Friday, December 15, 2017

Finding the Land of Promise – Another Look at Cumorah – Part III

Continuing with the Hill Cumorah discussion, we need to take a look at the specific information we know about the Hill Cumorah and what has been said about it by those in a position to know. 
    First of all, while we call the drumlin in New York "Hill Cumorah" based on a usage initiated early in Church history (probably by Oliver Cowdery or W. W. Phelps), that does not necessarily make the two hills the same (the scriptural Hill Cumorah, and the western New York hill Cumorah). In fact, most LDS scholars do not think they are the same, because they believe the New York drumlin does not meet the textual requirements for the geographic placement of the hill in relation to the narrow neck of land, which it most certainly does not as has been pointed out here in this blog over the years.
    Another problem is the distance. According to Sidney B. Sperry in "Were There Two Cumorahs?," (Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 4/1, 1995, pp260–268), the view of many scholars is that the text requires a relatively short distance between Cumorah and the narrow neck of land. David A. Palmer's (In Search of Cumorah, Horizon Publishers & Distributors, February 2005) criteria for the Ancient Cumorah have historically supplied some of the basis for the way most scholars understand the Book of Mormon description of Cumorah. Scholars in support of those same ideas have built upon his work, and have added their ideas to the mix over the years. People like John L. Sorenson in his landmark book places the land of Cumorah and the hill Cumorah just beyond his narrow neck of land along the Gulf of Mexico in the area of present-day Veracruz; however, this is nowhere near his Land of Many Waters.
Yelow Arrow: Land of Many Waters; White Arrow: Land of Cumorah/hill Cumorah; Blue Arrow: Land Northward; Blue Arrow: Distance in between

As can be seen, the distance between the hill Cumorah and the Land of Many Waters is approximately 325 miles. Yet, in the scriptural record, Mormon, who knew these areas very well, states these two areas were in the same vicinity, “We did march forth to the land of Cumorah, and we did pitch our tents around about the hill Cumorah; and it was in the land of many waters, rivers, and fountains” (Mormon 6:4).
    Obviously then, Sorenson’s placement of one or the other is over 300 miles off. So which one is wrong? Well, the Land of Desolation, which was north of the narrow neck of land (Alma 22:31), was so far to the north that it “came into the land which had been peopled and been destroyed” (Alma 22:30). The land of many waters was where the Jaredite bones and ruins of buildings of every kind were located (Mosiah 8:8), thus we might conclude that the last battle the Nephites fought, at the hill Cumorah, in the land of many waters (Mormon 6:4), was located some distance from the narrow neck of land and both the hill Cumorah and the land of many waters were in the same location.
    All of this, however, does not deter John Clark from saying, in contrast to other distances in the Book of Mormon, "The relative location of the hill Cumorah is most tenuous, since travel time from Bountiful, or the narrow neck, to Cumorah is nowhere specified." And yet, others have argued to the contrary that a significant distance between those landmarks is unambiguously specified. Clark continues, “That idea should not necessarily be conflated with the Hemispherical model, and it doesn't mean that the urban Nephite domain under the neck of land was not a limited area. For example, Andrew H. Hedges (of the Joseph Smith Papers Project, who was a professor of Church History and Doctrine at Brigham Young University) has documented his views. (Matt Roper provided a response to Hedges' article). Another author has also documented his opinions.”
    This only goes to show that scholars have their own views and are not bashful about stating them—too bad they do not include the scriptural information as well; however, most of them, especially those at BYU have basically all bought into the Mesoamerican location and as such, must show a limited area for the Land of Promise and judge all things based on that. Consequently, if a statement in the scriptural record suggests a longer distance than they can justify in Mesoamerica, they tend to discredit the scriptural reference one way or another.
    And the debate goes on between scholars, who state: “The critical question of distance between Cumorah and the narrow neck of land determines archaeological, cultural and environmental considerations for the ancient Cumorah. If, as Hedges argues, a more rural ‘northern hinterland’ of the Nephite nation existed far north, and Cumorah is within that northern domain, then the expectations for what should be found in that area are not necessarily the same as those for the urban centers in the south. If Palmer and others in favor of the limited view are correct, then there is no such northern area. All sides of the issue regarding the Ancient Cumorah should be evaluated carefully. Any position that claims to be the definitive answer on this particular point, to the exclusion other points of view, when the Book of Mormon text is so ambiguous on it should be viewed with extreme caution.”
    Notice how the scriptural record is marginalized as a “text,” and often without meaning or specifics, yet when Mormon states” “We did march forth to the land of Cumorah, and we did pitch our tents around about the hill Cumorah; and it was in the land of many waters, rivers, and fountains” (Mormon 6:4), that seems quite specific and unambiguous. Especially, when the guru of Mesoamerica geography for the Book of Mormon Land of Promise, Sorenson, places the Land of Many Waters in or around the area of Morelia (formerly Valladolid, and originally Nueva Ciudad de Mechuacan), Mexico, which is today a city and municipality in the north central part of the state of Michoacan in central Mexico.
    The city is in the Guayangareo Valley and is the capital and largest city of the state. This area is believed first settled around 800 A.D. (7th century), with artifacts from the Teotihuacán culture. Just to the north of the city is Lake Cuitzeo with three rivers, Viejo de Morelia, Grande de Morelia, and Querendaro rivers feeding the area. Nearby is a considerable natural system of waterways, including parts of two of the country’s largest rivers, the Lerma and the Balsas. Clearly it is a land of many waters and rivers, which mostly drain into the Pacific.
    However, this area is 412 miles from Veracruz, the area of their hill Cumorah, and 547 to 656 miles (depending on where along the neck one measures) from their narrow neck of land in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, and flies against the theorists small territory area of the Land Northward and their belief that the hill Cumorah was a short distance from the narrow neck.
    Over the years there has been much written about the two Cumorahs and the distance involved from either Central or South America to the hill in upstate or western New York where Joseph was led to the hidden plates. Either distance is thousands of miles and critics have claimed that it would have been too far of a distance for Moroni to have traveled just to move and deposit the plates, and what makes anyone think Moroni moved those records like that, anyway?
Joseph Smith, David Whitmer and Oliver Cowdery traveling from Harmony, Pennsylvania, to Fayette, New York in 1829

