Saturday, December 31, 2022

Top 10 for 2022 (top 5 posts and top 5 pages)

The most-viewed resources on this blog have always been the Post about President Ivins and the Page on the BYU Packet on Cumorah. 

That remained true in 2022 as well.

Overall, the blog had over 200,000 views, not counting the reposts at moronisamerica, amazon, and other sites.


The top 5 most-viewed posts on this blog for 2022, in reverse order.

5. Reminiscences of Edward Stevenson

4. The First Presidency taught...

3. More about Cumorah's casualties

2. Abraham Lincoln on extinct giants

1. The Hill Cumorah by President Anthony W. Ivins


The top 5 most-viewed pages on this blog for 2022, in reverse order.

5. Cumorah's cave by Cameron Packer

4. The Two Sets of Plates schematic

3. President Ivins on the New York Cumorah

2. Trip to Fayette references

1. BYU packet on Cumorah

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

2023, Hopewell, and Unesco

September 2023 is the 200th anniversary of Moroni's visit to Joseph Smith.

During that visit, Moroni told Joseph that 

"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— then the angel left him."

During that visit, Moroni also explained what the record was about and where it was written:

He [Moroni] then proceeded and gave a general account of the promises made to the fathers, and also gave a history of the aborigenes of this country, and said they were literal descendants of Abraham. He represented them as once being an enlightned and intelligent people, possessing a correct knowledge of the gospel, and the plan of restoration and redemption. He said this history was written and deposited not far from that place, and that it was our brother’s privilege, if obedient to the commandments of the Lord, to obtain and translate the same by the means of the Urim and Thummim, which were deposited for that purpose with the record.


Earlier this month the BBC published a travel article about "The US' 2,000-year-old mystery mounds."

Heading: "Constructed by a mysterious civilisation that left no written records, the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks are a testament to indigenous sophistication."


All of these all these prehistoric ceremonial earthworks in Ohio were created by what is now called the Hopewell Culture, a network of Native American societies that gathered from as far away as Montana and the Gulf of Mexico between roughly 100 BCE and 500 CE and were connected by a series of trade routes. Their earthworks in Ohio consist of shapes – like circles, squares and octagons – that were often connected to each other. Archaeologists are only now beginning to understand the sophistication of these engineering marvels. 

Of course, 100 BCE is about the time when Mosiah discovered the people of Zarahemla and taught them a written language, which led to the flourishing of Nephite society. Many Latter-day Saints think Mosiah left from eastern Tennessee and joined the people of Zarahemla in present-day Illinois. From there, the civilization expanded eastward into Indiana and Ohio. Eventually, around 400 AD, fleeing from Lamanite attacks, the Nephite civilization retreated to western New York where the survivors were killed off by the Lamanites. All of this aligns with the archaeological record.

The article notes:

The US Department of the Interior has nominated eight of Hopewell's earthworks for consideration in 2023 as a Unesco World Heritage site. These include The Great Circle and The Octagon in Newark, Ohio, as well Ohio's first state park, Fort Ancient (not an actual fort). The other five are part of the Hopewell Culture National Historical Park: Mound City, Hopeton Earthworks, High Bank Works, Hopewell Mound Group and Seip Earthworks. 


While a Unesco designation wouldn't entail the return of land or reparations, it does mean greater local representation and education about Ohio's Native American history.


It would be fitting if, during the year of the 200th anniversary of Moroni's visit, these historic sites finally receive Unesco recognition.

Monday, November 28, 2022

"while going to Cumorah"

Oliver Cowdery described Joseph's first visit to the Hill Cumorah after Moroni showed him the location.

You see the great wisdom in God in leading him thus far, that his mind might begin to be more matured, and thereby be able to judge correctly, the spirits. 

I do not say that he would not have obtained the record had he went according to the direction of the angel—I say that he would; but God knowing all things from the beginning, began thus to instruct his servant. 

And in this it is plainly to be seen that the adversary of truth is not sufficient to overthrow the work of God. 

You will remember that I said, two invisible powers were operating upon the mind of our brother while going to Cumorah

In this, then, I discover wisdom in the dealings of the Lord: it was impossible for any man to translate the book of Mormon by the gift of God, and endure the afflictions, and [p. 98] temptations, and devices of satan, without being overthrown unless he had been previously benefited with a certain round of experience: 

and had our brother obtained the record the first time, not knowing how to detect the works of darkness, he might have been deprived of the blessings of sending forth the word of truth to this generation. 

