Cumorah

In 1922 “on the Rose farm, one half mile from Mormon Hill” a number of large skeletons, stone implements, copper ornaments, a copper axe of unusual type, and other articles were found. At this historic spot were found “many of unusual physique, tall, long-limbed, finely formed skulls, teeth finely shaped” (Fred Haughton, Seneca Nation, p. 48).

The entire field of Book of Mormon Geography hinges on Cumorah and nothing else. Either Cumorah is in Palmyra, or it’s not – not one in Mesoamerica and another in Palmyra – not a second hill called after the first. The Book of Mormon was written to confound confusion, not to cause it. Theorists supporting two Cumorahs claim Moroni called a second hill after the name of the first to honor it, yet Moroni made no such claim.

And again, what do we hear? Glad tidings from CUMORAH! Moroni, an angel from heaven, declaring the fulfilment of the prophets—the book TO BE REVEALED – IN PALMYRA. (D&C 128:20)

[The only reason theories emerged south of the border is because books came out about monuments in Central America.]

The Hill Cumorah near Palmyra, NY is central to all Book of Mormon events. It is the place where Moroni (last contributor) hid the record and the place where Joseph Smith found it. It is also near the location of the final battle where the Nephite race was destroyed.

Hill Cumorah

Satellite view of the Hill Cumorah with the road winding to the top.

Locating this hill within the geography of the Book of Mormon is paramount to understanding all other Book of Mormon locations. Let’s locate the Hill Cumorah as it is stated in the Book of Mormon:

1 And now I finish my record concerning the destruction of my people, the Nephites. And it came to pass that we did march forth before the Lamanites.
2 And I, Mormon, wrote an epistle unto the king of the Lamanites, and desired of him that he would grant unto us that we might gather together our people unto the land of Cumorah, by a hill which was called Cumorah, and there we could give them battle. (Mormon 6:1-2)

So the question is, from which direction did they come to gather to the Hill/Land of Cumorah? The following reveals much regarding the way they came and the lay of the land.

5 And it came to pass that I (Mormon) 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)

Where was the Narrow Neck located?

5 And it came to pass that Hagoth, he being an exceedingly curious man, therefore he went forth and built him an exceedingly large ship on the borders of the land Bountiful by the land Desolation and launched it forth into the west sea by the narrow neck which led into the land northward. (Alma 63:5)

Here we learn that Mormon’s people gathered at the Narrow Pass, which was located at the furthest point west, along the West Sea and from there they fought eastward until they came to the Hill Cumorah.

The Hill Cumorah Answer: the Nephites gathered from the west to Cumorah; therefore Cumorah should be located on the EAST of the Land Northward.

It was located outside of populated areas since neither party wanted to bury the dead (Mormon 6:15); and far enough away that the scent would not carry to their populated areas.

Should bones be found there today? No, no one buried the dead, the bones moldered upon the ground and the righteous were resurrected.

Should cement houses be there? No. They lived temporarily there in “tents.” 

Should forts be there? No. They went to fight not to hide.

What about their weapons and armaments? Those were the “spoils of war” (Alma 62:15) and of course removed. Nevertheless, some evidence remain:

It has been stated that there is no evidence near Cumorah of fierce battles in the past. That statement is completely answered in the following letter from Sister Susa Young Gates to the author:

“In 1901 Elder Claude Taylor and myself visited the Hill Cumorah and had an interview with Mr. and Mrs. Samson who then owned the Hill and the farm adjoining. Mr. Samson was the brother of Admiral Samson, but he was very prejudiced against the Mormon people. However, we spent some time talking with him.

 “Outside the farmhouse Elder Taylor and myself noted several bushel baskets filled with arrow heads and I asked Mrs. Samson what they were. She said they had just begun to plow up the hill Cumorah and around the hill, to plant some crops, and they turned up these arrow heads BY THE BASKET FULL.

