Friday, November 29, 2019

The Elevation of Letter VII to “Sainthood” – Part I

Jonathan Neville has been promoting Oliver Cowdery’s Letter VII for some time and we have written about it on occasion. He handed out some copies of this at a conference he held promoting his theory of North America so people could put it on Instagram and Twitter. His letter VII is the crowning point of his entire Heartland model theory and should be carefully looked at and discussed.
Neville’s map of the locations of the three major land areas of the Land Southward, Zarahemla, Bountiful and Nephi; however, he has them in the wrong locations, showing (white circle) Zarahemla to the west of (red circle) Bountiful and (green circle) Nephi to the South of Bountiful—not the way Mormon describes them at all (Alma 22:27-34). He also has (blue square) Zarahemla next to Bountiful, however, they were separated by an unknown land, and the three areas would not have been that close to the Land of Desolation, which was beyond a narrow neck of land (shown here way out of position). Also his (orange arrow) Sea West does not border the Land of Nephi, and (purple arrow) his Sea East does not border the Land of Nephi, to just name a few problems

As shown, his map of the Land of Promise is contrary to almost everything Mormon wrote about the location of the lands in Alma 22:27-34. We have also pointed out that Oliver Cowdery, who was convinced the Hill Cumorah in New York was the same hill mentioned in the Book of Mormon, first by the Jaredites as the hill Ramah, and by the Nephites as Cumorah. We have pointed out numerous times how that hill does not meet the specifics about the area that Mormon writes about.
    It should be kept in mind that Oliver Cowdery was a rather excitable individual when it came to the gospel. He at one time left the Church over his disagreements with Joseph Smith. He would get carried away talking about the Hill Cumorah, and as shown in Letter VII describing the last battle, he attempts to describe events as though he was there, but of course he was not—some of which is not according to the scriptural record.
Oliver Cowdery claims the battle took place only in the West Valley, though the hill is rather small and the land is flat all around the hill for many miles. The white curve shows the narrowness of the hill

One important note is that in his description he singles out the valley to the west of Cumorah, which is about a mile wide and a little over a mile long, as the area where the entire battle takes place, which is both ridiculous an inexcusable—a battle of some half a million combatants in a square mile. Besides, Mormon makes it very clear that when the Nephites arrived at Cumorah to prepare for this final battle, they pitched their tents in a particular manner, which is quite important, for he chose Cumorah (Mormon 6:2) hoping it would give him some advantage over the Lamanites (Mormon 6:4).
The Hill Cumorah, showing the Nephite (yellow circle) tent line of as it circles the hill per Mormon’s description. The West Valley where Cowdery claims the fighting took place is to the right (west) but note the total flatness all around the hill where the battle would have actually taken place—nothing would have kept the Lamanites from coming at all the area of tent occupation, up over the hill and to the Nephites on the other side if they were not deterred

Response: Of this Mormon says: “And it came to pass that we did march forth to the land of Cumorah, and we did pitch our tents around about the hill Cumorah; and it was in a land of many waters, rivers, and fountains; and here we had hope to gain advantage over the Lamanites” (Mormon 6:4, emphasis added).
    First of all, the many waters, rivers and fountains mentioned by Mormon are far away from the hill Cumorah in New York. As an example the nearest body of water to Cumorah is Canandaigua Lake, one of the Finger Lakes, which is 17 miles away, It is 19 miles to Lake Ontario; 40 miles to Conesus Lake; 45 miles to Owasco Lake; 50 miles to Skaneateles Lake; 62 miles to Onondaga Lake; 76 miles to Oneida Lake; 95 miles to Lake Erie. There are no rivers closer to Cumorah than the Genesee River, which is 25 miles away. There are very small brooks and creeks running through the area feeding into Lake Ontario, with the closest being Hathaway Brook, which runs past the Smith farm on the west and can be stepped over; then there is Red Creek/Ganargua Creek, 22 miles away.
    The point is, this area does not fit the statement of Mormon that Cumorah was in a land of many waters, rivers and fountains, since we are talking about a hill (or mountain) from which no water can be seen, let alone used to feed and water 230,000 troops, plus wives and children.
    Secondly, in Mormon’s conjunctive sentence, he discusses pitching tents and hoping to have an advantage over the Lamanites. For those who have not been to the hill Cumorah in New York, it is a drumlin (resulting from glaciers) that is low and rolling, like half a barrel split end to end and resting on the ground (or half an egg), its length running north and south. It is about 100 feet high and about a mile long, and is very easily climbed because of its gentle slope to the east and west.
An aerial view of the Hill Cumorah with totally flat land all around for miles, showing the tent line and (orange arrows) approaches to the battle site from any direction by the Lamanites. There is no way that this battle of some half million warriors took place in only the west valley as Cowdery so adamantly describes, showing he had no idea what actually took place and was simply carried away within his own imagination

