Tuesday, August 14, 2018

The 14th Article of Faith:

Any day now, or perhaps not until the October General Conference, the Church is going to announce a 14th Article of Faith:

"We believe that scholars at BYU and CES have been hired by modern prophets to guide the Church; that the teachings of said scholars are not to be questioned or challenged; and that said scholars are empowered by God to declare that the teachings of dead prophets were merely their own opinions and were false, inasmuch as they contradict the teachings of said scholars."
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Our M2C intellectuals haven't waited for the formal announcement. They've been teaching this new Article of Faith to their students for decades.

One absurd result surfaced within the last few days. A couple of bright M2C intellectuals claimed the North American setting of the Book of Mormon is fraudulent and that all of the artifacts used to support that setting have been proven to be frauds.

In reality, federal and state museums across the United States are filled with authentic artifacts taken from the very mounds that Joseph Smith himself said contained proof of the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon.

Visitors today observe headplates, breastplates, woven textiles, pearls, copper, gold and silver artifacts, barley, and other items just as described in the text.

But the followers of the M2C intellectuals know nothing of this because they have been deliberately misled.

Instead, they are firm in their faith in their M2C leaders. They believe the only evidence of the Book of Mormon is in Mesoamerica. They have Mesomania because this is what they've been taught by their BYU/CES professors and the members of the M2C citation cartel, particularly those involved with Book of Mormon Central Censor.
http://bookofmormoncensor.blogspot.com/
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Book of Mormon Censor has a curated archive of material related to the Book of Mormon. The curators studiously enforce M2C by censoring any material that contradicts M2C and making sure to include articles that criticize non-M2C theories.

They also promote the idea that the North American setting is based on fraudulent artifacts. At or near the top of their most popular items is an article on the Michigan relics. Another is an article that seeks to relegate the Zelph revelation to an odd folk tradition. They teach their followers that the prophets were wrong about the New York Cumorah, that the only evidence of the Book of Mormon is fraudulent, and that anyone who contradicts M2C is uneducated, ignorant, and disreputable.

As BYU Professor John L. Sorenson, a leading M2C scholar, wrote in Mormon's Codex (Deseret Book, 2015), p. 688:

“There remain Latter-day Saints who insist that the final destruction of the Nephites took place in New York, but any such idea is manifestly absurd. Hundreds of thousands of Nephites traipsing across the Mississippi Valley to New York, pursued (why?) by hundreds of thousands of Lamanites, is a scenario worthy only of a witless sci-fi movie, not of history.”

Among these "Latter-day Saints who insist that the final destruction of the Nephites took place in New York" are President Marion G. Romney, Elder James E. Talmage, Elder LeGrand Richards, and many others who declared, in their writings and in General Conference, this "idea" that our M2C scholars have denounced as "manifestly absurd."  

Now, with the 14th Article of Faith, our M2C intellectuals are setting the Church straight.
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No doubt, Book of Mormon Censor has a "Kno-Why" prepared in advance and ready to publish that will explain the 14th Article of Faith to members everywhere.
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The 14th Article of Faith should come as no surprise. The M2C intellectuals have already edited the Wentworth letter (the source of the original 13 Articles of Faith), so how difficult would it be to edit it a little more by simply adding a 14th Article of Faith?

You can see their handiwork here:

https://www.lds.org/topics/articles-of-faith?lang=eng

Part way down the page, you will see this:

Click on it that link and it will take you here:

https://www.lds.org/manual/teachings-joseph-smith/chapter-38?lang=eng&_r=1







In the fourth paragraph from the top you'll see what Joseph asked:


Joseph was concerned that his letter might be published in parts, or edited, or misrepresented. But he didn't need to worry about Mr. Barstow. 

Instead, he needed to worry about the M2C followers at the Curriculum and Correlation Departments, who did exactly what Joseph feared; i.e., they did not publish the account entire, but they edited it to misrepresent Joseph's actual teachings.

Scroll down the page a little less than half way and you will find the ellipses:



Notice: Joseph said he translated the record "through the medium of the Urim and Thummim." He didn't say he translated it with a stone in a hat.

We'll discuss this again in the upcoming post, "The Tragedy of Saints."





Monday, August 13, 2018

Filtering for God

In today's post, we'll discuss how, IMO, the M2C intellectuals have misled Church leaders by censoring Letter VII and related material that supports the New York Cumorah.
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First, though, I wanted to mention that we've moved to Africa. I have a separate blog about what we're doing: https://mormoninmauritius.blogspot.com/
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A few months ago, I met someone in downtown Salt Lake City. When we exchanged names, he said, "Oh, you're the Letter VII guy."

