Thursday, January 9, 2020

Two scenarios - which do you believe?

2020 is the year of the Restoration in the sense of the 200th anniversary of Joseph Smith's first vision.

What will be the long-term impact of this momentous year? Will anyone outside currently active members of the Church care?

The answer will depend, to some degree, on what they learn about the Restoration.

One narrative is inspiring and has a long history of prophetic affirmations.

The other narrative is bizarre and academic in origins and nature.

Which do you think will be more persuasive and influential for people in the world?

The Restoration itself is a challenging concept for many people. It was unexpected by most of Christianity, but some people hoped and prayed for it. Some anticipated it. Most resisted and rejected it.

That's the situation today, even after 200 years.

Joseph's explanation that the angel Moroni guided him to the plates, the breastplate and Urim and Thummim, is straightforward and clear. The Book of Mormon, as well as the Doctrine and Covenants and Joseph's own statements, corroborated by Oliver Cowdery's statements, are consistent.

They all affirm that Joseph Smith translated the engravings on the plates by the gift and power of God, using the Nephite interpreters Joseph and Oliver called the Urim and Thummim.

For many people, the existence of ancient gold plates is difficult to believe but not impossible. Joseph Smith translating an ancient text is difficult to believe, but not impossible, given his four years of preparation and training, plus the months he spent with the plates, copying and translating characters before Martin Harris arrived to work as a scribe.

Joseph and Oliver stuck with their account their entire lives. Their faithful contemporaries and successors repeatedly re-affirmed that narrative.

Joseph Smith, not using
the Urim and Thummim
Then, about 15 years ago, a different narrative made its way into the Church. It is based on several statements made by, or attributed to, people who claimed to be witnesses to the translation. The statements claim that Joseph did not use the Urim and Thummim to translate the engravings on the plates.

Instead, he put a seer stone in a hat and read words that appeared. He didn't consult the plates, which sat under a cloth the whole time (if they were even in the room). He didn't use the Urim and Thummim.

The new narrative became popular quickly.

Except it's not a new narrative.

It's an old narrative, initially promoted by Joseph's fiercest opponents and, in more recent times, promoted by critics such as the CES Letter, the Tanners, and others.

Now, it's being taught throughout the Church. We see it in the Ensign, in Church media, lesson manuals, etc.

The new narrative is a direct conflict with what Joseph and Oliver taught. Some have tried to say that when Joseph and Oliver referred to the Urim and Thummim, they actually meant the seer stone.

But that idea contradicts the plain history.

The 1834 book Mormonism Unvailed described two narratives. In one, Joseph produced the seer stone by reading words that appeared on a stone in a hat. In the other, he used the Urim and Thummim, aka the spectacles or interpreters that came with the plates.

Joseph and Oliver repeatedly testified that Joseph used the Urim and Thummim. Never once did they state or imply that Joseph used a seer stone he found somewhere.

Put yourself in the position of a nonmember, or a member who questions his/her faith. Which one of the following scenarios is more believable?

1. Joseph Smith actually translated the ancient engravings on metal plates by using the Nephite interpreters (Urim and Thummim) prepared for that purpose.


2. Joseph Smith merely read words that appeared on a seer stone he put in a hat that functioned as a supernatural teleprompter.

It's pretty easy to compare the different approaches to Church history and Book of Mormon issues. The chart below offers some side-by-side comparisons.

