9. Does Cerro Bernal Meet the Description of the Hill Cumorah?
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9. Does Cerro Bernal Meet the Description of the Hill Cumorah?
Copyright © 2015 by Jerry L. Ainsworth
I consider a hill in the state of Tamaulipas, Mexico, to be the hill Cumorah where the Book of Mormon battle of AD 385 took place—a hill named Cerro Bernal.
I have been to the very summit of Cerro Bernal, and I initially thought that the site did not look like a place where Mormon 6:11 could have taken place: “We . . . did behold on the morrow, when the Lamanites had returned unto their camps, from the top of the hill Cumorah, the ten thousand of my people who were hewn down, being led in the front by me.”
Possible Problems with Cerro Bernal
As I considered Mormon 6:11 and other verses related to the final battle, a number of problems surfaced.
Mormon was wounded in battle and left for dead (see Mormon 6:10). In that respect, Cerro Bernal is a tough climb, easily taking six hours for a healthy person. How could Mormon climb the hill and observe events on the very next day? The summit of Cerro Bernal is not an ideal place for a wounded person to comfortably view events.
Cerro Bernal is likewise not an ideal place for a person to recover from life-threatening wounds. A place where Mormon and Moroni, as well as the other twenty-two survivors, to hide themselves, recover from wounds, and have ample food and water would require more than I saw at the summit of Cerro Bernal.
I initially thought that perhaps the twenty-four Nephite survivors of the battle hid in the chamber where all the plates were secreted, but Mormon said there were no righteous Nephites or Lamanites at this battle apart from himself and his son Moroni. I assume they would not want to take the other twenty-two survivors into the chamber, especially because there were many plates of gold in the cave. Taking such people into the chamber might increase the risk of the location being discovered by the Lamanites, resulting in the destruction of the rec
And then there is the problem of food and water for a sustained period of time while Mormon recovered from his wounds and the victorious Lamanites departed the battlefield after burying their dead and allowing the wounded to recuperate. These events could easily have taken weeks if not months.
The Meaning of “on the Morrow”
I began the search to find answers to these problems.
Webster’s Dictionary explains that there are two separate meanings for the term “morrow”: (1) the day following some specific day and (2) the time immediately subsequent to some particular event.
A close reading of Mormon 6:11 suggests that Mormon is using the second definition of this term. The event that is being referred to is “when the Lamanites had returned to their camps.” I will present Mormon 6:11 with the appropriate segments italicized, and readers can determine if that is a possible meaning:
And when they had gone through and hewn down all my people save it were twenty and four of us, (among whom was my son Moroni) and we having survived the dead of our people, did behold on the morrow, when the Lamanites had returned unto their camps, from the top of the hill Cumorah, the ten thousand of my people who were hewn down, being led in the front by me. (emphasis added)
The statement “on the morrow” may refer to the day after the Lamanites had returned to their camps, which could have been many days after the battle where Mormon was wounded. This reading would have given ample time for a wounded Mormon to get to the top of the hill.
Rocky and Dangerous
The summit of Cerro Bernal is very rocky, uneven, narrow, and dangerous. Very few places are found on the summit where a person is not in danger of falling off to either side and being harmed or killed.
When I climbed to the summit, we walked the very dangerous ridge from the west to the east. We then reached a point where we found a sharp drop, a kind of cliff, which dropped to a flat location around 150–200 feet lower than where we were standing. We had no way of descending to this location, especially because it had begun to snow after we got to the top. (Yes, I know—it does not snow at Cerro Bernal. It appears this was the only time in recorded history it has snowed there.)
A Plateau with Fountains, Fruit Trees, and Caves
While Esteban and I were in Ciudad Mante recently and had been rained out of the fields where we had been digging, we were simply walking around the town looking for a painting or a photo of the crest/logo of the state of Tamaulipas. Cerro Bernal is central to that logo.
We finally purchased a copy of the crest (which was later stolen), and while continuing our shopping, we came across a shop named Decoracion Real, which had some nice photos of Cerro Bernal in it. The owner, a nice man named Jaime, was not there, so we made an appointment to meet him later in the day.
When we returned, we discovered that he is a photographer by profession and avocation. He had a number of photos of Cerro Bernal, as well as photos of some of the fountains in this area, and he was nice enough to transfer these digital photos from his com. Jaime said he had climbed Cerro Bernal several times, as have many people in this area. He told us of a plateau on the south side of the hill, a few hundred feet below the summit. He noted that this was a much more popular climbing destination than the summit because at this plateau, a small fountain of water bubbles up, forming a small pond of fresh water
Also located on the plateau, he explained, were numerous fruit trees, such as banana trees, avocado trees, and some citrus trees unique to Mexico. A number of small caves or grottos were also located around the plateau where climbers could take refuge from bad weather if need be.
Learning “Line upon Line”
I am constantly amazed at how the teaching style of the Lord is often manifested “line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little” (2 Nephi 28:30).
As a result of my research and experiences, I now believe that there was ample time for Mormon to get to the top of Cerro Bernal—at least to the plateau—where he may well have found ample water and food, enough to sustain twenty-four people for an extended period of time.
In my opinion, the plateau on Cerro Bernal meets the description of the top of the hill.
Contact me with a question or comment: email@example.com