Category Archives: Nephite

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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Ancient Burial Sites of New York

Joseph-Knew-Mormon-Media-Network-E-G-SquireAntiquities of New York

In earlier articles we have discussed the skillful and precise construction of great cities, large temple mounds and military defenses. The information in these articles has come from a variety of sources, including personal visits to the sites. Some of the best information on the ancient civilizations of North America has been provided by Ephraim George Squier (1821 – 1888). Along with his research and publishing partner Edwin Hamilton Davis (1811 – 1888), he unknowingly provided us with great insight into the lives, religions, cities and social networks of the people of the Book of Mormon.

In his book, Antiquities of the State of New York, Squier chronicles something much different than is found in his previous publications, Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley and Aboriginal Monuments of the State of New York. Instead of descriptions of beautifully aligned cities, or carefully laid out military forts, he reports of works “constructed in haste for temporary purposes”. He details evidence of “indiscriminate massacres” and “bone-pits”.

Connections to the Book of Mormon

Joseph Knew Mormon Media Network Final Battle near Buffalo NYIn the Book of Mormon, in the 6th chapter of Mormon, the Nephites gather to the land Cumorah for the final battles with the Lamanites. If, as we have proposed in a previous article, the land Cumorah was in upstate New York near the Hill Cumorah, Rochester, and Buffalo, then the following passage from Squier’s chapter Ancient Work near Buffalo takes on significant meaning.

“Tradition fixes upon this spot as the scene of the final and most bloody conflict between the Iroquois and the ‘Gah-kwas’ or Erie — a tradition which has been supposed to derive some sanction from the number of fragments of decayed human bones which are scattered over the area.” (Antiquities of the State of New York, E. G. Squire, M. A., 1851, page 74)

Tens of Thousands Killed

“And Lamah had fallen with his ten thousand; and Gilgal had fallen with his ten thousand; and Limhah had fallen with his ten thousand; and Jeneum had fallen with his ten thousand; and Cumenihah, and Moronihah, and Antionum, and Shiblom, and Shem, and Josh, had fallen with their ten thousand each.” (Mormon 6:14)

The number of people slaughtered at Cumorah seems incomprehensible. Many non-believers cite these passages as evidence of Joseph Smith’s great imagination. Surely there would be evidence today of such large numbers of dead people. While excavating along the banks of the Erie Canal the following was recorded:

“In excavating the canal through the bank bordering the flats, perhaps thirty rods south of the fort, another burial-place was disclosed, evidently more ancient, for the bones crumbled to pieces almost immediately upon exposure to the air, and the deposits were far more numerous than in that near the river. The number of skeletons are represented to have been countless, and the dead had been buried in a sitting posture.” (Antiquities of the State of New York, E. G. Squier, M. A., 1851, page 144)

“One of these pits discovered some years ago, in the town of Cambria, Niagara County, was estimated to contain the bones of several thousand individuals.” (Ibid, page 99)

Joseph-Knew-Mormon-Media-Network-Arrow-HeadSavage Warfare

Squier uncovered evidence of savage warfare, which left “bone-heaps” and “bone-pits” throughout the Finger Lakes region of New York (Cumorahland).

“Besides the various earth-works [ ], there are a number of other interesting objects of antiquarian interest in this county. Among them may be mentioned the ‘bone-pits’ or deposits of human bones. One is found near the village of Brownsville, on Black River. It is described as a pit, ten or twelve feet square, by perhaps four feet deep, in which are promiscuously heaped together a large number of human skeletons.” (Ibid, page 29 – italics in the original)

“Near the town of Fulton, on the west side of Oswego River, is an eminence called ‘Bone Hill’ in which have been found great numbers of human bones promiscuously heaped together. They are much decayed. Intermixed with them were discovered a number of flint arrow-heads.” (Ibid, page 31 – italics in the original)

In Genesee County the ruins of a large enclosure were discovered.

“It was called the ‘Bone Fort’ from the circumstance that the early settlers found within it a mound, six feet in height by thirty at the base, which was entirely made up of human bones slightly covered with earth. A few fragments of these bones, scattered over the surface, alone mark the site of the aboriginal sepulcher. The popular opinion concerning this accumulation is, that it contained the bones of the slain, thus heaped together after some severe battle.”