His comment reflects the tragic reality that, until recently, hardly anyone in the Church today had ever heard of Letter VII--or any of President Oliver Cowdery's other important essays on Church doctrine and history. (I call these the original Gospel Topics Essays, as I'll explain in an upcoming post.) This is a big change from the first one hundred years of the Church. President Cowdery's letters were well known because they were often republished and quoted, as I've shown on my other blog,
http://www.lettervii.com/.

The censorship of Letter VII and related material has been gradual, but effective.

In the last few years as I've been writing and speaking about Letter VII and related issues, I have yet to meet a single audience member or reader who had ever heard of Letter VII previously, apart from a handful of LDS scholars in the citation cartel who would prefer that these letters remain obscure and unknown. In fact, one well-known LDS author told me he had seen a quotation from Letter VII regarding Cumorah, accompanied by this attribution: "author unknown."

Until recently, no Church leader I'm aware of, local or general, had ever heard of Letter VII. This includes Stake Presidents, Temple Presidents, and General Authorities. Most of the members of the Quorum of the Twelve and First Presidency had never heard of Letter VII.

Now, they have.

To paraphrase one of our hymns, "The veil over Letter VII is beginning to burst." 
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Laurence Fishburne and Kenneth Branagh
as Othello and Iago respectively,
from the 
1995 film version of Othello.
The M2C intellectuals remind me of Iago, the great Shakespearean character. If you're unfamiliar with him, look him up.

Here are some of the things our M2C intellectuals are whispering in the ears of the youth of the Church.

For decades, they've been whispering these same things in the ears of the leaders of the Church and in the ears of the Saints generally. You can read most of this in the literature of the M2C citation cartel. The rest you'll see on their blogs and in their conversations.

- "Joseph Smith was confused, naive, and ignorant."
- "President Cowdery was speculating when he wrote it was a fact that the final battles of the Jaredites and Nephites took place in the mile-wide valley west of the hill Cumorah in New York."
- "Joseph Smith speculated about Book of Mormon geography and adopted a false tradition about the New York Cumorah."
- "Joseph Smith misled the Church by having Letter VII republished in every Church newspaper during his lifetime," or, the corollary, "Joseph Smith had no idea what President Cowdery wrote, what was in his own journal, what his brothers were publishing, or what Benjamin Winchester and Parley P. Pratt were publishing."
- "In Nauvoo, Joseph Smith learned about Book of Mormon geography from a popular travel book that caused him to change his mind from what Moroni told him."
- "All the prophets who have affirmed the New York Cumorah, including members of the First Presidency speaking in General Conference, were merely expressing their own opinions and they were wrong."
- "Contrary to the teachings of the prophets, there are actually two Cumorahs; i.e., the false one in New York and the real one somewhere in Mexico."
- "Brigham Young, Wilford Woodruff, Heber C. Kimball and others were wrong about Joseph and Oliver and others visiting Mormon's depository in the hill Cumorah."
- "David Whitmer was wrong about meeting one of the three Nephites who said he was taking the Harmony plates to Cumorah."
- "Lucy Mack Smith was wrong when she quoted Joseph referring to Cumorah even before he obtained the plates."
- "Parley P. Pratt and Oliver Cowdery were wrong when they reported that Moroni himself said the hill in New York was named Cumorah anciently."
- "The 'hill in New York' cannot be the hill Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 because [insert any of the reasons here, including such gems as "because it's not near volcanoes," "because it's too cold there," "because it's too far from Mesoamerica," and "because the hill in New York cannot contain a chamber for the depository of Nephite records."]
- "Don't read the writings of the prophets about Cumorah. They will only confuse you. Instead, rely on the work of the qualified intellectuals. They are hired by the modern prophets to guide the Church. You cannot question what these intellectuals teach because they speak for God, especially when they teach that the 'dead prophets' are wrong."
- "The best way to understand the Book of Mormon is by referring to a fantasy map prepared by CES or BYU."
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Iago was successful because he was so deeply trusted by Othello.

The M2C intellectuals have also successfully promulgated M2C because they are so deeply trusted by their students, by Church members generally, and by Church leaders.

I know because I trusted these M2C intellectuals myself for decades.

I've said many times that I think the M2C intellectuals have good intentions. They honestly believe that Joseph Smith taught the Mesoamerican theory through anonymous articles in the Times and Seasons. Because New York is so far from Mesoamerica, they concluded that Joseph either never believed Cumorah was in New York or was wrong about that, as have been all the other prophets. The M2C intellectuals still think they are dong the right thing by changing Church history and censoring the early references to Cumorah. Because they honestly believe their M2C bias is correct, they have convinced themselves that they are justified in confirming that bias by citing illusory "correspondences" between Mesoamerican and Nephite culture and teaching M2C to their students.

All of this is basic human psychology, completely understandable. But IMO, it's not excusable because they are teaching that the prophets were wrong and they are not giving the youth, the leaders, or the Saints generally both sides of the story, including all the facts to let them make informed decisions.

