History of the Church Series | BYU Studies

History of the Church Series

The Zelph Story
June 13, 2018
History of the Church Series
The Zelph Story
Author Kenneth W. Godfrey,

This daily feature is an introduction to a full article by Kenneth W. Godfrey. Each Wednesday we focus on an aspect of church history, beginning in New York in the early 19th century and progressing throughout the year to Utah in the 20th century. To read the full text of this article, follow the link below.

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.