Annually, October 1, is the anniversary of a little known event in early Church history that I believe, in consequence of significant research progress into 2019, now deserves recognition for identifying a region of major Book of Mormon lands and for initiating Book of Mormon archaeological historic research.
Readers will immediately realize both claims in this sentence are false. The sentence should be rewritten.
(i) The claim that the October 1 article identified "a region of major Book of Mormon lands" is false. At best, it speculated about a possible setting for BofM events.
(ii) The claim that the October 1 (1842) article "initiated" BofM archaeological research is false because Joseph Smith and others personally engaged in BofM archaeological research as early as 1834. During Zion's camp they dug up the bones of Zelph in Illinois. Joseph wrote to Emma about this research: "The whole of our journey, in the midst of so large a company of social honest men and sincere men, wandering over the plains of the Nephites, recounting occasionaly the history of the Book of Mormon, roving over the mounds of that once beloved people of the Lord, picking up their skulls & their bones, as a proof of its divine authenticity."  
In a Times and Seasons editorial, October 1, 1842, the Prophet Joseph Smith 
This is mere speculation. The editorial is anonymous and there is no evidence that Joseph wrote, edited, or even saw the article before it was published. Some speculate that Joseph wrote the article, but such speculation should not be stated as a fact. Readers should be informed that the author is merely speculating here.
The assumption that Joseph wrote the article arose from a comment published in the March 1, 1842, issue, discussed below.
after progressive study 
There is no evidence that Joseph studied these books, apart from a brief reference in a November 1841 thank-you note that Joseph may or may not have dictated but didn't sign. It's just as likely he never even saw that letter, for reasons I've discussed at length elsewhere. 
announced a discovery that the Book of Mormon “land southward” is located in Central America (Mesoamerica), which would be from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec as the narrow neck of land, south to Panama or at least Costa Rica, which as the Prophet pointed out, fits the description in Alma 22: 32 as the land that is “nearly surrounded by water.” [1] 
The article says nothing about the Isthmus of Tehuantepec; it merely refers to the land "north of the Isthmus of Darien." Again, the article is anonymous; one can speculate that Joseph wrote it, but it misleads readers to simply declare that he did. 
The speculative and irrational nature of the article is evident from these passages: "the ruins of Zarahemla have been found where the Nephites left them... We are not going to declare positively that the ruins of Quirgua are those of Zarahemla [but] we are of opinion, that it would require more proof than the Jews could bring to prove the disciples stole the body of Jesus from the tomb, to prove that the ruins of the city in question, are not one of those referred to in the Book of Mormon."
Joseph’s information resulted from studying an exciting book by explorer John Lloyd Stevens, Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan, 1841, that for the first time was bringing major exposure to the outside world of magnificent ancient Maya ruins hidden in the jungles of Central America. 
While the Stevens book was sensational because of its detailed illustrations, the existence of Mayan ruins was well known even before the Book of Mormon was published. Alexander von Humboldt had explored Central America and had visited President Thomas Jefferson to discuss his expedition. His book had been translated into English and was on sale in the Palmyra print shop as early as 1818. This is the print shop young Joseph visited weekly to get the newspaper for his father. 
In his book, von Humboldt discussed ancient ruins in Central America, accompanied by illustrations, and identified Panama as a "neck of land." This reflects a common understanding of the time; i.e., Panama was the "neck of land" between South America and North America. Naturally some people applied this to the language in the Book of Mormon. 
And keep in mind, Joseph knew that in the Book of Mormon “the history of ancient America is unfolded” [2]  Can you sense his enthusiasm and flag waving to research it out?
These sentences mislead readers as well. Here is the full quotation of from the original Wentworth letter:
In this important and interesting book the history of ancient America is unfolded, from its first settlement by a colony that came from the Tower of Babel at the confusion of languages to the beginning of the fifth century of the Christian era. We are informed by these records that America in ancient times has been inhabited by two distinct races of people. The first were called Jaredites and came directly from the Tower of Babel. The second race came directly from the city of Jerusalem about six hundred years before Christ. They were principally Israelites of the descendants of Joseph. The Jaredites were destroyed about the time that the Israelites came from Jerusalem, who succeeded them in the inheritance of the country. The principal nation of the second race fell in battle towards the close of the fourth century. The remnant are the Indians that now inhabit this country.
This passage is an edited version of Orson Pratt's missionary pamphlet. When he wrote the Wentworth letter (published March 1, 1844), Joseph omitted Orson Pratt's extensive commentary that focused on Central and South America. He replaced it with the simple, clear declaration that "The remnant are the Indians that now inhabit this country." 
