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There have been numerous attempts to locate the lands of the Book of Mormon over the years. As each new theory arises, we gain fresh hope of aquiring addtional insights into the location of the lost lands of the Book of Mormon, but all too often we are disappointed. Perhaps the time has come to concentrate more heavily on those lands surrounding the only known landmark we have of that ancient time in history - the Hill Cumorah in New York State. To be succeesful in such a pursuit, however, we must first travel back in time to an era shortly after the universal flood when vast primeaval forests and ancient waters filled the land from one end to the other. Only by doing so will we come to recognize the uncanny similarities between the New York setting and those described in the Book of Mormon. Rather than look at one river, or one narrow neck of land, or at one sea or wilderness to locate the elusive lands of the Book of Mormon, we will finally be able to see how all the lands fit together, and how the various descriptions of lands and seas found within the pages of the Book of Mormon fit western New York perfectly. Once the geography of the ancient setting becomes more familiar, the life and death struggles of the Nephites will take on new meaning, and the stories surrounding those the Lord led to the promised land of America will finally come to life.
The Hill Cumorah is the key to locating the lost lands of the Book of Mormon
While the Nephites and Mulekites obviously spread out over a wide expanse of territory over their near millennial-long sojourn in the promised land, the Book of Mormon is the history of those who lived in their cultural and spirtual heartland in what would be western New York in the "Near Cumorah Setting for the Book of Mormon." Referene is also made to those who moved north from their heartland into what today is lower Ontario, and east to a land of many waters (Finger Lakes), the place we find the Hill Cumorah--the site of the terrible exterminating battle that wiped the Nephites from off the face of the earth in 385 A.D. It is the opinion of numerous scholars that western New York was the scene of a terrible exterminating battle. As one author said: "The opinion is expressed in all those relic halls that western New York was the site of an ancient battlefield. There is more evidence of a well planned defensive warfare in that locality than there is in any other region on the American continent. It is the opinion of most scholars that the defenses on the drumlin hills were prepared by a people more civilized than the Indians and were exterminated by the inferior race who were still in possession of the country when Columbus discovered the land." (1)
Professor O. Turner wrote extensively about the ancient race that once dominated western New York, and the ancient fortifications they left behind. The historian Alexander W. Bradford was convinced that the vast number of old forts near Lake Erie and Lake Ontario were "built by a people elevated far above the savage state. Many of them indicate great elgance of taste, and a high degree of dexterous workmanship and mechanical skill." He made detailed descriptions of nearly one hundred fortified hills in western New York, all of which resemble Alma's account of the fortifications the Nephites made in his day. The historian O. Turner did not hestitate to consider all the fortified hills in western New York as having been erected by "a race which peopled this country before the Indians " He went on to say: ". . . there is perhaps no portion of the United States where ancient relics are more numerous. Commencing near Oswego River, they extend westward all over the western counties of the state. . . . The evidence that this was one, at least, of their final battlefields, predominate. They are the fortifications, entrenchments, and warlike instruments of an extinct race. That here was war of extermination we may well conclude from masses of human skeletons we find indiscriminately thrown together, indicating a common and simultaneous sepulture from which age, infancy, sex and no condition was exempt. " (2) In his research of the region for the Smithsonian Institute, E. G. Squire found hundreds of such fortified sites extending from the counties of St. Lawrence on the north, to Chautauqua on the south, and embracing the counties of Jefferson, Oswego, Onondaga, Oneida, Cayuga, Seneca, Ontario, Wayne, Monroe, Livingston, Orleans, Niagara, Erie, and Genesee, Cattaraugus, and Allegheny. More than 1,000 sites were found in Ontario, Livingston, Genesee and Monroe Counties alone, with nearly 500 sites in Monroe County, and over a 100 fortified hilltops and strongholds in Genesee County. One large fort in western New York described in the book The Ruins Revisited, by a historian who simply referred to himself as an Americanist, was supposedly capable of enclosing 60,000 soldiers and their families. He also saw within the ruins of the fortified hills in the region look-outs which would have served to warn the inhabitants of any approaching danger.
Henry Clyde Shetrone was another who noticed the strategic position of the fortifications which covered so many of western New York's hills, which he noted were often equipped with palisades set into their low earthen walls.He mentions that the people of this region: " . . . once presented a scene of war, and war in its most horrible form, where blood is the object, . . That it was here that a feeble band was collected, a remnant of mighty battles fought in vain, to make a last effort for the country of their birth, the ashes of their ancestors and the altars of their gods. That the crisis was met with fortitude, and sustained with valor, need not be doubted. . . . But their efforts were vain, and flight or death were the alternatives. (3)
After researching the region, B. H. Roberts said: " . . These described fortifications and burial mounds make it clear that western New York at some time has been the scene of destructive battles; and the fact constitutes strong presumptive evidence of the statements of the Book of Mormon that great battles were fought there." (4)
While the heartland of Book of Mormon territory was in New York, all the available evidence suggests that various groups migrated out in all directions until they filled up the entire region around the Great Lakes eastward to the Atlantic Ocean before their exterminating battle. The Nephites who moved north,we will remember, fell into wickedness and became numbered among the Lamanites, as did those who moved south among the Lamanites living in the land southward. Those who moved west among the mound building Adena populations in Ohio and Illinois became known as the Hopewell who lived under a hierarchy of a foreigners living in Tennessee and the southeastern states. These were a sun-worshiping people, not withstanding they also had roots stemming back to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Their temples were built upon great flat-topped mounds, many of which contained the bodies of their dead--not the sacred setting one would expect of the true followers of Christ, for the dead would have desecrated such a holy setting. It is no wonder only the records of those in New York were preserved for our day, for the people of New York remained free of the sun-worshiping ways of the Hopewell until the after the golden age of peace that followed the Lord's visit to the area. The corrupting influence of the Ohio Hopewell once they penetrated western New York led to the downward spiral of the Nephites and the ultimate end of their vast civilzation. Embracing sun-worship after having been blessed by a visitation by the Savior left them ripe in iniqutity,and read for destruction, with their final end coming around the Hill Cumorah in 385 B.C., not long after wild tribes in the west attacked the Hopewell in 350 A.D. and sent them packing on a long migration into Mexico. Neither were permitted continued existence in the land, for America was designed to be a stronghold of Christian based societies such as the New Jerusalem that is destined to be built up in the latter-days. Only the Lamanites were permitted to remain in deference to the pleas of numerous Nephite prophets in their behalf that they might one day come to understand who their ancient fathers were and the God who led their people to this promised land of America. Thus, all that remains of the great Nephite civilization are the remnant tribes who have become known by the more historic names, Algonquin, Irqouis, Cherokee, and Sioux and all their related language families. Thus, theirs is a huge story, one which can no longer be ingnored in favor of more exotic people and settings.
With a clear picture of the part the Nephites played in the long pre-history of America all the various theories presented can be satisfied, for yes, Nephites did live in the heartland of America, and also in Mesoamerica where many of them were chased from their northestern homes. Some even moved west clear to the Rocky Mountains and the northwest coast of America But, their relgious and cultureal center remained in western New York within a radious of about100 miles from the Hill Cumorah.
1-McGavin & Bean, Geograhy of the Book of Mormon, pp. 87-88.
2-O. Turner, Pioneer History of the Holland Purchase of Western New York, p. 20.
3- Mc Gavin & Bean & Willard Bean, The Geography of the Book of Mormon, p. 84.
4- B. H. Roberts, New Witness for God, vol. 3, p. 73.
Church History Sites & the Book of Mormon
This website was created by Phyllis Carol Olive, author of the best-selling book, "The Lost Lands of the Book of Mormon." (CFI) She lives in Las Vegas with her husband, Ron Olive. They have seven children, seventeen grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren. Her newest book,"The Lost Empires and Vanished Races of the Book of Mormon" expands on her earlier works and adds new insights and information about the Hopewell civilization and their ties to the people of the Book of Mormon.