long ago ideas

“When we are tired, we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago." - Friedrich Nietzsche. Long ago, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery conquered false claims that the Book of Mormon was fiction or that it came through a stone in a hat. But these old claims have resurfaced in recent years. To conquer them again, we have to return to what Joseph and Oliver taught.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Friday thought from John A. Widstoe

John A. Widtsoe wrote, "Out of the studies of faithful Latter-day Saints may yet come a unity of opinion concerning Book of Mormon geography."

The goal

People keep asking me what I hope to accomplish by maintaining this blog, doing the research, writing the books and articles, etc.

My main goal is to have the LDS community reach a fact-based consensus about what happened in Church history. Then I want to reach a consensus about Book of Mormon historicity, including geography, anthropology, culture, etc.

A lot of active Church members tell me they want to know what the General Authorities think. In my experience, they are focused on ministering to people, not on addressing issues of Book of Mormon historicity. I think that's the right approach, too.

However, I also think the historicity issues are important to ministering, because there is a widespread perception--certainly among investigators and former/inactive members, and even among many active members--that there is no archaeological evidence for the Book of Mormon. It is tragic that anyone would lost faith on that basis, because it's not true. There is an abundance of archaeological evidence for the Book of Mormon--just not in Mesoamerica.

So the sooner the Mesoamerican setting is jettisoned, the better.

Ultimately, the goal is to replace the article on lds.org titled "Book of Mormon and DNA Studies." I've written about this before, but it deserves repeating. If it wasn't on lds.org, this article could be on an anti-Mormon site. It boils down to a rationalization for the absence of any sign of the Book of Mormon people in Mesoamerica; i.e., they vanished, or were completely absorbed without a trace. That's exactly the point made by former/inactive/anti Mormons.

The article cites the "Facts Are Stubborn Things" article from the Times and Seasons, claiming that because it "was published under Joseph Smith's editorship," "Joseph Smith appears to have been open to the idea of migrations other than those described in the Book of Mormon." There are two logical problems with these statements. First, the fact that Joseph was the nominal editor of the Times and Seasons says nothing about his participation in the writing, editing, or even publishing of that article. There is zero evidence that he had anything to do with it; in fact, all the historical evidence shows he had nothing to do with it. Second, the article itself says nothing about other migrations. Instead, it purports to link the Mesoamerican ruins to the Book of Mormon people, a direct contradiction to everything Joseph actually said and wrote about the topic. IOW, the lds.org article is based on a compound error that, IMO, makes Joseph Smith look foolish and uncertain.

The article also cites Roper's piece, "Nephi's Neighbors," which I've discussed before.

The article claims, "Nothing is known about the DNA of Book of Mormon peoples." But anyone who reads the book knows Lehi's group came from Jerusalem and were, as Joseph said, "principally Israelites, of the descendants of Joseph." That's not nothing. At the very least, that tells us their DNA is certainly not Asian.

Here's another fallacy in the article. "Book of Mormon record keepers were primarily concerned with conveying religious truths and preserving the spiritual heritage of their people. They prayed that, in spite of the prophesied destruction of most of their people, their record would be preserved and one day help restore a knowledge of the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ."

Contrast that to the title page of the Book of Mormon: "Wherefore, it is an abridgment of the record of the people of Nephi, and also of the Lamanites—Written to the Lamanites, who are a remnant of the house of Israel; and also to Jew and Gentile... Which is to show unto the remnant of the house of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; and that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever."

So Moroni dedicated the book to "the Lamanites, who are a remnant of the house of Israel," so they can learn about their fathers. But the lds.org article claims it is "unlikely that their DNA could be detected today" because "nothing is known about their DNA" and "processes such as population bottleneck, genetic drift, and post-Columbian immigration for West Eurasia make it unlikely that their DNA could be detected today." IOW, the article insists we can never know who the Lamanites are. So how are they, a remnant of Israel, going to know who they are? Can one be a descendant without any DNA from one's ancestors? If so, what does it mean to be a "remnant of the house of Israel" anyway?

I realize that in a sense, everyone is related to everyone else; everyone, then, may be a remnant of the house of Israel. But Moroni distinguished between the remnant and the Jew and Gentile, so he seemed to think there was some genetic identification.

In the next few days, I'll post the letter I think lds.org should use to replace the one on there now.


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Traditions of the Fathers: The Book of Mormon as History-preliminary

I have been looking forward to Brant A. Gardner's book, Traditions of the Fathers: The Book of Mormon as History, for some time now. I will provide a review once I get a chance to read the entire thing, but here are my initial thoughts based on the first excerpts I've seen.

1. Well researched. Gardner's narrative contains a lot of quotations and references to a variety of sources, which is a good sign. It shows he has considered a range of perspectives on how to approach a translation of an ancient text. He has set out some excellent parameters for the analysis and interpretation.

2. Well reasoned. Gardner's reasoning appears sound. He acknowledges the potential pitfalls of an analysis based on correspondences--his section on Parallels as a Problematic Methodology is quite good--and promises to avoid those. He notes, "The problem with the fallacy of parallels is that it doesn't protect against false positives." I'm eager to see how he handles this in the Mesoamerican context.

3. Faulty premise. Despite the promise of his research and reasoning, Gardner appears to have overlooked the problem with his fundamental premise. Predictably, he cites the Times and Seasons editorials about Mesoamerica. He dismisses the views of Joseph's contemporaries with this: "At the time when the Book of Mormon was first published, there was no assembly of evidence to support faith in its historicity, although the early Saints quickly adapted popular speculations. The idea that Native Americans descended from the lost ten tribes had been circulating in books and community lore by that time.11 Those ideas worked themselves into the stories the Saints told as evidence to support faith." Oddly, Gardner's footnote 11 cites Bennett's observations about Dr. Mitchill's theory of Australasians being destroyed by Asiatic people, a theory detached from the lost tribes tradition. And I'm not aware of any early Saints who "adapted popular speculations" anyway; that was the argument of the critics, refuted by the text of the Book of Mormon and the statements of Joseph and Oliver Cowdery, who unequivocally set the Book of Mormon in North America, from New York to Missouri. True, the early Saints pointed to the mounds and piles of bones throughout the area as evidence of the Book of Mormon, but that is archaeological evidence, not "stories" based on legends of the lost ten tribes. Footnote 11 also cites Vogel's book, Indian Origins and the Book of Mormon, which suffers from the same superficial analysis as Gardner's comments here.