 “I asked her what she did with them. She replied that she sold them to tourists who passed by. I inquired the price of them, and she replied, ‘Twenty-five cents.’ I purchased two and when I returned home I gave one to President Joseph F. Smith. The other one I have kept and it is still in my possession.

 “This seems good evidence of the wars which have been fought around this historical hill” (J. M. Sjodahl, An Introduction to the Study of the Book of Mormon, pp.7-8).

 We visited the Hill Cumorah and were accorded the courtesy of going thereon by the wife of Mr. George Sampson, a brother of Admiral Wm. Sampson, who before his death owned the property. When we went up there and looked around, we felt that we were standing on holy ground. The brethren located, as near as they thought was possible, the place from which the plates of the Book of Mormon were taken by the Prophet. We were delighted to be there. Looking over the surrounding country we remembered that two great races of people had wound up their existence in the vicinity, had fought their last fight, and that hundreds of thousands had been slain within sight of that hill. Evidence of the great battles that have been fought there in days gone by are manifest in the numerous spear and arrow-heads that have been found by farmers while plowing in that neighborhood. We were fortunate enough to obtain a few of the arrowheads (George Albert Smith, Conference Report, April 1906, Third Day—Morning Session p. 56).

Part of the problem is no one has looked:

So I went north to the Clark farm. I stopped and asked the owner’s wife if I could walk over the corn field. “What are you looking for?” “Looking for arrowheads—is it okay?” “Well, sure.” “You must get pestered a lot by people wanting to go out there looking around.” “We’ve been here over 40 years, and you’re the first to come and ask to hunt for arrowheads.” (Letter of Langdon Smith in “Looking for Artifacts at New York’s Hill Cumorah,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies: vol.14, no. 2, 2005, pp. 50—51)

It should be noted; the Hill Cumorah was at the opposite end of the battle line.

 What else do we know about the Hill/Land of Cumorah? There are two more references. One says Omer traveled east past the Hill Cumorah to a seashore called Ablom. The other says some Nephites escaped from there during the final battle by going south.

3 And the Lord warned Omer in a dream that he should depart out of the land; wherefore Omer departed out of the land with his family, and traveled many days, and came over and passed by the hill of Shim, and came over by the place where the Nephites were destroyed, and from thence eastward, and came to a place which was called Ablom, by the seashore, and there he pitched his tent, and also his sons and his daughters, and all his household, save it were Jared and his family. (Ether 9:3)

15 And it came to pass that there were ten more who did fall by the sword, with their ten thousand each; yea, even all my people, save it were those twenty and four who were with me, and also a few who had escaped into the south countries, and a few who had deserted over unto the Lamanites, had fallen; and their flesh, and bones, and blood lay upon the face of the earth, being left by the hands of those who slew them to molder upon the land, and to crumble and to return to their mother earth. (Mormon 6:15)

It is interesting to note the direction those who escaped took – south. Why did they not go north, east, or west? One thousand six hundred years ago Cumorah was surrounded by wetlands on the north and a sea on the east (current day Sodus Bay extending south to Cayuga Lake). The enemy was on the west to north/west, leaving the south as their only way to escape.

 Escape Route

 Moroni Stayed Nearby

 a. Would Be Destroyed

No doubt Mormon and Moroni were aware of the outcome prophesied of their people being destroyed (2 Nephi 26:16-18; Alma 45:10-14; Helaman 13:5, 9-10), and took every precaution to ensure the records, breastplate, and Urim and Thummim were safely hidden away PRIOR TO GOING TO BATTLE for Joseph to later find. Moroni may have carried a “few” plates (as it says) to write the outcome on – IF HE SURVIVED, but it is unrealistic to believe that “few” meant the entire gold plates (between 40-60 lbs); plus the breastplate and Urim and Thummim:

11 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.
12 And we also beheld the ten thousand of my people who were WHO WERE LED BY MY SON MORONI. (Mormon 6)

b. Recorded Local Happenings

After the final Nephite battle, Moroni stayed nearby and observed the aftermath of Book of Mormon lands: 