Some M2C scholars claim that the phrase "this country" refers to all of western hemisphere, but Joseph was writing from Nauvoo, Illinois, to an editor in Chicago, Illinois. He could have used the term "country" to refer to the American nation or the area where they both lived (in Illinois), but after expressly deleting Orson Pratt's speculation about Central America, Joseph surely did not intend the term to refer to Central America.
John Lloyd Stephens and the Birth of American Archaeology
In 1830, American archaeology was unknown. John Lloyd Stephens, a New York Attorney, became an explorer when he traveled to Europe in 1834, then to the Middle East, returning to NY in 1836. He wrote several books about his travels on the other side of the Atlantic that became best sellers in America. In 1839, President Martin Van Buren commissioned Stephens to be a Special Ambassador to Central America. So Stephens, accompanied by artist and architect Frederick Catherwood traveled to British Honduras (now Belize) where they first came across Maya ruins at Copan.                       
John L.Stephens [3]    
A big fan of Stephens was Wilford Woodruff, who brought the books from New York to Nauvoo and read them along the way. He wrote a letter to Dr. Bernhisel, who had given him the books to give to Joseph as a gift. For this and other reasons, the most likely explanation for the November 1841 thank-you note is that Woodruff wrote it.                                        
Note that this map does not even show the Isthmus of Darien, the only specific feature the Times and Seasons article mentions.
In 1841, Stephens’ published four books about his travels and explorations including Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan. Stephens’ books on Central America with impressive drawings of spectacular temple buildings and monuments by artist Frederick Catherwood exposed, to the outside world for the first time,  extensive lost ancient civilizations in the jungles of Central America (southern Mexico, Yucatan, and Guatemala), and north of the Isthmus of Darien [Panama] which once embraced hundreds of miles of territory from north to south.                                            Map of Mesoamerica [4]
Drawings by Catherwood of Maya ruins of Uxmal (L) and Palenque (R) explored by Stephens [5]
Joseph Smith
Joseph Smith Jr. at 14 years old was considered “uneducated”. 
While it's true that Joseph had little formal education, his peers noted that as a schoolboy, he was an effective speaker and knew the scriptures. He spent several early years laid up and unable to work because of the leg surgery. There is good reason to believe he was well-read as a young boy. This desire for knowledge did not start after he translated the Book of Mormon.
Steadily he became an avid reader of history, politics, novels, and poets as well as studying foreign languages, primarily Hebrew and German.  During 1839-1842 as the Saints were establishing the city of Nauvoo, the Prophet Joseph Smith led his people in business, church administration, and temple building. [6] In 1839, the leaders of the Church 
[Actually, it was Joseph's brother Don Carlos and a business partner, neither of whom were leaders of the Church, who started the paper]
began publishing the Times and Seasons periodical (the same year that John Lloyd Stevens began his explorations in Mesoamerica). Its motto, “Truth will prevail,” expressed a goal to promote truth, and correct falsehoods, and was the main organ for publishing truths pertaining to the restored gospel to the Church members and the world. Many of the Prophets revelations, and his Book of Abraham translation, for instance, appeared in print for the first time in the Times and Seasons. In the spring of 1842 (May 11), in consequence of too many errors appearing in print, the Prophet Joseph Smith took over the editorship and announced his personal responsibility for the contents of the paper. [7]   
Actually, Joseph's name first appeared as editor, printer and publisher in the Feb. 15, 1842 issue. After Don Carlos died in September 1841, his former business partner took over the paper. Benjamin Winchester, who had started his own Mormon newspaper in Philadelphia but ran out of money, moved to Nauvoo in October 1841 to work for the paper. The paper began publishing Winchester's articles anonymously. In January 1842, Winchester was rebuked and Joseph announced that the Quorum of the Twelve should take over the newspaper. 
The March 1, 1842, Times and Seasons (which contained the Wentworth letter) also contained this statement:
This paper commences my editorial career, I alone stand for it, and shall do for all papers having my signature henceforward. I am not responsible for the publication, or arrangement of the former paper; the matter did not come under my supervision. JOSEPH SMITH.
This statement, combined with the boilerplate, is the rationale for attributing to Joseph Smith everything that appeared in the newspaper between March 1 and October 1, 1842.
Historians have assumed that "my signature" referred to the boilerplate at the end of each paper, which stated the paper was "Printed, published and edited by Joseph Smith, Jr." Of course, no one claims that Joseph actually set type, operated the printing press, cleaned the equipment, etc. He was listed as printer in name only.
