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.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Benefits of Moroni's America - Cumorah

People ask what difference the geography makes. In a series of posts, I'm going to discuss some of the benefits of the North American setting, which goes under several terms, including Moroni's America and the Heartland model.

Let's start with Cumorah.

Imagine you're visiting Palmyra to learn about the origins of the Church.

Imagine you are 10 years old. Or 15. Or 18-19, getting ready to serve a mission.

Or imagine you have your kids with you. Or your grandchildren.

You stop at the Joseph Smith farm and the Sacred Grove. You learn about the visit of Moroni to Joseph Smith and how he walked to the hill Moroni showed him in vision.

Now, drive south from the Joseph Smith farm.
You leave the Joseph Smith farm and drive to Cumorah

Have someone read out loud what Oliver Cowdery wrote in Letter VII:

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 as he passes by.

You arrive at the Hill Cumorah and drive to the top
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.

From the top of the hill, you look west as Oliver Cowdery did and see the ridge a mile away.

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 air, over the ridge to the west, you look back at the hill Cumorah and see the battlefield.

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 it, after witnessing the extinction of his people as a nation.

Oliver Cowdery, Letter VII.

That's what you experience if you understand the North American setting and you believe Oliver Cowdery, Joseph Smith, David Whitmer, etc.

It's an awesome experience to walk in Book of Mormon lands this way, right in western New York.

Alternative experience.

Or, if you believe in the non-New York theories (Mesoamerica, Baja, Panama, Peru, Chile, Malaysia, etc.) you can walk into the Visitors Centers and find some confirmation of your theories. You will be told, based on the work of our LDS scholars, that Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith were speculating, that they were wrong, and that they adopted a false tradition about Cumorah being in New York.

Okay, that's not actually part of the script.

In fact, most missionaries in New York that I've spoken do don't believe the LDS scholars and their Mesoamerican theories, despite what they have to tell visitors.

But the Mesoamerican setting is implicit in the Pageant and everything else in the Visitors Centers.

One thing is for sure: the script and the displays don't mention Letter VII. 

There are no displays of Cumorah as the scene of the final battles, no quotations of Mormon 6:6, etc.
The "real Cumorah," you'll be informed, is somewhere in southern Mexico, as shown in this artwork:

Alma baptizing near the "thicket of small trees" somewhere in the Mesoamerican jungle.

The Savior appearing to Mayans in Mesoamerica among massive stone temples, which has nothing to do with the text of the Book of Mormon or the Nephites.

Bottom line: The benefit of the North American setting is you can appreciate the text the same way Joseph and Oliver and David did. You can walk where Mormon and Moroni and their people did.

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