Therefore, God knowing that satan would thus lead his mind astray, began at that early hour, that when the full time should arive, he might have a servant prepared to fulfill his purpose. 

So, however afflicting to his feelings this repuls[e] might have been, he had reason to rejoice before the Lord and be thankful for the favors and mercies shown; that whatever other instruction was necessary to the accomplishing this great work, he had learned, by experience, how to discern betwen the spirit of Christ and the spirit of the devil.

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Reforesting Cumorah while de-correlating Cumorah

Last Friday, November 11, 2022, a group of missionaries helped sow seeds for various tree species on the Hill Cumorah in New York.

Some readers here know that I used to have a house about a mile north of Cumorah. I've spent a lot of time in that area. I was happy to see the removal of the ridiculous Mayan-themed stage, along with the Mayan-themed costumes and pageant. 

The Church News article started by mentioning and quoting Willard Bean. Maybe the "new interpretive and wayfinding signs" they are installing will include Brother Bean's explanation of the Hill Cumorah as the scene of the final battles of the Jaredites and Nephites.

More likely, they will censor (i.e., "de-correlate") his work.

For a wonderful article about Bean and his work acquiring and restoring Cumorah, see

The article doesn't mention Bean's work explaining the scriptural relevance of Cumorah. He published a book in 1948 titled Book of Mormon Geography: In Search of Ramah-Cumorah which is available here.


Speaking of the "new interpretive and wayfinding signs," it remains to be seen whether the Church History Department will be open and honest about actual Church history. So far, their track record is poor at best with respect to Cumorah. 

There are numerous historical documents relating to Cumorah, some of which I've collected here:

Any visitor to the Hill Cumorah in New York who leaves without being informed about actual Church history on the topic is being misinformed--intentionally, sad to say.

At the very least, the Visitors Center should include Letter VII in full.

It is astonishing that so few Church members know that it was Moroni himself who identified the hill as Cumorah when he visited Joseph Smith the first time.

Well, not astonishing, I suppose. The Church History Department, obsessed with accommodating their M2C friends and colleagues, continues to censor all historical information about Cumorah from their publications and other Church curriculum, including displays historical sites. 

Notice the caption to this photo in the Church News article. They describe Cumorah as "a small hill." Maybe for someone coming from Utah it appears small, but that's just bad reporting.

And effective, but deplorable, "de-correlating" of authentic Church history.

"a small hill"
(click to enlarge photo)

Contrast the Church News' anachronistic "presentism" with President Oliver Cowdery's description:

I think I am justified in saying that this is the highest hill for some distance round, and I am certain that its appearance, as it rises so suddenly from a plain on the north, must attract the notice of the traveller as he passes by.

Anyone who lives in the Palmyra area knows that Oliver Cowdery's description is more accurate than the Church News description.

As we saw in the Saints book, volume 1, the effort to de-correlate Church history about Cumorah continues. So far, the Church History Department hasn't gone to the final step of actually removing the historical Cumorah documents from the Joseph Smith Papers. Hopefully that will never happen. 

But the way they censor and "reframe" Church history, few English-speaking Latter-day Saints, and virtually zero non-English-speaking Latter-day Saints, will ever learn accurate Church history about Cumorah.


The twitter feed mentioned in the article included this photo:

Compare that to a photo I took when I lived a mile from the Hill Cumorah.


The article listed other changes, including 

Other changes are as follows:

  • A new Hill Cumorah monument sign has been installed in front of the visitors’ center.
  • There is a new network of trails allowing all visitors, including those in wheelchairs, to access the Angel Moroni monument at the top of the hill.
  • New interpretive and wayfinding signs have been placed in various locations along a new path system so people can easily find their way up and down the hill.
  • The Angel Moroni statue has been regilded for the first time since the monument was constructed in 1935.
  • Workers have remodeled the basement of Hill Cumorah Visitors’ Center to accommodate larger groups.

Monday, October 3, 2022

Heber C. Kimball and the hill Cumorah

In General Conference on Sunday, October 2, 2022, Elder Quentin L. Cook referenced the Life of Heber C. Kimball, the biography of his great-grandfather. Heber, like Brigham Young, lived in western New York and joined the Church after Joseph and the Saints had moved to Kirtland, Ohio.

Heber and Brigham both testified about the repository of Nephite records in the hill Cumorah as discussed here:

Heber also visited the site after he joined the Church in April 1832.

