There are 31 thoughts on “The Geology of Moroni’s Stone Box: Examining the Setting and Resources of Palmyra”.

  1. Pingback: Moroni’s Stone Bo, protecting the Golden Plates – Why the LDS Church is True

  2. Your assumption that an ice age created the drumlins conflicts with Mormon doctrine of the earth’s age. This better would be ascribed to geographic alterations at during Noah’s flood or Christ’s crucifiction.

  3. The proof of any plan is in what it produces: a blueprint must produce a usable building, a drawing must produce a usable car or airplane, a recipe must produce something that can be eaten. A recipe signed by twelve archangels that tastes like crap is still crap. The “Mesoamerican Model” is a minutely detailed map that can be tested. I’ve tested it, moving BOM armies around on paper, and it works very, very well. You could have the “Heartland Model” signed by the entire Quorum of the Twelve, and it still doesn’t work.
    The American Civil War was fought over much of the same ground as the Heartland Model, and we know what it took to support Union and Confederate armies for years at a time, and BOM technology could never have managed it.
    I’m tired of this recurring discussion and I kind of wish you guys would just go away and be quiet.

  4. The article and comments are interesting to the mind of man. However, do they, or are they, sanctifying in any spectrum? Alma 37 with emphasis on V 9 indicates what the content of scripture does to edify and sanctify people. It is the contents of scripture that matters. See Jeremiah 23.

    False Christs identified in scripture are the many Churches that have arisen doing with Bible content what is being done here with elements of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints history. Would our time be better spent in study of scripture such as Alma chapters 33-34 along with reading our four Standard Works cover to cover. There be a better use of our time.

    • Joseph Smith and his brethren spent considerable time studying Greek, Hebrew, theology, and other relevant subjects in the School of the Prophets in Kirtland, Ohio, and we have all been admonished to “seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.” D&C 88:118.

      Indeed, the LDS Church has established several large universities and a worldwide education network (Pathway) in order to educate the Saints, not only in Scripture, but also in every other area of worthy endeavor. Joseph Smith insisted that we be prepared to “receive truth, let it come from whence it may.”

  5. Modern Superfund sites with landfills containing toxic naterials are generally covered with impermeable clay to prevent precipitation oercolating through the material, sloped to aid runoff, and then covered with soil and native plants which form a self-renewing cap that resists erosion. The burial mounds of Europe and the Americas have demonstrated that living turf can endure for thousands of years. Additionally, surface precipitation is taken up by the plant roots and used by the plants and evaporated back to the air. I suggest that the grassy soil concealing the edge of the covering stone was a remnant of a turf cap that initially covered the whole cover stone, with a layer of impermeable clay over the stone. I think Moroni uncovered the top of the stone so Joseph could find it.

  6. Moroni had decades after the last battle that destroyed the Nephite nation to travel by boat from the seacoast near the battle site, along the coastal waters of the Gulf of Mexico. At the delta of the Mississippi River he could have traveled upstream to the Chicago area and portaged to Lake Michigan and through Lake Huron and Lake Erie to the streams that formed the basis for the Erie Canal, which were a waterway used by American Indians and fur trappers, as far east as the portage at what became Fort Stanwyx during the Revolution. Palmyra is well west of there.

    On the other hand, in light of the strong current in the Mississippi and the seasonal flooding, and the snags and sandbars that presented a hazard to navigation in the days when Mark Twain was a river pilot, it may have been easier for Moroni to continue along tge coast, taking advantage of the barrier islands that still protect the Intracoastal Waterway, reaching the St. Lawrence river to Lake Ontario, and debarking just a few miles north of Palmyra.

    A journey by water would be easier than hauling 60 to 70 pounds of the plates, breastplate, sword of Laban and Interpreters on his back or a travois. Recall that he also had the Liahona, which could guide him to a destination he had never been to, and that the Lord had guided both Nephi and the Jaredites in constructing water vessels.

    Moroni testified that the three Nephite disciples had visited him and his father. I would not be surprised if one or more of them helped him paddle his boat on that journey.

    David Whitmer spoke of seeing an old man who apparently was carrying the gold plates. Later on, his mother Mary told her children and grandchildren that “an old man” had pulled the plates out of a backpack and shown them to her to reward her sacrifice in supporting the translation in her home. While her family said this must have been Moroni, they also said that she insisted the “old man” said his name was Nephi. Note that Joseph’s description of Moroni is of a glorified resurrected being, not an “old man”. It seems more logical to me that this was Nephi, one of the three Nephite disciples, who had been “translated” and his life extended, but not yet resurrected.