Next, let's look at how this all works.
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People constantly ask me, "Why don't the Brethren either affirm or repudiate the New York Cumorah? Why are we left to choose between the M2C scholars and the teachings of the past prophets?"

Let's frame those questions by considering how the Church operates.

The prophets (members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve) are incredibly busy. One of them told me not long ago that he "lives on an airplane." They don't have enough time to read everything they're supposed to read, let alone things they would like to read. They rely on their staff to filter the important from the unimportant.

All organizations operate this way. Lower-level people and groups necessarily make filtering decisions in the process of accomplishing their tasks. They don't present all the facts and all the possible decisions to their superiors because their job is to filter out unimportant or irrelevant facts, proposals and considerations.

The risk is that they end up making decisions on behalf of their superiors because they filter out facts that they deem insignificant or erroneous, but that their superiors would find important if they learned about them. IOW, the staff constrains and guides the options for their superiors, preventing their superiors from making fully informed decisions.

That's what the M2C scholars do to their students in CES and BYU, and that's what the M2C employees do to Church leaders.

It turns out that there are several checkpoints in the Church hierarchy that filter out material that contradicts M2C.
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One of the best examples was the censorship of a key portion of the Wentworth letter in the Joseph Smith manual, which we discussed here.

In that case, there was a leader of the committee who decided to censor the passage, despite Joseph Smith's express request at the beginning of the letter that it be published "entire, ungarnished, and without misrepresentation."

As I pointed out, Joseph didn't need to worry about Mr. Wentworth. He needed to worry about the M2C Correlation Department. I'm told this edited version was presented for approval with no discussion of the significance of disregarding Joseph's specific directions regarding its publication. Busy Church leaders reviewing the manual hardly have time to examine every ellipsis and citation.

Here's another example. Some months ago a committee was working on a formal position paper about Book of Mormon geography. The wording included a statement that the Church has never taken a position on Book of Mormon geography. When we pointed out that, to be accurate, the statement should read, "Except for the New York Cumorah, the Church has never taken a position on Book of Mormon geography," the Seventy in charge laughed and said he would never propose such a thing to the Brethren.

In both cases, important decisions were made at lower levels. I could give more examples specifically related to the geography issue, but those two suffice to illustrate how effectively the M2C intellectuals have "guided" the Church by presenting only one side of the question, by presenting only M2C artwork for approval, M2C displays in the visitors centers, etc.

Now you know why you never see the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah on display in the visitors centers--not even in the Hill Cumorah visitors center in New York.

All the prophets' teachings about Cumorah have been censored.
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Some time ago President Oaks addressed Church employees and made the point that there have been problems with staff preparing proposals ready for implementation without counseling with their file leaders or providing all perspectives, including pro and con views, to educate the decision makers.

It is difficult for me to imagine one of the Twelve or the First Presidency formally repudiating their predecessors regarding the New York Cumorah--assuming they know what their predecessors have taught.

However, recall my post when I showed how the Correlation Department tells inquirers that the Brethren have never taken a position on Book of Mormon geography. The form letter they send intentionally conflates the separate issues of Cumorah and the rest of the geography, as we discussed here:
http://bookofmormonwars.blogspot.com/2018/04/how-correlation-department-promotes-m2c.html

If the only thing the Brethren are ever told about this issue is that all of their predecessors have merely speculated about the geography issues, and if they are never told about Letter VII and the other specific prophetic affirmations of the New York Cumorah (let along the scientific facts that corroborate what the prophets have taught), we can't expect them to do their own independent research.

They are too busy.

And they trust their staff.

M2C academic cycle
This is why the academic cycle is so dangerous, IMO. Thanks to the prevalence of M2C within CES and BYU, most Church employees assume M2C is correct and the prophets are wrong about the New York Cumorah. Naturally, they confirm their M2C bias when they prepare materials for the Brethren.

[Note: This is not a new problem. Back in 1842 Nauvoo, Wilford Woodruff observed that Joseph Smith barely had time to sign his name to documents others prepared for him. Yet now everyone assumes Joseph approved not only of things he actually signed (which he apparently didn't have time to read), but he approved of anonymous writings, merely because they appeared in the Times and Seasons. The press of events that left Joseph with so little time is is one reason why the traditional belief that Joseph actually edited the Times and Seasons--the belief at the core of M2C--is ludicrous.]

The examples I cited above and many others show that the citation cartel is not confined to academic publications such as BYU Studies and web pages such as FairMormon, although those are two of the principal promoters of M2C. The M2C citation cartel has educated most, if not all, Church employees and leaders. Combined with the claim by the M2C intellectuals that they have been hired to "guide the Church," it's no wonder that M2C has permeated BYU, CES, and COB.

