Sunday, October 27, 2019

Response to a Reader – Part I

The following is a response to a reader relating to one of our articles, printed here because of its length.
Comment: “I agree, as its far more probable than 'the Great Lakes' region (which makes zero sense) . The prophets have steered away from saying exactly where for whatever reason.”
Response: They don’t know. It has not yet been revealed, except through what has been stated in the scriptural record
Comment: “I believe there was only one time when Joseph said Cumorah is the same place where Mormon hid the plates (paraphrased).”
Response: Paraphrasing leads to misunderstanding. Joseph Smith said he found the plates in the hill near his home. He never once called it Cumorah. Members of the Church called it that. Those living there called it “Gold Bible Hill,” “Treasure Hill,” “Inspiration Point,” “Mormon Hill,” etc.
    What Joseph actually said was: “Convenient to the village of Manchester, Ontario county, New York, stands a hill of considerable size, and the most elevated of any in the neighborhood. 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” (Joseph Smith—History 1:51, emphasis added); and also: “Having gone as usual at the end of another year to the place where they were deposited” (Joseph Smith—History 1:59, emphasis added).
The Hill in Palmyra, New York, called by some in the early church as the Hill Cumorah

At what point in modern times this New York hill was first called Cumorah is difficult to determine. In his account in the Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith refers to the hill where the plates were buried, but never calls it by any name. In the Doctrine and Covenants the name 'Cumorah' only appears one time, in an 1842 epistle written by Joseph Smith: 'And again, what do we hear? Glad tidings from Cumorah' (D&C 128:20). No other uses of 'Cumorah' have been found in any other of Joseph Smith's personal writings. When this name does appear it has been added by later editors or is being quoted from another individual.
    In fact, it is not the case that the Church authoritatively identifies the drumlin in western New York as the same Hill Cumorah mentioned in the text of the Book of Mormon. The Church has made it abundantly clear that it does not endorse any particular view of Book of Mormon geography.
Comment: “Since then, everyone says Cumorah! Its Cumorah! Well what they don't know (but Joseph did) is the word Cumorah is just reformed Egyptian & Hebrew for high hill, or highest hill (in the area).”
Response: First of all, we do not know what Reformed Egyptian is, nor do we know what words appeared in that language, nor the meaning of any words in Reformed Egyptian; therefore, no word can be interpreted to nor defined as Reformed Egyptian.
 Secondly, the Hebrew word for hill is “har,” הַר, as used in Genesis 7:19, and also “and all the high hills.” “Har” can also be interpreted as “Mountain” or “Mount.” (The word is interpreted in the Old Testament as: hill (16), hill country (91), hills (8), hillside (1), mount (118), Mount (5), mountain (156), Mountain (2), mountains (161).

In addition, the words “harar” and “herer” also mean “hill,” “mount,” and “mountain.”    Additionally, there is the Hebrew “gib’eah,” meaning “rounded hill, such as are common to Palestine (Matt 5:1); ma’aleh,” meaning “hill” “hill country,” or “ga’-reb” (garebh) meaning a “hill,” or “gibh’ah,” meaning “to be curved” or “to be high,” but is used as the common Hebrew word for “hill,” and translated in scripture as “hill;” “‘ophel” meaning “hill;” “tur” meaning “hill;” “mutstabh,” meaning “mount;” and finally “Hil’’-kun-tri,” meaning hill country.
    Not a Cumorah among them! 
Commenmt: If you can not see the similarity but distinct differences between the three perhaps you can HEAR it phonetically: cumoRAH, RAmaH, RAma(h). Very similar sounding phonetically but it's entomology suggests a common word for a hill. Another reasonable thought proves there are more 'Cumorahs' than the Joseph Smith Hill Cumorah.” 
Response: First, the word Cumorah is pronounced ku-more-ah, which has the sound of Ku-MORE-a or Key-MORE-a, the latter being preferred. It is not pronounced CumoRAH; second, there can be no similarity between Hebrew and Reformed Egyptian as described in the Book of Mormon, nor do we know the basis of Reformed Egyptian. We only know that the Nephites spoke Hebrew and undoubtedly wrote in Hebrew except for those who recorded their words on the plates.
    Third, Joseph Smith, when asked what certain words in the Book of Mormon meant, he responded: “I wish to correct an error among men that profess to be learned, liberal and wise; and I do it the more cheerfully, because I hope sober-thinking and sound-reasoning people will sooner listen to the voice of truth, than be led astray by the vain pretensions of the self-wise.” He then preceded to discuss a word in the scriptures by quoting Mormon 9:32-34). His meaning and intent was to show that words in the Book of Mormon did not follow known languages of his day (Times and Seasons 4:194).
Joseph Smith’s example of the characters of Reformed Egyptian on the plates 

In addition, it is important to know that Moroni explicitly states the term reformed Egyptian refers to the script used to record the Book of Mormon rather than the language spoken by the Nephites. This is consistent with and the words of Benjamin (Mosiah 1:2), who caused that his sons were “taught in all the language of his fathers,” and that he himself taught them concerning what was “engraven on the plates of brass,” without saying anything about the characters upon those plates (John Gee, “Two Notes on Egyptian Script,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies Vol.5, No. 1, 1996, p162n1).
    Furthermore, Moroni appears to have indicated that the name “reformed Egyptian” was in use specifically among the group of Nephite record-keepers. In other words, reformed Egyptian appears to have been a technical scribal term used to specifically describe the type of script being used to engrave the plates of Mormon, not necessarily the name of a broader spoken language or earlier script (William J. Hamblin, Reformed Egyptian, FARMS Review Vol.19, no.1, 2007, p31). 
Comment: “Another reasonable thought proves there are more 'Cumorahs' than the Joseph Smith Hill Cumorah. Now think about it: Why would Mormon go through all the trouble of smelting gold from ore, pounding out paper thin plates, carving or hammering each and every syllable and word in our current BOM, ONLY to give Moroni an ABRIDGED copy of the BOM while he (Mormon) hid the UNABRIDGED in "supposedly" the same hill????” 
Response: First: The way of the Lord is not the way of men. That something might sound odd to us, may be exactly what the Lord has directed.
    Second: Mormon hid up all the records given to him by Ammaron “therefore I made this record out of the plates of Nephi, 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 6:6). What Mormon engraved upon were the plates of Nephi (Mormon 1:4).
Comment: “According to the Book of Mormon, the plates of Nephi, consisting of the large plates of Nephi and the small plates of Nephi, are a portion of the collection of inscribed metal plates which make up the record of the Nephites. This record was later abridged by Mormon and inscribed onto gold plates from which Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon after an angel revealed to him the location where the plates were buried on a hill called Cumorah near the town of Palmyra, New York.” 
Mormon his all the records except for those few he planned to give to his son, Moroni

Response: Before the final battle at Cumorah, Mormon hid all the records except for the few he gave Moroni—those few plates were the ones Moroni added his writings, which was the last two chapers of Mormon’s writing, translation and abridgment of Ether, and his own work (Mormon 1:4).
Comment: “Rama...Cumorah...Mormon hid the unabridged copy of the BOM in a high hill called Ramah.” 
Response: The Scriptural Record does not say “high hill.” In the two placed where the hill is mentioned, the word “high” does not appear:
1. The army of Coriantumr did pitch their tents by the hill Ramah; and it was that same hill where my father Mormon did hide up the records unto the Lord, which were sacred (Ether 15:11, emphasis added;
2. I made this record out of the plates of Nephi, 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 6:6)
    To call Cumorah a high hill simply does not agree with what is written in the scriptural record.
(See the next post, “Response to a Reader – Part II,” for more of this reader’s comments)

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