However, there is at least one recorded incident of Moroni doing just that, though not any great distance by comparison. This comes from an incident stated by David Whitmer who told Elder Joseph F. Smith of the Quorum of the Twelve about his wagon trip to Fayette with Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, as they traveled across a section of prairie, they came upon a man walking along the road, carrying something that was obviously heavy in a knapsack on his back.
    As David stated in the interview:When I was returning to Fayette, with Joseph and Oliver, all of us riding in the wagon, Oliver and I on an old fashioned, wooden spring seat and Joseph behind us, while traveling along in a clear open place, a very pleasant, nice-looking old man in a clear open place, who saluted us with "Good morning, it is very warm," at the same instant wiping his face or forehead with his hand. We returned the salutation, and by a sign from Joseph I invited him to ride if he was going our way, but he said very pleasantly, "No I am going to Cumorah." This was something new to me, I did not know what Cumorah meant.”
    Puzzled, David looked around inquiringly, but when he turned again, the man was gone. David demanded of Joseph: “‘What does it mean?’ Joseph informed him that the man was Moroni, and that the bundle on his back contained plates which Joseph had delivered to him before they departed from Harmony, Susquehanna County, and that he was taking them for safety, and would return them when he (Joseph) reached father Whitmer’s home.” (recorded in Joseph F. Smith, Diary, 7-8 September 1878, LDS Church Archives, Salt Lake City, Utah; reproduced in Vogel, Early Mormon Documents 5:41–49;.Andrew Jenson, ed., The Historical Record, vol. 6, May 1887, pp. 207–9).
    This, evidently, is the first time the term “Cumorah” had been used, and it was a surprise to David Whitmer, who had no idea what it meant. Nor can we say that Moroni was telling the group that he was heading to the hill Cumorah, for Palmyra in Wayne County, was beyond Fayette in Seneca County, and though in the same general direction, not along a straight travel route from Harmony to Fayette. Moroni would not have gone to Cumorah, 36 miles beyond Fayette (more than a day’s ride, perhaps two days on foot) in order to deliver the plates, which he carried, in order to deliver them to Joseph in Fayette when the party reach there.


