Friday, January 13, 2017

The Hill Cumorah by President Anthony W. Ivins

Anthony W. Ivins
On April 6, 1928, President Anthony W. Ivins of the First Presidency spoke in General Conference about the Hill Cumorah in New York, which had recently been purchased by the Church.

He introduced his remarks by emphasizing his preparation:

"Reference has been made by the President of the acquisition by the Church of the spot of ground in the state of New York known as the hill Cumorah. It appears to me to be an event of such importance that I desire to devote the short time which is at my disposal this morning to a discussion of that subject. There have been some differences of opinion in regard to it, and in order that I might be correct in the statements which I make I have this morning finished a short manuscript which I would like to readthe first time. I believe, in my experience, that I have ever addressed a congregation in this manner, and I do it for the purpose stated."

You can read the entire talk on Gospelink here, or on here.

President Ivins spoke about the "final disposition" of the records.

So far as we have information, this was the final disposition which was made of the records given into the custody of Mormon, from the plates of Nephi. This latter, with the addition of the Book of Ether, and the few chapters written by Moroni, constitute the record contained in the Book of Mormon.
All of the remaining records, Mormon tells us, were deposited in the hill Cumorah.
That the hill Cumorah and the hill Ramah are identical is shown by the following: Moroni, in the Book of Ether, says:
"And it came to pass that the armies of Coriantumr did press upon the armies of Shiz [he is telling the story now of this first people who came to the American continent from the Tower of Babel] that they beat them, that they caused them to flee before them; and they did flee southward, and did pitch their tents in a place which was called Ogath. 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."
The passages which I have quoted from the Book of Mormon and the more extended discussion of this subject by Elder B. H. Roberts which was published in The Deseret News of March 3 definitely established the following facts: 
That the hill Cumorah, and the hill Ramah are identical. 
That it was around this hill that the armies of both the Jaredites and Nephites fought their great last battles. 
That it was in this hill that Mormon deposited all of the sacred records which had been entrusted to his care by Ammaron, except the abridgment which he had made from the plates of Nephi, which were delivered into the hands of his son, Moroni.
We know positively that it was in this hill that Moroni deposited the abridgment made by his father, and his own abridgment of the record of the Jaredites, and that it was from this hill that Joseph Smith obtained possession of them.

I note two significant points here that I'll write more about next week. First, Mormon deposited all the sacred records except his abridgment into the records repository in the hill Cumorah. Second, that the hill in New York was the location of the depository.

President Ivins continued:
This sealed portion of the record which came into the hands of Joseph Smith but was not translated by him so far as we are aware, with the abridgment made by Mormon, the record of Ether, and the other sacred records which were deposited in the hill Cumorah still lie in their repository, awaiting the time when the Lord shall see fit to bring them forth, that they may be published to the world.
Whether they have been removed from the spot where Mormon deposited them we cannot tell, but this we know, that they are safe under the guardianship of the Lord, and that they will be brought forth at the proper time, as the Lord has declared they should be, for the benefit and blessing of the people of the world, for his word never fails.
According to the Book of Mormon, many hundreds of thousands of people fell in battle around this hill and in the immediate vicinity. It was here that two once-powerful nations were exterminated so far as their national existence was concerned. It was here that these nations gathered together for their last great struggles.
These people were human, as we are; they carried with them their most precious possessions until the last, and when the end of the mighty struggle came and the result was in doubt, they hid them away in order that they might not fall into the hands of their enemies.
Without doubt, these treasures lie concealed today, some of them, at least, to be brought forth in the not-distant future. How soon this will be we do not know, but this is certain, we are more than a century nearer that time than we were at the time when Joseph Smith took from their resting place, in the hill Cumorah, the plates from which he translated the contents of the Book of Mormon.
All of these incidents to which I have referred, my brethren and sisters, are very closely associated with this particular spot in the state of New York. Therefore I feel, as I said in the beginning of my remarks, that the acquisition of that spot of ground is more than an incident in the history of the Church; it is an epoch—an epoch which in my opinion is fraught with that which may become of greater interest to the Latter-day Saints than that which has already occurred. We know that all of these records, all the sacred records of the Nephite people, were deposited by Mormon in that hill. That incident alone is sufficient to make it the sacred and hallowed spot that it is to us. I thank God that, in a way which seems to have been providential, it has come into the possession of the Church.
I bear witness to you that the words which I have read here, quoted from the Book of Mormon, which refer to the future will be fulfilled. Those additional records will come forth, they will be published to the world, that the children of our Father may be converted to faith in Christ, our Lord and Redeemer, through obedience to the doctrines which he taught. May God our Father hasten that day, is my humble prayer, and I ask it through Jesus Christ. Amen.

