In Letter VII, Oliver Cowdery wrote that Mormon, "by divine appointment, abridged from those [Nephite] 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, [now Mormon 6:6] 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, after witnessing the extinction of his people as a nation."
How did Oliver know that the Hill Cumorah in New York was the one Mormon described in Mormon 6:6? Was he just speculating, as many of our LDS scholars and educators claim?
|Orson Pratt and others explained there were two separate departments in the Hill Cumorah in New York.|
Brigham Young addressed this point in a sermon he delivered just two months before he died. He was organizing a stake in Davis County, Utah, on June 17, 1877, and he made these observations. [my comments in red]. For the significance of the timing of this sermon, see
"I lived right in the country where the plates were found from which the Book of Mormon was translated, and I know a great many things pertaining to that country.
[Those who think Brigham was relating a series of visions of a hill in Central America omit this sentence, in which Brigham specified what country he was referring to; i.e., western New York.]
"I believe I will take the liberty to tell you of another circumstance that will be as marvelous as anything can be. This is an incident in the life of Oliver Cowdery, but he did not take the liberty of telling such things in meeting as I take.
[So far as we know, Oliver didn't write anything about this except for what he wrote in Letters VII and VIII.]
I tell these things to you, and I have a motive for doing so. I want to carry them to the ears of my brethren and sisters, and to the children also, that they may grow to an understanding of some things that seem to be entirely hidden from the human family.
[Brigham thought this was important for people to know. We don't know if he knew he was going to die two months later, but this was one of his last sermons.]
Oliver Cowdery went with the Prophet Joseph when he deposited these plates. Joseph did not translate all of the plates; there was a portion of them sealed, which you can learn from the Book of Doctrine and Covenants. When Joseph got the plates, the angel instructed him to carry them back to the hill Cumorah, which he did.
[I'm not aware of another account of these instructions, so we're limited to this statement. There are at least three times when "Joseph got the plates." The first was in September 1827, when he retrieved the first set of plates from Moroni's stone box. We have no account of Joseph being told to return them to the hill Cumorah on that occasion. The second time he obtained the plates was when they were returned to him after Martin Harris lost the 116 pages. We have no details about that. The third time Joseph received the plates was in Fayette. This is the most likely event that Brigham was referring to here because we already know that he didn't return the plates to the hill Cumorah after the first two times he got them. The first time, after Harris lost the 116 pages, the plates were taken from Joseph. The second time, before he left Harmony, Joseph gave the plates to a messenger who in turn carried them to Cumorah. This leaves the third time, when Joseph got the plates from the angel in Fayette. These were the plates of Nephi, mentioned in D&C 10, which Joseph translated in Fayette. We know that shortly after he finished the translation, he showed a set of plates to the 8 Witnesses in the Palmyra area. His mother said Joseph got those plates from one of the 3 Nephites, but she doesn't say when this occurred. It seems likely that it was one of the 3 Nephites who got the plates of Nephi from the Hill Cumorah, took them to Fayette, and instructed Joseph to carry them back to the hill Cumorah. Before doing so, Joseph showed them to the 8 witnesses. Alternatively, Joseph could have returned them to the hill Cumorah and then retrieved them again to show the 8 witnesses. Or, possibly, the Nephite gave Joseph the plates in the Palmyra area with instructions to return them to the hill Cumorah. Overall, this statement of Brigham's corroborates the two-sets-of-plates scenario.]
Oliver says that when Joseph and Oliver went there, the hill opened, and they walked into a cave, in which there was a large and spacious room.
[This statement has caused some confusion, but it's clear when understood in context. The room found on the Hill Cumorah that matches the description of the repository opens from the top. In that sense, the hill "opens" when you lift the lid. It's not a magical opening door like the automatic sliding doors we see everywhere today. When Brigham says "a cave," the term can refer to either a natural or artificial (man-made) hollow space within a hill or mountain. Others said the room was about 16 x 16, which fits Brigham's description by comparison to many of the rooms in pioneer-era homes.]
He says he did not think, at the time, whether they had the light of the sun or artificial light; but that it was just as light as day.
[This makes sense because the opening was in the ceiling. The sun would naturally shine inside, and as one's eyes adjusted, it would be plenty bright.]
They laid the plates on a table; it was a large table that stood in the room. Under this table there was a pile of plates as much as two feet high, and there were altogether in this room more plates than probably many wagon loads; they were piled up in the corners and along the walls.
[IMO, this is the same table and plates that David Whitmer described, except he (like Oliver) knew he wasn't supposed to speak publicly about this repository. That's why he retroactively claimed he saw these things when the angel appeared at the 3 Witnesses event. It's also interesting that Brigham refers to "probably many wagon loads." This appears to be Oliver's first impression. Later, IMO, Oliver and others actually did move the plates on wagons.]
The first time they went there the sword of Laban hung upon the wall; but when they went again it had been taken down and laid upon the table across the gold plates; it was unsheathed, and on it was written these words: “This sword will never be sheathed again until the kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of our God and his Christ.”
[This is another example of the confusion David Whitmer caused when he claimed he saw the sword of Laban at the time the 3 Witnesses saw the plates. The sword of Laban was never in Moroni's stone box. I don't think the 3 Witnesses saw it when they first saw the plates for several reasons I've discussed before. Here, we learn it was hanging on the wall in Mormon's repository. This statement also tells us that Joseph and Oliver, at least, visited the repository at least twice.]
[Note: in the FairMormon article discussed below, they omit the following portions of Brigham Young's sermon.]
I tell you this as coming not only from Oliver Cowdery, but others who were familiar with it, and who understood it just as well as we understand coming to this meeting, enjoying the day, and by and by we separate and go away, forgetting most of what is said, but remembering some things. So is it with other circumstances in life.
