Sunday, June 27, 2021

Another Look at the Hill Cumorah – Part V

 Despite the numerous scriptures to show the opposite, and evidence to support the scriptural record, there are many scholars and historians who believe in the Mesoamerican theory—to name a few: John L. Sorenson, Sidney B. Sperry, and earlier, Hugh W. Nibley (Stephen E. Robinson, “Bible Scholarship" in Daniel H. Ludlow, Encyclopedia of Mormonism, MacMillan, New York, 1992, p113). All have articulated the argument that the the Hill Cumorah/Ramah must be located relatively close to Zarahemla, which they all claim is based on several pieces of textual evidence.

This theory has found its best expression in John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for The Book of Mormon, Deseret Book, Salt Lake City, 1985). In addition, others include: David A. Palmer, In Search of Cumorah: New Evidence, Horizon, Bountiful, Utah, 1981; Joseph L. Allen, Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon, S. A. Publishers, Orem, Utah, 1989; and F. Richard Hauck, Deciphering the Geography of the Book of Mormon, Deseret Book, Salt Lake City, 1988).

Roper also stated that “Limhi’s search party was gone for “many days” not “many years” or even “many months.”

The problem with this is brought about when theorists try to place limits on an unknown factor. As an example, how long is “many days.” Nephi uses the term three times (1Nephi 16:15,17;33) in a journey that took 8 years (1 Nephi 17:4). We do not know how long their voyage to the Land of Promise was, but Nephi used the term “many days” twice to describe the time—a voyage that would have had to have taken months.

In addition, when Nephi was fleeing from his brothers with those who would go with him, he uses the term “many days” which must have been several weeks to a month or more. Ammon’s search for the city of Nephi took “many days in the wilderness, even forty days did they wander” (Mosiah 7:4). Zeniff and his people wandered “many days” in the wilderness—which is an unknown time frame (Mosiah 9:4). While Alma was concealed for “many days” he wrote all the words of Abinadi—which must have taken some time.

After Limhi and his people returned to the city of Nephi, they dwelt in peace for “many days,” before the Lamanites were stirred up against them (Mosiah 21:2)—and unknown time frame, but would seem to be a lengthy period. The point is, “many days” does not have a singular meaning—nor can it be estimated, meaning in the Book of Mormon.

To better understand this, we need to know a little bit about Hebrew. First of all, Biblical Hebrew has a limited vocabulary, with fewer words compared to other languages, such as English—which has the largest (William M. Schniedewind, A Social History of Hebrew: Its Origins Through the Rabbinic Period, Yale University Press, 2013, p10). 

As an example, Biblical Hebrew has a very small number of words, which total about 8,000, and around 1,700 of those words are used only once. Modern Hebrew has about 100,000 words—for comparison modern English has over 520,000 words (according to the Oxford Dictionary, over 1 million when including prefixed and suffixed words, scientific terminology, foreign words with English meanings, and technical words). On the other hand, Korean has about 510,000; Italian 500,000; Dutch 400,000; Finnish 350,000; Portuguese 228,000; German 200,000; Icelandic 150,000; Swedish 125,000; French 116,000; Russian 100,000; Spanish 93,000; Turkmen 50,000; and Quechua 20,000 words;

This means, with only 8,000 words, Hebrew often has multiple meanings, which are determined by context (Bruce K. Waltke, An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax, Eisenbrauns, Penn State University Press, 1990, p48). This, then, means that to try and provide a definition of a word or phrase, like “many days” is not possible with defining explanation. Further “Yom” יוֹם, has the root meaning “to be hot as the warm hours of a day,” and is Hebrew for a “period of time.” It also means: a “Period of light,” a “Time period of unspecified length,” a “Long, but finite span of time,” thus “Yom” in its context, is sometimes translated as: "time" in general (Genesis 4:3, Isaiah 30:8). In fact, in Genesis rabbis admit that “yom” can mean a twenty-four hour solar day, but argue that it can refer to an indefinitely long period of time as well. It is in this sense that the word is employed in Genesis 2:4, with a "day" of God's total creation taking place in the course of "days" of creation.

As an example: "year" (I Kings 1:1, 2 Chronicles 21:19, Amos 4:4); "age" (Genesis 18:11, 24:1 and 47:28; Joshua 23:1 and 23:2); "always" (Deuteronomy 5:29, 6:24 and 14:23, and in 2 Chronicles 18:7); "season" (Genesis 40:4, Joshua 24:7, 2 Chronicles 15:3); epoch or 24-hour day (Genesis 1:5,8,13,19,23,31).

She took from the fruit and ate’ and she gave also to her husband with her and he ate (Genesis 3:6)


On the other hand, it is used in Genesis 2:17 to represent nearly a thousand years, when the Lord told Adam: "But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." In this case, Adam, living 930 years after eating of the fruit, extends the period of the meaning of a day. It should also be noted that Peter made this perfectly clear, stating: “But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing: that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8)

“Yom” is not just for a day, or for days, but for time in general. How “yom” is translated depends on the context of its use with other words in the sentence around it.