I realize there are many LDS scholars and educators who disagree with President Ivins because of their own private interpretation of the scriptures. That's fine. These are the same people who disagree with everything I've posted on this blog so far, from Letter VII forward.

We can all believe whatever we want to believe. But there are many members of the Church who, like me, agree with what President Ivins said here. The LDS scholarly community continues to seek to suppress the views of those who agree with President Ivins, but we'll continue to speak out on this blog and elsewhere.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Oliver's attention to detail and veracity

As I mentioned in a previous post, there are some who seek to persuade members of the Church to distrust Oliver Cowdery's Letter VII because they insist the Hill Cumorah must be somewhere other than in New York.

It's difficult to find someone in Church history who was more concerned about details and accuracy than Oliver Cowdery. Here's an example from Letter VIII.

Oliver spent some time discussing the reputation of Joseph and Emma and their respective families. He explained the reason Josiah Stowell hired Joseph to work in the Harmony region in the first place. Note the section in bold below:

Soon after this visit to Cumorah, a gentleman from the south part of the State, (Chenango County,) employed our brother as a common labourer, and accordingly he visited that section of the country; and had he not been accused of digging down all, or nearly so, the mountains of Susquehannah, or causing others to do it by some art of necromancy, I should leave this, for the present, unnoticed. You will remember, in the mean time, that those who seek to vilify his character, say that he has always been notorious for his idleness. This gentleman, whose name is Stowell, resided in the town of Bainbridge, on or near the head waters of the Susquehannah river. Some forty miles south, or down the river, in the town of Harmony, Susquehannah county, Pa. is said to be a cave or subterraneous recess, whether entirely formed by art or not I am uninformed, neither does this matter; but such is said to be the case,—when a company of Spaniards, a long time since, when the country was uninhabited by white settlers, excavated from the bowels of the earth ore, and coined a large quantity of money; after which they secured the cavity and evacuated, leaving a part still in the cave, purposing to return at some distant period. A long time elapsed and this account came from one of the individuals who was first engaged in this mining business. The country was pointed out and the spot minutely described. This, I believe, is the substance, so far as my memory serves, though I shall not pledge my veracity for the correctness of the account as I have given. Enough however, was credited of the Spaniard's story, to excite the belief of many that there was a fine sum of the precious metal being coined in this subterraneous vault, among whom was our employer; and accordingly our brother was required to spend a few months with some others in excavating the earth, in pursuit of this treasure.

Here Oliver explains he is relying on his memory, but he emphasizes "I shall not pledge my veracity for the correctness of the account as I have given."

Previously, in Letter VII, he stated it was "a fact" that the final battles of the Jaredites and Nephites took place in the valley west of the Hill Cumorah.

Those who seek to discredit Oliver are making the argument that when he wrote Letter VII, he was unconcerned with his "veracity" because he stated as a fact something about which he was speculating at best. Somehow, between July 1835 when Letter VII was published, and October 1835 when Letter VIII was published, Oliver suddenly became concerned about his "veracity."

There are other examples, such as this one I've mentioned from Letter IV. He was concerned about his veracity when he noted the "error in the type" in Letter III and corrected it in Letter IV. (Letter III had referred to the 15th year, but it should have been the 17th year.)

