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.

Monday, July 10, 2023

Cumorah: 1823, 1923, 2023

It's quite interesting to compare the treatment of Cumorah over two centuries. In upcoming posts, we'll comment further on Cumorah in 2023. This post is a brief overview.

In 2023, we hope to see a change in the Church History Department toward more accuracy and openness, with less promotion of current academic agendas (such as M2C and SITH).

1823. Moroni tells Joseph Smith about Cumorah.

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 <​of cement​>

The identity of Cumorah is well-known during Joseph's lifetime and taught as a fact (in sharp and direct contrast to speculation about other Book of Mormon settings).

1923. The Church's efforts to purchase the Hill Cumorah, starting in 1909, remained unsuccessful (but would succeed in 1928). 

Elder B.H. Roberts became the Mission President in the Eastern states.

Having previously served as assistant Church historian, Roberts selected the Eastern States mission because “it had the attraction of including within it the territory of the early activities of the church . . . and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon.”5

After a general mission tour, President Roberts announced in 1923 an ambitious mission conference. With the permission of Pliny Sexton, all of the 140 missionaries scattered across 11 states gathered for three days in September at the Smith Farm and Hill Cumorah in honor of the centennial of Moroni’s first visit to Joseph Smith in September 1823. The missionaries were expected to preach along the way, wearing bright blue banners with “Cumorah” printed in bold, white letters. The conference was so successful that afterward an annual “Palmyra Celebration” was on the mission calendar.

Cumorah missionaries in 1923

2023. As the 200th anniversary of Moroni's visit nears, we naturally expect the Church History Department to offer open, candid, and complete information about the Hill Cumorah.

So far, it doesn't look good.

In recent years, the Church History Department has exhibited a determined effort to mislead Latter-day Saints about the history of Cumorah. 

Having diminished Cumorah as merely "a hill in New York" in the Saints book, volume 1, the Church History Department continues to obfuscate the historical record regarding the hill Cumorah in New York.

Let's start with a few examples.

Example 1. The Cumorah entry on the Church's website misrepresents the origin of the name and avoids citations to the actual historical record.

"In the 1820s, the hill did not have a name. It later became known as Hill Cumorah because Moroni, the Book of Mormon’s final author and the angel who met with Joseph Smith, wrote that he had hidden the gold plates in a hill called Cumorah (see the introduction to the Book of Mormon)."

Note that they refer to the "introduction to the Book of Mormon." Here's the passage:

After Mormon completed his writings, he delivered the account to his son Moroni, who added a few words of his own and hid up the plates in the Hill Cumorah.

We can all see that the passage in the Introduction does not state what the Church historians claim. Why would they cite the "introduction" instead of the actual reference?

The actual historical reference for Moroni explaining he deposited the plates in Cumorah is Lucy Mack Smith's account, quoted above. But that contradicts the claim by the historians that "in the 1820s, the hill did not have a name." Actually, as we see in Lucy's statement, Moroni identified the hill as Cumorah in 1823. It was so well known that Joseph referred to it as Cumorah even before he got the plates and his parents knew exactly which hill he referred to.

Misrepresentations such as this, right on the Church's website, cause confusion and even disbelief.

A historically accurate explanation would read like this:

Current explanation


In the 1820s, the hill did not have a name. It later became known as Hill Cumorah because Moroni, the Book of Mormon’s final author and the angel who met with Joseph Smith, wrote that he had hidden the gold plates in a hill called Cumorah (see the introduction to the Book of Mormon).

The historical record indicates that the hill became known as Cumorah when Moroni identified it as such during his first visit to Joseph Smith in 1823. Joseph’s mother, Lucy Mack Smith, related what Moroni told Joseph that night: “the record is on a side hill on the Hill of Cumorah 3 miles from this place.”



We won't hold our breath waiting for this correction on the Church's website, but we'll watch to see if it does get corrected.


Example 2.

Here, the caption to a historical photo not only ignores the historical identification of the hill in New York as the actual Cumorah/Ramah, but seeks to separate it from the Book of Mormon's Cumorah/Ramah.


George Anderson


Cumorah is the hill and area recorded in the Book of Mormon where the Nephites and Lamanites fought a final battle in which the Nephite people were annihilated. Moroni reported that Cumorah was also the site where the Jaredites were earlier destroyed. In our era, the Hill Cumorah is a drumlin-hill between the towns of Palmyra and Manchester, New York, where the gold plates of the Book of Mormon, deposited by an ancient religious leader in a stone box, was unearthed, translated by the American Prophet, Joseph Smith Jr., and published in 1830. In 1928 the LDS Church purchased the site and in 1935 erected a monument commemorating the visit of the Angel Moroni. Later, the Church built a visitors center at the base of the hill. Since 1937, the Church has produced the annual outdoor Cumorah Pageant. This image looking southwest a century ago, was taken when the hill was less wooded than today.

THE HILL CUMORAH - George Anderson


Example 3. The inexcusable, deplorable censorship of Cumorah from the Saints book (Vol. 1), continues, with no perceptible effort to correct the problem or revise the text. 

Some years ago, two of the historians responded to my posts about Saints but in so doing only exacerbated the problem, as I discussed here: https://saintsreview.blogspot.com/2018/10/the-historians-explain-censorship-in.html.


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