It is not a surprise that Gardner would attribute the statements of Joseph and Oliver to "speculation" because that is the basic theme of the Mesoamericanists; i.e., their comments reflected their own speculation, not any insights gained from revelation or angelic ministry. Gardner has relied on and cites the usual list of Mesoamericanists: John Sorenson, John E. Clark, Matthew Roper, Dan Peterson, Neal Rappleye, Grant Hardy, Stephen Smoot, Mark Alan Wright, etc. I had hoped to see something new from Gardner, but it appears he is sticking with the unexamined consensus about Mesoamerica. I'll call this the "Traditions of the Fathers."

While he notes the problem of false positives, Gardner also writes, "The iterative process is perhaps even more important in a Mesoamerican context than for much of the rest of world history. While we do have the advantage of a literate people, we don’t have the luxury of many texts." This makes it appear he takes the Mesoamerican context as a given. This seems to be confirmed when he writes, "I am interested in the story of the Book of Mormon as part of the historical and cultural changes that have occurred in a limited region of Mesoamerica appropriate to the times covered in the Book of Mormon. The vast majority of Mesoamerican archaeology deals with peoples and cultures that were probably not directly involved with the Book of Mormon." (Page 52). (italics mine)

So Gardner is only interested in Mesoamerica, after all. But that's okay. His analytical framework offers guidance for others to assess the North American setting more completely.

On page 36, he writes, "Of course, reading the text against a cultural background necessarily requires that we define what that background might have been. For that reason, the initial assumption that the Book of Mormon might be historical requires that we resolve the question of Book of Mormon geography. Only by locating the Book of Mormon in space (the Book of Mormon declares the applicable timeframe), can it be located in a cultural context. No proper understanding of an ancient Book of Mormon is acceptable without correlating the way the ancient composition layer interacted with its environment. (See Chapter 5)." (italics mine)

That is an excellent statement of the problem that remains.

Last year, Brant A. Gardner wrote a review of Earl Wunderli's book, An Imperfect Book: What the Book of Mormon Tells Us about Itself. Gardner titled his review this way:

The Book with the Unintentionally Self-Referential Title

Because the Mesoamerican theory itself amounts to the "Traditions of the Fathers," now it appears we have another book with an unintentionally self-referential title.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Overall geography

Lots of people are asking me to explain Book of Mormon geography on this blog. I haven't done so yet because, in my view, it's important first to set the record straight on Church history. There is still some resistance; i.e., there are still people who cling to the unsigned 1842 Times and Seasons articles about Mesoamerica, reasoning they are more informative than everything Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith wrote because... well, because they like the idea of Mesoamerica better than New York and the Midwest. Maybe because Mesoamerica is more exotic? More mysterious? Or is it because ordinary people can't make sense of it, so they have to rely on the expertise of the Mesoamericanists? Seriously, I can't understand the obsession with the ridiculous and anonymous Times and Seasons articles. And without those, there is zero rationale for putting the Book of Mormon events in Mesoamerica.

At any rate, the North American setting is pretty simple. Here you can see the overview. Basically, the green is Nephite territory and the purple is Lamanite territory. (This is an overlay on a hydrology map, which is important to the explanation.) I have detailed maps showing proposed sites for the major cities, including Zarahemla, Cumorah, Bountiful, Land of Nephi, Sidon, place of first landing, narrow neck, etc., along with the related archaeological sites.
The explanation is not as simple as the map because there are hundreds of verses in the text to discuss. The Mesoamericanists have numerous objections; that's why I had to write a book about it.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

FairMormon and Archaeological Evidence and the Book of Mormon

FairMormon does a pretty good job addressing a variety of issues, but when it comes to archaeology and the Book of Mormon, their obsession with Mesoamerica forces them to write nonsense.

Here's a good example. The article by Michael R. Ash is titled:

Archaeological Evidence and the Book of Mormon

I'll quote some of it, with my comments in red.

“Why is there no archaeological evidence for the Book of Mormon?” This common query (Common, for sure. More likely, universal. How could anyone read the Book of Mormon and not wonder where the events took place? Does anyone think Joseph Smith didn't wonder--or that Moroni did not tell him, even before he got the plates?) often expresses the questioner’s incorrect assumptions about archaeological methodology–assumptions usually based the questioner’s lack of knowledge about a very specialized academic area. (Notice two things about this response so far. First, Ash avoids the obvious answer: there is no archaeological evidence for the Book of Mormon in Mesoamerica because none of the Book of Mormon events took place there! Second, Ash blames the questioner for making "incorrect assumptions about archaeological methodology" and having "lack of knowledge." This is a typical response from Mesoamericanists to a simple question. They denigrate questioners and claim superior knowledge, while also displaying defensiveness.) The purpose of this article is to shed some light on not only the subject of archaeology, but also on the reality of both biblical and Book of Mormon archaeology. (After reading this article, I think the purpose of the article is to obfuscate; Ash is basically telling his readers not to expect any archaeological evidence of the Book of Mormon. And he's right--so long as the "experts" keep insisting it took place in Mesoamerica, no archaeological evidence will ever be found.)

Evidence, Proof, and Belief

Before delving into archaeological matters, it is helpful to take a step back and consider what archaeological evidence means in relation to the Book of Mormon. A reasonable question for those suggesting that there is no archaeological evidence for the Book of Mormon would be “What archaeological evidence might be considered the minimal irrefutable proof needed to convince a non-believing world of the authenticity of the Nephite scripture?” (This is not a reasonable question in any sense of the term. People want archaeological evidence, not irrefutable proof. Ash is posing a red herring to mask his inability to answer the original question that most readers of the book, believers and non-believers alike, ask themselves. Besides, his standard is irrational; "minimal irrefutable proof" is what someone needs to satisfy his/her own subjective standard. For some, no physical evidence is sufficient; for others, no physical evidence will ever be sufficient.)
Some people might suggest that finding the existence of horses or chariots would constitute proof for the Book of Mormon. This is doubtful. (Notice the subtle shift from "minimum irrefutable proof needed to convince a non-believing world" to simple "proof" now. The existence of horses or chariots would constitute archaeological evidence--which was the original question. Whether it would constitute proof is a subjective question to be answered by each individual.)  Finding such items would merely demonstrate that such things existed in the ancient New World, and while such discoveries may be consistent with the Book of Mormon, they hardly amount to “proof.” (Here he shows he has completely abandoned the original question. He is not going to answer the question about why there is no archaeological evidence of the Book of Mormon in Mesoamerica; instead, he's going to embark on a nonresponsive excursion into the nature of "proof" that most readers don't need. All people want is evidence that Book of Mormon people existed. There is abundant evidence in North America, but none in Mesoamerica. That's why Ash won't answer the question.)
As an example, the Book of Mormon mentions barley which, until recently, was thought not to exist in the ancient Americas. Critics considered barley to be one of the things that “Joseph Smith got wrong.” However, pre-Columbian New World barley has now been verified, without people flocking to join the Church because of this discovery. 
(I'm going stop here for now because the rest of the article is more of the same. My comment to this paragraph begins with Michael Ash's response from another forum to show how absurd it is to continue to promote the Mesoamerican theoryUntil recently the critics were sure that barley and wheat were unknown in the ancient New World. An article in Science 83, however, revealed that pre-Columbian domesticated barley had been discovered by archaeologists at an ancient Hohokam Indian site in Arizona.[455] The non-LDS author of this article suggested that the barley might have been imported from Mexico at a very early date. It is interesting that Alma 63:6–10 describes various Nephite migrations to the North. It is possible that such migrations (and other similar ancient Mesoamerican migrations) might have influenced North American cultures and crops. To the surprise of many, the find at the Hohokam site in Arizona was a first only because it yielded cultivated or domesticated barley. Biologist Howard Stutz explains, “three types of wild barley have long been known to be native to the Americas.” Furthermore, scholars now report that other examples of what may be domesticated barley have been found in eastern Oklahoma and southern Illinois, dating from 1 to 900 A.D.[456]
Notice what's going on. Ash admits domesticated barley has been found in "eastern Oklahoma and southern Illinois" dating to Book of Mormon time periods. southern Illinois is inside the Book of Mormon lands, according to the American (or Heartland) theory; eastern Oklahoma is as well. Yet Ash finds it more significant that there was also a site in Arizona, that might have been brought from Mexico earlier, which might be related to Alma 63. So instead of using the actual findings in southern Illinois, which is evidence (but not proof) of the Book of Mormon, to support the Mesoamerican theory, Ash has to pile conjecture on top of a finding in Arizona. This conjectural approach is why people don't think there is any archaeological evidence of the Book of Mormon. 