    None of the written accounts by Joseph about Moroni name the hill. In D&C 128, Joseph is speaking in his own voice when he calls on the Saints to create an accurate record of the ordinances performed for their dead family members. In 1842 he refers to the hill as Cumorah, using what had become a common assumption among the Saints by then. But Palmyra, Rome, Utica and Syracuse, New York, are thousands of miles from the original Old World cities with those names. New York is not the same as York in England, nor are Manchester or Rochester or Albany in the same place as their namesake cities. Calling the hill Cumorah does not mean there is not another hill named Cumorah elsewhere in the Americas, just as Bountiful, Utah, does not preclude the reality of an earlier Bountiful in the Arabian Peninsula.

  7. Brethren,

    You can ignore it or find hundreds of ways to argue your way around it, but the evidence is clear from multiple sources that Moroni, prior to the the translation, told Joseph Smith the the hill in New York was known as Cumorah by the ancient Nephihtes. You can believe whatever you want to believe, but if you want to know the truth you will start with the only known Book of Mormon location, the hill Cumorah in the state of New York.

    • Unfortunately, Brother Brantley, Heartlanders have earned a reputation for suggesting that those who disagree with their geographic model are spiritually inferior, or, in this case, insufficiently pursuing the truth. Your last post was another step in that direction. But if we’re all in agreement that the Book of Mormon is authentic, none of us should be considered non-seekers of truth. If your evidentiary arguments don’t persuade others that the Hill Cumorah was in New York, do you think put-downs like this will succeed?

      Scott Mitchell

      [Note: apparently the system had a glitch entering this comment, so I have entered it for him]

    • “but the evidence is clear from multiple sources that Moroni, prior to the the translation, told Joseph Smith the the hill in New York was known as Cumorah by the ancient Nephihtes.”

      You mean multiple *late hearsay* sources once the identity of Cumorah had become commonplace among Latter-day Saints.

      That’s fine if you want to dogmatically insist that Cumorah is in New York based on these sources. What you have to do after that, to be consistent, is then accept that Lehi landed in Chile, that the Land of Nephi was in South America, the Isthmus of Darien was the Narrow Neck of Land, the Land Northward was is North America, and the River Sidon was the Magdalena River in Colombia.

      Because that was also the predominant theory accepted by nineteenth century Latter-day Saints who also accepted Cumorah being in New York.

      Come on now, Brother Brandley, you don’t want to be selective in which authority you appeal to, now do you?

  8. What reasons might we use to suggest that the NY hill isn’t the Book of Mormon Cumorah?
    1) The lack of Joseph’s using the name until after others had adopted it (similar to his adoption of urim and thummim which began with W. W. Phelps).
    2) The archaeological information that it is a “clean hill,” without any indication of anything of any significance happening there.
    3) Mormon 6:6 says that the plates for the Book of Mormon weren’t buried in Cumorah, although the rest of the Nephite archive was.
    4) Cumorah was probably the worst place to hide them. As a location of a defeated people, it was almost certainly ransacked for valuables after the battle by some people–even it not by the conquering army. If it really was considered sacred, then it would continue to have visitors–that is common with sacred locations.
    5) There is no proposed Book of Mormon geography that works with the NY hill. Problems come with relationships to the east sea, the land northward (which was said to have large populations–not present in NY at that time, and certainly not farther north), or with the correlation to populations. The hill Cumorah was in Jaredite lands and Nephites didn’t arrive their until very late. The woodland cultures don’t show that kind of cultural separation that the Book of Mormon requires.
    6) The fact that the Book of Mormon plates were taken from the hill in NY doesn’t require that it be the very same hill as the Cumorah in the Book of Mormon. Since the text doesn’t indicate that those plates were in Cumorah. I find it interesting that Oliver states (in his letter VII) that the plates for the Book of Mormon were not buried in Cumorah, but were given to Moroni. That means that he read the text correctly–but somehow still assumed that Moroni returned those plates to that hill even though there is no record of it.

  9. It is unquestionable that there is a long tradition linking the New York hill with the hill Cumorah from the Book of Mormon. As Theodore Brandley has pointed out, this association can be found in a lot of late accounts. The historical question, however, isn’t what it became–but how it became the association.