“There have also been discovered some heaps of small stones; which have been supposed to be the missiles of the ancient occupants of the hill, thus got together to be used in case of attack.” (Ibid, pages 66 and 69)

Joseph-Knew-Mormon-Media-Network-Ancient-burial-sites-in-VIctor-New-YorkThe “bone-pits” found in New York differ in one important way from burial grounds in the Mississippi Valley. Unlike those in Mississippi, the Cumorahland pits and mounds appear to be created in great haste. A mound near Greene Township, NY, near the Chenango River was discovered and excavated.

“Great numbers of human bones were found ; and beneath them, at a greater depth, others were found which had evidently been burned. No conjecture could be formed of the number of bodies deposited here. The skeletons were found lying without order, and so much decayed as to crumble on exposure. At one point in the mound a large number, perhaps two hundred, arrowheads were discovered, collected in a heap. They were of the usual form, and of yellow or black flint.” (ibid, pages 47 and 48)

The End of Two Great Nations

The Book of Mormon tells of two great battles of genocide that took place in Cumorahland, the Jaradites and centuries later the Nephites. Could the two layers of burials described above be evidence of the end of these great civilizations?

In a previous article, we discussed the bones, arrowheads, and weapons that continue to be found in the Finger Lakes region of New York. There are many contemporary firsthand accounts of massive graves throughout the area known as Cumorahland. Students of the Book of Mormon looking for evidence of the great battles of the Jaradites and the Nephites can look in the Land of Many Waters in Upstate New York.

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Antiquities of the State of New York, E. G. Squire, M. A., 1851

Nephite Cities in America’s Heartland

Joseph-Knew-Mormon-Media-Network-Great-Circle“Few realize that some of the oldest, largest and most complex structures of ancient archaeology were built of earth, clay, and stone right here in America, in the Ohio and Mississippi valleys. From 6,000 years ago until quite recently, North America was home to some of the most highly advanced and well organized civilizations in the world – complete with cities, roads, and commerce.” — Dr. Roger Kennedy, former director of the Smithsonian’s American History Museum

In the heartland of North America the Hopewell civilization built some of the largest and grandest earthworks in the world. The Hopewell and Nephite cultures thrived during the same time frame, 400 BC – 300 AD and many students of the Book of Mormon believe they are one and the same.

Mound cities appear to have been designed for defense. For this defense, great ditches, 6 feet deep were dug around the outsides. That dirt was then piled 6 feet high as a second defense. On top of the mound tall timbers were embedded making a palisade as a third defense.

It’s hard to call it a coincidence that Nephite Captain Moroni defended his cities in the same manner.

  • And now it came to pass that Moroni did not stop making preparations for war, or to defend his people against the Lamanites; for he caused that his armies should commence in the commencement of the twentieth year of the reign of the judges, * that they should commence in digging up heaps of earth round about all the cities, throughout all the land which was possessed by the Nephites.
  • And upon the top of these ridges of earth he caused that there should be timbers, yea, works of timbers built up to the height of a man, round about the cities.
  • And he caused that upon those works of timbers there should be a frame of pickets built upon the timbers round about; and they were strong and high. (Alma 50:1-3) * 72 B.C.

Mormon-Media-Network-Joseph-Knew-Great Octagon Max-S-RiseThe largest of these mound cities is found in Newark, Ohio. Known as the Great Octagon and the Great Circle, this city was not a place of defense, but it was a place of worship and a center for learning and Astronomical study. In 1982, professors Ray Hively and Robert Horn of Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana studied the layout of the city and determined that the people who built it had a keen understanding of astronomy and geometry. The great octagon, in conjunction with the great circle, was laid out in such a way as to line up with the rising and setting of the moon.

Mormon-Media-Network-Joseph-Knew-Great-Octagon-Max-S-SetThe Nephites of the Book of Mormon were aware of moon cycles and we know at the very least they used those cycles to chronicle time.

  • And they gave an account of one Coriantumr, and the slain of his people. And Coriantumr was discovered by the people of Zarahemla; and he dwelt with them for the space of nine moons. (Omni 1:21)

The Nephites had enough awareness of the heavens to recognize when a new star appeared. They recognized, and presumably had names for, constellation patterns.