In Letter VII itself, Oliver encourages Phelps to "present such facts as are plain and uncontrovertible. [sic]." He distinguishes between fact and speculation several times in these letters, which is why it is so puzzling to have people accept everything Oliver wrote about except the fact that Cumorah is in New York.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Mormons Open New Century of their Faith at Cumorah

On September 22, 1923, President Heber J. Grant celebrated the first 100 years since Joseph Smith's first vision by assembling atop "Mount Cumorah" with his counselor Joseph Fielding Smith and Elder James E. Talmage and President Rudger Claweson of the Twelve, and 500 Latter-day Saints. A Rochester paper, the Democrat and Chronicle, noted the occasion.

"Proudly the purple, gold and blue of 'Cumorah-Ramah,' banner of the Mormon belief, was raised beside the Red, White and Blue of the National colors, each signifying a never-ending struggle for liberty of thought and speech, for in the 100 years since Joseph Smith, Jr., received his vision, the history of Mormonism is one of oppression from many sources."

I find it quite interesting that President Grant used the banner "Cumorah-Ramah." This is a specific designation, tying the hill in New York to the Jaredite record. I posted the full page illustrated article, published on October 7, 1823, below.

The St. Louis Star and Times and other newspapers reported on the anniversary with a syndicated piece.
"One hundred years ago Joseph Smith, prophet, founded the "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints." He received from heaven gold plates, mysteriously engraved, and from them, divinely guided, translated the book of Mormon.
"At least, that's his story. His followers say it should not be questioned by Christians that accept a similar story from Moses, about the tablets of the law.
"Those that wisely respect all religions, denying none, are interested especially in the changes that hve come over Mormonism, still full of vitality after 100 years. Joseph Smith made a particular virtue of many wives for one man--so did wise King Solomon, by the way.
"Modern Mormonism, rallying under the purple, blue and gold banner, 'Cumorah-Ramah,' says 'One wife is enough.' That does not mean repudiating Joseph Smith. Many good Christians tone down Jonah and the whale and, knowing that the earth is round, do not insist that the four angels actually stood at the four corners of the earth. All life is a compromise."

Here is the full-page ad, with details.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Why some people reject Letter VII

Since I published my commentary on Letter VII (Letter VII: Oliver Cowdery's Message to the World about the Hill Cumorah, here), there have been several efforts to persuade members of the Church to disbelieve what Oliver Cowdery wrote about the Hill Cumorah being in New York.

Before I get to the objections, consider these aspects of Oliver's letters. Part of Letter I is included in the Pearl of Great Price. Oliver's letters give us the first quotations of what Moroni told Joseph. They give us the first account of John the Baptist conferring the Priesthood. They give us the first detailed accounts of most of what happened when Joseph found the plates. They were written with Joseph's assistance and reproduced multiple times in Joseph's day at his personal direction.

Until I started encouraging people to read Letter VII, the main objection to these letters came from anti-Mormons who said Joseph and Oliver made up everything so we shouldn't believe these letters or anything else Joseph and Oliver wrote. Some anti-Mormons used the letters to show how LDS scholars themselves repudiate Joseph and Oliver (and their successors).

Now, we have LDS scholars and educators telling us not to believe the letters because of the New York Cumorah statements in Letter VII. They even reject what Oliver said Moroni told Joseph Smith.

We've actually reached the point where the anti-Mormons and Mesoamerica-promoting LDS scholars agree that Oliver and Joseph didn't know what they were talking about with respect to these letters. 

Remember that as you read these objections related to me by Mesoamerican promoters.

The Objections to Letter VII.

1. The first objection is that Joseph and Oliver never had a revelation about the Hill Cumorah. This one relies on a couple of logical fallacies, but at its heart is the idea that Joseph and Oliver were merely speculating about the location of Cumorah, that they were wrong, and that they thereby misled the Church for a century, so much so that every one of their contemporaries, including all of Joseph's successors as Presidents of the Church in the 19th century at least, were misled by Letter VII. I don't find that persuasive in the least. But the logical fallacies show why the argument doesn't hold up.