Likewise, there is no evidence that Joseph ever actually edited the paper. No journal entries, no observations by others, etc. But there is evidence that he did not know what was in the paper until he read it after it was printed. This evidence indicates that Joseph was merely the nominal editor, just as he was merely the nominal printer. 
Plus, there were errors in the paper that, if he was actually editing the paper, Joseph should have recognized and corrected. One error appears in Joseph's own history, which states that it was Nephi, not Moroni, who appeared to Joseph Smith in 1823.
There is also evidence that William Smith, Joseph's brother, who was editing the Wasp newspaper in Nauvoo that was printed on the same printing press as the Times and Seasons, was actually editing both papers, probably with the assistance of W.W. Phelps.
Drawing of Joseph Smith [8]  
During the next six months he endeavored to raise the paper’s standard of excellence (May-Nov. 1842). 
It's unclear what "standard of excellence" means here or how it could be quantified. Some issues of the Times and Seasons contained the same articles as William Smith's Wasp; others consisted largely of reprints from other newspapers.
One of the distinctive features of Joseph’s six month editorial career was the attention given to antiquities as they might relate to the Book of Mormon. 
This was not distinctive; it was a common topic during Joseph's lifetime. Every Mormon newspaper had discussed this topic of antiquities, including the Evening and the Morning Star, the Millennial Star, the Gospel Reflector, the Prophet, and the Messenger and Advocate.
Oliver Cowdery's eight essays on Church history, originally published in the Messenger and Advocate in 1834-5, were republished in the Gospel Reflector, the Prophet, the Millennial Star, and the Times and Seasons (as well as the Improvement Era). One of his essays, titled Letter VII, specifically addressed the historicity issue by explaining it was a fact that the hill in New York where Joseph found the plates was the very Hill Cumorah of Mormon 6:6, the scene of the final battles of the Nephites and Jaredites and the location of the depository of Nephite records Mormon abridged.
Other books, such as Parley P. Pratt's Voice of Warning, cited the same evidence and quoted some of the same sources found in the anonymous Times and Seasons articles. When the Apostles went to England in 1839-1840, they cited antiquities as evidence of the Book of Mormon.
In the November 15, 1842 edition, he announced that Elder John Taylor should be the Editor to maintain the high quality of excellence that had developed. [9]
Shortly after Stephens’ 1841 Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan (Vol. I and II) on Mesoamerica hit the book market (illustration at right), Joseph received them as a gift and commented in his personal Journal History about their importance to the Book of Mormon. 
There is no citation here and I've never heard of such a journal entry. I suspect the author has confused this claim with the November letter to Dr. Bernhisel, but because I can't tell for sure, I can't comment further.
On June 25, 1842, Joseph recorded in his Journal that Stephens and Catherwood had succeeded in collecting in the interior of Middle America “a large amount of relics of the Nephites, or the ancient inhabitants of America treated of in the Book of Mormon,” which relics had recently landed in New York. [10] 
Footnote 10 refers to History of the Church, a compilation that was begun after Joseph died in 1844. The compilers changed original records to first person to make it appear as if Joseph had written the material. They also inserted newspaper accounts and other material as if Joseph had written it. 
In 1842, Joseph didn't record anything in his journal. His journal was maintained by scribes.  The original entry for June 25, 1842, had nothing to do with relics; it reads:
Saturday 25 Transacted Business with Bro. [Edward] Hunter. Mr Babbit [Almon Babbitt]. & set for the drawing of his profile. for Lithographing on city chart.
The journal entry in History of the Church, cited in this article, was taken from a newspaper article about the Stephens books that described these relics from Central America, such as the article that appeared in the June 18, 1842, edition of the Wasp (the Nauvoo newspaper edited by William Smith).  You can see it in the second column from the left, about half way down, under "Central America," at this site:
Brother Norman wants his readers to believe that a fake journal entry, taken from a newspaper report and added years after Joseph's death, was actually personally recorded by Joseph Smith.
While the relics were judged to be of the “Nephites,” that was of course unknown, but illustrates Joseph’s frame of reference at that early date. The ruins of ancient Maya civilizations were completely shrouded in mystery, yet he held the key in the Book of Mormon to unlocking the lost history of ancient America civilizations.
Since the journal entry is a fake, Brother Norman's conclusions don't follow. Besides, if we accept that Joseph held the key to unlocking the lost history, we should look at what Joseph said and did when using that key. He endorsed the New York Cumorah several times and when he wrote the Wentworth letter, he specifically edited out Orson Pratt's Central American speculation. 
