One Cumorah, Two Cumorah?

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You might have seen the several articles about the new Gospel Topic essay on Book of Mormon Geography over the last few days.  This is one from LDS Living Magazine.
Read the entire Gospel Topic HERE

The opening statement says:
“The Church takes no position on the specific geographic location of Book of Mormon events in the ancient Americas. Church members are asked not to teach theories about Book of Mormon geography in Church settings but to focus instead on the Book of Mormon’s teachings and testimony of Jesus Christ and His gospel.”

What is considered theory?
Is ALL information about every specific Book of Mormon location considered “theory”?
Or, are there established facts?

The Hill Cumorah is in New York.  Everyone knows that, right?


The traditional Hill Cumorah in New York

Joseph Smith obtained the “Golden Plates” from Moroni, the resurrected son of Mormon. Roughly 1400 years earlier, the mortal man Moroni buried those plates in a stone box in the ground near the top of the hill, the Hill Cumorah, in New York.  No one would ever say otherwise.

The next question then would be:
Is the hill in New York the same Hill Cumorah from the Book of Mormon where the Nephite Nation was destroyed and the Hill Ramah where the Jaredite Nation was destroyed?
This might seem like a redundant question but in Mormon Culture it is a very real question and most people have never considered this question.  

The Two Cumorah Theory

or M2C (Mesoamerica – Two Cumorah)

The theory is that the hill in New York IS where Joseph Smith obtained the plates,
but it is NOT the Hill Cumorah from the Book of Mormon.
The “REAL” Hill Cumorah is down in Veracruz, Mexico.  

This theory has been around for many, many years, I remember hearing about it as a youth and at BYU in the early 80’s.  I never really thought that I accepted this theory, but in a very subtle way I did accept it.

When I first asked my daughter Julia, who graduated from BYU, about the Hill Cumorah being in New York and not in Mexico, the first thing she said was “Well, Joseph Smith never referred to the hill in New York as Cumorah.”


The “REAL” Hill Cumorah in Veracruz, Mexico

This is a very common concept taught frequently at BYU and promoted by organizations like BYU Studies and Book of Mormon Central (BMC), one of the most popular “Book of Mormon Culture” websites.

This can be seen in the following BMC “KnoWhy” articles.

Article 1
Where is the Location of the Hill Cumorah?
Read the entire article HERE

“There is “no historical evidence that Moroni called the hill ‘Cumorah’ in 1823” during his first encounter with the Prophet Joseph Smith. The name Cumorah came into “common circulation [amongst Latter-day Saints] no earlier than the mid-1830s.”

“some have suggested that the location of the final battle took place somewhere other than the New York hill, such as in modern day Mexico just northwest of the isthmus of Tehuantepec.”

“Those who assume that the final Book of Mormon events took place in what is now the northeastern United States believe that the hill in upstate New York is the only hill called Cumorah,” wrote one historian summarizing the issue. “Others conclude there must be two hills called Cumorah: one in Central America, where they believe the final battles of the Book of Mormon took place; and the other in New York, where Moroni ultimately buried the gold plates he later delivered to Joseph Smith.”

Article 2
How Are Oliver Cowdery’s Messenger and Advocate Letters to Be Understood and Used?
Read the entire article HERE

This article refers to several letters written by Oliver Cowdery and published in the church newspaper The Messgenger and Advocate, specifically Letter VII, where Oliver Cowdery describes the Hill Cumorah in New York as the site of the last battles of both the Nephites and Jaredites.

Read Letter VII on JSP HERE

“While it is true that Oliver understood the hill near Palmyra, N.Y. where Joseph retrieved the plates to be the same hill Cumorah described in the Book of Mormon where the Nephites and the Jaredites perished, it is unknown where Oliver got this idea.”

“While it is clear that Joseph said he was visited by the angel Moroni on the west side of the unnamed hill near his family’s Manchester, N.Y., home, that is a separate matter from how far and wide Moroni had wandered during the 36 or more years after the final battle in A.D. 385 before he deposited the plates in A.D. 421 in their designated resting place.”

Article 3 (the most recent article on BMC, and the reason I wrote this article.)
Church Releases Statement on Book of Mormon Geography
Read the entire article HERE

“The Church takes no position on the specific geographic location of Book of Mormon events in the ancient Americas.”

“Like the Church, Book of Mormon Central (BMC) “is officially geography neutral.”

