Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Are Theorists’ Statements and Claims Accurate and Consistent with Scripture? – Part IV

Continuing from the previous post regarding how any theorist can pick and choose any place to fit his or her idea of the location of the Land of Promise by ignoring the precise and clear language of Mormon, Nephi, Jacob and Moroni.
    In fact, one of the problems we find is when theorists decide in advance of a location, for whatever reason, difficulties arise because while one or two, or even a handful, may jive or be claimed to agree with the scriptural record, many others do not. In such cases, the theorist has to then invent ways to make their theory and model fit. A case in point, as discussed in the last post, is Carol Phyllis Olive’s theory based on her choosing a place where the plates were obtained by Joseph Smith, and later because known as the hill Cumorah, and automatically claiming it was the same as the hill Cumorah in the scriptural record.
    There is much discussion about what has become known as the “two hill Cumorahs” theory; however, it is interesting there is no such thing as the “two Bountiful theories,” or the “two Jerusalem theories.” Nor is there a “two Land Northwards theory,” even though there is a Land North and a Land Northward mentioned in the scriptural record, and the majority of scholars and Book of Mormon historians and linguists, claim these two phrases relate to the same location (though they do not).
The short, smooth, rounded hill Cumorah in upstate western New York, which does not meet most of the descriptions Mormon gives us of the hill in the scriptural record