  • Mormon-Media-Network-Joseph-Knew-Great-Octagon-Max-N-setAnd behold, there shall a new star arise, such an one as ye never have beheld; and this also shall be a sign unto you. (Helaman 14:5)
  • For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light; the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine. (2 Nephi 23:10)


The Moon travels through a cycle from north to south that takes 18.6 years to complete. Hively and Horn noted that the Octagon and Circle are aligned with the points on the horizon that mark the rising and setting of the moon at its southern and northern most points. It has been estimated that the odds of this being accidental or coincidental are approximately one in forty million. The people who built this city recognized not only the 28 day cycle of the moon, but also understood its 18.6 year pattern. 

Joseph-Knew-Mormon-Media-Network-Great-Circle-2It is believed by many scholars that the Great Circle and Octagon were used for religious services. Just inside the Octagon, in front of the eight gates or entrances, are eight flat-topped mounds. They stand 6 feet high, and are 75 to 90 feet long and 40 to 60 feet wide. It’s unknown for certain what these mounds were, but it’s possible they were placed there to prevent people on the outside from seeing the religious ceremonies taking place inside the Octagon. Is it possible that this, being the largest Nephite religious structure, was the temple in the Land Bountiful? Was it here that the righteous gathered after the great destruction at the time of the crucifixion?

  • Joseph-Knew-Mormon-Media-Network-Great-Circle-3And now it came to pass that there were a great multitude gathered together, of the people of Nephi, round about the temple which was in the land Bountiful; and they were marveling and wondering one with another, and were showing one to another the great and marvelous change which had taken place.
  • And they were also conversing about this Jesus Christ, of whom the sign had been given concerning his death. (3 Nephi 11:1-2)

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Great Octagon and Circle etchings — Public Domain


The Hopewell Culture — Were They the Nephites of the Book of Mormon?

Many people believe, and we at Joseph Knew share the belief, that the North American people known as the Hopewell were the Nephites of the Book of Mormon.

Because many of our future articles will talk about these people and their connection to the Book of Mormon, we want to share information about them now. It’s important to understand who they were, where they lived, how they lived and what became of them.

Who Were the Hopewell?

The Hopewell people were one of the most influential cultures in North America. They were artists, architects, astronomers, scholars and theologians. They are most commonly known as mound builders. They built mounds for religious reasons, as burials sites, for protection, and as effigies.

The name Hopewell comes from Mordecai Hopewell, a landowner in Chillicothe, Illinois. It was on his property the first mounds were excavated in the 1800’s.

Joseph-Knew-Hopewell-Cement-WallWhere did They Live?

This was a Native American culture that developed and spread throughout the Midwest. It is not associated with any specific tribe, but rather is a way of life that was common throughout the heartland of North America, Indiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, Mississippi, and the Ohio Valley. The main concentration was found in these areas, but evidence of them can be found in other areas as well.

They built their cities mainly near waterways such as rivers and lakes that could support their trade system.

They created large enclosures of earthen walls 2 -3 meters high. These walls outlined shapes such as squares, circles and octagons. They created entire cities using geometry and astronomy. Their sacred enclosures often occupied spaces of over 100 acres and were laid out in distinctive patterns aligned with the sun, moon and stars.

Joseph-Knew-Hopewell-Culture-Cement-Houses-Helaman-3-11How did They Live?

They planted and harvested crops. They hunted and fished. They used tools of not only stone and flint, but of metals. Through a sophisticated trade system, they acquired shells from the Gulf Coast, obsidian from the Rocky Mountains, and copper from the Great Lakes region. They worked in copper, lead, gold, and silver creating not only tools and weapons, but also works of art.

Joseph-Knew-Hopewell-Culture-Newark-Works“They possessed a decided system of religion, and a mythological connection with astronomy, which with its sister science geometry, was in the hands of the priesthood.” (Alexander W. Bradford, American Antiquities and Research into the Origin and History of the Red Race, 1843, pages 69-71)

They built roads of cement. They built their houses, temples and sanctuaries out of timber and cement. They had a definite system of religion and the priesthood was influential in their government. God, religion, family, peace and freedom were extremely important.

Joseph-Knew-Hopewell-Culture-Title-of-Liberty-Alma-46-12When did They Live? What Happened to them?

