|Testimony of Joseph Mangum
My name is Joseph Edward Mangum III and I guess the best place to begin
about my affair with the “Hill” would be at the beginning. It all starts at Buckner
Community of Christ Sunday School class on the Book of Mormon. During the
class someone said it would be nice to take a class trip to Mexico to see where all
of this happened.
The next thing I know, Mike Brown had bought a big Greyhound type bus and
we were planning a trip to Mexico. Neal Steede would be our guide.
I do not believe this trip was of man, but of GOD. He had a reason for us to go
on this trip which we knew nothing about. We had many trials on the trip. For
instance, we lost the universal joint on the bus on the autopista late in the
evening and help was sent….there was another little problem with the bus and
Mike spent the night in jail…. help was sent…the bus was traveling on a road it
should not have been on and we were stopped.…help was sent.
The bus was large and the small town streets through which we passed were not
designed for it. We took a mountain road south from Mexico City that, in your
wildest dreams, was not designed for such travel. The LORD must have bent the
bus to get us down that road safely. It was a white-knuckle ride for some - for
others it was great trip with a great view.
But the most important part of the trip was on 7 July 2001 when five of us
decided to hike up the “Hill.” We started before sunrise - being lead by a blind
man, hoping for a miracle… finding the treasure of the hill.
We did not find the treasure that we were looking for but the Lord had many
lessons for me. Most of them dealt with help. The condensed message was “We
all need help and need to help others.” The message came with questions.
When do you help others? When you think they need it or when they ask? Do
you always help others when they ask or should we encourage them to be doing
more for themselves? If you give help when it is not wanted (or deemed
necessary by the receiver), will it be a help or add to the problem?
From time to time we all need help but sometimes we need to be the “help” for
others. We all need to contribute something so we feel that we are part of
“To hunger and thirst,” etc., has a new meaning for me now, as we did not plan
well for this hike. Not knowing the climate or the altitude’s affect on us, we did
not take enough water for our hike up the hill. We all shared what we had, some
more than others did without knowing it.
Oh yes, we found the marker that Neal had used to locate the cave which may be
the entrance to the treasure of the hill, but that story will have to be another
time. We had not returned home yet when the wheels started turning for a
return trip to the hill.
After arriving home, I rested on my bed. But I woke up on the hill and wondered
how I got there and what I was doing there. I knew I was at home on my bed yet
I was awake and vividly experiencing the Hill. I wanted to know where every one
else was. Then I was given to know that they were just east of me on the hill. I
went back to sleep and woke in my bed at home. With this experience, I decided
right then that I needed to go back to the hill.
As we gathered and discussed going back to the hill our number grew to ten. We
made rudimentary plans based on the little we had learned from our brief
encounter with the “Hill.” We did not imagine the actual difficulties incurred.
We had arranged to have some local people with horses help take our equipment
up as far as possible. They did not show up and we waited. After waiting for
about two and half-hours, they did not come so we started up the hill carrying
everything. It was getting hotter and the way was steep and hard going.
The heat and sun and steepness of the climb took its toll. We were all ready for a
break, so at the first shady place we rested. When it was time to go again, I stood
up; I was faint, so I lay back down. Every time that I stood up, the same thing
happened. So I told them to go on - that I knew where they were going and
would catch up with them. They said “No” and Forrest took my backpack and
said, “Let’s go.” By the time I caught up with my pack, we were at the edge of the
jungle. They had been passing it from one to the other. I was fine from then on.
When we reached the skirt of the hill, we could not find the marker rock. The
Lord gave me the words, “The marker was leaning last year and now had rolled
on down the hill.” He also had me point out two other landmarks from the year
before. This confirmed the site.
The work went well even though we did not receive the records. We all
experienced a “Zionic” state we had never felt before.
I was told that some of the others would have called it quits after my spell, but as
long as I was going, they had to keep going too.
I talked with Neal about my trip up the hill, and he suggested that it could have
been the SPIRIT since I felt so strong about this place and called it HOLY
GROUND. Maybe I needed to be prostrate before my LORD.
Once on the hill at the face of the cliff, we attempted to reach the suspected cave
entrance. We made a ladder of native timber and green, military duct tape. We
used a small combination camping tool and a stone implement that we made on
the hill to break through the crust on what had been the opening but were
unsuccessful. With our options gone and the Spirit strong, we decided to return
next year after we prepared more spiritually and physically.