But that's not enough for them. As recently as yesterday, members and supporters of the M2C citation cartel continue to misrepresent the views of those who still believe the prophets' teachings about the New York Cumorah and the scientific evidence that supports the prophets.

That's why I think it is even more important today than it was when Joseph Smith was alive for members of the Church to educate themselves about Letter VII and the teachings of the prophets. 

Unless something changes, Church members are not going to learn about those teachings from the M2C citation cartel or the materials produced by the Church departments that are staffed by M2C followers.
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None of this is intended to criticize Church leaders or employees. As I said, it's basic human psychology and organizational behavior.

I'm writing about this to call attention to a serious problem.

The solution is easy: refocus on the teachings of the prophets instead of the teachings of the M2C intellectuals.

But that's only easy in theory. In the real world, people must educate themselves and those around them.

We all know the Church operates through councils on local, stake, regional and general levels. Decisions are made at the lowest level possible; e.g., a ward council doesn't ask the Stake President which families to visit. Also, at each level there are committees that report to Church leaders. For example, a ward council, led by the Bishop, has committees responsible for specific tasks. Each task involves numerous decisions based on specific facts and priorities. Committees report back to the ward council, especially when the Bishop needs to make a decision. Such reports are brief summaries of the work of the committee. Because of constraints in time, the committee filters out everything that isn't important.

At the general level, the Church is managed the same way. In the Church Office Building (COB), there are various Departments (Missionary, Family History, Church History, etc.) that are staffed with full-time employees, as well as volunteers and missionaries. Within and among the departments committees are formed to accomplish specific tasks. Committees are led by Church leaders, including Seventies and Apostles.

Most of the work of these Departments and committees is done by the staff. As an example, let's say Church leaders decide the curriculum needs to be changed or updated. They don't assign an Apostle to rewrite the material. Instead, they create a committee to manage the process. There will be staff assigned, missionaries called, volunteers organized, etc. These people will study the topics, assemble resources, create drafts, etc. Eventually, proposed lessons will be presented to the committee for review. When someone in charge of one of these committees, even at a low level, wants to censor references to Cumorah, it happens, precluding consideration at higher levels.

It's the same with construction projects (temples, chapels, etc.), technology projects, management of the missionary program, etc.

Every large organization necessarily operates this way.

At each level of the organization, people work with details that are filtered out from reports and proposed actions that require approval or decision making by higher authorities.

That's why it's up to us to educate ourselves and to not expect our Church teachers and professors to tell us both sides of every issue.

That said, for me, the question of whether to follow the prophets or the M2C intellectuals is an easy one. I choose to follow the prophets.

And I think most members of the Church, if given a choice through full disclosure, would do likewise.
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Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Do LDS scholars speak for God?

An online blog exchange the other day* finally revealed publicly the thought process of the M2C scholars. I've waited a long time to be able to write about this.

The exchange revealed the mindset among M2C intellectuals that explains much of what I've been discussing in this blog.

This mindset justifies them in using censorship, sophistry, and presuasion to protect and promulgate their M2C theories and to persuade Church members to disbelieve the prophets.
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In the course of explaining why he wrote a Kno-Why for Book of Mormon Central, the blogger responded to my comments in this blog by writing this:

As long as you keep screaming about “M2C intellectuals” ruining the Church, you’re actually telling people to disbelieve the modern prophets and apostles who keep hiring them to work for the Church and guide the Church’s membership in intellectual and historical matters.**

There is a lot packed into this shocking claim.

Reading past his histrionics, we see what he is claiming; i.e., the modern prophets and apostles are hiring these M2C intellectuals "TO GUIDE THE CHURCH'S MEMBERSHIP IN INTELLECTUAL AND HISTORICAL MATTERS."

Long gone, apparently, are the days when we're supposed to follow the prophets. According to these intellectuals, Church leaders have hired them to guide the Church. 

The corollary: criticism of these scholars constitutes criticism of Church leaders, which is criticism of God.

This is every scholar's dream: infallibility and immunity from criticism.

No wonder members of the M2C citation cartel do everything they can to maintain their power and influence.***
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What would lead a fine young LDS scholar to make such a claim?

At first glance, we could infer that this scholar merely fits the stereotype of a college student who deeply admires his professors and mentors, putting them on a pedestal. As such, his claims could be easily ignored.

But in this case, his claim is the product of what he has been taught at BYU and especially at Book of Mormon Central.

How do I know that?

Some time ago I had a conversation with one of the leaders of Book of Mormon Central. I asked how he justified repudiating the prophets; i.e., how he could reconcile his M2C convictions with the unambiguous and persistent teaching of the prophets that Cumorah is in New York. The conversation went something like this****
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Him: "The prophets were merely expressing their own opinions about Cumorah, as men. And they were wrong."