First is the self-evident fact that we don't have records of everything Joseph and Oliver said and did. The most we can say is that we do not have a record of a specific revelation that the Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 (the site of the Nephite records repository) was in New York. But because we don't have a record doesn't mean it didn't happen. We do have Letter VII; what we don't have is a separate document specifically explaining the factual background for what Oliver wrote about Cumorah.

Second, even better than a revelation is personal experience. For example, Joseph didn't dictate a revelation that God and Christ were two separate beings; he had a personal experience with them. Joseph and Oliver didn't record a revelation about the restoration of the Aaronic priesthood by John the Baptist; they related a personal experience with him. In the same way, they didn't record a revelation about the Nephite repository in the New York Hill Cumorah; they related personal experiences with that repository. (On this point, those who reject Letter VII say Brigham Young and the others who related this account are not trustworthy, or are reporting a vision of a hill somewhere in Mexico. Think of those two explanations a moment. Brigham Young is now making stuff up? Or Oliver related a vision of a hill in Mexico that he visited three times, with physical artifacts described in terms of how many men it would take to carry them or what kinds of wagons?)

2. The next objection is that it is impossible to have a cave or room in the New York Hill Cumorah because it is a glacial moraine; i.e., a pile of rocks. It may be unlikely to have a natural cave there, but when you read the accounts of the repository, several terms are used, not just "cave." It was a space inside the hill that had a rock shelf, a table, and plates piled everywhere. There is no reason why a man-made room could not be built into the hill Cumorah. There is the one we have photos of, for one thing. Plus, when they dug the foundation for the Moroni monument, they broke into a room that they filled with cement. So again, reality trumps theory. [Even if you don't want to believe these modern accounts, there is no physical reason why Mormon could not have built a room in the New York hill.]

3. Another objection is that Letter VII has not been quoted in General Conference. I haven't taken the time to verify that, but I've pointed out on this blog that as recently as 1975, President Romney of the First Presidency, in General Conference, spoke about Cumorah (in New York) as the scene of the final battles. Three years later, Elder Petersen of the Quorum of the Twelve did likewise. So the follow-up objection is that none of the current members of the Twelve and none of the current First Presidency have quoted Letter VII in General Conference, and no Presidents of the Church have done so in General Conference while they were President. (Being President of the Quorum of the Twelve doesn't count, if you're Joseph Fielding Smith; you have to restate it a third time during the 18 months you are actually President of the Church for you to be credible and reliable, even though you quoted it specifically as a 20-year Apostle and Church Historian, and repeated it 20 years later as President of the Quorum of the Twelve, because those two times don't count.) Therefore, we can't rely on Letter VII or any prior statements about Cumorah being in New York. This is a fascinating objection. It would mean that we should not be reading, let alone relying on, anything said in General Conference prior to the current Q12 and 1P, except for talks given by Presidents of the Church. No more Neal A. Maxwell. No more J. Reuben Clark. No more... well, you get the idea. If people want to take that position, fine. But I can't make sense of it. This is not a one-off oddball theory, but a frequently published and discussed teaching that originated with Oliver Cowdery, at least, and part of the set of letters specifically endorsed by Joseph Smith.

4. Another objection is that there was a typo in Letter III that Oliver corrected in Letter IV. In Letter III, Oliver had referred to Joseph's age as being in the 15th year. In Letter IV, he wrote, "You will recollect that I mentioned the time of a religious excitement, in Palmyra and vicinity to have been in the 15th year of our brother J. Smith Jr's, age-that was an error in the type-it should have been in the 17th.-"

It's difficult to imagine how correcting a typo in one letter means we should disregard the letter that contained the typo, let alone all the rest of the letters. If anything, the correction of this typo shows Oliver's attention to detail and his desire to be as accurate as possible.