In addition, the Hebrew word יום (yom), means a "day," but not specifically a twenty-four hour period, but instead more generically like in "a day that something occurs." An example would be "a day of the month" (Genesis 8:4), "in that day Yahweh made a covenant" (Genesis 15:18) and "until the day" (Genesis 19:37). This word can also refer to the light part of the day in contrast to night (Genesis 1:5; Exodus 13:21), but the related word יומם (yomam) specifically means "daytime" as in Job 5:14. This word can be used for a time, age or season, but that is only when this word is in the plural form, which is ימים (yamim), and should probably be translated as "days" and not time, age or season, as this can lead to incorrect interpretations of the text. The word היום (hayom) is the word יום (yom) with the prefix ה (ha) added and it literally means "the day," but in English, we would translate it as "today."

According to John E. Clark, these many proposals of other sites, such as those in the Heartland of what is now the United States, and the Great Lakes. However, the Mesoamerican theorists claim that these other proposals have been convincingly discounted on the grounds that they fail to account for some of the more salient geographical features mentioned in the Book of Mormon like the narrow neck of land and a prominent northward-flowing river, and for the lack of an archaeological record temporally and materially consistent with evidence from the book (John E. Clark, “Evaluating the Case for a Limited Great Lakes Setting,” FARMS Review 14, no.1 2002, p9–77).

Heartland/Great Lakes model of the Land of Promise


One of the points that most Mesoasmerican theorists agree with is that the geographical descriptions provided in what they call the text itself requires that the final battles of the Jaredites and Nephites took place relatively close to both peoples’ centers of civilization near the narrow neck of land. Isn’t it interesting that according to the scriptural Record there is no mention of cities around the Hill Cumorah of the Book of Mormon. Since Mormon wants to have the final battle between the Nephites and the Lamanites at this hill, it is highly unlikely that it would have taken place close to centers of civilization near the narrow neck of land, particularly that of the Lamanites—where fresh troops could be called upon at any time, if necessary.

In fact, there are only two references of populated locations near this neck: Hagoth’s shipyards (Alma 63:5) and the city of Desolation in which Mormon states: “I did cause my people that they should gather themselves together at the land Desolation, to a city which was in the borders, by the narrow pass which led into the land southward (Mormon 3:5). In fact, in the seven instances where the narrow neck of land is referred to, there is no mention other than the city of Desolation, built by the Jaredites (Ether 10:20), with these references called variously, small neck (Alma 22:32), narrow neck (Alma 63:5; Ether 10:20), narrow pass (Alma 50:34; 52:9; Mormon 3:5) and narrow passage (Mormon 2:29).

Thus, not knowing the distance of Cumorah from the Narrow Neck we turn to Mormon and his simple explanation.

Friday, June 25, 2021

Another Look at the Hill Cumorah – Part IV

 From what we have already covered in the previous posts, there is nothing in the scriptural record that even hints Cumorah was close to the Narrow Neck of Land. In another instance, Mesoamericanists believe that though Limhi’s men were mistaken that the Jaredite ruins were Zarahemla, “it is apparent that they had enough information before and after their journey to make such a conclusion seem plausible (Italics in original).

It is difficult to follow such thinking, since there is nothing in the scriptural record to suggest that such a viewpoint is realistic. As an example, Mosiah told Ammon: “Being grieved for the afflictions of my people, I caused that forty and three of my people should take a journey into the wilderness, that thereby they might find the land of Zarahemla, that we might appeal unto our brethren to deliver us out of bondage (Mosiah 8:7, emphasis added)—there is nothing to suggest knowledge or location covered here.

It is Easy to Get Lost

Mountains obviously can block passage and require a change in direction

Forests can impede progress, forcing numerous changes in route according to where passage is possible, often without knowing it

Canyons force a movement along its path, which may branch around and change direction without realizing it

Rivers and Lakes may present impassable barriers forcing long distances of detours


Mosiah then followed up with: “And they were lost in the wilderness for the space of many days, yet they were diligent, and found not the land of Zarahemla but returned to this land, having traveled in a land among many waters, having discovered a land which was covered with bones of men, and of beasts, and was also covered with ruins of buildings of every kind, having discovered a land which had been peopled with a people who were as numerous as the hosts of Israel” (Mosiah 8:8, emphasis added)

Perhaps it would be instructive to take Limhi’s words apart and study them:

1. Lost in the wilderness: evidently the 43-man expedition was not clear on where Zarahemla was located and were quickly lost, wandering about for many days. How many, we do not know, but Ammon’s journey to the City of Nephi, took 40 days because they wandered many days in the wilderness.

2. For the space of many days. In describing Ammons trip from Zarahemla to the City of Nephi (King Limhi), it states: “And now, they knew not the course they should travel in the wilderness to go up to the land of Lehi-Nephi; therefore they wandered many days in the wilderness, even forty days did they wander” (Mosiah 7:4, emphasis added). Two very important statements are included here: a) they knew not the course they should travel; and b) they wandered many days in the wilderness.

