By Common Consent interview that deserves consideration:

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Sharalynn D. Howcroft (an editor of Oxford University Press’ forthcoming Foundational Texts of Mormonism) stated “For example, Lucy Mack Smith reportedly dictated her history to Martha Jane Coray; however, the extant manuscript doesn’t show evidence of dictation and there are other clues in the manuscript that suggest what we have is a few generations removed from a dictated text. Additionally, scholars have presumed the fair copy was a contiguous history, but physical clues indicate it was two separate copies of the history that were combined. This kind of analysis and discovery extends our understanding beyond what the content of a historical source divulges.”

https://bycommonconsent.com/2018/01/10/qa-with-foundational-texts-of-mormonism-editors/

All things considered, I don't think the paragraph from the biography ought to be used as an indication that Joseph had the culture of Book of Mormon peoples at easy reference in his mind.  The one bit of evidence for that is both late, and reasonably suspect because it does not portray a behavior that Joseph ever displayed again.  Rather, the quote about having to consult a Bible to confirm that Jerusalem had walls strikes me as more accurate and representative of the actual state of affairs.

FWIW,

Kevin Christensen

Canonburg, PA

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10 minutes ago, Brant Gardner said:

This idea about how Joseph used the information in his environment is similar to Dan Vogel's explanation of the influence of the lost ten tribes literature. Joseph must have taken that literature, and then realized that he couldn't use it directly, so rather than ten tribes, it was two families, and rather than occur at the time of the Assyrian invasion, Joseph brilliantly changed it to the Babylonian.

So, you are also suggesting that Joseph's brilliance was to take things that were expected, but not use them. Rather he would alter and twist them so that only the brightest of modern readers could see that although he didn't actually replicate any of the ideas that were current at the time, he created concepts that were associated with those ideas in that they consciously rejected them, altered them, and kept only the superficial similarities. This, of course, is the very argument that is made for copying from View of the Hebrews--where Joseph was too smart to actually use the text (except in random three-word phrases that he must have intentionally inserted to show how he copied from so many different sources).

It is a fascinating argument. 

 

thumb_do-i-detect-a-no-sarcasm-are-yo-id

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5 hours ago, Kevin Christensen said:

All things considered, I don't think the paragraph from the biography ought to be used as an indication that Joseph had the culture of Book of Mormon peoples at easy reference in his mind.  The one bit of evidence for that is both late, and reasonably suspect because it does not portray a behavior that Joseph ever displayed again.  Rather, the quote about having to consult a Bible to confirm that Jerusalem had walls strikes me as more accurate and representative of the actual state of affairs.

For those who haven't read it, the Lucy Mack Smith part of The Foundational Texts of Mormonism is really a fascinating chapter. Even ignoring the issue of how much editorial work there was from the dictation period to the publication text was the fact that Lucy had been recounting her narratives orally a long time. That is the very oral dictation was itself a rather refined work perhaps modified to meet the needs of what her audience found interesting. Given what we know of how memory works, that almost certainly means that the original memories were distorted by this repetitive narration. In other words while I'm sure Lucy Smith believed what she was saying, the memories themselves were shaped and distorted by the telling. (That's not in the essay the BCC post was about - just an implication of the writing process based upon what we know of cognitive science)

That's not to say we can simply dismiss her accounts. But I do think it means that repeated accounts are perhaps by their nature less trustworthy than accounts rarely told. (Here thinking of the First Vision)

36 minutes ago, Brant Gardner said:

This idea about how Joseph used the information in his environment is similar to Dan Vogel's explanation of the influence of the lost ten tribes literature. Joseph must have taken that literature, and then realized that he couldn't use it directly, so rather than ten tribes, it was two families, and rather than occur at the time of the Assyrian invasion, Joseph brilliantly changed it to the Babylonian.

While I take your point - that is differences are downplayed without appreciating the significance of the difference - I think it's also possible to look at Vogel's points in a more complicated way. I'd argue that say Don Bradley's recent thesis which focuses in on a gathering of Israel to New York is a good example of this. Bradley sees this as affecting the shape of early Mormon understanding while simultaneously accepting the basic historicity unlike Vogel. I'd add that in a certain way the Book of Mormon presents Lehi as one of the lost tribes -- Alma 10:3 has him as of the tribe of Manasseh. So the difference isn't as pronounced as you suggest. Rather Lehi's family is a refugee from the Asyrian conquest and arguably somewhat at odds with events in Jerusalem.  It's thus a more complicated diasporah but still one of the lost tribes.