In the September 15th 1842 issue of the Times and Seasons, an extract from John Lloyd Stephens on the antiquities at Palenque, Mexico was published with editorial comments. The scripture about the narrow neck of land geography in Alma 22:32 was cited, implying reference to the Isthmus of Tehuantepec which is not far from Palenque. 
Rather than "implying reference to the Isthmus of Tehuantepec," these articles specifically cited the Isthmus of Panama, which was widely described as a "neck of land" even before Joseph translated the Book of Mormon. 
The next issue two weeks later (October 1, 1842) [1] followed up with specific details that show studied progress to try and locate Book of Mormon lands and ruins. That front page editorial is particularly significant as the Prophet’s last and most specific statement on geography while he was the official editor, so it deserves our attention.    
Again, this claim merely states as a fact that Joseph wrote the anonymous editorial. The same Oct. 1 issue, however, contains a letter from Joseph Smith to the Church, dated September 6, 1842, that he signed and sent to the actual editor of the paper for publication. During this time frame, Joseph was hiding from the Missouri authorities. None of his contemporaries stated or implied that Joseph was doing any editing work; certainly he was not studying the Stephens books or anything related to Central America.  
The next section of this article rehashes the first sections, insisting that Joseph wrote the anonymous articles. 
This section is an outstanding example of the Loserthink tactic of mind reading. Mind reading is awesome even when someone is reading the mind of a living person, but reading the mind of Joseph Smith, whose personal writings are sparse and for whom we have few verbatim records apart from the Book of Mormon and some of the revelations in the D&C, is exceptional awesomeness.
Map of Mesoamerica showing antiquities + Palenque –       [11]
The October 1, 1842, editorial titled “Zarahemla” precedes an extract from Stephens on the site of Quirigua in Guatemala. The opening statement expresses his active interest in exploring possible locations of Book of Mormon lands: “Since our ‘Extract’ was published from Mr. Stephens’ ‘Incidents of Travel,’ & c. [preceding September 15 issue], we have found another important fact relating to the truth of the Book of Mormon. . . .The city of Zarahemla, burnt at the crucifixion of the Savior, and rebuilt afterwards, stood upon this land as will be seen from the following words in the book of Alma.” [1]
The editorial then quotes Alma chapter 22: 32 about the land located southward of the narrow neck of land being nearly surrounded by water. The second page of Stephens’ book contains a map of Central America charting his explorations from Costa Rica northward to Tabasco on the Gulf of Mexico near the Isthmus of Tehuantepec as the “narrow neck of land,” and into Yucatan. [1]                                                                                                 
The editorial continues: “It is certainly a good thing for the excellency and veracity of the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon, that the ruins of Zarahemla [land not city] have been found where the Nephites left them.” [1]
This proactive search for antiquities related to the Book of Mormon reflects the Prophet’s absolute knowledge of the divine authenticity of Book of Mormon history, which placed the burden of proof on the skeptic to prove that the lands and ruins in question are not related to the Book of Mormon. Joseph viewed the antiquities as a witness for the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon.
Map by Catherwood of Central America [12]
Joseph also stated: “It will not be a bad plan to compare Mr. Stephen’s ruined cities with those in the Book of Mormon; light cleaves to light, and facts are supported by facts. The truth injures no one. . . .” [1] Joseph Smith had the courage to press forward in Book of Mormon archaeology/history research, “to assist the Saints in establishing the Book of Mormon as a revelation from God,” which was his last statement before the Oct. 1, 1842 extract.
The Prophet, as he was concluding his editorial career, seems to assume the Saints would continue to seek knowledge from researching antiquities to add material witness of the authenticity of the Book of Mormon. At least, that is how I read it. As such, I propose Joseph’s initial study and comments of Stephens’ writings in the Times and Seasons in 1842, was the beginning of Book of Mormon archaeology, and may have even been the first invitation to pursue archaeological investigations of Stevens’ ruins in Middle America.
As we saw previously, the actual "beginning of Book of Mormon archaeology" took place in 1834, when Joseph and his fellow travelers dug up the bones of Zelph and other Hopewell-era burials throughout the Midwestern United States--the area Joseph called the "plains of the Nephites." Modern excavations of this site and others in the area have confirmed what Joseph taught about Zelph, including the dating and trade networks. 
Anyone interested in Book of Mormon archaeology ought to start where Joseph started. 
