More Mormon Temple Alignments
The Palmyra Report
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
In the Palmyra Report we will examine the Palmyra
Mormon Temple in relation to the Hill Cumorah cultural shrine.
Introduction & History
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
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.
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 1907 the Smith family farm house, known as the
"frame house," was purchased by Mormon Apostle George Smith and deeded to the
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.
~ Palmyra Inn
Sacred Grove Visitors Center
Palmyra Ward Building
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
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
which is 4 degrees west of
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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 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,
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
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
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
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 &
• 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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
also called True North, is north as defined by the star Polaris and is a
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.
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