Mormon 6:2 a hill which was called Cumorah
Every serious student of the Book of Mormon has wondered whether the hill Cumorah where Joseph Smith received the gold plates and the hill Cumorah spoken of in Mormon 6 are the same hill. Although the geography of the Book of Mormon is not important to our eternal salvation, this question is so compelling that it must be dealt with. Among scholars, two schools of thought have developed:
"The friendly controversy still goes on, the one camp holding that the only Cumorah in or out of the Book of Mormon is the traditional one in New York State, the other supporting the view that the Cumorah in New York has been named after the one in Middle America, but is not the one around which the last great battles of the Nephites and the Lamanites took place.
"Now which of these two points of view is correct? It would be desirable, if possible, to come to a unity in the matter. Truth should never be on the defensive, but sometimes it is hard to decide just where it is. Perhaps most people of the Church hold to the traditional view of Cumorah, and, indeed, I have defended that view in some of my writings. But in recent years we have again gone over the Book of Mormon evidence very carefully and are prepared to present what we feel are the elements of the strongest case that can be made for a Cumorah in Middle America." (FARMS: Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, vol. 4, no. 1, Spring-1995, pp. 261-2)
The cumulative evidence from the Book of Mormon itself, argues overwhelmingly for another hill Cumorah located somewhere in Central America. However, the student should be aware that President Joseph Fielding Smith adamantly declared that the final battle took place in western New York (Doctrines of Salvation, 3:232-243). How can anyone dare to question such a conclusion? We can only dare to question if we appeal to a higher source-the Book of Mormon itself.
The reader is referred to the FARMS article cited above for a more complete discussion of the subject, but one rather compelling bit of evidence comes from Ether 9. In that chapter, we learn that the Jaredite civilization was near the hill Cumorah (v. 3). Later, we learn of Jaredite flocks which fled from poisonous serpents. In their flight, some of them made it all the way into the land southward (Ether 9:30-34). Are we to believe that these miraculous poisonous serpents chased these equally miraculous herds over 3000 miles from today's New York to South America? The story is incredible enough if they chased them only a hundred miles.
More evidence comes from Mormon 4:1-2. In this passage, the revenge-minded Nephites began an offensive in the land southward but were driven back. The geography described in Alma 22:31-33 places these battles just south of the narrow neck of land. For 14 of the next 22 years, the Nephites were driven back in a northern direction. Are we to believe that in these 22 years (8 of which were peaceful, see Mormon 4:15-16), the entire Nephite civilization was driven over 3000 miles? You would think that Mormon would've told us of such a huge mass migration. But he didn't.
More examples could be given, but suffice it to say that the Book of Mormon, with its myriad of seemingly unimportant tidbits, paints the best picture. The text itself, as usual, becomes it's own best evidence-providing the most clear proof that the land of Cumorah spoken of is in modern-day Central America.
Nevertheless, the counsel from President Lee gives us needed spiritual perspective on the subject.
Harold B. Lee
"Don't be concerned over Book of Mormon geography. Some say the Hill Cumorah was in southern Mexico (and someone pushed it down still farther) and not in western New York. Well, if the Lord wanted us to know where it was or where Zarahemla was, He'd have given us latitude and longitude, don't you think? And why bother our heads trying to discover with archaeological certainty the geographical locations of the cities of the Book of Mormon like Zarahemla?
"The witness of the Book of Mormon is not found in the ruins of Central and South America. They may be outward evidences of a people long since disappeared. The real witness is that which is found in the Book of Mormon itself." (The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, p. 156)
Mormon 6:6 I made this record out of the plates of Nephi
Mormon's abridgement of Mosiah through Mormon was all written very late in his life. He first abridged the record of Lehi, then found and added the small plates of Nephi to the record, then proceeded to finish his abridgment of the large plates (WofM 1:1-9). Prior to beginning the abridgement of Mosiah, he said, I Mormon, being about to deliver up the record which I have been making into the hands of my son Moroni, behold I have witnessed almost all the destruction of my people, the Nephites...Wherefore, I chose these things (the small plates of Nephi), to finish my record upon them, which remainder of my record (Mosiah - Mormon) I shall take from the plates of Nephi; and I cannot write the hundredth part of the things of my people...And now I, Mormon, proceed to finish out my record, which I take from the plates of Nephi (WofM 1:1,5,9, italics added). At the time of this writing, Moroni has witnessed almost all the destruction of his people but has not even started abridging Mosiah - Mormon. By his own admission, he must have been abridging the record not too long before the final battle. No wonder that the phrase 'I cannot write but a hundreth part of the things of my people' is repeated so many times in the abridgment (WofM 1:5, Hel 3:14, 3 Ne 5:8; 26:6). Mormon was working on a tight schedule. However, the completeness and congruity of the record demonstrates even more impressively, how inspired his work was.
