A Scriptural Warning to America

By Rick Brunson 

One of the first things we notice as we study the history of America as found in the scriptures, is how serious God is about having the inhabitants of this land keep his commandments. When they were wicked, entire civilizations were removed from this land and allowed to live in the spirit world. We have warning from the Lord that the same could happen to us in our day if we are not careful.

History of America

In order to fully understand this warning, it will first be necessary to examine the history of this land and highlight the important events as they pertained to the gospel, for according to Elder L. Tom Perry,

America’s…history provides important lessons and warnings for today—lessons about God and his interest in the affairs of men; and warnings in the form of destructions that came to early American civilizations when they lost their reverence for family, morality, or God.[1]

When most of us think of the history of America, we immediately think of people like Christopher Columbus and George Washington. What is often forgotten, however, is that the story of America began much earlier. The first people to set foot on this land were actually Adam and Eve. President Brigham Young said,

Joseph the Prophet told me that the garden of Eden was in Jackson [County] Missouri.[2]

Elder Heber C. Kimball added,

The spot chosen for the garden of Eden was Jackson County, in the State of Missouri, where Independence now stands; it was occupied in the morn of creation by Adam and his associates who came with him for the express purpose of peopling this earth.[3]

It has also been revealed to us that when Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden of Eden they fled to the valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman, which is located in Daviess County Missouri, and there built an alter on which they offered sacrifices unto the Lord.[4] Interestingly enough, it was also at Far West, Missouri where Cain entered into his covenant with Satan and where he killed his brother Abel. We learn this from President Joseph Fielding Smith, who said of Far West:

Cain Kills Able at Far West, Missouri
This hallowed and sacred place was designated by the Lord as most holy...[Here] the Prophet Joseph Smith contended with the devil face to face for some time...Lucifer declared that Joseph had no right to be there, that this was his place, for it was here that Satan entered into a covenant with Cain resulting in the death of Abel. Whereupon the Prophet rebuked Satan in the name of the Lord and he departed. Adam-ondi-Ahman, the place to which Adam and Eve fled when cast out of the Garden of Eden, is where Adam erected an altar unto God, and offered sacrafices, and Far West was the spot where Cain killed Abel. This information tends to explain why the Lord declared Far West to be a holy consecrated place; and no doubt explains why Satan claimed that place as his own, as it was here that he entered into a covenatnt with Cain, resulting in the death of Abel, the first of mortal existance to die upon this earth.[5]

The City of Enoch

The next major event to occur on this land was the building up of Enoch’s Zion. Enoch’s Zion is important to study because it is a “type”[6] of the latter-day Zion that is soon to be built on this same American Continent.[7] For example, the building of each Zion city is preceded by a council at Adam-ondi-Ahman (which may be one of the main purposes for holding such a council).[8] Furthermore, both Zion’s are said to be too terrible for her enemies to fight against.[9] In addition, both cities are physically caught up and removed from the earth before a destruction of the world (by a flood and fire respectively), and each city will descend and return to the earth together after the Second Coming.[10]

The Great Flood

After the city of Enoch was translated and the righteous removed from the earth, the inhabitants of this land became very wicked. In fact, Noah could only find seven others who were willing to keep the commandments of God.[11] Sometime around 2344 B.C., the Lord sent a Great Flood to cover the earth. This Great Flood swept the wicked of Noah’s generation from off the face of this American continent. As the waters covered the earth, the ark then carried Noah clear over to the other side of the world, where it eventually rested upon Mount Ararat in modern Turkey.[12]

It is important to point out that even at this time in the earth’s
The Earth before it was divided 100 years after the Flood
history, the continents were still joined together in one large land mass. President Joseph Fielding Smith explained:

We are committed to the fact that Adam dwelt on this American continent. But when Adam dwelt here, it was not the American continent, nor was it the Western Hemisphere, for all the land was in one place, and all the water was in one place. There was no Atlantic Ocean separating the hemispheres. “And God said, let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so…” (Gen. 1:9-10). If all the water was in one place, then naturally all the land was in one place; therefore, the shape of the earth, as to the water and the land surface, was not as we find it today.[13]