A comment from Jonathan Neville regarding his Letter VII promotion, states: “I keep hearing reports that more and more people are reading and discussing Letter VII. We're still a long way from having every member of the Church read it during 2016, but we're getting closer all the time. Sharing these memes is one way to help.”
    For those unfamiliar with the word “meme,” it literally means “a cultural item in the form of an image, video, phrase, etc., that is spread via the Internet and often altered in a creative or humorous way.
    Evidently, Neville does not care if Oliver Cowdery’s words are altered, since he uses the term that allows for that, nor that “memes” are rarely, if ever, used to refer to a serious matter, such as his goal of trying to change the thinking of the entire Church to the hill Cumorah being in New York. But all that aside, it should be a curiosity why Neville rarely, if ever, points out Land of Promise scripture references and descriptions in the same manner he does Cowdery’s Letter VII. It is as though to Neville, the only thing that really matters in all the Book of Mormon geographical arrangement in determining the location of the Land of Promise is an obscure writing by Oliver Cowdery in a letter written 7 May, 1831 addressed to W. W. Phelps.
    At the time, Phelps and Cowdery were exchanging information, i.e., generally, Phelps would ask questions regarding the First Vision, early organization of the Church and some of Joseph’s first visions and revelations. Despite Neville’s making every effort to convince everyone otherwise, this letter VII was not written in any part by Joseph Smith other than the fact that Cowdery lifted some of Joseph’s remarks about the First Vision and other early events to include in his letters to Phelps.
    Oliver Cowdery did, in fact, assure his reader (Phelps) that his comments to him “shall be founded upon facts,” but Phelp’s responses contained speculation and rhetorical flourishes that far overstepped the bounds of fact, such as: "the Commissioners stated that "thirty tribes, containing a population of 156,310, have held treaties with the United States, and that there is an Indian population east of the Mississippi, of 92,676,"-making a total of 405,286. Now allowing the same number west of the Mountains, and suppose 800,000, in the northern regions of the Canadas, and 500,000 in South America, there will be 2,110,562 of the sons of Joseph, and of the remnants of the Jews."
When Benjamin Winchester copied Cowdery’s letter into his Gospel Reflector (March 15, 1841), he added, his speculation about the geography question: "At length they [the Nephites] commenced settlements in the region of country, not far from the Isthmus of Darien." Orson Pratt, quoting from Cowdedr’s letters in his pamphlet, speculated that "The Lamanites, at that time, dwelt in South America, and the Nephites in North  America... This war commenced at the Isthmus of Darien, and was very destructive to both nations for many years."
    It is interesting that both writers, Winchester and Pratt, felt completely free to add their own views within Cowdery’s information—might this have been because in their view, Oliver Cowdery’s comments were in themselves speculative regarding the Nephites and the Lamanites?
    After all, Orson Pratt, was called into the original Quorum of the Twelve on April 26,1835, by Joseph Smith and remained a member of the Twelve through October 3, 1881, when, at the age of 70, he died. During this time he was considered the leading Church theologian and writer until his death. Pratt producing an early missionary tract, "An Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions," which contained the earliest known public printing of an account of Joseph Smith's First Vision and also contains material similar to that later published as the 1842 Articles of Faith. But Pratt’s insertion was speculation, and when Joseph Smith wrote the Wentworth letter based on Pratt's pamphlet, he edited out all of Pratt's speculation and explained, simply, that "The principal nation of the second race fell in battle towards the close of the fourth century. The remnant are the Indians that now inhabit this country."
(See the next post, The Elevation of Letter VII to “Sainthood” – Part II,” for more information about Oliver Cowdery’s Letter VII and how it is being elevated by Neville far beyond its level of importance)


  1. Even though Cowdery wrote Letter VII claiming the Hill in New York was the place of the last Nephite and Jaredite battles, all three of the three witnesses, including Cowdery, ALSO were saying that the Lehites landed in Chile, and there is no evidence that Joseph ever contradicted that. So it is likely they were also saying the narrow neck of land was Panama. Neville wants his narrow neck of land NORTH of his hill Cumorah, which openly contradicts every "Internal map" of the Book of Mormon I have ever seen. Does not that cause a logical problem for elevating Letter VII to Sainthood?

    To find evidence that the three Witnesses were teaching in 1830 to people that the Lehites landed in Chile, search for "Chili" on this webpage:

    Misc. Ohio Newspapers
    1829-1831 Articles

  2. I don’t see a way to search these George. Can you provide the content or a more discrete link?