Scenario 1
Scenario 2
Urim and Thummim
When Moroni hid up the abridged plates in the stone box in the Hill Cumorah in New York, he included special interpreters prepared by the Lord to translate the engravings on the plates. He told Joseph Smith about these, calling them the Urim and Thummim (U&T).
When Moroni hid up the abridged plates in the stone box in the Hill Cumorah in New York, he included special interpreters prepared by the Lord to translate the engravings on the plates. He told Joseph Smith about these, but did not call them the Urim and Thummim (U&T). W.W. Phelps or someone else came up with that name and Joseph and Oliver applied it retroactively when they related what Moroni told Joseph Smith.
U&T vs. seer stone
Joseph obtained the U&T and used them to translate characters. Then he used the U&T to translate the 116 pages. When the 116 pages were lost, he had to forfeit the plates and the U&T and lost the gift of translation. Later he received the plates and U&T back again, along with the gift of translation.
Joseph obtained the U&T and used them to translate characters, but it was more convenient for him to use a seer stone he had found in a well years previously. When the 116 pages were lost, he had to forfeit the plates and the U&T and lost the gift of translation, although he kept the seer stone. Later he received the plates and U&T back again, or maybe didn’t, depending on whom you believe, but it doesn’t matter because Joseph didn’t use the U&T anyway.
Plates vs seer stone
Using the U&T, he translated the abridged plates in Harmony, then the small plates of Nephi in Fayette.
Using the seer stone, he dictated the Book of Mormon text without referring to the plates, which sat nearby covered with a cloth.
Joseph and Oliver
Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery always said Joseph translated the engravings on the plates with the U&T. Others said Joseph did not use the U&T but instead used a seer stone in a hat. These observers apparently witnessed a demonstration of the process Joseph conducted to satisfy their curiosity, but not the actual translation because the Lord had forbidden him from showing the U&T and plates to anyone.
Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery always said Joseph translated the engravings on the plates with the U&T, but that was misleading because actual witnesses said Joseph did not use the U&T but instead used a seer stone in a hat. These observers told the world how the translation was actually done.