The scriptures tell us that it wasn’t until the days of Paleg (a man who lived 100 years after the flood) that “the earth divided.”[14] Suddenly, the continents of North and South America broke off from the rest of the landmass, and rapidly fled west to their present location on our globe. The Lord in his wisdom divided this former landmass into two hemispheres, and separated them by what is now the Atlantic Ocean. President Joseph Fielding Smith continued:

Then we read in Genesis that there came a time when the earth was divided (Gen 10:25). There are some people who believe that this simply means that the land surface was divided among the various tribes, but this is not the meaning; it was an actual dividing of the surface of the earth, and it was broken up as we find it now.[15]

According to one LDS scholar,

About a hundred years after the flood, we have the great continental separation, which must have been fantastic. The Babylonians talk about it, the Egyptians talk about it, the Greeks talk about it. They thought of course a continent had sunk. It didn’t, it departed and went west…. Scientists assume that this separation took place very gradually, one inch per year as it is now doing, and as scientists they would have to assume that that to be the case. But actually it happened very fast. And now that we have explored the floor of the Atlantic Ocean, we find no Atlantis, but we find the great scar that was left when this tremendous division took place in the days of Peleg.[16]  

This separation was done by the Lord in order to keep America hidden. From this point forward, the only people to inhabit this land would be those whom the Lord would bring.[17]

The Jaredites

America did not remain uninhabited for long. Shortly after this division, around 2200 B.C., the Lord led the Jaredites to this land of promise. The Lord had plans for them to become a righteous nation, but instead, virtually their entire civilization was destroyed because of wickedness and secret combinations.[18]

Nephites, Lamanites, and Mulekites

The next major wave of people to inhabit this American Continent was the family of Lehi—the descendants of whom became known as the Nephites and Lamanites. These were soon followed by the Mulekites, who later joined with the Nephites in the city of Zarahemla under the reign of King Mosiah. Time and time again, these nations were given this warning from the Lord:

For the Lord God hath said that: Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land; and inasmuch as ye will not keep my commandments ye shall be cut off from my presence (2 Ne. 4:4).

The Battle at the Hill Cumorah
Because the Nephites did not heed this warning, their entire nation was nearly destroyed in the famous final battle near the Hill Cumorah against their brethren the Lamanites.[19] The Nephites in the region who survived this last battle were thereafter hunted and killed by the Lamanites.[20] As for the Lamanites, they were thereafter also threatened with complete destruction. An estimated “90% of the population of the continent” writes LDS scholar Jeff Lindsay, perished “due to disease brought by European explorers and settlers” during the 15th and 16th centuries.[21] This resulted in the death of millions.[22] The Book of Mormon tells us that many of the Lamanites were destroyed at this time due to their wickedness.[23]

Christopher Columbus

As mentioned previously, the Lord promised Lehi that no group of people would be able to come to this land unless they were led by the hand of God.[24] Such was the case with Christopher Columbus. We know that Columbus, who was seen by Nephi in vision,[25] was inspired by God to discover this land.[26] According to Elder L. Tom Perry,

The discovery of America and the establishment of the United States was a part of God’s plan and was brought about by men who were inspired and guided by God…. The Lord guided Christopher Columbus to the New World. On several occasions Columbus gave credit to the Almighty. In writing to the Spanish leaders, he said, “Our Lord unlocked my mind, sent me upon the sea, and gave me fire for the deed…who can doubt but that the Holy Ghost inspired me?”[27]

Christopher Columbus
Not only was the Holy Ghost inspiring Christopher Columbus, but we also have reason to believe that the angel Moroni was also with Columbus, guiding his journey and giving him inspiration along the way. According to Elder Orson Hyde,

This same angel [Moroni] was with Columbus and gave him deep impressions, by dreams and by visions respecting this New World…was with him on the stormy deep, calmed the troubled elements, and guided his frail vessel to this desired haven.[28]