7 and behold the Lamanites have hunted my people the Nephites down from city to city and from place to place even until they are no more and great has been their fall yea great and marvellous is the destruction of my people the Nephites
8 and behold it is the hand of the Lord which hath done it and behold also the Lamanites are at war one with another and the whole face of THIS LAND is one continual round of murder and bloodshed and no one knoweth the end of the war (Mormon 8) 

c. Added Book of Ether – Nearby

Mormon survived the battle which ended 400 after the coming of Christ. He had no additional plates to write on at that time: 

5 Behold, my father hath made this record, and he hath written the intent thereof. And behold, I would write it also if I had room upon the plates, but I have not; and ore I have none, for I am alone. My father hath been slain in battle, and all my kinsfolk, and I have not friends nor whither to go; and how long the Lord will suffer that I may live I know not.
6 Behold, four hundred years have passed away since the coming of our Lord and Savior.
7 And behold, the Lamanites have hunted my people, the Nephites, down from city to city and from place to place, even until they are no more; and great has been their fall; yea, great and marvelous is the destruction of my people, the Nephites. (Mormon 8) 

Twenty years go by, and Moroni tells us that he found additional plates and added the Book of Ether and a short, final epistle now called the Book of Moroni. What has been overlooked is his mention of being still by the Lamanites – which excludes the possibility that he traveled anywhere far and when he says he was “wandering for his safety,” that meant in the local area, not hundreds or thousands of unknown lands between Guatemala and Palmyra with Nephite and Jaredite records in tow.

Sidney Sperry admits Moroni was still in Lamanite territory twenty years later: (Sidney B. Sperry, “Moroni the Lonely: The Story of the Writing of the Title Page to the Book of Mormon,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies (1995) vol. 4, no. 1, pp. 255-59):

1 Now I, Moroni, after having made an end of abridging the account of the people of Jared, I had supposed not to have written more, but I have not as yet perished; and I make not myself known to the Lamanites lest they should destroy me.
4 Wherefore, I write a few more things, contrary to that which I had supposed; for I had supposed not to have written any more; but I write a few more things, that perhaps they may be of worth unto my brethren, the Lamanites, in some future day, according to the will of the Lord. (Moroni 1)

1 Now I, Moroni, write somewhat as seemeth me good; and I write unto my brethren, the Lamanites; and I would that they should know that more than four hundred and twenty years have passed away since the sign was given of the coming of Christ.
2 And I seal up these records, after I have spoken a few words by way of exhortation unto you. (Moroni 10)

d. Guardian of Records

The most crucial reason Moroni stayed nearby was to watch over the multitude of records that were deposited. As their guardian, he watched over them until his life was through, and also while Joseph had them: 

When I [David Whitmer] was returning to Fayette, with Joseph and Oliver, all of us riding in the wagon, Oliver and I on an old-fashioned, wooden, spring seat and Joseph behind us; while traveling along in a clear open place, a very pleasant, nice-looking old man suddenly appeared by the side of our wagon and saluted us with, “Good morning, it is very warm,” at the same time wiping his face or forehead with his hand.

We returned the salutation, and, by a sign from Joseph, I invited him to ride if he was going our way.

But he said very pleasantly, “No, I am going to Cumorah.” This name was something new to me, I did not know what Cumorah meant.

We all gazed at him and at each other, and as I looked around inquiringly of Joseph, the old man instantly disappeared, so that I did not see him again (Interview with David Whitmer by Orson Pratt and Joseph F. Smith, September 1878 source: “Report of Elders Orson Pratt and Joseph F. Smith,” Millennial Star 40, 9 Dec 1878, 771-7). 

e. Fled to Hagoth

It is wrong to interpret the happenings of Hagoth to be just him making a boat shuttle to shuttle the people to the Land Northward. The record is clear, he a. went north, b. was never heard from again.

