Question: Could Joseph Smith have heard the names "Moroni" and "Cumorah" from American whalers?

Question: Could Joseph Smith have heard the names "Moroni" and "Cumorah" from American whalers?

There is another speculation put forth non-Mormons regarding how Joseph Smith might have heard the names "Moroni" and "Cumorah" that is not related to Captain Kidd. The assumption made on one website is that he "heard about these exotic places from stories of American whalers." [1] The website notes that "The Comoro islands were visited by a large number of American whaling ships beginning before the appearance of The Book of Mormon. Sailors aboard these ships, when they returned to the whaling ports of New England, told of their adventures in the western Indian Ocean and by the time The Book of Mormon first appeared in the 1820s, both Moroni and Comoro were words known to some Americans living in the eastern United States."[1] One would have to assume, however, that Joseph came into contact with "some Americans living in the eastern United States" who were familiar with the names. Such a connection is simply pure conjecture.

On the other hand, the same website also provides a useful background on the meaning of the names:

It should be first noted that the word, 'moroni', has a meaning. The word is from the group of languages spoken in the Comoro Islands and found in Swahili, as well. Translating into English, it means "at the place of fire." It is constructed of the root 'moro,' which means "fire" or "heat" and the locative '-ni,' which has the meaning "at the place of". Thus, constructed from the morphemes of the local languages ‘Moroni’ reflects the fact that it is located at the base of one of the world’s largest active volcanos. It should also be noted that the name, 'Moroni', is found on European maps as early as the middle of the 18th century and noted by travelers as the capital of a Sultan on the island of Ngazidja. The name, 'Comoro', also has a similar meaning in the local languages. It is composed of an old Swahili locative 'ko-' and the word 'moro' meaning "the place of fire." This name has been around since ancient times and can be found on Arabic maps published over a thousand years ago. [1]

This supports the idea that the names "Moroni" and "Comoro" are of authentic ancient origin. See also the entries under cumorah, and moroni from the Book of Mormon Onomasticon.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Martin and Harriet Ottenheimer, "COMORO ISLANDS" (website) off-site