Sunday, June 26, 2016

Isn’t it Possible?

We are asked all the time if this or that isn’t possible. As an example, we are continually asked if it isn’t possible that the Hill Cumorah was in New York, since there is so much to suggest that and so many people think so. In answer, I suppose most people often take the stance that things we write about are not as clear cut as we claim. So I would answer, I suppose one could say just about anything is possible when they lack information or the facts behind the matter. So let me ask this question: “Isn’t it possible that God is wrong?” or  “Isn’t it possible that Nephi’s ship had a diesel engine?” or “Isn’t it possible that Moroni didn’t translate and abridge the Ether record?” or “Isn’t it possible that God simply picked up Nephi’s ship and placed it down along the shore of the Land of Promise?” 
    Are any of those possible?
    There simply are some things in life that we either know are not possible or know they did not happen. Sometimes reason alone confirms that, as in the case of a diesel engine driving Nephi’s ship. Sometimes it is the scriptural record which tells us how it happened as in Moroni translating the Ether record (Ether 1:1-2; Moroni 1:1). Sometimes it is simply impossible, such as in God being wrong.
    However, some questions are not quite so clear at first glance, as in when Mormon requested to meet for their final battle at the hill Cumorah, how did the Lamanite king know where it was? (Mormon 6:1-2).
    Without roads, signs, maps or something so unusual about it to make the hill stand out so that it could be seen for some distance, how would the Lamanite king, whose forces were to the south of Mormon, i.e, nowhere near the hill Cumorah, nor was he from the area, never having been in the Land Northward before since the Lamanites had always been to the south of the Nephites. Obviously, the Lamanites would not have had any knowledge of its location or the territory around it.
The Hill Cumorah in Western New York cannot  be distinguished from much around it. In fact, it cannot even be seen that it is a hill from any distance
    The logical answer, then, would be that the hill was tall enough with nothing else around it for the landmark to be easily identified from some distance away, or that the hill was so oddly shaped that it could be seen from some distance, or that Mormon was so capable of describing the area that the hill could not be missed.
    Despite people writing about how the Hill Cumorah in New York stands out, having been there recently and studied photos of it for years, the fact is it is almost indistinguishable from the surrounding terrain. It is a drumlin hill and, in fact, the name itself comes from the Irish word “droimnin,” which means “littlest ridge.” It is more or less rounded from side to side and is often described in geology as a “half-buried egg or inverted spoon.” Nor is it the only such hill in the area, since this part of western New York is filled with these drumlin hills, especially between the south shore of Lake Ontario and Cayuga Lake (Michael Kerr; Nick Eyles. “Origin of drumlins on the floor of Lake Ontario and in upper New York State," Sedimentary Geology, Elsevier, 193: 7–20).
    In short, there is simply nothing to set apart the Hill Cumorah in New York from its surrounding countryside that someone who had never been in the area before would be able to pick it out or even know where generally to head for it, in fact, drumlins occur in groups or “swarms,” and are composed largely or entirely of glacial till.
As can be seen, even in an open area, a drumlin hill is hard to distinguish and others around them look much the same
    So how could we answer that question? The word Ramat or Ramah, as in the Hill Ramah, which is Cumorah according to Moroni (Ether 15:11), means “height, high place, or high plateau,” in Hebrew; “Aramat Gan,” near Tel Aviv, means “Garden Heights;” “Ramat HaSharon,” near Sharon, means “Height of the Sharon;” ”Ramatayim,” in Hod HaSharon literally means “two hills;” “Ramat Hadar,” that is, “Citrus Hill,” is a farming community built on a hill near Kfar Hadar and Ramatayim; and “Ramat ha-Golan,” at 7,297-feet, means the “Heights of Golan” (James Hastings, Dictionary of the Bible, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1952, p782). In fact, Ramah is  “the name of several places in Palestine, so called from their “loftiness,” that being the radical meaning of the word; it could also mean “a hill that rises up from a highland or plateau, or a hill of imposing heights.”
    In Spanish, such “hills” are called “cerro,” and in Ecuador, all hills around 7,000 to 9,000-feet are called “cerros.” And in Ecuador, 37 miles northeast of Quito near the town of Otavalo, there is a mount called Cerro Imbabura, which rises up from the elevated inter-Andean highlands. It is of note that most cerros in Ecuador differ from the Imbabura because they rise from the Cordilleras themselves, rather than from the plateau.
Cerro Imbabura is a very noticeable hill about 7,000 feet in height above the surrounding plateau and visible for many miles