    Rex C. Reeve, Jr., and Richard O. Cowan, in an article “The Hill Cumorah,” *Regional Studies in Latter-day Saint Church History, New York,* 1992, state:

    “At what point in modern times this New York hill was first called Cumorah is difficult to determine. 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). 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.”

    What does that suggest? That Joseph himself, who should have known the name had Moroni given it, did not use it until after others had already started using the name. If two trained historians who have gone through the documents come to that conclusion, on what basis might we contradict them by using all of the later comments that have been posted?

    The name can be traced to 1835, but it is quite probable that Oliver Cowdery (not Joseph) was using the name in 1830. Reeve and Cowan note that Oliver is said to have used the term in 1830–but the reference comes from a Parley P. Pratt’s autobiography, which comes later. We don’t have firm evidence of the earlier use.

    However, if it was Oliver in 1830, what he said is important (as reported by Pratt). He said 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.”

    The real problem with that statement is that there is no indication that the plates delivered to Joseph were in the hill Cumorah. Mormon buried plates in Cumorah, but not those he gave to Moroni (see Mormon 6:6). In order to associate the NY hill with Cumorah we have to have make two leaps. One is that Moroni told Joseph (I am unaware of Moroni visiting Oliver without Joseph–or at all), and Joseph forgot but Oliver remembered. The second is that we have to posit Moroni putting the plates in the hill Cumorah long after the Nephites were destroyed. That is possible, but the only evidence for it is the circular reasoning that uses the association with the NY hill as Cumorah to justify that they must have been buried there.

  10. An excellent article.

    However, it is unfortunate that Jordan and Aston insist on referring to the location as “the Palmyra hill.” Since Manchester was much closer, Joseph Smith himself identified it as “convenient to the village of Manchester, Ontario county, New York” (Joseph Smith – History 1:51). Image 3 of this article makes that very clear. Thus, the hill should be termed “the Manchester hill.”

    There is, of course, no archeological evidence to suggest that the Manchester hill is to be identified as the ancient Hill Cumorah, and Moroni never referred to it as such.

    • Robert, you said,

      “There is, of course, no archeological evidence to suggest that the Manchester hill is to be identified as the ancient Hill Cumorah, and Moroni never referred to it as such.”

      There is no archeological evidence to exclude the “Manchester hill.”

      Here are three records that it was Moroni who told Joseph Smith that the Manchester Hill was anciently called Cumorah:

      1. Oliver Cowdery, Second Elder of the Church and Co-President with Joseph Smith, and one of the Three Witnesses selected by the Lord, stated the following in 1831:
      “This Book, which contained these things, 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 P.P. Pratt p 56-61)

      The Autobiography of Parley Parker Pratt was complied, edited and published in1881 by his son from the documents and records left by his father after his death. From the length and detail of the address given by Oliver Cowdery in 1831, from which the above quote is taken, it was obviously recorded by Parley P. Pratt at the time it was spoken. “In writing his autobiography, Pratt relied heavily on his previous writings. After extensive analysis, Pratt family historian Steven Pratt concluded that almost ninety percent of the text is either based on or copied from earlier works” (Matt Grow, assistant professor of history at the University of Southern Indiana.)

      2. David Whitmer, also one of the Three Witnesses confirmed this in an interview in his later years when he stated:
      “[Joseph Smith] told me…he had a vision, an angel appearing to him three times in one night and telling him that there was a record of an ancient people deposited in a hill near his fathers house called by the ancients “Cumorah” situated in the township of Manchester, Ontario county N.Y…” (Milton V. Backman, Jr., “Eyewitness Accounts of the Restoration,” p. 233)

      3.David Whitmer also recounted an incident that occurred while he was with Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in a wagon going to Fayette, NY to finish the translation. They came across an old man with a knapsack on his back who told them he was headed for Cumorah. Joseph identified the man as Moroni. (Deseret Evening News 16 November 1878)

      I will provide more if you wish.

      There is no evidence that the Manchester hill was not the Hill Cumorah of the Book of Mormon.

      If it was so easy for Moroni to travel up the Mississippi River to what is now New York, why would the Nephites not have migrated there over their thousand year history?