Meanwhile, those who accept the North American setting can simply accept the discovery in southern Illinois as evidence, without the compound conjecture required for Mesoamerica.

The bottom line here is that, as Ash correctly notes, there never will be convincing proof of the Book of Mormon in Mesoamerica. The evidence in North America is convincing proof for those who accept it, but it will remain ambiguous for those who want to reject it. One can find "correspondences" between the Book of Mormon and any culture, which is all the Mesoamericanists have and why their arguments are unpersuasive. This is also the reason why prophetic insight is so important, and as I've shown, Joseph Smith was unequivocal and clear, throughout his life, on the point that the Cumorah in New York was the Book of Mormon Cumorah, that the North American Indians were descendants of the Book of Mormon people, etc. 

So the sooner FairMormon abandons the Mesoamerican theory, the better for everyone.


Thursday, July 23, 2015

Times and Seasons ends with Michigan

One of the most common points I hear from Mesoamericanists is that the Times and Seasons continued to mention the Stephens book after Oct 1842. It's true; the book was mentioned in at least five articles after that date. I explain why in my Zarahemla book, but I wanted to mention one more thing.

The final word in the Times and Seasons on Book of Mormon geography is MICHIGAN.

So far as I can tell, the very last mention of Book of Mormon evidence in the Times and Seasons was on 15 May 1845 (Vol. 6, No. 9, pp. 906-7). It's yet another unsigned editorial. Here is the article in full:

A writer in the Buffalo Pilot gives us another witness for the Book of Mormon. It is a fine thing to have such specimens of antiquity found and then to have wise men look into the Book of Mormon and solve the mystery.
The writer states, that in the town adjoining Cooper, county of Allegan, Michigan, about a mile distant from the fertile banks of the Kalamazoo, is a small hamlet, commonly known as Arnold's Station. The first settlers of this little place, emigrants from the St. Joseph country, found in the township some extensive ruins of what had evidently been the work of human ingenuity, and which they christened the Military Post.
"It consists," says the writer, "of a wall of earth, running northwest and southeast, being about the height of a man's head in the principal part of its length, but varying in some places, as if it had been degraded, either by the hands of assailants or the lapse of time. Fronting the road, which runs parallel with the work, is the glacis, presenting a gentle slope to the summit of the wall, which extends for about the fourth of a mile. Along the entire face of the fortification is a cleared space of equal breadth in its whole extent, covered with a fine grass, but beyond the edge of this the forest is still standing. Such was the aspect of the remains when the first white settler emigrated to Michigan, and it has remained without perceptible change to the present time. The mound is covered with monstrous trees, of a wood slow in its growth, showing its great antiquity, but furnishing no clue to its origin. The popular theory seems to be that the French, who early traversed our country, were the builders; but this, of course, is erroneous. It must have been either the work of a large body of men, or the painful toil of a few. If the former, they might have conquered and subdued any tribe of Indians then in existence; if the latter,
(page 906)
a solitary line of breastwork, without a fosse, or other defence [defense], could have been no protection: and it seems still more mysterious that it should have been placed here, at the distance of a mile from any spring, and with a heavy wood, of a date more ancient than the trees upon the mound in its rear.

If the neighboring Indians are questioned upon its traditionary [traditional] history, the invariable answer is, that it was there when they came-more, they either do not or can not say. That it was the labor of an extinct race is pretty evident, and it probably dates from the same era with the extensive works at Rock River. These latter are, however, of brick, a specimen of which material, taken from beneath the roots of an oak tree of great size, the writer has in his possession."



So if unsigned excerpts in the Times and Seasons are supposed to be evidence of what Joseph and his associates believed (and, as the Mesoamericanists claim, they all generally speculated about the same things), then citing evidence from Michigan must have reflected the thinking of Joseph Smith, too.

I realize the Mesoamericanists think Joseph didn't know much about the Book of Mormon, was merely speculating, hadn't been taught about the Nephites by an angel, etc. While I disagree with them on those matters, I'll assume, arguendo, they are correct. That leaves us with Mesoamerica and Michigan on even ground (although Michigan was the last word). But, as we've all agreed, it can't be both. One or the other has to be, at best, hinterlands.

But think about this. If the Times and Seasons is a draw (which it is if you take the Mesoamericanist argument at face value), then what basis do the Mesoamericanists have for giving greater weight to Mesoamerica?


All we are left with, aside from the hemispheric model which no scholars I know of accept, is a limited geography in either Mesoamerica or North America. Even if you set aside 1) all the scriptural references, 2) all the statements of Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, and 3) all the talk of a promised land, etc., you are left with an area that doesn't fit because of directions, plants and animals (Mesoamerica) and an area that fits perfectly (North America).

So which do you choose?

A better logo

Instead of using a Mayan glyph, I'd like to see the Maxwell Institute use one of the characters on the Anthon transcript.