6 hours ago, CA Steve said:

Given that climate, Mitchill's own theories, and this little tidbit about Mitchill endorsing a book owned by Joseph from a very early age, it would not surprise me that Joseph explicitly instructed Martin Harris to visit Mitchill, knowing there was a good chance Mitchill would recognize many of his theories in the background story to the transcript, and hopefully endorse it.

I think the one place I start to become skeptical is that Joseph at such a young age is so ridiculously well read - often on rather esoteric works. I think there's a valid criticism to make of apologetic parallels gone amuck. Yet the same sort of hermeneutic is often at work on those attempting to explain Joseph's ideas from books "available." Of course what's available is carefully constructed. So, for instance, Joseph is exposed to esoteric writings of say Kircher and so forth while simultaneously being completely ignorant of work discovering Egyptian as primarily phoenetic. What's made worse it the lack of strong evidence that Joseph actually had read any of these works. Compelling cases can be made for a certain familiarity with Clarke's Commentary, Buck's Theological Dictionary and so forth. While I'm sure Dan Vogel will find lots of esoteric writings with details of Abrahamic legends and elements of the Enochian traditions I suspect he'll not be quite as plausible in finding evidence linking Joseph to them.

It's just difficult to accept that this poor, relatively uneducated kid in rural New York has access to all this information. Even if one assumes he is a natural genius of some sort. Further the bigger problem is that these arguments typically require selective knowledge. So Joseph is well acquainted with Mitchill and his theories but not discussions of Champollion's work which was appearing in many writings in the 1820's.

 

 

Edited by clarkgoble
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1 hour ago, clarkgoble said:

I think the one place I start to become skeptical is that Joseph at such a young age is so ridiculously well read - often on rather esoteric works. I think there's a valid criticism to make of apologetic parallels gone amuck. Yet the same sort of hermeneutic is often at work on those attempting to explain Joseph's ideas from books "available."

I think you are overstating my point here. I am not suggesting at 13, when he owned the copy of the book with Mitchill's endorsement in it,  that Joseph was familiar with Mitchill's theories, only that he was probably familiar with the name Mitchill and perhaps  knew that Mitchill was a respected scholar. But it is quite conceivable that 10 years later, when Harris made his trip back east, by that time Joseph may have become familiar enough with Mitchill's theories through reading them or by hearing about them from others, to recommend to Harris he visit Mitchill. That hardly seems a stretch in my view especially if there is any truth to Lucy's descriptions of Joseph's story telling. 

 

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On 7/22/2019 at 11:17 AM, mfbukowski said:

I just have never been able to put together his big picture.

  1. The Lehites depart Jerusalem around 600 BC;
  2. The Book of Mormon mentions others who departed Jerusalem at the same time [1];
  3. Ancient Judeo-Christian texts tell us of the Rechabites who departed Jerusalem around 600 BC;
  4. Ancient and medieval accounts of the Rechabites place their abode beyond the sea, somewhere in "Greater India";
  5. Mormon scholars like Hugh Nibley and John Welch have noted the striking similarities between the Book of Mormon and accounts of the Rechabites;

The big picture is that the Book of Mormon aligns with ancient accounts of the Rechabites dwelling on their island in the sea in Greater India. With a simple paradigm shift, the Book of Mormon account is no longer anachronistic.

------

[1] In the time of Jeremiah, or shortly before, a certain Jonadab ben Rechab had led a colony of permanent settlers from Jerusalem into the wilderness, where his descendants survived through all succeeding centuries as the strange and baffling nation of the Rekhabites. What makes them baffling is their Messianic religion, which is so much like primitive Christianity in many ways that it has led some scholars to argue that those people must have been of Christian origin, though the historical evidence for their great antiquity is unquestionable. When one considers that Jonadab's project was almost contemporary (perhaps slightly prior) to Lehi's, that his name, ending in -adab, is of a type peculiar to the period and to the Book of Mormon, and that the Book of Mormon specifically states that the Lord had led other people of Jerusalem beside Lehi, and that the Rekhabite teachings are strangely like those in the Book of Mormon, one is forced to admit at very least the possibility that Lehi's exodus could have taken place in the manner described, and the certainty that other such migrations actually did take place (Hugh Nibley, Approach to the Book of Mormon, 68-69).

