Monday, December 23, 2013

Another Question About the Hill Cumorah – Part II

Continuing with the previous post regarding the Hill Cumorah and the questions Mormon’s description raises as we seek to locate the placement of that hill in the Land of Promise:     
    In the sixth chapter of Mormon’s writing, he tells us a great deal about the size and configuration of the hill around which the final Nephite battle took place. When we start talking about the Hill Cumorah in upstate New York, we need to consider how it is described in the scriptural record before we accept this location.
That it was the place Joseph Smith uncovered the plates is unquestioned, however, that does not make it the one described in the Book of Mormon. As an example, we are told in the scriptural record told that “from the top of the hill Cumorah” (Mormon 6:11) Mormon and the 23 other survivors of the first day’s battle, including Moroni, could see the 23 different commands of the Nephite army, totaling 230,000 of his people (plus their women and children) who had been “hewn down” by the Lamanites during the battle the previous day.
    From this we learn:
    1. The area around the hill would need to be large enough for between 400,000 and 500,000 men, women and children to come to battle since Mormon had 230,000 men at arms in his command (the area around the hill Cumorah in upstate New York is arguably large enough for this to have occurred);
    2. The hill was high enough for the few first day’s survivors to see from the top the death and destruction of at least 400,000 people (This would be impossible from the hill Cumorah drumline in upstate New York which is only 110 feet above the surrounding valley floor);
3. The hill (shown at left in 1910) would have to be so configured for the survivors (24 men) to hide out in crags, caves, folds, etc., so as not to be seen from below by the Lamanites  (the hill Cumorah in upstate New York is not so configured—it is a drumline, a smooth sloping or curving hill like half of a barrel sticking up from the ground with nothing to hide behind except trees, and that would not have kept the Lamanites from putting an end to the fleeing survivors of that first day’s euphoric battle for them, nor deter them from going up on the hill and killing these few survivors at the conclusion of the battle);
    4. The plain around about half of the hill would also have to be so configured for the entire Nephite forces of some 230,000 men, plus wives and children to be deployed, and from there be able to see the approaching Lamanite army “marching toward them” (Mormon 6:7) with such numbers it filled “every soul with terror because of the greatness of their numbers.” (Mormon 6:8). Mormon would not have spread out his forces all around the hill, and there simply is no high ground or sloping ground that would allow people to see an approaching army of that size in upstate New York.
    5. An area not overly populated that would allow some 400,000 to 500,000 combatants to converge upon and in which no natural or man-made obstacles existed to have delayed the battle (like house-to-house fighting, etc.) that saw 230,000 men and their women and children slaughtered by the Lamanite army in the course of a single day.
Left—Hill Cumorah is the area with trees on the slopes (middle right); Right: Photo in mid 1800s, without trees, Cumorah is quite insignificant and easily overlooked
6. Before Joseph Smith uncovered the plates buried in the hill it had no name, not being significant enough for anyone living around the area to even name it. After finding the plates there, some locals began calling it Mormon Hill, Gold Bible Hill, and Inspiration Point. On the other hand, members of the Church started calling it the hill Cumorah, while Lucy Mack Smith, recalled that Joseph referred to the hill as “the hill of Cumorah.”
    7. The hill would have to be quite some distance north of the narrow neck of land, beyond the Land of Desolation, within an area called the Land of Cumorah, “so far northward (Alma 22:30) it was in a land of Many Waters, Rivers and Fountains (Mormon 6:4).” This area was the source of waters, not just lakes and rivers. Again, the hill Cumorah in upstate New York does not meet this criteria. There is plenty of water in this area, but it simply does not have fountains, or source water, it is runoff from lakes which are filled with runoff from much further north.
    8. The Land Northward, which contains the Hilll Cumorah, has an east seashore, and the hill is not far west of this sea (Mormon 9:3). The hill in upstate New York simply does not have an east sea with a seashore—no small, narrow river (Finger Lakes) can suffice for this east sea.
    9. The hill must be in a land where there are “mountains whose height is great” (Helaman 14:23) and where earthquakes have caused great destruction (3 Nephi 8:12). The hill in upstate New York does not qualify on either of these two major points--there are no mountains in this area and no earthquakes have ever struck there.
Mount Marcy, the highest point in the entire state of New York, is the rounded snow topped peak to the upper right and stands at 5343 feet (Mt Whiteface is the more pointed peak just beyond Marcy, though looking higher is 500 feet lower). These rolling Adirondack Mountains have 42 peaks over 4000 feet, but under 5000. They are hardly impressive, and would certainly not cause Samuel the Lamanite to say of them "whose height is great." This entire area is about 200 miles northeast of the hill Cumorah, which is basically a flat land in a rather flat state, which has an average elevation of just 1000 feet (By comparison, Utah has an average elevation of over 6000 feet)
10. The hill would have to be in a land where two animals, unknown in New England North America in Joseph Smith’s day, that were useful to man on a par with the elephant (Ether 9:19). The hill in New York does not meet this requirement.
11. The hill would have to be in a land where ancient roads (left) were built, and were both wide and sturdy, and led from town to town and from land to land and from place to place (3 Nephi 6:8). No such ancient roads have been found anywhere around the area of the hill Cumorah in upstate New York.
    12. The hill would have to be in a place where no other major hill or mountain existed adjacent to the hill, for it was a low-lying hill, and though only 110 feet in height, was still a singular standout for it to be set apart from other local landmarks of the area, such as a mountain, range, or a series of rolling hills, since it was known by itself to both Mormon and the king of the Lamanites, for Mormon says he “wrote an epistle unto the king of the Lamanites, and desired of him that he would grant unto us that we might gather together our people unto the land of Cumorah, by a hill which was called Cumorah, and there we could give them battle” (Mormon 6:2). There is no suggestion that any other explanation to single out this hill or location was necessary. Thus, the hill Cumorah would have been in a location with little or nothing else around it, and certainly nothing of greater importance as a landmark that would allow someone not from the area (Lamanite king) to know of the hill of which Mormon spoke.
    For those who believe that the Hill Cumorah of the Book of Mormon was located in upstate New York, I invite you to visit the hill, walk the short distance up the slope to the top and see if you could view out over the valley and see about 400,000 dead. But keep in mind, you have to keep your head down since you are hiding from the Lamanites who could come after you at any moment.
Left: The top of the Hill Cumorah above the (foreground) valley below; Right: The top of the drumlin hill, which is completely rounded and provides a limited view of the valley around 
For many theorists, a critical question is of distance between Cumorah and the narrow neck of land.
Mesoamericanists want to limit this, because they have chosen a hill only about 90 miles from the narrow neck of land and about 22 miles from the coast, which is quite close to the narrow neck, and limits considerably the size of the Land Northward. 
(See the next post, “Another Question About the Hill Cumorah – Part III,” to see how the information Mormon wrote tells us about the Land of Cumorah and the Hill Cumorah and its location)


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. In paragraph 8 I think you meant to type Ether 9:3 rather than Mormon 9:3

  3. Correct. Ether 9:3 is the scripture meant. Thank you.