Joseph apparently made several copies of the characters from the plates, possibly by placing a sheet of paper on the plates and rubbing it with charcoal, and then having someone trace the impressions. Both Emma and her brother Reuben assisted, as well as Martin Harris. A copy of the characters published in The Prophet, the New York-based LDS newspaper, in 1844 has some variations from the more commonly depicted version, corroborating the claim that there were multiple copies. (See Chapters 2-3, From Darkness unto Light by Michael Hubbard McKay and Gerrit J. Dirkmaat.)

Martin Harris took a copy of the characters to Luther Bradish, who referred him to Drs. Anthon and Mitchill in New York City. They were both interested in Native American Indian stories. Mitchill had learned Mohawk language and remained interested in the origins of the Indians, relying on Humboldt's theory of three separate sources of Indians. Anthon was collecting Indian stories about the time when Harris visited him, so of course he was interested to see what Harris had to say.

A lot has been written about these events and the characters. Harris came away convinced that Joseph was telling the truth. He mortgaged his farm to get the Book of Mormon published.

By contrast, Anthon claimed years later that he told Harris he was being deceived, that the characters were like a Mayan calendar or arranged in a column. In my view, Anthon was trying to separate himself from the matter, had no specific recollection of what Harris showed him, and is therefore less credible than Harris, to whom this had become a major factor in a life-changing decision.

Dean Jessee and others think the word "Caractors" written at the top is in the handwriting of Joseph Smith. Whether that means he personally wrote the characters or was just labeling the ones written by his wife, her brother, or Martin Harris, no one knows. Apparently Martin Harris kept a copy with him for years as evidence of the veracity of the Book of Mormon. Oliver Cowdery gave a copy to David Whitmer, which ultimately ended up at the Community of Christ.

Here are two views on all this history:

Stanley B. Kimball

Stout's criticism of Kimball

File:Anthon transcript 1.jpg

Anthon_transcript_1.jpg ‎(422 × 200 pixels, file size: 17 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg)
Original in Library Archives, Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, The Auditorium, Independence, Missouri.

The obvious question is, what are these characters? 

There are numerous theories, but they seem to boil down to three options: some type of "reformed Egyptian" derived from hieroglyphics; some type of writing similar to what is found in Mesoamerica; and some form of writing that Native American Indians in the northeastern U.S. used.
I don't know enough about Egyptian hieroglyphics to comment on that, but it seems to me the experts would already have published some kind of detailed analysis if that theory had a factual basis.
FairMormon predictably links them to Mesoamerica, completely misrepresenting the source they rely on. Below is the quotation from FairMormon, followed by an illustration of the characters they're referring to, and then the original Jones article that FairMormon incorrectly paraphrased. Take a look and see what comparisons you can make between the Tlatilco cylinder and the Anthon transcript.

Characters in the authentic Anthon transcript(s) have been reported on two "Mexican seals made of baked clay" dating from no later than 400 B.C. Non-LDS archaeologists have remarked on this "hitherto unknown writing system" which "closely resemble various oriental scripts ranging from Burma and China to the rim of the Mediterranean," which if authentic "would almost surely be...an instance of transpacific contact during the Preclassic [pre-A.D. 400]." Other examples of the same script may also have been found between 1921 and 1932.[3] This is currently an area requiring more research.

cylinder seal

 This cylinder was found at Tlatilco in the Valley of Mexico. Of the 28 characters identifiable on this cylinder, 26 have been shown to have a close relationship to Anthon characters. 

Here is the Jones article making the comparison: http://www.shields-research.org/General/SEHA/SEHA_Newsletter_122-2.PDF


By contrast, the comparisons between the characters and the writing of the Mikmaq Indians of northeastern U.S. and Canada seem a closer fit. I suspect this comparison may account for whatever positive impression Mitchill and Anthon left with Harris. Of course, the last thing the Mesoamericanists want is a connection between the Anthon transcript and Native American Indian languages. This means we'll never see an article making this connection in the pages of the Interpreter, the Maxwell Institute, BYU Studies, etc., but we always have the Internet where people can make these comparisons and discuss them.

I haven't studied this enough to have a strong opinion--the only ancient languages I've studied are Latin and Greek--but to me, the Mesoamerican connection is very far-fetched, while the connection with the Mi'kmaq is undeniable. I know there are lots of reasons to question the antiquity of the Mi'kmaq characters,

Nephite Mi'kmaq Comparison
The above Nephite symbols come from the “Caractors” transcript (early Mormon transcript of characters copied from the Book of Mormon Plates). Care has been taken to avoid any comparisons that draws from Mark Hofmann’s Anthon Transcript forgery.
Though the spoken language of the Mi’kmaq people of northern America is certainly not the same as Nephite, the style of Nephite writing resembles Mi’kmaq hieroglyphs. In both Nephite and Mi’kmaq, symbols represent entire words. This explains why Nephite “reformed Egyptian” is even more compressed than Nephite “Hebrew”. (Mormon 9:33)

Another version:

More references:

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

On this date: July 22

Thanks to BYU Studies, I wanted to recognize this date:

On this day in 1840
Nauvoo, Illinois. After William W. Phelps requested forgiveness, Joseph Smith dictated a letter granting that forgiveness and inviting him to return to the Church.

On this day in 1842
Independence, Missouri. Missouri Governor Thomas Reynolds issued a requisition to Illinois Governor Thomas Carlin for the extradition of Joseph Smith and Orrin Porter Rockwell in connection with the Boggs shooting.

On this day in 1842
Nauvoo, Illinois. Nauvoo City Resolution: Upheld the character of Joseph Smith, and organized petitions to the Governor not to issue a writ against Joseph Smith.

Logos and branding

The logos for FARMS and the Maxwell Institute feature symbols from Hebrew, Greek, Egyptian--and stylized Mesoamerican glyphs. No wonder they insist on a Mesoamerican setting for the Book of Mormon. Mesoamerica is part of their brand!

.FARMS  Maxwell Institute

FARMS logo
old logo copy

I can't think of another educational or scholarship institute that displays such a deep bias on a matter of ongoing research as to declare its position in its logo.

Contrast that to the Harvard logo: "VERITAS" meaning "Verity" or "Truth." Yale seeks "light and truth." Oxford declares "The Lord is my Light."

    Image result for oxford university logo meaning

The Maxwell Institute is so deeply invested in Mesoamerica that they chose the Mesoamerican glyph for their podcast logo they use for every topic. Okay, it looks kind of cool, but it also reflects a groupthink mindset that will be extremely difficult to change.


Hinterlands-Mesoamerica or North America?

Some time ago I posted a brief peer review of Mark Alan Wright's article, published in the Interpreter and based on a presentation he made at the 2013 FairMormon conference, titled "Heartland as Hinterland: The Mesoamerican Core and North American Periphery of Book of Mormon Geography." As I said then, I think Wright's insight about a "hinterlands" is useful on many levels.

It's just backward.