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1 hour ago, Rajah Manchou said:
  1. The Lehites depart Jerusalem around 600 BC;
  2. The Book of Mormon mentions others who departed Jerusalem at the same time [1];
  3. Ancient Judeo-Christian texts tell us of the Rechabites who departed Jerusalem around 600 BC;
  4. Ancient and medieval accounts of the Rechabites place their abode beyond the sea, somewhere in "Greater India";
  5. Mormon scholars like Hugh Nibley and John Welch have noted the striking similarities between the Book of Mormon and accounts of the Rechabites;

The big picture is that the Book of Mormon aligns with ancient accounts of the Rechabites dwelling on their island in the sea in Greater India. With a simple paradigm shift, the Book of Mormon account is no longer anachronistic.

------

[1] In the time of Jeremiah, or shortly before, a certain Jonadab ben Rechab had led a colony of permanent settlers from Jerusalem into the wilderness, where his descendants survived through all succeeding centuries as the strange and baffling nation of the Rekhabites. What makes them baffling is their Messianic religion, which is so much like primitive Christianity in many ways that it has led some scholars to argue that those people must have been of Christian origin, though the historical evidence for their great antiquity is unquestionable. When one considers that Jonadab's project was almost contemporary (perhaps slightly prior) to Lehi's, that his name, ending in -adab, is of a type peculiar to the period and to the Book of Mormon, and that the Book of Mormon specifically states that the Lord had led other people of Jerusalem beside Lehi, and that the Rekhabite teachings are strangely like those in the Book of Mormon, one is forced to admit at very least the possibility that Lehi's exodus could have taken place in the manner described, and the certainty that other such migrations actually did take place (Hugh Nibley, Approach to the Book of Mormon, 68-69).

Thanks! Very interesting!

And how do the plates get to North America?

Or ARE the Americas "Greater India"?

 

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3 hours ago, mfbukowski said:

And how do the plates get to North America?

The same way that Moroni did. Also the same way that John the Baptist, Peter, James and John got to North America.

3 hours ago, mfbukowski said:

Or ARE the Americas "Greater India"?

Some background is needed to unpack this.

Jews and Christians have been speculating about the location of Biblical groups beyond the sea for centuries. A large portion of the material was drawn from accounts of Alexander's military campaigns across Persia, Afghanistan and India. In India, Alexander encountered the naked philosophers known in Greek accounts as the gymnosophists.

Please read the wiki on gymnosophists

To the Jews, Christians and Muslims, the descriptions of these righteous gymnosophists living beyond the Great Ganges reminded them of the Rechabites who were led by God across the waters to an island called Rahma. The Indian Sramanas described in Hellenic sources became confused with the Rechabites described in Judeo-Christian sources, and also with the Sons of Moses described in Islamic sources.

Accounts of these Israelite groups were popularized through the Middle Ages, and became a source of inspiration for Columbus, who set out to find the kingdoms described. He died believing that he'd found them. Finally, by the 18th century, a popular orientalist view was that the gymnosophists were a variety of Israelite who followed Christ and migrated to America in the 5th century AD. This is where popular interpretation of Mitchill's theories on the Indians come into play.

What I'm proposing is that we stop worrying about where in the Americas the Book of Mormon happened and we instead view it as a text within the well-established traditions of the Rechabites, Rahmans and Sons of Moses. The Book of Mormon claims to be nothing more than that. 

Elephants, horses, chariots, silk, goats, cattle, sheep, iron swords, golden plates, scimeters are no longer a problem when we view the Book of Mormon as a text among other apocryphal texts that describe Israelites who lived beyond the sea. In fact, the Book of Mormon is a surprisingly accurate historical text when we acknowledge that 6th century BC Israelites actually did inhabit islands with elephants, silk, horses, sheep, iron swords, scimeters, religious texts inscribed on golden plates etc. 