Book of Mormon Central has a definite agenda, and is very much NOT geography neutral!
BMAF is t
he parent organization of BMC and their number one stated goal is to promote Mesoamerican geography of the Book of Mormon!

https://bookofmormoncentral.org/about
“Who We Are
The legal organization behind Book of Mormon Central is the Book of Mormon Archaeological Forum, Inc., a non-profit public charity chartered in the state of Utah in 2004. Book of Mormon Central is not an official part of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but rather an independent organization.”

http://bmaf.org/about/mission_statement
“The Book of Mormon Archaeological Forum (BMAF)
Our goals are
(1) to increase understanding of the Book of Mormon as an ancient Mesoamerican codex,
(2) to correlate and publish works of LDS and CofC scholars,
(3) to help promote unity and cooperation among scholars and students of the Book of Mormon, and
(4) to provide a forum where responsible scholars can present current ideas and discoveries.”

M2C?  One Cumorah or Two Cumorahs?

In addition to Oliver Cowdery’s Letter VII, which BMC dismisses, there are many statements from Apostles confirming that the hill in New York, IS the same hill from the Book of Mormon where the last battles were fought and where Mormon had his repository of records.  I will site only three but there ARE several more.

Statement 1
America’s Destiny – Marion G. Romney (General Conference Oct 1975)
Read the entire talk HERE

“In the western part of the state of New York near Palmyra is a prominent hill known as the “hill Cumorah.”

“As the (Jaredite) conflict intensified, all the people who had not been slain—men “with their wives and their children” (Ether 15:15)—gathered about that hill Cumorah (see Ether 15:11).”

Statement 2
The Last Words of Moroni – Mark E. Petersen (General Conference Oct 1978)
Read the entire talk HERE

“As the fighting neared its end, Mormon gathered the remnant of his forces about a hill which they called Cumorah, located in what is now the western part of the state of New York.”

Statement 3
Doctrines of Salvation Volume 3 Chapter 12 – Joseph Fielding Smith
(originally published in 1954)
Read the entire chapter HERE
(Search for WHERE IS THE HILL CUMORAH?)
This entire chapter is VERY enlightening and everyone should read it!

“Within recent years there has arisen among certain students of the Book of Mormon a theory to the effect that within the period covered by the Book of Mormon, the Nephites and Lamanites were confined almost entirely within the borders of the territory comprising Central America and the southern portion of Mexico

This modernistic theory of necessity, in order to be consistent, must place the waters of Ripliancum and the Hill Cumorah some place within the restricted territory of Central America, notwithstanding the teachings of the Church to the contrary for upwards of 100 years.  Because of this theory some members of the Church have become confused and greatly disturbed in their faith in the Book of Mormon.”

“It must be conceded that this description fits perfectly the land of Cumorah in New York, as it has been known since the visitation of Moroni to the Prophet Joseph Smith, for the hill is in the proximity of the Great Lakes and also in the land of many rivers and fountains. Moreover, the Prophet Joseph Smith himself is on record, definitely declaring the present hill called Cumorah to be the exact hill spoken of in the Book of Mormon.

Why Two Hill Cumorahs?

The geographical references within the Book of Mormon text are vague and cryptic, but there are some absolutes.  As demonstrated in the above articles, the Hill Cumorah IS in New York.  The last battles of the Jaredites took place at the Hill Cumorah, or Hill Ramah to the Jaredites, but it is the same place.  Mormon refers to the Land of Desolation, being where the Jaredites were destroyed.

Alma 22
29 And also there were many Lamanites on the east by the seashore, whither the Nephites had driven them. And thus the Nephites were nearly surrounded by the Lamanites; nevertheless the Nephites had taken possession of all the northern parts of the land bordering on the wilderness, at the head of the river Sidon, from the east to the west, round about on the wilderness side; on the north, even until they came to the land which they called Bountiful.
30 And it bordered upon the land which they called Desolation, it being so far northward that it came into the land which had been peopled and been destroyed, of whose bones we have spoken, which was discovered by the people of Zarahemla, it being the place of their first landing.

The discovery by “the people of Zarahemla”, “of whose bones we have spoken”, could only be referring to King Limhi’s rescue expedition in 121 BC, as this is the ONLY account of the discovery of bones in the record.

These verses place the Land Bountiful next to the Land Desolation.  The Land Desolation is where Limhi’s rescue expedition discovered the 24 gold plates that contained the Jaredite record.  

Ether 15
11 And it came to pass that the army of Coriantumr did pitch their tents by the hill Ramah; and it was that same hill where my father Mormon did hide up the records unto the Lord, which were sacred.

33 And the Lord spake unto Ether, and said unto him: Go forth. And he went forth, and beheld that the words of the Lord had all been fulfilled; and he finished his record; (and the hundredth part I have not written) and he hid them in a manner that the people of Limhi did find them.

