This photo is from the south end, which shows how the drumlin increases in size to its peak at the north end of the hill.

(Note the many other drumlin hills nearby.)

Issue 1: The Great Lakes’ Hill Cumorah lacks capacity

There was no room on that drumlin hill for the many thousands of casualties witnessed by Mormon.

What are drumlins?

Drumlins are small hills—oval mounds caused by glaciers, many thousands of years ago, dropping their debris loads as a result of friction between the blowing ice and the underlying geology. Eons ago, the drumlins in the northern New York area were created when strong winds streaming southward over far-north glaciers broke off millions of ice chunks and dirt particles. Then, when the winds passed over warmer moist air arising from Lake Ontario, those ice particle debris piles began to melt. The ice and debris were blown into thousands of large piles beginning just south of the lake. Over time those strong south winds formed those piles into oblong-shaped hills. Those huge piles were molded into north-south hills. Almost all are taller on their north ends; then they slop back to the south. 

“In New York, drumlins start on the southeastern shore of Lake Ontario and extend south for miles.”

How big are the drumlins, and how many are there in the Lake Ontario area?

Joseph Smith, in his History, described what came to be called the Hill Cumorah, in this way: “Convenient to the village of Manchester, Ontario county, New York, stands a hill of considerable size, and the most elevated of any in the neighborhood.” (Joseph Smith—History 1:51) 

The thousands of surrounding drumlins, of course, varied in size, but the size of the hill that came to be known as the Hill Cumorah is typical. Its peak is about 110 feet above the valley floor level on its north end. Then it slopes and narrows back to ground level so it’s about 700 feet long.  It certainly wasn’t elevated more than a few feet over its surrounding drumlins.

Before recent centuries of cultivation, the hill now known as the Hill Cumorah looked the same as the hundreds of other low, forest-covered drumlins nearby. It had/has no unique appearance features. Like all the hundreds of drumlins close around it, not only the hill but also all its adjacent areas were covered with trees. Even today, hundreds of other low-altitude, tree-covered drumlins still surround it within a several-mile radius. 

The Hill Cumorah is only one of the thousands of drumlin hills in the “large drumlin field located in upper New York State just south of the Canadian/US border.” “Some 10,000 drumlins are located between Lake Ontario in the north and the finger lakes.” [Multiple sources—search Google: Hill Cumorah drumlin]

The New York Hill Cumorah is far too small to hold many thousands of slain warriors and casualties.

The Book of Mormon records that following their final battle, Mormon stood on the top of the hill Cumorah and saw that at least 23,000 of the Nephite warriors had been slain, plus all their women and children. (Mormon 6:7-15). In addition, he probably beheld an additional equivalent number of Lamanites who’d also fallen. Clearly, there wasn’t sufficient room on the New York drumlin hill for that many casualties. And obviously, the short 110-foot tree-covered peak was too low for Mormon to stand on it and see all those fallen warriors.

Conclusions concerning this issue: 

  1. There is no dispute that Joseph Smith recovered the Book of Mormon gold plates from the New York Hill Cumorah. 
  2. However, the New York Cumorah hill is far too small to be the hill where the Nephites fought their last battle. Also, the hill and surrounding areas were heavily forested, so there was very little adjacent battlefield terrain. Plus, there still remain hundreds of other drumlins within eyesight. In addition, there just isn’t any significant large and level terrain capable of sustaining tens of thousands of gathering warriors and their families around the hill.  
  3. It is believed that Moroni, having survived the final Hill Cumorah battle, at some unknown point in time, brought the plates containing the Book of Mormon and buried them in a hill about four miles south of the home of Joseph Smith. This would have to have taken place sometime between the fall of the Nephites about A.D. 385 (Mormon 6) and the evening of September 21, 1823, (Joseph Smith History 1:30-47). The hill is described as “Convenient to the village of Manchester, Ontario County, New York.” (Joseph Smith History 1:51).  
  4. The New York drumlin was mistakenly named and labeled as being the Hill Cumorah by early Latter-day Saints who assumed that the Book of Mormon plates were among the records Mormon hid in the Hill Cumorah rather than the plates he entrusted to his son Moroni. (Mormon 6:6) Later, Moroni wrote that he would “finish the record of my father,” (Mormon 81, 5) then wrote “I will write and hide up the records in the earth; and whither I go it mattereth not.” (Mormon 8:4, 14) 
  5. But Moroni then indicated he already was aware of Joseph Smith, who would eventually receive the gold plates. He wrote: “the record thereof is of great worth; and whoso shall bring it to light, him will the Lord bless…and blessed be he that shall bring this thing to light; for it shall be brought out of darkness unto light, according to the word of God;…yea, it shall be brought out of the earth, and it shall shine forth out of darkness.” (Mormon 8:14, 16) And then he made an extensive description of the last days world conditions when the book would come forth—conditions Joseph Smith encountered as the Book of Mormon was published and brought to light. (Mormon 8:16-34), He concluded by saying he was writing those things directly to Joseph Smith:I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not, But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing.” (Mormon 8:35) So it is no mystery why the Book of Mormon plates were buried in the New York hill, even though the historical Book of Mormon events took place in the actual Land of Cumorah two thousand miles away. 
  6. The notion that Moroni somehow lugged the heavy plates approximately 2,000 miles from southern Mexico to northern New York during the latter years of his mortal life is definitely considered unrealistic. More realistic is the explanation that Moroni, after becoming a resurrected being, transferred the plates.

