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Moroni’s Purported Rambles

By: Ardis E. Parshall - November 18, 2010

Sooner or later – maybe both sooner and later – the Mormon faith promoting rumor mill will churn out another round of the old classic “Moroni dedicated the site of the Manti Temple.” The last time I heard it was at the end of the Book of Mormon Sunday School course two years ago, when our class handout included a “quotation” to that effect from Brigham Young, with the “citation” of Journal of Discourses – no volume or page, just the Journal. (Note: No hint of the story appears anywhere in the Journal.)

Most of the claims for this ancient dedication which have appeared in LDS publications over the years quote or paraphrase this paragraph:

Early on the morning of April 25, 1877, President Brigham Young asked Brother Warren S. Snow to go with him to the Temple hill. Brother Snow says, “We two were alone; President Young took me to the spot where the Temple was to stand; we went to the south-east corner, and President Young said, ‘Here is the spot where the Prophet Moroni stood and dedicated this piece of land for a Temple site, and that is the reason why the location is made here, and we can’t move it from this spot; and if you and I are the only persons that come here at high noon to-day, we will dedicate this ground.’”

Occasionally that paragraph is bolstered by reports that when temple workers began to dig for the foundation, they encountered boggy ground, or a spring, and wanted to adjust the foundation by a few feet so as to place that water source outside the temple walls; according to those accounts Brigham Young would not allow them to adjust the location by so much as an inch, because that was the spot dedicated by Moroni.

The story is repeated as fact, without question, in some prominent publications, perhaps most notably Orson F. Whitney’s Life of Heber C. Kimball. His biography gains cachet from the fact that Whitney was an apostle – but the book was published in 1888, while Whitney was not called to the Quorum until 1906. A little Googling will convince any searcher of the widespread repetition of the Moroni dedication claim – including at least two Ensign articles .

The story is a cornerstone of local (Manti) pride. Avard Fairbanks’ bronze statue of “The Mortal Moroni” stands in a garden near the temple. The story is repeated in local tourist promotional brochures. (Can anyone who has seen the Manti Pageant in recent years confirm whether or not it is still part of that script?)

I was reminded of the story yesterday when, on the way to something else, I scrolled past this microfilmed map:

The map, and another close copy of it, are relatively well known and have been published a time or two by former BYU professor H. Donl Peterson, and have been scanned from his materials and published on the Web more times than I can count. More about this map later.

But where did the story come from? Is it reliable?

In 1987, John A. Peterson of the Acquisitions Department of what is now called the Church History Library prepared a report for Jane A. Braithwaite of the Manti Destiny Committee (a private, non-profit organization promoting and preserving the history of Manti and the Sanpete Valley) detailing his attempts to document the source of the tale. He had scoured all known pertinent records, including restricted temple records, looking for any confirmation. His search included at least these sources:

CR 348 19 – Manti Corner Stone Services, April 14, 1879
CR 348 20 – “[Private] Dedication of the Manti Temple – Dedication Services held in the Celestial Room of the Temple, at 12 o’clock on Thursday Morning May 17th, 1888” (which files include copies of the dedicatory prayer and sermons)
CR 348 21 – Manti Temple Historical Record, 1873-01934
CR 348 22 – Manti Temple – Setting apart of temple workers, 1888
CR 348 33 – Manti Temple – Bulletins, 1884-1955
CR 348 37 – Manti Temple – Attendance Roll, 1888-1894
CR 348 37 – Manti Temple – Reunion List, 1895

In none – none – of these sources is there any hint whatsoever of an ancient dedication of the temple site, no mention of Moroni, nothing that could be seen as supporting the story, although the story, if true, would have found a natural place in any of these records.

There are, however, numerous references in the dedications of the site, the cornerstone, the completed temple, the completed Celestial Room, etc., to the site’s dedication by Brigham Young, without hint that Brigham’s was any sort of re-dedication:

In 1877, Brigham Young’s recorded statements include multiple references to “we dedicate to thee” and “we dedicate the spur of the Mountain.” In 1879, John Taylor’s remarks at the cornerstone services say that “Nearly four years ago President Brigham Young … selected this ground as a suitable site whereon to build a Temple” and “we are now assembled on this sacred spot to carry on and continue that labor, which our late venerable and respected president commenced.” In the same services, Apostle Charles C. Rich’s prayer referred to “this ground which was dedicated and set apart for that purpose by thy servant Brigham.” Apostle Moses Thatcher’s talk mentioned that “The Prophet Brigham Young bowed upon this ground … and dedicated it.” In 1888, Wilford Woodruff’s prayer acknowledged that “thou didst enable thy chief apostle Brigham to perform [this work]; that he was moved to build and to appoint Temples … and to designate that one should occupy this delightful spot.” (emphasis added in all cases)

In that 1888 dedication, the brethren present each expressed their feelings concerning the temple and its holy purposes, and none mentioned Moroni. No record of any of the public dedicatory sessions makes mention of Moroni.

The first known reference to Moroni in connection with the Manti Temple is dated July 2, 1888 (only a few weeks after the May 1888 temple dedication), when Temple Recorder Moses F. Farnsworth wrote an account of the dedication, parts of which were published (without Farnsworth’s name) in the August 13, 1888 issue of the Millennial Star. The Star publication is the source of the quotation used at the top of this post, the one that forms the basis of most later iterations.

Farnsworth’s complete letter, copied in the Manti Temple Historical Record, records a distinction between the facts of the temple dedication he witnessed and other materials, including the Moroni claim, when he noted, “I have been writing up the dedicatory services, and in addition thereto have gathered some very interesting items pertaining to this holy mountain of the Lord.” (emphasis added) Since the Moroni story played no part in the dedicatory services, it is clearly one of those “additions” gathered post-dedication.