Mormon 6:6 these few plates...I gave unto my son Moroni
"Before the last great battle ensued between the Nephite and Lamanite armies at Cumorah in the year 385 A. D., Mormon entrusted the plates containing his abridgment of the plates of Nephi to his son, Moroni. (Mormon 6:6.) Nevertheless, after the battle-in which he was wounded-Mormon again obtained the plates and added some final words found in chapters six and seven respectively of the book called after his own name. All of the other records of his people he had previously hid up in the Hill Cumorah. (Mormon 6:6.)" (A Book of Mormon Treasury, p. 122)
"'...therefore I made this record [the Book of Mormon] out of the plates of Nephi, and hid up in the hill Cumorah all the records which had been entrusted to me by the hand of the Lord, save it were these few plates [the Book of Mormon] which I gave unto my son Moroni' (Mormon 6:6). In other words, the Book of Mormon explicitly states that the records hidden in the Mesoamerican Cumorah were not the plates of the Book of Mormon, but were the other records of the Nephites...Mormon 6:6 specifically states that all the Nephite records, except the Book of Mormon plates, were buried in the hill Cumorah near the narrow neck of land by Mormon, not Moroni. Nowhere in the Book of Mormon does it state where the Book of Mormon plates were finally buried." (William J. Hamblin, FARMS: Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, vol. 2, no. 1, Spring-1993, pp. 173,178)
Mormon 6:7 their wives and their children, did now behold the armies of the Lamanites marching towards them
Mormon doesn't explicitly state that the 10,000 under his immediate command were all men. In this last ditch effort, it seems that the women and children were recruited into the army-for they were there, watching the oncoming Lamanite armies. This helps us to understand Mormon's language when he laments their loss, O ye fair sons and daughters, ye fathers and mothers, ye husbands and wives, ye fair ones, how is it that ye could have fallen! (v. 19, italics added). This also explains why the army was so much larger for this last campaign. In previous battles, the Nephite army had been between 30,000 and 42,000 men (Mormon 1:11; 2:9,25). By the time they had gathered to Cumorah, they suddenly had an army of 230,000. Most likely, these weren't 230,000 hardened, experienced soldiers, but the entire Nephite nation-men, women and children, awaiting their own death with that awful fear.
"The account of the gathering of all the Nephite people in the lands around Cumorah, and the way Mormon refers to his women and children, men, and people, somewhat interchangeably, introduces some ambiguity into his account. Could it have been that in their last-ditch effort at survival, preparing as they were for a prearranged great battle, Mormon and the 22 other leaders divided the whole Nephite people, rather than just the armies, into contingents of ten thousand each? If so, the victims of the slaughter at Cumorah were 230,000 men, women, and children, all of the Nephites who had gathered around Cumorah." (FARMS: Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, vol. 6, no. 1, 1994, pp.2-3)
Gordon B. Hinckley
"In the eventual terrible slaughter which occurred between the Lamanites and the Nephites, he watched the destruction of 230,000 Nephite warriors, including his own ten thousand. He was a witness to that awful carnage when the Nephite men, with their wives and children, saw 'the armies of the Lamanites marching towards them; and with that awful fear of death which fills the breasts of all the wicked, did they await to receive them' (Mormon 6:7)." (Heroes From the Book of Mormon, p. 197)
Mormon 6:7 that awful fear of death which fills the breasts of all the wicked
Perfect love casteth out all fear (Moroni 8:16). But the Nephites had cast out perfect love, and awful fear was all that was left.
"..in the last scene the Nephites are allowed the melancholy and terrifying privilege of enjoying one last tremendous spectacle-the full-dress approach of their executioners." (Since Cumorah, p. 333)
Mormon 6:15 even all my people...had fallen
Jeffrey R. Holland
"Mormon himself fell wounded, but his life, for a time, was spared as the Lamanite armies swept on. Only he, Moroni, and twenty-two other Nephites remained; 230,000 of their nation had fallen.
"The scope and significance of that horrible slaughter may be seen more readily when we realize that the great American Civil War of the 1860s, the costliest war, in terms of human life, that the United States has ever known, took the lives of 140,000 men in a five-year period. Here, 230,000 fell in a single day." (Ensign, Mar. 1978, "Mormon: The Man and the Book, Part 1")
Mormon 6:17 O ye fair ones, how could ye have departed from the ways of the Lord!
The scene over which Mormon laments must have been harrowing. Nephi was given to see the same thing and was overcome with grief, I was overcome because of my afflictions, for I considered that mine afflictions were great above all, because of the destruction of my people, for I had beheld their fall (1 Ne 14:5).
Jeffrey R. Holland
"Following the tremendous battle at Cumorah, Mormon looked out over the catastrophic carnage-the destruction of a thousand years of dreams-and cried to ears that could no longer hear:
'O ye fair ones, how could ye have departed from the ways of the Lord! O ye fair ones, how could ye have rejected that Jesus, who stood with open arms to receive you!
Behold, if ye had not done this, ye would not have fallen. But behold, ye are fallen, and I mourn your loss.
O ye fair sons and daughters, ye fathers and mothers, ye husbands and wives, ye fair ones, how is it that ye could have fallen!
But behold, ye are gone, and my sorrows cannot bring your return.' (Mormon 6:17-20)
"In a soliloquy of death, Mormon reached across time and space to all, especially to that 'remnant of the house of Israel' (Mormon 7:1) who would one day read his majestic record. Those of another time and place must learn what those lying before him had forgotten-that all must 'believe in Jesus Christ, that he is the Son of God,' (Mormon 7:5)" (Christ And The New Covenant, p. 321 - 322)
Gordon B. Hinckley
"Here is a voice that has spoken from the dust with a familiar spirit, and touched the hearts of men and women in many lands. Those who have read it prayerfully, be they rich or poor, learned or unlearned, have grown under its power.
"Let me tell you of a letter which we received a few years ago. A man wrote saying in substance: 'I am in a federal reformatory in Ohio. I recently came across a copy of the Book of Mormon in the prison library. I have read it and when I read Mormon's lamentation over his fallen people--O ye fair ones, how could ye have departed from the ways of the Lord, how could ye have rejected that Jesus, who stood with open arms to receive you! Behold, if ye had not done this, ye would not have fallen. (Mormon 6:17-18.) When I read this I felt that Mormon was talking to me. Can I get a copy of that book?'
"We sent him a copy. He walked in the office some months later, a changed man. I am happy to report that a boy who had stolen gasoline, and then stolen automobiles, and then done other things until finally he was placed in a federal reformatory, was touched by the spirit of this book, and the report today is that he is now a successful man, rehabilitated, earning a living honestly for himself and family in a west coast city.
"Such has been the power of this great book in the lives of those who have read it prayerfully." (Conference Report, Oct. 1959, pp. 119-20)
Mormon 6:17 Jesus...stood with open arms to receive you!
Neal A. Maxwell
"He is 'the keeper of the gate ... and He employeth no servant there.' (2 Nephi 9:41.) Those who reject Him will miss out on a special personal moment, because, as He laments, He has 'stood with open arms to receive you.' (Mormon 6:17.) The unfaithful-along with the faithful-might have been 'clasped in the arms of Jesus' (Mormon 5:11). The imagery of the holy temples and holy scriptures thus blend so beautifully, including things pertaining to sacred moments. This is the grand moment toward which we point and from which we should not be deflected. Hence, those who pass through their fiery trials and still acknowledge but trust His hand now will feel the clasp of His arms later!" (Cory H. Maxwell, The Neal A. Maxwell Quote Book, p. 137)
Mormon 6:18 if ye had not done this, ye would not have fallen
"The tragedy of the Book of Mormon is not what became of the Nephites but what the Nephites became." (Since Cumorah, as taken from Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon compiled by K. Douglas Bassett, p. 477)
Ezra Taft Benson
"Great nations do not fall because of external aggression; they first erode and decay inwardly, so that, like rotten fruit, they fall of themselves. The strength of a country is the sum total of the moral strength of the individuals in that country." (This Nation Shall Endure, p. 95 as taken from Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon compiled by K. Douglas Bassett, p. 477)
"The fog and horror of battle pursue us right up to the end-the nation completely in arms at Cumorah with trained, experienced warriors, all a splendid sight marching forward. Alas, there's nothing heroic about it. How could they have been such fools? Pity was Mormon's only reflection on the splendid sight (Mormon 6:17-22). His last word to the survivors in the land is that they must lay down their arms and never take them up again, for they will never prevail by force. The only way they can prevail, he says (Mormon 7:3), is by repenting. Cumorah was no solution; the war went right on among the victors." (Prophetic Book of Mormon, p. 524)