In spite of this divine guidance, Columbus received a great deal of criticism concerning this journey. Said he,

[Everyone] who heard of my enterprise, called it foolish, mocked me, and laughed.[29]

What were they laughing at? Were they laughing because Columbus tried to convince them that the earth was round? Absolutely not! According to one LDS scholar,

In your history books there is a myth that says that Columbus was the first one to appreciate that the world might be round. [But] that’s a complete myth! It never happened! That myth was put into our history books by Washington Erving, and he had this marvelous oration where Columbus tried to persuade them that it was round, and so forth, and they decided to take a chance, and it’s such a good story we can’t get it out of our history books. But it’s absolutely false. It never happened![30]  

We can be certain of this because we know that everyone during this time knew and taught that that the earth was round. If we take a step back and consider the many ancient prophets, such as John the Revelator, who saw the history and future of this earth in vision and recorded their revelations in scripture, we begin to discover that the Lord taught his Saints the correct principles concerning this earth from the very dawn of creation. As Hugh Nibley informs us, “the early Christians were quite aware that the earth is round.”[31] This is because the Lord showed the creation of this earth in vision to many prophets, such as Moses and Abraham.[32] In fact, Abraham taught this knowledge to the Egyptians, who thereafter became experts in astrology.[33] The Egyptians then turned around and gave this information to other surrounding nations. According to one text, “the Lord knew that some of the learning of the Egyptians would [then] be passed on to the Greeks and that the Greeks in turn would teach the Romans. He also knew that through Rome this knowledge would spread to other parts of the world as a blessing to humanity.”[34] No doubt the entire world had this information by the time of Columbus. In fact, even the Nephites in the Americas centuries prior knew and taught that the earth was round (2 Ne. 2:10; Alma 30:44). Furthermore, this truth is also found in the writings of Isaiah, who spoke of the “circle of the earth” (Isa. 40:22).

The Real Story

If the entire world already knew that the earth was round by this time in history, what is the real story behind Columbus? In the words of BYU’s Cleon Skousen:

He [Columbus] was under the impression that the earth might be only 12,000 miles around. The Greeks had already done a special mathematical calculation and figured that it was about 25,000 miles around, and they figured that about 200 B.C…. The big question before the court of Ferdinand and Isabella, was whether it was 25,000 miles around, or whether it was 12,000 miles around…. Columbus said, “I know that within 3,000 miles I'll hit land,” and he did.[35]

This was why Columbus was ridiculed. He had underestimated the circumference of the earth considerably and was convinced that he could get east by going west much faster than originally thought. No doubt Columbus was convinced of this because he had felt the Holy Ghost pushing him to make this journey. After all, Columbus would later ask, “who can doubt but that the Holy Ghost inspired me?”[36]

The Constitution

The Prayer at Valley Forge
After America was discovered, it would take another miracle from God to keep it a free country so that gospel could be restored. Elder Parry noted, “You merely need to study history to recognize that a group of fledgling colonies defeating the world’s most powerful nation stemmed from a force greater than man.”[37] During this critical time in our history, we again find the angel Moroni playing an important role in guarding over our nation. Elder Orson Hyde said,

This same angel [Moroni] presides over the destinies of America and feels a lively interest in all our doings. He was in the camp of Washington; and by an invisible hand, led on our fathers to conquest and victory…to prepare the way for the Church and kingdom of God to be established on the western hemisphere…. Under the guardianship of this same angel, the United States has grown and flourished.[38]

As a result of this victory, the constitution could then be given to us by inspired men, men whom God raised up for such a purpose.[39] Elder Perry asks, “where else in the world do we find a group of men together in one place at one time who possessed greater capacity and wisdom than the founding fathers—Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, and others?”[40] Interestingly enough, after their deaths, these men appeared to Wilford Woodruff and requested that the necessary temple work be performed on their behalf. President Woodruff recorded this experience as follows:

Every one of these men that signed the Declaration of Independence with General Washington called upon me, as an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, in the Temple at St. George…and demanded at my hands that I should go forth and attend to the ordinances of the house of God for them. Said they, “You have had the use of the Endowment House for a number of years and yet nothing has been done for us. We laid the foundation of the government you enjoy and we never apostatized from it, but we remained true to it and were faithful to God….” I straightway went into the baptismal font and called upon Brother McAllister to baptize me for the signers of the Declaration of Independence.[41]

This Constitution was later approved by the Lord in the Doctrine and Covenants.[42] Furthermore, Joseph Smith taught that this same Constitution will be put in place as the Millennial form of government.[43] As it turns out, when Joseph Smith learned this for the first time, he attempted to amend the constitution in hopes of fixing any problems it may have had.[44] However, the Lord prevented him from doing so, and told him that it was already in its perfect form.[45]

The Restoration

With the Constitution now in place, the Lord had a land where he could restore his gospel. It is clear that the United States was the only nation on earth where Satan could not have succeeded in preventing the gospel from going forward. In fact, Satan, even here in this free land founded on the principles of the freedom of religion was able to do much harm in his attempts to destroy God’s work. It is no wonder why the Lord choose to keep this land hidden from the world, and why he chose this land for his restoration.

Future of America

Looking back at our history, it is very apparent that the Lord views this land as sacred. So sacred in fact that the Lord destroyed four civilizations because of wickedness: the people at the time of Noah, the Jaredites, the Nephites, and the Lamanites.

When we compare these civilizations to other civilizations who were living in other parts of the world during these same time periods, we find out just how serious God is about having the inhabitants of this land keep his commandments. In the words of Hugh Nibley,

Egypt, Greece, India, China, the unchanging East, have all paid the price of survival with endless suffering, yet their civilizations are still in place. But it is a different story in the New World, where great civilizations have arisen and collapsed for reasons that students are still wholly at a loss to explain. They just disappeared, and nobody knows why. And I think that is a warning.[46]

A warning it is indeed. We are the next to live on this great land. Nowhere in the scriptures does it suggest that the warning God gave to the Nephites (to keep the commandments or be cut off), ended when they were destroyed. In fact, the Lord has made it very clear that this condition still applies to those who live on this land today. The prophet Alma said,

Thus saith the Lord God—Cursed shall be the land, yea, this land, unto every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, unto destruction, which do wickedly, when they are fully ripe; and as I have said so shall it be; for this is the cursing and the blessing of God upon the land, for the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance (Alma 45:16).

For behold, there is a curse upon all this land, that destruction shall come upon all those workers of darkness, according to the power of God, when they are fully ripe (Alma 37:28).

Clearly, the Lord expects a great deal from those who live on these American continents. Those who think that we can live on these lands and break God’s commandments without facing the same consequences that four previous civilizations faced have failed to learn from our history. Moroni, who saw our day in vision,[47] tells us that the Lord has

Sworn in his wrath…that whoso should possess this land of promise…should serve him, the true and only God, or they should be swept off when the fulness of his wrath should come upon them…and the fulness of his wrath cometh upon them when they are ripened in iniquity. For behold, this is a land which is choice above all other lands; wherefore he that doth possess it shall serve God or shall be swept off; for it is the everlasting decree of God. And this cometh unto you, O ye Gentiles, that ye may know the decrees of God – that ye may repent, and not continue in your iniquities…that ye may not bring down the fulness of the wrath of God upon you as the inhabitants of the land have hitherto done (Ether 2:8-11).

On a second occasion, Moroni specifically warns us again, saying:

O ye Gentiles, it is wisdom in god that these things should be shown unto you, that thereby ye may repent of your sins…or wo be unto it (Eth. 8:23-24).

There is even a third occasion when Moroni made it a point to warn us of this possible destruction. He writes,

I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing…. Behold, the sword of vengeance hangeth over you (Morm. 8:35, 41).