      • Theodore,
        The problem with your argument, as I see it, is that neither Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery or David Whitmer knew anything about Book of Mormon geography, much less Book of Mormon archaeology. To quote hearsay accounts by someone quoting one of these three men, even if they’re quoting each other, is problematic in and of itself, since none of those statements on Book of Mormon geography can be found in those mens’ own writings. But to assume that they were expert on subjects they never studied at all and which aren’t covered within the Book of Mormon text or any other canonical source, is to draw unwarranted conclusions. Careful readers of the Book of Mormon should immediately see that the little drumlin in upstate NY could not be the Hill Cumorah of the BoM–it’s not a landmark distinguishable from any of the other many drumlins in that area, and certainly not one that everyone would know about from hundreds of miles away. Nor is it even one tenth as large as it would have to be to be the site of a battle where 220,000 Nephite soldiers would die, not counting their women and children and all the Lamanite casualties. It simply doesn’t fit the description.
        Moreover, archaeological evidence does exist that New York is not the place of the Book of Mormon hill Cumorah. John E. Clark, a Mormon archaeologist, described this evidence in an article which you can read on the bookofmormoncentral.org website. His article was originally published in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 13/1-2 (2004), pp144-51, with footnotes on p. 174.

        • Scott, you wrote:

          “The problem with your argument, as I see it, is that neither Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery or David Whitmer knew anything about Book of Mormon geography, much less Book of Mormon archaeology.”

          What they knew or didn’t know about Book of Mormon geography and archaeology is irrelevant. They were simply quoting Moroni, who knew it all, and they were taking him at his word. The only way to get around the evidence that it was Moroni who told Joseph Smith, prior to the translation, that the hill in New York was anciently called Cumorah is to insist that it had to be in Joseph’s own handwriting. But to raise the bar for acceptable evidence that high we would also have to discard the entire Book of Mormon and most of the Doctrine and Covenants. The evidence we have would be considered a slam dunk on anything other than the location of Cumorah, because it is the Achilles heel of the Limited Mesoamerica/Two Cumorah theory.

          Here is more evidence:
          1. The only first-person source comes from the epistle that Joseph Smith dictated on September 6, 1842, which was later canonized in the Doctrine and Covenants, Section 128.
          “Glad tidings from Cumorah! Moroni, an angel from heaven, declaring the fulfillment of the prophets — the book to be revealed.” (D&C 128:20)

          The inference is that Joseph knew the name “Cumorah” before the book was revealed. That knowledge could only have come from Moroni. This is substantiated in the subsequent documents.

          2. An early documentary source confirming the above are the lines from a sacred hymn, written by W.W. Phelps. William Phelps lived with the Prophet in Kirtland and was in essence his executive secretary during the Nauvoo period.

          “An angel came down from the mansions of glory,
          And told that a record was hid in Cumorah,
          Containing the fulness of Jesus’s gospel;”
          (Collection of Sacred Hymns, 1835, Hymn 16, page 22)

          It was the angel who told Joseph that the record was hid in “Cumorah.” This hymn was selected by Emma Smith, wife of the Prophet, approved by the Prophet, and published in 1835 with a collection of hymns, under instructions and directions from the Lord. “And it shall be given thee, also, to make a selection of sacred hymns, as it shall be given thee, which is pleasing unto me, to be had in my church.” (D&C 25:1)
          This hymn was also included in the 1841 edition as hymn #262.

          3. The Prophet’s mother, Lucy Mack Smith, provides two separate items of evidence in the original manuscript of her memoirs. In the first item, Lucy is remembering what Joseph told her after Moroni first appeared to him. The quote begins with what Moroni had told Joseph:
          “Now Joseph…the record is on a side hill on the Hill of Cumorah 3 miles from this place remove the Grass and moss and you will find a large flat stone pry that up and you will find the record under it laying on 4 pillars…” [sic] (Lucy Mack Smith, History 1844–1845, Original Manuscript, page 41)

          Lucy dictated the above about 20 years after the fact, but it is consistent with other evidence. In the following, Lucy recalls directly what her son said in her presence. Following Joseph’s meeting with Moroni at Cumorah, one year before Joseph received the plates, Joseph told his parents that he had “taken the severest chastisement that I have ever had in my life.” Joseph said:
          “It was the an gel of the Lord— as I passed by the hill of Cumo rah, where the plates are, the angel of the Lord met me and said, that I had not been engaged enough in the work of the Lord; that the time had come for the record to brought forth; and, that I must be up and doing, and set myself about the things which God had commanded me to do:” [sic] (Lucy Mack Smith, History 1844–1845, Original Manuscript, page 111)

          In both of these quotes from the Prophet’s mother she demonstrates that in her mind Joseph and Lucy both knew that the hill in Palmyra was named Cumorah, prior to the translation of the plates.