Hagoth’s lands were out of sight, he tiring of the unpredictability of the Lamanites wanted safer lands. God led Moroni to the people of Hagoth—period.

f. East Beyond Ablom

The enemy came from the north and west, that is why “those who escaped” went south. To the east was a seashore (Ablom was Sodus Bay) that most modelers mistaken as the East Sea. In other words, after Moroni paddled across Sodus Bay, he was free to go to New England areas.

Not By The Narrow Neck

There is a rumor turned nearly fact that Cumorah is by the Narrow Neck:

“The hill Ramah/Cumorah seems, then, to have been within 100 miles of the narrow neck of land, and this is consistent with the Nephites’ naming the southernmost portion of the land northward “Desolation,” which included the last battlefield, strewn with bones and rusting weapons (Alma 22:30-31)” (John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, 1985, p. 14).

In fact, Morm. 6:6 specifically states that all the Nephite records, except the Book of Mormon plates, were buried in the hill Cumorah near the narrow neck of land by Mormon, not Moroni.. (William J. Hamblin, “Basic Methodological Problems with the Anti-Mormon Approach To the Geography and Archaeology of the Book of Mormon,” FARMS Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, vol. 2, no. 1, Spring 1993, p. 177).

Vogel ignores the textual requirement for Cumorah to be near the narrow neck, as discussed by Sorenson, Clark, Palmer, and Sperry (Dan Vogel, “Indian Origins and the Book of Mormon,” reviewed by Kevin Christensen in FARMS Review of Books, vol. 2, 1990, p. 233).

The Book of Mormon strongly implies that the Hill Cumorah is near the narrow neck of land (Morm. 4-6, Ether 14) (footnote: Palmer, In Search of Cumorah, 42-43; Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting, 343-53, “An Apologist for the Critics: Brent Lee Metcalfe’s Assumptions and Methodologies,” reviewed by William J. Hamblin in FARMS Review of Books, vol. 6, no. 1, 1994, pp. 478-479).

The relative location of the hill Cumorah is most tenuous, since travel time from Bountiful, or the narrow neck, to Cumorah is nowhere specified. Cumorah was near the east sea in the land northward, and the limited evidence suggests that it was probably not many days’ travel from the narrow neck of land (Mosiah 8:8; Ether 9:3) (John Clark, “Book of Mormon Geography,” Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 1992, p. 177).

Which is not correct. Both the Jaredites and the Nephites started their second to the last battle at the Narrow Neck and fought eastwardly. No one buried those dead. Let’s review the verses Sorenson used: 

30 And it (Bountiful) 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, of whose bones we have spoken, which was discovered by the people of Zarahemla, it being the place of their first landing.
31 And they came from there up into the south wilderness. Thus the land on the northward was called Desolation, and the land on the southward was called Bountiful, it being the wilderness which is filled with all manner of wild animals of every kind, a part of which had come from the land northward for food.
32 And now, it was only the distance of a day and a half’s journey for a Nephite, on the line Bountiful and the land Desolation, from the east to the west sea; 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)

Or the verse Clark used:

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. (Mormon 8:8)

And the Lord warned Omer in a dream that he should depart out of the land; wherefore Omer departed out of the land with his family, and traveled many days, and came over and passed by the hill of Shim, and came over by the place where the Nephites were destroyed, and from thence eastward, and came to a place which was called Ablom, by the seashore, and there he pitched his tent, and also his sons and his daughters, and all his household, save it were Jared and his family. (Ether 9:3)

What does not match are the “ruins of buildings” which were never in Cumorah, but were on the west coast by the Narrow Neck and Omer’s starting point – the Narrow Neck. If the Land of Desolation was 1.5 days wide (Narrow Neck to East Sea), and Omer traveled many days, obviously Cumorah (the place where the Nephites were destroyed), was BEYOND THE EAST SEA (see Omer).

Cumorah was beyond the East Sea and has zero relevance to the Narrow Neck of Land. 

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