Joseph actually translated the engravings on the plates, using his own language as any translator necessarily does.
Joseph merely read words that appeared on a seer stone in a hat. The language is Early Modern English which long predated Joseph Smith and which he could not have known.
Title Page
Joseph said the Title Page was a literal translation of the last leaf of the plates.
We don’t know how he knew the Title Page was a literal translation or that the Title Page was on the last leaf of the plates because he didn’t use the plates.
Need for plates
Mormon and Moroni abridged the Nephite and Jaredite history so a future prophet could translate the engravings on the plates using the interpreters prepared for that purpose.
We don’t know why Mormon and Moroni abridged the Nephite record and gave Joseph the interpreters because he never used them. Instead he just read words that appeared on a seer stone.
U&T and seer stones two separate things
In 1834, the book Mormonism Unvailed identified the two alternative descriptions of the process. When Joseph and Oliver responded to that book in their first essays on Church history, they reaffirmed that Joseph used the U&T.
In 1834, the book Mormonism Unvailed identified the two alternative descriptions of the process. When Joseph and Oliver responded to that book in their first essays on Church history, they said Joseph used the U&T, but they really meant he used the seer stone.
LDS vs RLDS position on U&T
Joseph’s contemporaries and subsequent LDS Church leaders have always reaffirmed the account given by Joseph and Oliver. RLDS Church leaders and other dissidents denied Joseph used the U&T and said he used the seer stone in a hat.
Joseph’s contemporaries and subsequent LDS Church leaders have always reaffirmed the account given by Joseph and Oliver. RLDS Church leaders and other dissidents denied Joseph used the U&T and said he used the seer stone in a hat.
LDS scholars
In the last few years, LDS scholars have embraced the RLDS position and it has become widespread among LDS people.
In the last few years, LDS scholars have embraced the RLDS position and it has become widespread among LDS people.
Moroni and Cumorah
Moroni called the hill in New York “Cumorah.”
Moroni did not call the hill in New York “Cumorah.” Parley P. Pratt (or Oliver Cowdery) was mistaken about that.
Joseph’s first mention of Cumorah
Joseph referred to the hill as Cumorah after meeting the angel there months before he got the plates in 1827.
Lucy Mack Smith was mistaken when she said Joseph referred to the hill as Cumorah.
Letter VII
As Assistant President of the Church and with the assistance of Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery stated it was a fact that the final battles of the Nephites and Jaredites took place in the mile-wide valley west of the Hill Cumorah in New York. (Letter VII)
President Cowdery misled the Church when he said it was a fact. He was merely speculating and he was wrong when he wrote Letter VII.
Letter VII republication
Joseph Smith had his scribes copy Letter VII into his journal as part of his life history and approved the republication of Letter VII in the Gospel Reflector and Times and Seasons.
Joseph didn’t pay much attention to what Letter VII said and it doesn’t matter because he didn’t know anything about Book of Mormon geography anyway.
NY depository
—Brigham Young
Joseph and Oliver visited the repository of Nephite records in the New York Cumorah multiple times, as Brigham Young explained because he feared the truth would be forgotten.
Brigham Young misled the Saints about this because Oliver merely had a vision of this visit but it never really happened. And the vision was of a hill in Mesoamerica anyway.
NY depository —Wilford Woodruff
Wilford Woodruff taught about the repository of Nephite records in the New York Cumorah.
Wilford Woodruff misled the Saints about this.
NY depository
Heber C. Kimball
Heber C. Kimball said he visited the Hill Cumorah in New York and saw the embankments still around it. He also taught about the repository in the hill.
Heber C. Kimball misled the Saints about his.
Joseph’s contemp-oraries
All of Joseph’s contemporaries affirmed that the Hill Cumorah was in New York.
All these Church leaders misled the Church by repeating false speculation.
Later Church leaders
Every prophet and apostle who has formally addressed the Hill Cumorah, including members of the First Presidency speaking in General Conference, reaffirmed that there is one Hill Cumorah and it is in New York.
All these Church leaders misled the Church by teaching their own private, incorrect opinions as the truth.
Anony-mous articles in the Times and Seasons
In 1842, anonymous articles published in the Times and Seasons speculated that Mayan ruins in Central America were left by the Nephites. Joseph Smith was the nominal editor of the Times and Seasons but had little to do with the paper. He was also the named printer but he did not operate the printing press, either.
In 1842, anonymous articles published in the Times and Seasons speculated that Mayan ruins in Central America were left by the Nephites. Joseph Smith was the nominal editor of the Times and Seasons so he wrote or approved of the articles, even though they referred to ruins built long after Book of Mormon times.
Letter VII again
In the late 1800s, LDS Church leaders republished Letter VII and began seeking to purchase the Hill Cumorah in New York.
In the late 1800s, RLDS scholars determined that the hill in New York could not be the real Cumorah. Instead, the real Cumorah had to be in Mesoamerica.
Purcha-sing Hill Cumorah
In the early 1900s, the LDS Church purchased the Hill Cumorah in New York and reaffirmed its importance as the repository of Nephite records, the scene of the final battles, etc.
In the early 1900s, RLDS scholars published books to prove the New York hill could not be the real Cumorah. To reconcile statements from early Church history, there had to be “two Cumorahs.”
In the mid to late 1900s, LDS scholars adopted the RLDS position of two Cumorahs, with the real Cumorah in Mesoamerica, now known as M2C.
In the mid to late 1900s, LDS scholars realized the RLDS scholars were correct while LDS Church leaders were wrong.
LDS scholars taught M2C for decades, while censoring the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah.
LDS scholars taught the correct ideas of M2C for decades, while de-correlating the incorrect teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah.
The Church is currently neutral on the question of Book of Mormon geography but has not stated a specific position about the New York Cumorah.
The Church is currently neutral on the question of Book of Mormon geography, which means the living prophets have repudiated the teachings of the dead prophets about the New York Cumorah.
Evidence—North America
Evidence from archaeology, anthropology, geography and geology corroborate the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah.
Evidence from archaeology, anthropology, geography and geology demonstrate the fallacy of the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah.

Evidence from archaeology, anthropology, geography and geology in Mesoamerica has no connection with Book of Mormon descriptions.
Evidence from archaeology, anthropology, geography and geology in Mesoamerica has shows lots of correspondences with Book of Mormon descriptions, so long as you assume the Book of Mormon was not translated correctly; i.e., “horses” are actually “tapirs,” “towers” are actually “massive stone pyramids,” etc.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Come, Follow Me 2020

This year, members of the Church will focus on the Book of Mormon. There are lots of supplements, books, commentaries, etc.

But there's one that will offer ideas and information you won't find anywhere else.