He wrote, "The hill Cumorah is a high hill for that country, and had the appearance of a fortification or entrenchment around it."

When he was 14 years old, Kimball worked in his father's blacksmith shop in the Bloomfield area west of Canandaigua and east of Avon. His observations of the area are quoted in his biography, Life of Heber C. Kimball, on p. 25 (or p. 50, depending on the edition):

"From the time Father Bosley located near Avon, he found and plowed up axes and irons, and had sufficient to make his mill irons, and had always abundance of iron on hand without purchasing. 

"In the towns of Bloomfield, Victor, Manchester, and in the regions round about, there were hills upon the tops of which were entrenchments and fortifications, and in them were human bones, axes, tomahawks, points of arrows, beads and pipes, which were frequently found; and it was a common occurrence in the country to plow up axes, which I have done many times myself.

"I have visited the fortifications on the tops of those hills frequently, and the one near Bloomfield I have crossed hundreds of times, which is on the bluff of Honeyoye River, and the outlet of Honeyoye Lake....

"The hill Cumorah is a high hill for that country, and had the appearance of a fortification or entrenchment around it. In the State of New York, probably there are hundreds of these fortifications which are now visible, and I have seen them in many other parts of the United States."

Heber's biographer, Elder Orson F. Whitney of the Quorum of the Twelve, commented "Readers of the Book of Mormon will remember that in this very region, according to that sacred record, the final battles were fought between the Nephites and Lamanites. At the hill Cumorah, the Nephites made their last stand prior to their utter extermination, A.D., 385.

"Thus was Heber preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles, above the graves of the ancients of Israel, whose records with the fullness of that Gospel, and the relics of their prowess and civilization, were now 'whispering from the dust.'"

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Edward Stevenson's visit to Cumorah, September 28, 1888

Edward Stevenson (1820-1897), accompanied by Andrew Jensen and Joseph S. Black, toured Church history sites in 1888. 

On September 28, they ascended the hill Cumorah in New York and reported the experience in an article in the Deseret News.

Sitting on the hill Cumorah, Stevenson wrote that "it was here, more than twenty-four centuries ago that the descendants of Jared and his brother fought their last exterminating battle... It was also in this land that Mormon in his old age and his son Moroni led their Nephite armies against their brethren the Lamanites... This took place more than fourteen hundred years ago, but looking over this hilly country today... our imagination can easily conceive how the exile Moroni... emerged from his hiding place and deposited the sacred treasure in this hill..."

Stevenson knew Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris. His bio explains,

He said of Oliver Cowdery: "I have often heard him bear a faithful testimony to the restoration of the gospel by the visitation of an angel, in whose presence he stood in company with the Prophet Joseph Smith and David Whitmer. He testified that he beheld the plates, the leaves being turned over by the angel, whose voice he heard, and that they were commanded as witnesses to bear a faithful testimony to the world of the vision that they were favored to behold, and that the translation from the plates of the Book of Mormon was accepted of the Lord, and that it would go forth to the world, and that no power on the earth should stop its progress."

Elder Stevenson said of David Whitmer, in 1886, after recounting previous testimonies he had listened to from him: 'David Whitmer is now just past eighty-one years of age. In this his last testimony he said to me: 'As sure as the sun shines and I live, just so sure did the angel appear to me and Joseph Smith, and I heard his voice, and did see the angel standing before us, and on a table were the plates, the sword of Laban and the ball or compass.'"

Concerning Martin Harris, Elder Stevenson wrote: "In the year 1869, I was appointed on a mission to the United States. Having visited several of the Eastern States, I called at Kirtland, Ohio, to see the first Temple that was built by our people in this generation. While there I met Martin Harris, soon after coming out of the Temple. He took from under his arm a copy of the Book of Mormon, the first edition, I believe, and bore a faithful testimony just the same as I heard him bear thirty-six years previous.

Aug. 19, 1870, in company with Martin Harris, I left Kirtland for Utah, and on the 21st he was with me in Chicago, and at the American Hotel bore testimony to a large number of people of the visitation of an angel, etc."

Stevenson clipped the article and put it in his scrapbook, which you can see here:

1888 article (click to enlarge):

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Moroni/Cumorah Day - September 21

A week from today (September 21) is what has come to be known as Moroni Day or Cumorah Day. 