Additional analysis by Peterson in that 1987 report concludes that only Warren S. Snow – who was present at the private dedicatory services in the celestial room in 1888 but who did not then mention Moroni – ever claimed to have heard Brigham Young assert that Moroni had dedicated the Manti Temple site. There were no other witnesses to the purported conversation between Brigham Young and Warren S. Snow, and no other claimed interviews with others. Peterson tactfully concludes that Snow believed that Moroni had visited the Manti hill but that Brigham Young spoke of Moroni only to Snow, “if Warren Snow can be trusted.” I am sorely tempted to be much more blunt than Peterson was …

Back to the map posted above.

That map and its notes fits in with the Moroni-in-Manti story, but goes much, much farther than Snow’s claim, seeming to indicate that not only did Moroni visit the future site of Manti, but also of Salt Lake City, various places in Missouri, Nauvoo, and Kirtland – presumably dedicating all of them as sites of future temples – before depositing the Book of Mormon plates in the hill at Palmyra, New York.

No one knows any longer where this map came from or who drew it – it is unsigned, and the loose pages in the archives offer no obvious connections to any known individual. A note on the back of one copy – not written in the same pen and not even by the same hand as the map – claims this purported provenance for the information: “A Chart and description of Moroni’s travels through this country. Got from Br Robert Dickson. He got it from Patria[r]ch Wm McBride at Richfield on the Seveir and also from Andrew M. Hamilton of same place. And they got it from Joseph Smith the Prophet.”

I am unaware that Joseph Smith the Prophet shared this information with anyone else – can any reader point to any contemporary-to-Joseph indication that Moroni visited these significant Mormon sites and dedicated temple locations? Why would Joseph have noted the location of discovery of the Kinderhook Plates, when Joseph didn’t attempt to translate those plates, apparently recognizing them for the forgery they were soon known to be? Moroni’s route is not drawn on a map that shows physical features or political boundaries – how did Joseph Smith communicate Moroni’s route to McBride and Hamilton without reference to such physical features? Are we really meant to believe that Joseph Smith used the names “Utah” and “Arisona” in the early 1840s?

And apart from this map, the entire story of Moroni dedicating sites for future temples – whether solely the one in Manti, or those in other Mormon centers as well – begs the question “Why?” What would be the point of Moroni’s many-thousand-mile journeys, presumably packing the plates along with him, to dedicate such places? Why dedicate Manti, while bypassing St. George – to say nothing of so many later temples across the continent?

It’s time to retire this illogical, undocumented, suspect, self-serving rumor once and for all, isn’t it? Yes, I realize the irony of attempting to squelch a rumor by airing it publicly One. More. Time. – but I don’t know how that can be done without spelling it out and drawing attention to the inconsistencies and illogicalities. Hence, this post.

My copy of John A. Peterson’s April 23, 1987 letter to Jane A. Braithwaite comes from what is cheerfully referred to in the Church History Library as the “myths binder” – an informal compilation of materials kept at the ready to answer frequently asked questions about all kinds of startling and distorted faith promoting rumors – the various “generals in heaven,” “free the birdies,” Japanese-pilot-couldn’t-bomb-Hawaiian-Temple types of nonsense that form the basis of so many mass email forwards. I don’t have a more official citation to offer, but the binder is available for patron use at the reference desk.



76 Comments »

  1. Huh! I never knew the Moroni-dedicated-Manti story was ever in doubt. The things I learn on this blog…

    Maybe the 1st Presidency will send a letter to local congregations like they did to squelch the Generals-in-Heaven story. Maybe they can request the National Guard to pull down that statue near the main highway.

    On the other hand, maybe someone will re-discover John Brewer’s cave and prove conventional wisdom wrong!

    Comment by Clark — November 18, 2010 @ 8:47 am

  2. Sheesh! I had blocked out all memory of John Brewer and his cave!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 18, 2010 @ 8:55 am

  3. To be completely fair, I should amend my remarks about the map. It doesn’t specifically point to Manti, either, so I shouldn’t say it “bypasses St. George.”

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 18, 2010 @ 9:09 am

  4. I guess there must be some tie between those “starling . . . faith promoting rumors” and the “free the birdies” tale.

    If not, I may just need that Moroni map to find my way out.

    Comment by Mark B. — November 18, 2010 @ 9:23 am

  5. So, to save any other readers 10 minutes of squinting at the map, here’s my attempt at transcribing the bottom right portion (spelling corrected):

    Mound Kinderhook, Pike Co. Ill,

    6 plates Bell Shape was found Moroni’s travel from
    Starting from Central America up to the sand hill Arizona. Thence to Salt Lake UT, Thence Adam-ondi-Ahman, Mo. Thence to Nauvoo, Ill. Thence to Independence, Jackson Co. Mo. Thence to Kirtland Oh. Thence to Cumorah, NY.

    [The other dots are labeled, couterclockwise from top]

    Salt Lake City, Utah
    Sand Hills in Southern Part of Arizona
    Land Bountiful Sentril [sic] America
    Adam on Diam mon [sic] Davis Co. Mo.
    ??? his posterity
    Independense [sic] Jackson Co. Mo.
    The Mississippi River
    Nau voo Ill.
    etc.

    Comment by Clark — November 18, 2010 @ 9:30 am

  6. I wonder if there was some reason to bolster the placing of the temple. Were some unsure after the difficulties in building the Salt Lake temple (bad original foundation)? Were people upset by the actions taken during the reformation? Did invoking Moroni make Brigham’s leadership stronger, or weaker?

    Just some questions.

    Comment by psychochemiker — November 18, 2010 @ 9:41 am

  7. Of course we can’t trust the map. It isn’t to scale. So it must be false. ;)

    I hadn’t heard of this before. Or John Brewer’s cave. My education has been sorely lacking.

