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Land of Many Waters

The Land of Many Waters
Watkins Glen, NY

And it came to pass that we did march forth to the land of Cumorah, and we did pitch our tents around 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. — (Book of Mormon, Mormon 6:4)

When Mormon leads his people to the Hill Cumorah, he makes a point of recording that it was located in the “land of many waters.” This would indicate that the number of lakes, rivers, streams and springs was unusual. The Hill Cumorah near Palmyra, NY, which we at Joseph Knew believe to be the Hill Cumorah spoken of by Mormon, is located in the Finger Lakes region of Western New York.

The early native people considered this area sacred and blessed by God. Native legend says that after He created the earth, God blessed it by placing his hand on this area, and this left the Finger Lakes. Lakes Cayuga and Seneca are among the deepest lakes in the United States. This area is a central part of the Iroquois homeland. The lakes sit below Lake Ontario and are a central feature in what Willard Bean called Cumorahland.

Land of Many Waters -- NASA Photo
Land of Many Waters — NASA Photo

This area is certainly “a land of many waters, rivers, and fountains.” In New York there are over 1,600 fresh lakes, ponds and reservoirs. There are over 70,000 miles of rivers. The Finger Lakes are a group of eleven long, finger-like lakes.

The Finger Lakes area is a good candidate for The Land of Many Waters for several reasons.

From a military standpoint the terrain is good defensively.

The great number of lakes, rivers and streams would have slowed down the enemies from the south pursuing the Nephites northward. The Book of Mormon emphasizes the fact that the land of many waters was “an exceeding great distance” from the land of Zarahemla and that there were more streams, rivers, lakes, and fountains in that area than were to be found in any lands where these early people had dwelt.

Evidence of great battles in Cumorahland can be found all along the Great Lakes region.

New York Governor DeWitt Clinton, who was the driving force behind the Erie Canal in the early 1800s, lectured about ancient discoveries in the Great Lakes area.

In a lecture before the New York Historical Society in 1831, he spoke about the great number of fortresses found all along the Great Lakes area. He said:

“I have seen several of these works in the western part of this state. There is a large one in the town of Onondaga, one in Pompey, and another in Manlius; one in Camillus, eight miles from Auburn: one in Scipio, six miles, another one mile, and one about half a mile from that village. Between the Seneca and Cayuga Lakes there are several—three within a few miles of each other. Near the village of Canandaigua there are three. In a word, they are scattered all over that county.”

The Hill Cumorah is the largest hill in the area and would have served as a good look-out post. (Mormon 6:11)

Archeological evidence suggests two great nations perished in the Finger Lakes area.

Arrowheads from the Hill Cumorah
Arrowheads from the Hill Cumorah

In 1925 a farmer in Palmyra was digging a well and uncovered several large skeletons. The age of the skeletons was determined to be approximately 3,000 years old. This would fit in the time frame of the Jaradite Nation.

The Rochester Herald reported that, “In this pit were found an axe of peculiar shape, wide bit and other implements that bore signs of ancient warfare. There are dozens of similar ruins near Rochester. Upon these steep heights invading armies may have pressed a desperate assault, while all along the brow of the hills behind the rude fortifications of the great forest, stood the defenders of camp and home.”

Implements of war such as arrowheads, spearheads, axes and clubs have been found throughout the area which indicate great battles took place there around 600 – 300 B.C. and another 300 – 500 AD.

Remains of a giant race of people have been found in the area.

In his 1888 book Pioneers of the Western Reserve, Harvey Rice recorded the recovery of human remains in the Finger Lakes area. He wrote:

“Human bones of gigantic proportions were discovered in such a state of preservation as to be accurately described and measured. The cavities of the skulls were large enough in their dimensions to receive the entire head of a man of modern times, and could be put on one’s head with as much ease as a hat or cap. The jaw-bones were sufficiently large to admit of being placed so as to match or fit the outside of a modern man’s face.”

Many church leaders believed the Finger Lakes area was the land of Cumorah.

Moroni Monument at Cumorah
Moroni Monument at Cumorah

Oliver Cowdery taught that the final battle of both the Jaredites and the Nephites took place in the valley west of the Hill Cumorah.

In 1935 Gordon B. Hinckley attended the dedication of the Moroni monument atop the Hill. He recognized the fields around the hill as a great battlefield. He wrote: “. . . the canvas shroud fell from the monument and the figure of Moroni looked out across the quiet fields, which is his day of life, had been scenes of carnage and sorrow.”

In a 1975 General Conference address, Marion G. Romney said: “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.”

Orson Pratt said: “[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)

Joseph-Knew-old-Book-of-MormonIn their book Geography of the Book of Mormon, Willard Bean and Cecil McGavin wrote:

“In the light of this evidence it would be useless to argue with these reputable historians that a war of extermination had not been fought in Cumorahland and that a great nation had not been exterminated.

“The imperishable inscriptions of metal plates have told us the history of that mysterious people who fought their final battles in the land of many waters.

“Furthermore, the Book of Mormon emphasizes the fact that the land of many waters was ‘an exceeding great distance’ from the land of Zarahemla; that there were more streams, rivers, lakes, and fountains in that area than were to be found in any lands where these early people had dwelt.

“Middle America is not a land of many waters. Its ancient hills are not marked with tokens of fortifications; its skeletal remains do not tell of a bitter war of extermination, comparable at all to the evidence in western New York. If we are to find that historic land where the drums of war called forth the warriors until the land was covered with the bodies of the dead, we must go northward ‘an exceeding great distance,’ as the Jaredites and Nephites did many centuries ago.

“These aboriginal monuments, the tell-tale tokens of ancient warfare by highly civilized nations, are not to be flung aside as one ‘fights against the pricks’ to confine these ancient people to the narrow and restricted domain of Middle America. Inscriptions on metal have told us the story, which is otherwise a great mystery. These mysteries vanish as ancient historians speak from the dust.”

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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:

Finger Lakes – NASA

All other photos – CastleGate Media LLC