Now, if Ammon and the Nephites in Zarahemla knew not the course to take to find the City of Nephi, then it should be concluded that the people in the City of Nephi did not know the course to take to find Zarahemla. While this is not conclusive, it does show a legitimate connection, suggesting the fallacy of Mesoamericanists arriving at the conclusion that the expedition knew where Zarahemla was located far less than plausible.

3. Yet they were diligent. Diligence is having or showing care and conscientiousness in one's work or duties; in 1828, the word was   defined as: “Constant in effort or exertion to accomplish what is undertaken, prosecuted with care and constant effort.” Obviously, these men were not apt to give up until they achieved their goal—finding Zarahemla, no matter how long it took. The scriptural record makes this quite clear in Mormon choosing the word “diligent” as Joseph Smith translated it.

4. having traveled in a land among many waters. It should be kept in mind that this Land of Many Waters contained the Land of Cumorah—and from a northerly view, both being beyond the Land of Desolation. It should also be noted that it was a “land” of Cumorah, which contained the hill Cumorah (Mormon 6:2). And this Land of Cumorah was within a land of many waters, which contained rivers and fountains (Mormon 6:4).

Now these lands were moving northward “Thus the land on the northward was called Desolation, and the land on the southward was called Bountiful”(Alma 22:31); the Land of Desolation was north of the Narrow Neck of Land (Alma 22:31); the Land of Many Waters was north of Desolation, and the Land of Cumorah was within the Land of Many Waters (Mormon 6:4).

The South to North logistics of Mormon’s Map


It should also be noted that Mormon says the Land of Cumorah was far beyond the Land of Desolation. “So far northward that it came into the land which had been peopled and been destroyed.” This was the land, of course, that had been occupied by the Jaredites—the Land Northward. And the Land of Cumorah was within the Land of Many Waters, so far to the north of the Narrow Neck of Land, beyond the Land of Desolation, clear to the Land of Many Waters.

5. Having discovered a land which had been peopled with a people who were as numerous as the hosts of Israel. The only way diligent men would have reported their findings to the King was to have seen it—not just the battle field at one hill, but an entire land to understand that what they saw represented an entire civilization which allowed them to report that they had held a people who were as numerous as the hosts of Israel.

Roper again makes an error in his speculation. He states: “It is also noteworthy that although they believed they were lost they were still able to find their way back to the land of Nephi. That suggests that previous to their departure, they had at least a general idea of the direction they should go to appeal for help and how long it should have taken to get to Zarahemla, even though they were uncertain of the precise route. Under such circumstances a diligent search party would perhaps count the days they traveled. In any case, something would have led them to eventually conclude that they had gone far enough. Sorenson argues that they would not likely have gone more than twice the estimated distance before turning back.[7] If we accept that view as reasonable then the Jaredite land of destruction encountered by Limhi’s men would have been within a comparable distance from the land of Nephi.”

Now, lost is lost, and these men of the expedition being lost would not have known where their city of Nephi was located any more than their not knowing where Zarahemla had been—at least not until they ran across what they thought was Zarahemla—in running across the ruins and mistakenly assuming it was Zarahemla they would have known to head south to get back to their city. Knowing that Zarahemla was somewhere north of the city of Nephi, it would not have been as difficult to find as the northerly trek to find Zarahemla. After all, north is and they would have turned south—as they drew near familiar landmarks they would have been led to the city. There had been no familiar landmarks to lead them to Zarahemla. They found what they thought was Zarahemla quite by accident.

In addition, there seems to be some misunderstanding of the fiber of the men Limhi sent, and their charge from the king. It does not seem logical that the king would say “travel for 21 days, then turn back,” or “if you can’t find the city then return.” They were under direct orders from the king who wanted their brethren in Zarahemla to come and aid them (Mosiah 8:7) in their fight with the Lamanites over their freedom—they wanted to be free of the yoke of bondage! The 43 members of the expedition would have well known and understood the importance of their assignment. Diligent men do not turn back from an assignment until they have completed it—and the men Limhi sent did just that.

Consequently, the entire argument that the Hill Cumorah must have been close by the Narrow Neck of Land is fallacious—there is nothing in the scriptural record to suggest or even imply such a thing. In fact, if anything, the suggestion is just the opposite, as indicated by two statements. Speaking about the Land of Cumorah, Mormon states: “it bordered upon the land which they called Desolation, it being so far northward that it came into the land which had been peopled and been destroyed” (Alma 22:30, emphasis added). In another instance, Mormon also states: “there were an exceedingly great many who departed out of the land of Zarahemla, and went forth unto the land northward to inherit the land. And they did travel to an exceedingly great distance, insomuch that they came to large bodies of water and many rivers” (Helaman 3:4, emphasis added).

So far northward and exceedingly great distance, both imply a distant land a long way beyond the Land of Desolation into a Land of Many Waters apparently containing lakes, many rivers, and fountains—covered with bones of men, and of beasts, and was also covered with ruins of buildings of every kind.

