More Mormon Temple Alignments

The Palmyra Report



Field Investigation: 25 April 2006

by Daniel V. Boudillion




An Investigation of Mormon Temple Alignments in Palmyra New York



The purpose of this report is to further investigate apparent alignments between recently constructed Mormon Temples and cultural shrines.  The original investigation that opened this line of inquiry was the Mormons, Masons, & The Alamo report.


In the Palmyra Report we will examine the Palmyra Mormon Temple in relation to the Hill Cumorah cultural shrine.

   Introduction & History

Palmyra New York is of considerable cultural and religious significance to the Mormon religion.  It was here in 1820 that Joseph Smith had the first of 5 visions - 4 of which were of the Angel Moroni - that resulted in the publication of the Book of Mormon and the creation of the Mormon religion. 


Visions of Shining Angels


The first vision occurred in the woods behind the 100 acre Smith family farm on Stafford Road in Palmyra in what is now called the Sacred Grove.  (See Map)  According to Joseph Smith, who was 14 years old at the time, God the Father and Jesus Christ showed up to converse with him.  Later, on September 21 of 1823 (the night of the Autumn Equinox), the angel Moroni appeared to Smith in the upstairs bedroom that he shared with his three brothers in a log home.  Smith was told there was an ancient religious text transcribed on a set of gold plates buried on a hill two miles southeasterly - a hill which Smith came to call Cumorah Hill.  (See Map) According to Smith, he viewed the plates the following day but was forbidden to remove them. 



Hill Cumorah & Sacred Grove


Smith stated that annually for the next three years on September 22nd, the night of the Autumn Equinox, he met with the angel Moroni on Hill Cumorah in regards to the golden plates.  On September 22nd of 1827, just after midnight on the Autumn Equinox, he stated that he was allowed to retrieve the plates.  These plates, later reburied, are supposed to be the basis of the Book of Mormon. 


Angel Moroni


According to materials from the Mormon's Hill Cumorah Visitor Center, Moroni, son of Mormon, in 421 AD: "the last of the ancient prophets of the people that once lived on the American continent, sealed and hid up unto the Lord the abridged record [the gold plates] of his people on Hill Cumorah to come forth in the due time of the Lord the convincing of the Jew and the Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations."  Apparently after his death sometime after 421 AD, Moroni became an angel. 


In December of 1827, Joseph Smith and his wife Emma left Palmyra and moved into a cabin provided by Emma's father in Harmony Pennsylvania (now Oakland).  There, according to Smith, the plates were turned into the manuscript now known as the Book of Mormon.  Smith was not to return to Palmyra again as a resident.

Moroni Burying the Gold Plates




Recent Mormon Acquisitions in Palmyra




In 1907 the Smith family farm house, known as the "frame house," was purchased by Mormon Apostle George Smith and deeded to the Mormon church. 


In 1915 Willard Bean and his wife, both Mormons, are installed as caretakers of the Smith farm frame house, serving until 1940.


In 1928 the Mormons purchase Hill Cumorah.


In 1935 the Angel Moroni statue and obelisk are placed on top of Cumorah Hill.


In 1941 Mormon Missionaries are installed as greeters at the Smith farm frame house. 


In 1962 a Visitors Center was constructed at the base of Hill Cumorah.


Sometime previous to 1998, the Mormon Church acquired piece by piece the entirety of the 100 acre tract that made up the original Smith Family farm. 


In 1998 the log home, where Smith claimed his first vision of the Angel Moroni, was reconstructed.


In 2000 the new Mormon Temple was dedicated.  It is on a hill on land that was originally part of the Smith family 100 acre farm. 


In 2001 the Smith Farm restoration project is completed.  The Sacred Grove is part of the Smith farm.


In 2002 a new Visitor Center at Hill Cumorah was built on the site of the old one.


In 2002 a new Ward & Stake building (church) was built across the street from the Temple. 


In 2005 the Mormon operated Palmyra Inn opened for business, catering to Mormons on pilgrimage to Palmyra.  It is located next to the Ward building. 




