You are here

TitleThe Zelph Story
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1989
AuthorsGodfrey, Kenneth W.
JournalBYU Studies Quarterly
KeywordsAncient America; Archaeology; Book of Mormon Geography; Book of Mormon Geography – Heartland; Early Church History; Lamanite; Nephite; Smith, Joseph, Jr.; Zelph; Zion's Camp

When the twenty men who formed the vanguard of Zion's Camp left Kirtland, Ohio, on 1 May 1834, they could not know that one of their most lasting and intriguing contributions to Latter-day Saint history would take place, not on a Missouri battlefield but rather on top of a large mound in Illinois. There, on 3 June 1834, members of Zion's Camp located a few bones, including a broken femur and an arrowhead, approximately a foot below the earth's surface, and these remains became the catalyst for revelation to Joseph Smith regarding the skeleton's identity. Joseph called the land "the plains of the Nephites." They believed that the mounds had belonged to "that once beloved people," and they interpreted the mere fact that skulls and bones were readily found as evidence of the divine authenticity of the book.