The Book of Mormon exploration challenges were not idle words. Seven months later President Smith’s clerk delivered from his office a proclamation to the Times and Seasons, dated May 15, 1843, titled “To the Saints Among All Nations,” announcing that according to “divine direction,  . . . it appears to be the duty of the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, to bring to Nauvoo, their precious things, such as antiquities, . . . petrifactions [fossils] as well as inscriptions and hieroglyphics, for the purpose of establishing a Museum of the great things of God, and the inventions of men, at Nauvoo.” [13]
This Museum development would obviously have included collections that explore possible Book of Mormon antiquities, but due to limited knowledge, it would have been very circumstantial. Broad interest included all nations and peoples past and present. What this says to me is that knowledge from the past in any specific area of interest, including Book of Mormon studies, should be inclusive not exclusive. In other words, it can best grow and be understood and accepted, not in isolation, but in proportion to knowledge expanding in neighboring areas from the past to the present. Knowledge of Book of Mormon history and culture is now beginning to be understood and appreciated within Mesoamerican civilization. As we are able to discover more accurately where and how it fits, research is also reaching outward to explore migration relationships of Mesoamerican-Book of Mormon peoples to neighboring ancient cultures in North and South America.
On May 6, 1842, a man from New York City presented Joseph with a 20-foot-long scroll of "hieroglyphics" purporting to show the travels of Lehi from Jerusalem to South America. Joseph and his scribes apparently thought so little of it that the item didn't even merit a mention in his journal. That's understandable, given what Joseph wrote in the Wentworth letter about the Indians in this country (and not in Central and South America).
I cite this incident to show that Joseph did not embrace everything brought to him. He never once formally linked the Book of Mormon to anything in Central or South America. Everything he formally said, wrote or endorsed instead corroborated the New York Cumorah (e.g., D&C 128:20) and the identity of the remnant of the Lamanites in the northeastern U.S. (and the western areas to which they had been removed by the Federal government). 
It's true that, as Brother Norman has brought to our attention, anonymous articles and speculations did exist during Joseph's lifetime.  Some of these referred to Lamanites and ruins in South and Central America. Certain authors, including the Pratt brothers, William Smith, and Benjamin Winchester, made specific connections.
But when given the chance to endorse these ideas in the Wentworth letter, Joseph instead deleted them and specified that the remnant are the Indians "in this country."
Just as Stephens’ exploration of ancient Maya ruins was the beginning of American archaeology, from the perspective of the early Saints, Stevens opened the door to exploring Book of Mormon lands. Some of the Classic Maya ruins that Stevens explored and Catherwood drew are post period Book of Mormon. However, in recent years Mayan archaeological research exploration is revealing that many Maya ruins overlay earlier Book of Mormon period ancient civilizations that were settled in Nephite-Mulekite times, as well as earlier Jaredite times as described in the Book of Mormon.
John Taylor, as editor of the Times and Seasons in 1843, expressed the view that the Lord may have designed the coming forth of the Book of Mormon before any knowledge of related ruined cities was known, so that the world could produce a material witness. And it seemed miraculous to him that Stephens’ discoveries of ancient Maya ruins came so soon, about 10 years after the publication of the Book of Mormon.
I pay tribute to the Prophet Joseph Smith and his associates for the vision they gained so early about where to explore, and for their conviction that it is important and worthy of our dedication and sacrifices to pursue archaeological, geographical, and historical research of lands of the Book of Mormon.
This is all fine, except it misses the obvious point that scholars should pursue these sciences where Joseph started to pursue them--in the Midwestern and Northeastern United States.
[2] Times and Seasons, Nauvoo, Illinois, March 1, 1842: Wentworth Letter.
[3] John Lloyd Stephens, Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan. Volume 1                         1969 Dover Publications NY (Reprint of 1841 Edition by Harper & Bro. NY.).  P. iv                  
[5]  John Lloyd Stephens, Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan. Volume II.           1969 Dover Publications, NY, (Reprint of 1841 Edition by Harper & Bro., NY). P.434,308.
[6]  Alex D. Smith, (Volume  9 Editor of The Joseph Smith Papers – Documents) Lecture on Joseph         Smith at Nauvoo (1841-1842) at Assembly Hall on Temple Square, Sept. 26, 2019.
[7]  History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Deseret Book, SLC. No. 9 Vol. III, p. 710.
[8]  Drawing of Joseph Smith by Rachel Norman Williams 2002.
[9]  History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Deseret Book, SLC. No. 5. P. 193.
[10]  History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Deseret Book, SLC. No. 5. P. 44.
[12]  John Lloyd Stephens, Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan. Volume 1                      1969 Dover Publications, NY. (Reprint of 1841 Edition by Harper and Bro. NY),  P. 11