Edited by Rajah Manchou
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9 hours ago, Rajah Manchou said:

The same way that Moroni did. Also the same way that John the Baptist, Peter, James and John got to North America.

Some background is needed to unpack this.

Jews and Christians have been speculating about the location of Biblical groups beyond the sea for centuries. A large portion of the material was drawn from accounts of Alexander's military campaigns across Persia, Afghanistan and India. In India, Alexander encountered the naked philosophers known in Greek accounts as the gymnosophists.

Please read the wiki on gymnosophists

To the Jews, Christians and Muslims, the descriptions of these righteous gymnosophists living beyond the Great Ganges reminded them of the Rechabites who were led by God across the waters to an island called Rahma. The Indian Sramanas described in Hellenic sources became confused with the Rechabites described in Judeo-Christian sources, and also with the Sons of Moses described in Islamic sources.

Accounts of these Israelite groups were popularized through the Middle Ages, and became a source of inspiration for Columbus, who set out to find the kingdoms described. He died believing that he'd found them. Finally, by the 18th century, a popular orientalist view was that the gymnosophists were a variety of Israelite who followed Christ and migrated to America in the 5th century AD. This is where popular interpretation of Mitchill's theories on the Indians come into play.

What I'm proposing is that we stop worrying about where in the Americas the Book of Mormon happened and we instead view it as a text within the well-established traditions of the Rechabites, Rahmans and Sons of Moses. The Book of Mormon claims to be nothing more than that. 

Elephants, horses, chariots, silk, goats, cattle, sheep, iron swords, golden plates, scimeters are no longer a problem when we view the Book of Mormon as a text among other apocryphal texts that describe Israelites who lived beyond the sea. In fact, the Book of Mormon is a surprisingly accurate historical text when we acknowledge that 6th century BC Israelites actually did inhabit islands with elephants, silk, horses, sheep, iron swords, scimeters, religious texts inscribed on golden plates etc. 

Thanks, now I get your view condensed between your two answers.

VERY interesting stuff, thanks!

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 7/21/2019 at 10:00 AM, Brant Gardner said:

It is difficult to know how Mitchell's ideas might have influenced Joseph, but I think we can be pretty clear that they were among the ideas that interpreted the reading of the Book of Mormon. Much of the way it was received and understood came from the popular ideas of the times, and these are not only reflected, but quoted, as the early Saints tried to place the Book of Mormon in the real world.

That the influence is more on the reception than the writing comes from a close reading of the text against some of those ideas. Mitchell proposed a Scandanavian (therefore white) race--and we know how that was received and interpreted. However, the text actually uses that term metaphorically, and in places where skin color differences would have been obvious, they are not present.

Mitchell had the more advanced civilization die, leaving the uncivilized natives. The Book of Mormon has been read that way. However, if we look at the nuggets of culture we see when the focus of the Book of Mormon is on Lamanite lands, the idea that the Nephites were more civilized is put to the lie. It actually appears to me that the Lamanites were a more advanced culture.

So, I think the idea that Mitchell's ideas had an influence is probably true, but in the same way Josiah Priest's ideas were influential. They influenced the reception, but not the creation.

Mitchell’s observations were not of “Lamanite lands” but of New York, or specifically of Western New York, where the final Nephite (and Jaredite) battles occurred near the Hill Cumorah. https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/history-1834-1836/90

They were Nephite lands, as any serious student of The Book of Mormon would know.

Mitchell was a well respected physician, M.D., LL.D of Law, naturalist, scholar, professor at King’s College (Columbia), politician, New York State Legislator, US Senator and US Congressman of New York, all before Martin Harris met with him.

 b. 1764 d. 1831

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_L._Mitchill

http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=M000831

https://www.nyhistory.org/exhibit/samuel-latham-mitchell-md-1764-1831

Samuel Latham Mitchill’s books: https://www.bookdepository.com/author/Samuel-L-Mitchill

Mitchill corresponded with Thomas Jefferson: https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/03-11-02-0064 Jefferson, who called him the “Congressional Dictionary.”

It would have been natural for Martin Harris to approach Mitchell about the authenticity of the characters from the Gold Plates. Mitchell’s agreement that they were authentic, undoubtedly persuaded Martin Harris to mortgage his farm to pay for the first printing of The Book of Mormon. Professor Charles Anthon certainly didn’t persuade Martin Harris.