  1. Lucy Mack Smith quoted Joseph using Cumorah before receiving the plates:

    Presently he smiled, and said in a very calm tone, “I have taken the severest chastisement, that I have ever had in my life”. My husband, supposing it was from some of the neighbors, was quite angry; and observed, “I would would like to know what business any body has to find fault with you.”
    “Stop, father, Stop.” said Joseph, “it was the angel of the Lord— as I passed by the hill of Cumorah, where the plates are, the angel of the Lord met me and said, that I had not been engaged enough in the work of the Lord; that the time had come for the record to brought forth; and, that I must be up and doing, and set myself about the things which God had commanded me to do:"

    While you are on the Cumorah topic, could you critique this blog which is also on Cumorah?

    1. Jonathan Neville and his "Letter 7" that he holds up like scripture has been discussed in this blog. Everything has problem in his model, but hey! He has letter 7! So how can he be wrong?

    2. Since Joseph never mentioned the name of the hill... I can see Joseph having said:

      “Stop, father, Stop.” “it was the angel of the Lord— as I passed by the hill where the plates are, the angel of the Lord met me and said, that I had not been engaged enough in the work of the Lord; that the time had come for the record to brought forth; and, that I must be up and doing, and set myself about the things which God had commanded me to do."

      And she... clarifying to her readers in the future... let them know which hill that was... the one they now called Cumorah.

  2. Thanks for sharing that Devon. Interesting.
    She wrote the history in 1845 and was writing about a conversation that had occurred in 1837. I wonder if Joseph really referred to the hill as Cumorah or if he just referenced the hill and by 1845 it was commonly referred to as Cumorah.
    Not to discount Lucy's extremely valuable history but it does say at the preface that Brigham Young would not publish it because it contained historical errors.

  3. DeVon: (We named one of our sons Devon, good name)

    As we have reported here several times, the records of the early Church, including Joseph Smith's writings, were not totally precise. Our answer to your comments and suggested site critique will be found in a future article on this blog, since it is too long for this comments section. See future article entitled: "Looking at Early Church Comments."

  4. Devon - I also reviewed the link to the page that proposes that the modern day Hill Cumorah in upstate New York is the same hill Cumorah described in the Book of Mormon. In my opinion the author misinterprets several scriptures from the Book of Mormon. I have submitted comments and the text of the scriptures to their web site. One example is the author claims that Mormon 6:6 states that Mormon hid up all the records entrusted to him in the hill Cumorah. To the contrary, the scripture clearly states he hid up all the records except those given to his son Moroni- the very records that were translated into the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon never states or implies that those plates were buried in the hill Cumorah. It says Moroni survived and probably moved about for about 21 years and then hid them up.

    and hid up in the hill Cumorah all the records which had been entrusted to me by the hand of the Lord, save it were these few plates which I gave unto my son Moroni.

    I respect that that site correctly states that the church has no official position on Book of Mormon locations. I respect that sincere people have different opinions as we all strive to learn more. But I do think it's critical to stick to what the words of the Book of Mormon actually say.

    When I study a model for 15 minutes and quickly find opinions or statements that conflict with the words of the Book of Mormon, I tend to discount that theory. Over the last three years I have carefully studied every one of Del's posts on the blog checking statements against the Book of Mormon text and any geographical or architectural information I could find. I've read every comment on this blog. I've carefully studied each of Del's books. I've read the Book of Mormon over 100 times and marked over 500 verses that have anything to do with geography, history, culture. As best I have been able to tell, every claim of the Andes South America model is in harmony with the text of the Book of Mormon.

  5. I don't believe Joseph or Oliver ever knew where the real Cumorah was located. They were too busy establishing the Church. And they didn't need to know where the real Lamanites lived because the gathering of Ephraim is first. Manassah comes later when all the tribes are gathered.

    Oliver simply guessed in letter 7. The evidence is abundantly clear that the hill where the plates were found is not the same one where the final battle took place.