It was on September 21, 1823, that Moroni first visited Joseph Smith. The most detailed account of the visit, by far, is found in Joseph Smith's own history, where his scribes copied the account written by Oliver Cowdery with Joseph's assistance. 

Many Latter-day Saints are unfamiliar with this account, but you can read it here, right in the Joseph Smith Papers:


You might wonder why this account is so little known today. The answer is obvious: many LDS scholars avoid the account because in it, Oliver and Joseph refuted both SITH and M2C.* 

Book of Mormon Central, in particular, never discusses this account, except when they refer to it to cast doubt on what Joseph and Oliver taught so they can promote their M2C and SITH theories.

The account begins this way:

On the evening of the 21st of September, 1823, previous to retiring to rest, our brother’s mind was unusually wrought up on the subject which had so long agitated his mind—his heart was drawn out in fervent prayer, and his whole soul was so lost to every thing of a temporal nature, that earth, to him, had lost its charms, and all he desired was to be prepared in heart to commune with some kind messenger who could communicate to him the desired information of his acceptance with God.

Some highlights:

It is no easy task to describe the appearance of a messenger from the skies—indeed, I doubt their being an individual clothed with perishable clay, who is capable to do this work.

Oliver wrote from personal experience, having met John the Baptist, Peter, James and John, and Moroni himself.

But it may be well to relate the particulars as far as given[.] The stature of this personage was a little above the common size of men in this age; his garment was perfectly white, and had the appearance of being without seam.

Notice how this description contrasts with that of the messenger who took the abridged plates from Harmony to Cumorah before bringing the plates of Nephi to Fayette.


He then proceeded and gave a general account of the promises made to the fathers, and also gave a history of the aborigenes of this country, and said they were literal descendants of Abraham. He represented them as once being an enlightned and intelligent people, possessing a correct knowledge of the gospel, and the plan of restoration and redemption. 

The M2Cers reject the plain and obvious meaning of this paragraph. Instead, they insist that either 

(i) Moroni (or Joseph Smith, or Oliver Cowdery) were wrong about this because the text is actually a history of the Mayans, or 

(ii) the term "this country" refers to Mesoamerica.

But that's not all. Look at what else Moroni told Joseph Smith.

He said this history was written and deposited not far from that place, 

When Moroni said the history was "written and deposited not far from that place," the place to which he referred was Joseph Smith's house near Palmyra, where their interview occurred. 

Mormon abridging the record
Obviously, if the history was written and deposited "not far from that place," and we know it was deposited in the hill Cumorah which was less than three miles "from that place," we can be sure that Mormon and Moroni wrote that history at Cumorah. 

That makes sense because it was the location of the depository of Nephite records. (Mormon 6:6).

Just as obviously, the record could not have been written in Mesoamerica. This is another reason why Book of Mormon Central doesn't tell people about this important account. 

The sentence continues:

and that it was our brother’s privilege, if obedient to the commandments of the Lord, to obtain and translate the same by the means of the Urim and Thummim, which were deposited for that purpose with the record.

Notice that Moroni told Joseph he would translate the record "by the means of the Urim and Thummim." He didn't say Joseph would translate by reading words off the stone in the hat (SITH).

Later, Joseph reiterated this point when he wrote, "I obtained them and the Urim and Thummim with them, by the means of which I translated the plates and thus came the Book of Mormon." 

(Elders’ Journal I.3:43 ¶1)

The scriptures use the term as well.

1 Now, behold, I say unto you, that because you delivered up those writings which you had power given unto you to translate by the means of the Urim and Thummim, into the hands of a wicked man, you have lost them.
(Doctrine and Covenants 10:1)

immediately after my arrival there I commenced copying the characters off the plates. I copied a considerable number of them, and by means of the Urim and Thummim I translated some of them,
(Joseph Smith—History 1:62)

Maybe this time around, on Moroni/Cumorah day all Latter-day Saints will revisit this important account of Moroni's visit.


*See explanation of acronyms here:

Friday, September 9, 2022

Church History Department recruiting

The Church History Department is having a career day on October 6, 2022. 

They are all great people who do a phenomenal job researching, compiling, and presenting Church history in all its facets. I encourage anyone interested to sign up and seriously consider employment there.

The sign-up link is here: 

You can see the announcement on Twitter here:


This time around, I hope they hire some people who offer different perspectives, particularly people who will emphasize the credibility and reliability of Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. Unfortunately, the editorial content so far has been driven by seeking to accommodate modern theories about the translation of the Book of Mormon and Book of Mormon geography/historicity.

