Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Hill Cumorah in Western New York – Part I

There is no possibility that the Hill Cumorah in western New York, where Joseph Smith uncovered the plates from which he translated the Book of Mormon, could possibly be the same Hill Cumorah mentioned in the scriptural record in the Land of Promise. Mormon gave us numerous descriptions of the land, both on the north and on the south of the land, and described the Hill Cumorah as being in the Land of Cumorah, which was in or adjacent to the Land of Many Waters (Mormon 6:4).
The Hill Cumorah in the Land of Promise was in the Land Northward, some distance northward of the Narrow Neck of Land. That narrow neck was a dividing line between the Land of Bountiful in the Land Southward and the Land of Desolation in the Land Northward (Alma 63:5). That narrow neck also marked the northern terminus of the Land Southward, which was nearly surrounded by water except for this very neck of land (Alma 22:32). This narrow neck was also a prominent topographical marker, which was used as a dividing line in a truce between the Nephites and the Lamanites. And this narrow neck was a defensible position, which could be defended by the Nephites to keep anyone from getting beyond them into the Land Northward.
Given all that information, take a look at the two maps below. Is there any possibility that this topography meets any of that criteria as outlined in the Book of Mormon? Theorists can talk about the Finger Lakes, but they do not have any resemblance to anything in the scriptural record, and certainly there is no dividing area where an attacking force from the south could be held in check getting to the north, called a narrow pass or passage in the Book of Mormon (Mormon 3:5)--a narrow pass that obviously could not be circumvented by another route! This would not be a narrow strip of land between two Finger Lakes, but an area that could not be skirted or bypassed by an attacking force.
Left: This image is about 400 miles from the Hill Cumorah (Red “A”) to the bottom of the map; and 450 miles in width. Since the Hill Cumorah was in the Land Northward, it was north of the Land of Desolation which was north of the Narrow Neck of Land with an East Sea and a West Sea separating this narrow neck, and the Land Southward beyond that. This map lacks even the suggestion of such topography; Right: This extended map covers the entire eastern seaboard of the United States, about a thousand miles from the hill to the bottom of the map
Many Theorists who claim this land was the Land of Promise use the Finger Lakes as the East Sea, however, as seen in the maps below, these so-called lakes, are really little more than wide rivers, and were such anciently.
Left: The Finger Lakes: long, thin bodies of water that are so narrow a person could swim across them—in fact, so narrow they reminded map makers of fingers, thus they were called the Finger Lakes; Right: One of the larger Finger Lakes
The Finger Lakes consist of eleven long, narrow, roughly parallel lakes, oriented north-south as fingers of a pair of outstretched hands. The southern ends have high walls, cut by steep gorges. Two of the lakes (Seneca and Cayuga) are among the deepest in North America and have bottoms below sea level. The lakes originated as a series of northward-flowing streams. Anciently, a continental glacier moved southward from the Hudson Bay area, eventually widened, deepened and accentuated the existing river valleys. The glacial debris, possibly terminal moraine (soil and rock that forms at the terminus of a glacier marking its foremost advance), that was left behind by the receding ice, acted as dams, allowing lakes to form. In the Finger Lakes region, these areas were narrow valleys, so when the lakes formed, they were in narrow valleys, thus the lakes themselves were narrow. It should be noted at this point that these Finger Lakes could never be considered seas, or the East Sea, as Theorists claim, because while lakes, they are extremely narrow with hills in between, thus would not have been at any time a large enough contiguous water area to appear as a Sea. Even when the glaciers receded, leaving these narrow valleys, they were separated by the hills between, with the water formed or pooling in the narrow valleys.
The valleys of the Finger Lakes cut through higher hills that range upwards of 400 to 500 feet above the original rivers that later formed the lakes
In addition, despite the deep erosion of the valleys, the surrounding uplands show little evidence of glaciation, suggesting that the ice was thin, or at least unable to cause much erosion at these higher altitudes, thus once again the hills in between were not affected. In fact, the deep cutting by the ice left some tributaries hanging high above the lakes—both Seneca and Cayuga, as an example, have tributaries hanging as much as 400 feet above the valley floors, to show that their natural height
The Hill Cumorah in western New York at 700 feet elevation, is a 130-foot high drumlin, a streamlined, elongated hill, shaped like a half-buried egg, of glacial sediment, one of 10,000 drumlin hills in western New York especially around the Finger Lakes area and between Rochester and Syracuse. In addition to New York, many such drumlin hills are found in lower Connecticut, eastern Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The hill was apparently unnamed when the Smith family moved to upstate New York in 1816. Local farmers recognized it as one of the largest of the dozens of similar prominences in the area but otherwise paid it little heed. After Joseph uncovered the plates under Moroni’s guidance, the hill became known as “Mormon Hill,” “Bible Hill,” or “Golden Bible Hill.”
Leonard J. Arrington, "James Gordon Bennett's 1831 Report on 'The Mormonites,'" BYU Studies 10/3, p359, (Spring 1970), records the following description of the hill: “At the northern extremity the hill is quite abrupt and narrow. It runs to the south for a half mile and then spreads out into a piece of broad table land, covered with beautiful orchards and wheat fields. On the east, the Canandaigua outlet runs past it on its way to the beautiful village of Vienna in Phelps. It is profusely covered to the top with Beech, Maple, Bass, and White-wood—the northern extremity is quite bare of trees.” In the letters of Oliver Cowdery to W.W. Phelps, he describes the hill as: “The north end rose suddenly from the plain, forming a promontory without timber, but covered with grass. As you passed to the south you soon came to scattering timber, the surface having been cleared by art or by wind; and a short distance further left, you are surrounded with the common forest of the country…its steep ascent and narrow summit not admitting the plow of the husbandman, with any degree of ease or profit. It was at the second mentioned place where the record was found to be deposited, on the west side of the hill, not far from the top down its side…in 1830 there were several trees standing: enough to cause a shade in summer, but not so much as to prevent the surface being covered with grass—which was also the case when the record was first found.”
Others have also described this hill as “rising abruptly from the more level country north of it to the height of about 130 feet. Climbing it from the north end, the highest point, on which stands the stump of a large tree, is soon reached; south of this the hill gradually recedes until it is lost in the level about one mile distant. There is a number of other hills in this part of the country, and they all extend north and south like so many summits or ridges. A number of them are several miles long, but only a few hundred yards across from east to west. The hill Cumorah is no exception from this rule. Besides the north end its eastern and western slopes are quite steep, and the top consists of a narrow ridge somewhat rocky. Both sides of the north end of the hill have been plowed by the present owner clear to the top, and only a very few trees have been suffered to remain. About 200 yards south from the north end of the hill on the west side, however, is a beautiful beech grove containing, we should judge, about six acres of land; most of the trees are small, but stand very close together.”
(See the next post, “The Hill Cumorah in Western New York – Part II,” for further reasons why the Hill Cumorah in upstate New York could not possibly be the Hill Cumorah spoken of in the Book of Mormon and where the Nephites and Lamanites staged their final battle)

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