Besides, when Winchester reprinted the letters in the Gospel Reflector, he corrected the obvious typo in Letter III and omitted Oliver's reference to the correction in Letter IV. Don Carlos Smith, who republished the letters in the Times and Seasons in 1840-41, changed Letter III to read "the thirteenth year" but left the correction in Letter IV the same as I've shown above, an odd detail for sure. The Prophet followed the Winchester versions of both Letter III (June 1, 1844) and Letter IV (June 8, 1844).

Related to this objection is the alleged problem that Oliver seemed to be referring to the circumstances leading up to the First Vision when he was actually describing the circumstances of Moroni's visit, and that Oliver gave a different reason for Martin Harris' visit to New York with the so-called Anthon Transcript.

In the first place, Joseph's well-known accounts of the circumstances leading up to the First Vision postdated these letters. (He did write a preliminary version in 1832 that barely touches on the circumstances.) IOW, this is the earliest account of those circumstances. In the second place, Oliver learned about these circumstances from Joseph; if there are mistakes, they can hardly be attributed to Oliver who expressly relied on what Joseph told him (and on other documents we don't have today). Historians who claim the dating is wrong rely on an incomplete record anyway; Dr. Lamb may have made unrecorded visits to the area.

Oliver was aware of the difference between fact and conjecture, as he explained throughout the letters. He was also aware of the difficulty of relating details exactly.

In Letter VI, Oliver wrote, "I may have missed in arrangement in some instances, but the principle is preserved, and you will be able to bring forward abundance of corroborating scripture upon the subject of the gospel and of the gathering. You are aware of the fact, that to give a minute rehearsal of a lengthy interview with a heavenly messenger, is very difficult, unless one is assisted immediately with the gift of inspiration." IOW, Oliver was relying on Joseph's memory, or possibly documents we don't have now (as Oliver claimed he did).

Some parts of these letters involve events that occurred before Oliver got involved, for which he had to rely on what Joseph told him. But the parts of the letters that relate Oliver's own experiences he characterizes as fact. This includes the Letter VII descriptions of Cumorah, which Oliver knew from his own experience was in New York, as related by Brigham Young.

Another related observation involves Letters I and II. Historians note that Letter I seems to be introducing the First Vision, while Letter II skips that vision and goes right to the visit of Moroni. One author proposes that Joseph Smith asked Oliver not to discuss the First Vision, which seems reasonable to me. Here's the link. The point is not that Oliver was loose with the facts, but that he changed course for an unexplained reason. I think this shows how closely Joseph and Oliver worked together, especially when Joseph's eventual explanation of the First Vision adopted some of Oliver's commentary.

5. Yet another objection is that you can't resolve Book of Mormon geography by referring to a single anecdote in Church history. That is axiomatic, and no one I know of claims otherwise, certainly not me. However, an extensive, detailed discussion of the final battles at Cumorah is hardly an anecdote. This is an explicit statement, officially republished many times for nearly 100 years. Second, I don't think Letter VII resolves anything because people are free to believe it or not. Third, Letter VII only establishes the New York location of Cumorah for those who trust Oliver (and Joseph, who helped write it and endorsed it multiple times). It says nothing about a limited or hemispheric geography. People are still free to believe whatever they want about geography.

6. Another objection is that Joseph let mistakes go without correcting them, such as the statement in the April 15, 1842 Times and Seasons that it was Nephi instead of Moroni who visited Joseph Smith. Maybe Joseph didn't care about the error, or maybe he didn't notice it. (I think this is evidence that Joseph wasn't editing the Times and Seasons by this point, so it has nothing to do with his oversight.) There was another error in the Book of Commandments regarding a date on one of the revelations that Joseph supposedly reviewed but didn't bother to change. Again, maybe he didn't care about such details, or maybe he didn't notice, or maybe he forgot the original date. But those one-word details hardly compare with Letter VII's extensive and detailed description of the Hill Cumorah and the final battles, especially when Joseph specifically endorsed the letter multiple times and mentioned Cumorah in D&C 128 in connection with other events that took place in New York.

