Question: Could Joseph Smith have acquired the names "Moroni" and "Cumorah" from a map of the Comoro archipelago off the coast of Africa?

FAIR Answers Wiki Table of Contents

Question: Could Joseph Smith have acquired the names "Moroni" and "Cumorah" from a map of the Comoro archipelago off the coast of Africa?

Comoros is a small nation made up of three islands off the southeast coast of Africa. Prior to French occupation it was named "Camora". Its capital city is Moroni and Moroni is located on the largest island of Comoros named Grand Comore.

  • Some have argued that Joseph Smith cribbed and spun names from stories about Captain Kidd, a famous pirate and treasure-hunter, to get Cumorah and Moroni in the Book of Mormon.
  • Some have claimed that Joseph Smith, motivated by and fascinated by the stories of Captain Kidd, created the Book of Mormon names Cumorah and Moroni by cribbing them from a map of the Comoros islands in which Kidd is known to have ventured.
  • Some have argued even still that, besides the Captain Kidd stories and the maps, that Joseph could have heard stories of Moroni and Cumorah from American whalers who passed through Palmyra.

The stories of Captain Kidd do not mention Camora/Comoro/Comoros Islands nor Moroni/Maroni/Meroni. Thus, the argument is one from silence. Those who propose that Joseph obtained the names "Cumorah" and "Moroni" from stories of Captain Kidd fail to cite any sources and then demonstrate that Joseph had access to them. For more detail on this claim, see: Joseph Smith, Captain Kidd and the Comoro archipelago.

The settlement of "Moroni" was first established in the 12th or 13th century AD. It did not become the capital city of the Comoros Islands and Comore until 1876 (32 years after Joseph's death and 47 years after the publication of the Book of Mormon). The possibility of Joseph seeing the names on a map is remote at best. It has not even been proved that Joseph ever saw the names, or that any source available to him linked them. We do find that the island of Joanna aka Anjouan (another island within the archipelago) has a port named "Meroni" which Joseph could have utilized. However, the connection fails when we recognize that Joseph's only real motivation for looking at such maps would be spurned by the mention of them in the Captain Kidd stories. Additionally, in order to connect the mention of both names in some form, two maps would need to be utilized. One would be an 1810 map that contains the name Camora to refer to the islands. A second map of Anjouan (which three maps existed of during the 18th century) would have to be located and consulted to find the tiny mention of the anchorage of "Meroni" in the Northwest part of Anjouan. It's a lot of steps to take to find two names and spin them into Moroni and Cumorah and they remain without motivation if one excludes the Captain Kidd stories from considerations during argument. Some have taken the majority printing of "Camorah" in the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon to further bolster their position of Joseph using the name "Camora" from the 1810 map to create the name. But the argument is significantly weakened when one notes that Oliver Cowdery claimed that this was a printing error and his statement is supported by the printer's manuscript of the Book of Mormon in which it is spelled "Cumorah" six times, "Camorah" once, and "Comorah" twice.

The argument about whalers is yet another argument from silence and/or appeal to probability. Just because American whalers were in the vicinity of Joseph, doesn't mean that he spoke to them. Indeed, there is no evidence that moves Joseph into the vicinity of one of these professionals and puts him in conversation with one of them.