Grandin Building  ~  Palmyra Inn  ~  Sacred Grove Visitors Center



Frame House  ~  Cumorah Hill  ~  Log House




Visitor Center  ~  Palmyra Temple  ~  Palmyra Ward Building




   Palmyra Monument Alignments

There are two obvious candidates for alignment investigation in Palmyra: the Hill Cumorah obelisk with the statue of Moroni, and the Mormon Temple building.  The Hill Cumorah Moroni obelisk was built in 1935, and the Temple in 2000.  Due to time constraints these were the only Mormon monuments in Palmyra that I investigated. 

   Hill Cumorah Moroni Obelisk

The Hill Cumorah obelisk is four sided and topped with a golden stature of Moroni.  Compass readings (Suunto KB-14/360R) taken at the Hill Cumorah obelisk on 21 April 2006 show the north face of the obelisk is facing north on a north magnetic axis of 3560 azimuth, which is 4 degrees west of magnetic north


Hill Cumorah Obelisk


However, in 1935 when the obelisk was positioned, the magnetic declination of the north face of the obelisk was 6.214 degrees west of north.  This difference is because the magnetic north pole has moved 2.14 degrees between 1935 and 2006 at this location. 


The declination between true celestial north (the north star) and the north face of the obelisk is 344.1220, which is 15.878 degrees west of true celestial north.  (True north declinations remain constant regardless of magnetic north's wanderings.)


It is curious that the four sided obelisk was canted a few degrees west of magnetic north rather then lined up directly.  It was also canted a few degrees off the axis of the hill as well. 


Hill Cumorah is a long low drumlin that runs North-northwest to South-southeast on a 349.760 (true north) course.  It is 1.6 miles long, 86 feet high, and 800 feet wide at its base with a pyramidal cross-section.  The obelisk is at the northernmost extent of the hilltop.  The declination of the hill's axis is azimuth 349.7680 celestial, which is 10.232 degrees west of true north.  The obelisk's orientation is 15.878 degrees west of north, which is 5.6 degrees off center from the hill's axis. 


The obelisk does not align with the hill's long axis: it is 5.6 degrees to far west.  It did not line up with magnetic north in 1935: it was 6.3 degrees to far west.  (Nor does it line up with celestial north: it is off by 15.878 degrees.)  The four-sided obelisk is canted in such a way that it just barely misses being lined up with magnetic north, and at the same time is also canted slightly off center with the long axis of the hill.

          Click to Enlarge

   Palmyra Mormon Temple

Moving on to the Temple, GPS reading were taken there on 22 April 2006 with a Magellan SporTrak Map model.  A quick initial check with the Suunto showed that the building's long axis ran approximately north-south. 


Palmyra Temple*


GPS readings at the north end of the building were: 43.03933N, -77.23703W.


GPS readings at the south end of the building were: 43.03869N, -77.23703W.


This results in the building's long axis being exactly 3600, which is an exact north-south celestial axis. 


Thus the Palmyra Mormon Temple is exactly aligned to Celestial North. 

   Relationship Between the Temple and Obelisk

Considering that the Temple's axis was exactly north-south, but that the obelisk was slightly canted to the west towards the Temple, I then explored the relationship, if any, between these two places.  Using www.topozone.com I was able to determine the exact location of the obelisk to be: 43.0063N, -77.2242W. 


Using simple arithmetic I calculated the midpoint of the Temple building to be: 43.03901N, -77.23703W.


My theory was that the canted north face of the obelisk pointed directly to the Temple.  I predicted that the True-North declination between them would have to be 344.1220 azimuth for that to be proved. 


Using a distance and bearing calculator I ran the declination between the two sets of location coordinates.  The resulting declination was: 343.9950 azimuth True North.  The difference between my calculation and the actual bearing is: 0.127 degrees. 


The north-south axis of the obelisk on Cumorah Hill is exactly lined up with the new Mormon Temple 2.4 miles away.  The accuracy of the alignment is 99.92% exact.