    Comment by Bruce Crow — November 18, 2010 @ 9:41 am

  8. You should do a followup on Warren Snow’s trustworthiness in these sorts of stories. My understanding (perhaps incorrect?) is that he had a penchance for tall tales.

    Comment by ClarkGoble — November 18, 2010 @ 9:48 am

  9. Okay, wise guy Mark, I corrected “starling” to “startling”. :P

    Thanks, Clark. The bit you couldn’t make out was “where Adam blessed his posterity.” Did you notice in the text at the bottom right corner that Moroni had gone to “Salt lake U. T.” — since whoever drew this was still referring to it as “Utah Territory,” that could be an indication that the map was drawn pre-1896. I think there are other indications of that, but that’s a clear one.

    psychochemiker, I think the tale of Moroni’s having dedicated the Manti site came solely from Warren S. Snow. If the notion that Moroni had wandered throughout the continent existed before 1888 (I don’t know when it first appeared), then the tale of Moroni at Manti could be seen as only an embroidery, an elaboration of a more general folk belief. But since all signs point to Snow as the originator of the specific story, I think it’s a mistake to suggest that the people at large (your references to “some” and “people” and Brigham’s position among the people) had any part in it. I think Snow — however or for whatever reason — made up the story, to bolster his own prestige, perhaps, or because he had completely misunderstood and exaggerated something that Brigham Young did say that nobody else seems to have noted, or because he’d had a dream or because he was nutters, or whatever the case was. I don’t think the creation of the story met the needs of anyone but him. But once the story was told, it did meet a general need, the same need we have today when people fall for the mass email forwards: We want something new, something tangible that supports an intangible faith claim, something dramatic, something that makes *our* town (or state or church) something special — Moroni came *here* so *our* temple is rilly, rilly special.

    Well, Bruce, now that you’re aware of this, I wonder how long it will be before somebody in your area mentions it! Things always seem to work that way. You’re inoculated now.

    ClarkGoble, I don’t know much about Warren Snow personally (his biography and positions, yes, but his character and temperament, no). If it’s true that he was a teller of tales in other respects — and I personally don’t know that that’s the case — then yes, that would be significant for purposes of this specific case.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 18, 2010 @ 10:07 am

  10. The Moroni story can also be found at http://www.ldschurchtemples.com/manti which is not an official Church website (although the webmaster claims that the Church Temple Department asked if he would give the site to the Church, so it must be good!).

    Comment by David — November 18, 2010 @ 10:12 am

  11. Ardis, I think the tale originated not from Warren Snow, but from the Three Nephites who accompanied Moroni on all his travels, and served as witnesses when he dedicated the Manti temple site. I’m sure they passed that information on to Warren Snow, just before they disappeared from the back of his wagon, warning him to get his year’s supply of ammunition…

    Comment by Clark — November 18, 2010 @ 10:21 am

  12. Clark, you have a point. Besides the one between your ears, I mean. :)

    Yup, David. That’s one of many places that repeats the assertion without citation to any source. It has definitely become a fixed part of folk belief, regardless of credibility.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 18, 2010 @ 10:21 am

  13. I want to know what “free the birdies” means. My favorite folklore is of the tunnel from England to the Salt Lake Temple and how British women escaped to tell the tale by jumping from the highest spire of the temple into the Great Salt Lake. So exciting and impossible!

    Comment by Tod Robbins — November 18, 2010 @ 10:52 am

  14. Oh, another danger of even mentioning rumors! “Free the birdies” is a reference to a near-death experience of a little boy caught under a closing garage door and what he told his parents of what he saw “on the other side.” It has been blown up and embroidered outrageously by Mormons as proof that spirits are waiting to be freed from spirit prison through temple ordinances, and the Mormon elements have been stripped from the story to make another whole chain of proof of angels for evangelical tastes.

    Yeah. Boy howdy, those British damsels were fantastically athletic, no?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 18, 2010 @ 11:04 am

  15. Is Arizona spelled “Arisony” on the right? (it also looks like the “y” was there on the left, rubbed out and changed to “a”). Oh, the Sand Hills of Arisony!

    I’ve never seen this map before, but I love it as a folk artifact. I know I heard the story of Moroni dedicating the Manti Temple at some point in my youth, but I must also have heard tales of Moroni’s cross country wandering, too, because the route on the map seems vaguely familiar. I never knew he’d visited Salt Lake, though. But think about it, maybe he was dedicating the site for Saltair?

    Comment by Mina — November 18, 2010 @ 11:23 am

  16. I dedicated an empty lot near my house for a QT. I hope they recognize the inspiration and build it.

    Comment by Brian Duffin — November 18, 2010 @ 11:24 am

  17. Yeah, Mina, it says “Arisony” — can’t get much folksier than that!

    Brian, you deserve one of these, too: :P

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 18, 2010 @ 11:39 am

  18. As a descendant of the Sanpete diaspora, I find this particularly insightful. Thanks Ardis!

    Comment by J. Stapley — November 18, 2010 @ 12:12 pm

  19. The more I think about this, the more I think it might fit into what J. Stapley said in his recent Zeitcast with Scott B. about the body of folk belief and practice that was such a part of Mormonism at the turn of the last century. I think the Moroni-at-Manti bit was an addition, probably a deliberate addition, to the folk background represented by the map. I mean, we have Moroni saying in Moroni 1:3 that “I wander whithersoever I can for the safety of mine own life,” which condition continued for 20 years or more. It’s such a dramatic image that it’s understandable that people would speculate about where he had wandered and how far he could have gone in that time, especially with the assumption that he had to walk from the traditional Central or South American setting of the Book of Mormon to the hill in western New York. Without knowing of any specific sermons or examples from personal writings to cite in support of this sentence, I could understand if people did believe or assume that Moroni had covered a lot of ground in North America.

