Rex C. Reeve, Jr. and Richard O. Cowan

This article is quoted by a number of authors.* We identify it as an unreliable source because it fails to acknowledge the excellent expose by President Joseph Fielding Smith:

At what point in modern times this New York hill was first called Cumorah is difficult to determine. [Really? The first edition of the Messenger & Advocate dated 1834 made it clear.] In his account in the Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith refers to the hill where the plates were buried, but never calls it by any name. In the Doctrine and Covenants the name “Cumorah” only appears one time, in an 1842 epistle written by Joseph Smith: “And again, what do we hear? Glad tidings from Cumorah!” (D&C 128:20 ). [Why not cite the whole verse: Moroni, an angel from heaven, declaring the fulfilment of the prophets—the book to be revealed.” ] No other uses of “Cumorah” have been found in any other of Joseph Smith’s personal writings. When this name does appear it has been added by later editors or is being quoted from another individual.

David Whitmer recalled (nearly fifty years later) an interesting experience he had about 1 June 1829 while returning to Fayette with Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith:

A very pleasant, nice-looking old man suddenly appeared by the side of our wagon who 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.fn

In the fall of 1830 Oliver Cowdery preached the gospel to the Delaware Indians. According to an account later written by Parley P. Pratt, Oliver declared that the Book of Mormon “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.”fnIn that same year, 1835, Edward Partridge also mentioned the hill by name in his journal: “We passed the Hill Cumorah about 3 miles south of Palmyra.”fn Hence by 1835 the name “Cumorah” was well known, at least among Church members.

The U.S. Geological Survey of 1898 called the hill “Mormon Hill.” In 1952, however, the name on the map was changed to “Hill Cumorah.” (Rex C. Reeve, Jr. and Richard O. Cowan, “The Hill Called Cumorah” in Regional Studies in Latter-day Saint History: New York, eds. Larry C. Porter, Milton V. Backman, Jr., and Susan Easton Black, Provo, BYU Department of Church History and Doctrine, 1992, pp. 73-74)

Joseph’s mother called it “Cumorah” plus many of the early brethren. No one was ever corrected by Joseph Smith, as President Joseph Fielding Smith said in his expose.


*James E. Smith, How Many Nephites? The Book of Mormon at the Bar of Demography; Martin H. Raish, Encounters with Cumorah; FAIR

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