Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Western Hemisphere-Land of Promise—Part III--Hill Cumorah

It is interesting how blithely Great Lakes Theorists claim that the Hill Cumorah in upstate New York is the same hill as the one described by Mormon in the scriptural record. For the last two posts, we have been discussing the topography of the Land of Promise compared with the topography of the Great Lakes area, the theory both Olive and Nausbaum have written about, as well as others who had joined their theory.

On a recent trip through this area and spending several days investigating the land, driving over almost every inch of it, and stopping to see how sightings are found, hills broached, marching paths taken, how the lakes and rivers flow, it is interesting how little this land matches Mormon’s many descriptions.

Take the Hill Cumorah. This was the battle site of the final defeat and annihilation of the Nephite nation, which Mormon discusses in some detail. A hill overlooking the battle zone of upwards of ¾ of a million warriors fighting this final battle, where 230,000 Nephites were killed and an unknown number of Lamanites. In addition, the 24 survivors of that first day’s battle (Mormon 6:11), looked down from the vantage point of the hill over this gigantic battlefield where at least 1/3 of a million men lay dead.

Now this hill is little more than a cigar-shaped mound, standing only 140 feet above the lowland topography, and only 1.7 miles long and 0.4 miles wide. It is a very plain and simple hill with nothing to recommend its viewing (other than the plates having been retrieved from there by Joseph Smith).

The cigar-shaped Hill Cumorah is one of many hills in the area, formed much like an up-side-down spoon, tapering at one end to only twenty feet in width, is called a drumlin, and one of some 10,000 such hills in west-central New York, composing one of the largest drumlin fields in the world. The hill provides very little view in any direction, and tough now covered almost completely with trees and heavily wooded, in the latter half of the 19th century, and possibly at the time of Joseph Smith, most of the hill was denuded and merely an ugly dirt mound (see picture below), providing very little cover for even a single man, let alone twenty-four, and no place to hide.

Note the denuded hill and the cleared fields for planting. At one time, before the settlers cleared the area, the base of the hill and the fields all around were heavily wooded and covered with trees.

After that first day’s battle, Mormon wrote: “And when they had gone through and hewn down all my people save it were twenty and four of us, (among whom was my son Moroni) and we having survived the dead of our people, did behold on the morrow, when the Lamanites had returned unto their camps, from the top of the hill Cumorah, the ten thousand of my people who were hewn down, being led in the front by me—“ and goes on to list the 230,000 Nephites who lay dead on the battlefield around him (Mormon 6:11-15).

Now, after seeing and walking around this Hill Cumorah, it is obvious that nobody could have seen that kind of carnage spread across the landscape from this mere 140-foot high advantage—besides, the area is all wooded and would have blocked any type of visual effort save to the immediate base of the hill. In addition, there are other drumlin hills around Cumorah, which, again, would have blocked such a visual perusal of Mormon and his 23 other survivors in discerning the battlefield carnage.

Yet, Mormon and his 23 survivors, viewed the carnage of this last battle, prompting Mormon to lament in verses 16 through 22 about these fallen Nephites. Obviously, he could see the battlefield from his vantage point atop the Hill Cumorah and it was such a pathos that he was overwhelmed with the evil of his people and how they could all have been saved had they followed the Lord and not chosen evil over good.

One of the pictures I took of the Hill Cumorah when there a few weeks ago. The flag at the top center is at the crest of the hill. To the left, behind the trees is the monument to the Angel Moroni. The cleared path up to the top (where the Palmyra Pageant is held) is at the steepest part of the hill, which is an easy walk. The top is not level, but continues on over to the other side, much like a cigar in shape as drumlins are often described.

Having seen this area and imagined the images if Mormon’s battle took place here, and envisioned where ¾ of a million warriors fought, it can only be assumed that the hill would have not only been completely surrounded, but entirely overrun since it is not high enough or shaped in any way to impede movement across it during such an aggressive battle. Certainly, if this was the site, there would have been no place for anyone to have survived that first battle, let alone 24 Nephite warriors.

Walking this area, seeing views from a helicopter, and understanding the battle that Mormon described, it is impossible to believe that this hill was the one described by Mormon in the Land of Promise on that fateful day where at least 300,000 warriors died.

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