The JS History, in the Pearl of Great Price doesn’t emphasize the Mitchell visit, but the rejection by Professor Charles Anthon, since Anthon fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy. Harris is quoted: “I left him and went to Dr. Mitchell, who sanctioned what Professor Anthon had said respecting both the characters and the translation.” There was no doubt in the day who Professor Mitchell was, evidenced by Martin Harris only referring to his surname. MITCHELL WAS FAMOUS!

But Mitchell the Naturalist, travelled over much of Western New York and observed many ancient fortifications. This is mentioned here by Richard Bennet:

https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1491&context=jbms

Others observed these ancient fortifications in Western New York. They are referred to in:

“Book of Mormon Geography - In Search of Ramah-Cumorah” by Willard Bean & Cecil McGavin, 1948. 

Reproduced copies can be purchased on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Book-Mormon-Geography-search-Ramah-Cumorah/dp/1937735524/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=willard+bean+in+search&qid=1564895538&s=gateway&sr=8-1

This is the same Willard Bean, the subject of the recently released movie: The Fighting Preacher

Bean and McGavin quote these sources:

Christopher Morgan, Documentary History of New York, IV, 4

Josiah Priest, American Antiquities, p. 87, 331

E.G. Squire, Antiquities of New York, p.89, 303, 103

E.B.O’Callaghan, The Documentary History of the State of New York, III, 1142, 1143

O.Turner, Pioneer History of the Holland Purchase of Western New York, p. 20, 17-18, 

Alexander W. Bradford, American Antiquities, p. 36

Samuel H. Brown, Gazetteer of the West, p. 58

J.W. Foster, Pre-historic Races of the United States of America, p. 144

John McIntosh, The Origin of the North American Indians, pp. 285-287

Frederick S. Dellenhaugh, The North American Indians of Yesterday, p.348

I.P. Downs, History of Chautauqua County, p.9

F.W. Beere, History of Herkermer County, p. 7

W.F. Peck, History of Rochester and Monroe Counties, p. 8

Samuel W. Durant, Oneida County, pp. 7, 15

W.W. Clayton, History of Onondaga County, p. 32

L.R. Doty, History of Livingston County, p. 61

I.H. Smith, History of Duchess County, p. 13

J. Thomas Scharf, History of Weschester County of New York, p. 10

J.P. MacClean, The Mound-Builders, p. 144

H.C. Shetrone, The Mound Builders p. 29

Francis Parkman, Jesuits in North America, p. 29

Francis Parkman, The Conspiracy of Pontiac, p. 19

Arthur C. Parker, The Great Algonquin Flint Mines, p. 111, 124

H.E. Abbott, Primitive Industry, pp. 204, 288, 415, 417

In each of these publications, mentioned are ancient defensive works observed throughout Western New York.

Many of the same authors also noted the “Indians” could not have built the ancient works, but were constructed by a far more advanced people, who were apparently destroyed by an inferior race.

(But that’s not politically-correct today.)

Even Heber C. Kimball mentioned in his journal of seeing ancient defensive works near the Hill Cumorah.

Mitchell made the same observations that others did, and came up with a theory for it, though incorrect. Yet, these ancient works throughout Western New York, numbered by some as high as 250, were well known in Joseph Smith’s day!

To claim they or Mitchell’s theory influenced Joseph Smith in “creating” the Book of Mormon is bogus, since he translated the plates via the Urim and Thummim by the Gift and Power of God.

To claim the knowledge of these ancient fortifications throughout Western New York, or Mitchell’s theory influenced the reception of The Book of Mormon, may or may not be correct, as many accepted and also rejected Joseph Smith. But for those who accepted the truthfulness of The Book of Mormon, it solved the puzzle of those ancient works observed in Western New York.

But that’s the claim that has to be made in 2019 to support a Two-Cumorah Geography which originated after 1860. That somehow ideas about Western New York are bogus, because you know, the original Hill Cumorah was in Mexico,

What is ridiculous, is the RLDS Church, created April 6, 1860, in Amboy, Illinois, with Joseph Smith III as its President, joined by his Mother, Emma, is the same Church that came up with the Two-Cumorah Geography in the 1920s.