Alignment Sketch

   Moroni to Moroni

This alignment is extraordinarily close.  However, the exact alignment with the Temple appeared to be slightly forward (north) from the middle of the building.  That forward location is the area where the spire that is topped with the Moroni statue is located.  The exact location of the spire is 43.03917N, -77.23703W.


The spire on the Mormon Temple is actually a four sided obelisk topped with a golden statute of Moroni.  The four sided Hill Cumorah obelisk is also topped with a golden statue of Moroni. 


I ran the declination between the coordinates of the obelisk/spire on the Temple and the Hill Cumorah obelisk.  The resulting declination is: 344.0690, as compared to the 344.1220 that I predicted.  The difference between my original predicted calculation and the actual bearing between obelisks is: 0.053 degrees.  The 0.053 degree figure is one half of one tenth of one degree. 


The accuracy of the alignment between the two golden Moroni statues on top of their respective obelisks has an exactness level of 99.97055 percent. 

Alignment Topographical Map

Click to Enlarge


The Hill Cumorah obelisk was erected in 1935, and the Temple was erected in 2000.  The long axis of the Temple is aligned exactly with celestial north.  It is the obelisk via its slight offset that is aligned with the Temple.  For this alignment to occur requires that the Temple was fitted into its position to take advantage of the obelisk's offset orientation.



Moroni & Moroni: Two Golden Statues on Four-Square Obelisks


It also begs the question as why the obelisk was originally offset in 1935.  Was there knowledge in 1935 that eventually a Temple would be built in such a location that the obelisk would align with it?  Or was the obelisk simply aligned so its north-south axis pointed at the original 100 acre Smith farm that the Temple was eventually built on?  It is worth noting that the Smith farm was bought by the Mormon church in 1907, and caretakers subsequently assigned to the Smith farmhouse. 


The location the Temple is on the highest hill of the old Smith farm 100 acre tract.  It would make sense, I suppose, to align the north-south axis of the Hill Cumorah obelisk with the top of highest hill of the old tract where Joseph Smith lived and had the first of his visions of Moroni.  And perhaps this fortuitous arrangement was taken advantage of later when the Temple was erected in 2000.  It is certainly the general procedure of Mormon Temple construction to place their Temples on hilltops whenever possible. 


The northerly declination of the Hill Cumorah obelisk faces, and is aligned with, the top of the highest hill on the original Smith family 100 acre farm.  I do not think that this was done in 1935 with a forward-planning intention of placing a Temple edifice on that location at some future point - but it can't be ruled out entirely.  Rather, I would think it was done to symbolically link the Hill Cumorah Moroni vision location with the Smith farm where the other Moroni vision occurred. 


It is however, standard contemporary Mormon practice to locate their Temples on the highest eminence.  Later, in 1998/1999 when the planning and construction of the Palmyra Temple was begun, it would be a given that the Temple would be placed on the highest hill on the land originally part of the Smith family 100 acre farm.  This is also the hilltop area that the Moroni obelisk on Cumorah Hill is aligned to. 



Smith Farm & Hilltop



The red line shows the alignment from the Hill Cumorah obelisk passing over the top of the hill.

The new Mormon Temple on the hill is outlined in black, and the spire/obelisk is in yellow.

The alignment makes a precise intersection with the spire on the Temple.

The blue rectangle is the 1819 Smith family farm, 100 acres.


It would seem reasonable that this fortuitous alignment would be taken advantage of, and the building placed just so, to be aligned with the Moroni obelisk on Cumorah Hill.  In fact, the alignment is such that it is the Moroni statue on the Temple's obelisk that the obelisk on Cumorah Hill is aligned with.  Thus, the Moroni statue on Hill Cumorah is aligned precisely with the Moroni statue on the Temple.  The two golden statues of Moroni, and the alignment between them, is a link between both places - and the only places - where the visions of Moroni were said to occur. 


Joseph Smith Sr. Family Farm, Palmyra New York




The above maps give a detailed view of the 1819 Smith farm.  Click to enlarge.

Note the water route from the Sacred Grove to Hill Cumorah.


