Question about numbers at Cumorah

A question has arisen about the numbers of people (Jaredites, Nephites and Lamanites) killed at Cumorah.

This is another reason why I keep saying, every member of the Church should be familiar with Letter VII.
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On July 27, 2017, I published a post about this issue. I pointed out that in Letter VII, “Oliver described the remains of the Jaredites as “the ashes of thousands.” Not millions, but thousands. Not even tens of thousands. Just thousands.”

This is consistent with the text, which gives us specific numbers for the last two days of the Jaredite battle. A careful reading of Ether 13 shows that the two million people mentioned were killed long before Cumorah.

“There were additional battles leading up to Cumorah. Even after four years, they could gather only a relatively few people to Cumorah, so few that after six days of battle, there were only 121 people left. The next day, there were only 59 left. Even if we assume that half the people were killed each day, that calculates to about 7,744 on the first day of battle.”

Oliver also wrote that, regarding the Nephites and Lamanites, only “tens of thousands” were killed. This, too, is apparent from a careful reading of Mormon 6 as I explained in that post.

Then why, people are asking, have much greater numbers been assumed for so many years?
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First, who says larger numbers were killed?

Book of Mormon Central (BOMC), for one.

They published a KnoWhy that attempts to explain hundreds of thousands of Nephites killed at Cumorah by offering four suggestions:

1. “Mormon May Have Exaggerated.”

2. “A Thousand May Not Actually Mean A Thousand.”

3. “The Army May Actually Have Been Massive.”

4. “230,000 Could Represent Entire Population.”

I was going to make comments on each, but I think anyone can see the serious problems these suggested answers raise. To support their Mesoamerican and two-Cumorahs theories, BOMC is questioning the accuracy of the scriptures and Mormon’s own credibility and reliability.

BOMC includes 15 footnotes, mostly to their like-minded, citation sharing associates such as John Sorenson, FARMS publications, and their own Kno-Whys. But they never once cite Letter VII.

The suitably massive “Hill Cumorah” in Mexico (one of several
proposed by Mesoamerican and two-Cumorahs advocates)

This is another example of the Groupthink that justifies the two-Cumorahs theory by claiming huge numbers of people died at Cumorah, so the hill in New York doesn’t “qualify.” “It would seem that a hill of 500-1,000 meters in altitude would be required,” writes David Palmer, who claimed in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism that “the New York site does not readily fit the Book of Mormon description.”

This theme is a basic premise for the two-Cumorahs theory. You’ll find it throughout the Mesoamerican-promoting LDS literature.

That’s why they’ll never quote or cite Letter VII.
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Our current LDS scholars and educators are not the only ones who have ignored what Oliver and Joseph had to say about Cumorah.

On July 7, 1886, the Millennial Star published an article by Orson Pratt titled “The Hill Cumorah: or the Sacred Depository of Wisdom and Understanding.” This is the article in which Pratt made an important contribution by explaining there were two departments in the Hill Cumorah in New York.

First was Mormon’s depository (Mormon 6:6) and, second, in a different area of the same hill, was Moroni’s stone box from which Joseph obtained the “Original Book of Mormon” consisting of the abridged plates (which I call the Harmony plates, because he translated all of them in Harmony, except the sealed portion).

[As a reminder, the second set of plates Joseph translated, the plates of Nephi (D&C 10), came from the depository itself. Joseph received these in Fayette, where he translated them into 1 Nephi through Words of Mormon. That’s why I call them the Fayette plates.]

Orson Pratt’s explanation was not new; it simply corroborates what Oliver taught, and what Brigham Young and others said Oliver taught, about the depository in the Hill Cumorah in New York.

However, Pratt either forgot about or ignored Letter VII when he, Pratt, wrote about the battles at Cumorah:

“The hill Cumorah, with the surrounding vicinity, is distinguished as the great battlefield on which, and near which, two powerful nations were concentrated with all their forces, men, women, and children, and fought till hundreds of thousands on both sides were hewn down, and left to moulder upon the ground.” Not the tens of thousands Letter VII teaches, but “hundreds of thousands on both sides.”

Regarding the Jaredites, he wrote, “millions fought against millions until the hill Ramah and the land round about was soaked with blood and their carcasses left in countless numbers unburied, to moulder back to mother earth.” Again, not the “thousands” Letter VII teaches, but “millions.”

This wasn’t the first time Orson Pratt lapsed into exaggeration. He wrote an 1840 pamphlet that Joseph later edited to write the Wentworth letter. In his pamphlet, Pratt went on and on about how the descendants of Lehi filled the hemisphere. Joseph edited out all the hemispheric rhetoric and corrected it by explaining that “The remnant are the Indians that now inhabit this country.”

Simple, plain, clear, and unambiguous.

But the scholars reject what he wrote in the Wentworth Letter.

Just like Letter VII.

(Don’t forget that the Curriculum Committee even edited out this passage from the Wentworth letter when they prepared the Joseph Smith lesson manual.)
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We don’t find fault with Orson Pratt for his enthusiasm and failure to pay attention to what Joseph and Oliver wrote, but we also recognize the mistakes he made and seek to correct them. We certainly shouldn’t be perpetuating them the way BOMC and other proponents of the Mesoamerican and two-Cumorahs theory continue to do.

I’ll repeat: every member of the Church should be familiar with Letter VII.

Joseph and Oliver wanted us to know that Cumorah was in New York, Mormon’s depository was in the same hill, and thousands (not millions) of Jaredites died there, along with tens of thousands of Nephites and Lamanites (not hundreds of thousands of Nephites alone).

Source: Letter VII

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2 thoughts on “Question about numbers at Cumorah

  1. Ok this is a question and is not posed as an argument. Mormon 6 versus 11-15 reads Mormon lead 10,000 that were killed, Moroni lead 10,000, Gidgiddonah lead 10,000 Lamah lead 10,000, Gilgal, Limhah, Jeneum, Cumenihah, Moronihah, Antionum, Shiblom, Shem and Josh all lead 10,000 and there were 10 more all with their 10,000 that had all fallen. That is 22 leaders all with their 10,000 making a total of 220,000 people. By the way I do not doubt the Hill in upstate New York is the Hill Cumorah.

    1. When you re-read it, you’ll see Mormon only saw the 20,000 dead that he and Moroni led. The others died previously and elsewhere. It’s confusing because he uses the term “behold” as both a verb expressing what he saw (we beheld) and an interjection to the reader (And behold).

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