Quite obviously, this area Mormon describes is not near the Narrow Neck of Land (nor the Land of Bountiful) as Roper states and almost all Mesoamericanists believe—the Jaredites were never in the Land Southward, except to hunt, and had “spread upon the face of the land,” from their landing site, up into the mountains, or at least built their city of Moron up from their landing site and likely up from the land around (Ether 7:5).

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Another Look at the Hill Cumorah – Part III

Again, referring to Matthew P. Roper’s article regarding how to understand what is meant in the scriptural record, states: “We have to prudently weigh various options in order to judge which possible interpretation is the most likely.”

Using that criteria, an evaluation of Roper’s Mesoamerica—not the distances involved, but simply as the Land of Promise—to see how his point of view plays out.

In reading the descriptions of Mormon’s directions of the Land of Promise, particularly those in Alma ch22 where Mormon inserts a lengthy layout of the land and its directions, we find that the layout of the land is in a north/south direction. However, in John L. Sorenson’s layout of the Land of Promise, he places it in an east/west direction and calls it north and south.

Now, according to Roper’s suggestion, which is the most likely? That Mormon knew the direction of the land—or Sorenson? Obviously, it has to be Mormon—no other choice is logical.

Sorenson’s map with our overlay of red and yellow print: Red being the correct directions; Yellow being Sorenson’s directions on his map enhanced for easy reading


Looking at this further, Roper, Sorenson and numerous other theorists, especially those at BYU, claim that Mesoamerica is the Land of Promise, negating the directions that Mormon gave us.

So much for dealing with the most likely.

The Mesoamerican theorists, using Sorenson’s argument, claim that Mormon did not know the cardinal directions of north, east, south and west, as we know them today. This led to the so-called “Mormon north,” which has been used to justify the change in directions.

Now, which is most likely, that the Nephites knew a different interpretation of directions, or that Sorenson and other Mesoamerican theorists are flat-out wrong?

The argument that Sorenson used to justify his change of directions, is that the ancient Hebrews only know their directions based on having their back to the sea (Mediterranean Sea), which placed the east before them. However, we find that Nephi knew the cardinal directions accurately, knew the ordinal or intercardinal ones accurately as well as the eight principle winds. How he knew that we are not told, but they had the Liahona at the time Nephi stated: “we traveled for the space of four days, nearly a south-southeast direction, and we did pitch our tents again; and we did call the name of the place Shazer" (1 Nephi 16:13). These directions are verified by the angle of the Red Sea, along which Lehi was traveling.

So, do we believe Sorenson’s so-called “Mormon north,” or  Mormon’s explanations of the land having lived in it all his life?

As Roper said, “we have to prudently weigh various options in order to judge which possible interpretation is the most likely.”

Mormon’s View 2000 years ago vs. Mesoamericanists’ View today


So which is most likely? It would seem that Mormon’s description would be more likely than Sorenson’s changing of the cardinal directions and lengthy explanation of it, yet Roper and other Mesoamericanists choose to reject Mormon’s clear and previse compass directions and accept Sorenson’s unrealistic views.

Additionally, Roper said: “It is believed by most contemporary researchers on the Book of Mormon that the narrow neck of land is in southern Mexico.” Having said that, then Roper feels free to use that as a fact and build upon it. Thus, he places the hill Cumorah, the narrow passage, cities, Sidon River and other features within that limited setting, and claim it is the most likely and plausible setting. Sorenson went so far as to say that Mesoamerica was the only setting in the Western Hemisphere that matched the Book of Mormon locations.

Roper states that the Mesoamericanists also claimed that the episode of Morianton’s race to get he and his followers into the Land Northward suggests that the rebel’s intended destination northward was near enough to pose a significant threat to the Nephites within the land of Zarahemla (Alma 50:32).

However, what they fail to understand is that Moroni feared Moianton would get to Bountiful, obtain the land beyond the narrow neck, then convince the Nephites in Bountiful to join with him against the Nephite government. As Mormon stated: “the people who were in the land Bountiful, or rather Moroni, feared that they would hearken to the words of Morianton and unite with his people, and thus he would obtain possession of those parts of the land, which would lay a foundation for serious consequences among the people of Nephi, yea, which consequences would lead to the overthrow of their liberty” (Alma 50:32).


The distance between Bountiful and the Narrow Neck us unknown and guessing at it serves no purpose except to mislead the readers


Since there is no distance suggested or implied between Bountiful and the Narrow Neck of Land, a conclusion as to overall distance cannot be made. However, it must have been a considerable distance since Morianton and his people had a head start over one of the armies Moroni sent (under the command of Teancum) to run Morianton down.