I wrote a fully documented response titled "Mesoamerica as Hinterland" and submitted it to the Interpreter. No surprise: they refused to publish it because they don't tolerate any setting other than Mesoamerica.

Unlike me, they don't trust their readers to make up their own minds.

Actually, I don't know how many people read the Interpreter. It claims to be a "peer-reviewed educational journal," but as I've demonstrated repeatedly in this blog, their articles about the Book of Mormon contain errors that one would think an actual peer reviewer would notice. (The same was true of FARMS and now the Maxwell Institute, one reason among many why FARMS book reviews were described as "tabloid scholarship.") It seems their idea of peer review is more literal than one imagines; i.e., they are reviewed (if at all) by peers in the sense of a fellow member of the nobility, like in Britain. In this case, the nobility consists of Mesoamericanists. It's not so much peer review as Groupthink.

Bottom line, if you want a different point of view about Book of Mormon geography, don't read the Interpreter. You know what their "peer-reviewed" articles will say before you read them.

It's unfortunate, because the people behind the Interpreter are nice people and good scholars in their fields. The Interpreter has published some good material on other topics. Their editorial board and authors are just blind to the major problems with the Mesoamerican theory. The blindness shows up in the way they respond to criticism as well as the way they refuse to publish alternative viewpoints. I think they're defensive because they know the Mesoamerican setting doesn't work on any level.

I understand they are going to publish a review of the Zarahemla book. Matt Roper told me he was going to review it, too. I've been waiting for such feedback for six months, as I'll explain if/when Roper's review appears. I think everyone will find this quite interesting.

The history of Mormon apologetics deserves a paper, if not a book. (Actually, it's a big section of my book, Moroni's History, which will be released in August.) The wikipedia page is pretty good on the history of FARMS. There's also a good analysis here: http://www.templestudy.com/2012/06/25/rise-fall-farms/

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Roper and Hedges on Cumorah

Some years ago, Matt Roper and Andy Hedges wrote competing papers about Cumorah. They are found here:



Both writers make good points and I cite each of them in my books, but for now I'll just mention one thing.

Roper writes: "Recent scholarship on the question suggests that the only natural phenomenon that could account for all of the events described in chapters 8 through 10 of 3 Nephi would be volcanic activity.[33]Hedges does not dispute the validity of these conclusions, but he questions their relevance to the Cumorah question. The connection is reasonable, however, if the Jaredite and Nephite armies never left their primary centers of settlements near the isthmus. The destruction at the death of Christ enveloped important settlements at both ends of the lands southward and northward, bracketing the region in which these events were witnessed to have occurred. That sphere of destruction included the Amulonite city Jerusalem in the land of Nephi at the southern extremity (see 3 Nephi 9:7), and Jacobugath in “the northernmost part of the land northward” (3 Nephi 7:12). Since Cumorah seems to have been close to or within the land of Desolation in the southern portion of the land northward, that seemingly places it within the destruction zone, even if the hill is not referenced in 3 Nephi. Given these parameters, the suggestion that Cumorah was in a volcanic zone seems reasonable, although it poses a serious problems for the New York correlation."

Roper makes a good point here, but like so many other arguments made by Mesoamericanists, he has it exactly backward. The suggestion that Cumorah was in a volcanic zone is not reasonable: it is preposterous. That theory poses a serious problem for the Mesoamerican correlation.

I've explained why the volcano theory doesn't work at all; the text never mentions volcanoes, the description of the destruction doesn't match volcanic activity, and there is a place in North America where such destruction is not merely theoretical but historically documented.

I spelled this all out in an article that the Interpreter refused to publish, so I might as well blog about that next.


Monday, July 20, 2015

Brant Gardner on Cumorah

Brant Gardner, a prominent scholar who advocates the Mesoamerican setting, has offered some opinions on Cumorah that I'll touch on here.

He wrote a piece available from the Maxwell Institute here titled "This Idea: The “This Land” Series and the U.S.-Centric Reading of the Book of Mormon." My comments in red. Bold is my emphasis of what Gardner wrote.

Gardner writes (p. 142-3): "Because the plates had been retrieved from a hill in New York, that hill was called Cumorah, [Here Gardner conflates his own views with the early Saints' motivation for naming the hill. Maybe he has a reference to what they were thinking, but he didn't cite it.]  though it appears to have required ten to twenty years for the Saints to settle on that name for the location.3 [I'm curious what the starting point of the 10-20 years is. Cowdery published his Letter #7 in July 1835. Going back 10 years would mean Gardner is counting from 1825. 20 years would put it at 1815. But as Raish notes, Joseph and Oliver "had been introduced to Cumorah as a place-name in late May or early June 1829." Raish, p. 39. See my separate comment on footnote 3.] Once so named, however, it became even more important and merged in the minds of the Saints with the text of the Book of Mormon to become, in popular thought, the very hill at which the final battle between the Lamanites and Nephites took place. [Gardner advances the idea that the name was mere folklore, as if the early Saints would believe major Book of Mormon events occurred in New York purely because someone--someone other than Joseph Smith, to be sure--arbitrarily named the hill where Joseph found the plates "Cumorah." This is one of the strangest logical fallacies I've come across in the Mesoamericanist argument. On the one hand, they say the anonymous Zarahemla article in 1842 must be correct because Joseph didn't retract it. On the other hand, they say Cowdery's Cumorah article is wrong because it was based on folklore, and the facts that Joseph helped write it, saw it published in the Messenger and Advocate, and saw it reproduced twice more (once with his specific authorization), all without correcting or retracting it, are meaningless facts. Well, actually some of the Mesoamericanists say all of this is proof that Joseph didn't know much about the Book of Mormon, translated it wrong, was merely speculating, didn't learn about the Nephites from Moroni, etc.] Oliver Cowdery himself described the hill in 1835 and noted specifically that it was the place where “once sunk to nought the pride and strength of two mighty nations.”4 [Okay, now I'm even more confused. Gardner quotes from Letter #7, proving he did read it. But two paragraphs earlier, Cowdery called the hill Cumorah, which Gardner denies in his footnote 3.]