          4. Hymn written by Parley P Pratt which we still sing. #328 in the current LDS hymnbook, “An Angel From On High”:

          An angel from on high
          The long, long silence broke;
          Descending from the sky,
          These gracious words he spoke:
          Lo! in Cumorah’s lonely hill
          A sacred record lies concealed.
          Lo! in Cumorah’s lonely hill
          A sacred record lies concealed.

          Notice that Parley P Pratt is quoting Moroni in paraphrase, “Lo! in Cumorah’s lonely hill
          A sacred record lies concealed.”

          All of the documentary evidence is consistent that it was Moroni who told Joseph Smith, prior to the translation of the Gold Plates, that the ancient name of the hill in Palmyra was “Cumorah.” There is no documentary evidence to the contrary.

          • Theodore, I’m a little surprised that you continue to rely heavily on the wording of D&C 128. First of all, that section doesn’t purport to be a revelation from God. It’s a letter written by Joseph Smith, who knew nothing of Book of Mormon geography, and who, in writing his own official version of LDS Church history, published in 1842 never said a word about the messenger declaring the nondescript hill nearby to be the Hill Cumorah. And even if that were otherwise, D&C 128 in no way purports to contain any geographical assertions equating the New York drumlin with the Book of Mormon’s Cumorah. The statement constitutes poetic, geography-neutral language, alluding only to a place where the plates had once been buried. Even if it were intended as a geography lesson and Joseph thought the little bump on the landscape near his home was the Hill Cumorah, he was wrong. And the same is true with Parley P. Pratt, whose assumptions were all derivatives of what other people assumed.
            To prefer Oliver Cowdery’s hearsay account of what Moroni said (if indeed the messenger was Moroni and not Nephi–Joseph’s earliest version naming the messenger reported it was Nephi) over Joseph’s own account of what the angel said is problematic for another reason as well. We should all acknowledge that Oliver Cowdery had an exaggerated, grandiose and extravagant writing style. This fact is covered in KnoWhy 453 on the bookofmormoncentral.org website, where caution is urged in considering Oliver’s historical claims as always reliable in every respect, particularly on the the subject of Cumorah’s location. As the KnoWhy also points out, Oliver has one quote from Moroni which contains 1073 words. Are we supposed to assume such a quote, which Oliver wasn’t present to hear, is verbatim, or has Oliver taken some artistic license?
            I wonder if the most fundamental disagreement between us is actually rooted in our respective views of Joseph Smith and men like Cowdery and Whitmer. Though I accept them as great and vitally important men in the process of bringing us the Book of Mormon, it is not the least bit difficult for me to conclude that none of those three men knew as much about the text of the Book of Mormon, or the geographical setting suggested by said text, as the average careful reader of the book knows today. Perhaps such an assertion is, for you, a significantly more difficult pill to swallow. But the fact is that today, we study the BoM more carefully, and more often, than they did in the 1800s. And we have scientific research that aids our understanding, which didn’t exist in those early days. Just as we know more than Joseph and Oliver about chiasmus, Early Modern English, archaeological sites in Yemen and Oman, Semitic and Egyptian in the Uto-Aztecan family of languages, and cement and written languages in Mesoamerica, we’ve also studied BoM geography with greater care. It shouldn’t be heretical to say so.

      • I suppose that the Nephites could in theory have migrated up the Mississippi Valley. The problem is that archeological evidence shows no such migration ever occurred.

        As to the incorrect notions that the Hill Cumorah was located in Ontario County, New York, archeologist John E. Clark evaluated that popular suggestion and found no justification for it in his article “Archaeology and Cumorah Questions,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, 13:1-2 (2004), online at https://publications.mi.byu.edu/fullscreen/?pub=1412&index=15 .