    But tying Moroni specifically to Manti does appear to have originated with Warren S. Snow. And even though it will no doubt persist among the folk, I think we won’t see it mentioned again in vetted church magazines, lessons, or conference talks (the Ensign references predate John A. Peterson’s research and report).

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 18, 2010 @ 12:17 pm

  20. Ardis,

    Shouldn’t the mere labeling of Salt Lake City, Utah be evidence enough that the map has no relation to Joseph Smith? He was interested in the Rockies as a destination but clearly never mentioned Salt Lake City or Utah, a post-Deseret invention. Am I right in that respect?

    Comment by Tod Robbins — November 18, 2010 @ 12:18 pm

  21. I’m glad I apparently didn’t bomb any cherished family traditions, J.! I’m waiting for someone to protest with “But my grandmother told me!” That’s always the problem with being the curmudgeon who debunks something.

    *I* certainly think so, Tod. The names are anachronisms, even the very location is too specific to fit anything I’m aware of said by Joseph Smith.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 18, 2010 @ 12:40 pm

  22. My experience with Mormon folklore is that anything that can’t be proved false is considered irrevocably true by many *cough*myexuncle*cough* Some of us lazy doubters appreciate your delving though :-)

    Comment by Moniker Challenged — November 18, 2010 @ 12:53 pm

  23. Isn’t Warren Snow the bishop that John D. Lee accused of having ordered the emasculation of a romantic rival?

    Comment by JimD — November 18, 2010 @ 1:10 pm

  24. It was still in the Manti pageant in 2006.

    Comment by Craig M. — November 18, 2010 @ 1:13 pm

  25. JimD, that story is indeed in Lee’s Confessions. Quinn accepts it without question. It isn’t a story that I have investigated at all, though, and I wouldn’t endorse it without poking around to see how much either of them may have elaborated on a basic core of truth, knowing both how unreliable the Confessions are and how eager Quinn was to seize on anything like that. There’s probably something to the accusation, but also probably something missing.

    Thanks, Craig. I suspected it was, but didn’t know.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 18, 2010 @ 1:34 pm

  26. I must be slipping, but I can’t figure out what a “QT” is.

    A “Quonset-hut Temple”?

    Comment by Mark B. — November 18, 2010 @ 1:36 pm

  27. I find the mention of Arizona on the map (or Arisona or Arisony) to be a pretty big red flag. I can’t find anything online to date the first usage of that name, but during much of Joseph Smith’s lifetime, that was part of Spain and Mexico [see the Newberry Library Atlas of Historical County Boundaries entry on Arizona], and why would Arizona have been mentioned rather than any other part of Mexico including what is now New Mexico and California?

    Furthermore, I do not understand the route on the map. It says in the text in the bottom right corner that he started from Central America and went to the “sand hills of Arizona” (which sand hills?) thence to Salt Lake. So what do the various lines on the map mean? Did he go up to the “sand hills” and then go back to the land of Bountiful, and from there up the coast to Salt Lake City?

    But that route is contradicted by the text. If I follow the description in the text, how does the author of the map propose that Moroni crossed the Colorado River? And where? Was he on horseback? [Removed a tangent about pre-Columbian horses.] If not on horseback, how else would he have crossed the river? If he went far enough east, he could have crossed the Little Colorado easily enough at certain times of year.

    But back to crossing the Colorado. If he were on horseback, it is possible that he could have crossed at the site of Pearce’s Ferry or Lee’s Ferry or any of the other crossings of the Colorado River, but that is not a minor undertaking and it would take some extensive interactions on the part of Moroni with the tribes that lived there at the time (Hohokam?) to be able to find a safe crossing of the river.

    If you remove a visit to Salt Lake City from the picture and just go north from Central America, it is not at all a stretch to end up in Missouri. That’s Coronado’s route north from Mexico. Coronado didn’t get to Missouri, but he did get most of the way through Kansas.

    And I don’t even want to get into a discussion about Warren Snow. I don’t dislike him like I dislike some of the other players in Utah’s Black Hawk War, but it’s hard to be able to tell what he was really like. There sure are some unsavory stories about him floating around the internet.

    Wow, Ardis. That’s quite a post. And I do realize that this is an excessively long comment. Yikes!

    Comment by Researcher — November 18, 2010 @ 1:47 pm

  28. I meant to add a couple of qualifiers to this statement:

    “If he went far enough east, he could have crossed the Little Colorado easily enough at certain times of year.”

    …But that would require that he travel through some very severe stretches of country, and he would still have to cross the Colorado River further to the north.

    Comment by Researcher — November 18, 2010 @ 1:51 pm

  29. Nothing like a good faith-promoting rumor.

    Comment by Steve C. — November 18, 2010 @ 1:54 pm

  30. I’m very happy that my first hearing of this historical item comes from you, Ardis.

    Comment by Mommie Dearest — November 18, 2010 @ 2:02 pm

  31. Thanks, Ardis. I ran into this story while looking into the doubtful claim that the temple roof was made as an upside-down ship.

    We need a special issue of the Ensign–or at least a Church web page–dedicated to putting these stories to rest. As it is, there is irony in informing someone that a particular claim was debunked on someone’s blog.

    Comment by Jared* — November 18, 2010 @ 2:02 pm

  32. Missed your comment first time through, Moniker — sorry! Yeah, one man’s faith is another’s gullibility, isn’t it? There has probably been more than one silent reader of this post who has scoffed at my belief in Moroni’s existence as a prophet, and at my faith associated with temples, even as I write against this bit of folklore which is so important to some.

    Mark, I’m not absolutely sure which QT Brian meant, but with “Deathly Hallows” out I assumed it meant “quidditch tournament.” There’s more than one ‘nacler who would dedicate the land next to his house for that.