The RLDS Church in the 1920s couldn’t afford to purchase the New York Cumorah. 

Willard Bean, “The Fighting Preacher,” was sent by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to Palmyra for that very purpose.

When the RLDS Church couldn’t afford to purchase in the 1920s, the New York Cumorah, the RLDS Church created their own Hill Cumorah in Southern Mexico: https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=wu.89058377359;view=2up;seq=142;skin=mobile

The First Presidency of the RLDS Church even created in 1894 a Committee on American Archaeology, though the RLDS theory eventually was modified to the 1920s version, now promoted by LDS members in Utah. 

https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=njp.32101074867811;view=2up;seq=2;skin=mobile

This RLDs Central America theory is a complete fabrication. It’s totally bogus. This “invention” of the Two Hills called Cumorah, the original, allegedly somewhere in Southern Mexico, was an attempt by the RLDS Church to keep it relevant with its belief also of The Book of Mormon. “Hey, we can’t afford to buy the New York hill, we can’t out bid those Brighamites in Salt Lake City, so let’s make one up in Central America!”

Thus, Dr. Samuel L. Mitchell’s and the observations of others of the ancient works in Western New York were important. Mitchell’s knowledge of ancient defensive works in Western New York was important in convincing Martin Harris of the Truth. Because it was in Western New York where the final Nephite and Jaredite battles occurred:

https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/history-1834-1836/90

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18 hours ago, Burnside said:

They were Nephite lands, as any serious student of The Book of Mormon would know.

Darn. All of that time spent, and I'm still not a serious student of the Book of Mormon.  I am devastated to learn it.

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On 8/4/2019 at 2:17 AM, Burnside said:

Mitchell’s observations were not of “Lamanite lands” but of New York, or specifically of Western New York, where the final Nephite (and Jaredite) battles occurred near the Hill Cumorah. https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/history-1834-1836/90

They were Nephite lands, as any serious student of The Book of Mormon would know.

Mitchell was a well respected physician, M.D., LL.D of Law, naturalist, scholar, professor at King’s College (Columbia), politician, New York State Legislator, US Senator and US Congressman of New York, all before Martin Harris met with him.

 b. 1764 d. 1831

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_L._Mitchill

http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=M000831

https://www.nyhistory.org/exhibit/samuel-latham-mitchell-md-1764-1831

Samuel Latham Mitchill’s books: https://www.bookdepository.com/author/Samuel-L-Mitchill

Mitchill corresponded with Thomas Jefferson: https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/03-11-02-0064 Jefferson, who called him the “Congressional Dictionary.”

It would have been natural for Martin Harris to approach Mitchell about the authenticity of the characters from the Gold Plates. Mitchell’s agreement that they were authentic, undoubtedly persuaded Martin Harris to mortgage his farm to pay for the first printing of The Book of Mormon. Professor Charles Anthon certainly didn’t persuade Martin Harris.

The JS History, in the Pearl of Great Price doesn’t emphasize the Mitchell visit, but the rejection by Professor Charles Anthon, since Anthon fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy. Harris is quoted: “I left him and went to Dr. Mitchell, who sanctioned what Professor Anthon had said respecting both the characters and the translation.” There was no doubt in the day who Professor Mitchell was, evidenced by Martin Harris only referring to his surname. MITCHELL WAS FAMOUS!

But Mitchell the Naturalist, travelled over much of Western New York and observed many ancient fortifications. This is mentioned here by Richard Bennet:

https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1491&context=jbms

Others observed these ancient fortifications in Western New York. They are referred to in:

“Book of Mormon Geography - In Search of Ramah-Cumorah” by Willard Bean & Cecil McGavin, 1948. 

