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Cumorah (New York)

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Cumorah is a drumlin, a hill formed of drift from a receding glacier, located about four miles south of the village of Palmyra in western New York State. The hill has gained significance because of it role in the formative events of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS).

On the evening of September 21, 1823, an angelic messenger named Moroni visited the young Joseph Smith Jr. and showed him where a set of gold plates were buried that contained the history of the ancient inhabitants of the Americas. Four years later, Moroni returned and allowed Smith to dig up the plates and begin the translation of them. After working on the translation for the next few years, Smith published the text as the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon describes the story of a group of Hebrews who came to the Americas in the seventh century BCE. Their beliefs included an anticipation of the coming of Jesus Christ. They also had disagreements that led to their separation into two groups, the Nephites (led by a man named Mormon) and the Lamanites. After Christ appeared in America (following his resurrection), the two groups lived in harmony until the end of the second century CE but later fell into internecine warfare. At the end of the fourth century CE, the last of the Nephites were wiped out in a battle near the hill. After engraving the history of his people on golden plates, Mormon gave the plates to his son, Moroni, who buried them in 421 CE. As a resurrected angelic entity, Moroni returned in the 1820s to guide Smith to the plates.

Today the hill is a major sacred site of the LDS and several other churches that look to Joseph Smith Jr. as a prophet, such as the Community of Christ (formerly the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). In 1928 the LDS purchased the Cumorah hill and in 1935 erected a monument atop it. Later a visitor’s center was built near it, and since 1937, the LDS has staged an outdoor pageant at the hill that dramatizes the key events in the Book of Mormon.

In the last half of the twentieth century, Mormon scholars have raised a number of questions about the New York site, as the geography of the region does not fit the geography described in the Book of Mormon; some have proposed locations in Central America as more closely descriptive of those events. Meanwhile, non-Mormon scholars have found no historical or archeological evidence to independently verify the occurrence of the events that are described in the Book of Mormon.


Clark, John. “A Key for Evaluating Nephite Geographies.” Review of Books on the Book of Mormon 1 (1989): 20–70.
McGavin, E. Cecil, and Willard Bean. Geography of the Book of Mormon. Salt Lake City, UT: Bookcraft Inc., 1949.
Palmer, David A. In Search of Cumorah: New Evidences for the Book of Mormon from Ancient Mexico. Bountiful, UT: Horizon Publishers & Distributors, 1981.
The Encyclopedia of Religious Phenomena © 2008 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
The popular Hill Cumorah Pageant is slated to end its run after the 2020 season, pageant officials announced last weekend.
Produced by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Hill Cumorah Pageant was staged annually in Manchester, Ontario County.
"We had a wonderful run," pageant President Neil Pitts said, noting that Hill Cumorah staff is supportive of the decision.
When I recently attended the annual Hill Cumorah Pageant put on by the Mormons in Palmyra, New York, I noted how cleverly they used Americanism to make their bizarre religious ideas more palatable to non-Mormons.
For one week every July, tens of thousands of Mormons and gentiles alike gather at sunset at the foot of the Hill Cumorah to watch a multimedia pageant of LDS history.
4 THE HILL CUMORAH PAGEANT This extravagant theater production takes place every summer in Palmyra, New York, where the prophet Joseph Smith discovered the golden plates that make up the Book of Mormon.
You can also visit a monument at nearby Hill Cumorah where Smith received from the angel Moroni the golden tablets which he translated into the Book of Mormon in 1830.
The angel Moroni appeared in his bedroom and told him that a new scripture--a supplement to the Bible--had been buried under "Hill Cumorah" in Manchester, New York.
(There is a small Mormon population, mostly families of workers at a church visitor's center and year-round support staff for the Hill Cumorah outdoor pageant.) Those children believe with all their hearts that an angel came down from heaven and gave Joseph Smith the plates, right there on Hill Cumorah, and that those local stories of Joe Smith the dishonest fortune-teller are teachings of the devil.