As you know by now, I like to get to the bottom of things, so I'm here in Comoros writing this post. I'm looking across the bay at the city of Moroni. I'll add some photos below.
There are three basic approaches.
1. Anti-Mormon critics. Critics say Joseph Smith and his family were fascinated by pirates, including Captain Kidd, who sailed and was ultimately hanged in the area of Comoros. They claim Joseph borrowed the names Moroni and Cumorah from these stories.
FairlyMormon gives a good response here, although they don't tell readers all the facts, such as Porter Rockwell's account of his mother and Lucy Mack Smith telling stories about Captain Kidd.
Still, FairlyMormon debunks the basic critical approach pretty well. There is simply no evidence that Joseph knew or could have known about Moroni in Comoros.
2. Coincidence. M2C advocates such as FairlyMormon insist that Lehi crossed the Pacific Ocean and landed on the west coast of Central America. The only explanation they have for Moroni, Comoros, is coincidence. Yet when these same scholars cite evidence for the Book of Mormon, one of their strongest points (according to them) is Nahum, because of the ancient site NHM in Saudi Arabia. Critics, of course, think this is at best a coincidence. The irony is self-evident.
3. Connection. While I don't exclude coincidence as a possibility, both for NHM and Moroni, Comoros, I think a third possibility deserves consideration. The FairlyMormon article mentions two LDS authors who still believe the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah (which FairlyMormon does not). Both of these authors believe Lehi would have sailed around Africa and across the Atlantic.
I've written about the geography in Moroni's America, including Lehi's voyage around Africa. I touched on it in this blog post:
The Book of Mormon gives us an example of Lehi, in the Old World, picking up an existing name (NHM) as well as giving names to places (e.g., Bountiful). In the New World, they only give names to places, even when a site (Ramah) had an ancient name they learned from the Jaredite records.
Of course, this use of place names is another reason why the entire M2C theory is absurd, but that's a topic for another day. (Briefly, the Nephites adopted no Mayan names, nor did the Mayans use Nephite names for sites.)
Regarding Cumorah/Comoros, there's a nice article in the Book of Mormon Onomasticon here:
|My study spot with the slopes of the volcano behind me|
When you read the Onomasticon article, notice the terms hill, height, flame, fire, light, etc. Seems like a good fit for an active volcano, doesn't it?
Imagine someone sailing through these waters, looking for land. When you see a great light in the distance at night, you know it's a volcano, which means land. (Of course, the Liahona could have directed them anywhere, but it seems to have worked only when their own efforts were inadequate.)
It's also interesting that when we were in Madagascar a few days ago, we learned that the Africans didn't know about the island until after the Southeast Asian traders and the Arabs told them about it. There was no reason for Africans to suspect an enormous island so far off the coast, and they didn't need to go exploring because they have such abundant resources right on the continent. Therefore, Comoros would have been a safe place for Lehi's party to stop for provisions, compared with the presumably more populated African continent. And the people living here would have been traders, probably happy to exchange goods with Lehi.
The next obvious question is, was Comoros inhabited around 600 BC? I haven't been able to find any evidence online or on ground about that. I have learned that when the first Europeans arrived in Mauritius, they found writing on stones, but they didn't preserve it or describe it, so we have no idea who was there. The situation could have been similar for early sailors in Comoros, of course.
This is all speculative, but it is plausible that Lehi landed here and either picked up or contributed the names Cumorah and Moroni. We probably won't know until the original records are translated and published.
I just think it makes sense that Lehi's party, searching for land, would see a volcano at night as a light arising from the sea, and in gratitude or recognition, use the name Cumorah (or something similar in Hebrew/Egyptian) to commemorate the event. I don't have time to explain how that relates to the Cumorah in Western New York, which is not a volcano, but I'm sure you can figure that out.
What about Moroni? Here's the Onomasticon article for that term.
Notice that the text may be equating "Moroni" with "Bountiful." If Lehi did land here after seeing the light of the volcano arising from the ocean, it would not be surprising for them to name the place Bountiful again, as they did on the Arabian coast. If Moroni is a synonym for Bountiful, it's a great name for this wonderful island.
Anyway, this all make sense, and it's a plausible explanation I like better than a mere "coincidence."
|Moroni in the distance, from the foothills of the volcano.|
|The Book of Moroni, from the Annotated|
Book of Mormon, in downtown Moroni, Comoros.
|Moroni's America, in downtown Moroni, Comoros.|