        • Although the hill Cumorah in New York provides defensible high ground for a military command post, which has a commanding view of the battlefield plains around it, the supposed requirement for the hill Cumorah to be a massive military bastion is unwarranted. It is always referred to as “hill,” not a mountain. It is probable that the location was chosen for the final battles of both civilizations because of its sacredness rather than for its military advantage. It is interesting that in the early generations of the Jaredites that the Lord directed Omer to go to Ramah (Cumorah). (Ether 9:3) Cumorah was a depository of ancient records and may have been so prior to the Jaredites, in the days of Enoch. Why did Coriantumr gather all his people to the hill Ramah/Cumorah for their final battle? Why did Mormon think he would have an advantage by gathering his people to the hill Cumorah for their final stand? Do not a people always gather to the temple of the God of their fathers to invoke the assistance of their father’s God in the day of their greatest peril? The ancient Jews have always gathered around the temple of their fathers’ God in their darkest hours and will again in the last final battle. Cumorah may be a more sacred place than we know.

          • Theodore, not to nitpick, but suggesting that the Hill Cumorah was a temple-like sacred place to the Nephites, or to Mormon, is not only unsupported by the text, but the suggestion also doesn’t lend support to any particular geographic model of where the hill was.
            However, the text implies strongly that the Lamanite king knew which hill Mormon was referring to, since Mormon asked free passage to that place for his people so they could gather there for the final battle, and his request was granted. The Lamanite king wouldn’t have granted free passage to a place unknown to him, and he would know about it because of its physical prominence, not because it was famous for its religious significance. Its religious significance was still a well-kept secret as a hiding place. And it is impossible the king would know of the New York drumlin because of its physical prominence, as it is just one of dozens of such hills it that area of New York, many of which are bigger than the one where the plates were hidden.
            Moreover, Mormon knew that Cumorah offered no protection as a secretly sacred landmark. He knew that the Nephite history began with Lehi leaving Jerusalem, the city where the temple was located, specifically because God, regardless of the temple’s presence, couldn’t protect the city’s wicked people from destruction. Mormon said as much about his own people in Mormon 5:2–he was without hope that God could protect them.
            So, Cumorah was well known by people who didn’t live in the area near it, because of its size and prominence in relation to its surroundings. This was never true of the the Manchester drumlin–it was known only to local villagers, but even they didn’t consider it unique or special. And archaeolocial evidence show us the New York area around it never supported any large population. The real Cumorah was probably called a hill because the term “mountain” was reserved for peaks 70 miles to the west which were so elevated they were well over a mile higher than Utah’s Mt. Timpanogos.

        • There is a plethora of archeological evidence connecting Mesoamerica to the all of the Mississippi basin as well as to the Southeastern US.

          • Yes, but that evidence is all too late to be part of the Book of Mormon, and way too far south to say anything about New York. Evidence from the wrong time and wrong place is not actually evidence.

  11. Two ceremonial statues in stone boxes were found at the archaeological excavations at the Etowah Mounds in the State of Georgia. The sides of these boxes were 29.5 x 19.5 inches. (Exploration of the Etowah Site in Georgia: the Etowah Papers, Morehead, The University Press of Florida, 2000 Edition page 106) Stone burial boxes were common in the Ancient American Midwest and Southeast.

    However, the authors detract from their field investigation with several questionable opening statements:

    1. “The hill near Palmyra,1 New York state, in which Moroni buried the plates and from which Joseph Smith retrieved them, has long been popularly known among Latter-day Saints as “Cumorah.”… it is evident to the careful reader that the real-world setting was not — indeed could not — have been situated in New York state.”

    Those early Saints who believed the hill in Palmyra to be the Cumorah of the Book of Mormon included Joseph Smith (“Glad tidings from Cumorah”- D&C 128:20) , Oliver Cowdery & David Whitmer (Two of the Three Witnesses the Lord chose to witness for the Book of Mormon) the prophet’s mother and several others close to the prophet. In fact, there are at least seven documentary sources that confirm that it was Moroni who told Joseph Smith that the hill in Palmyra was known as Cumorah by the ancients. It is evident to this careful reader of the Book of Mormon that the hill in Palmyra is the Cumorah of the Book of Mormon.

    2. (The years of travel had brought him northward to the Palmyra area of upstate New York,)

    This is an assumption not warranted by the text. It was at the beginning of Moroni’s book when he stated that “I wander whithersoever I can for the safety of mine own life.” (Moroni 1:3) He then went on to quote extensively from the epistles of his father. It is highly unlikely that he carried the epistles of his father, along with the gold plates and the Liahona, while he was wandering and hiding from the Lamanites. The risk of losing them and of them burdening his wanderings and hiding would have been too great. It is more likely that Moroni was wandering in search of food for survival and returning to his base in Cumorah. There is nothing in the text of the Book of Mormon or the history of the Church to conclude that Moroni buried the gold plates anywhere other than the Hill Cumorah where the other records were stored.