Now Teancum’s army was sent, according to Mormon, who wrote: “Therefore Moroni sent an army, with their camp, to head the people of Morianton, to stop their flight into the land northward” (Alma 50:33, emphasis added). To better understand this, “with their camp” refers to military camp or bivouac—a semi-permanent facility for the lodging of an army. Camps are erected when a military force travels away from a major installation or fort during training or a major campaign, which forms a large campsite (D. C. Gilman, et al., “Bivouac,” New International Encyclopedia, 1st ed., Dodd, Mead, New York, 1905).

This was not a simple chase of Teancum after Morianton. A distance and time frame would have been extensive when an army is sent “with camp”—meaning they would not be returning any time soon. Such an army has to have food and facilities necessary to spend the time in the field. While the army would have been moving swiftly during the day as long as light held out, they still had the need for essentials, such as food, during the march as well as at night. This suggests that the distance was not limited as Roper claims, but some distance away—at least an overnight movement of the army, and likely more than one night.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Another Look at the Hill Cumorah – Part II

Once again, turning to Matthew P. Roper’s article, in which he stated: “While the Book of Mormon text may not require a particular reading, we may rightly judge one possibility to be more plausible, more compelling, and more probable than another. He also states:Of course, knowing what the Book of Mormon says or doesn’t say is only the first step. As with most texts, there are parts of the record that are more ambiguous than others, and these may lend themselves to different possible interpretations, particularly on questions relating to the reconstruction of Book of Mormon geography (Matthew P. Roper, Plausibility, Probability, and the Cumorah Question,” Religious Educator, vol.10, no.2, BYU Religious Studies Center, 2009).

It should be interesting to see what each of his statements really imply and that effect on interpreting the Book of Mormon.

1. “one possibility to be more plausible, more compelling, and more probable than another.”

This suggest that the reader, believing he is faced with multiple meanings, should determine which is the most logical and then claiming that is the meaning of the word or phrase. However, the problem with this directive is that the reader may not have studied out all the scriptural facts sufficiently. As an example, Jacob states: “we have been driven out of the land of our inheritance; but we have been led to a better land, for the Lord has made the sea our path, and we are upon an isle of the sea” (2 Nephi 10:20). Now, because having the land of Promise on an island does not fit the criteria of all other Land of Promise depictions and locations, the reader prompted by the theorists involved, try to show that Jacob’s words do not mean what is clearly stated: “We are upon an isle of the sea.” That is a clear and precise statement, but theorists claim that in ancient Hebrew such a phrase meant distant places of the mainland.

On the other hand, when comparing Jacob’s statement with that of Helaman’s: “they did multiply and spread, and did go forth from the land southward to the land northward, and did spread insomuch that they began to cover the face of the whole earth, from the sea south to the sea north, from the sea west to the sea east” (Helaman 3:8, emphasis added). This, of course, is consistent with Jacob’s statement of the Nephites being on an island and therefore, surrounded by water. It also agrees with Mormon’s statement: “and thus the land of Nephi and the land of Zarahemla were nearly surrounded by water, there being a small neck of land between the land northward and the land southward” (Alma 22:32). Taken as a whole, and using the writing of the ancients who were there (not modern-day theorists who were not ever there), we can understand Jacob’s meaning and intent: they had traveled over the sea—that is: “The Lord has made the sea our path, and we are upon an isle of the sea.”

We do not need to look for the most plausible, probable and compelling meaning—the meaning is so clear, it can be understood completely by the ancient statements.

2. “knowing what the Book of Mormon says or doesn’t say is only the first step.”

Contrarily, most of the time, it is the only step—as shown above about Jacob’s statement. In another example, Samuel the Lamanite states: “there shall be many mountains laid low, like unto a valley, and there shall be many places which are now called valleys which shall become mountains, whose height is great” (Helaman 14:23, emphasis added). That is a clear and precise statement, needing no supportive information—and no plausibility, probability or compelling point of view. This, of course, completely eliminates the Heartland and Great Lakes theories, and calls into question the Mesoamerican theory. Consequently, these theorists must find a way to explain away, or limit the height stated by Samuel. However, if support is needed, Nephi’s vision provides it (1 Nephi 12:4).

3. As with most texts, there are parts of the record that are more ambiguous.”

First of all, the Book of Mormon cannot be compared to, or linked with, “other texts,” since it was specifically written under direct supervision of the Spirit. It seems that only academicians think the scriptural record should be treated like “other texts.

Secondly, the word “ambiguous” literally means “open to more than one interpretation.” It is hard to imagine that any part of the scriptural record is open to more than one meaning, otherwise, we could read it and claim that what we read meant what we want it to mean, not necessarily what the writer meant.

This was the case anciently, leading Peter, who had been speaking of invented stories and myths, specifically saying his claims were neither of these. Scriptures were not "cleverly devised" stories (2 Peter 1:16) or the best guesses of insightful men. These are claims that can only be the product of inspiration by God. This leads Peter to say:Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation” (2 Peter 1:20, emphasis added), and to make that perfectly clear, Peter added: “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Peter 1:21).

4. “Ambiguity may result in different possible interpretations, particularly on questions relating to the reconstruction of Book of Mormon geography.”

