Friday, November 2, 2018

Fallacies and Truths about the Hill Cumorah – Part I

Recently, we were forwarded a list of 13 absolute requirements, according to David A. Palmer (In Search of Cumorah: New Evidence for the Book of Mormon from Ancient Mexico, Horizon, 1981, pp28-72), necessary for the Hill Cumorah to be located, and asked if these were hard and fast criteria.
    Since this was only one of numerous question we have been asked over time, we are answering them collectively in this article.
    Palmer’s 13 geographical conditions required for the Book of Mormon hill Cumorah are listed with our comments:
1. Near Eastern Seacoast.
    There is no exact distance in the scriptural record listed from the Sea East to Cumorah’s location. In fact, we are only told that the hill Cumorah was in the Land of Cumorah (Mormon 6:2), and that Mormon marched his last Nephite army to that land, where they pitched their tents around about the hill Cumorah, and it was in the land of many waters, rivers, and fountains (Mormon 6:4). Mormon makes no mention of any seacoast nearby. We also know that the hill Cumorah was the same hill that the Jaredites called the hill Ramah (Ether 15:11), and was where Mormon hid up the records unto the Lord, which were sacred. The last battle occurs and Shiz pursued Coriantumr eastward, even to the borders by the seashore, and there he gave battle unto Shiz for the space of three days. From there the battle went elsewhere and paused for four years while they gathered everyone in. They fled to Ripliancum in the north, and from there fled and fought for five days. No mention of a sea is again made. So it cannot be said “the hill Cumorah was by the eastern seashore” since no one knows.
2. Near Narrow Neck of Land. 
    This is a persistent claim by the Mesoamericanists because of the location they believe their hill Cumorah in Mexico is located. However, in the scriptural record the only information we have to determine this says just the opposite. First of all, we know that the Land of Desolation is north of the small or narrow neck of land (Alma 22:31-32), and that The Land of Desolation “being so far northward” that it “came into the land which had been peopled and been destroyed” (Alma 22:30), should suggest that the Jaredite lands, especially the hill Ramah/Cumorah where the Jaredites were destroyed “was so far northward” that it was far north of the small or narrow neck of land. Thus, it can be shown that the hill Cumorah was not “near the narrow neck of land.”
3. On a coastal plain and near other mountains and valleys.
    There is nothing to suggest that the hill Cumorah was on a coastal plain. As shown above, we don’t know it was even near a coast, and certainly not that it was on a plain. We only know that it was near a hill of sufficient size that 230,000 or more people could camp around it, and that it was near to an area of many waters, fountains and rivers, which, by the way, is not descriptive of a ”coastal plain.” We know that the Nephites, including wives and children, could see the Lamanite armies marching toward them as they stood their ground at Cumorah (Mormon 6:7), but whether over even ground, hilly ground, through ravines, crossing rivers, or what, we are not told. Evidently, in that first wave of attack, the Lamanites fought through and killed all but 24 Nephites (Mormon 6:8-10), with Mormon and Moroni among the survivors (Mormon 6:11).
We do know that the survivors were on the top of the hill Cumorah the next day (Mormon 6:11), and from this vantage point they could “from the top of the hill Cumorah” see the tens of thousands of dead, Mormon lists in 23 commands, or 230,000. How many of them he could actually, as opposed to just assumed, or knew through vision, we are not told.
    While there were evidently, 230,000 Nephites killed in that single battle (Mormon 6:11-15), there is no comment to suggest the terrain upon which this battle took place, whether a plain, hill country, rivers or ravines, etc., or whether they were near other mountains or valleys—nothing at all on the subject is stated or suggested. It does not seem likely it was near other mountains or what could they have seen from the hill top the next day? However, we know that the hill Shim was on the way to Cumorah, either to its south, or west, but any other topography is unknown.
4. One day’s journey south of a large body of water
    It is true that south of Ripliancum (large body of water) is the area of Ogath, where Shiz pitched his tents after a period of battle and flight, however, we do not know that it was only one day’s flight. At the same time, Ramah may well have been nearby, but it does not say that—only that after Coriantumr’s army beat Shiz’ army, Shiz fled southward to Ogath. Whether Coriantumr’s army moved in the same direction, for the same length of time, again, we are not told. More importantly, while Coriantumr’s army pitched their tents at Ramah, we do not know in what direction they traveled or for how long. At this time, both sides spent four years (Ether 15:14) gathering up all the remaining people to their two armies. We don’t even know from the scriptural record that after four years and when the final battle ensued, they were still camped at Ogath and Ramah.
5. An area of many rivers and waters.
    This is the first correct statement. We know that Mormon marched his last Nephite army to that land, where they pitched their tents around about the hill Cumorah, and it was in the land of many waters rivers, and fountains (Mormon 6:4). But any area where a lot of water exists does not necessarily qualify for that factor, since many lakes and rivers are not connected with fountains, receiving their waters from snow melt drainage, whereas fountains bubble water up from the aquifer below the surface.
A fountain, as Mormon notes in his description of Cumorah being “in a land of many waters, rivers, and fountains” (Mormon 6:4, emphasis added), relates to water forced to the surface from the subsurface aquifer through the underground water buildup, which forms, streams, rivers, and lakes. For Mormon to have known this, there would have had to be visible fountains, not just water seepage to the surface 

6. Presence of fountains.
    Another correct statement. In this case, as described, these fountains are the formation of water sources, i.e., either spouts or seepage of water from the aquifer that rises to the surface, and is the beginning or foundation of certain lakes and rivers. However, how close the fountains were to the hill Cumorah, which was in the Land of Cumorah, which was in a land of many waters (Mormon 6:4), we are not told.
7. Water gives military advantage. 
    It can, but this is not a descriptive issue. The advantage could be to either side. Rivers have to be crossed, generally at fords—a shallow place with good footing along a river or stream may be crossed by wading. A ford is mostly a natural phenomenon, in contrast to a low water crossing, which is an artificial bridge that allows crossing a river or stream when water is low. At the same time, lakes have to be rounded, and if waters depicted swamps, then armies could get bogged down. However, “they did fall upon my people with the sword, and with the bow and arrow and with the axe, and with all manner of weapons of war” (Mormon 6:9), which might suggest that they were not particularly delayed or deterred by the water, which in turn might suggest that the waters were not directly around the hill Cumorah where the battle took place. We simply do not know.
(See the next post, “The Hill Cumorah – Part II,” for more information on identifying and understanding the location and appearance of the Hill Cumorah as described in the scriptural record)

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