Footnote 3 reads: "3. Martin H. Raish, “Encounters with Cumorah: A Selective, Personal Bibliography,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 13/1–2 (2004): 39. Raish notes (p. 40, sidebar) that while a very late remembrance by David Whitmer claims that a mysterious stranger was “going to Cumorah” in 1829, there is no corroboration that this name was used that early. Neither Oliver Cowdery in his 1835 description of the hill nor Joseph Smith’s history of 1838 uses Cumorah as the name of the hill. [Here's what Cowdery wrote in his 1835 description of the hill: "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. (It is printed Camorah, which is an error.)... He however, by divine appointment, abridged from those records, in his own style and language, a short account of the more important and prominent items, from the days of Lehi to his own time, after which he deposited, as he says, on the 529th page, all the records in this same hill, Cumorah, and after gave his small record to his son Moroni, who, as appears from the same, finished, after witnessing the extinction of his people as a nation." I'm trying to figure out how Gardner concludes that Cowdery did not use Cumorah as the name of the hill in this passage. Anyone? Anyone? Actually, Gardner's paraphrase of Raish may be the problem. Raish wrote, "neither Oliver Cowdery's 1835 description of the hill... refers to the site by the name Cumorah." That's a little different than what Gardner wrote. Cowdery uses the phrase "hill Cumorah" twice, so how Gardner can claim he didn't use Cumorah as the name of the hill is puzzling. Raish, though, refers to a "site" which suggest he might have been thinking of something else. Admittedly, it's not much of a difference, but what were Raish and Gardner reading if not Cowdery's Letter #7? In fact, Raish quotes excerpts from Letter #7 but stops the narrative at the sentence just before the one I quoted above. Why?]

Footnote 4. Raish, “Encounters,” 41. B. H. Roberts continued to hold this opinion [Note how Gardner dismisses Cowdery's account as a mere "opinion" instead of a description. This is akin to the argument that everything Joseph said and wrote on this subject was merely opinion, and uninformed at that.] of the hill as the final battle location described in the Book of Mormon: “Meantime I merely call attention to the fact which here concerns me, namely, that central and western New York constitute the great battle fields described in the Book of Mormon as being the place where two nations met practical annihilation, the Jaredites and Nephites; and of which the military fortifications and monuments described by Mr. Priest are the silent witnesses.” B. H. Roberts, New Witnesses for God (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1951), 3:73–74; quotation from GospeLink 2001 CD (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2000). [The idea that hundreds of thousands of people died at Cumorah is a misreading of the text, as is evident from Cowdery's description. I explain all this in Moroni's America.]


Gardner proceeds to correctly explain how the "location of the Book of Mormon's Cumorah has become a controversial issue" because of the "Limited Geography Theory" that "places all of the events in Central America, including the destructions of the Nephites and Jaredites at Cumorah." 

At this point, Gardner cites William J. Hamblin's classic 1993 piece which I'll also quote here: “Actually, the Limited Geography Model does not insist that there were two Cumorahs. Rather, there was one Cumorah in Mesoamerica, which is always the hill referred to in the Book of Mormon. Thereafter, beginning with Oliver Cowdery (possibly based on a misreading of Mormon 6:6), early Mormons began to associate the Book of Mormon Cumorah with the hill in New York where Joseph Smith found the plates. The Book of Mormon itself is internally consistent on the issue. It seems to have been early nineteenth-century Latter-day Saint interpretation of the text of the Book of Mormon which has caused the confusion on this point. Thus, advocates of the Limited Geography Model are required only to show that their interpretations are consistent with the text of the Book of Mormon itself, not with any nineteenth-century interpretation of the Book of Mormon.”

So much for me misrepresenting what they're teaching, right?

In case you didn't notice the irony, it was "early nineteenth-century Latter-day Saint interpretation of the text" that gave us the 1842 Mesoamerican articles in the Times and Seasons! Those articles are the ones that caused the confusion on this point, not Cowdery's Letter #7 and everything Joseph said and wrote on the issue.

This argument is akin to the "hinterlands" argument; i.e., it is absolutely correct, but backward. 

In this case, the Book of Mormon, as Hamblin would require, is internally consistent on the issue--but only when Cumorah is in New York. Move it to an unknown location in Mesoamerica and it could be, literally, anywhere--which seems to be part of the attraction for Mesoamerica for the proponents of that setting. But Hamblin is exactly correct when he writes that we don't need to be consistent with the "nineteenth-century interpretation;" he just doesn't realize it is the nineteenth-century Mesoamerican interpretation that we can ignore.

I'm going to stop here because Gardner proceeds to offer a criticism of the North American setting that is outdated, even for 2008. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he knows more about North America now than he did back then. 

He even makes the fundamental error about Sidon that I hope, by now, he and other Mesoamericanists recognize.

Gardner is releasing a new book soon. I look forward to it because I'm assuming his book does not make the same mistakes about history, archaeology, and anthropology he made in this article. 

Once more on Cumorah

I'm getting feedback that I must be misrepresenting the Mesoamericanist position. 

I know how ridiculous the "two-Cumorah" theory sounds, but I didn't make it up. 

Look here, for example. This is FairMormon's answer to this question:

Question: Where is the Hill Cumorah?

Their first answer:

Joseph Smith never used the name "Cumorah" in his own writings when referring to the gold plates' resting place

It is not clear exactly when the New York hill from which Joseph Smith retrieved the gold plates became associated with the name "Cumorah." Joseph Smith never used the name in his own writings when referring to the plates' resting place. The only use of it from his pen seems to be DC 128:20, which uses the phrase "Glad tidings from Cumorah!" In 1830, Oliver Cowdery referred to the records' location as "Cumorah," while preaching to the Delaware Indians, and by 1835 the term seems to have been in common use among Church members.[1]

This an awesome display of rhetoric. Orwellian, some might say...

First, this "only use" is one more use from his pen than any reference to Mesoamerica.

Second, Joseph wrote very little; most of his history, even when it is in first person, was written by others. Are we supposed to reject Joseph Smith-History because it wasn't written "from his pen?"

Third, maybe this is the only use "from his pen" but it is cannonized.

Fourth, FairMormon completely avoids Letter #7.

Now, look at another one of their answers:

Since the 1950s, opinion among Book of Mormon scholars has increasingly trended toward the realization that the Nephite Cumorah and the Hill in New York cannot be the same

This is is more awesome rhetoric. 

First, this is "opinion among Book of Mormon scholars." Not "some" or even "most" such scholars. IOW, if you don't agree, then according to FairMormon, you're not a "Book of Mormon scholar."

Second, the Mesoamerican setting is not a theory; it's a "realization." So the scholars have "realized" something Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith did not. 

Third, what is the genesis of this "realization" anyway? It's the 1842 Times and Seasons articles! It always comes back to that.

Fourth, to top it off, they cite Dallin Oaks ("Elder Dallin H. Oaks recalled his own experience at BYU:")--but his speech says nothing about Mesoamerica or the two-Cumorah theory! This is the worst kind of appeal to authority--when the authority doesn't support the point you're trying to make. 

Another one-Cumorah theory.

Some Mesoamericanists take the approach that there is only one Cumorah--and it is somewhere in Mesoamerica. Here's an example:

The reasoning there is even more convoluted than the two-Cumorah theory, but I just wanted people to know about all the theories Mesoamericanists have put forth. There are lots of variations, of course; since no evidence of the Book of Mormon has been found in Mesoamerica, theoretically the "true" hill Cumorah could be anywhere down there.

