Sunday, May 15, 2016

What is Opinion and What is Not? – Part II

Continuing with the amount of opinions that are bandied around about the Book of Mormon  and passed off as facts, that one might wonder where to find the truth. We continue here with Oliver Cowdery’s comment in Letter VII regarding the hill Cumorah in New York, which is one theorisdts' almost sole claim to his theory: 
    Oliver goes on in his letter to state: “In this same spot, in full view from the top of this same hill one may gaze with astonishment upon the ground which was twice covered with the dead and dying of our fellowmen.”
    Now, for the sake of reality, not only has Oliver been to this hill, but so have I, standing on the level ground (where the chairs are set up during the Cumorah Pageant), and looked up the cleared ground to the top of the hill Cumorah in New York, looking past where the actors stand during the Pageant, to where the monument of Moroni now rests on the top, and considered this so-called view of Mormon and his 23 companions who survived the first day’s fighting.
Standing on this level ground, you look up at the top of the hill Cumorah, which seems only a few feet above the plain, certainly not very far, and certainly does not give much of a view of the surrounding valleys, let along the ten thousand Mormon says they saw from the top of the hill the following morning (Mormon 6:11), and certainly not the 230,000 he describes seeing strung out over the land (Mormon 6:12-15)
    It simply is not possible to see that kind of view from the top of the New York hill Cumorah. You can walk up the hill to the top (see photo above) and even if you could see through the trees to the base below, you simply do not have enough vertical height to see what Mormon describes.
The climb to the top of the Hill Cumorah in New York is a simple, gradual climb and takes but a minute or two at the most to reach the ridge line
    It takes about a minute and a half to gain the top of the hill, which ought to raise the question as to why the Lamanites, filled with the blood lust of killing 230,000 Nephites, would have not simply swarmed over the hill and mopped up any that were left alive—there is nowhere to hide on that hill, no where at all! It is only 117 feet high and runs for about 2 miles north to south in a downhill manner, the top gently rounded in a drumlin fashion. Before man was involved, the hill was heavily wooded, but now has been stripped of its timber in many places for farming and other activities.
    Besides, with Mormon severely wounded, enough to have died shortly afterward, they would not have been mobile to escape any such attempt. Yet, the Lamanites did not do that. Why? Because the actual Hill Cumorah of the scriptural record was not that little hill in New York, but a hill of greater height and size as to make such a mop-up endeavor dangerous in the waning hours of the day.
    Still, Oliver continues with his poetic or fanciful description of the hill, saying “In this vale lie commingled in one mass of ruin, the ashes of thousands, and in this vale were destined to be consumed the fair forms and vigorous systems often of thousands of the human race—blood mixed with blood, flesh with flesh, bones with bones and dust with dust. When the vital spark which animated their clay had fled each lifeless lump of clay on one common level-cold and inanimate” going on to describe through several lines the feelings these long dead people had toward one another.
The small hill Cumorah in New York. Note the statue of Moroni on the top of the hill to the right
    As can be seen much of what Oliver Cowdery wrote was pure opinion, describing feelings, attitudes, and the death of thousands at the hands of one another. Yet not once does he quote a scripture, or even present one scripture as written in the record. And while it is described by the area theorist supporters that Cowdery sought Joseph Smith’s assistance in writing this, it would appear from a realistic view, that what Joseph must have helped on were the facts to the earlier mentioned visitations from Moroni and what was said, and later, in Letter VIII, the very specific descriptions of the stone box and location of the buried plates.
    To complete this picture, it might be noted that these letters were originally published in the Messenger and Advocate between 1834 and 1835. Within three years, Oliver Cowdery split with Joseph Smith and the Church, becoming one of the “Dissenters,” along with Phelps, and Cowdery’s brothers-in-law, David and John Whitmer. This split occurred just after Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon moved to Far West in March 1838, taking charge of the Missouri Church, which Phelps and the Whtmers had been leading. When Phelps, Cowdery and the Whitmers believed that Joseph Smith and Rigdon were initiating policies that violated the separation of Church and State, they were excommunicated, though Cowdery claimed in a letter he was resigning from the Church instead—according to Richard Bushman (Joseph Smith Rough Stone Rolling, Knopf, New York, 2005, pp347-348) that, among other things, Cowdery was accused of "virtually denying the faith by declaring that he would not be governed by any ecclesiastical authority nor Revelations whatever in his temporal affairs"). While David Whitmer was excommunicated at the same time, Phelps and John Whitmer had been excommunicated a month earlier.
Hill Cumorah in New York. Yellow Arrow points to Angel Moroni statue. As can easily be seen, this little hill hardly stands out except for the trees that have grown back
• Joseph Fielding Smith: “It is known that the Hill Cumorah where the Nephites were destroyed is the hill where the Jaredites were also destroyed. This hill was known to the Jaredites as Ramah. It was approximately near to the waters of Ripliancum, which the Book of Ether says, 'by interpretation, is large or to exceed all.' ... It must be conceded that this description fits perfectly the land of Cumorah in New York ... for the hill is in the proximity of the Great Lakes, and also in the land of many rivers and fountains. (Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 3, pp. 233–34).
     “It must be conceded” is an opinion, which Elder Smith verified was his opinion later in a discussion with Elder Sidney B. Sperry.
• "Sperry, who was very familiar with what Joseph Fielding Smith had previously written, told Elder Smith that he did not feel comfortable publishing something that contradicted what the apostle had written, but that he and other sincere students of the Book of Mormon had come to that conclusion only after serious and careful study of the text. Sperry said that Elder Smith then lovingly put his arm around his shoulder and said, “Sidney, you are as entitled to your opinion as I am to mine. You go ahead and publish it.” 
Image Hill Cumorah in New York. With trees all around the 25’ monument of Moroni shows a man could hardly have seen much from that low hill
    It is interesting that Joseph Smith’s personal secretary, Church scribe, and 2nd counselor in the First Presidency, serving under Joseph Smith, claimed that Lehi sailed southeast through the Indian Ocean, west across the Pacific and landed at 30º South Latitude in Chile, would therefore be considered “extreme.”
(See the next post, “What is Opinion and What is Not? – Part II")


  1. FYI, the Sperry anecdote is 50-year-old hearsay from a student in Sperry's class. Joseph Fielding Smith's original statement from 1938 was republished in Doctrines of Salvation in 1954 when he was President of the Quorum of the Twelve. The book was compiled by Bruce R. McConkie. President Smith quoted from Letter VII, among other things. So we can choose between the compound hearsay from Sperry vs the officially published "opinion" of President Smith. I chose President Smith, but many choose the hearsay.

  2. I think Del's opinion governed by facts is correct. The lands of the BOM has not been revealed to any leader in the Church from the very beginning of the restoration. The lands have now been found. I would hope that more would look at the evidence. Ira

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.