Me: "But they testified of the truth of what they taught about Cumorah being in New York. Joseph Fielding Smith warned that the two-Cumorahs theory would cause members of the Church to become confused and disturbed in their faith in the Book of Mormon."

Him: "Joseph Fielding Smith also said men would never walk on the moon. We take everything he said with a grain of salt."

[Note: JFS joked about his comment when he met with the Apollo astronauts, but he never joked about his warning regarding M2C, which he reissued while President of the Quorum of the Twelve.]

Me: "Are you saying we should follow the intellectuals instead of the prophets?"

Him: "We follow the modern prophets, not the dead ones. And whenever the modern prophets have questions about the Book of Mormon, who do they call?"

Me: "Who?"

Him: "Jack Welch [Chairman of Book of Mormon Central and Editor-in-Chief of BYU Studies]. He has bailed the Brethren out in the past. They trust him because he's the Church's main expert on the Book of Mormon. They rely on him for answers."

Me: "Let me get this straight. Are you saying we should rely on Jack Welch instead of the prophets?"

Him: "Absolutely. The dead prophets didn't have the knowledge and understanding we have today. That's why they were wrong about Cumorah. The current prophets rely on Jack Welch, so we do also. Jack believes in M2C, and that's why we teach M2C exclusively at Book of Mormon Central. If you want to follow the living prophets, you have to follow Jack Welch."

[Let me assure readers that the conversation was not with Brother Welch. I have no idea if he would countenance this conversation, but regardless, it is what the young people are being taught, as we see in the comment above about how the employees are hired to guide the Church. But this brings up a related point. Brother Welch is so influential that his support of M2C is what keeps it alive. If Brother Welch ever decided to follow the prophets instead of the intellectuals regarding the New York Cumorah, M2C would vanish.]
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In retrospect, this conversation explains everything that I have been writing about the choice between the prophets vs the scholars.

The M2C intellectuals, as well as the M2C employees at BYU, CES, and COB, don't see a conflict between their teachings and the teachings of the prophets because, in their minds, the prophets have hired them to guide the Church.

IOW, according to the M2C intellectuals, if there is a conflict between what they teach and what past prophets have taught, the past prophets are wrong because the modern prophets have empowered these employees to speak for God.

Hence, these intellectuals have the absolute right to contradict any dead prophet they want. They have the absolute right to edit out past teachings they disagree with.

The intellectuals have further vindicated their beliefs by observing that BYU and CES are subject to supervision by the modern prophets. The Departments of the Church are run by Committees that include modern prophets. Therefore, they claim that anything published or depicted by these organizations is the will of God, even if it repudiates the past prophets.

You can see how alluring such a notion would be for an intellectual.

Imagine: your theories, developed in collaboration with other like-minded intellectuals, are inherently endorsed by God. They are beyond reproach. They cannot even be questioned, let alone challenged.

Infallibility and immunity from criticism.

Now you see why the M2C citation cartel operates the way it does.
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In an ideal world, we should be able to rely on everything published by BYU, CES and COB. It's a legitimate point that these organizations are managed by faithful members of the Church who have good intentions. They are supervised by Church leaders through Committees in the various Departments of the Church.

But what if it turns out that the M2C employees filter out everything that contradicts their theories before it reaches the Committee level?

What if the Brethren are never even presented with contrary evidence?

In an upcoming post, I'll show how that is exactly what is happening.
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In the meantime, let this belief among the M2C intellectuals sink in a while.

Because they think they speak for God, these intellectuals actually think God justifies everything they think and do.

They believe they are justified in repudiating past prophets and in teaching Church members to do likewise.

They believe they are justified in establishing the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory (M2C) and in using whatever tactics are necessary to accomplish that goal, including censorship, obfuscation, presuasion, and sophistry.

They believe they are justified in maintaining the citation cartel, in which they review one another's work to make sure it complies with the M2C orthodoxy.

Plus, this justification extends to all intellectuals throughout the Church, so long as they are hired by the Church in one way or another.

To be sure, this is not a universal belief among Church employees. Most of them, surely, do not think they speak for God. But enough of them who are in positions of authority do think this, and they teach it to their followers. Hence the comment that started this post.
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I think most Church members would prefer to follow the prophets themselves, both those living and those who have passed on, instead of the M2C intellectuals.

I think the M2C intellectuals know this as well.

That's why they created the M2C citation cartel to censor the teachings that contradict M2C. Now we have Book of Mormon Central Censor which is taking this tactic to a new level.

In upcoming posts, we'll discuss these issues in more detail.

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*Here's what led to this post.

The other day we had a long exchange online with a contributor to Book of Mormon Central who had just written Kno-Why #453. This is the one that purports to instruct Church members how to understand and use President Cowdery's eight historical essays on the priesthood and Church history. The M2C intellectuals have long claimed to be the ones who decide for the Church which teachings of the prophets are reliable and credible.