The influential Hopewell culture flourished for approximately 700 years, beginning about 300 BC, and died out suddenly about 400 AD. Although historians cannot explain their sudden disappearance, if they were, as we believe, the Nephites, the Book of Mormon explains their demise at the hand of their enemies the Lamanites. Moroni, in about 420 AD writes:

“Now I, Moroni, after having made an end of abridging the account of the people of Jared, I had supposed not to have written more, but I have not as yet perished; and I make not myself known to the Lamanites lest they should destroy me.

“For behold, their wars are exceedingly fierce among themselves; and because of their hatred they put to death every Nephite that will not deny the Christ.

“And I, Moroni, will not deny the Christ; wherefore, I wander whithersoever I can for the safety of mine own life.” — Moroni 1:1-3

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Timber and concrete wall photo by: Mormon Media Network

Great Destruction in the Land

Joseph-Knew-3-NephiIn the Book of Mormon we read of great destruction at the time of Christ’s death. Some who believe Central and South America to be the land of the Book of Mormon cite the destruction recorded in the eighth chapter of 3 Nephi as evidence, believing the heartland of North America is not prone to such destruction. As evidence to the contrary we can look at the earthquakes of 1811 and 1812. Named for a Missouri town on the Mississippi River, the quakes have become known as the New Madrid earthquakes.

At 2:15 AM on December 16, 1811 an 8.1 magnitude earthquake hit the central United States. The epicenter was in northeast Arkansas. It was strongly felt over an area of 50,000 square miles (130,000 square kilometers) and moderately felt across 1 million square miles (nearly 3 million square kilometers). By comparison, the devastating 1906 San Francisco quake was felt over approximately 6,200 square miles (16,000 square kilometers).

Four days later another 8.1 quake hit; followed by a 7.8 on January 23, 1812 and an 8.0 on February 7, 1812. From December 16 to February 7 the area was hit by over 2,000 earthquakes or after shocks.

The similarities between the destruction recorded in 3 Nephi and the destruction in America’s heartland are undeniable. Below is a verse-by-verse comparison of events in the Book of Mormon at the time of the crucifixion and events in and around New Madrid, Missouri.



3 Nephi 8:12

. . . for behold, the whole face of the land was changed, because of the tempest and the whirlwinds, and the thunderings and the lightnings, and the exceedingly great quaking of the whole earth;

New Madrid Eye-witness Accounts

There was a great shaking of the earth this morning. Tables and chairs turned over and knocked around – all of us knocked out of bed. The roar I thught (sic) would leave us deaf if we lived. – George Heinrich Grist

Many witnesses reported hearing distant thunder and loud explosions. “Earthquake Booms” can be caused by small earthquakes deep underground which are too small to be recorded. They often have the roar of distant thunder.

There were many reports in New Madrid of flashes of light coming from the ground. This is caused by quartz crystals being squeezed. This phenomenon, which can look like lightning, is called “seismoluminescence.”



3 Nephi 8:14, 17-18

And many great and notable cities were sunk, and many were burned, and many were shaken till the buildings thereof had fallen to the earth, and the inhabitants thereof were slain, and the places were left desolate. 

And thus the face of the whole earth became deformed, because of the tempests, and the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the quaking of the earth.

And behold, the rocks were rent in twain; they were broken up upon the face of the whole earth, insomuch that they were found in broken fragments, and in seams and in cracks, upon all the face of the land.

New Madrid Eye-witness Accounts

“In all the hard shocks mentioned, the earth was horribly torn to pieces – the surface of hundreds of acres, was, from time to time, covered over, in various depths, by the sand which issued from the fissures, which were made in great numbers all over this country, some of which closed up immediately after they had vomited forth their sand and water, which it must be remarked, was the matter generally thrown up. In some places, however, there was a substance somewhat resembling coal, or impure stone coal, thrown up with the sand. It is impossible to say what the depths of the fissures or irregular breaks were; we have reason to believe that some of them are very deep.” – Eliza Bryan

“The surface was sinking and a black liquid was rising up to the belly of my horse, who stood motionless, struck with a panic of terror … [ ] …water spouts, hundreds of them throwing water and sand were to be observed on the whole face of the country, the sand forming miniature volcanoes, whilst the water spouted out of the craters; some of the spouts were quite six feet high… In a few minutes, on both sides of the road as far as the eye could see, was vast expanse of sand and water, water and sand. The road spouted water, and wide openings were to be seen across it ahead of me, then under me, and my [vehicle] sank while the water and sand bubbled, and spat and sucked till my axles were covered.” – J Fletcher

“I went ashore, and found the chasm really frightful, as it was not less than four feet in width and besides the bank had sunk at least two feet. I took the candle, examined to determine its length and concluded that it could not be less than eighty yards long.” – John Bradbury (on the Mississippi River)

“The earth was broken in many places and the openings filled with water. The houses much injured – the only brick chimney in the place entirely demolished . . .” – Daniel Bedinger

Maps from the mid 1800’s referred to some lakes in the area as “Earthquake Lakes”.