[Oliver was not the only one familiar with the repository. It's difficult to imagine anyone who had visited the repository forgetting about it, but apparently others had heard the same account from Oliver but had forgotten about it. It was to make sure people didn't forget that Brigham gave this sermon, yet many Church members today still don't know about this event.]
I relate this to you, and I want you to understand it. I take this liberty of referring to those things so that they will not be forgotten and lost.
[By now, if you didn't know about this before, you're wondering why not. The answer is simple. Our leading LDS scholars and educators (and their students who staff the Curriculum department) promote the two-Cumorahs theory, which claims that Mormon's repository is somewhere in a Mexican mountain that is the "real" Cumorah. Later in this post I'll show some examples of how they treat what Oliver and Brigham' taught about the repository, but you can see this "two-Cumorahs" theory on display right now in the North Visitors Center on Temple Square, as I explain here.]
Carlos Smith was a young man of as much veracity as any young man we had, and he was a witness to these things.
[He's referring to Don Carlos, Joseph's younger brother who became the editor of the Times and Seasons. In 1841, Don Carlos republished Letter VII so everyone in the Church would know about the New York Cumorah, including Mormon's repository. Our LDS scholars and educators think Don Carlos was merely repeating a false tradition about the New York Cumorah. Here, Brigham Young tells us that Don Carlos, like Oliver Cowdery, knew from personal experience that there was only one Cumorah and it was in New York.]
Samuel Smith saw some things, Hyrum saw a good many things, but Joseph was the leader.
[Unfortunately, Brigham doesn't tell us exactly what things Joseph's brothers saw.]
Now, you may think I am unwise in publicly telling these things, thinking perhaps I should preserve them in my own breast; but such is not my mind.
[Had Brigham not publicly told these things, he would have taken them to his grave two months later.]
I would like the people called Latter-day Saints to understand some little things with regard to the workings and dealings of the Lord with his people here upon the earth.
[So would I. And I hope you share this with people you know, as well.]
Here's the reference for Brigham's sermon: http://jod.mrm.org/19/36
Now, what do our scholars and educators say about the repository?
Let's start with FairMormon. They have an article on this here:
I've spoken to FairMormon about this but they refuse to change the article or add additional material to it, so I think it's important for people to know what they're doing.
They quote part of Brigham Young's sermon, omitting the part about other witnesses to the site and Brigham's emphasis that he did not want this account to be forgotten and lost.
Then they make this awesome statement, followed by their comments. Everything below is from their web site, except my comments in red):
[Seriously? Brigham Young prefaced his comments by explaining that Oliver didn't speak about these things in public. With good reason, it turns out, as David Whitmer explained. Of course, the implication from brother Tvendtnes and FairMormon here is that Brigham is not to be trusted; he's merely repeating hearsay. Our LDS scholars and educators who promote this line of reasoning never mention that Letter VII is as first hand as it gets. Oliver is writing for himself and for Joseph Smith as two people who had actually been in the depository.]The story of the cave full of plates inside the Hill Cumorah in New York is often given as evidence that it is, indeed, the hill where Mormon hid the plates. Yorgason quotes one version of the story from Brigham Young and alludes to six others collected by Paul T. Smith. Unfortunately, none of the accounts is firsthand.
[Here, he insists it had to be a natural cave, not a man-made cave, which is not required by the term itself, or the text. And, of course, he never mentions Letter VII. Long-time readers of my blogs know a man-made cave (or room) can be built in the Hill Cumorah.]The New York Hill Cumorah is a moraine laid down anciently by a glacier in motion. It is comprised of gravel and earth. Geologically, it is impossible for the hill to have a cave,
[Hmm. It would be useful for the LDS scholars and educators who make this claim to provide a reference, wouldn't it? Who has gone "in search of a cave" in the Hill Cumorah? When? And how can you make such a categorical claim when you don't know who has been there and what they've found?]and all those who have gone in search of the cave have come back empty-handed.
[Again, notice the questioning of Brigham Young and the others who related the account, as well as of Oliver Cowdery. "If" they were telling the truth..." Purely because the New York Cumorah contradicts their two-Cumorahs and Mesoamerican theories, these LDS scholars and educators want you to believe that Joseph, Oliver were ignorant speculators who misled the Church, repeating as actual events some "vision" of "some far distant hill" (presumably in Mexico), and "not physical events." This is exactly the same argument made by anti-Mormons who think everything Joseph and Oliver said did not involve "physical events."]If, therefore, the story attributed to Oliver Cowdery (by others) is true, then the visits to the cave perhaps represent visions, perhaps of some far distant hill, not physical events.
[This might be my favorite spin of all. I'd like to see documentation for when "Moroni had retrieved the plates from Joseph several times previously." The only two times I'm aware of where after the 116 pages were lost, and before Joseph left Harmony. We don't know it was Moroni to whom Joseph gave them before he left Harmony, although some assume it was. But this was not a magical, "divine" transportation event. They met the messenger along the road to Fayette. He had the plates in his knapsack. He was physically carrying them back to Cumorah.
I realize the Mesomanics want you to think these plates could be magically transported from Mexico to Palmyra, willy nilly, because they can't otherwise explain these incidents in Church history. But that theory contradicts the text of the Book of Mormon as well as Letter VII and all the other accounts in Church history. If the plates (and other artifacts) were so easily transported, why did Moroni have to build a box of stone and cement and bury them all the way in New York 1400 years before Joseph could get them?
I'm not going to take the time to show you more examples of the way the Mesomaniacs undermine faith in the founders of the Church, but you will find lots of examples if you look for them.]