Journal of Book of Mormon Studies


Geography, History, Archaeology, Authenticity as a Historical Record


In June 1834, members of Zion’s Camp discovered skeleton bones that Joseph Smith reportedly revealed as belonging to a “white Lamanite” named Zelph. Many Latter-day Saints have referenced this unearthing as evidence that the Book of Mormon took place in North America, rather than in Mesoamerica. This article explores the significance and reliability of the accounts concerning Zelph’s existence, and it claims that although such a discovery is exciting and insightful, many of the accounts are inconsistent and most of the details surrounding Zelph and his life remain unknown. The skeleton cannot, therefore, provide conclusive evidence for anything, and Latter-day Saints should remember that more important than identifying the location of Book of Mormon events is strengthening their belief in the book’s divinity.