    Thanks, Researcher. You live up to your moniker, always.

    Nothing like it, Steve. Except the next one. And the one after that. :)

    Thanks, Mommie Dearest. Hmmm — believe it or not, your brief comment has given me the idea for a post that could be kinda fun. Thinking, thinking …

    Funny how many of those pioneer buildings were supposed to have upside-down ships as roofs, huh, Jared*? — as if shipwrights were a dime a dozen and house carpenters never migrated west.

    I wish there were a debunking page, too. There have been two or three recent interviews of archivists on LDS Radio (whatever its official name is) with the archivists identifying some myths, which is a start, but it doesn’t reach enough people, doesn’t have the stamp of ecclesiastical authority, and doesn’t leave an easy trail to cite to, so it isn’t enough. I can appreciate some of the problems that would be involved in such a project, though. It’s easy enough for the Church to issue statements about some matters — “generals in heaven,” for example — because they are recent grass-roots bits o’ nonsense. It becomes trickier, though, when things have been around long enough for some people to have become heavily invested in them, especially when they have been quoted by general authorities, even long-dead ones. People don’t accept those corrections with good grace. Even something as innocuous as my correcting one little piece of the legendary handcart rescue story a few months ago drew ugly charges that I was accusing various past prophets of preaching false doctrine over the Conference pulpit and a rebuttal post on an angry little blog. The particular story would really have to be worth all the confusion and anger it would cause to be worth a formal debunking by the Church. Still, I agree that for me it would be a valuable thing to read.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 18, 2010 @ 2:35 pm

  33. Ardis, just one more reason why I like visiting here!

    Comment by WVS — November 18, 2010 @ 2:41 pm

  34. The John A. Peterson of the report (my good pal and stalwart at the U of U Institute) is a descendant of Warren Snow (who was indeed involved in the emasculation incident) and wrote his thesis on this colorful character. So, if John says “if Warren could be trusted,” that is interesting. Also, Ardis, just a little side note–the Yiddish BoM translation in the Knickerbocker tablets done by Isaacson has a Manti dedication link. When Franklin D. Richards (who wrote the dedicatory prayer) delivered the prayer to Woodruff, he also handed him the first section of the translation to inspect…good fun.

    Comment by Bryan — November 18, 2010 @ 3:21 pm

  35. Ah, Ardis. You totally ruined it for me, there was no Moroni dedicating the land? Next, you’ll ruin Christmas for me by telling me that Santa isn’t real either! Good article. Debunk the birdies next!

    Comment by Cliff — November 18, 2010 @ 3:32 pm

  36. For some reason when I saw “QT” I thought “DQ” and wondered if the Dairy Queen had opened yet.

    Comment by Mark B. — November 18, 2010 @ 3:37 pm

  37. I’m always tickled when I can tickle someone like WVS. Thanks!

    And Bryan, thank you, too. I thought this was probably the same John A. Peterson but didn’t know for sure. Your reference to the Yiddish Book of Mormon won’t make much sense to readers — it has to do with an otherwise unrelated project that I know Bryan is working on — but it pleases me. Unexpected connections always do.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 18, 2010 @ 3:43 pm

  38. I nominate this post for a Niblet award.

    Re Warren Snow, Peterson’s thesis is available here (see p. 109 et seq. for a discussion of the emasculation incident).

    Comment by Justin — November 18, 2010 @ 4:02 pm

  39. The way I heard the Moroni story growing up was that Moroni had dedicated ALL the temple sites. That would have taken him a week just in the Salt Lake valley, so it’s no surprise that he wandered here and there for 20 years. I never knew that he got to Rome, Finland, Anchorage, and Hong Kong as well. I’m pretty sure he never made it to Seattle, as all the Mormons I know from Utah that come here, stay here, and he would never have gotten to Nauvoo, Kirtland, and all the rest.

    Although I do recall seeing something about a daguerreotype of Moroni with his rucksack containing the plates, in some private collection somewhere….

    Comment by kevinf — November 18, 2010 @ 4:05 pm

  40. Keepa is now officially the one and only true Mormon Snopes.

    We have a Manti temple trip planned for December; do you dare me to ask about Moroni’s dedication while I’m there?

    Comment by Becca — November 18, 2010 @ 5:09 pm

  41. I’d heard about this before and also thought it silly because of the left-out temples.

    Comment by Michelle Glauser — November 18, 2010 @ 5:19 pm

  42. Cliff, Santa is real. I read about him in the documentation accompanying that daguerreotype of Moroni that kevinf mentions … (kevin: :P)

    Mark, I think you deserve another one, too: :P (I think now, though, that I have now used up my quota of stuck-out-tongue smilies for this post.)

    Thanks, Justin. I’ll read the dissertation. I’m a lot more inclined to believe JAP than the purple prose on most of the websites I’m familiar with that carry this story.

    Becca, I dare you! I dirty dog double dare you!

    Good instincts, Michelle.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 18, 2010 @ 5:43 pm

  43. Thanks for the Peterson/Snow thesis link, Justin. I am indebted…

    Comment by Mina — November 18, 2010 @ 5:52 pm

  44. What Mina said. (Thanks, Justin.) I’ve read Peterson’s dissertation and his book on the Black Hawk War but not that thesis. Very interesting. It certainly provides a lot more context for Snow’s role in the Black Hawk War.

    Comment by Researcher — November 18, 2010 @ 6:17 pm

  45. And thanks to Researcher for reminding me about that Peterson Black Hawk War book…

    Comment by Mina — November 18, 2010 @ 6:52 pm

  46. Hey Ardis and all of you making comments, this was great. I remember hearing several times about Moroni dedicating the Manti Temple, but I have been around Ardis and Bill Hartley long enough to be suspicious of a lot of Mormon myths.