It seems clear that man’s interpretation, when it differs from the scriptural record, is in error, for man does not need someone to tell him what the written word means. Nephi made this clear when he said: “For the Lord God giveth light unto the understanding; for he speaketh unto men according to their language, unto their understanding” (2 Nephi 31:3, emphasis added).

Additionally, in the revealed preface to the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord made this clear: “Behold, I am God and have spoken it; these commandments are of me, and were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding” (D&C 1:24, emphasis added). Just about the only thing that the reader needs to insure accuracy and enhance understanding is to have some familiarity with ancient Hebrew customs, a little familiarity with the Hebrew language, and a limited understanding of the period of time involved.

As an example, Roper states in his article, “In what follows I will explain why the final battles of the Jaredites and the Nephites, including those at Cumorah, best make sense as having taken place near a narrow neck of land.” While no one is questioning Roper’s fervor and dedication on the subject, there is absolutely nothing in the scriptural record to link the Narrow Neck of Land with the Hill Cumorah, except that the latter is beyond, or north of the Narrow Neck. How far north is only stated as being “so far northward,” (Alma 22:30). “So far northward” can be just about any distance so long as it is far away and not nearby.

5. Another of Roper’s comments is: “We want to determine which possibility or which interpretation is more plausible or probable. That means we have to prudently weigh various options in order to judge which possible interpretation is the most likely.

There is a comment in the Book of Mormon about there being a Narrow Neck of Land and a Narrow Passage. Presently, theorists in Mesoamerica have four different locations for the pass, and three for the narrow neck. In the Heartland theory there are about the same—which eliminates both of these theories, since in the scriptural record there are just the two—a narrow neck and a narrow pass. The narrow neck connects the two larger land masses (Land Northward and Land Southward) to one another (Alma 22:32), and the narrow pass which leads from one of these lands to the other (Mormon 2:29; 3:5). Consequently, there is one land or neck with a narrow pass through it—making the narrow pass the only way to get through the narrow neck from one land to the other.

There are no other interpretations regarding this plain, clear and precise wordage of Mormon.

Monday, June 21, 2021

Another Look at the Hill Cumorah - Part I

According to Andrew H. Hedges, co-editor of the Joseph Smith Papers, and associate professor of Church History and Doctrine at BYU, the idea that the Nephite-Lamanite history depicted in the Book of Mormon ranged over the whole of North and South America is totally inaccurate. While this is true regarding the actual events outlined in the Book of Mormon, it is inaccurate to imply that Nephites and Lamanites were not in these multiple regions as depicted by those who went in Hagoth's ships to a “land which was northward” (Alma 63:4,5,7). At the same time, it should also be noted that the geographical location of Lehi’s isle of promise, as illustrated in the Book of Mormon, covers a much smaller area that the entire Western Hemisphere, even much smaller than an entire continent.

Hedges also notes that “in recent years, many scholars (and we would add “theorists”) of geography of the Book of Mormon’s Land of Promise have claimed that the events in the scriptural record have taken place in Mesoamerica—repudiating the earlier widespread assumptions that the narrow neck of land, which figures so prominently in the book’s geography, was the Isthmus of Panama,” and replaced the western hemisphere model with that of Mesoamerica—a small area from central Mexico to Honduras, including Guatemala, Yucatan and Belize. This has created a “Limited Geography Model,” which its adherents claim established a restricted geography “around the Isthmus of Tehuantepec that provides the best setting for the book’s geographical events as mentioned and implied in the book itself” (Andrew H. Hedges, “Cumorah and the Limited Mesoamerican Theory,” Religious Educator, vol.10, no.2, BYU Religious Studies Center, Religious Education, 2009).
On the other hand, their beliefs, opinions, and models are often in direct conflict with the scriptural record and Mormon's clear and precisede descriptions he provides. As an example:
1. The Land of Promise runs north and south (Alma 22:29-33); however, Mesoamerica runs east and west;  

2. “The Nephites had inhabited the land Bountiful, even from the east unto the west sea” (Alma 22:33), which at least provides for a West Sea; They did not head them until they had come to the borders of the land Desolation; and there they did head them, by the narrow pass which led by the sea into the land northward, by the sea, on the West and on the East” (Alma 50:34). Obviously, the Land of Promise had a sea on the West and a sea on the East, but Mesoamerica has only a sea on the North (Gulf of Mexico) and a sea on the South (Pacific Ocean).

The Nephites had a sea in all of the four cardinal directions—one might say it was surrounded by water. Jacob did


3. The Land of Promise was surrounded by seas, “they did multiply and spread, and did go forth from the land southward to the land northward, and did spread insomuch that they began to cover the face of the whole earth, from the Sea South to the Sea North, from the Sea West to the Sea East” (Helaman 3:8). However, Mesoamerica has only two seas (North and South, which, ironically they refer to as the Sea East and the Sea West).