Their entirely predictable bottom line: don't believe Letter VII because it contradicts M2C.*

During the exchange, among other gems, he made this statement:

So please, Jonathan, spare us all the self-righteous BS about how “M2C intellectuals” are trying to get people to disbelieve the prophets and apostles.

Because guess what: as long as you keep doing what you’re doing, you are, in fact, doing the exact same thing. As long as you keep screaming about “M2C intellectuals” ruining the Church, you’re actually telling people to disbelieve the modern prophets and apostles who keep hiring them to work for the Church and guide the Church’s membership in intellectual and historical matters.

Let's parse this a bit.

He characterizes as "BS" my observations that "'M2C intellectuals' are trying to get people to disbelieve the prophets and apostles." Yet these comments were a response to a post that listed 7 reasons why people should disbelieve President Cowdery, as well as all the subsequent prophets who reaffirmed what Letter VII teaches; i.e., that Cumorah is in New York.

IOW, the sole objective of the Kno-Why and the blog post was to persuade people to disbelieve what past prophets and apostles have taught and testified of.

I discussed Kno-Why #453 here:
http://bookofmormonwars.blogspot.com/2018/07/m2c-intellectuals-terrified-of-letter.html and here:
http://www.bookofmormoncentralamerica.com/2018/07/no-wise-453-how-are-oliver-cowderys.html

You can read the whole exchange here, unless he takes it down (in which case I have it archived anyway). https://www.plonialmonimormon.com/2018/07/seven-reasons-why-letter-vii-is-not-a-heartlander-silver-bullet.html#comment-5568
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**The scholar appeared to limit the scope of his claim by saying these scholars speak for God only in "intellectual and historical matters."

Let's consider how much of a limitation this is.

Apart from Priesthood ordinances, Church administration, and individual counseling, what aspects of the Church do not fall within the category of "intellectual and historical matters?" Pretty much every doctrinal issue is either intellectual or historical, especially when these intellectuals claim that interpreting the scriptures is an intellectual exercise.

Now we see why BYU, CES, and COB employees feel justified in developing, promoting and enforcing their M2C catechism by whatever means are necessary. They believe they are speaking for God.

This mentality has led them to revise Church history, censor critical teachings, and assume the authority for declaring what is and what is not a "correct belief."

These M2C scholars actually think they are immune from criticism because they speak for God. That's why they feel entitled to censor views they disagree with.
That's why they felt entitled to establish the M2C citation cartel in the first place.
That's how they rationalize their ongoing effort to persuade the youth of the Church to disbelieve the prophets and believe them, the intellectuals, instead.
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***
As always, I express my respect and admiration for these scholars and the work they do. I rely upon and cite their work all the time and encourage others to read it. I like them all on a personal level. They are all great people, faithful members of the Church, etc. My comments focus not on any individuals but on what they are teaching and the tactics they're using to disseminate their teachings throughout the Church. This mentality has developed organically over many years, and it is a natural extension of the stereotypical academic arrogance that has been observed since ancient times--e.g., 2 Ne. 9:29. I'm not calling anyone to repentance. I'm not calling anyone an apostate. I merely seek to expose what has been going on, without assigning any blame to any individual, so that ordinary members of the Church can choose whether to follow the prophets or the scholars. For me, it's a clear choice once we know all the facts.

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**** I didn't record the conversation, but I remember it distinctly because of how much it shocked me. The gist has been verified several times, most recently in the comment about how the Brethren hire the scholars to guide the Church.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Changes coming

In my view, everyone in the world is searching for the answers provided by the restored gospel--including members of the Church who don't realize or appreciate the magnitude of the work we're engaged in.

The Internet is a tremendously important element of bringing the Gospel to the world, but it is just as effective in confusing people and undermining the message of the Restoration and the Book of Mormon. The two principle impediments we face are (i) critics from outside who distort and mislead and (ii) intellectuals from inside who assert superiority over the prophets. Think how awesome it would be to eliminate at least the second impediment and the contention it produces.

I write these blogs and books because "it is an imperative duty that we owe to all the rising generation, and to all the pure in heart—For there are many yet on the earth among all sects, parties, and denominations, who are blinded by the subtle craftiness of men, whereby they lie in wait to deceive, and who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it—" D&C 123:11-12. I emphasize that I'm not saying I'm "right" about anything; instead, I propose perspectives and interpretations as alternatives to the prevailing M2C ideas that, IMO, are mistakes. I just want everyone to have a chance to consider and compare different ideas.

Notice that Joseph wrote "among all sects... and denominations." He did not exclude Latter-day Saints from this list.

How are LDS people blinded by the subtle craftiness of men?