Or, it could be where Oliver Cowdery described it....

Oliver Cowdery vs Anonymous

People keep asking me about the Zarahemla vs Cumorah post I made a while back, so I'll explain it again here.

I think everyone agrees that the Book of Mormon Zarahemla and the Book of Mormon Cumorah have to be somewhat close; i.e., Cumorah can't be in New York if Zarahemla was in Mesoamerica. The distance is just too far to fit the narrative. So it has to be one or the other, with the sites separated by a few hundred miles, almost certainly no more than 1,000 miles.

This is why the Mesoamericanists have a "two-Cumorah" theory. They insist that the Cumorah in New York is merely the place where Joseph found the plates, but was not the place of the final battles described in the text. They claim the final battles took place somewhere in Mesoamerica, and Moroni hauled the plates and other artifacts (breastplate, spectacles, sword) up to New York for Joseph to find them.

In my view, apart from any appeal to authority, that is implausible at best. Aside from some kind of teleportation, it's an impractical journey for a person to make. In terms of geography, the New York Cumorah is in exactly the right place for the rest of the narrative. I'll address that and the archaeology in a later post.

But here let's look at the appeals to authority. You decide which is more credible.

1. Mesoamerican authority. To support their view, the Mesoamericanist cite the 1 October 1842 Times and Seasons (T&S) article that claims Zarahemla is in Guatemala (Quirigua, or somewhere in Central America). This article was unsigned. It was never republished. It was never cited or referred to again. The Mesoamericanists say there were other T&S articles that also point to Central America. (They admit there are also articles that point to North America, but these, supposedly, were referring to the "hinterlands," meaning people and places outside the narrative of the text.) Lately, several have told me these articles aren't relevant, but anyone can read their books and articles and see that these articles have always been at the core of the Mesoamerican theory.

2. North American authority. To support my view, I'm going to refer to just one source for now: letter number 7 that Oliver Cowdery wrote to W.W. Phelps. In it, Cowdery writes in detail about Cumorah. I'll quote from the letter itself at the end of this entry because the description is so long, but he unmistakably identifies the Hill Cumorah near Palmyra: "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... This hill, by the Jaredites, was called Ramah: by it, or around it, pitched the famous army of Coriantumr their tents."

Cowdery is unequivocal: The Hill Cumorah in New York was the scene of the last battles.

Okay, so we have a letter vs. an article in the T&S, published in 1842 when Joseph was the Editor. Sounds like the anonymous T&S article must be more authoritative, right? More persuasive?


Oliver Cowdery was the scribe for most of the original manuscript of the Book of Mormon. He was one of the Three Witnesses. He was called by revelation to do the work of printing (D&C 55:4) and "to copy, and to correct, and select, that all things may be right before me, as it shall be proved by the Spirit through him" (D&C 57:13). Cowdery's letter was published in the Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate (M&A), July 1835, pp. 158-9. M&A was a paper published by the Church in Kirtland in 1834-5 when Joseph was living there. [You can find the M&A here. Go to Library/Church History/Messenger and Advocate.] Note that this was letter #7. It was part of a series.

In the first issue of M&A, Oliver wrote this: “The following communication was designed to have been published in the last No. of the Star [The Evening and Morning Star]; but owing to a press of other matter it was laid over for this No. of the Messenger and Advocate. Since it was written, upon further reflection, we have thought that a full history of the rise of the church of the Latter Day Saints, and the most interesting parts of its progress, to the present time, would be worthy the perusal of the Saints.-If circumstances admit, an article on this subject will appear in each subsequent No. of the Messenger and Advocate, until the time when the church was driven from Jackson Co. Mo. by a lawless banditti; & such other remarks as may be thought appropriate and interesting.

"That our narrative may be correct, and particularly the introduction, it is proper to inform our patrons, that our Brother J. Smith Jr., has offered to assist us. Indeed, there are many items connected with the fore part of this subject that render his labor indispensable. With his labor and with authentic documents now in our possession, we hope to render this a pleasing and agreeable narrative, well worth the examination and perusal of the saints.” [M&A, Oct 1834, p. 13]

The same letter was re-published in the T&S on 15 Apr. 1841 (T&S 2:12 p. 379) as part of a series titled "Rise of the Church." Don Carlos Smith, the Prophet's brother, was the editor at the time.

So we have Joseph helping Cowdery with the writing of the letter and his brother Don Carlos republishing it seven years later, when Joseph was living in Nauvoo. 

But there is a third publication of these letters as well.

Actually, the third publication was supposed to happen in the spring of 1840. It was Benjamin Winchester who planned to publish them, but for various reasons he waited until he started his own newspaper, the Gospel Reflector, to publish them. And he published them with the explicit permission of Joseph Smith and Sidney Ridgon.

Here's how he explains it in the first issue of Gospel Reflector (1 Jan. 1841):

"I would here observe to the members of the church in this section of country, that I had it (as is well known) in contemplation last spring to publish O. Cowdery's, letters giving a history of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon and, connected, with them, other original matter, such as I had written myself, which I asked permission or advice of J. Smith who said I was at liberty to publish any thing of the kind that would further the cause of righteousness. I also asked advice of S. Rigdon, who said he had no objection. I intend to publish, in this work, the above mentioned letters and also a few extracts from the Book of Doctrine and Covenants."

There are interesting details about this. First, Joseph gave express permission to publish Cowdery's letters.

Second, Winchester edits the letters somewhat, mainly by deleting the references to Cowdery's dialog with W.W. Phelps.

Third, the Gospel Reflector was a 24-page paper, published every two weeks, with one exception: the March 15 issue was 56 pages. The first 16 pages conclude Winchester's long article titled "The Claims of the Book of Mormon Established--it also defended." (He apparently printed the sheets 8 to a page, so this would have been 2/3 of a normal edition of his paper.) Then Winchester introduces the "Letters of Oliver Cowdery," pointing out they had been published in M&A in 1834-5. At the end, he also publishes a one-page letter from Joseph Smith to Oliver Cowdery that was originally published in M&A in November 1834, apparently to round up the number of pages of the Cowdery letters to an even 40, or 5 broadsheets.

Fourth, as this is the only edition of the Gospel Reflector with additional pages, Winchester must have considered these letters very important.

Orson Pratt quoted some sentences from Letter #7 when he wrote his pamphlet titled "An Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions and of the Late Discovery of Ancient American Records (Edinburgh: 1840), beginning on page 8. But then he replaced Cowdery's material with his own speculations about the Isthmus of Darien, hundreds of thousands being slain at Cumorah, etc.