The point is, there is no “two Cumorahs theory,” there are just two Cumorahs, like there are two Mantis, two Nephis  (Book of Mormon cities and current cities in Utah), and two Almas, two Lehis, two Jacobs, two Moronis, and multiple Nephis. There actually is no reason to think of these two Cumorahs as the same place, since the descriptions of the scriptural hill Cumorah have little semblance to the drumlin hill in New York.
    However, people have very strong opinions about this. In a Neal A. Maxwell Institute article entitled “Were There Two Cumorahs?” Sidney B. Sperry, states: “It should be kept in mind that no Latter-day Saint students of the Book of Mormon doubt for a moment that the hill in New York from whence the Prophet Joseph Smith received the plates of the Book of Mormon has been known as Cumorah from the earliest days of the Church” (Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 4/2, 1995, pp260-268). While this is probably a true statement, it make it sound like the drumlin hill in western New York was always called or known by the name and such is not correct.
    In fact, the low, rolling drumlin hill did not have a name prior to the time Joseph Smith obtained the plates from a stone box at the direction of the Angel Moroni, on September 22, 1827, even though Moroni had Joseph visit the sight once each year between 1823, when Joseph first saw the plates, and 1827 when he was allowed to take them for translation. In those four years, the name Cumorah was never applied to the hill, or any other place, and certainly not so named by Moroni during that time. It might be of interest to know that “in the early hours of September 22, 1823, the angel Moroni showed Joseph Smith in vision exactly where the ancient record was hidden. Later that day, Joseph went to the place shown him by the angel. Of this incident, Joseph Smith wrote: "On the west side of this hill, not far from the top, under a stone of considerable size, lay the plates, deposited in a stone box.” Note, after four years of discussion with Moroni about the hill and the plates and “receiving instruction and intelligence from him at each of our intervierws” (Joseph Smith—History 1:53-54), and then obtaining the box, he does not give the hill a name, calling it only “this hill.”
In fact, he wrote of when he finally obtained the plates, stating: “At length the time arrived for obtaining the plates, the Urim and Thummim, and the breastplate. On the twenty-second day of September, one thousand eight hundred and twenty-seven, having gone as usual at the end of another year to the place where they were deposited, the same heavenly messenger delivered them up to me with this charge: that I should be responsible for them; that if I should let them go carelessly, or through any neglect of mine, I should be cut off; but that if I would use all my endeavors to preserve them, until he, the messenger, should call for them, they should be protected” (Joseph Smith—History 1:59). Again, no name of the hill used, just referring to it as “the place where they were deposited.”
    One would think, that in all his writing of this event, this hill where the plates were buried in a stone box, his going to and from the hill for four years, and the conversations he had about the site with his family and later with his obtaining the plates, Joseph would have mentioned the hill by name if, indeed, it had been called that by Moroni in their discussions. In fact, the first time the hill was called Cumorah, was in 1829, though there is no record that Joseph Smith himself used the name. The point is, it obvioiusly became a name after the fact of the translation of the plates, where it was (and is) thought Moroni hid (buried) the last of the plates held by Mormon. However, the scriptural record does not state where and when Moroni “hid up the records in the ground.” And since the record ends before any such statement is made, we have no idea even where he hid them. We only know where they were at the time Moroni showed Joseph Smith a location on the drumlin hill in New York near the Smith home.
    Still, attitudes run strong. Elder Mark E. Peterson stated: “I do not believe that we should give credence to the highly speculative theories about Book of Mormon geography. I do not believe that there were two Hill Cumorahs, one in Central America and the other one up in New York, for the convenience of the Prophet Joseph Smith, so that the poor boy would not have to walk clear to Central America to get the gold plates. (Mark E. Peterson, A Work of Conversion, General Conference address, in Messages of Inspiration, Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1957, pp98-106).
However, a personal opinion is not the same as an official statement from the brethren, a talk in General Conference, or a doctrine of the Church. All men have opinions about many things, even Joseph Smith complained that he was unable to state his opinion on matters since others took what he thought in such topics as official doctrinal statements. As Joseph said of a meeting with a Church couple, “This morning I...visited with a brother and sister from Michigan, who thought that ‘a prophet is always a prophet’; but I told them that a prophet was a prophet only when he was acting as such” (History of the Church, 5:265; see also Teachings, p. 278).
    Jesse Wentworth Crosby, one of the early settlers along with Joseph Smith in Commerce,  one of the Seventy, and friend of the prophet, said that he, with some other brethren once went to the Prophet and asked him to give them his opinion on a certain public question. Their request was refused. Joseph told them he did not enjoy the right vouchsafed to every American citizen; that of free speech. He said to them that when he ventured to give his private opinion on any subject of importance his words were often garbled and their meaning twisted and then given out as the word of the Lord because they came from him. ("LaFayette C. Lee, Notebook," LDS Church Archives, Salt Lake City, Utah; also in Remembering Joseph).
    Bruce R. McConkie, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, said “Every word that a man who is a prophet speaks is not a prophetic utterance…Men who wear the prophetic mantle are still men; they have their own views; and their understanding of gospel truths is dependent upon the study and inspiration that is theirs” (“Finding Answers to Gospel Questions,” Letter dated 1 July 1980. Published in Teaching Seminary Preservice Readings, Religion 370, 471, and 475, 2004)
    In another reference to this, Elder Joseph Fielding Smith, 32 years before becoming President of the Church, wrote an article in 1938 that was published in the Deseret News arguing against what he then termed the "modernist" theory that the final battlefield of the Nephites and Jaredites may have been in Central America rather than in New York. However, after becoming President of the Church in 1970, he never again addressed that subject, and it is claimed he may have softened his opposition on the Cumorah question. In a letter written to Fletcher B. Hammond, who argued emphatically for a Central American location and had sent Elder Smith a copy of his findings, the apostle explained, "I am sure this will be very interesting although I have never paid any attention whatever to Book of Mormon geography because it appears to me that it is inevitable that there must be a great deal of guesswork." 
    Sidney B. Sperry, becoming convinced the hill Cumorah was in middle America, and who was very familiar with what Joseph Fielding Smith had previously written, told him that he did not feel comfortable publishing something that contradicted what the apostle had written. According to Sperry, Elder Smith 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” (Matthew Roper, "Losing the Remnant: The New Exclusivist "Movement" and the Book of Mormon [A review of "Prophecies and Promises: The Book of Mormon and the United States of America" by: Bruce H. Porter and Rod L. Meldrum], FARMS Review 22/2, 2010, pp 87–124).
To further show that all men have opinions, even General Authorities and Presidents of the Church, Joseph Fielding Smith once stated: “Keep it in mind, however, that such man-made planets belong to this earth, and it is doubtful that man will ever be permitted to make any instrument or ship to travel through space and visit the moon or any distant planet.” A few years later, at a Honolulu stake conference in 1961, Elder Smith reiterated this idea, “We will never get a man into space. This earth is man's sphere and it was never intended that he should get away from it. The moon is a superior planet to the earth and it was never intended that man should go there. You can write it down in your books that this will never happen” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions 2, [1st edition], Deseret Book, Salt Lake City, 1957, pp190-191; D. Michael Quinn, Elder statesman: A Biography of J. Reuben Clark, 2002, p498).
    Evidently, this opinion was based on what would appear to be a correct understanding, as Joseph Fielding McConkie stated of his grandfather: “He reasoned that because the atonement that Christ worked out on this earth applies to all the creations of the Father, that our getting to other worlds and discovering that they had the same Savior and the same plan of salvation would dispense with the necessity of our accepting the gospel on the basis of faith" (Joseph Fielding McConkie, "On Second Thought: Growing up as a son of Bruce R. McConkie," as quoted by John W. Redelfs on his blog The Iron Rod, Aug 19, 2005).
    The point is that all people have the right to personal opinions, even those of high standing, as Joseph Smith made that quite clear as stated above. Therefore, unless speaking for the Church in their official capacity, especially on matters of a non-doctrinal or non-spiritual nature, it would be improper to quote such statements in a manner that leads others to think that it was the prophet or leader speaking, rather than the man.
    Now, none of this is intended by those who we quote and us in quoting them in this article is meant to lessen the importance of any Church leader, but merely to state the facts by which the Church is led and of the men who lead it. Far too often members, especially theorists of late, tend to make claims that this leader or that leader has made inarguable statements of fact that support their views and models. However, what they say in these areas is their personal opinions, since none would make any official statement contrary to the standards of the Church on this matter, which has been stated many times over the years by Prophets, General Authorities, and official Church statements from the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve that the Church has no official position on any geographical setting related to the Land of Promise.
(See the next post, “Determining the Location of Cumorah – Part V,” for more on these criteria as to how theorists place geographical features of the Land of Promise wherever they want them to be despite what the scriptural record tells us)