In 1912, areas around the Mississippi river were identified and named “Sunklands”. Geologist Myron Fuller believed those lands were created during the New Madrid earthquake.

One terrifying phenomenon that occured in the New Madrid area was that of sand blows or sand boils. Liquefaction can cause geysers of sand, water and tar to gush from the earth. These sand blows can blow up to twenty feet high and can completely cover acres of land.



3 Nephi 8:19-20

And it came to pass that when the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the storm, and the tempest, and the quakings of the earth did cease—for behold, they did last for about the space of three hours; and it was said by some that the time was greater; nevertheless, all these great and terrible things were done in about the space of three hours—and then behold, there was darkness upon the face of the land. 

And it came to pass that there was thick darkness upon all the face of the land, insomuch that the inhabitants thereof who had not fallen could feel the vapor of darkness;

New Madrid Eye-witness Accounts

“We were visited by a violent shock of an earthquake, accompanied by a very awful noise resembling loud but distant thunder, but more hoarse and vibrating, which was followed in a few minutes by the complete saturation of the atmosphere, with sulphurious vapor, causing total darkness.” – Eliza Bryan

“A dense black cloud of vapor overshadowed the land.” – Godfrey LeSieur



3 Nephi 8:21-23

And there could be no light, because of the darkness, neither candles, neither torches; neither could there be fire kindled with their fine and exceedingly dry wood, so that there could not be any light at all;

And there was not any light seen, neither fire, nor glimmer, neither the sun, nor the moon, nor the stars, for so great were the mists of darkness which were upon the face of the land.

And it came to pass that it did last for the space of three days that there was no light seen; . . .

New Madrid Eye-witness Accounts

“My maw tried to light the lamps; but the darkness was so dense they didn’t help at all.” – Eliza Bryan

Not being able to light fires, burn candles, etc., is not unheard of. Fire requires approximately 18% oxygen to burn. At sea level our air contains about 21% oxygen. Although fire cannot “breathe” below 18%, humans can.


The 1811-1812 destruction in the heartland was not an isolated incident. Geologists believe similar events happened 600 years earlier around 1200 AD, and 600 years before that in 600 AD. Perhaps 600 years before that people in the heartland witnessed the same devastation and it was recorded in 3 Nephi.

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Additional Information:

See: Fuller, Myron L. 1912. The New Madrid Earthquakes. US. Geol. Survey. Bulletin. has assembled several historical documents about the New Madrid Earthquakes. You can find these documents in PDF format here:

Document 1               Document 2               Document 3               Document 4

Document 5               Document 6               Document 7               Document 8

Document 9               Document 10             Document 11             Document 12

Document 13             Document 14             Document 15             Document 16

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.


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 1948 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.


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:

If you have comments or questions, we would like to hear them. Just click on leave a comment below.


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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”.


Cumorah photo, 1907 by George Edward Anderson

Zelph’s Mound

Zion’s Camp Trail

In May of 1834 Joseph Smith organized a group of Latter-day Saints that came to be known as Zion’s Camp. During May and June, this group of approximately 200 men, several women and a few children traveled on foot from Kirtland, Ohio to Western Missouri. Although it was not the main goal of the expedition, the march gave Joseph Smith and the Saints a greater understanding of Book of Mormon lands. It was clear to Joseph that they were traveling across the very lands occupied by the Nephites. In a letter to his wife Emma, he wrote:

“The whole of our journey, in the midst of so large a company of social honest and sincere men, wandering over the plains of the Nephites, recording occasionally, the history of the Book of Mormon, roving over the mounds of that once beloved people of the Lord, picking up their skulls & their bones, as proof of its divine authenticity, and gazing upon a country the fertility, the splendor and the goodness so indescribable, all serves to pass away time unnoticed.” (The complete letter is in the possession of the Community of Christ church.)