    Ardis, have you had any nasty “how could you?” comments yet?

    Comment by Maurine — November 18, 2010 @ 7:29 pm

  47. Not a one! Not yet. (Although that package just delivered from the Manti Chamber of Commerce has a suspicious ticking sound …)

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 18, 2010 @ 7:43 pm

  48. One of the best things I’ve read on LDS sites in a long time. Thank you.

    Comment by Keith — November 18, 2010 @ 10:09 pm

  49. I have swum the Colorado, but not packing along any metal plates, but you could do it with a small raft. It was swift and wide, indeed.

    Comment by Stephen Taylor — November 18, 2010 @ 10:50 pm

  50. This will be added to my “posts to be shared on demand” bookmark list, along with numerous other Keepa posts that I commonly share with fellow saints.

    My only disappointment: when I saw that there were 49 comments, I was hoping the large number was a result of some devoted believer of the myth defending it tooth and nail!

    Comment by Ben Park — November 19, 2010 @ 4:40 am

  51. It is entirely possible to cross the Colorado, but for some more details about the difficulties of traveling through this country, see Thomas Alexander’s brief article about the Dominguez-Escalante Expedition.

    So when was Moroni traveling across the country? Fifth century? The fifth century is prior to the Anasazi civilization, but it was during the Pioneer Period of Hohokam civilization, with already established trade routes across the entire region and into points far south, so it is entirely possible that he could have found a guide or series of guides.

    The expeditions of Jedediah Smith in the early 19th century also prove that it was possible to cross large areas of the western United States, but Smith had some advantages due to earlier Spanish explorations of the area.

    Comment by Researcher — November 19, 2010 @ 6:38 am

  52. Good stuff Ardis. We need more Mormon Mythbusters.

    Comment by Ben — November 19, 2010 @ 7:01 am

  53. (Can anyone who has seen the Manti Pageant in recent years confirm whether or not it is still part of that script?)

    Yes, it is still in the Mormon Miracle Script (I hear these lines at least 14 times every year). The language is something like “there is a tradition…that he dedicated this very hill.” The script of course came from one of our own-a local author from neighboring Ephraim.

    Another interesting side note is that in the Manti Temple there is a picture of Moroni Dedicating the Manti Temple Hill. It is in the main hallway, with a small plaque describing the dedication. I can’t recall if it sources the HCK or not, but it does attatch the quote to “B Young”. The rumor thickens!

    Comment by n8c — November 19, 2010 @ 10:42 am

  54. I grew up in Sevier County (now live in Manti) and always heard about this map, but never have seen it. Up Salina Canyon is an Indian Pictograph with a man with the image of a serpent above his head, his hands outstretched and holes in his hands and feet. Next to this is a pictograph of a lamb with hands outstretched and holes in its hands and feet. I grew up hearing that this was a “Moroni Pictograph” and a Nephite reference to Christ and that the “map” (owned by a family in Richfield?) was handed down from Joseph Smith and this confirms that Moroni was in Salina Canyon. Because you know, Moroni dedicated the Manti Temple Hill.

    I’ve waiting for several years for this to be shared in Sunday School. Alas I am now a G. Doc teacher and if I share this I don’t know if the class would laugh or be edified.

    Comment by n8c — November 19, 2010 @ 10:52 am

  55. Well, I live in Manti, was in the Manti Pageant the last two years, etc. The Pageant says there is a “tradition” that Moroni dedicated the Hill; which, of course is correct: there is indeed a tradition.

    That said, there’s a history of the Manti Temple that the Temple itself has, and I recall it mentioning the Moroni thing.

    There’s lots of weird little stories about the Manti temple, though, and in general the whole Sanpete area. The Manti temple itself is unique, still having live sessions and I believe we still have a Holy of Holies; the only temple outside of SLC to have one.

    There are other legends, including Brigham “sealing up the treasures” of Sanpete for some time until the Prophet releases them. That one is interesting, as it implies that until President Monson or whomever unseals the land, we won’t find the gold/oil/coal etc. that is here. Just to spice that one up, we have a coal mine up the canyon juuust over the border, and every time they get close to the county line, something happens to their shafts…. And the geologists keep swearing we live on a huge bubble of oil, but no one can seem to get to any of it.

    Fun stuff!

    Comment by Vance — November 19, 2010 @ 11:22 am

  56. The thing that most interests me is the reference on the map to the kinderhook plates. It wasn’t until the 1980s sometime that they were proved to be hoaxes and the church gave up their defense of them. This map is clearly a snapshot of the times before science could catch up with a clever forger.

    Comment by stephanieq — November 19, 2010 @ 2:13 pm

  57. I think that it is interesting that this map implies that the hill Cumorah where the battle was was in Central America.

    I can only speculate, but I wonder if there was a tradition originating from Joseph Smith that Moroni traveled from Central America, and then whoever made this map added on things they had heard, like Moroni dedicating the Manti temple site and and the Kinderhook plates.

    It is also curious that the map has the sand hills of Arizona. What are these sand hills exactly, and what do they have to do with Moroni?

    Comment by mapman — November 19, 2010 @ 2:16 pm

  58. My wife’s ancestors settled Sanpete country, worked on the Manti temple, etc. I ought to see if any of this is in her family history (legends).

    LDS Urban Legend site–Holy Fetch.com

    Comment by Steve C. — November 19, 2010 @ 2:51 pm

  59. Thanks for these additional comments, which highlight a continuing interest in and undercurrent of folk belief as distinct from what the Church actually teaches in any authoritative sense in its publications. The persistence of these — what? legends? superstitions? — in connection with matters of faith are part of what makes it so difficult for some people to figure out what we really believe. I hope this thread doesn’t confuse the issue for anyone!

