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.”5After 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
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.”