Letter VII featured prominently when the Church purchased the Hill Cumorah. Here’s an example from the Deseret News. When Elder Roberts wrote this article, he cited some evidence for the credibility and reliability of the letters, but apparently people didn’t know that Joseph had instructed his scribes to copy Oliver’s letters, including Letter VII, into his personal history as part of his life story, or that Joseph had given specific permission to Benjamin Winchester to publish these letters in the Gospel Reflector. Of course, as we’ve seen, Joseph’s brothers Don Carlos and William both republished the letters in their respective newspapers, the Times and Seasons in Nauvoo and The Prophet in New York.
B. H. Roberts The Deseret News, 3 March 1928
Ramah-Cumorah in the Land of Ripliancum: A Jaredite-Nephite Historical Landmark Identified with Western New York and the Region of the Great Lakes,” Written for the Deseret News by B. H. Roberts.
Map Shows Western New York: The Region of the Land of Cumorah and of Ramah; the Land of “Ripliancum,” Large Waters,–To Exceed All.” Below is a Photograph Reproduction of the Hill Cumorah with Its Landscape Foreground, and the Statue of the Angel Moroni on the East Center Tower of the Salt Lake Temple.
The recent purchase of the Hill Cumorah by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints awakens wide spread interest in the sacred depository of the record called the Book of Mormon. . . .
First as to “Ramah,” Moroni, speaking of the approaching great battle in the civil war among the Jaredites and the gathering together of the hosts of that nation under the leadership of Shule and Coriantumr respectively: “And it came to pass that the army of Coriantumr did pitch their tents by the hill Ramah, and it was that same hill where my father Mormon did hide up the records unto the Lord which were sacred.” (Ether Chap. 15) It seems in the battles preceding this about the Hill Ramah where Mormon had hidden the records that the Jaredite armies had been maneuvering northward about the waters called by them–the Jaredites–“Ripliancum, which by interpretation is large, or to exceed all.” Then after this region of the large waters, which exceed all, Coriantumr and his forces retreated southward until they came to this Hill Ramah, where they made their last stand and around which the Jaredites perished early in the fifth century B.C. This is about all that is said of Ramah in the record of the Jaredites.
Now we take up “Cumorah” and find much made of it in the sixth chapter of the Book of Mormon . . . It is to be noted that this description of Mormon’s as to the land of Cumorah being a land of many waters, rivers, and fountains is in strict accordance with the description of Ramah as the land of many waters, “Ripliancum, which by interpretation is large or to exceed all.” . . .
It is urged by some that this hill in which Mormon deposited these many records of the Nephites was not necessarily located up in what we now call the western part of New York, and where Joseph Smith directed by Moroni, found the single collection of plates known as the Book of Mormon. It is held that Moroni in his peregrinations after the death of his father and the destruction of his people in his effort to keep out of the hands of his enemies the Lamanites, might have wandered far away from the hill Ramah-Cumorah and that possibly Ramah-Cumorah may have been in some part of Central America, where topographical conditions may be found which would correspond with the description of this place given in the Book of Mormon. Strangely enough there is little that the Prophet Joseph Smith has left on record that speaks of this Hill Cumorah where he found the Book of Mormon under the direction of Moroni. And this only in an esctatic[sic] review of early events in the Church: “And again what do we hear? Glad tidings from Cumorah. Moroni, an angel from heaven, declaring the fulfillment of the prophets–the Book to be revealed. (Doc. and Cov. sec 128:20)
But while this direct testimony from the Prophet himself is lacking, it is not lacking from those who are competent to speak on the subject–and who did speak of it and who published their statements, and one of these in the life time of the prophet, Oliver Cowdery, close associate with Joseph Smith in bringing forth the Book of Mormon, and his chief amanuensis in the translation of it, declares this hill from which the Book of Mormon was taken to be the Hill Cumorah, the place where Mormon deposited “all the records in his possession, except his abridgment from the plates of Nephi which he gave to his son; and also emphatically declares it to be the scene of the destruction of both the Jaredite and Nephite people. This statement Oliver published in the Church organ at the time, called the “Saints Messenger and Advocate,” Kirtland, Ohio, 1834. There are nine letters published under the title of “Early Scenes and Incidents in the Church.” These letters were reproduced in the Improvement Era, Vol. II, 1898-9.
[QUOTE FROM 1834 ARTICLE BY OLIVER COWDERY–see 1834 notation. This is Letter VII.]
