Moroni's 36 year trek to New York

Moroni's 36 year trek to New York

by Douglas K. Christensen


Dr. John L. Lund, in his book "Mesoamerica and the Book of Mormon Is this the Place?" has collected some interesting accounts of brethren who heard Joseph Smith talk about the Saints' trek to the Rocky Mountains and Moroni's trek to upstate New York to bury the gold plates.  The following is with permission of the author: 

Two maps showing Moroni's travels from Central America to Palmyra, New York were produced by two contemporaries of the prophet who said that their information came from Joseph Smith himself. Patriarch Wm. McBride and Brother Andrew M. Hamilton, both of whom settled in the Richfield, Utah area credited Joseph Smith with teaching them that the Land of Bountiful mentioned in the Book of Mormon was in Central America.  He also taught them that Moroni had dedicated several temple sites during his long journey.   Moroni carried with him what Joseph Smith referred to as the "other things" which were found buried with the gold plates.  These included the Urim and Thummin, the breastplate and the sword of Laban.  The plates themselves weighed about 50 to 60 pounds. 

The temple sites credited to Moroni's dedications are the St. George and Manti, Utah temples, plus Nauvoo, Independence and Kirtland, and, according to Patriarch McBride, "others we know not of yet."  McBride wrote that Joseph "marked with his cane in the sand the track the Saints would take to the Rocky Mountains" and also drew a map of Moroni's travels.  In later years both Patriarch McBride and Brother Hamilton drew maps according to their recollections which were basically the same.  From information written on the maps, they show that: (1) the Book of Mormon Land of Bountiful was in Central America, (2) Moroni walked from Central America to Palmyra, New York,  (3) Moroni traveled through the Great Basin on his way to New York, and (4) he visited the site of Adam-Ondi-Ahman. 

According to Patriarch McBride, Moroni was accompanied by other Nephites during part of his journey to Palmyra.  No information has been found from either brother's writings why he finished the last part of his journey alone or what happened to those who followed him in his exodus.  Knowing that Moroni had a group with him is consistent with President Brigham Young's statement when he announced the building of the St. George temple, that ".....this spot was dedicated by the Nephites.  They could not build it (the temple) but we can and will build it for them." 

H. Donl Peterson professor emeritus of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University writes:

At a conference held in Ephraim, Sanpete County, June 25th, 1875, nearly all the speakers expressed their feelings to have a temple built in Sanpete County, and gave their views as to what point and where to build it, and to show the union that existed, Elder Daniel H. Wells said “Manti,” George Q. Cannon, Brigham Young, Jr., John Taylor, Orson Hyde, Erastus Snow, Franklin D. Richards, Lorenzo Young, and A.M. Musse said “Manti stone quarry.” I have given the names in the order in which they spoke. At 4 p.m. that day President Brigham Young said: “The Temple should be build on Manti stone quarry.” 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 southeast 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 today, we will dedicate this ground.” (Whitney 436)

That Moroni dedicated the Manti Temple site is one of the few statements the Brethren have made connecting a Book of Mormon figure with a specific current place and action. This aids us in documenting one of Moroni’s travels and priesthood assignments. Another reference happened when William McBride, patriarch from the Richfield Utah Stake, spoke at a prayer meeting in St. George in January 1881. After recalling many experiences from the Nauvoo period and quoting the Prophet Joseph Smith on many issues, Patriarch McBride referred to

the Route the old Nephites took travelling to Cumorah from the south and south west; of having to bury their tr[e]asures as they journeyed and finally burying the Records and precious things in the Hill Cumorah; of Moroni dedicating the Temple site of what we now call St. George, Nauvoo, Jackson Co., Kirtland, and others we know not of as yet. (Walker 2:525–26)

Two Interesting Maps

Several years ago, I came across two copies of a map in the Archives Division of the Historical Department of the Church relative to Moroni’s North American journeys (see Figures 1 and 2). On the back of the map in Figure 1 is written the following:

A chart, and description of Moroni’s travels through this country. Got it from Br. Robert Dickson. He got it from Patriarch Wm. McBride at Richfield in the Sevier and also from Andrew M. Hamilton of same place. And they got it from Joseph Smith the Prophet.

On the map “land Bountifull [sic]” is listed in “Sentral [sic] America.” The cartographer wrote “starting point” below the reference to Central America. Above the “land Bountifull” is “Sand hills in south part of Arizona,” and above it to the left is “Salt Lake.” To the right is “Independens, Jackson Co, Mo.” and above that is “Adam on Diamon, Davis Co, Mo.” To the right of that is “Nauvoo, Hancock C.Ill.” Below that is “Mound Kinderhook, Pick, Co, Ill, 6 Plates Bell shape were found” (were was was on one copy). Then to the right and above that is “Kirtland, Ohio,” and to the right of that is “Commorre [Cumorah], N.Y.” Below this on the right-hand side of the map is written: “Moroni’s Travels starting from Sentral America to the Sand hills Arizona then to Salt Lake U[tah], T[erritory], then to Adam on Diammon Mo, then to Nauvoo, Ill, then to Independence Mo, then to Kirtland Ohio then to Cumoro NY.”

The second map appears to have been drawn by the same hand and is quite similar to the first, though it twice spells Arizona as Arisony (one “y” has an “a” written over it); “eden” is written near the circle identifying “Independense”; “where adam blessed his posterity” is written near the circle identifying “Adam on Diammon”; the “missisipy river” is listed near Nauvoo; Kirtland is twice misspelled “kertland”; and Cumorah is misspelled “Cunora” and “Cumora.”

It is interesting to note that the brethren mentioned on these documents were contemporaries of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and they credited him with the notion that the travels of Moroni began in the land Bountiful, which was in Central America, and went through to western New York. Why Moroni took the route he did is still without answers. These men stated that the Prophet Joseph believed Bountiful is in Central America while the Hill Cumorah, the burial place of the plates, is in New York State.


Douglas K. Christensen, BMAF Vice President 

Christensen, Douglas K.