7. An objection related to the first one is that Joseph adopted a false tradition started by unknown persons at an early date. True, there were things that Joseph believed at one time that he later changed his mind about, such as phrenology. He didn't object to smoking tobacco until he received the Word of Wisdom. He may have given bad medical advice. But these are peripheral matters compared with the location of Cumorah, and there are no accounts of him changing his views on Cumorah. Nor did any of his contemporaries, all the way through the 1879 footnotes in the Book of Mormon. In Feb. 1844, Oliver's letters were published as a pamphlet in England. Later that year they were published in New York in The Prophet. There is no hint of opposition by Joseph to the contents of Letter VII or the other letters; instead, portions of Letter I were canonized in the Pearl of Great Price. It's true that Letter VII was not canonized, but does that make it a false tradition? In my view, it does not. We have lesson manuals full of the teachings of Joseph Smith that were never canonized.

8. The final objection I'll address here is the idea that maybe this was Oliver's statement on his own, without input from Joseph. People forget that Oliver was the Assistant President of the Church when he wrote Letter VII. I've gone through his qualifications before. A few months after writing Letter VII, he and Joseph received the Priesthood keys from Moses, Elias and Elijah in the Kirtland temple, along with the visitation of the Lord Himself. Even assuming Joseph didn't tell Oliver to write about Cumorah, Oliver is independently a credible, reliable and personal witness of these events, which is why Brigham Young and others relied on what he said about the repository. Not to mention, we all rely on Oliver's credibility and reliability as one of the Three Witnesses (and the translation, and John the Baptist, Peter, James and John, and so much more). When people choose to single out Letter VII as Oliver's one big falsehood, a statement of fact that was not actually a fact, and they do so purely because they disagree with Oliver, I don't find that a persuasive argument.

To review: there are two basic reasons to reject what Oliver Cowdery wrote about Cumorah in Letter VII.

First is the basic anti-Mormon reason, that Oliver made the whole thing up, conspiring with Joseph to deceive people, so everything in his letters is false.

Second is the position of those who object to Letter VII because they object to the New York Cumorah because they believe a theory of Book of Mormon geography that is inconsistent with the New York Cumorah; i.e., they disagree with what Oliver wrote, and isolate the Cumorah issue as the one falsehood he wrote because it contradicts what they prefer to believe about Cumorah.

Of course, people can believe whatever they want. I'm perfectly fine with that. I just want to clarify the issues for those who read Letter VII so people can make informed decisions about whether or not to accept what Oliver wrote.

When the only reason a person rejects Letter VII is because he/she disagrees with Oliver Cowdery's statement about Cumorah, I find that puzzling to say the least.

For me, it's an easy choice.

On one hand, we have people living in the 21st century who think they know more about Cumorah, the plates, and all the circumstances of the translation and interaction with angels in New York than Oliver did because of what they've read.

On the other hand, we have Oliver, who was there when Joseph translated, who handled the plates, who saw the angels, who had been in the repository of Nephite records in the hill in New York, and who collaborated with Joseph on these letters.  I think I'll go with that guy.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

When the Church purchased Cumorah

Letter VII featured prominently when the Church purchased the Hill Cumorah. Here's an example from the Deseret News. When Elder Roberts wrote this article, he cited some evidence for the credibility and reliability of the letters, but apparently people didn't know that Joseph had instructed his scribes to copy Oliver's letters, including Letter VII, into his personal history as part of his life story, or that Joseph had given specific permission to Benjamin Winchester to publish these letters in the Gospel Reflector. Of course, as we've seen, Joseph's brothers Don Carlos and William both republished the letters in their respective newspapers, the Times and Seasons in Nauvoo and The Prophet in New York.

