J. M. Sjodahl

The Hill Cumorah

The hill Cumorah is situated in western New York, between the villages of Palmyra and Canandaigua, about four miles from the former. It is celebrated as the ancient depository of the sacred gold plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated. Cumorah was the name by which the hill was designated in the days of the prophet Moroni, who deposited the plates about 420 years after the birth of Christ. The prophet Mormon, the father of Moroni, had been entrusted with all the sacred records of his forefathers, engraved on metallic plates. New plates were made by Mormon on which he wrote, from the more ancient books, an abridged history of the nation, incorporating therewith many revelations, prophecies, the gospel, etc.

“These new plates were given to Moroni to finish the history, and all the ancient plates Mormon deposited in Cumorah, about 384 years after Christ. When Moroni, about thirty-six years after, made the deposit of the book entrusted to him, he was, without doubt, inspired to select a department of the hill separate from the great, sacred depository of the numerous volumes hid up by his father. The particular place in the hill, where Moroni secreted the book, was revealed by the angel to the Prophet Joseph Smith, to whom the volume was delivered in September, 1827. But the grand depository of all the numerous records of the ancient nations of the western continent, was located in another department of the hill, and its contents under the charge of holy angels, until the day should come for them to be transferred to the sacred temple of Zion.

The hill Cumorah, with the surrounding vicinity, is distinguished as the great battle field on which two powerful nations were concentrated with all their forces, men, women, and children, and fought till hundreds of thousands on both sides were hewn down and left to moulder upon the ground. Both armies were Israelites; both had become awfully corrupt, having apostatized from God. The Nephites, as a nation, became extinct; the Lamanites alone were left. This happened, according to their faithful records, near the close of the fourth century of the Christian era. The American Indians are remnants of the once powerful nation of Lamanites.

The hill Cumorah is remarkable also as being the hill on which and around which a still more ancient nation perished, called Jaredites. This unparalleled destruction is recorded in the Book of Ether, and happened about six centuries before Christ. The Jaredites colonized America from the tower of Babel. After about sixteen centuries, during which they became exceedingly numerous, through their terrible wars they destroyed themselves. The hill Cumorah, by them, was called Ramah. Millions fought against millions, until the hill Ramah and the land round was soaked with blood, and their carcases were left in countless numbers to moulder back to Mother Earth.”–Orson Pratt, Mill. Star, Vol. 28, p. 417.

Oliver Cowdery, in his address to the Delaware Indians on the Book of Mormon, in 1831, said, in part: “This book * * * was hid in the earth by Moroni, in a hill called by him, Cumorah, which hill is now in the state of New York, near the village of Palmyra, in Ontario County.”–Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, p. 59.

Concerning the battles of Cumorah, Oliver Cowdery has left this statement:

“By turning to the 529th and 530th pages of the Book of Mormon, you will read Mormon’s account of the last great struggle of his people, as they were encamped round this hill Cumorah. In this valley fell the remaining strength and pride of a once powerful people, the Nephites–once so highly favored of the Lord, but at that time in darkness, doomed to suffer extermination by the hand of their barbarous and uncivilized brethren. From the top of this hill, Mormon with a few others, after the battle, gazed with horror upon the mangled remains of those who, the day before, were filled with anxiety, hope, and doubt. A few had fled south, who were hunted down by the victorious party, and all who would not deny the Savior and his religion, were put to death. Mormon, himself, according to the record of his son Moroni, was also slain.”–Messenger and Advocate, July, 1835, p. 158.

Cumorah is Ramah. Oliver Cowdery, further says:

This hill, by the Jaredites called Ramah: By it or around it, pitched the famous army of Coriantumr their tents. Coriantumr was the last king of the Jaredites. The opposing army were to the west, and in this same valley, and near by, from day to day, did that mighty race spill their blood in wrath, contending, as it were, brother against brother, and father against son. In this same spot, in full view from the top of this same hill, one may gaze with astonishment upon the ground which was twice covered with the dead and dying of our fellowmen.”–Ibid. p. 159.

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.”

David Whitmer Hears the Name Cumorah for the First Time. In the year 1887, David Whitmer told Elders Orson Pratt and Joseph F. Smith the following incident:

“When I 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–when traveling along in a clear, open space, a very pleasant, nice-looking, old man suddenly appeared by the side of the 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 at Joseph, the old man instantly disappeared, so that I did not see him again.”

Whitmer described his appearance, and added:

“It was the messenger who had the plates [of the Book of Mormon], who had taken them from Joseph just prior to starting from Harmony.”–Andrew Jenson, Historical Record, p. 209 (Janne M. Sjodahl, An Introduction to the Study of the Book of Mormon, Deseret News Press, 1927, pp.5-8).