I'm keeping it succinct and only touching on a few topics, but I'll try to give you resources to pursue the various topics in more detail.

Let's all have a wonderful year studying and sharing the Book of Mormon.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Top 10 posts of 2019

Here were the top 10 posts on this blog in 2019.











We're looking forward to an awesome 2020!

BTW, here is the most popular all-time post on the Consensus blog:

The most popular all-time post on the Letter VII blog:

The most popular post on the BookofMormonCentralAmerica blog since it started:

These rankings do not reflect additional views on other sites, such as Amazon, moronisamerica, bookofmormonevidence, and other sites that repost these.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Divine authenticity: Comstock on Education

Below is an excerpt from a wonderful book, published in 1810, sold in Palmyra in 1819 as "Comstock on Education."

The excerpt explains how religion fails when it is taught as a superstition, attended by bigotry, instead of as a rational, evidence-based truth that embraces examination. Some might find it astonishing to realize that this was written over 200 years ago. It reads as if it could have been written yesterday. It is congruent with the Church's emphasis on family-centered, Church supported gospel learning, and it has application to M2C and other issues.*

One key passage: "Strive to comprehend the evidence for the divine authenticity of the sacred scriptures yourselves."

As you read this, recall that for Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, and their contemporaries and successors, the New York Cumorah was a key component of the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon.

Respecting the unfaithfulness of parents preparing the way for the reign of infidelity, and the 
importance of religiously educating children as a barrier against it. 

One of the most deplorable consequences attending a neglect of parental duty, is the prevalence of infidelity. The professed friends of religion have contributed, indirectly, to raise up a formidable enemy against it [i.e., against religion]. It is evident that the unfaithfulness of parents, in the government and religious education of their children, has prepared the way for the reign of this pernicious evil. 

Fifty years ago, there was perhaps fifty times the attention paid to the government and religious education of children in this country, in proportion to the number of inhabitants, that there has been for some years past. At that period there was scarcely an infidel to be found. If there were any who denied the divinity of Jesus Christ and the sacred scriptures, they were obliged to be silent ; for such characters were held in universal abhorrence. But now infidelity triumphs over shame, appears entirely without a mask, and often enters our temples, dedicated to the worship of that God and Saviour, whom it does not hesitate publicly to blaspheme without a blush....

But the popular cry is, that period was the reign of superstition and religious bigotry. And that superstition and bigotry served as blinders to their eyes, and prevented people from acting rationally. They disposed people to take things for granted on their parents' testimony, and place such an implicit confidence in their veracity, as forbid inquiry. But the present is the reign of reason, they say, a time for rational inquiry. These blinders are removed, and the human mind is rising above these prejudices, and people now see how much they have been imposed upon by their ancestors. 

And here it must be observed, that we have no objection against having religion come to the light. We believe it will bear the most critical investigation. And notwithstanding it has been to some a stumbling block, and to others foolishness, yet to every honest, unbiassed [sic] heart, to every one that believes, it is to their abundant satisfaction, the wisdom and the power of God. It does not stand in any need of such supports as superstition and bigotry, and we pointedly disavow them as necessary in the least to support religion. But they have often, Judas-like, betrayed it into the hands of its enemies. 

That there is a period, in which it is proper and necessary for children, on account of the weakness of their own mental powers, to place confidence in the judgment and opinion of parents, must be admitted. But that they should to old age, continue to be children, without making any inquiry after the reason on which, those opinions were founded, is an abuse of their rational powers. 

That this was too much the case with people formerly, we are disposed to grant. And with regard to the impropriety of it, we are pleased to see people's eyes opened, and their prejudices removed. Error is error, let it be found when or where it may, and we wish to have it detected. 

But there is that weakness, or imperfection, attached to human nature, that leads mankind, when they have discovered errors on one extreme, not to rest satisfied with correcting the error, and stopping at a medium, but like the vibration of a pendulum, rush into the opposite extreme. 

This has ever been the case. And although it has been observed by the wise and prudent, and the observation has been common, yet people in general have never been disposed to improve in this respect, by the failings of others. 