B. H. Roberts The Deseret News, 3 March 1928

           Ramah-Cumorah in the Land of Ripliancum: A Jaredite-Nephite Historical Landmark Identified with Western New York and the Region of the Great Lakes," Written for the Deseret News by B. H. Roberts.
           Map Shows Western New York: The Region of the Land of Cumorah and of Ramah; the Land of "Ripliancum," Large Waters,--To Exceed All." Below is a Photograph Reproduction of the Hill Cumorah with Its Landscape Foreground, and the Statue of the Angel Moroni on the East Center Tower of the Salt Lake Temple.
           The recent purchase of the Hill Cumorah by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints awakens wide spread interest in the sacred depository of the record called the Book of Mormon. . . .
           First as to "Ramah," Moroni, speaking of the approaching great battle in the civil war among the Jaredites and the gathering together of the hosts of that nation under the leadership of Shule and Coriantumr respectively: "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." (Ether Chap. 15) It seems in the battles preceding this about the Hill Ramah where Mormon had hidden the records that the Jaredite armies had been maneuvering northward about the waters called by them--the Jaredites--"Ripliancum, which by interpretation is large, or to exceed all." Then after this region of the large waters, which exceed all, Coriantumr and his forces retreated southward until they came to this Hill Ramah, where they made their last stand and around which the Jaredites perished early in the fifth century B.C. This is about all that is said of Ramah in the record of the Jaredites.
           Now we take up "Cumorah" and find much made of it in the sixth chapter of the Book of Mormon . . . It is to be noted that this description of Mormon's as to the land of Cumorah being a land of many waters, rivers, and fountains is in strict accordance with the description of Ramah as the land of many waters, "Ripliancum, which by interpretation is large or to exceed all." . . .
           It is urged by some that this hill in which Mormon deposited these many records of the Nephites was not necessarily located up in what we now call the western part of New York, and where Joseph Smith directed by Moroni, found the single collection of plates known as the Book of Mormon. It is held that Moroni in his peregrinations after the death of his father and the destruction of his people in his effort to keep out of the hands of his enemies the Lamanites, might have wandered far away from the hill Ramah-Cumorah and that possibly Ramah-Cumorah may have been in some part of Central America, where topographical conditions may be found which would correspond with the description of this place given in the Book of Mormon. Strangely enough there is little that the Prophet Joseph Smith has left on record that speaks of this Hill Cumorah where he found the Book of Mormon under the direction of Moroni. And this only in an esctatic[sic] review of early events in the Church: "And again what do we hear? Glad tidings from Cumorah. Moroni, an angel from heaven, declaring the fulfillment of the prophets--the Book to be revealed. (Doc. and Cov. sec 128:20)
           But while this direct testimony from the Prophet himself is lacking, it is not lacking from those who are competent to speak on the subject--and who did speak of it and who published their statements, and one of these in the life time of the prophet, Oliver Cowdery, close associate with Joseph Smith in bringing forth the Book of Mormon, and his chief amanuensis in the translation of it, declares this hill from which the Book of Mormon was taken to be the Hill Cumorah, the place where Mormon deposited "all the records in his possession, except his abridgment from the plates of Nephi which he gave to his son; and also emphatically declares it to be the scene of the destruction of both the Jaredite and Nephite people. This statement Oliver published in the Church organ at the time, called the "Saints Messenger and Advocate," Kirtland, Ohio, 1834. There are nine letters published under the title of "Early Scenes and Incidents in the Church." These letters were reproduced in the Improvement Era, Vol. II, 1898-9.
     [QUOTE FROM 1834 ARTICLE BY OLIVER COWDERY--see 1834 notation. This is Letter VII.]
           The importance of this statement lies in the fact that it is made by the second elder of the Church, when it was organized; he was Joseph Smith's amanuensis in the translation of Mormon's record. It is written and published in the life time of the Prophet Joseph Smith, with his knowledge and approval; It is published in the Saints Messenger and Advocate, the organ of the Church at that time, 1834; and it is inconceivable that the Prophet Joseph would permit the publication of such an article identifying this hill where he found the record called the Book of Mormon with the hill called Ramah by the Jaredites, and Cumorah by the Nephites, and the scene of the successive battles which destroyed both of these nations in the region; and also identifying it with the hill in which Mormon deposited "all of the Nephite records" which had been given into his custody--if it did not state the truth.
