Saturday, November 3, 2018

Fallacies and Truths about the Hill Cumorah – Part II

Continuing from the last post regarding information on identifying and understanding the location and appearance of the Hill Cumorah, as described in the scriptural record.
    In the previous post, the first 7 of Palmer’s 13 criteria regarding the hill Cumorah were covered. Here we continue with #8:
8. An escape route south.
    We know of no “escape route” into the south—all we are told is that “a few who had escaped into the south countries” (Mormon 6:15). All this suggests is that there was open land sufficient to move a small group of people, probably undercover, either at night, or during the battle, which would have not been surprising in the massive size and area spread across the battle, where some escaped the field of battle and headed in the direction from which the Lamanites had traveled to Cumorah., i.e., “from the south.” Now since both the Lamanite armies and the Nephite armies came to this area from the south, this listed and described event provides no value in finding the hill Cumorah, for the armies of the Lamanites and Nephites were so far superior in numbers from the “few” who had escaped into the south countries.
9. Hill large enough to view hundreds of thousands of bodies.
    This is only the third of these statements that are correct and of any value. The only caveat is that we do not know if what Mormon describes is what he actually saw, i.e., the actual viewing by them from the hill top of 230,000 dead bodies, or that enough dead could be seen for the imagination to conjure up the rest, especially in light of there being only 24 survivors in his party atop the mountain.
10. Hill must be a significant landmark.
    This is correctly suggested, since Mormon invited the Lamanite king who would not have been familiar with the Land Northward, to do battle at a certain hill which, by definition, must have been something that would have been an obvious landmark to the king.
11. Hill must be free standing so people can camp around it.
    This sounds likely to be true from the scriptural record: “we did pitch our tents round about the hill Cumorah” (Mormon 6:4). However, the information does not tell us in what shape, i.e., round, rectangle, oblong, or if it had one peak, two or many. Thus, in looking for a hill, this tends not to narrow down the search pattern other than to say it would have to be a place large enough for 230,000 people to camp around. We also do not know if there were only 230,000, or if “with their wives and their children” actually meant more than the 230,000 warriors, which would have been the case, since military leaders tend to list their troops, not additional support or attached civilians.
12. In temperate climate with no cold or snow.
    This seems like a useless comment. Even in snow country, ancient armies were smart enough not to attack during winters. And we do not know if it was cold or not, since there is no description of clothing, temperature, or any such conditions. It is another one of these requirements thrown in by Mesoamericanists who use the tropical climate of their location as a basis for such discussion when such an approach is not warranted by the scriptural record.
Volcanic Zone of the Americas is basically along the Pacific Rim, from Chile in the south up around Alaska and across the Pacific through Japan to the Philippines, Indonesia and across New Guinea to Oceania
13. In a volcanic zone susceptible to earthquakes.
    Another useless requirement, since the scriptural record and these described do not suggest any particular details to the fact that a severe earthquake was involved in the destruction of the land at the time of the crucifixion—though one would certainly seem likely from the descriptions. And that does not specifically single out the area of the Hill Cumorah. Whether or not this was a volcanic zone or earthquake zone is unknown from these events. We know that the Land Southward was heavily affected 350 years earlier by such seismic activity, and while we know it was even worse in the Land Northward (3 Nephi 8:12), the hill Cumorah is “so far northward” that it may well have not been affected by the earthquakes and volcanoes. But even if it were, an earthquake could have been an unknown factor in Nephite history prior to this event, since it is the only such “quaking of the earth” mentioned in the scriptural record.
    In fact, a reading of the record suggests this event might have been singular in nature, being described as “never had been known n all the land,” mentioned twice in three very short verses (3 Nephi 8:5-7). It is simply an unknown factor and certainly not one that can be used as a criteria.
    Thus, it can be suggested that of the 13 criteria Palmer claims are required, only 5, 6, 9, are really useful, and 10, 11, and 13 as helpful. The rest would be of no value whatsoever, or not supported by the scriptural record. The list concludes with this remark: “Clearly, the placement of Cumorah will greatly affect the map which results. Issues of distance, as discussed above, play a role here as well.”
    Certainly, if we could identify without question the hill Cumorah where the final battles of the Lamanites and Nephites took place, it would help immensely to locate the entire Land of Promise. However, Palmer’s list and all others claimed by theorists do not accomplish that fact. There simply is not enough descriptive information in the scriptural record to isolate that hill from all other possible hill locations with a high degree of certainty.
Various lands where the hill Cumorah has been placed by Land of Promise theorists
Put another way, since “Necessity is the Mother of invention,” it seems that the Hill Cumorah has led to numerous inventive ideas that can be found in almost any theorist’s writings. After all, most theorists evidently consider the scriptural record of the Book of Mormon flexible enough to let them invent their own Hill Cumorah pretty much anywhere they want to put it. Consider it has already been placed in Eritrea, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Panama, Guatemala, Yucatan, southern Mexico, Baja, Africa, and no doubt, elsewhere.
    In inventing a hill Cumorah in your favorite part of the world, you just need to:
1. Ignore what Mormon has written about the hill upon which he fought and probably died;
2. Pay more attention to modern prophets and apostles who have weighed in on the subject with opinions, but not in any official capacity, than the scriptural record itself;
3. Apply a very flexible interpretation of the Book of Mormon text.
    An interesting thing about Cumorah, and one that is extremely important but totally ignored by theorists who want to claim Cumorah’s location, is that all we know directly, from present-day experience is that Joseph Smith was led to the plates that were buried in a hill in western New York near Palmyra by the Angel Moroni, who wrote the last passage in the plates before depositing them somewhere—but where we do not know. All we do know is that in 1820s—they were in this hill in upstate New York where Moroni placed them for Joseph Smith to locate, but when he deposited them there we do not know. Where those plates were deposited between 421 A.D. and 1820 A.D., is both unknown and unknowable, unless the Lord is to reveal it to us. The point now is, we do not know and we have not been told, and despite all the rhetoric to the opposite, no prophet or General Authority has ever said officially any location—there reference to the Hill Cumorah is that it was, without question, where Joseph Smith found the plates. That some have given their opinions is the right of any other person as well, and that some have changed those opinions over time, is also the right of anyone.
    Like so many things within the scriptural record pertaining to geographical understanding, the Church has no official position on any New World location described in the Book of Mormon. What we have are the scriptures, and they provide us with sufficient information in the case of the Hill Cumorah to compare Mormon’s descriptive information with each theorist’s claims. And neither the hill Vigia in southern Mexico, or the hill Cumorah in western New York meet these criteria outlined in the scriptural record.
    We need to be careful when reading someone's beliefs, opinions, and ideas, though stated as though doctrinal and accurate, that we not get drawn into a trap of accepting descriptive information that is not accurate to the scriptural record.

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