For an example of what I'm referring to, see my short paper here:]


My Twitter feed gave me this ironic juxtaposition (click to enlarge, look at the bottom):

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Where the Indians in New York came from

Although there is plenty of extrinsic evidence that corroborates the New York Cumorah as explained in Letter VII, there are also incidents in Church history that corroborate Letter VII.

One is a spiritual account provided by Benjamin Benson in 1839. The Joseph Smith Papers provide a useful historical background. However, their footnotes 


Historical Background from the Joseph Smith Papers provides useful context:

During his fall 1837 visit to , Missouri, JS spoke with Missouri member Benjamin Benson on the evening of 11 November. At JS’s request, Benson wrote a letter the next day recounting a “dream or vision” he had shared with JS the previous night. The original letter is not extant, but  copied Benson’s letter into JS’s second letterbook in 1839.
The account of his dream reveals that, like many of his era, Benson was concerned about the origins of American Indians and the validity of the Bible’s account of human origins. Benson had prayed to learn whether Indians had been placed on the American continent at the creation of the world or had descended from Adam, as he understood the Bible taught. The dream he related to JS occurred forty-two years earlier, in 1795, when he was twenty-two years old. In Benson’s account of the dream, an  took him to a specific place where a record was deposited. There the angel showed him a book, which was to come forth at a later time, that contained a record of a people from Jerusalem, who were the forefathers of the American Indians. Benson also saw in his dream a man who would bring forth that book. In the letter, Benson mentions the “Book [of] Ether” from the Book of Mormon, which along with other details indicates he likely felt that the book in the dream was the Book of Mormon and that the man bringing forth the book in his vision was JS.

This link goes to the copy of the letter in the Letterbook 2. I show the notes below, with some brief commentary. My emphasis in bold.

Dear Brother in the Lord, Having reflected on the short interview we had last evening respecting the dream (or vision as you may think proper to term it) and as you stated several times that you should like to have it wrote so that you could take it home with you to , I therefore consent to give a statement in as short <​a​> manner as I can, without going into every minute circumstance. To wit.—
In the year 1795, I then being in the Town of Pompey, County of Onondagua and State of New York; I then being 22 years old; seeing and viewing the ancient Indian Forts and trates thereof through that part of the Country; my mind was anxiously led to contemplate and reflect on where these those Indians came from, or from what race of People they sprang from, and oftentimes heard it stated that these Indians were natives of this Continent, and that they were created and placed here at the creation of the world. Then said I the Bible cannot be true, part of for it (The Bible) says that all the human family sprang from Adam &c, and that all at the time of the flood, the whole earth was covered with water, and that all flesh died, except what were in the ark with Noah, then with things taking place, and I firmly believing that the Bible was true, my heart’s desire was to God in solemn prayer to know where and what race of people these Indians sprang from, It was made known (whether by dream or vision I will leave that for you, to judge) An  as I thought came to me and said, Come along with me and I was immediately on a beast like a horse, and the angel at my left hand with his feet about the same height that my feet were as I sat on the horse, and in this position was conveyed to near the place where the record was deposited and he said stop here, and the angel went about 4 or 5 Rods and took in his hand a book, and on his return to where I stood, as I thought there were many stood with me; One said, what book is that? and the answer was, it is a bible a bible, the word of God, a record of a people that came from Jerusalem, the fore fathers of these Indians, And it also contains a record of a people that came from the Tower of Babel at the time the Lord confounded the language and scattered the people into all the world, and it the Book Ether; and then with great anxiety of heart I asked if I might have the book, and answer was that it was not the Lords time then, but it should come, “and you shall see it,” and then said look, and as I looked, I beheld a man standing as I thought at a distance of two hundred yards, and the angel said “there is the Man that the Lord hath appointed &c, and he is not yet born.[”] I have related it in short, as I have not time now to give a full detail of all that I had a view of. Yours with respect.
Benjamin Benson
November 12th 1837
Joseph Smith Jr. .
N. B At some further time if the Lord will I will be more full if you should wish it. I shall direct this to you as a letter and you cannot act your Judgement in either keeping it to yourself or publishing it by making use of my name.