    • Since there is no archeological reason whatsoever to justify the notion that the Manchester hill was the Hill Cumorah, it is much easier to believe that Moroni did what other wanderers did:

      We have the personal accounts of several different men (Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca, and David Ingram) who were shipwrecked in the vicinity of the Gulf of Mexico and walked north up the Mississippi Valley unmolested by local tribes en route. In fact, most paleoindian tribes were friendly and hospitable to travelers, and Moroni would not at all have had to hide from anyone.

      There was no reason for Moroni to remain in the vicinity of hostile Lamanites. Indeed, he may have been led by the Spirit to travel to the location best suited to burial and future recovery by Joseph Smith of the Book of Mormon Plates.

      Moroni would most likely have followed the well-known Hopewell trade route as described in the Handbook of North American Indians (15:44-49). Indeed, it seems likely to non-Mormon scholar Richard Forbis “that small parties of Mesoamerican wanderers or traders circulated among the basically Archaic population” (Forbis in S. Gorenstein, ed., North America [St Martin’s Press, 1975], 85; Map 3.2).

      • Robert, these accounts you mention only support the assumptions you are making – all possible, yet there is no certainty.

        I think Theodore Brandley is challenging the language that the location of the Hill Cumorah has been conclusively shown to not be the ‘Palmyra Hill’ and that this is now the agreed view.

        However, I would like Theodore Brandley to provide some evidence/references to his claim that “…there are at least seven documentary sources that confirm that it was Moroni who told Joseph Smith that the hill in Palmyra was known as Cumorah by the ancients. It is evident to this careful reader of the Book of Mormon that the hill in Palmyra is the Cumorah of the Book of Mormon.”

        • R. Watson

          Here are 4 and I will post another 3:

          There are at least seven documentary sources that confirm it was Moroni who told Joseph Smith, prior to the translation of the Gold Plates, that the hill in Palmyra was anciently known as Cumorah.

          1. The only first-person source comes from the epistle that Joseph Smith dictated on September 6, 1842, which was later canonized in the Doctrine and Covenants, Section 128.
          Glad tidings from Cumorah! Moroni, an angel from heaven, declaring the fulfillment of the prophets — the book to be revealed. (D&C 128:20)
          The inference is that Joseph knew the name “Cumorah” before the book was revealed. That knowledge could only have come from Moroni. This is substantiated in the subsequent documents.

          2. An early documentary source confirming the above are the lines from a sacred hymn, written by W.W. Phelps. William Phelps lived with the Prophet in Kirtland and was in essence his executive secretary during the Nauvoo period.
          An angel came down from the mansions of glory,
          And told that a record was hid in Cumorah,
          Containing the fulness of Jesus’s gospel;
          (Collection of Sacred Hymns, 1835, Hymn 16, page 22,
          It was the angel who told Joseph that the record was hid in “Cumorah.” This hymn was selected by Emma Smith, wife of the Prophet, approved by the Prophet, and published in 1835 with a collection of hymns, under instructions and directions from the Lord. “And it shall be given thee, also, to make a selection of sacred hymns, as it shall be given thee, which is pleasing unto me, to be had in my church.” (D&C 25:1)
          This hymn was also included in the 1841 edition as hymn #262.

          3. Oliver Cowdery, Second Elder of the Church and Co-President with Joseph Smith, stated the following in 1831:
          This Book, which contained these things, 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 P.P. Pratt p 56-61)
          The Autobiography of Parley Parker Pratt was complied, edited and published in1881 by his son from the documents and records left by his father after his death. From the length and detail of the address given by Oliver Cowdery in 1831, from which the above quote is taken, it was obviously recorded by Parley P. Pratt at the time it was spoken. “In writing his autobiography, Pratt relied heavily on his previous writings. After extensive analysis, Pratt family historian Steven Pratt concluded that almost ninety percent of the text is either based on or copied from earlier works” (Matt Grow, assistant professor of history at the University of Southern Indiana.)