One way, IMO, is through M2C (the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory). I think M2C, while originally well-intentioned,* has become pernicious because:
(i) it teaches people to disbelieve the prophets, who have consistently and persistently taught that Cumorah is in New York;
(ii) it relies on sophistry, censorship, and presuasion as explained below;
(iii) it causes BYU and CES to teach the youth of the Church that the Book of Mormon took place in a fantasy world, thereby laying the foundation for a shift toward a "metaphorical" understanding of the Book of Mormon instead of a literal, real-world understanding long taught by the prophets. I discussed that here: http://bookofmormonwars.blogspot.com/2018/01/getting-real-about-cumorah-part-2.html
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In response to all of this, some big changes are in the works. 

1. Focus. I realize that this blog has too much information for people to sort through. I have addressed every argument put forward by the M2C intellectuals, including my peer reviews of their most well-known articles. If there are any M2C arguments I have not addressed, I ask anyone to let me know about them so I can comment on them.

We're going to make an announcement in September about a re-organization of the material in my blogs to make it more accessible. For example, we'll have more comparison material, such as this chart I posted in 2016.
http://bookofmormonconsensus.blogspot.com/2016/08/agree-agree-to-disagree-by-topic.html

2. Africa. We're moving to Africa tomorrow for the school year (through May 2019). Last night I did my last fireside in Utah for a long time, although I will do some events over the Internet. I have a blog about what we're doing: http://mormoninmauritius.blogspot.com/

3. Getting real. We try to get real on this blog, but people still ask me what I "really" think. For the rest of this week, I'll explain what I really think in more detail than I've ever done before.

4. Why M2C persists. Readers here know that I think M2C is based on a mistake in Church history.* Because it is based on the premise that the prophets are wrong about the New York Cumorah, M2C exalts the scholars over the prophets. This undermines faith, as warned by past prophets. Nevertheless, M2C intellectuals are influential and persuasive because of sophistry, censorship and presuasion. 

4a. Sophistry. In my blogs, I've explained many of the rhetorical tools used by M2C intellectuals in the publications of the M2C citation cartel (BYU Studies, the Interpreter, BMAF.org, FairMormon.org, Book of Mormon Central, Meridian Magazine, etc.). I discuss some of their tactics in this blog as well as in  my peer-review blog:
http://interpreterpeerreviews.blogspot.com/

Long-time readers know that I don't think any of the material published by the M2C citation cartel is truly peer reviewed. It is peer-approved material, designed to enforce the approved M2C dogma and to confirm the shared bias of the reviewers that the Book of Mormon events took place in Mesoamerica. It is phony scholarship, IMO, which is why it is not accepted or even respected outside the M2C citation cartel.

Notice, I am referring to M2C specifically. LDS scholars produce and publish outstanding research on a variety of important topics that helps take the Gospel to the world. It is only M2C advocacy, and material influenced by M2C (such as the M2C-influenced notes in the Joseph Smith Papers), that I consider problematic and counterproductive. 

4b. Censorship. Censorship is a critical tool to enforce ideas that don't withstand scrutiny. Anyone can persuade others if alternative interpretations (and inconvenient facts) are censored. That's why the framers of the Constitution added the First Amendment. That's why our judicial system gives equal voice to plaintiffs and defendants, but in totalitarian regimes, only one side's position is allowed to be heard. Or, as Joseph Smith put it, "by proving contrarieties, truth is made manifest."

Censorship is in the news lately. Every generation naturally resists censorship. Today's young people are no exception. George Orwell's book 1984 was published in 1949 but remains a bestseller today. People want to make up their minds independently, after considering alternatives.

The M2C citation cartel is a classic case of censorship. They have absolutely refused to allow alternatives to M2C to appear in their publications, except when they misrepresent, ridicule and attack alternatives. They even refuse to allow side-by-side comparisons.

By contrast, I welcome comparisons and full disclosure. I trust people will make good decisions once they have all the relevant information. 

I encourage members of the Church to compare M2C to the alternatives, as I've explained over and over on this and other blogs. I hope Church members will become familiar with FairMormon and Book of Mormon Central and the fantasy maps being used by BYU and CES to teach that the prophets are wrong. I endorse the idea of teaching people correct principles (and giving them all the facts) and then letting them govern themselves.

My new nick-name for Book of Mormon Central is Book of Mormon Censor. I've started a new blog to explain how the censorship works: http://bookofmormoncensor.blogspot.com/

I'll also continue to point it out as it is used by other members of the M2C citation cartel, such as FairMormon: http://fairlymormon.blogspot.com/

4c. Presuasion. The M2C intellectuals have been teaching their theories at BYU and CES for around 40 years. (Prior to that, other intellectuals promoted Central and South America as settings for the Book of Mormon, all in reliance on a mistake in Church history.*)

How the Academic Cycle perpetuates M2C
The academic cycle has effectively infused M2C throughout the Church, with artwork, videos, and innumerable articles, presentations, and lessons.

