Who is Zelph and why do I use it as my pseudonym for this blog?
In 1834, the first Mormon prophet Joseph Smith and his followers came upon some bones at the top of a mound in Southern Illinois. The Mormon Prophet Joseph Smith identified the bones as a person named Zelph, a white Native American Indian that was a great warrier.
A character named Zelph in Southern Illinois draws questions about the geography of the Book of Mormon. I have always thought that the common assumption was that the Book of Mormon took place around Mexico, Guatamala and Central America in General.
A retired BYU professor Kenneth W. Godfrey (Ph.D.) understood the importance of examining Zelph because of the questions that arise regarding the geography of the Book of Mormon.
Even he admits that early church leaders were unsure of the geography of the Book of Mormon.
The current assumption among LDS scholars today is that the Book of Mormon had a very limited Geography around Mesoamerica. The only official geographical location tied to the Book of Mormon is the Hill Cumorah in upstate New York. LDS Scholars can't even agree if it is the same Hill Cumorah that the great battles described in the Book of Mormon occurred. The common assumption is that there is a Hill Comorah in upstate New York and another Hill Cumorah somewhere in Mesoamerica. One thing is clear, when it comes to the Geography of the Book of Mormon, nobody can agree upon it, nobody can seem to place it anywhere in the real world. Many LDS scholars have tried to put physical locations for the cities and geographic regions, but every time they attempt to do that, they either have to skew descriptions in the Book of Mormon, contradict what the official church leadership says, or contradict each other.
For example, the modern assumption among LDS scholars that the Book of Mormon lands were limited to a few hundred miles in mesoamerica contradicts what Joseph Smith said about Zelph. When Zelph was found in 1834, Joseph believed that the portion of America over which they had just traveled was "the plains of the Nephite," and that their bones were "proof" of the Book of Mormon's authenticity. Here is a direct contradiction of the geography of the Book of Mormon between a Mormon Prophet and Mormon Scholars.
Perhaps Joseph Smith was mistaken about Zelph. After all, he has also stated that there are 1,000 year old Quakers living on the moon. It is possible that he was so excited about the discovery of bones that he himself got caught up in the excitement and made statements among men that were simply Man's speculation and was not speaking through revelation.
Zelph represents a paradox in Mormon Doctrine: To prove the veracity of the Book of Mormon, one must contradict the first Mormon prophet, Joseph Smith.