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What is happening at Hill Cumorah? See photos of the Church’s reforestation project

‘We want as many visitors as possible to experience the hill as Joseph did’

The Hill Cumorah, a small hill in Manchester, New York, where Latter-day Saints believe an angel named Moroni delivered to Joseph Smith an ancient record from which he translated the Book of Mormon, is slowly returning to how it looked when the boy Prophet first walked there.

After the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced the end of the Hill Cumorah Pageant in 2018, former Church Historian and Recorder Elder LeGrand R. Curtis Jr. outlined the Church’s plan to rehabilitate the Hill Cumorah in three major ways in June 2021:

  1. Remove pageant-related infrastructure and all other non-historical facilities.
  2. Rehabilitate the landscape.
  3. Upgrade the messaging of the hill’s historical and sacred significance.

Plans also called for improving wayfinding and interpretive facilities.

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“When the First Presidency made the announcement in 2018 to discontinue the pageant, we had been studying the Hill Cumorah and planning some kind of rehabilitation there for a number of years. We were ready to propose a project,” said Benjamin Pykles, a manager for the Historic Sites Division of the Church History Department.

Visitors today will still find the Hill Cumorah Visitors’ Center, as well as the Angel Moroni monument at the top of the hill, but they will notice many changes.

“We want as many visitors as possible to be able to experience the hill as Joseph did and have a reverential, contemplative experience, thinking about the important and sacred events that happened there in regards to the Restoration of the gospel,” Pykles said.

Pykles provided an update on the progress of the Hill Cumorah rehabilitation project more than a year since it started.

Rehabilitating the landscape

New trees have been planted on the hill where the pageant stage once existed and meadow grasses have been planted around the base of the hill, Pykles said.

“The hill is looking great,” Pykles said. “I like to tell people that it took 80 years for the hill to be developed into the pageant facility, and it’s going to take maybe a third of that time for the trees to grow back on the hill into a mature, old growth forest again.”

Instead of planting saplings, workers have planted trees by seed so they will be more healthy and grow up into an old growth forest instead of looking more like a park, Pykles said.

“If you go into that old growth section, the trees are incredibly tall and the canopy is very high, which is characteristic of old growth forest trees that have grown up in competition with each other over many years,” he said. “If you go to other parts where trees are planted by sapling, they are low canopy, big, round bushy tops, still beautiful but much more like a park or golf course.”

Pykles said it will take two or three decades for those trees to become fully mature.

New meadow grasses and tree seeds have been planted on and around the Hill Cumorah in Manchester, New York.
New meadow grasses and tree seeds have been planted on and around the Hill Cumorah in Manchester, New York, as part of the Church’s rehabilitation plans for the historic location. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

New network of trails

There is a new network of trails on the hill allowing all visitors, including those in wheelchairs, to access the Angel Moroni monument at the top of the hill. Before there were stairs that prevented wheelchair access, but that has been corrected.

Vehicles are no longer allowed on the hill, although visitors can ride to the top on missionary-driven golf carts. Otherwise, the Church hopes people will walk the hill and experience the landscape.

“Some of the trails are fully accessible for wheelchairs and strollers. Others remain rustic, but all trails lead up to the Angel Moroni monument,” he said. “Some of them take visitors through a section of old growth forest on the hill — pristine, over 200-year-old forest — very much like the Sacred Grove, an area of the hill that had never been clear cut like most of the hill had been.”

Wayfinding signs and interpretive facilities

New interpretive and wayfinding signs have been placed in various locations along a new path system so people can easily find their way up and down the hill.

Angel Moroni regilded

The Angel Moroni statue on the monument has been regilded for the first time since the monument was constructed in 1935 to give it a new, shiny, bright appearance.

New Hill Cumorah sign

Crews recently installed a new Hill Cumorah monument sign in the front of the visitors’ center in a large, grassy area. It will be completed in a matter of days, Pykles said.

“That sign is the first of its kind for a new brand that has been approved by Church leaders for all historic sites,” he said. “So over the next several years, all of the historic sites will be getting new signs.”

A new Hill Cumorah monument sign has been constructed.
A new Hill Cumorah monument sign has been constructed. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Removing all pageant-related infrastructure

Crews have removed all pageant-related infrastructure from the hill, including some 24 structures and thousands of square feet of asphalt and gravel, roads and paths previously placed over the course of the 80-year history of the pageant.

All facilities management staff, their buildings and support structure, which was tucked behind the hill, has been moved to a nearby location.

The facilities management program has relocated from the Hill Cumorah to a nearby property.
The facilities management program has relocated from the Hill Cumorah to a nearby property. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

New basement

Workers have remodeled the basement of the Hill Cumorah Visitors’ Center.

“It’s now a nice facility that large groups can use for devotionals or other activities,” Pykles said.

The basement of the Hill Cumorah Visitors’ Center was renovated into a multi-purpose room for large groups, devotionals and other activities.
The basement of the Hill Cumorah Visitors’ Center was renovated into a multi-purpose room for large groups, devotionals and other activities. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

New features at Martin Harris farm site

As part of the Hill Cumorah project, the Church has also created a new pavilion, added new bathroom facilities and installed interpretive signage at the Martin Harris farm site.

Learn more about the Hill Cumorah and other historic sites at ChurchofJesusChrist.org or the Church’s Hill Cumorah Facebook page.

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