As for how the Temple sites are chosen, I was told by Dr. Porter at the Hill Cumorah Visitor Center that Mormon President Hinckley chooses the sites.  Considering that Mr. Hinckley is an aged man of 96 years, it seems unlikely that he actually does the field work, but rather selects a location from several presented to him. 


Cultural Shrine


In the context of the alignments in Boston and San Antonio between Mormon Temples and cultural shrines, (see Mormons, Masons, & The Alamo), it is interesting to see the same procedure in effect in Palmyra.  In this case the cultural shrine in question is Hill Cumorah, and it is mainly a shrine for Mormons.  Since at least 1935 when the Angel Moroni obelisk and statue was raised on the hill, it has been a pilgrimage site for Utah Mormons.  Hill Cumorah, as the very hill where the gold plates containing the Book of Mormon were said to be found by Joseph Smith, makes it a powerful pilgrimage site and culture shrine.  It is the site of the very root of Mormonism. 


Although as a shrine it is within Mormon culture, it is nonetheless consistent with the other two temple-shrine alignments examined: the Boston Temple-Walden Pond alignment, and the San Antonio Temple-Alamo alignment.  Both Walden Pond and the Alamo are shrines of immense cultural significance: as a symbol the Alamo is at the heart of the Texas psyche, and Walden Pond is the symbol of Thoreau and American transcendentalism.  Both are as powerful numinous centers in the psyche of their respective movements as Hill Cumorah is in the Mormon psyche.  (See Mormons, Masons, & The Alamo for further information on the Walden Pond and Alamo alignments.)


Celestial North Alignment


The Palmyra Temple is aligned precisely along its long axis with celestial true north.  This is also the case with the San Antonio Temple.  I do not know as yet the full significance of this, but I was told by Mormon Missionary Elder Sperry at the Hill Cumorah Visitor Center on 22 April 2006 that this is a common Temple motif.  He did not know the meaning of this though. 


Symbolism of the Temple


As a side note, I was further told by Elder Sperry that the modern Mormon Temples, most specifically those of the President Hinckley era, usually are built in three subtle tiers.  Each tier of the building is symbolic of one of the three ascending Mormon heavens: the Telestial at the bottom, then the next highest the Terrestrial, and then the Celestial which is the highest.  This was also symbolized by moon, sun, and star imagery on the earlier temples: the Moon equates to the Telestial, the Sun to the Terrestrial, and the Stars to the Celestial.  These can be seen as the various sunstones and moonstones on the Nauvoo and Salt Lake City Mormon Temples. 


Bearing this in mind, it stands to reason that the precise long axis building alignment with celestial north - the north star Polaris - may symbolize an alignment with the Mormon Celestial heaven, the highest of their three heavens. 

Sunstone from Nauvoo Temple


The Palmyra Mormon Temple is aligned precisely to celestial north.  This alignment is a matter of intentional placement on the part of the temple designers.  It may symbolize a connection with the highest of the Mormon heavens. 


The two Mormon obelisks, each topped with a golden stature of Moroni, are exactly aligned to each other within 0.053 of a degree.  This is an alignment so infinitesimally precise that it rules out coincidence.  This alignment is either intentionally arranged, or intentionally taken advantage of - or it is a miracle. 



Cumorah Hill & Palmyra Temple


The alignment is designed to align between the two Moroni statues on the two locations where the Angel Moroni appeared.  It is also appears designed to link the Palmyra Temple with the significant numinous power of the Hill Cumorah cultural shrine. 

   Notes & Maps

Celestial North, also called True North, is north as defined by the star Polaris and is a constant. 


Magnetic North is defined by the magnetic compass.  Magnetic north has moved several degrees over the last century, and thus it is important to have the correct magnetic variance for the year of the reading. 


Azimuth: a style of reading the compass where bearing is rendered as a number between 10 and 3600.  Exact North in azimuth is 3600.  (Traditional compass readings are rendered as a number between 10 and 900 and applied to a direction, for example:  300 Southwest.)


Mormon Palmyra Map




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Copyright 2006 by Daniel V. Boudillion