    I do want to say, though, that I think it’s a mistake to imply that “the church” ever “defended” the Kinderhook plates. There was great interest among Nauvoo-area residents at the time they were “discovered,” certainly, and that interest continued to crop up among lay members from time to time. It’s pretty evident, though, that Joseph Smith was not taken in by the forgery and didn’t attempt to translate them, and I’m unaware of any institutional claims for them since his day. An easily accessible article on the history of the Kinderhook plates is found here.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 19, 2010 @ 2:52 pm

  60. HolyFetch.com needs to be used with caution — they don’t really research, but merely report what *other* people have declared to be true or untrue. See for example their endorsement of the Henry Ballard miraculous-delivery-of-a-newspaper story where they conclude:

    The exact newspaper even still exists to this day and is preserved in the Church Historical Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.

    The simple research technique of a phone call or email to the Church History Library would have informed them that “the exact newspaper” is NOT found in the collections of the library, as explained in this Keepa post.

    It isn’t enough for them to merely repeat what other people have concluded, correctly or incorrectly, and I kinda resent that they “verify” legends by repeating legends. Beware.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 19, 2010 @ 3:06 pm

  61. Ardis: My comment on HolyFetch.com wasn’t intended to suggest that it was authoritative but mearly to suggest that there is interest in urban legends.

    I guess I’m getting a bit jaded with age (or I’ve been reading Keepa too long) but I really question a lot of “stories” I hear at church that are passed as “true”.

    Thanks for your myth-busting. :-)

    Comment by Steve C. — November 19, 2010 @ 4:10 pm

  62. Thanks, Steve.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 19, 2010 @ 4:13 pm

  63. Not _all_ of us were with Moroni all the time during his travels. Usually just 1 or 2. :-)

    Comment by 2of3 — November 19, 2010 @ 6:57 pm

  64. I hate to take the wind out of the sails of speculation regarding Brian’s dedication of a vacant lot for building a QT in cited in post 16.

    There is strong evidence that Brian refers to the QuikTrip Convenience Stores and Travel Centers. For the unitiated, “QuikTrip convenience stores are located in nine states. All convenience stores offer guaranteed gasoline and truck fleet diesel fueling programs as well as a wide selection of convenience store food and beverage products.” (Source: http://www.quiktrip.com/).

    It is not known by this writer if they offer birdseed for “freed birdies.”

    Great article and fine research Ardis. Be of good cheer.

    Comment by Kerry Adams — November 19, 2010 @ 9:18 pm

  65. I have always thought that Moroni’s travels were due to staying out of the way of the Lamanites and visiting farflung Nephite colonies, not to dedicate temple sites; but this was just an ancillary activity along the way as dictated by God.

    These colonies could have been settled long ago or refugee groups, and Moroni would have been the main surviving church leader/prophet, so it would have been natural for him to have visited them.

    Also it would have been natural for him to have traveled constantly because the Lamanites may have had a price out on his head.

    Comment by Jean Corey — November 20, 2010 @ 9:06 am

  66. Jean, you have probably just outlined the process that created this folklore and made it so acceptable to Mormons of past generations:

    We do know that Moroni traveled constantly and that his life was at risk (“I wander whithersoever I can for the safety of mine own life” — Moroni 1:3), and reading between the lines we can justify the possibility that there were at least a few other believers (“because of their hatred they put to death every Nephite that will not deny the Christ” — Moroni 1:2; note that the clause is in the present tense, indicating an ongoing hunt-and-kill of surviving believers, not in the past tense that would suggest that Moroni was absolutely the last believer).

    However, everything else you suggest is pure speculation, a filling in of the gaps in what may seem a logical way but for which there is absolutely no scriptural or historical support.

    When someone goes from a speculative “this might have been what happened” to Warren S. Snow’s “precisely this thing did happen” or to the map maker’s explicit “first he went here, then he went there, and this is what he did at those specific places,” they’ve crossed a line. They are no longer just speculating, but are bearing testimony to falsehood, and supporting their fictions with appeals to prophetic authority by claiming that Joseph Smith and Brigham Young told them — and inexplicably only them — these wonderful things.

    It is unwise to move these notions out of the realm of pleasant imagination and to teach them as gospel doctrine, as happens far too often. IMO.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 20, 2010 @ 9:58 am

  67. Great post, Ardis. I use this map in my chapter on Mormon Indianism. I accept its provenance as indicated in the Second Nephite holograph on the backside.

    Alternatively, I see the map (likely a later 19th century speculation as you note) as a part of the Mormon tradition of treasuring their connection with the land and the people who occupied it anciently. Other than its factual inaccuracy (which I admit weighs heavily for many readers), there’s nothing to distinguish this map from revealed truths about, e.g., Zion and Diahman, which I think accounts in part for its wide acceptance and dissemination. Supernatural verisimilitude carries a lot of weight in these folk traditions.

    Comment by smb — November 21, 2010 @ 2:38 pm

  68. In Mormonism, we’re taught to seek after truth; and that the highest and greatest truths are hidden from the world.

    IMO, this attitude is what makes us such ripe targets for folk beliefs.

    Blend in the fact that we believe revelation can be received on ANY topic (see “Mahonri Moriacumer” and “Zelph”) a belief in supernatural miracles, and the promise of receiving “hidden treasures of knowledge” (D&C 89).

    It’s clear, to me anyway, why folk docrine is so prevalent.

    Comment by Clark — November 22, 2010 @ 10:25 am

  69. In the book, “Temple Manifestations”, 57-58, by Joseph Heinerman there is a reference to a letter contained in the thesis by Kirk M. Curtis, “History of the St. George Temple” BYU, 1964, p24-25 of how Pres. Young saying that that Temple land was dedicated by the Nephites at some point. I was just reading the “Manifestations” book and saw the letter in the Curtis thesis and remembered this post!

