Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Hill Cumorah in Western New York – Part II

Continuing from the last post, which concluded with the comments of several people and their descriptions of the Hill Cumorah in upstate New York. When looking at their descriptions and actually seeing the Hill Cumorah where Joseph Smith uncovered the plates, it is obvious this is not the same hill and surrounding area Mormon describes in his writings. In fact, when approaching the hill from the south, it cannot even be seen, since it is a very gradual incline form the level ground around it.
The hill Cumorah in upstate New York today. Obviously, it is not very high and rather nondescript in appearance
As Oliver Cowdery wrote about approaching the hill, “We were watching for the highest hill in the neighborhood, but forgot we were approaching it from the south side. "Where is the Hill?" we asked our driver. "There it is," he said, pointing to a low hill gradually rising at its summit to the northward. It was only one of many hills; not a series of foot hills tied or held together with slight elevations, but rising, most of them from the plain, in varied and graceful lines” (Susa Gates Young, "A Visit to the Hill Cumorah”).
It is the highest of several such hills in the area, but it is not the type of hill most would think it to be. As one early visitor described it: “Commences to rise away south and is highest near the north end. Here it ends rather abruptly, and the descent on the northwest and east is quite steep and, being covered with grass, slippery.” At the time early church leaders visited the area, the hill was planted over with corn. According to Oliver Cowdery, “The whole of the eastern and southern sides is planted out to corn; and along the very summit, which is quite narrow—at the north stood great shocks of corn, looking like stacked guns in the red sunset.”
As can be seen, the rise of the hill from the sides is quote gradual, and not at all difficult to climb, and when covered with trees, appears as a very low hill
From all these descriptions, we find that this hill in New York is 1) unimpressive, 2) one of many similar hills in the area, and 3) only about 130 feet in height, with a slow, gradual rise at one end. All of this should suggest that it could not have been the Hill Cumorah in the Book of Mormon, which was such a prominent hill that it was known to the Lamanite king, who was not from this area, nor had the Lamanites ever been in the Land Northward until 360 A.D. (Mormon 2:29), and not near the northern portion of the land until around 380 A.D. (Mormon 5:6), prior to the letter Mormon wrote to the Lamanite king around 384 A.D. (Mormon 6:2). Since the king agreed to stage the battle in “the land of Cumorah, by a hill which was called Cumorah,” it would have to have been a hill of some significance for the king to know of it and obviously different from what lay around it.
Left: The hill Cumorah around 1905 from the north, showing the hill’s most prominent feature. Right: The hill in 2009. It is noticeable only because of the cleared fields all around it
Now, if we consider all this in light of the scriptural record, we find that:
1) Mormon wrote to the Lamanite king offering to gather at this hill area for a final battle (Mormon 6:2-3);
2) The Nephites pitched their tents around about the hill Cumorah awaiting the Lamanite army (Mormon 6:4);
3) The Nephites awaited the Lamanite army on the level ground to the side of the hill, which must have been treeless for two reasons: a) There were 230,000 Nephite warriors; and b) They could see the size of the Lamanite army approaching so much so that “every soul was filled with terror because of the greatness of their numbers” (Mormon 6:8);
3) After the first day of battle, the Nephite force of nearly a quarter of a million people were killed, the 24 remaining were at “the top of the hill Cumorah” (Mormon 6:11);
4) From the top of the hill, they could observe a large enough area where 230,000 warriors lay dead on the ground (perhaps more if the women and children were not part of the military figure of 10,000, which seems likely);
5) The victorious Lamanite army withdrew after the battle and did not follow the 24 surviving Nephites up onto the hill Cumorah.
Now if we consider this, we should realize that the hill Cumorah would have to be: a) very large,  b) very tall, c) difficult to climb, d) offer formidable defenses, or all of these. First of all, it is impossible to observe a battlefield where a quarter of a million people were killed from a low-lying hill such as the one in upstate New York. Secondly, what would keep the Lamanites from finishing off the job rather than “returning to their camps,” unless a) the hill offered a difficult climb at night, or b) the hill was so large, it would have been difficult to find the survivors in the dark, or c) the hill offered so much coverage that survivors could not have been located.  None of these apply to the hill Cumorah in upstate New York. It is a small hill, with no escarpments, sheer sides, depressions or other defensive or hard-to-find locations. It has been described, as other drumlin hills in the area, as looking like an egg half-buried lengthwise
in the ground.
Looking from south to the north, the hill Cumorah is to the right, a low rolling, featureless hill rounded on the top rising to only about 130 feet above the surrounding ground. It does not provide much of a view of the surrounding area, especially not an area large enough for a quarter of a million people laying dead on the ground (the view from the hill top is far lower than that of the helicopter based camera)
In addition, and one of the important factors to be considered, is that the Hill Cumorah in the Land of Cumorah, was “in a land of many waters, rivers, and fountains” (Mormon 6:4). While many places can be found where waters (lakes) and rivers abound, the differing factor involved in this Land of Many Waters, are the “fountains.” Fountains are areas where water bubbles up from the ground, where water sources begin, from which flows the rivers and forms the lakes. These fountains, generally called fountain heads today, are the sources of rivers and streams, typically at higher elevations, such as the source of the Galilee and the Jordan, where the fountain head is located at the foot of a limestone cliff near the town of Banias, or the one at Tell-el-Kadi which emerges from its rocky birth-place and flows in a strong torrent over a rocky bed fringed with oleanders, flow past the ancient city and falls from this point to become the Jordan River which flows to the Dead Sea.
El-Sededon, the fountain at Tell El-Kady, bursts forth one of the largest fountains in Syria, and what is said to be the largest single fountain in the world, which rushes across the plain southward in a deep, rapid river and is called the “lower springs of the Jordan”
Nowhere around the hill Cumorah in upstate New York is there a river source, or fountains. Any waters around the Finger Lakes flow from those lakes northward into Lake Erie or Ontario, as has been the case since the last ice age and glacier melts.
The point of all of this, and of all of our articles in this blog, is simply this—if it does not agree with the scriptural record, then it is not the place of the Book of Mormon. As for this hill Cumorah, one will have to look elsewhere than upstate New York for the Land of Promise.


  1. Everybody has an opinion, right? It seems that yours and mine may vary.

  2. Difference is lukeslc... that you are not even backing up your opinion with a counter claim. You just ignore the facts and proceed to close your eyes and plug your ears. :-)