Mormon theological geography… on a nine-foot-high banner!

G[eorge] F. Weston, MAP OF ANCIENT AMERICA [:] LECTURE SIZE]. Independence, Missouri: [Herald Publishing House?], 1899.
Contact print[?] on cloth with added hand color and some ms additions in ink, 95”h x 57”w at sheet edge. Remnants of ties at top for hanging display. Minor spotting, else excellent.

Perhaps the only known example of this astonishing nine-foot-tall banner bearing a historical map of the Americas, printed on cloth and reflecting an early attempt at a geographical interpretation of the Book of Mormon.

The map was an official production of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (RLDS) in Independence, Missouri. The RLDS (known since 2001 as the Community of Christ), is a reformist branch of the Church of Latter Day Saints, established in 1860:

“The formal reorganization occurred on April 6, 1860, in Amboy, Illinois as the “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints”, adding the word Reorganized to the church name in 1872. The church was founded to repudiate the doctrine of plural marriage, and also as a less-theocratic and more mainstream alternative to the Strangites and the larger LDS church led by Brigham Young. It has long been considered the “liberal” Midwestern wing of the Latter Day Saint movement…. Since 1844, the doctrines and practices of the Community of Christ have evolved separately from the other denominations of the Latter Day Saint movement.” (Wikipedia, accessed Dec. 10, 2019)

From early on there were numerous attempts at geographic interpretation of the Book of Mormon. The banner offered here has its origins in one such attempt, initiated in 1894 by the RLDS:

“At the General Conference of the Reorganized Church held at Lamoni, Iowa, April 6-19, 1894, a “committee on American archaeology” was appointed to outline and prepare a map of Book of Mormon history—the record of the ancient inhabitants of North and South America….


“This labor has been rendered the more arduous because involving consideration of various theories held concerning locations of civilizations, lands, boundaries, rivers, etc., with other problems connected with the settlement, migration, and general vicissitudes of the various nations mentioned; and has required close and diligent study.” (From Preface to Report of the Committee on American Archaeology. Lamonia, Iowa: Herald Publishing House, 1898)[1]

George F. Weston, a member of the RLDS then living in Buchanan, Michigan, was commissioned to produce the maps accompanying the report. Soon thereafter either he or the Committee must have arranged for the production of this banner, which reprints his maps in one consolidated, mammoth image. Bearing as it does the subtitle “Lecture Size,” it must have been intended for use either in education within the community or in support of RLDS missionary activities.

This banner consists in fact of four maps, all with names from the Book of Mormon superimposed on modern place names, the latter in parentheses, and with different symbols used to indicate ancient mounds and ruins. Another interesting feature is that “the marginal letter and numerical plan for index is used by permission of Rand McNally Co. Chicago.” The four maps are as follows:

No. 1 [Untitled map of the Middle East]

No. 2 Map of the World Showing Probable Course of the Ancient Colonies Across the Ocean

No. 3 Map of the Lands of the Nephites B.C. 600 to A.D. 400 (by far the largest of the maps)

No. 4 Map of the Lands of the Jaredites B.C. 2234 – B.C. 600

These maps or similar maps also seem to have been published on a very small format in a separate work, Book of Mormon Maps. OCLC 367573989 lists but two holdings of his work (BYU and Graceland University in Lamoni).

Not in OCLC or Rare Book Hub, and a Google search comes up empty. Furthermore, I can find no similar, large-format maps dealing with Mormon theological geography in any institution.