There is a medium between a superstitious, bigoted attachment to religion, and a bold, presumptuous renunciation of it. 

That medium, we conceive to be, a rational attachment to religion, founded on a conviction of its troth, reality and importance, produced by the most convincing, satisfactory evidence.

This rational attachment to religion, we profess; and we do earnestly recommend it to mankind. We believe it is the only source of true, solid enjoyment for them. 

But it is not surprising, that people who have never studied the evidences of Christianity, nor felt its enlightening influence on their hearts; who are disposed to think freely, when they come to see the influence which superstition and bigotry have had on their own, and the minds of others, and see what a restraint they have laid upon their rational powers; should be offended, and turn from religion with a degree of disgust.

It is just like depraved human nature. This has led many in this day, profanely to say, what is the Almighty that we should serve him ? and what profit should we have if we should pray unto him? It is vain to serve God.

But it is observable in this case, that religion is not so much the object of disgust, as the manner in which people adhere to it, and are influenced by it.

But it is denied that a superstitious bigoted attachment is a rational one, or that religion in such cases has its genuine influence. 

When the great Jehovah made the rational soul of man, he designed it should be happy in the enjoyment of himself, without laying restraint upon his rational powers. And when man had sinned, and fallen under the curse, and God entered into a covenant of grace for his redemption from sin, he ordained that religion, and what is implied in it, should be the only thing that should make men happy, without laying the least restraint upon the free, unbiassed exercise of reason. And this religion certainly does, whilst it forbids, and even mocks at that false reasoning, and vain philosophy, which is used as a shelter for vice, 

The scriptures inform us, that the carnal mind is enmity against God. That the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, that he cannot know them, because they are spiritually discerned. We grant that there is something in religion, as it respects the heart, that appears mysterious, or unaccountable to natural men. But it appears so, not because it is irrational, but because their understandings are darkened, through the moral blindness of their hearts. 

And here we observe, that it is not uncommon for very loose, wicked men, when taking a view of their own characters, to despair of ever enjoying the blessings which religion promises its friends. In this situation, human nature has been disposed to fly to some shelter, to screen it from those curses which it denounces upon its enemies. And this has commonly been, to renounce religion, and deny its divine authenticity. And they take occasion from every unfavourable circumstance, connected with religion, to justify themselves for doing it. 

But with respect to superstition, and what is commonly called religious bigotry, it is evident that they are not the natural, legitimate offspring of religion. They have their origin in the weakness and depravity of human nature. And we grant that religion has been the occasion of the depravity of the human heart discovering itself, or operating in these particular ways. 

But this we conceive affords no ground, or colour of objection against religion. And we farther grant, that on these accounts religion has often been made a tool of state, and has been improved by the aspiring arid ambitious, to obtain the most abominable purposes ; yet we conceive this affords no ground of objection against it. As well might people be prejudiced against money, because it was improved by a Judas to betray his Lord, as to object against religion on these accounts. 

And it is further observable, that superstition and bigotry are not the natural, or necessary fruits of a religious education. These evils do not necessarily follow, as unavoidable consequences upon the religious education of children. We grant, however, that they follow, as consequences of a certain improper method of religious instruction. 

When parents religiously educate their children, under the influence of superstition or bigotry, these consequences commonly follow. These evils produce their own likeness. When children are taught their creed, or what they ought to believe, and what they ought to do, and their mouths are shut against any inquiry, and they are taught that it is criminal to make inquiry, because it may imply 
doubt, and this, enforced by awful considerations suggested to the imagination; it commonly makes such an impression as leads children to think they must never inquire, that to inquire will be sinful ; and in this opinion they grow to manhood. In this manner children have taken things for granted, on their father's testimony. This is the principal fountain from whence these evils flow. 

This, as our Saviour said of the phairisees, is taking away the key of knowledge. This method of instruction is to be deplored. We have reason to believe that it has carried, and is carrying thousands of stupid mortals blinded to destruction....

