According to multiple accounts, as about 200 LDS men and women were travelling through Illinois in the summer of 1834, they climbed a small mound and dug up some bones.
Joseph Smith's own history says:
"I discovered that the person whose skeleton was before us was a white Lamanite, a large, thickset man, and a man of God. His name was Zelph. He was a warrior and chieftain under the great prophet Onandagus, who was known from the Hill Cumorah, or eastern sea to the Rocky Mountains. The curse was taken from Zelph, or at least, in part—one of his thigh bones was broken by a stone flung from a sling, while in battle, years before his death. He was killed in battle by the arrow found among his ribs, during the last great struggle of the Lamanites and Nephites."
The message was clear, Joseph Smith had the ability to draw down from Heaven very specific details about this man, his life and character. The revelatory power was strong.
The men of the group then divided up the bones and took them with them. It appears that all of the bones were lost over time.
The reasons I struggle with this story:
1. If LDS Prophets has such profound power of revelation, why did Spencer W. Kimball not realize that Mark Hoffman duped the church out of many thousands of dollars?
|Hoffman, Tanner, Kimball, Romney, Packer and Hinckley
3. If these truly were the bones of a great leader, why were they not preserved and displayed? Why were they lost?
4. Why was it so important for God to give this revelation, but didn't stop the Kirtland Bank from going under?
5. Could a man in the year 400 really have been known from the "eastern sea to the Rocky Mountains"?
6. It is a bit too coincidental that the name of Zelph's prophet was named Onandagus which is very similar to Onondaga County in New York not far from Palmyra.
7. By placing the Book of Mormon setting in Illinois it changes the dynamic of the Central America theory that I grew up with.
8. The story reinforces the racist idea that has Lamanites that become righteous the turn white.
10. Why do so many Nephite and Lamanite names begin with a Z? (Zelph, Zarahemla, Zenos, Zenock, and Zeezrom) They start to sound made up.
Bonus: Why did Joseph only find the bones of the most famous man around? Wouldn't it have been more believable if they were some normal guy, who gathered food and fed his family?
By Common Consent
Utah Lighthouse Ministry
Wikipedia - Zelph