  1. When it comes to the Plates being buried in the Hill Cumorah... the very FIRST thing that should always be said and be pointed out is this:

    The scriptural record does not state where and when Moroni “hid up the records in the ground.” And since the record ends before any such statement is made, we have no idea even where Moroni hid them. We only know where they were at the time that Moroni showed Joseph Smith a location on a drumlin hill in New York near the Smith home.

  2. Exactly! This is the most important point regarding the burying or hiding of the plates!

  3. Moroni 6:6
    ...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."
    Mormon clearly states that all the plates were hid up in the Hill Cumorah EXCEPT the plates he gave to Moroni. The plates Moroni had and that were later shown to Joseph buried in an unnamed hill in upstate NY, were never said to have been in the hill Cumorah! As McNirom correctly pointed out, the scriptures never say where those plates were buried. I think too many people only give Mormon 6:6 a cursory read and think the plates were buried in hill Cumorah. In fact they say the opposite- the plates obtained by Joseph were not hid up in the hill Cumorah by Mormon.
    We do not know where Moroni buried up those plates. Of course it is possible Moroni later buried his plates in the hill Cumorah with the plates his father Mormon previously buried - but unlikely and certainly never even implied in the scriptures. (And if Moroni had gone back and buried the plates in the hill Cumorah with the plates Mormon had buried- where di Mormons plates disappear to? Why didn't Joseph find them next to Moroni's plates?-- the logical answer is because Mormons plates were hid up in the original hill Cumorah and Moroni's plates were later hid up elsewhere ).

  4. We should also keep in mind that where Mormon and Moroni originally hid up the records cannot be stated for a fact that they remained there and were not taken elsewhere or moved elsewhere by the hand of the Lord. Certainly the so-called "cave" or room where Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery saw "wagon loads" of plates when returning the translated plates entrusted to Joseph Smith, was not in Cumorah, a drumlin hill of gravel moraine, which would be incapable of supporting any type of cave. Obviously, they were in an area that had been opened to their mind in a type of vision, in which they replaced the plates they carried back and returned.