Reproduced copies can be purchased on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Book-Mormon-Geography-search-Ramah-Cumorah/dp/1937735524/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=willard+bean+in+search&qid=1564895538&s=gateway&sr=8-1

This is the same Willard Bean, the subject of the recently released movie: The Fighting Preacher

Bean and McGavin quote these sources:

Christopher Morgan, Documentary History of New York, IV, 4

Josiah Priest, American Antiquities, p. 87, 331

E.G. Squire, Antiquities of New York, p.89, 303, 103

E.B.O’Callaghan, The Documentary History of the State of New York, III, 1142, 1143

O.Turner, Pioneer History of the Holland Purchase of Western New York, p. 20, 17-18, 

Alexander W. Bradford, American Antiquities, p. 36

Samuel H. Brown, Gazetteer of the West, p. 58

J.W. Foster, Pre-historic Races of the United States of America, p. 144

John McIntosh, The Origin of the North American Indians, pp. 285-287

Frederick S. Dellenhaugh, The North American Indians of Yesterday, p.348

I.P. Downs, History of Chautauqua County, p.9

F.W. Beere, History of Herkermer County, p. 7

W.F. Peck, History of Rochester and Monroe Counties, p. 8

Samuel W. Durant, Oneida County, pp. 7, 15

W.W. Clayton, History of Onondaga County, p. 32

L.R. Doty, History of Livingston County, p. 61

I.H. Smith, History of Duchess County, p. 13

J. Thomas Scharf, History of Weschester County of New York, p. 10

J.P. MacClean, The Mound-Builders, p. 144

H.C. Shetrone, The Mound Builders p. 29

Francis Parkman, Jesuits in North America, p. 29

Francis Parkman, The Conspiracy of Pontiac, p. 19

Arthur C. Parker, The Great Algonquin Flint Mines, p. 111, 124

H.E. Abbott, Primitive Industry, pp. 204, 288, 415, 417

In each of these publications, mentioned are ancient defensive works observed throughout Western New York.

Many of the same authors also noted the “Indians” could not have built the ancient works, but were constructed by a far more advanced people, who were apparently destroyed by an inferior race.

(But that’s not politically-correct today.)

Even Heber C. Kimball mentioned in his journal of seeing ancient defensive works near the Hill Cumorah.

Mitchell made the same observations that others did, and came up with a theory for it, though incorrect. Yet, these ancient works throughout Western New York, numbered by some as high as 250, were well known in Joseph Smith’s day!

To claim they or Mitchell’s theory influenced Joseph Smith in “creating” the Book of Mormon is bogus, since he translated the plates via the Urim and Thummim by the Gift and Power of God.

To claim the knowledge of these ancient fortifications throughout Western New York, or Mitchell’s theory influenced the reception of The Book of Mormon, may or may not be correct, as many accepted and also rejected Joseph Smith. But for those who accepted the truthfulness of The Book of Mormon, it solved the puzzle of those ancient works observed in Western New York.

But that’s the claim that has to be made in 2019 to support a Two-Cumorah Geography which originated after 1860. That somehow ideas about Western New York are bogus, because you know, the original Hill Cumorah was in Mexico,

What is ridiculous, is the RLDS Church, created April 6, 1860, in Amboy, Illinois, with Joseph Smith III as its President, joined by his Mother, Emma, is the same Church that came up with the Two-Cumorah Geography in the 1920s.

The RLDS Church in the 1920s couldn’t afford to purchase the New York Cumorah. 

Willard Bean, “The Fighting Preacher,” was sent by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to Palmyra for that very purpose.

When the RLDS Church couldn’t afford to purchase in the 1920s, the New York Cumorah, the RLDS Church created their own Hill Cumorah in Southern Mexico: https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=wu.89058377359;view=2up;seq=142;skin=mobile

The First Presidency of the RLDS Church even created in 1894 a Committee on American Archaeology, though the RLDS theory eventually was modified to the 1920s version, now promoted by LDS members in Utah. 

https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=njp.32101074867811;view=2up;seq=2;skin=mobile

This RLDs Central America theory is a complete fabrication. It’s totally bogus. This “invention” of the Two Hills called Cumorah, the original, allegedly somewhere in Southern Mexico, was an attempt by the RLDS Church to keep it relevant with its belief also of The Book of Mormon. “Hey, we can’t afford to buy the New York hill, we can’t out bid those Brighamites in Salt Lake City, so let’s make one up in Central America!”

Thus, Dr. Samuel L. Mitchell’s and the observations of others of the ancient works in Western New York were important. Mitchell’s knowledge of ancient defensive works in Western New York was important in convincing Martin Harris of the Truth. Because it was in Western New York where the final Nephite and Jaredite battles occurred:

https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/history-1834-1836/90

adhesion-to-one-idea-is-monomania-to-few

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