A careful reading of 3 Ne:8 comes across to a professional volcanologist as an accurate description of a cataclysmic volcano-tectonic event on a major subduction zone. There are literally hundreds of dangerous stratocone volcanoes along the western margins of Central America. Cities like Managua, Nicaragua, have been destroyed and/or buried, then rebuilt repeatedly during historic times. These volcanoes are intimately associated with huge subduction earthquakes - think of the Tohoku earthquake that devastated northeastern Japan in March. Think of Mount Fuji and the restive Kurile Islands volcanoes lying just above huge continent-over-oceanic-crust subduction faults marking the Ring of Fire. Interestingly, none of these features exists within 3,000 kilometers of western New York State, nor were they known to Americans in 1827.
The eruption of Mount St Helens in 1980 was classified as a VEI 5 event - that’s for Volcano Explosivity Index. This index scale is approximately logarithmic: a VEI 4 is about 10 times smaller than a VEI 5 event, and a VEI 6 is about 10 times greater than MSH 1980. 3 Ne 8 describes something between a VEI 6 and a VEI 7. For “vapor of darkness” use “volcanic ash”, and everything falls precisely into place.
I wrote a paper and submitted it to the now-defunct Sunstone Magazine in 1980, but it was turned back with a comment that it was “too spiritual”, and to submit it to a magazine that would deal with that sort of stuff. Years later, a geology professor at BYU published a paper on volcanic eruptions and 3 NE 8, and asked me for the copy of my draft so he could reference it.
Joseph Smith grew up in Vermont and New York state. Western New York is covered with glacial moraines - huge gravel and boulder piles shoved down from their origin in Canada by the glaciers that retreated about 16,000 years ago. Joseph never saw a volcano, nor felt an earthquake, in his short life. A primitive form of the field of Volcanology existed at the time, mainly in Italy around Etna and Stromboli volcanoes, and Tectonics as a field would not develop until more than a century later.
Pretty prescient for a 3rd Grader.