Note 1: Benson may have been referring to the fortified villages or traditional longhouses built by the Oneida and Onondaga tribes of the Iroquois Six Nations in central New York. He also may have seen forts built during the French and Indian War, some of which were constructed on the ruins of American Indian villages. The forts described by Benson also may have had connections to other indigenous people. Contemporary accounts identified several mounds in western New York and associated these mounds and their fortifications with an ancient moundbuilding people. (Hauptman, Conspiracy of Interests, 27–33, 78, 107; Hamilton, French and Indian Wars, 161–184, 239–249; Vogel, Indian Origins and the Book of Mormon, 24–30.)  

Hauptman, Laurence M. Conspiracy of Interests: Iroquois Dispossession and the Rise of New York State. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1999.

Hamilton, Edward Pierce. The French and Indian Wars: The Story of Battles and Forts in the Wilderness. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1962.

Vogel, Dan. Indian Origins and the Book of Mormon: Religious Solutions from Columbus to Joseph Smith. Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1986.

This note doesn't mention the presence of dozens of Ohio Hopewell sites in Western New York dating to Book of Mormon timeframes. Instead, it cites Dan Vogel's book which claims Joseph Smith relied on the "Moundbuilder myth." I refer to this line of reasoning as the "myth of the moundbuilder myth." 


Note 2: The theory of polygenism, or different origins for different races, emerged in European scholarly thought in the sixteenth century. As Europeans encountered new cultures and races, polygenism attempted to explain their origins. Discussions of this theory were particularly widespread in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as Enlightenment thought led to the development of racial science and the categorization and ranking of different races. Some scholars tried to make the Bible compatible with polygenism, creating theories of multiple or simultaneous creations besides the creation of Adam. Polygenism and its underlying racial concerns are found throughout nineteenth-century popular and religious literature. For many nineteenth-century Christians, the theory was a direct challenge to Christianity’s single biblical creation and the religious requirement of redemption after the fall of Adam and Eve. JS, like other Christians of his day, emphasized the single creation found in the Bible and humanity’s common descent from Adam and Eve. (Kidd, Forging of Races, 121–167; Livingstone, Adam’s Ancestors, 169–201; Reeve, Religion of a Different Color, 131.)  

Kidd, Colin. The Forging of Races: Race and Scripture in the Protestant Atlantic World, 1600–2000. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

Livingstone, David N. Adam’s Ancestors: Race, Religion, and the Politics of Human Origins. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008.

Reeve, W. Paul. Religion of a Different Color: Race and the Mormon Struggle for Whiteness. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015.


Note 3. See Book of Mormon, 1830 ed., 539 [Ether 1:33–35]; and Title Page of the Book of Mormon, ca. Early June 1829.  


Note 4. The letter was not published in either the Elders’ Journal or the church’s later publication, Times and Seasons.  


Glenn Rawson did a short video on this letter:

Thursday, June 16, 2022

The Nephite who took the abridged plates to Cumorah

My list of references to David Whitmer's account of the messenger who took the abridged plates to Cumorah includes the article by Edward Stevenson published in the 1877 Juvenile Instructor, but it's interesting to see the article itself.

Click to enlarge

The relevant text:

While on the return journey from Palmyra [Harmony], David noticed a somewhat aged-looking man who approached them on the road. He had a very pleasant face, about which, however, there seemed something peculiar, and he carried a knapsack on his back fastened with straps which crossed his breast. David asked him to take a ride, but he declined, saying: “I am going over to Cumorah,” and then disappeared very suddenly, though there was no chance for him to secrete himself in the open country through which the party was then passing. All felt very strange concerning this personage and the Prophet was besought to inquire of the Lord concerning him. Shortly afterwards, David relates, the Prophet looked very white but with a heavenly appearance and said their visitor was one of the three Nephites to whom the Savior gave the promise of life on earth until He should come in power. After arriving home, David again saw this personage, and mother Whitmer, who was very kind to Joseph Smith, is said to have seen not only this Nephite, but to have also been shown by him the sealed and unsealed portions of the plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated.


Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Narrow and small necks

One of the noticeable geographical features of the Book of Mormon is the "neck of land." 

People often ask me, "Where is the narrow neck of land?" 

My answer: Ether 10:20. That's the only place in the scriptures where that phrase is used.

There is a "narrow neck" in Alma 63:5 and a "small neck of land" in Alma 22:32, but normally we treat different terms as meaning different things, and there's no reason not to follow that rule here.

IOW, the three terms might refer to the same geographical feature, but nothing in the text requires that. And if they refer to three different features, most models of Book of Mormon geography don't follow the text.

Relative terms. It's true that the passages also refer to the "land northward" and the "land southward," but these vague terms are relational, not proper nouns. If you live in Salt Lake, Provo is the land southward while Ogden is the land northward. If you live in Ogden, Salt Lake is the land southward and Brigham City is the land northward. 

True, these vague terms might possibly be proper nouns--that's one of multiple working hypotheses--but nothing in the text requires them to be proper nouns, and if they are merely relative to where the speaker is, most models of Book of Mormon geography don't follow the text.


What constitutes "small" or "narrow."

Lots of people have speculated about what these terms mean. Some authors who conflate the terms say the Isthmus of Tehuantepec is the small/narrow neck. Others think it's the Isthmus of Darien (Panama). Such features are only "narrow" or "small" when viewed on a map or from space. 

I've looked at how the term was used in Joseph Smith's day. It turns out that these were common terms during the Revolutionary War. I have about 20 examples, all showing a diverse application including land bridges, peninsulas and islands, but all consistently featuring no more than about 15 miles in width, down to a few paces wide.

The point is, the references in the Book of Mormon are subject to lots of alternative interpretations; i.e., multiple working hypotheses.


Map of Virginia - Revolutionary War sites
Here's what George Washington wrote:

I observe you are directed by the Governor to pay particular attention to the fortifications in the State and that in consequence of that you propose to garrison Portsmouth with 1200 men and to divide the remainder of what troops you may have among the posts at York, Hampton & Williamsburgh. The reasons you assign for having a garrison at Portsmouth are good; but I can by no means think it would be prudent to have any considerable stationary force at Hampton and York. These by being upon a narrow neck of land, would be in danger of being cut off. The enemy might very easily throw up a few ships into York and James’ river, as far as Queens Creek; and land a body of men there, who throw up a few Redoubts, would intercept their retreat and oblige them to surrender at discretion.

In this case, the "narrow neck of land" was about 12 miles wide at its widest point. And it's not an isthmus, either. 


In this example, Washington wrote of a "narrow neck of land" that is about 7.5 miles across, from Sandwich, MA, to Buzzards Bay, MA.

Your Letter of the twelfth Instant I received Saturday Evening;1 I gave immediate attention to your Orders, and as it was judged extremely difficult, if not impracticable, to convey the Mortars by land, I gave Orders to the proper persons to prepare every thing necessary for conveying them by water, and to work day and night until they were compleated. This day they will go on board of Lighters to Sandwich from which place they are to be conveyed over the narrow neck of land to a place called Buzzards Bay,2 where they will be put on board two Lighters and conveyed to Rhode Island, from thence, keeping near the land, to New York. 


Washington referred to Manhattan as a narrow neck of land.

We discovered at the same time by their movements, and our Intelligence, that with the assistance of their Ships they intended to draw a Line round us, and cut of all communication, between the City and Country; thereby reducing us to the necessity of fighting our way out under every disadvantage—surrendering at discretion—or Starving—That they might have accomplished one or the other of these, if we had stayed at New York, is certain; because the City, as I presume you know, stands upon the point of a narrow Neck of Land laying between the East & North Rivers; & not more than a Mile Wide for Six or Seven Miles back; both Rivers having sufficient depth of Water for Ships of any burthen; and because they were not only Superior in Numbers, but could bring their whole force to any one point, whereas we, to keep open the communication were obliged to have an extended Line, or rather a chain of Posts, for near 18 Miles.


The papers of Thomas Jefferson include a reference to Bunker's Hill on a "peninsula joined to the mainland by a neck of land" that was only "a few paces wide."

[13–18 Sep. 1786]

I am unable to say what was the number of Americans engaged in the affair of Bunker’s hill. I am able however to set right a gross falsehood of Andrews. He says that the Americans who were engaged were constantly relieved by fresh hands. This is entirely untrue. Bunker’s hill (or rather Brede’s hill whereon the action was) is a peninsula, joined to the main land by a neck of land almost level with the water, a few paces wide, and between one and two hundred toises long. On one side of this neck lay a vessel of war, and on the other several gun-boats. The body of our army was on the main land; and only a detachment had been sent into the peninsula. When the enemy determined to make the attack, they sent the vessel of war and gun-boats to take the position before mentioned to cut off all reinforcements, which they effectually did. 

the "small neck" at Bunker Hill