4. The Land of Many Waters was near the Land of Desolation—after all, people coming from the Land of Nephi in the Land Southward, would not have traveled very far into the Land Northward before turning back; and Morianton’s attempted flight to a region in the Land Northward “which was covered with large bodies of water” (Alma 50:29) suggests a similar location.

Two points here: a) the desire to stay on the trail looking for Zarahemla would have been sufficient to dedicated men in a “live free or be a slave” situation for themselves, their families, and their people. B) The case of Morianton provides no clue as to where the many waters were but beyond the narrow neck.

On the other hand, Mormon tells us that the Land of Many Waters “bordered upon the land which they called Desolation, it being so far northward that it came into the land which had been peopled and been destroyed (Alma22:30). Also, when the Nephites were driven north (ch 5), away from the Narrow Neck of Land, which had been the dividing line of a treaty (Mormon2:29), and continually being pressed by the advancing Lamanites, Mormon writes: “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).

Zin this last “do or die” confrontation with the Lamanites, Mormon had led his people in retreat for quite some time, always moving northward before the Lamanites who advanced from the south. Thus, the Land of Many Waters would have been “so far northward” as Mormon first stated.

Another point of error is found in the Mesoamericanist belief that the “geographical descriptions provided in the text itself require that the final battles of the Jaredites and Nephites took place relatively close to both peoples’ centers of civilization near the narrow neck of land.” This is based solely on the the small group of men king Limhi sent from the Land of Nephi to the City of Zarahemla to enlist the Nephites’ aid against the Lamanites, who were holding the people of Limhi in bondage. 

King Limhi’s 43-man expedition sent to find Zarahemla


Unsure of the route, or even where Zarahemla was located, Limhi’s men found what could only be described as the final battleground of the Jaredites”—causing Limhi’s men to report upon their return that they found “a land which was covered with bones of men, and of beasts, and was also covered with ruins of buildings of every kind” (Mosiah 8:8). Supposing this to be the remains of Zarahemla and the Nephite population, Limhi’s men returned to the land of Nephi (Mosiah 21:26).

This event demonstrates to theorists that the final battle of the Jaredites had taken place close enough to Zarahemla for travelers from Nephi to confuse the two sites. On the other hand, Limhi’s expedition had been charged with the importance of finding Zarahemla and enlisting them in their aid to overthrow their Lamanite oppressors. Since this condition had been going on for some time, it would be only natural for Limhi to choose the best, brightest, and strongest, as well as the most dedicated, to fill the ranks of his expedition and charge them with the importance of finding Zarahemla—their only hope of overthrowing the Lamanite control.

While theorists claim Limhi’s men would not have traveled far, they miss the point of those in the expedition—dedicated men whose special mission was to find Zarahemla and seek Nephite aid. How far they traveled would not  have been a consideration—these men would not have, and did not, quit in their most important quest until they found what appeared to them to be the dead of Zarahemla and the city itself demolished.

It should also be noted that this group was “lost in the wilderness,” had no firm idea of where Zarahemla might be, and upon unknowingly passing it by, continued on, criss-crossing the land, hoping to find the Nephite city and people to help them.

Another erroneous point is that the hill where Joseph Smith found the plates is the same hill as that in the Book of Mormon’s descriptions of where the final battles took place. It is the same hill of the scriptural record in New York. According to Matthew P. Roper, a Mesoamericanist and resident scholar and research assistant for the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, “while the Book of Mormon text may not require a particular reading, we may rightly judge one possibility to be more plausible, more compelling, and more probable than another.”

Roper also claims that “the final battles of the Jaredites and the Nephites, including those at Cumorah, best make sense as having taken place near a narrow neck of land, believed by most contemporary researchers on the Book of Mormon to be in southern Mexico, and why the alternative of a far distant location of a hill in New York does not make sense (Matthew P. Roper, “Plausibility, Probability, and the Cumorah Question,” Religious Educator vol.10, no. 2, 2009, pp135–158).

While there is agreement with the point that the hill in New York where Joseph Smith obtained the plates is not the same hill as the one in the Book of Mormon, there is no agreement on the belief that the hill Cumorah of the scriptural record is in Southern Mexico.


Sunday, June 20, 2021

Hide in Plain Sight

So often people, including historians and theorists, read a passage in the scriptural record and immediately place a meaning on the word or words, often creating an unbending opinion as to its meaning based on their own interpretation. Mormon recalled the time when Ammaron spoke to him as a ten-year-old boy, “The time that Ammaron hid up the records unto the Lord, he came unto me…and Ammaron said unto me: I perceive that thou art a sober child, and art quick to observe; Therefore, when ye are about twenty and four years…go to the land Antum, unto a hill which shall be called Shim; and there have I deposited unto the Lord all the sacred engravings (Mormon 1:2-3). Later, Mormon tells us that the records he obtained were the ones that “Ammaron had deposited unto the Lord (Mormon 4:23).

What was the case of Ammaron hiding the records. It does not say “buried” if that was the case, for he was talking to a ten-year-old and would have made his conversation clear, precise, and understandable. He said “hid up the records unto the Lord.”