          4. The Prophet’s mother, Lucy Mack Smith, provides two separate items of evidence in the original manuscript of her memoirs. In the first item, Lucy is remembering what Joseph told her after Moroni first appeared to him. The quote begins with what Moroni had told Joseph:
          Now Joseph beware when you go to get the plates your mind will be filld with darkness and all man[n]er of evil will rush into your mind. To keep you from keeping the comman dments of God and you must tell your father of this for he will believe every word you say the record is on a side hill on the Hill of Cumorah 3 miles from this place remove the Grass and moss and you will find a large flat stone pry that up and you will find the record under it laying on 4 pillars — then the angel left him. [sic] (Lucy Mack Smith, History 1844–1845, Original Manuscript, page 41)

          Lucy dictated the above about 20 years after the fact, but it is consistent with other evidence. In the following, Lucy recalls directly what her son said in her presence. Following Joseph’s meeting with Moroni at Cumorah, one year before Joseph received the plates, Joseph told his parents that he had “taken the severest chastisement that I have ever had in my life.” Joseph said:

          it was the an gel of the Lord— as I passed by the hill of Cumo rah, where the plates are, the angel of the Lord met me and said, that I had not been engaged enough in the work of the Lord; that the time had come for the record to brought forth; and, that I must be up and doing, and set myself about the things which God had commanded me to do: [sic] (Lucy Mack Smith, History 1844–1845, Original Manuscript, page 111)

          In both of these quotes from the Prophet’s mother she demonstrates that in her mind Joseph and Lucy both knew that the hill in Palmyra was named Cumorah, prior to the translation of the plates.

        • 5. David Whitmer confirmed this in an interview in his later years when he stated:

          [Joseph Smith] told me…he had a vision, an angel appearing to him three times in one night and telling him that there was a record of an ancient people deposited in a hill near his fathers house called by the ancients “Cumorah” situated in the township of Manchester, Ontario county N.Y…” (Milton V. Backman, Jr., “Eyewitness Accounts of the Restoration,” p. 233)

          6. David Whitmer also recounted an incident that occurred while he was with Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in a wagon going to Fayette, NY to finish the translation. They came across an old man with a knapsack on his back who told them he was headed for Cumorah. Joseph identified the man as Moroni. (Deseret Evening News 16 November 1878)

          7. Hymn written by Parley P Pratt which we still sing. #328 in the current LDS hymnbook, “An Angel From On High”:
          An angel from on high
          The long, long silence broke;
          Descending from the sky,
          These gracious words he spoke:
          Lo! in Cumorah’s lonely hill
          A sacred record lies concealed.
          Lo! in Cumorah’s lonely hill
          A sacred record lies concealed.

          Notice that Parley P Pratt is quoting Moroni in paraphrase, “Lo! in Cumorah’s lonely hill
          A sacred record lies concealed.”

          All of the documentary evidence is consistent that it was Moroni who told Joseph Smith, prior to the translation of the Gold Plates, that the ancient name of the hill in Palmyra was “Cumorah.” There is no documentary evidence to the contrary.

  12. I wish this article didn’t begin with the assumption that the box containing the plates was constructed by Moroni circa 421 AD. We have no evidence from the Book of Mormon, or any other source, that that is the case. While alive, Moroni never said he had traveled a great distance from the Mesoamerican Hill Cumorah before burying the plates. He never even mentioned burying the plates, stating only that he was about to “seal up” the records. And he mentioned no stone box, of course. Nor did the being who appeared to Joseph Smith to tell him about the plates say that he himself had constructed the box, or that he had placed the plates inside it. I think the most probable explanation for the plates’ presence in the stone-and-cement box is that the box was built, and the sacred relics were placed within it, very shortly before Joseph Smith was directed to them, thus making the box newly constructed at that time. And, as an aside, because of textual clues in the Book of Mormon, I think the plates were likely transported to their location in upstate New York by the three Nephite disciples.

  13. Is it only a common supposition that the plates were buried by Moroni shortly before his death and that the plates and artifacts remained untouched for some 1400 years until Joseph was allowed to see, then remove, the plates from the Palmyra hill?

    The plates might have been somewhere else entirely and subsequently placed in the Palmyra hill maybe even a few years before the 1820’s.

  14. Here’s another interesting anecdote (although not first hand) that potentially references the stone box. We have an 1884 record of an interview by James H Hart of David Whitmer who said that when he was learning about the golden plates from Oliver Cowdery, that Oliver told him of a conversation he had with local treasure seekers who felt that Joseph owed them a portion of the golden plates & tried to get them. They were convinced Joseph had the plates, because, as one said, “we have seen the place on the hill where he got them.” (Deseret Evening News 3/25/1884)

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