Two Cumorahs?
By Robert A. Pate

The Book of Mormon is consistent in reference to a single Hill Cumorah located south of Ripliancum, east of Moran and Hill Shim, and west of Ablom by the sea. That hill is located in the Guatemala highlands, in the Department of Quiché, less than a mile west of the department capital city of Santa Cruz del Quiché.

     At the time of the Spanish Conquest this hilltop fortress was the capitol of the Quiché nation. The name of the hilltop city was Qumarkah which is translated as “Rotten Reeds” but the more correct etymology of the name would be “Rotten Bones” since reeds, bones, and canes are the same in many languages including Hebrew (qaneh {kaw-neh'}). Qumar is “rotten” in Quiché Maya, but even this word comes from the Jaredites as the composite word in the Sumerian language would be ku (to lie down) and mar (worm). “To lie down with worms” is an excellent description of the moldering of flesh that occurred at Cumorah. And the name Qumarkah or “Rotten Bones” is an excellent descriptor for Cumorah, which was first christened with the bones of the Jaredites, then the bones of the Nephites, and then the bones of the Quiché, as they were annihilated by the Cakchiquels. As their record states in The Annals of the Cakchiquels: “Soon the Quiché were defeated, they ceased to fight and were routed, annihilated, and killed. It was impossible to count the dead (Recinos 1953, 91 and 103). The Spaniards under the command of Pedro de Alvarado again destroyed the Quiché nation at Qumarkah. Hopefully there will be no more bones exposed to the sun on that hill before it yields up its sacred library.

     The Spaniards changed the name of the hill from Qumarkah to Utatlán which means “by the reeds” in Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs. The Spaniards burned and leveled the hilltop fortress, but some very rundown ruins and two caves remain. The GPS (Global Positioning Sensor) reading in the parking area at the top of the hill near the small visitors center is 15.02319o North latitude and 91.16946o West longitude and the elevation is 8081 feet above sea level.

     Mormon’s last account states that “I made this record 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 which I gave unto my son Moroni.” (Mormon 6:6)

     What could be more clear? At some time later “these few plates” were deposited in an obscure hill in up-state New York. We have been given none of the details as to how this was accomplished. Did Moroni carry them? Unlikely. Though he had the time, it appears that he stayed in the area of the original hill Cumorah and had continued access to the library. Did the three Nephites assist? Very likely. If all else fails, the Good Lord who has created worlds without number could certainly find a way.

     This hill in New York was not called Cumorah by those in the know, i.e. Joseph Smith, Moroni, and Mormon. A mistake in interpretation on the part of Oliver Cowdery does not a new hill Cumorah make. This unfortunate misnomer, however, has stuck and will remain. As with most imposters, this hill has captured the allegiance of some ill-informed individuals. Possibly the greatest benefit has been that it has deflected the unwanted searching from the original hill.

     Are there two Cumorahs -- only if we have to admit the misnomer. The detractors have made hay with confusion about the hill Cumorah. Even many believers still adhere to the misnomer. Such individuals need to reread the Book of Mormon with a bit more realism.

     The Rochester/Palmyra region is subject to the “lake effect snow” which can come in three to five foot installments. Mormon never mentions snow. A loincloth and shaven head are not the appropriate getup for the Great Lakes Region. It is not “grasshopper” country. To survive the winter one must prepare like the “ants” and this requires all summer. This is not conducive to their penchant for large-scale fighting.

     Most of their fighting occurred in the few months at the end of their calendar year and the beginning of the next. These months would correspond to January, February, March, April and May. These months encompass the dry season in Guatemala but they are in the cold winter and wet spring seasons in the Finger Lakes Region of New York. Even today the riots and unrest are quite limited to the heat of the summer in the warmer climes, not the cold and dark of northern winter.

     Teancum slew Amalickiah on approximately April 2, 67 BC at about 11:45 pm. “And thus ended the twenty and fifth year of the reign of the judges over the people of Nephi; and thus ended the days of Amalickiah.” (Alma 51:37). The day had been sufficiently hot to merit the lone reference by Mormon of hot weather in Nephite times. Upstate New York is not hot on April 2. It is still so cold and wet that corn seed rots in the ground.

     In short, there is no compelling evidence that can establish the Palmyra area of New York State as the location for the original hill Cumorah. The ruins, the legends, the recorded history, the weather, the topography, the geography, the seismology, the carbon dating, the archaeology, the anthropology, and the linguistic roots support a limited Mesoamerican location only. Even the DNA evidence will fall into line when the scope is sufficiently limited and the database is adequately complete.


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