This is a very key point. When Joseph Smith wrote the Wentworth letter in March 1842, he used Pratt's pamphlet as a starting point. But while he retained portions of the Cowdery letter, Joseph corrected Pratt's wording in such a way that he both rejected Pratt's speculation about a hemispheric model and reaffirmed Cowdery's geography! I explained this in another entry so I won't repeat it now, but it's pretty amazing that the Mesoamericanists pass right over this.

Another pamphlet containing the letters was published in Liverpool in 1844 (Letters by Oliver Cowdery to W. W. Phelps on the Origin of the Book of Mormon and the Rise of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints), available here. Letter #7 starts on page 31.

At any rate, let's review where the authorities stand.

1. Mesoamerica: a single brief, unsigned editorial in the 1842 Times and Seasons claims Zarahemla was at the site Quirigua in Guatemala, but maybe it wasn't, but it was somewhere in Central America. Joseph Smith is the nominal editor of the paper at the time but is not otherwise associated with it in any way. The editorial is never reprinted, cited, mentioned, or repeated.

2. North America: a detailed letter written by Oliver Cowdery, one of the Three Witnesses and the main scribe for the translation of the Book of Mormon, unequivocally declares New York Cumorah to be the Book of Mormon Cumorah for both Nephites and Jaredites. Joseph Smith helped write the letter, which was published in the Church newspaper Messenger and Advocate in Kirtland when Joseph Smith was living there in 1835. Later, Joseph Smith gives express permission to Benjamin Winchester to publish the Cowdery letters, which Winchester does in a special edition of his 15 March 1841 issue--which focused on the Book of Mormon. The next month, in April 1841, Don Carlos Smith, the Prophet's younger brother, publishes Letter #7 in the Times and Seasons.

Which do you think is more authoritative?

[In October 1835, Joseph had his scribes put Cowdery's letter in his, Joseph's, own history. Then on April 3, 1836, Joseph and Oliver were in the Kirtland temple when the Lord, Moses, Elijah and Elisha appeared to them. One might think that Joseph and Oliver had a good idea of what was going on, given these and all the other miraculous experiences they shared. But to accept the Mesoamerican setting, you have to conclude that Joseph and Oliver were mistaken about such a fundamental question as where the Book of Mormon Cumorah was located.]


The text below is from Cowdery's Letter # 7 to W.W. Phelps:

I must now give you some description of the place where, and the manner in which these records were deposited.

You are acquainted with the mail road from Palmyra, Wayne Co. to Canandaigua, Ontario Co. N. Y. and also, as you pass from the former to the latter place, before arriving at the little village of Manchester, say from three to four, or about four miles from Palmyra, you pass a large hill on the east side of the road. Why I say large, is, because it is as large perhaps, as any in that country. To a person acquainted with this road, a description would be unnecessary, as it is the largest and rises the highest of any on that route. The north end rises quite sudden until it assumes a level with the more southerly extremity, and I think I may say an elevation higher than at the south a short distance, say half or three fourths of a mile. As you pass toward Canandaigua it lessens gradually until the surface assumes its common level, or is broken by other smaller hills or ridges, water courses and ravines. I think I am justified in saying that this is the highest hill for some distance round, and I am certain that its appearance, as it rises so suddenly from a plain on the north, must attract the notice of the traveller [traveler] as he passes by.

At about one mile west rises another ridge of less height, running parallel with the former, leaving a beautiful vale between. The soil is of the first quality for the country, and under a state of cultivation, which gives a prospect at once imposing, when one reflects on the fact, that here, between these hills, the entire power and national strength of both the Jaredites and Nephites were destroyed.

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. (It is printed Camorah, which is an error.) 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, or doubt. A few had fled to the 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.

But a long time previous to this national disaster it appears from his own account, he foresaw approaching destruction. In fact, if he perused the records of his fathers, which were in his possession, he could have learned that such would be the case. Alma, who lived before the coming of the Messiah, prophesies this. He however, by divine appointment, abridged from those records, in his own style and language, a short account of the more important and prominent items, from the days of Lehi to his own time, after which he deposited, as he says, on the 529th page, all the records in this same hill, Cumorah, and after gave his small record to his son Moroni, who, as appears from the same, finished, after witnessing the extinction of his people as a nation....
This hill, by the Jaredites, was called

(page 158)

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. Here may be seen where once sunk to nought the pride and strength of two mighty nations; and here may be contemplated, in solitude, while nothing but the faithful record of Mormon and Moroni is now extant to inform us of the fact, scenes of misery and distress-the aged, whose silver locks in other places and at other times would command reverence; the mother, who in other circumstances would be spared from violence; the infant, whose tender cries would be regarded and listened to with a feeling of compassion and tenderness; and the virgin, whose grace, beauty and modesty, would be esteemed and held inviolate by all good men and enlightened and civilized nations, alike disregarded and treated with scorn!-In vain did the hoary head and man of gray hairs ask for mercy; in vain did the mother plead for compassion; in vain did the helpless and harmless infant weep for very anguish, and in vain did the virgin seek to escape the ruthless hand of revengeful foes and demons in human form-all alike were trampled down by the feet of the strong, and crushed beneath the rage of battle and war! Alas, who can reflect upon the last struggles of great and populous nations, sinking to dust beneath the hand of justice and retribution, without weeping over the corruption of the human heart, and sighing for the hour when the clangor of arms shall no more be heard, nor the calamities of contending armies no more experienced for a thousand years? Alas, the calamity of war, the extinction of nations, the ruin of kingdoms, the fall of empires and the dissolution of governments! O the misery, distress and evil attendant on these! Who can contemplate like scenes without sorrowing, and who so destitute of commiseration as not to be pained that man has fallen so low, so far beneath the station in which he was created?

In this vale lie commingled, in one mass of ruin, the ashes of thousands, and in this vale was destined to consume the fair forms and vigerous [vigorous] systems of tens of thousands of the human race-blood mixed with blood, flesh with flesh, bones with bones, and dust with dust! When the vital spark which animated their clay had fled, each lifeless lump lay on one common level-cold and inanimate. Those bosoms which had burned with rage against each other for real or supposed injury, had now ceased to heave with malice; those arms which were, a few moments before nerved with strength, had alike become paralyzed, and those hearts which had been fired with revenge, had now ceased to heave with malice; those arms which were, a few moments before nerved with strength, had alike become paralyzed, and those hearts which had been fired with revenge, had now ceased to beat, and the head to think-in silence, in solitude, and in disgrace alike, they have long since turned to earth, to their mother dust, to await the august, and to millions, awful hour, when the trump of the Son of God shall echo and re-echo from the skies, and they come forth, quickened and immortalized, to not only stand in each other's presence, but before the bar of him who is Eternal!