Hugh Nibley said of these warnings from Moroni,

In my youth I thought the Book of Mormon was much too preoccupied with extreme situations, situations that had little bearing on the real world of everyday life and ordinary human affairs. What on earth could the total extermination of nations have to do with life in the enlightened modern world?

Today no comment on that is necessary. Moroni gives it to us straight: This is the way it was before, and this is the way it is going to be again, unless there is a great repentance.[48]

Brother Nibley also added,

It is into our hands that the Book of Mormon has been placed…. Plainly it is meant for us, as it reminds us many times; it is the story of what happened to the Nephites—and we are the Nephites: “It must needs be that the riches of the earth are mine to give; but beware of pride, lest ye become as the Nephites of old” (D&C 38:39).[49]

With this warning in mind, one cannot help but ask if we know whether or not the United States will ever get to this stage of wickedness. Has the destruction of America ever been prophesied? If so, do we know how it will come about or when will it happen? 

The answers to these and other questions are found in my new book entitled, Before the Second Coming


[1] Perry, “Gods Hand in Founding of America,” New Era, July 1976.
[2] Wilford Woodruffs Journal, (Mar. 1857), vol. 5, p. 15.
[3] Journal of Discourses, 10:235.
[4] Smith & Stewart, The Life of Joseph Fielding Smith, p.339.   
[5] Smith & Stewart, The Life of Joseph Fielding Smith, p.339.
[6] For more information on “types,” see Brunson, “Types of Christ in the Old Testament.” 
[7] For more information on the latter-day Zion, see Brunson, Before the Second Coming.
[8] D&C 107:53-57; Daniel 7:9-14.
[9] Moses 7:13; D&C 45:70.
[10] Moses 7:63; D&C 84:100; Journal of Discourses, 7:63.
[11] Genesis 7:13.
[12] For more information on the Great Flood, see Brunson, “Noah’s Ark.”
[13] Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 3:74-75.
[14] Genesis 10:25; D&C 133:23-24.
[15] Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 3:75.
[16] Speech given by, Skousen, in Favorite Speech Series“Ancient Scriptures Tool For Conversion.”
[17] 2 Nephi 1:5-9; Ether 2:7.
[18] Ether 15:29-32. 
[19] Mormon 6.
[20] Mormon 8:23.
[22] See for example, Taylor, American Colonies, The Settling of North America, p. 39-46.
[23] 1 Nephi 13:14.
[24] 2 Nephi 1:5-9; Ether 2:7.
[25] 1 Nephi 13:12.
[26] 1 Nephi 13:12.
[27] Perry, “Gods Hand in Founding of America,” New Era, July 1976.
[28] Journal of Discourses 6:368
[29] Jacob Wassermann, Columbus, Don Quixote of the Seas, 19–20, 46.
[30] Speech given by, Skousen, in Favorite Speech Series, “Prophecy and Modern Times.”
[31] Nibley, Since Cumorah, p. 65.
[32] Moses 2-3; Abraham 4-5.
[33] Abraham 3:15; Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph, p. 251.
[34] Skousen, The First 2,000 Years, p. 231.
[35] Speech given by, Skousen, in Favorite Speech Series, Prophecy and Modern Times.
[36] Perry, “Gods Hand in Founding of America,” New Era, July 1976.
[37] Perry, “Gods Hand in Founding of America,” New Era, July 1976.
[38] Journal of Discourses, 6:368.
[39] D&C 101:80.
[40] Perry, “Gods Hand in Founding of America,” New Era, July 1976.
[41] Journal of Discourses, 19:229.
[42] D&C 98:5-7.
[43] D&C 109:54.
[44] Joseph Smith Diary, 10 March 1844, LDS Church Archives.  See also speech given by, Skousen, in Favorite Speech Series“The Book of Mormon and the Constitution.”
[45]D&C 98:5-7.
[46] Nibley, Approaching Zion, p. 416.
[47] Mormon 8:35.
[48] Nibley, The Prophetic Book of Mormon, p. 468.
[49] Nibley Since Cumorah, p. 354.