From this letter we learn two things:

  1. Joseph knew North America was where the Book of Mormon took place.
  2. Joseph knew the many man-made mounds in the Heartland of America were created by the Nephites.
Heber C. Kimball

On the morning of June 3 near Grigsville, Illinois Joseph took several men to the top of a hill, known today as Naples-Russell Mound 8. About this event, Heber C. Kimball wrote:

“On the top of this mound there was the appearance of three altars, which had been built of stone, one above another, according to the ancient order; and the ground was strewn over with human bones.”

Seeing this, Joseph sent for a shovel and a hoe and they began to excavate at the top of the hill. Again, Kimball reports:

“At about one foot deep we discovered the skeleton of a man, almost entire; and between two of his ribs we found an Indian arrow, which had evidently been the cause of his death. We took the leg and thigh bones and carried them along with us to Clay County. All four appeared sound.”

Another account was recorded by Elder Burr Riggs:

“The brethren procured a shovel and a hoe, and removing the earth to the depth of about one foot, discovered the skeleton of a man, almost entire, and between his ribs the stone point of a Lamanitish arrow which evidently produced his death.”

There are several written accounts of what Joseph Smith said about the man whose remains they had uncovered. The accounts vary somewhat. However, in 1842 Willard Richards was assigned by Joseph Smith to compiled and record a History of the Church. The following was recorded by Richards as part of that official history. It appears to have been gleaned from the many different accounts spoken or recorded in journals of those who were in attendance at the event.

“The contemplation of the scenery around us produced peculiar sensations in our bosoms; and subsequently the visions of the past being opened to my understanding by the spirit of the Almighty, I discovered that the person whose skeleton was before us was a white Lamanite, a large, thick set man and a man of God. His name was Zelph. He was a warrior and chieftain under the great prophet Onandagus, who was known from the Hill Cumorah, or eastern sea, to the Rocky Mountains . . . He was killed in battle by the arrow found among his ribs, during the last great struggle with the Lamanites and Nephites.” (History of the Church, Vol. 2, pg. 79-80, June 3, 1834, 1948 edition)

From this account we learn four things:

  1. The last great struggle with the Lamanites and the Nephites took place in North America.
  2. The Hill Cumorah is in the Eastern Part of North America.
  3. The people of the Book of Mormon spread across North America from at least as far west as the Rocky Mountains to at least as far east as the Hill Cumorah.
  4. Joseph knew North America was where the Book of Mormon took place.

Zelph’s Mound (Naples-Russell Mound 8) is a man-made mound. Mounds such as this can be found throughout the heartland of America. Whether Zelph’s mound was a burial mound specifically for the warrior Zelph, or was a mound burying others is not known for certain. Many burial mounds have been found to have many people buried in them, but upon further examination, it has been found that is was a common practice for people centuries later to bury their loved one’s in such mounds.

Zion’s Camp was a pivotal event in church history. It served to strengthen the resolve of the saints in adversity. It strengthened their faith in the Lord, and it solidified testimonies of the Book of Mormon.

Copyright © 2014 by Energy Media Works LLC

When using portions of this article, please credit:

If you have comments or questions, we would like to hear them. Just click on leave a comment below.


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Additional information:

Joseph Knew is part of the Mormon Media Network.

Heber C. Kimball was called as an Apostle by the Three Witnesses in February, 1835.

Elder Burr Riggs was a Seventy who served in the first Quorum of the Seventy. He was a physician by profession. He was excommunicated in February 1833, but was re-baptized the following year. He became disaffected from the church in 1838 and in 1839 became one of the few members of the church to be excommunicated twice. Riggs is spoken of in the Doctrine and Covenants when he is called to travel south to do missionary work. (Doctrine and Covenants 75:17)

In these two “Past Impressions” episodes on The Mormon Channel, Dr,. Alex Baugh and Dr. Max Parkin discuss Zion’s Camp. “Establishing Zion’s Camp – Part 1”, “Establishing Zion’s Camp – Part 2.”


Image credits:

Main title image – Naples-Russel Mound 8 (Zelphi’s Mound) by: wikimedia commons, HotWheels53

Zion’s Camp Trail by:

Heber C. Kimball by: Unknown photographer – public domain