Luke 13:24; “Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.”

I couldn’t get Jesus’ warning out of my head as I compiled notes for this article. It was telling to me how Smith incorporated real life events out of context to try and finagle his way into the hearts of the unknowing…

Today we’re going on a fieldtrip of sorts. We’re looking back at a major event that shook this country to its core.

On December 16, 1811, America was jolted out of its chairs at the dinner table with an earthquake experts have determined was an 8.5 in magnitude.

The epicenter was located at New Madrid, MO, but people as far away as Virginia felt the ground rumbling beneath their feet.

It was the first of more than 2,000 quakes and tremors lasting well into February of 1812, and those could be felt as far north as New York. It’s reported that chimneys fell, untold thousands perished, and entire towns just disappeared.

The initial quake was so strong it caused the Mississippi River to flow backwards, and created a temporary waterfall lasting three months right in the center of the Mighty Mississippi. The quake also caused a previously unknown phenomena to occur on America’s farmland.


Geysers in what is now known as the middle of America, started springing up all over the place. The quake turned large portions of land into quicksand, which in turn caused geysers to erupt, spewing their dark clouds of noxious gasses into pristine air. These weren’t the type of geysers you see at Yellowstone with isolated small puffs of smoky gas rising.

For days at a time, entire cities were enveloped in dark clouds of pungent gasses until the geyser had run its course. Aerial shots still show pockmarks of what happened more than two centuries earlier.

Today New Madrid, MO is home to a visitors center dedicated to all the historical events the quake caused, and how events at that time shaped the way geologists began their study on earthquakes. Who knew, right?

Moving forward with our American history lesson behind us, we can read Joe Smith’s scriptures with new eyes.

Just Another Coincidence?

3 Nephi 8:20; “And it came to pass that there was thick darkness upon all the face of the land, insomuch that the inhabitants thereof who had not fallen could feel the vapor of darkness”.

As we’ve reported numerous times before, when Joe Smith was ‘translating’ his scriptures in 1829, he seemed to have a penchant for weaving events from Colonial American history into the storyline of a so-called people group who lived 1,400+ years prior. However, this as they say, is one for the record books. For more examples, see Coincidences in Mormonism.

The Book of Mormon narrative tells us at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion, and His subsequent appearance in America c. 33-34 AD, earthquakes of great magnitude occurred, killing thousands… Lest I digress, we’re sticking to our immediate text for now.

Questions/Observations for Today   

The phrase, ‘vapors of darkness’, was repeatedly used in papers of the day (1811-1812) as a way of describing what was happening in Missouri, Kentucky, and the outlying regions.

Why is this a topic of discussion in the BoM when it doesn’t fit the narrative of surrounding events in the story?

Certainly everyone on the East Coast would recall the earthquakes that took place eighteen years earlier. We’re not sure if Smith just hoped no one would make the connection, or if he didn’t think people would be alarmed by his claims seeing as how they lived through something similar to the BoM stories.

In addition to just locals, Smith liked to use ideas from Dr. Samuel L. Mitchill, a prolific author, and the main resource of Smith’s stories about domesticated horses and elephants in America during the BoM era.

Whatever the case might be, Smith’s story falls into the category of unbelief based on his track record.

Furthermore, there’s no record anywhere of an earthquake of this magnitude occurring in America before those in 1811-1812, and neither is there record of domesticated elephants.

For more info on the quakes of 1811-1812 see the following:

The Earthquake America Forgot

Berkley Seismology Lab