These neglects of parents, and their slothfulness in the religious education of their children, have contributed to aid the cause of infidelity in our country. An affecting, lamentable consideration ! Yes, parents, your unfaithfulness to your children has contributed, indirectly, to raise up enemies against religion, and to strengthen their cause....

It is a fact, parents, and one that ought to alarm you, that the discerning among the enemies of religion are highly gratified with your inattention to your children. They know how subject the minds of children and youth are to the influence of education. And they have been mortified to see, that where a faithful attention has been paid to their religious education, their own sentiments have generally been held in abhorrence. 

And this very consideration has led the enemies of religion to educate young men with their sentiments, and send them out into the world as teachers of schools, and instructors of children and youth, to disseminate their own pernicious opinions, in order to prevent the religious education of children, and counteract its influence. These enemies of religion see, and they are pleased ts see, that where parents neglect their duty to their children, they indirectly aid their cause. A garden neglected will soon be full of noxious weeds ; so the youthful mind, that is not instructed in the principles of the Christian religion, nor impressed with its truths, falls an easy prey to those false reasonings, and foul sentiments, which, like unclean spirits from the mouth of the dragon, or the bottomless pit, are destroying the souls of men, and hurrying them down to their own native regions. 

Friends of Zion, these considerations are truly alarming. This subject is truly interesting, it demands your serious, prayerful attention. It demands your vigorous exertions. The enemies of Christianity, you see, are bold and enterprising. They have raised their stance and are officiously busy to enlist people unto it....

Study, therefore, to know your duty in all its branches... educate your children rightly, point out to them forbidden paths, show them their danger, and train them up in the way they should go. 

And be particular, as their minds expand, to impress them with the consideration, that religion is a rational thing, and that it lays no restraints upon their rational powers. Instruct them in the great doctrines of the Christian religion. Strive to understand them yourselves, and whatever you inculcate, as matter of faith, as soon as your children are able to make the inquiry, let them know you have reason for believing it ; and that if they are not able now to comprehend it, express your hope that they will be able, when their understandings are more enlarged. Strive to comprehend the evidence for the divine authenticity of the sacred scriptures yourselves, and as soon as your children are able, help them to understand it. Teach them their duty, and make it as plain as possible, and help them as far as you can, to see the propriety and reasonableness of it....

And by doing this you may erect a hedge around your vineyard, which it will be difficult for your enemies to break over. God in his providence, is calling upon you to be more faithful in this branch of your duty. And we press it upon you as the most prudent measure, to stop a dreadful torrent, and the contaminating influence of those pernicious sentiments, which threaten to overwhelm our country. 

But in recommending the religious education of children, we do not expect the approbation of that class of men, who avow infidelity, in opposition to the sacred scriptures. We expect to incur their displeasure. And you may expect it and their opposition too. But this, Christians, we must beat. 


*This has obvious application to the ongoing censorship being practiced by Book of Mormon Central and other M2C organizations.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Dr. Houston and the M2C hoax

In a previous post, I mentioned the bizarre headline announcing the visit of Dr. Stephen Houston to BYU (bizarre because of the way it was worded). Dr. Houston spoke about some archaeological discoveries in Central America.

I wasn't able to attend, but I've heard from some attendees. I also have some screen shots of the presentation, which are basically the same images from previous accounts of the LIDAR work done in Guatemala recently. He gave a similar presentation at the Library of Congress, which you can see here:

Professor Houston, a former BYU professor who now teaches at Brown University, is not LDS. I'm told that at his recent presentation at BYU, he said, "It's really hard to see how the Book of Mormon relates to Mesoamerica--especially for archaeologists."

By now, I think it's becoming apparent that it is really hard for anyone outside the delusional M2C bubble to see how the Book of Mormon relates to Mesoamerica.

Probably that's because M2C is a hoax, based on a mistake in interpreting Church history. The M2C hoax persists only because our M2C scholars and their followers continue to censor, suppress, and repudiate the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah.

Which is fine, so long as everyone involved understands what's going on here.