The importance of this statement lies in the fact that it is made by the second elder of the Church, when it was organized; he was Joseph Smith’s amanuensis in the translation of Mormon’s record. It is written and published in the life time of the Prophet Joseph Smith, with his knowledge and approval; It is published in the Saints Messenger and Advocate, the organ of the Church at that time, 1834; and it is inconceivable that the Prophet Joseph would permit the publication of such an article identifying this hill where he found the record called the Book of Mormon with the hill called Ramah by the Jaredites, and Cumorah by the Nephites, and the scene of the successive battles which destroyed both of these nations in the region; and also identifying it with the hill in which Mormon deposited “all of the Nephite records” which had been given into his custody–if it did not state the truth.
A testimony also comes from David Whitmer, one of the three witnesses to the truth of the Book of Mormon. When Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery found it necessary to move from Harmony, Pennsylvania, to Fayette, New York, David Whitmer drove them from Harmony to the home of his father in Fayette. Before starting on this journey Moroni came to the Prophet and took possession of the plates in order to insure their safety in transit to the Whitmer home. On the way the three brethren, Joseph, Oliver and David overtook Moroni carrying the plates. (see note#1) Joseph suggested to David that he ask the “stranger” to ride. David stopped his team and invited him to ride, if by chance he would be going in their direction. “No,” said the one addressed, very pleasantly, “I am going to Cumorah.” “This name was somewhat new to me,” says David, “and I did not know what ‘Cumorah’ meant.” They all gazed at him and at each other. When David looked around again, after turning to Joseph for instruction or information, the man had disappeared. “It was the Messenger (Moroni) who had the plates, who had taken them from Joseph just prior to our starting form Harmony.” says David Whitmer in closing the story of the incident. (See Orson Pratt and Joseph F. Smith’s report of an interview with David Whitmer. Millennial Star, Vol,. 40, pp. 769-774. The report bears date of September 17, 1878.
Another circumstance which verifies all that is here said about this hill in western New york from which Joseph Smith obtained the Book of Mormon, being identical with Ramah-Cumorah of the Book of Mormon, is the fact of agreement between the description in the Book of Mormon of the Hill Ramah-Cumorah and the region round about, and the topography of western New York. It is a region of “many waters”–“Ripliancum” by interpretation “large, or to exceed all”; and here in western New York, immediately to the north of Cumorah, is Lake Ontario; to the west and northwest are Lake Erie, Lake Huron, Lake Michigan and Lake Superior–the greatest group of fresh water lakes in the world, while immediately to the south of Cumorah are the noted “finger lakes” of New York, beginning on the east side of the region is the lake bearing the modern name of Otisco; and moving westward the following named lakes: Skaneateles Lake, Owasco Lake, Cayuga Lake, Seneca Lake–with its elongation, Keuka Lake; Canadaigua Lake and a number of others westward in the same line. All these, and beside them numerous streams and rivers throughout the whole region.
The identification both in the recorded facts of the Book of Mormon about the Hill Ramah-Cumorah and the physical characteristics of this region of western New York–extending westward to include the whole great five lake basin–“Rippliancum[sic]”–“to exceed all”–is sufficient to eliminate all doubt about the hill recently purchased by the Church, being the very site of the destruction of both the Jaredite and the Nephite people, also the place where Mormon deposited the great collection of sacred records which had been entrusted to him and where later his son Moroni kept concealed the gold plates of the Book of Mormon.
And now, behold, how fortunate it is that the Church has possessed herself of so many of the sacred places connected with the coming forth of the new dispensation of the gospel in these last days. . . . The Smith farm near Palmyra, New York . . . Scant three miles away is the Hill Cumorah, surrounded by several hundred acres of farm lands including the whole of the hill Ramah-Cumorah, the sacred depository of Jaredite and Nephite records, including the Book of Mormon gold plates given to Joseph Smith to translate for the enlightenment of the world and also the site of the destruction of the two great peoples of ancient America–the Jaredites and Nephites.
Eastward less than a score of miles is the old “Peter Whitmer Farm,” in Fayette township near the present prosperous town of Waterloo, where the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized on the sixth of April, 1830, with its six charter members, an event soon to be a century old. The Carthage prison . . . How complete is the circle of sacred places, now in possession of the Church, connected with the life and mission of the prophet of the new dispensation! The Saints should be thankful for possession of these sacred places.
Source: Letter VII
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