Plans were started to be back on the hill the 6th of April 2003 and to take a
ladder with us to assemble there. Plans also included a platform to work from.
Our numbers grew again. There were seventeen members on this trip. Too many
to camp at the cave site so it was decided to have a base camp. This would be at
the edge of the jungle. We would keep supplies there and rotate people to work
at the cave, so we would have fresh help all the time.
My responsibility was to coordinate the operations of the base camp. There was
little for me to do as the Zionic conditions were there, that we enjoyed last year
but not as strong. When something needed to be done, there was always
someone on it before anything was said.
I observed a ministry to the children by a team member, Doug Hunter. He made
a golf club and had two boys hitting nuts and rocks. When Doug’s supply of nuts
and rocks ran out the boys disappeared, returning with a good supply. They
insisted that Doug take turns teeing off with them.
Once again, we failed to get the treasure! The time was not right; man was not
ready to receive. We will continue to prepare for the time when the records do
We planned to be back on the hill on 6th April 2004.
When it came time to leave it was cloudy and spitting rain. But that did not
dampen our spirits. We drove in this light rain all day. We made it to Laredo,
Texas before we stopped for the night.
It was still rainy the next morning. Some areas had storms but we missed all of
the real heavy rain. Never the less, we had an experience. Jerry Hedenberg was
driving Jerry Stoner’s truck. Jerry Stoner was resting in the back seat and I was
riding in the passenger’s seat when the truck started to hydroplane. The road
was narrow and on an elevated fill. There was a five or six-foot drop off on either
side of road. There was no vehicle going or coming. We did a ninety-degree
turn, then a one hundred and eighty-degree turn and a couple more before we
were back under control.
You might say that Jerry did a great job of driving, which he did. But a pick-up
truck with a camper is top heavy and traveling at a high rate of speed, which we
were, would have lain over at least in a sharp ninety-degree turn. And on a
narrow Mexican two-lane road, what stopped us from going over the
embankment on the first turn and then the second, etc. And would you believe
that not one wheel left the pavement? I believe that only GOD kept the truck
upright. He was protecting us and telling us that all things are possible to
We continued without any more excitement.
On arriving at Tuxtepec we began our preparation for a Communion Service on
the hill the next day.
It was still cloudy and spitting rain when we left for the hill, but the Spirit was
then in abundance. We all felt it. But no one received a direct command or
prophecy about our trip to the hill.
Next morning we started our climb. The local help was there, but evening found
us without all of our equipment at the cave camp. There were some things still
at the old base campsite along with Edd DeTray and myself. We set up camp and
stayed the night. Edd left for cave camp the first thing in the morning and I
stayed to watch the equipment. I had a few days alone with GOD at the base
At the cave camp things did not go as they had planned. I guess that they threw
everything but the kitchen sink at the cave and could not gain entrance, so they
decided not to have the rest of the equipment brought up but to come down. In
coming down early, they planned to prepare spiritually and return the next day
for prayer on the hill.
I twisted my knee carrying the last of the supplies down so I opted to stay at the
foot of the hill and give my support in prayer from there as I did not think it wise
to try the hill right then.
As I was trying to pray at the foot of the hill, I was constantly interrupted so I
took out my Spanish textbook and started to study when one of the Mexican
girls came over and got upon the running board of the truck and put her arm
around me to see what I was doing. I started to read aloud the conversation in
the text and she started to read with me. I stopped and she kept reading. She
kept reading, and then stop and I would read. If I miss pronounced a word she
would correct me. All of the other children were sitting on the ground listening
to us. Even one of the adults came over and listened for a while. It was then that
I knew the LORD wanted me down with the children.
While I was getting a Spanish lesson from the children, Kevin Brown and crew
were deep in prayer, which led to the receiving the Proclamation Tablet.
So over the years we have been guided, protected, taught and given insight into
Zion. We should be putting into practice what we have learned, so when the
records come forth we will be able to live as people of Christ.
So after all this is said, my testimony is the same as before, like Clair E. Weldon,
I do not believe in the Book of Mormon, I know it is true; that it is a record of
people who lived in Central America and that Jesus visited them here. Because
of the trip, I now know where the last battles were fought and where the Hill
Cumorah is for the Spirit has made it known.