    Comment by Cameron — April 19, 2011 @ 10:32 pm

  70. Thanks, Cameron; it will be interesting to chase that letter to its source and see if it is reliable, or if it’s just another “I heard from so-and-so that Pres. Young once said that …”

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 20, 2011 @ 7:00 am

  71. I’m so glad I found this post! I just went to the Manti pageant this weekend, and they do indeed still keep the Moroni tale as part of the script. I had only heard the story once before, in seminary. It seemed odd to me, and sure enough, I’m starting to see that most of what I learned in seminary is well-meaning, albeit untrue, faith-promoting rumor.

    Comment by Jen — June 24, 2012 @ 12:08 pm

  72. Welcome to Keepa, jen, and thanks for your comment. Every once in a while I have a post like this that tries to separate fact from fiction. Most often, rather than showing why a faith promoting rumor is not real history, we simply talk about what IS real history. I hope you’ll stick around and find something here that you like.

    You can scan a list of all previous posts to find titles that might interest you, by clicking on the “Topical Guide” link at the upper lefthand corner of this page. My favorites are the ones listed under the heading of “Latter-day Saint Lives.”

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 24, 2012 @ 12:14 pm

  73. Late to the party, but I recall hearing a pleasant white-haired gentleman speak in my student ward much too long ago and claim to have verified the Jap-bombing-the-temple claim at second hand. That is, he claimed to have spoken with the Japanese pilot whose bomb release repeatedly failed when he tried to bomb the Hawaii Temple.

    The story is bovine scatology, of course. I’m something of a Pacific War history buff and I have not only never heard the story from a reliable Japanese source, but it contradicts everything I know about the raid. The Japanese were under orders to hit the military facilities on Oahu and avoid civilian targets, and there would be absolutely, positively no reason to bomb a temple located far from any military base.

    It would be interesting to run down the origins of this urban legend, but you’re much better positioned to do that than I am, Ardis. I can only speculate. One speculation is that this somehow mutated out of the verifiably true story of the Japanese commander of the raid, Fuchida Mitsuo, who later converted to evangelical Christianity and toured the United States as a lay preacher. Historians have found Fuchida’s memoirs *cough* less than fully reliable *cough* and it’s just possible he embellished his experiences in a way that a Mormon listener could further embellish into a story of the Hawaii Temple being miraculously spared.

    In fact, the only significant Mormon story coming out of the Pearl Harbor disaster I’m acquainted with is that of Mervyn Bennion, an active Latter-day Saint who commanded battleship West Virginia and was mortally wounded by a bomb fragment on the bridge of his ship. He knew that he was dying but refused to be evacuated from his post, and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. No miraculous protection there, but a very human story involving real courage and sacrifice.

    There’s so much to be said for genuine history that I wonder at this strong need for making history up.

    Comment by Vader — June 25, 2012 @ 10:07 am

  74. Oh such small circles! Jane Braithwaite is my cousin.
    I wonder about the originators of these tales. I love to make up stories on the spot, but I do reveal that they’re just stories lest anyone believe lies. We all know that lots of leaders have made up faith-promoting stories with great goals. Perhaps it’s time to set some strict rules, and that implies a thorough combing of the manuals. When I played an April Fools joke on FB and thirteen people shared it as truth, my son said, “Mom, you’ve got to be more careful.”

    Comment by Margaret Blair Young — April 21, 2013 @ 4:06 pm

  75. Ardis, I know I am only two and a half years late for this blog but I have to give an update.

    A little over a year ago I was asked my opinion on the removal of a large bronze statue of Moroni (meant to symbolize his dedication of the Manti Temple Hill) and its eventual relocation in the New Manti Heritage Garden’s. I gave a friend well connected with the new garden’s a link to this post. They were seeking references on the authenticity concerns of the dedication quote and I remembered that you had nicely done all the work for me/us. So thanks!

    Now the update:

    The Angel Moroni Statue is not in the Manti Heritage Garden’s though it’s cement pedestal still sits vacant.

    The Manti Temple has removed its painting of “Moroni Dedicating the Temple Hill” in its entryway foyer just a few weeks ago. It is replaced with a beautiful painting of a garden/orchard scene that might be a similar painting to one I saw in the Brigham City Temple..
    And I was just informed that The Mormon Miracle Pageant is removing the following line in the pageant for this year’s production: “and there is a tradition that [Moroni] dedicated this very temple hill.”

    So you had asked this question at the end of your post: “It’s time to retire this illogical, undocumented, suspect, self-serving rumor once and for all, isn’t it?” It looks like there is momentum in the church to do just that.

    Comment by n8c — April 21, 2013 @ 9:38 pm

  76. Yes, your research and opinion has come in very handy during the trial of removing and relocating the Mortal Moroni statue. It certainly was one element of many responsible for helping to shore up the myth of the Manti Temple site dedication.
    Lengthy, repeated discussions with the church Hx dept, local church leaders, & John Peterson, among others, hundreds of hours of research, gaining access to many, many records and reading all the for and against websites, for more than a year led the owners of the statue to the same conclusion and hence its removal, relocation and storage in 2012.
    Removal was not done without nasty blog entries, poorly researched newspaper articles and personal letters of dismay, disbelief, sleepless nights and admonitions from some to leave town.
    As the owners of the statue, we did not want to create/continue error that undermined people’s faith – and so it is gone, hopefully over time the story will be too. It is correct that the script has been corrected and the painting removed from the Temple. Thank you for your research into the issue and forthright characterization in calling a spade a spade. Your voice is respected and valued.

    Comment by CUPHA — December 19, 2014 @ 2:23 pm

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