The reason that this pageant sparked so much interest is because like many Latter- Day Saints I have heard the story of Brigham Young announcing that the Manti, St. George, Salt Lake City and Nauvoo Illinois Temple grounds had been previously dedicated by the ancient Prophet Moroni during his migrations to what is now days known as the Hill Cumorah in upstate New York to deposit the plates. Some have considered the idea that Moroni may have taken the plates to New York as a resurrected being and I add that this is a reasonable idea but it’s also possible that during the decades he was wondering and fleeing from the Lamanites (Moroni 1:1-3) that he simply carried the 50lb plates until he made it to upstate New York. It’s interesting to speculate who or what Moroni may have encountered during this migration.
Some people may think that it would be impossible to walk such a journey but history has offered a few examples to people who have done similar journeys. The first one a 16th century English sailor named David Ingram who was shipwrecked off of the coast of Tampico Mexico and apparently disappeared off of the map for 11 months and reappeared in modern day Nova Scotia. Ingram gave is full account that was recorded 13 years later and offered some interesting stories and encounters with North American settlements who helped him on his journey. They say his description on his journey may have been mixed up with things he had seen or heard while he had previously traveled in Africa or South America (he reported encountering elephants). Some scholars have questioned his entire story, stating that it would have been impossible to walk over 3000 miles through the wilderness in only 11 months, but in 1999 a British writer Richard Nathan retraced Ingram’s steps in reverse, walking from Nova Scotia to Tampico in just 9 months.
Next is Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca who left from Spain in 1527 in a party of over 600 men. After challenges with their equipment and the weather the group eventually dwindled down to 3 people who eventually ended somewhere near Tampa Bay Florida. Traveling in this small group, Cabeza de Vaca explored what is now the U.S. state of Texas, as well as the northeastern Mexican states of Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon and Coahuila, and possibly smaller portions of New Mexico and Arizona. He traveled on foot along the then-Spanish territories down the Gulf of California coast to what is now Sinaloa, Mexico over a period of roughly eight years. He lived in conditions of abject poverty and, occasionally, in slavery. He was naked the whole time, ever since sacrificing his clothes attempting to repair the boats. After finally reaching the colonized lands of New Spain he eventually made it to Mexico City and from there he returned to Europe in 1537.
The last example I would like to submit is Francis Martin Pomeroy. He was part of a whaling crew that got shipwrecked off of the coast of Peru. By swimming and treading water with a spar under his arm he was carried high up on the sand. By this time he was wrapped in seaweed and unconscious, the only survivor of the ship. The next morning he was picked up by a Castilian youth and carried to his home where he was nursed back to life and health. He remained with them about two years, paying them for his care through service. While there, he learned to speak the pure Castilian language.
Francis made his way by boat to Panama, crossed Isthmus on a burro and then sailed to New Orleans and then to Salem, Massachusetts which included much travel by foot. Francis later met his wife and heard the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and converted helping with many important positions in the migration of the Mormons from Nauvoo IL to Utah. He also held many leadership positions in the church helping establish towns in Utah, Idaho and Arizona and serving as the President of the Indian Mission, which position he filled until his death, which occurred on the 20th of October, 1882.
As can be seen by each of these four individuals David Ingram, Richard Nathan, Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca and Francis Martin Pomeroy a journey similar in distance to what Moroni would have to have traveled from Mesoamerica to upstate New York is possible. Although some of these travelers were assisted here and there by burro or boat it doesn’t take away from the fact that it is possible. These examples do not prove that Moroni did travel similar long distance only that it was possible if he did.