Mormon 6
6 And it came to pass that when we had gathered in all our people in one to the land of Cumorah, behold I, Mormon, began to be old; and knowing it to be the last struggle of my people, and having been commanded of the Lord that I should not suffer the records which had been handed down by our fathers, which were sacred, to fall into the hands of the Lamanites, (for the Lamanites would destroy them) therefore I made this record out of the plates of Nephi, and hid up in the hill Cumorah all the records which had been entrusted to me by the hand of the Lord, save it were these few plates which I gave unto my son Moroni.

King Limhi’s rescue expedition is the KEY to the whole geography question.

There are several accounts of travels between the City of Zarahemla and the City of Nephi.  These journeys took between around 20 days, generally if the traveler knew his way, or 40 days if the traveler was unsure.  King Limhi’s grandfather came from Zarahemla, so he had a pretty good idea where it was.

Mosiah 8
7 And the king said unto him: Being grieved for the afflictions of my people, I caused that forty and three of my people should take a journey into the wilderness, that thereby they might find the land of Zarahemla, that we might appeal unto our brethren to deliver us out of bondage.
8 And they were lost in the wilderness for the space of many days, yet they were diligent, and found not the land of Zarahemla but returned to this land, having traveled in a land among many waters, having discovered a land which was covered with bones of men, and of beasts, and was also covered with ruins of buildings of every kind, having discovered a land which had been peopled with a people who were as numerous as the hosts of Israel.
9 And for a testimony that the things that they had said are true they have brought twenty-four plates which are filled with engravings, and they are of pure gold.

The 43 men that were sent to find Zarahemla were not sent out on a blind expedition.  They knew roughly where to go and how long it should take. At some point though, they made a wrong turn and ended up in the Land Desolation instead of Zarahemla.

IF, as demonstrated, the Hill Cumorah is in New York, then the Land Desolation would be at that location or very near by, perhaps Ontario and Michigan.
And IF the Land of Nephi is in Guatemala, that is, in Mesoamerica,
THEN King Limhi’s rescue expedition would have traveled over 3200 miles, from Guatemala to New York, taking from at least 100 to 150 days, or even a year, to reach a city that should have been within 20 to 40 days away.  They would have traveled all thru Mexico, up thru Texas, crossed the Mississippi River, and traveled all thru the eastern US, which at the time was largely inhabited by the people known today as Hopewell or Mound Builders (from 400 BC to 400 AD), whom they would have encountered, only to end up in New York, find the destruction and the plates, then turn around and go back that same 3200 mile distance, all in an effort to “appeal unto our brethren to deliver us out of bondage”?  If this was their journey, at what point would they have turned around because they had traveled WAY to far, after 50 days, or even 75 or 100?

It took the Mormon Battalion roughly 6 months (180 days?) to march almost 2000 miles from Council Bluffs, Iowa, to San Diego, California.

FOR THIS REASON, in order to place the City of Nephi and the City of Zarahemla within Mesoamerica or Guatemala, the Hill Cumorah MUST be within a reasonable distance from those places, so the scholars conclude that the “real” Hill Cumorah must be down in Mexico and NOT in New York.

IF however the Hill Cumorah IS in New York, then ALL of the Book of Mormon lands MUST be located closer to New York, and within the boundaries of the eastern US and NOT in Central America.

Though most of Mormon Culture does not expressly accept the idea of M2C or Two Cumorah’s, if you accept that the lands of the Book of Mormon includes Mesoamerica, then to some degree you accept M2C!  This is why it is taught, subtly, if not openly.  It is present in almost ALL of the videos, artwork, and paintings depicting Book of Mormon scenes, which are almost all very “Mayan-esque”.

The logo for BMC depicts symbols of H
ebrew, Greek, Egyptian, and a Mayan head.
Most of their articles depict Mayan culture.
BMC states that the organization is “geography location neutral”, but they are not.

Once you understand the bias and the agenda, you see it everywhere.

Again to quote Joseph Fielding Smith in Doctrines of Salvation Volume 3 Chapter 12:
“This modernistic theory of necessity, in order to be consistent, must place the waters of Ripliancum and the Hill Cumorah some place within the restricted territory of Central America, notwithstanding the teachings of the Church to the contrary for upwards of 100 years.” 

“Because of this theory some members of the Church have become confused and greatly disturbed in their faith in the Book of Mormon.”

The Two Cumorah Theory is confusing!  It should NOT be taught in Church settings!
The Hill Cumorah in New York is NOT a theory!
What IS theory would be the specific locations of places like the City of Zarahemla, the City of Nephi, the City Bountiful and almost all other specific Book of Mormon locations!

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