The word “deposit” in 1828 meant “To lay up; to lay in a place for preservation; Anything entrusted to the care of another; A place where things are deposited; a depository,” thus it might be said that Ammaron placed the records in trust with the Lord until such time as Mormon was to obtain them. There is no suggestion here that the records had been buried in the Hill Shim.

Another case in point is Moroni’s comment about what was to become of the plates upon which he was writing:

“I will write and hide up the records in the earth” (Mormon 8:4). Many, especially theorists, have interpreted this statement to say: “He buried the record in the Hill Cumorah.” This is borne out by Sidney Walker, writing in the Church News of 16 September 2020, under an article heading: New Book of Mormon Videos episode depicts Moroni finishing and burying the plates, Joseph Smith finding them. Beneath that is a depiction of Moroni writing his record. Beneath this photo is the statement 

Moroni finishing the record of his father and his own writing


“The prophet Moroni in the ancient Americas, as depicted in a new episode of the Book of Mormon Videos series, struggles to protect and add to the record of his people before depositing the record in the Hill Cumorah for safekeeping.”

The article then begins with “About 420 years after the Savior’s birth, the prophet Moroni finished the record of his people in the ancient Americas on gold plates and buried them in the Hill Cumorah for safekeeping. In his final words, he invited all to read the record and ask God if it was not true.”

Note the two references to the plates in Moroni’s possession were “buried in the hill Cumorah.” However, and quite plainly, the scriptural record does not state that Moroni buried the plates in the hill Cumorah. In fact, it does not even say that he buried them. Nor could he have stated either point in the record at the time he made the statement since at that point it was no later than 400 AD (15 years after the destruction of the Nephites) and 21 years before his last written entry. After all, what he intended to do (“Hide the records in the ground”) and what he actually did after running and hiding from the Lamanites for at least 36 years, could be a different matter.

Perhaps it would be helpful for us to take another look at these two words—“hid,” which is the  past tense of hide; and the word “bury.”

Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language:

• Hide: To conceal; to withhold or withdraw from sight; to place in any state or position in which the view is intercepted from the object

• Today: Keep secret or unknown; keep out of sight; conceal from the view or notice of others; prevent (someone or something) from being seen:

Camouflage, obscure, conceal, mask, withhold, disguise

Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language:

• Bury: To entomb; inhume, to cover with earth, to deposit in the ocean; as dead bodies buried in the deep; to deposit a deceased person in the grave

• Today: Put or hide underground; covering up so as to hide completely; put in the ground and cover with earth: inter, entomb, inhume.

It should be noted then, that these two words mean different things. It should also be noted that these words are used several time in the Book of Mormon, and always with the same meanings. That is, “hid” or “hide” is to cover up something or obstruct its view. As an example: “he fled from before them and hid himself that they found him not (Mosiah 17:4) “ “and hidden things shall come to light, and things which are not known shall be made known by them” (Mosiah 8:17), and “retreat back into the mountains, and into the wilderness and secret places, hiding themselves that they could not be discovered (Helaman 11:25).

Left: Hide, Hid, Hidden; Right: Bury


In each of these cases 28 instances, the word “hid,” “hide,” or “hidden” all refer to the same concept, that is, of objects, people or things that are hidden, but not buried in the ground. This is clearly shown in “In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment” (3 Nephi 22:8), “A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid” (3 Nephi 12:14), and “retreat back into the mountains, and into the wilderness and secret places, hiding themselves that they could not be discovered” (Helaman 11:25).

As for the word “bury,” there is again only one concept for the use of this word in the scriptural record:

• “with mine own hands, did help to bury their dead” (Mosiah 9:19)

• “Alma took another, and went forth a second time into the water, and baptized him according to the first, only he did not bury himself again in the water” (Mosiah 18:15)

  “after they had finished burying their dead” (Alma 3:1)

• “there was none left to bury the dead” (Alma 14:22)

• “He is not dead, but he sleepeth in God, and on the morrow he shall rise again; therefore bury him not” (Alma 19:8)

• “we will hide away our swords, yea, even we will bury them deep in the earth“ (Alma 24:16)

• “and they did bury them in the earth” (Alma 24:17)

• “And they did also bury their weapons of war, according as their brethren had” (Alma 25:14)

• “they did set guards over the prisoners of the Lamanites, and did compel them to go forth and bury their dead” (Alma 53:1)

• “after the Lamanites had finished burying their dead and also the dead of the Nephites, they were marched back into the land Bountiful” (Alma 53:2)

Therefore, it should be noted that Moroni said, “I will write and hide up the records in the earth (Mormon 8:4)—he did not say he would “bury the records in the earth.” He certainly did not say the “earth” was the “hill Cumorah.”

And finally, it should be noted that the only time in the scriptural record that the hill Cumorah is mentioned in connection with records is when Mormon said, “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). These are the same plates that Moroni later said, “And I am the same who hideth up this record unto the Lord; the plates thereof are of no worth, because of the commandment of the Lord (Mormon 8:14).