Book of Mormon Criteria for the Hill Cumorah
by V. Garth Norman
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There is a long traditional belief about the Hill Cumorah in New York being the historic Hill Cumorah of the Book of Mormon where both the Jaredite and Nephite nations were destroyed in final battles of extermination. Various scholars over the past half century have examined Book of Mormon, geographic, and archaeological data and concluded that the sacred hill in New York where Joseph Smith obtained the gold plates deposited by Moroni, is probably not the same hill as the Book of Mormon Ramah/Cumorah, which must be within close proximity to the narrow neck of land. These scholars include Thomas Ferguson, Wells Jakeman, Bruce Warren, John Sorenson, Sidney Sperry, Garth Norman, David Palmer, Richard Hauck, and Joseph Allen. Two viable locations in southern Veracuz (Cerro Vigia and Cerro Rabon), and one in southern Tamaulipas (Cerro Bernal) have been proposed. Both Rabon and Bernal seem to be too far from good candidates for the Waters of Ripliancum, and are on the fringe of major occupation zones. The more favored candidate that seems to qualify best is the hill Vigia located on the northwestern edge of the Tuxtla Mountains.
Some researchers favor Cerro Rabon, a peak due west of Vigia on the rim of the Sierra Madre mountains after locating a crevice where Ether could have hidden to observe the final battles. Cerro Bernal also qualifies on this count, but Vigia does not. However, the ancient volcanic formation of the Tuxtla mountains would have had crevices, some now covered by later volcanic ash.
Summary of criteria for the Nephite Hill Cumorah:
Near an eastern seacoast. The east coast at the Gulf of Mexico is about four miles from the Hill Vigia.
Near the Narrow Neck of Land. The Hill Vigia is about 60 miles from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec pass.
Located overlooking a coastal plain where the enormous approaching Lamanite armies could be seen by the whole Nephite nation camped around Cumorah's slopes, and where Mormon, from the summit, could view the extensive fields of dead from the several armies after the final battle.
Located a distance of a one-day journey from a large body of water called Ripliancum. The Papaloapan water basin that empties into the Gulf of Mexico is about 16 miles from the base of Vigia.
Located in a land of many waters, rivers, and fountains (springs). Vigia is in a land of beautiful lakes, picturesque rivers, and spring fed streams.
Located in a land of ample water and rich land to sustain the Nephite nation while preparing for the final battle. This area in southern Veracruz is a rich tropical agricultural zone, often referred to as “the Hawaii of Mexico.”
Located where Nephites could escape from the final battles and flee into the land southward. A secluded route along the coast on the east base of the Tuxtla Mountains would be a natural unobstructed escape route to the south.
Located in a region of volcanic and earthquake activity that characterized nearby land Bountiful. The Tuxtla Mountains are a volcanic range that was active in Book of Mormon times.
A significant and sacred landmark where both the Jaredite and Nephite nations perished on the spot, and where sacred Nephite records were hidden by Mormon. Today, a radio relay station is on top of Vigia, giving it the modern name of Lookout Mountain.
Cerro Vigia is not the highest, but is the most prominent isolated peak of the Tuxtla mountains as viewed from the major Late Preclassic Olmec city of Tres Zapotes (land Cumorah?) located to the northwest where outdoor temple architecture aligns with Cerro Vigia on the winter solstice sunrise (Garth Norman research observation).
A region of major civilization occupation during both Jaredite and Nephite-Mulekite times. This region of southern Veracruz was a heartland of Olmec civilization with extensive ruins during Jaredite times, and subsequent cultures that qualify for Mulekites, and the later Nephite civilization. Sculpture in this region dating to the late Jaredite or early Mulekite era includes what a leading non-Mormon scholar called "bearded foreigners," because they are different than known contemporary native American types, but look very European or Middle Eastern.
Taking into account all the criteria listed above, Cerro Vigia would seem to be the most logical candidate for the Hill Cumorah.