I’ve heard the stories in Mormon lore about how Moroni hiked out west and dedicated some future temple sites in Utah. Are these stories credible? Or are they just the fabrication of someone with a dramatic imagination? How can one know if these stories are true?
This is a great question, which brings up some interesting points for us to discuss.
First, did this really happen? Sources differ, but the answer appears to be no. For example, we have a couple of references that appear to confirm it at lds.org and from the BYU Religious Studies Center. Here are some quotes and references for you to consider.
“Brigham Young announced the temple site 25 June 1875 and dedicated the site on 25 April 1877. Earlier that same morning, he had taken Warren S. Snow with him to the southeast corner of the temple site and told him, ‘Here is the spot where the Prophet Moroni stood and dedicated this piece of land for a Temple site, and that is the reason why the location is made here, and we can’t move it from this spot.'” The Manti Temple
The BYU Religious Studies Center said:
That Moroni dedicated the Manti Temple site is one of the few statements the Brethren have made connecting a Book of Mormon figure with a specific current place and action. This aids us in documenting one of Moroni’s travels and priesthood assignments. Another reference happened when William McBride, patriarch from the Richfield Utah Stake, spoke at a prayer meeting in St. George in January 1881. After recalling many experiences from the Nauvoo period and quoting the Prophet Joseph Smith on many issues, Patriarch McBride referred to the Route the old Nephites took travelling to Cumorah from the south and south west; of having to bury their tr[e]asures as they journeyed and finally burying the Records and precious things in the Hill Cumorah; of Moroni dedicating the Temple site of what we now call St. George, Nauvoo, Jackson Co., Kirtland, and others we know not of as yet. (Walker 2:525–26)
Moroni, the Last of the Nephite Prophets
The link above also includes two interesting maps that I think you would enjoy.
However, it’s not so cut and dried. Apparently, the reference desk at Church Archives keeps a “myths binder”, and this one’s in it:
In 1987, John A. Peterson of the Acquisitions Department of what is now called the Church History Library prepared a report for Jane A. Braithwaite of the Manti Destiny Committee (a private, non-profit organization promoting and preserving the history of Manti and the Sanpete Valley) detailing his attempts to document the source of the tale. He had scoured all known pertinent records, including restricted temple records, looking for any confirmation. His search included at least these sources:
CR 348 19 – Manti Corner Stone Services, April 14, 1879
CR 348 20 – “[Private] Dedication of the Manti Temple – Dedication Services held in the Celestial Room of the Temple, at 12 o’clock on Thursday Morning May 17th, 1888” (which files include copies of the dedicatory prayer and sermons)
CR 348 21 – Manti Temple Historical Record, 1873-01934
CR 348 22 – Manti Temple – Setting apart of temple workers, 1888
CR 348 33 – Manti Temple – Bulletins, 1884-1955
CR 348 37 – Manti Temple – Attendance Roll, 1888-1894
CR 348 37 – Manti Temple – Reunion List, 1895
In none – none – of these sources is there any hint whatsoever of an ancient dedication of the temple site, no mention of Moroni, nothing that could be seen as supporting the story, although the story, if true, would have found a natural place in any of these records. The Keepapitchin
I’ll leave it to you to decide if then if the story is authentic. This story (or rumor) brings up an important point. We need to be careful with stories of this nature (verifying them when possible as you are seeking to do) because stories like this can get passed around and much like gossip grow and change in the telling, even if the changes are innocently and ignorantly made. Sometimes people are so hungry for spiritual experiences, that they are willing to believe any “feel good story’. That’s not good.
So how do we know which stories to believe, especially if we can’t find any official church sources to back them up? How do we discern truth from error or falsehood? We need to pray about it. I realize that sounds like a “Sunday School answer” or in other words, a bit of a cop out, but it is the truth. The only way we can know for certain what comes from God and what does not, is to ask Him.
When we were baptized we were given the Gift of the Holy Ghost. Having this gift is the first step toward receiving many other spiritual gifts. One of these is the gift of discernment. It is with this gift that you can know the truth or falsehood of the “Moroni stories” or any other information you need to know. Elder Bednar explained it this way,
“Discernment is so much more than recognizing right from wrong. It helps us distinguish the relevant from the irrelevant, the important from the unimportant and the necessary from that which is merely nice.” Quick to Observe
Is it relevant for us to know the answer to your question about Moroni? Perhaps not. But this question leads us to another question, what is relevant for us to know? I believe that Heavenly Father wants to share a lot more with us than we imagine. In an Ensign article, Lane Johnson said,
“It would appear from the scriptures that our Father desires to grant [spiritual] gifts even more ardently than we desire to receive them.” How to Receive Spiritual Gifts
So my thought, Robert, is that you can ask Heavenly Father about the Moroni stories you have heard, but don’t stop there. Be open to the abundance of other blessings and knowledge that He is waiting to give His children who obey Him, and ask for those blessings.