I've previously discussed the disconnect between non-M2C Mesoamerican scholars and M2C scholars who "can't unsee" Mesoamerica when they read the Book of Mormon. This post is an example:

M2C is an outstanding example of bias confirmation. No matter what discoveries archaeologists make in Mesoamerica, our LDS M2C intellectuals will suddenly "find" something in the text that fits.

Dr. John Sorenson was one of the best at doing this, so it's appropriate that this lecture was named for him. 

For example, the largest enumerated army in the entire Book of Mormon was a Lamanite army that had 42,000 men. But now that LIDAR has discovered millions of Mayans, our M2C scholars claim the Book of Mormon wars involved massive armies.

Mesoamerica features volcanoes. The Book of Mormon does not. Naturally, our M2C scholars "find" volcanoes in the text, just as they "find" tapirs, mountainous terrain, etc.

If you're not inside the M2C bubble, the M2C hoax is obvious. If you're still inside the bubble--if you still follow the M2C intellectuals instead of the prophets--you might want to step outside the bubble for an hour or so and look around.

You'll be surprised to discover that actual archaeology, anthropology, geology, geography, etc., support the teachings of the prophets--something you'll never learn as long as you're inside the M2C bubble.

We thank Dr. Houston for his presentation and comments.

Maybe a few more presentations such as this will finally pop the M2C bubble and liberate members of the Church to believe the teachings of the prophets once again.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Mayan Warfare at BYU

Although I don't write about the topic on this blog much any more, the topic is apparently thriving at BYU, based on this headline:

"Dr. Stephen Houston Speaking on Mayan Warfare at BYU"

The Mayan warfare at BYU apparently involves the M2C advocates and the handful of professors who still believe what the prophets have taught about the New York Cumorah. 

I hope someone attends and takes notes for me.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

The fiction narrative - Grapes of thorns

Fantasy map: the seed of fiction
Unless there is a change of course soon, within a few years it will become commonplace for faithful members of the Church to believe and teach that the Book of Mormon is fiction. Even today it's not unusual to meet active members who think this.

The seeds of the fiction narrative have already been planted in the minds of the youth.

It seems unlikely, to say the least, that the fiction narrative will produce the fruit of strong testimonies and conviction.

After all, do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?

From the time a handful of scholars persuaded so many LDS to disbelieve the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah, the fiction narrative became inevitable.

IOW, the M2C narrative leads directly to the fiction narrative. Looking for Book of Mormon events in Mesoamerica is like looking for Biblical sites in eastern China because there are ancient cities there. If one tried hard enough, one could find "correspondences" between those ancient cities and the descriptions in the Bible, applying the same circular reasoning that the M2C advocates apply to "see" the Book of Mormon in Mesoamerica.

Some people find it impossible to believe that the fiction narrative would ever become mainstream in the Church.

But the seed of fiction cannot produce the fruit of divine authenticity.

Think about the fruit another seed has produced.

Twenty years ago, members of the Church would have said it was impossible that someday, LDS scholars would teach that Joseph Smith didn't really translate the Book of Mormon, that he didn't use the Urim and Thummim that came with the plates, and that he didn't even use the plates themselves.

After all, Joseph and Oliver consistently and persistently taught that Joseph translated the engravings on the plates with the Urim and Thummim. The revelations in the D&C teach the same thing. The prophets have reaffirmed their testimony innumerable times over the years.

And yet, here we are today.

The ideas that Joseph didn't use the plates, didn't use the Urim and Thummim, and didn't translate anything is completely mainstream.

Scene from Church film that teaches the
stone-in-a-hat theory of translation
This is a still image from a movie now being shown in visitors centers that depict Joseph Smith staring at a stone in a hat to dictate the text, while the plates remain under a cloth, a useless prop.

The script for this film was adapted from a passage in the 1834 book, Mormonism Unvailed.

Here is the passage.

now playing at a
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The translation finally commenced. They were found to contain a language not now known upon the earth, which they termed "reformed Egyptian characters." The plates, therefore, which had been so much talked of, were found to be of no manner of use. After all, the Lord showed and communicated to him [Joseph] every word and letter of the Book. Instead of looking at the characters inscribed upon the plates, the prophet was obliged to resort to the old ''peep stone," which he formerly used in money-digging. This he placed in a hat, or box, into which he also thrust his face. Through the stone he could then discover a single word at a time, which he repeated aloud to his amanuensis, who committed it to paper, when another word would immediately appear, and thus the performance continued to the end of the book. 