Comparison of the two hills

El Cerro Vigía, in southern Mexico, stands about 2,400 feet high. It is a very wide, prominent, free-standing hill (actually, it’s a mountain!) that overlooks distant mountains and the Gulf of Mexico coastal plain. A distinctly visible landmark, it is located about 90 miles southeast of the city of Veracruz, Mexico. 

The Great Lakes Area drumlin Hill Cumorah is only 110-feet high on its northern end and slopes back to ground level at the end of its 700-feet length.  It is surrounded by hundreds of other drumlins and wasn’t in any way notable until it and its surroundings received modern-day clearance and cultivation.

If the Great Lakes Area Hill Cumorah where the Nephites’ final battle took place is not the same hill as where Joseph Smith unearthed the Book of Mormon plates, there has to be two separate Hill Cumorahs.

Note the New York Hill Cumorah 110-foot rise from the ground level to its peak altitude near the north end.

Issue 2: The New York drumlin Hill Cumorah could not provide General Mormon any significant military advantages

Mormon, as a sixteen-year-old youth, was selected to serve as the leader of the Nephite armies (Mormon 2:1-2. | c. A.D. 326) He served as their General for 37 years, until he resigned at age 53, in about A.D. 363. (Mormon 3:16) During the era that followed, without his skillful leadership, the Nephite armies fought numerous battles, losing most of them and incurring severe losses. (Mormon 4:1-23) Finally, in A.D. 375, it was obvious to the Nephites that they desperately needed an individual who was not only a capable leader of men, but also a very adept strategist! 

Clearly, Mormon was their man! Though he was then about 65 years old, they convinced him to again take command of the Nephite armies, “for they looked upon [me] as though I could deliver them from their afflictions.” (Mormon 5:1)

The strategies begin: Four years of preparation time and the battle location set

The first strategic agreement the newly-reappointed Mormon sought was to plead for adequate time to prepare the Nephites for what he knew might be their last-stand battle. He wrote to the king of the Lamanites and “desired of him that he would grant unto us that we might gather together our people unto the land of Cumorah, by a hill which was called Cumorah, and there we could give them battle.” (Mormon 6:2) [Note that the land and the hill of Cumorah were well-known and easily recognizable sites to both the Lamanites and the Nephites. They were not a small drumlin hill closely engulfed by hundreds of other drumlins.] 

Mormon’s record states that “the king of the Lamanites did grant unto me the thing which I desired.” (Mormon 6:3) Apparently, it was agreed that the Lamanites would give the Nephites four years to gather all the remainder of their people. (Mormon 6:4) [A strategic victory.] 

Obviously, Mormon, the strategist, had hope that there the Nephites could “gain advantage over the Lamanites.” (Mormon 6:4)

Strategic advantages available on the Central American Cerro Vegía

The Land of Cumorah

  1. From a strategist’s point of view, the Land of Cumorah had to be large enough to accommodate more than half a million people camping on it.
  2. In addition to the gathering Nephites’ camping areas, securing adequate food supplies was a strategic necessity: the land had to be large and fertile enough for sustaining crops to be planted and harvested during the four-year gathering period. 
  3. The climate had to be sufficiently temperate to allow two or three crop planting and harvesting seasons per year. 
  4. The gathering area had to have sufficient on-site, all-year-long drinking and culinary water available—both on the hill and in the areas immediately surrounding it. (Mormon 6:4) [Not just in lakes miles away from it.] The Central American Cerro Vigía actually has springs flowing out of it, plus numerous other fountains of water in its nearby surrounding areas.]

The Hill of Cumorah

 The New York Hill Cumorah’s high-end peak is only 110 feet above ground level.  In contrast, the southern Mexico Cerro Vegia is a 2,400-foot-high mountain.

  1. The hill had to be so sizeable and unique that both Mormon and the king of the Lamanites recognized where it was and what its significance was. Eventually, almost all the Nephites and almost all the Lamanites would know of the hill and its location. 
  2. The Hill of Cumorah had historic fame. It was a location revered as a historic site—a place where major previous battles had been waged. The Hill Cumorah was also the Jaredite Hill Ramah. (Ether 15:11)
  3. It had to be accessible to all those Nephites camped around it. [Think tents, paths, roads, fields, water-supply areas, meeting places, forest areas, etc.] (Mormon 6:4)
  4. It had to be situated and steep enough that it had significant high-point defense advantages: attacking warriors would have to fight uphill.
  5. It had to be large and high enough that defensive positions could be constructed and established on it.
  6. It had to be high enough and open enough that commanders could position and direct their warriors before and during the battle.
  7. It had to have a peak from which all sides of it could be visible to commanding officers. At the end of the final battle Mormon, “from the top of the hill Cumorah,” stood and viewed the remains of tens of thousands of Nephites and Lamanites. (Mormon 6:10-15)
  8. There had to be considerable cleared terrain nearby, in addition to the cleared areas occupied by the gathered Nephites, on which the Lamanite armies established camps (Moroni 6:11), and from which their armies could be seen marching toward the hill to do battle. (Mormon 6:7) 
  9. There had to be a place on the hill from which a few Nephites were able to escape and flee into the south countries. (Mormon 6:15)