           A testimony also comes from David Whitmer, one of the three witnesses to the truth of the Book of Mormon. When Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery found it necessary to move from Harmony, Pennsylvania, to Fayette, New York, David Whitmer drove them from Harmony to the home of his father in Fayette. Before starting on this journey Moroni came to the Prophet and took possession of the plates in order to insure their safety in transit to the Whitmer home. On the way the three brethren, Joseph, Oliver and David overtook Moroni carrying the plates. (see note#1) Joseph suggested to David that he ask the "stranger" to ride. David stopped his team and invited him to ride, if by chance he would be going in their direction. "No," said the one addressed, very pleasantly, "I am going to Cumorah." "This name was somewhat new to me," says David, "and I did not know what 'Cumorah' meant." They all gazed at him and at each other. When David looked around again, after turning to Joseph for instruction or information, the man had disappeared. "It was the Messenger (Moroni) who had the plates, who had taken them from Joseph just prior to our starting form Harmony." says David Whitmer in closing the story of the incident. (See Orson Pratt and Joseph F. Smith's report of an interview with David Whitmer. Millennial Star, Vol,. 40, pp. 769-774. The report bears date of September 17, 1878.
           Another circumstance which verifies all that is here said about this hill in western New york from which Joseph Smith obtained the Book of Mormon, being identical with Ramah-Cumorah of the Book of Mormon, is the fact of agreement between the description in the Book of Mormon of the Hill Ramah-Cumorah and the region round about, and the topography of western New York. It is a region of "many waters"--"Ripliancum" by interpretation "large, or to exceed all"; and here in western New York, immediately to the north of Cumorah, is Lake Ontario; to the west and northwest are Lake Erie, Lake Huron, Lake Michigan and Lake Superior--the greatest group of fresh water lakes in the world, while immediately to the south of Cumorah are the noted "finger lakes" of New York, beginning on the east side of the region is the lake bearing the modern name of Otisco; and moving westward the following named lakes: Skaneateles Lake, Owasco Lake, Cayuga Lake, Seneca Lake--with its elongation, Keuka Lake; Canadaigua Lake and a number of others westward in the same line. All these, and beside them numerous streams and rivers throughout the whole region.
           The identification both in the recorded facts of the Book of Mormon about the Hill Ramah-Cumorah and the physical characteristics of this region of western New York--extending westward to include the whole great five lake basin--"Rippliancum[sic]"--"to exceed all"--is sufficient to eliminate all doubt about the hill recently purchased by the Church, being the very site of the destruction of both the Jaredite and the Nephite people, also the place where Mormon deposited the great collection of sacred records which had been entrusted to him and where later his son Moroni kept concealed the gold plates of the Book of Mormon.
           And now, behold, how fortunate it is that the Church has possessed herself of so many of the sacred places connected with the coming forth of the new dispensation of the gospel in these last days. . . . The Smith farm near Palmyra, New York . . . Scant three miles away is the Hill Cumorah, surrounded by several hundred acres of farm lands including the whole of the hill Ramah-Cumorah, the sacred depository of Jaredite and Nephite records, including the Book of Mormon gold plates given to Joseph Smith to translate for the enlightenment of the world and also the site of the destruction of the two great peoples of ancient America--the Jaredites and Nephites.
           Eastward less than a score of miles is the old "Peter Whitmer Farm," in Fayette township near the present prosperous town of Waterloo, where the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized on the sixth of April, 1830, with its six charter members, an event soon to be a century old. The Carthage prison . . . How complete is the circle of sacred places, now in possession of the Church, connected with the life and mission of the prophet of the new dispensation! The Saints should be thankful for possession of these sacred places.