The screenwriters could have chosen instead to use the scriptures for a text, but the scholars and film producers claim the scriptures are, at best, misleading. They prefer Mormonism Unvailed over the scriptures.

Actually, they could have used another passage from Mormonism Unvailed:

Another account they give of the transaction, is, that it was performed with the big spectacles before mentioned, and which were in fact, the identical Urim and Thumim mentioned in Exodus 28 — 30...

Of course, the second version is the one Joseph and Oliver testified was true. Right in the Pearl of Great Price, where everyone can read it, we have their testimony:

Having removed the earth, I obtained a lever, which I got fixed under the edge of the stone, and with a little exertion raised it up. I looked in, and there indeed did I behold the plates, the Urim and Thummim, and the breastplate, as stated by the messenger. ...  immediately after my arrival [in Pennsylvania] I commenced copying the characters off the plates. I copied a considerable number of them, and by means of the Urim and Thummim I translated some of them... Two days after the arrival of Mr. Cowdery (being the 7th of April) I commenced to translate the Book of Mormon, and he began to write for me.
(Joseph Smith—History 1:52, 62, 67)

Oliver Cowdery describes these events thus: “These were days never to be forgotten—to sit under the sound of a voice dictated by the inspiration of heaven, awakened the utmost gratitude of this bosom! Day after day I continued, uninterrupted, to write from his mouth, as he translated with the Urim and Thummim, or, as the Nephites would have said, ‘Interpreters,’ the history or record called ‘The Book of Mormon.’
(Joseph Smith—History, Note, 1)

I realize that our revisionist historians claim that when Joseph and Oliver used the term Urim and Thummim they actually meant the peep stone; i.e., they claim Joseph and Oliver were misleading the Church by using a code word for the peep stone described in Mormonism Unvailed

That's how they rationalize using Mormonism Unvailed instead of the scriptures to explain Church history and the origins of the Book of Mormon.

You can read it right in the Saints book, volume 1.

Buried with the plates, Moroni said, were two seer stones, which Joseph later called the Urim and Thummim, or interpreters. The Lord had prepared these stones to help Joseph translate the record.... Sometimes Joseph translated by looking through the interpreters and reading in English the characters on the plates. Often he found a single seer stone to be more convenient. He would put the seer stone in his hat, place his face into the hat to block out the light, and peer at the stone. Light from the stone would shine in the darkness, revealing words that Joseph dictated as Oliver rapidly copied them down.

Saints, Volume 1, pp. 22, 61, available here:

Saints teaches revisionist history that directly contradicts the scriptures quoted above and everything that Joseph and Oliver said about the translation. For example, here's what Joseph actually said about the Urim and Thummim:

He said unto me I am a Messenger sent from God, be faithful and keep his commandments in all things. He told me also of a sacred record which was written on plates of gold. I saw in the vision the place where they were deposited. He said to me the Indians were the literal decendants of Abraham. He explained many of the prophecies to me; one of which I will mention, which is in Malachi 4th chapter. Behold, the day of the Lord cometh <​(&c​> He also informed me that the Urim & Thummim was hid up with the record, and that God would give me power to translate it with the assistance of this instrument;

It's undoubtedly true that several people testified they saw Joseph put a stone in a hat and dictate words. What they never testify to, however, is that Joseph said he was translating the Book of Mormon. They never relate what words he dictated. All the evidence indicates Joseph was demonstrating the process, not translating the Book of Mormon in front of an audience.

After all, Moroni (and the Lord) had told Joseph he could not show the plates or Urim and Thummim to anyone until the translation was complete. He couldn't possibly have translated the plates in public view without violating that prohibition.

With the peep stone in the hat narrative as precedent, do you still think it's impossible that the seed of the fiction narrative will bear fruit?

I posted some comments about the faith crisis here: