Tag Archives: Moroni

Hill of Ancient Seers and Prophets

In September 1827, the Book of Mormon Prophet Moroni visited Joseph Smith. During that first visit from Moroni, Joseph saw in a vision the hill in which the plates were buried. After that, Joseph began referring to that hill outside Palmyra, NY  as Cumorah. This was not a name he received from the Book of Mormon. It was the name he received from Moroni.

Other early leaders, who were close to Joseph Smith, called the hill Cumorah as well. Orson Pratt believed that the hill was not only the place where Moroni buried the Book of Mormon record, but was also the hill in which Moroni’s father Mormon deposited hundreds of other records. In the church publication, Millennial Star, Pratt wrote:

Joseph Knew - Young Orson Pratt
Orson Pratt

“And all the ancient plates, Mormon deposited in Cumorah, about three hundred and eighty-four years after Christ. When Moroni, about thirty-six years after, made the deposit of the book entrusted to him, he was, without doubt, inspired to select a department of the hill separate from the great sacred depository of the numerous volumes hid up by his father. The particular place in the hill, where Moroni secreted the book, was revealed, by the angel, to the Prophet Joseph Smith, to whom the volume was delivered in September, A.D. 1827. But the grand repository of all the numerous records of the ancient nations of the western continent, was located in another department of the hill, and its contents under the charge of holy angels, until the day should come for them to be transferred to the sacred temple of Zion.

“There is no spot on this wide world of ours, which is calculated to excite more vivid reflections, than the wonderful hill of Cumorah. There the history of one-half of our globe, reposed, for fourteen centuries, in profound unbroken silence: there, ‘the everlasting Gospel,’ engraved, not on tablets of stone, but on plates of gold, awaited the voice of the heavenly angel to reveal the priceless treasure: there, buried in the holy archives of Cumorah’s sacred hill, are plates of brass, plates of gold, undimmed by time; sacredly guarded as the temple of heaven: there shines the Urim and Thummim, the stones of light, the gems of immortality: there, reposes in words of light, the hidden knowledge of ages past, the prophetic history of ages to come: there wisdom has selected her palace, and understanding her dwelling place, until ‘the spirit is poured out from on high’ and ‘the skies pour down righteousness;’ then, ‘the earth opens and brings forth salvation.’

Joseph-Knew-Two-Cumorahs-533
The Hill Cumorah c. 1920

“All the wealth of ages is valueless, compared with the records of eternal wisdom, the inexhaustible fountain of understanding, hidden in the secret recesses of the wonderful—the beautiful—the lovely hill Cumorah! O, Cumorah! The hill of ancient Seers and Prophets! The hill
of God! Sanctified by holy angels’ feet! From thy bowels is heard a voice, low, sweet, mild, of heavenly tones! Yet it thrills through every fiber of the heart! It speaks of man—of God— of earth—of heaven—of hell! It speaks of the past—of the future—of the destiny of nations— the reign of Messiah—the resurrection—the final judgment! O holy, lovely mount! The sacred resting place of Zion’s law! In thy chambers dwell eternal riches! In thy lovely bosom are fountains that never dry! Speak! O speak again! Let Zion hear thy voice! For thy voice is not the voice of feeble helpless man! But the voice of the Eternal One, speaking from the ground.” (Millennial Star, 1866)

In 1835, Oliver Cowdery wrote a number of letters he called The Rise of the Church. These appeared in the church publication, The Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate. They were also reprinted in the Times and Seasons. In letter VII he wrote about the hill and described the area around it. It was his belief that the great and final battle in Cumorahland took place west of the hill, between the Hill Cumorah and a smaller hill about a mile west. Cowdery, like Orson Pratt, believed that the hill was not important only to the Nephite prophets, but to the Jaredites as well.

Joseph-Knew-Oliver-Cowdery
Oliver Cowdery

“You are acquainted with the mail road from Palmyra, Wayne Co. to Canandaigua, Ontario Co. N.Y. and also, as you pass from the former to the latter place, before arriving at the little village of Manchester, say from three to four,
 or about four miles from Palmyra, you pass a large hill on the east side of the road. Why I say large, is, because it is as large perhaps, as any in that country. To a person acquainted with this road, a description would be unnecessary, as it is the largest and rises the highest of any on that route. The north end rises quite sudden until it assumes a level with the more southerly extremity, and I think I may say an elevation higher than at the south a short distance, say half or three fourths of a mile. As you pass toward Canandaigua it lessens gradually until the surface assumes its common level, or is broken by other smaller hills or ridges, water courses and ravines. I think I am justified in saying that this is the highest hill for some distance round. . . .

“At about one mile west rises another ridge 
of less height, running parallel with the former, leaving a beautiful vale between. The soil is of the first quality for the country, and under a state of cultivation, which gives a prospect at once imposing, when one reflects on the fact, that here, between these hills, the entire power and national strength of both the Jaredites and Nephites were destroyed.” (Oliver Cowdery,The Rise of the Church, letter VII)

Both of these men were close to the Prophet Joseph Smith. We can assume that much of the information they gained about Book of Mormon lands came from him. They were also both prophets themselves and would be entitled to their own personal insights.

Many leaders have shared their beliefs that the hill outside Palmyra, NY is the Hill Cumorah in the Book of Mormon.

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Hear what Gordon B. Hinckley had to say about the Hill Cumorah in this short video clip. (1:27)

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Image credits: All images in the public domain. The painting of Moroni appearing to Joseph Smith is by the artist C.A.A. Christiansen

Who Said THAT Hill was Cumorah?

Joseph-Knew-Hill-Cumorah-with-BuggySeveral years ago I was speaking to a good friend about events that took place in Palmyra, New York. We talked about Joseph Smith’s First Vision, Moroni’s visit, Joseph receiving the Golden plates, the publishing of the Book of Mormon and a few other 19th century events. I then moved the conversation back about 1,600 years. I talked about the final battle that virtually annihilated the Nephites. At this point the conversation took an interesting turn.

My friend asked, “So you believe the hill in New York is the hill Cumorah from the Book of Mormon?”

I have to say I was a little surprised by the question. “Of course I do.” I said. “Don’t you?”

“Well, no. Everything in the Book of Mormon took place in Central America didn’t it?”

I won’t say anymore about that conversation other than to say that it continued and finally ended in a very friendly way.

But that conversation gave me cause to really think about the Mesoamerica vs North America question. I especially thought about the Cumorah question. Could I be mistaken about the location of Cumorah spoken of in the Book of Mormon? After much research and contemplation, I have determined that if I am mistaken about the location of the Book of Mormon Cumorah, I’m in very good company. Here is a list of others who were mistaken:

Oliver Cowdery, Heber J. Grant, Martin Harris, Heber C. Kimball, J. Golden Kimball, Moroni, Orson Pratt, Parley P. Pratt, B. H. Roberts, Hyrum Smith, Joseph Smith Jr., Joseph F. Smith, Joseph Fielding Smith, Lucy Mack Smith, James E. Talmage, Wilford Woodruff, Brigham Young.

Before we quote some of the above individuals, let’s first look at Doctrine & Covenants 128:20. Section 128 is an epistle from Joseph Smith to the members of the church. In it he reminds them of the great coming forth of the Book of Mormon by the hands of Moroni.

“And again, what do we hear? Glad tidings from Cumorah! Moroni, an angel from heaven, declaring the fulfilment of the prophets—the book to be revealed.”

Joseph-Knew-BH-Roberts-at-Hill-CumorahIn his comprehensive history of the church, Church Historian Elder B. H. Roberts wrote:

“Encouraged by this repetition of the vision of the previous night, and strengthened by the assurances of his father that the visitation was of God, Joseph repaired that same day to the hill he had seen in vision, the place where the sacred record was concealed, some two miles distant from the Smith home. The hill is about four miles south of the town of Palmyra, in Wayne county. It stands on the east side of the Cananandaigua road, and is the most conspicuous landmark in all that section of New York. In the Book of Mormon the hill is known as Ramah, and Cumorah, referred to more frequently, however, by the latter name.” (B. H. Roberts, A Comprehensive History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Century 1, Brigham Young University Press, Vol. 1, 1965, pg. 75)

Again, from Elder Roberts:

“This time it will have to do with so important a matter as a war of extinction of two peoples, the Nephites and the Jaredites, on the self same battle site, with the same ‘hill’ marking the axis of military movements. By the Nephites this ‘hill’ was called the ‘Hill Cumorah,’ by the Jaredites the ‘Hill Ramah’; it was that same ‘hill,’ in which the Nephite records were deposited by Mormon and Moroni, and from which Joseph Smith obtained the Book of Mormon, therefore the ‘Mormon Hill’, of today—since the coming forth of the Book of Mormon—near Palmyra, New York. (B.H. Roberts, Studies of the Book of Mormon, p.277)

Joseph-Knew-Oliver-CowderyWhen Oliver Cowdery and Parley P. Pratt were serving their mission to the Lamanites, Oliver related a brief history of the Book of Mormon to the Delaware Chief. Elder Pratt recorded Oliver’s discussion in his autobiography. Explaining how the Book of Mormon was a history of the Lamanite people, Oliver said:

“This book, which contained these things, was hid in the earth by Moroni, in a hill called by him, Cumorah, which hill is now in the state of New York, near the village of Palmyra, in Ontario county.” (Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, pg. 59)

Joseph-Knew-Orson-PrattApostle Orson Pratt spoke many times about the hill Cumorah and never placed it anywhere but New York.

“Thirty-six years prior to this time his [Moroni’s] nation was destroyed in what we term the State of New York, around about a hill, called by that people the Hill of Cumorah, when many hundreds of thousands of the Nephites-men, women and children, fell, during the greatest battle that they had had with the Lamanites.” (Journal of Discourses Vol. 20, pg. 62)

In a conference address in October, 1975, Elder Marion G. Romney spoke of his personal experience at the Hill.

“In the western part of the state of New York near Palmyra is a prominent hill known as the “Hill Cumorah.” On July twenty-fifth of this year, as I stood on the crest of that hill admiring with awe the breathtaking panorama which stretched out before me on every hand, my mind reverted to the events which occurred in that vicinity some twenty-five centuries ago—events which brought to an end the great Jaredite nation.”

Later in his address he said the following:

“This second civilization to which I refer, the Nephites , flourished in America between 600 B.C. and A.D. 400. Their civilization came to an end for the same reason, at the same place, and in the same manner as did the Jaredites.” (Talk given by President Marion G. Romney in General Conference, October 4, 1975, Ensign Nov. 1975 pg. 35)

In his book, Doctrines of Salvation, Hyrum Smith’s grandson Joseph Fielding Smith wrote:

“It is known that the Hill Cumorah where the Nephites were destroyed is the hill where the Jaredites were also destroyed.  This hill was known to the Jaredites as Rama. It was approximately near to the waters of Ripliancum, which the Book of Ether says, “by interpretation, is large, or to exceed all.”  Mormon adds: “And it came to pass that we did march forth to the land of Cumorah, and we did pitch our tents round about the hill Cumorah; and it was in a land of many waters, rivers, and fountains; and here we had hope to gain advantage over the Lamanites.”

“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.

“Further, the fact that all of his associates from the beginning down have spoken of it as the identical hill where Mormon and Moroni hid the records, must carry some weight. It is difficult for a reasonable person to believe that such men as Oliver Cowdery, Brigham Young, Parley P. Pratt, Orson Pratt, David Whitmer, and many others, could speak frequently of the spot where the Prophet Joseph Smith obtained the plates as the Hill Cumorah, and not be corrected by the Prophet, if that were not the fact.  That they did speak of this hill in the days of the Prophet in this definite manner is an established record of history….” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation , Vol.3, Bookcraft, 1956, p.232-43.)

Joseph-Knew-James-E-TalmageIn the early part of the 20th century, Apostle James E. Talmage was a frequent visitor to Palmyra. In his book Articles of Faith he wrote:

“The hill, which was known by one division of the ancient peoples as Cumorah, by another as Ramah, is situated near Palmyra in the State of New York .” (James E. Talmage, Articles of Faith, chapter 14)

We could cite quote after quote by early and present-day church leaders placing the hill from the Book of Mormon in New York, but the most compelling argument is this. After Moroni’s first visit to the Prophet Joseph Smith, Joseph began calling the hill “Cumorah”. Joseph had not yet received the plates, and could not have heard the name “Cumorah” from any other source than Moroni himself.

In the early days of the church no other location besides New York was ever considered for the Hill Cumorah.  Moroni deposited his plates in the hill and called it Cumorah, and Joseph Smith returned the plates to that very same hill and called it Cumorah.

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Lamanites in North America

Joseph-Knew-Oliver-CowderyIn September 1830 the second general conference of the church was held in Fayette, New York. At the time there were only 62 members of the church. At that conference the Lord, through the Prophet Joseph, commanded Oliver Cowdery to, “go unto the Lamanites and preach my gospel unto them”. (D&C 8:8) This was the first official church mission. Three others, Ziba Peterson, Parley P. Pratt and Peter Whitmer were called to accompany Oliver. Pratt recorded their missionary activities in his autobiography.

“After travelling for some days we called on an Indian nation at or near Buffalo; and spent part of a day with them, instructing them in the knowledge of the record of their forefathers. We were kindly received, and much interest was manifested by them on hearing this news.” (Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, page 47)

Joseph-Knew-Parley-P-PrattThe missionaries traveled from the Buffalo area to Ohio where they met and taught other Lamanites. While there, they baptized Frederick G. Williams who joined them in their missionary efforts into Missouri. It was here that Cowdery, Pratt and Williams met with the Delawares and the Shawnees. The chief of the Delawares, who had taken the Christian name Anderson, was open and receptive. In a letter to Joseph Smith, Cowdery wrote:

“The principal chief says he believes every word of the Book and there are many more in the Nation who believe and we understand there are many among the Shawnees who also believe & we trust that when the Lord shall open our way we shall have glorious times.”

Joseph-Knew-Joseph_Preaching_to_the_Indians_by_C.C.A._ChristensenJoseph Smith saw the Native Americans in a different light than was popular in America at the time. It’s reasonable to assume his view came from the Book of Mormon, which did not portray them as savages, untamed by civilized society. Joseph knew from the Book of Mormon that the Lamanites were a noble people, equal in stature to any people on earth. Joseph’s view of the Lamanites was no doubt reinforced in November 1831 when, at a special conference of the elders of the church, he received a revelation, which would become the first section of the Doctrine and Covenants. The Lord reveals his intention and desire to make the gospel known “unto all flesh,” because he is “no respecter of persons.” (D&C 1:34,35)

The US government did not share this view of Native Americans. In 1830, the same year the Lord sent his first missionaries out to share the gospel with the Lamanites, the US congress passed the Indian Removal Act. This gave the US President power to order the removal of any and all Native Americans to the western territories. By moving the savages out of the east, it opened the way for civilized society to expand.

The attitudes of the Latter-day Saints toward the Native Americans served as kindling for the anti-Mormon fires that were smoldering in Missouri. Oliver Cowdery taught the Delawares that the land should be “held in common with the palefaces”. (Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, page 55) Such teaching could not have set well with landowners.

Joseph traveled to share the gospel with the Lamanites. He also welcomed them into Nauvoo.

When the Lord commanded Joseph to send missionaries among the Lamanites, Joseph did not send them to Central or South America. He sent them into North America. However, Joseph’s understanding of who the Native Americans were did not begin with the translation of the Book of Mormon. As a seventeen year old he was taught by Moroni “concerning the aboriginal inhabitants of this country, and shown who they were, and from whence they came; a brief sketch of their origin, progress, civilization, laws, governments, of their righteousness and iniquity”. (The Wentworth Letter)

Joseph knew that the Native Americans were descended from Joseph of Egypt, and those missionaries who shared the gospel with them understood that fact. After his first mission to the Lamanites, Parley P. Pratt expressed his hope that “at some future day, when the servants of God go forth with power to the remnant of Joseph, some precious seed will be found growing in their hearts, which [was] sown by us in that early day”. (Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, page 57) During Moroni’s first appearance to Joseph Smith, Moroni said he had been “sent to bring the joyful tidings, that the covenant which God made with ancient Israel was at hand to be fulfilled”. That first mission to the Lamanites in 1830 was helping to fulfill that covenant.

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REPUBLISHED — Some of the earliest research into the lands of the Book of Mormon

“Geography of the Book of Mormon”

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A new documentary about Willard and Rebecca Bean is now available. “Love Unfeigned” is a three-part DVD.

The Biography of Willard Bean chronicles his youth, his mission in the Southern States, his acting and political experiences in New York City, and his successful boxing career. — (17 minutes)

The Biography of Rebecca Bean tells of her family’s conversion in Denmark, her growing up in Richfield, Utah and her sacred experiences living in the Joseph Smith home in Palmyra, NY. (26 minutes) 

Love Unfeigned celebrates the 100-year legacy of Willard and Rebecca’s influence in Palmyra, NY. It includes interviews with Bean family members, local Palmyra residents and Book of Mormon scholars. The DVD includes never before seen photos from the Bean family collection. (60 minutes)

To order your copy, visit “This is the MarketPlace”.

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Image credits: Joseph Smith preaching to the Laminates by CCA Christensen

Photos of Oliver Cowdery and Orson Pratt by unknown photographers (in the public domain)

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Two Cumorahs?

If one subscribes to the theory that events in the Book of Mormon took place in Central and/or South America, then one automatically subscribes to the theory that there were two Hill Cumorahs. One in Central America where the great finals battles took place, and another some 5,000 miles away in New York to where Moroni traveled for the sole purpose of depositing the plates.

In his April, 1953 General Conference address, Apostle Mark E. Peterson said:

“I do not believe that there were two Hill Cumorahs, one in Central America and the other one up in New York, for the convenience of the Prophet Joseph Smith, so that the poor boy would not have to walk clear to Central America to get the gold plates.”

There are two common arguments Mesoamerica proponents present:

The hill in New York is too small.

In the sixth chapter of Mormon, Mormon describes the battle which took place in the “land of Cumorah”. In verses 11-14 he lists 13 leaders whose ten thousands had fallen. In the next verse he mentions ten other un-named leaders, each with ten thousand. Some proponents of a Mesoamerica Cumorah argue that the Hill in New York is too small to support a battle between 230,000 people and their enemies.

Mormon does not say the battle took place on the hill. He only says they pitched their tents around the hill. The only mention of being on the hill is in verse 11 when he climbs to the top of the hill, “when the Lamanites had returned unto their camps”. It was from the top of the hill he viewed the carnage below him around the hill. This might suggest the hill was so small that Mormon had to wait for the Lamanites to leave the area, and “return to their camps”, before he could climb to the top without being seen.

Nothing in the text indicates that the battle took place on the hill or even adjacent to the hill where the Nephites pitched their tents. But even if the fighting did take place right next to the hill, there is plenty of room for 230,000 people and their enemies to do battle. Today 8,000 chairs are set up in one small space at the northwest corner of the hill for the annual Hill Cumorah Pageant.

The Climate in North America is wrong.

Some proponents of Mesoamerica argue that because there is no mention of Book of Mormon people experiencing snow, Upstate New York is ruled out as a possible location for the final battle. It’s cold in the Rochester and Buffalo areas, and the Book of Mormon writers don’t mention experiencing snow or even winter. Therefore, there must have been no winter.

Although the words winter, spring, summer and autumn are not mentioned, we do know there were seasons.

“And there were some who died with fevers, which at some seasons of the year were very frequent in the land—but not so much so with fevers, because of the excellent qualities of the many plants and roots which God had prepared to remove the cause of diseases, to which men were subject by the nature of the climate—“ (Alma 46:40)

We also know that temperatures varied.

“And it came to pass that when the night had come, Teancum and his servant stole forth and went out by night, and went into the camp of Amalickiah; and behold, sleep had overpowered them because of their much fatigue, which was caused by the labors and heat of the day.” (Alma 51:33)

This single verse in Alma and the fact that the Lamanites came to battle wearing nothing but a loin cloth have caused many to believe Book of Mormon lands must have been tropical.

In July, 1609 French explorer Samuel de Champlain joined a war party at the borders of Vermont and New York. Below is his sketch depicting the Mohawk warriors doing battle completely naked. Clearly it was warm enough to do battle dressed in little or nothing at all.

JosephKnew-Samuel-de-Champlain-sketch

One might agree that July in New York could be loincloth weather, but if, as the Book of Mormon tells us, the battle took place on the last day of the Nephite year it would be too cold for such clothing, or lack of it.

The question we need to ask is whether or not the Nephites used the Gregorian calendar we use today. Because they were Jews who came to the Promised Land in 600 BC, it is logical they would not be using the Gregorian calendar. The book of 3 Nephi gives us insight into how their calendar was laid out.

Speaking of the great storm and destruction that accompanied the death of Christ, it reads:

“And it came to pass in the thirty and fourth year, in the first month, on the fourth day of the month, there arose a great storm, such an one as never had been known in all the land.” (3 Nephi 8:5)

We know that Christ died in April on our calendar. That establishes our April as the first month of the Nephite calendar. If the battle took place the last day of the Nephite year, that puts it some time in April. Looking at recorded temperatures for mid April in Upstate New York of the past 100 years, we find that temperatures in the 80s are not uncommon.

Arguments for the New York Hill

Some argue that Moroni’s reference to the New York hill as Cumorah was a typonym in the same way the people in the British colonies of North America named locations after places in their homeland, examples being New York, New Jersey, New England. Other examples of naming places in honor of someplace else are Bethlehem, PA or Bethesda, MA. There is an important difference here with the Hill Cumorah. British colonists knew that New York was not the same place as York in England. Joseph Smith believed the Hill in New York to be the Hill Cumorah from the Book of Mormon and Moroni never corrected that assumption.

Another good argument is that it is a hill. Unlike Cerro el Vigia, one proposed hill in Mexico, the New York hill rises 220-230 feet from base to top. Cerro el Vidia stands 2,700 feet from base to top. A “hill” of 2,700 feet is a mountain and surely would have been described as such by Mormon.

The “land of Cumorah”, is described as “a land of many waters, rivers and fountains”. The area around the Hill Cumorah certainly fits that description. New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio are home to nearly 400 lakes including the Great Lakes.

In their 1949 book, “The Geography of the Book of Mormon”, Willard Bean and E. Cecil McGavin propose the Finger Lakes area of New York as the Land of Many Waters. Below is an image from their book. We have added a red dot to indicate where the Hill Cumorah is located on this map.

JosephKnew-Land-of-Many-Waters-with-red-dot

 

There are many strong arguments for the hill in New York being the Hill Cumorah, but the strongest of these arguments is that Moroni himself said it was.

Copyright © 2014 by Energy Media Works LLC

When using portions of this article, please credit: JosephKnew.com

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Additional information:

For more information about the Nephite calendar, see Rod Meldrum’s book, “The Book of Mormon in America’s Heartland”.

For more information about Moroni and the Hill Cumorah, see the Joseph Knew article “They Wrote the Book”.

For information about the evidence of wars in the Great Lakes area, see the Joseph Knew article “Giants in the Land”.

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Cumorah photo, 1907 by George Edward Anderson

They Wrote the Book

On September 21, 1823 the Book of Mormon Prophet Moroni appeared to Joseph Smith. It could be said that at that moment Joseph entered a School of the Prophets. His knowledge of the Book of Mormon, its lands, its people, its customs, practices, and wars, did not begin when he started translating the plates. It started when he met Moroni, the keeper of the plates.

John Wentworth
John Wentworth

In March 1842, at the request of John Wentworth, editor of the newspaper, the Chicago Democrat, Joseph penned a history of the church up to that point. He described that first visit of Moroni and included:

“I was also informed concerning the aboriginal inhabitants of this country and shown who they were, and from whence they came; a brief sketch of their origins, progress, civilization, laws, governments, of their righteousness and iniquity, and the blessings of God being finally withdrawn from them as a people, was made known unto me.” (emphases added)

In her history, Joseph’s mother Lucy Mack Smith tells how his understanding of Book of Mormon people and events grew after that first visit from Moroni.

“From this time forth, Joseph continued to receive instructions from the Lord, and we continued to get the children together every evening for the purpose of listening while he gave us a relation of the same.”

Lucy Mack Smith
Lucy Mack Smith

Describing those evening conversations she wrote:

“During our evening conversations, Joseph would occasionally give us some of the most amusing recitals that could be imagined. He would describe the ancient inhabitants of this continent, their dress, mode of traveling, and the animals upon which they rode; their cities, their buildings, with every particular; their mode of warfare; and also their religious worship. This he would do with as much ease, seemingly, as if he had spent his whole life among them.” (emphases added)

Between that first visit in 1823 and 1827 when Joseph received the plates, Moroni visited the prophet at least twenty times. He was also instructed by other heavenly “teachers”. Again, from the Wentworth letter:

“After having received many visits from the angels of God unfolding the majesty and glory of the events that should transpire in the last days, on the morning of the 22nd of September, A.D. 1827, the angel of the Lord delivered the records into my hands.”

Before Joseph received the plates he had a good understanding of the people of the Book of Mormon, as Lucy Mack Smith put it, the inhabitants “of this continent”.

"The Hill Cumorah" by C.C.A Christensen
“The Hill Cumorah” by C.C.A Christensen

After that first visit from Moroni, during which he saw in a vision, the hill in which the plates were buried, Joseph began referring to that hill as Cumorah. This was not a name he received from the Book of Mormon. It was the name of the hill he received from the very person who showed him the hill. Moroni, who had buried the plates in the hill himself called the hill Cumorah.

From these writings, the Wentworth letter (penned by Joseph Smith himself), and his mother’s autobiography, we learn what Joseph knew about the Book of Mormon lands and people.

He saw them. He knew what they looked like. He knew how they dressed.

He spoke with them. He received firsthand, eye-witness accounts of their lives.

He knew where they came from. He knew they were descendants of Joseph who was sold into Egypt.

He knew where they lived. He saw their cities and buildings.

He saw their progress. He saw their civilizations, their laws and government.

He knew whom and how they worshiped. He saw their righteousness.

He knew what became of them. He saw their wars, and iniquities.

We have an expression we use when we want to identify someone as an expert in a given field. We say, He wrote the book on that subject. The person didn’t literally write the book about the subject, but he or she knows more than pretty much anyone else about it. Joseph Smith knew the lands of the Book of Mormon and he received much of his understanding from the people who lived there. He was taught by Moroni, who literally wrote the book. He met and talked with Nephi, who literally wrote the book. Joseph knew the lands and history of the Book of Mormon.

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