    The Cerro Imbabura is 15,190-feet in elevation, but stands about 7,000-feet above the highlands. As the dominant geographic feature of the area, it is a stand-alone peak and can be seen from miles around and is midway between the two great ranges of the cordillera Oriental and the Cordillera Occidental. At its base is the breathtaking Lago San Pablo (San Pablo Lake.
    It might be important to know that the Cerro or hill Imbabura is considered a sacred hill in Ecuador, even today. In fact, Imbabura is of significant importance to the local culture, which involves a spiritual relationship with the land. The mountain is sometimes personified locally as Taita Imbabura, or "Father Imbabura”, and is considered the sacred protector of the region.
    It is also of note that names, as also pointed out in Venice Priddis' The Book and the Map, of certain sections of the hill have been given names of “Compania,” meaning “Company,” “Batallón,” meaning Battalion, “Zapallo Loma,” meaning “sad person hill,” which is given to two parts of the hill.
    In fact, it is so sacred, that native Imbaburians today go to the mount to ask favors of God, where they light a cigarette and blow the smoke toward the hill—only then asking for the favor, always beginning by saying, “Daddy Imbabura.” It was often referred to as Achilly Pachacamac, the supreme God by pre-Inca Peruvians.
The hill has gentle slopes that make it easy to climb through tall grasses into rocky outcroppings, followed by surprising lush vegetation high on the mountain. Today, it is often used as a warm up or acclimation climb for more serious hills and mountains. Around the lower rim it is quite open and provides a clear nearly 360º view of the surrounding level ground. In fact, the ground above the tree line is high-altitude meadow, and it’s cone is relatively exposed from erosion and easy to identify for miles around.
    Mormon wrote that: “we did march forth to the land of Cumorah, and we did pitch our tents around about the hill Cumorah; and it was in a land of many waters, rivers, and fountains; and here we had hope to gain advantage over the Lamanites” (Mormon 6:4). One might ask what advantage could Mormon hoped he might achieve?
    In looking at this (or any so-called hill Cumorah) one should ask this very question—what type of advantages would this mount have given the Nephites? Consider Cerro Imbabura:
1. The mount is large enough around at its base that the entire Nephi army could have occupied higher ground;
2. Lake San Pablo is to the south of the hill, along the Lamanite route, and would restrict the approach of some of the advancing Lamanite army, and channel it into where the Nephites could have stationed their strongest defense;
3. The gentle slopes would make it easy for the Nephite army to retreat slowly while still presenting a formidable front, especially across the paramo grasslands, always commanding the high ground (a very desirable military strategy);
4. At higher ground, the rocky going would provide greater defensive positions, making it more difficult for the Lamanite attackers to advance;
5. Areas of larger outcroppings and rocky crags would make it easy for the defending army to lay in wait, set traps or counter attack;
    Other considerations that match the description of the hill that Mormon provides:
1. From the top one could see 360º for many miles and see down upon the 300,000 or more dead that lay scattered upon the battlefield;
2.  There are numerous vertical folds in the surface that provide ample protections from being spotted by those below as Mormon and the 23 other survivors looked down upon their dead comrades the following morning;
    As a side note, it might be of interest to know that unique to this area there are many species of birds of prey, including the Parque and Andean Condors, kestrals, and hawks here in unusually large numbers, perhaps anciently drawn to the area by the huge number of dead to feed on—today it is a condor reserve.
     All of this should suggest even to the most hardened Great Lakes advocates that the Hill Cumorah in western New York does not qualify for the hill Cumorah in the Land of Promise.


  1. There is a story in the Church that the hill had caves and the plates at one time were stored there. Can't remember all the details but the point is the South American hill would have caves since it is volcanic. The NY hill cannot have caves because it is drumlin composed of gravel. Ira

  2. Exactly. However, the caves mentioned in Church history are regarding Joseph Smith's time. The reality of the caves is far more likely to be visions rather than actual locations. Based on experiences in the scriptural record, such as Nephi's vision, it is a situation where one is physically involved, though not in a nearby location.

  3. Very interesting post. Thank you Del.


    This is a fascinating account of an explorer from the late 1800's. He says he found many, many ancient stone artifacts in this area that many believe were battle as heads.