Consequently, M2C has been imprinted on the minds of Latter-day Saints beginning in Primary. M2C is imprinted almost from the moment they meet the missionaries.

A term for this technique is presuasion, a term coined by Robert Cialdini. This is the technique of preparing the minds of others to be receptive to one's message.

The technique is explained pretty well in this video:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HctZg2aOPMw

I discussed this as it applies to M2C here:
http://bookofmormonwars.blogspot.com/2018/03/m2c-technique-4-noahs-flood-imprinting.html

and here:
http://bookofmormonwars.blogspot.com/2018/06/correlation-department-uses-two-m2c.html
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Already this post is longer than I planned, so I'll stop here. But stay tuned.

:)
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*M2C originated as a well-intentioned effort to vindicate what scholars thought Joseph Smith taught, based on anonymous articles in the 1842 Times and Seasons. These articles linked the Book of Mormon to discoveries of ancient ruins in Central America. The boilerplate at the end of each issue of the newspaper said the paper was printed, edited, and published by Joseph Smith. From this, scholars inferred that Joseph actually edited the paper. And yet, no one believes he actually printed the paper.

There is zero historical evidence that Joseph actually edited anything, apart from the Wentworth letter that appears to have been taken from a prior Orson Pratt pamphlet and heavily edited. In fact, the Wentworth letter edits out all of Pratt's "hemispheric" ideas about Book of Mormon geography. But then today's Correlation Department edited the Wentworth letter to omit Joseph's teachings about the Lamanites, a topic I'll discuss later this week in this blog.

The point is, Joseph was merely the nominal editor, just as he was merely the nominal printer and publisher. He had nothing to do with anonymous articles. He had nothing to do with any link between the Book of Mormon and either Central or South America.

Those interested in more detail about this can read my books on the topic and my reviews of others' articles that seek to tie Joseph to Mesoamerica.

As always, I emphasize that I admire and respect all the LDS scholars and intellectuals, including those who continue to promote M2C. I think they're all great people with good intentions, etc. I attribute their obsession with M2C to Mesomania, a term I use to describe the powerful psychological effects of confirmation bias. I continue to hope that they will break free, but I recognize the reality that this may be nearly impossible for some of them.

The most I can realistically expect is that some of them, at least, will recognize what they've been doing and will decide to be intellectually honest enough to open up the citation cartel to alternative views and interpretations. A good start would be a comparison chart similar to the decision tree I posted here:
http://bookofmormonconsensus.blogspot.com/2017/02/cumorah-decision-tree-for-book-of.html



Saturday, August 4, 2018

M2C is purely metaphorical

Today I realized that M2C is purely metaphorical.

Think about it.

M2C is founded on two premises:

(i) we cannot take the teachings of the prophets literally and

(ii) there are "similarities" between the Nephites/Lamanites and the Mayans, which they call "correspondences."

These similarities or correspondences are the sum total of the evidence for M2C, but of course similarities are not actually evidence. 
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Thinking of M2C as a metaphor has all kinds of benefits. People don't have to infer volcanoes (or what I like to call the three Js-jungle, jade, and jaguars). They don't have to change the text to fit. Best of all, they don't have to repudiate the prophets.

But we can learn useful things from the M2C metaphor, such as how ancient people actually lived. This helps give context and meaning to the text, whether we are studying ancient Mayans, Chinese, or Egyptians.

Maybe this is the best way to salvage what is useful from M2C.
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To understand M2C as a metaphor, take a common example of a metaphor: "the city is a jungle." Would anyone understand such a statement to mean that a city is literally a jungle? Of course not. Would any court accept such a statement as evidence that a city is actually a jungle? No.

But the metaphor helps us understand attributes of a city, such as a functioning chaos, fierce competition, domination by certain people (who are compared with dominant species), etc.

In the same way, M2C simply compares similarities between different things--the Mayans and the Nephites. This is the definition of a metaphor.

In this sense, M2C is a useful metaphor. We could have used ancient Chinese society as well, but the metaphor helps us recognize characteristics of ancient societies that were also found among the Nephites and Lamanites.

An elaborate metaphor
This has always been the great contribution of John Sorenson, as I recognized in my book Moroni's America years ago. What we learn about the Mayans (or the ancient Chinese, or ancient Egyptians, or any other ancient culture) helps us learn about the Nephites.

Not because the Nephites were Mayans or Chinese, but because they had similar levels of technology, similar principles of organizing, similar agricultural practices, etc.

It should be obvious that such metaphors do not mean the Nephites lived among the Mayans, Chinese or Egyptians.

The big mistake of M2C was taking this metaphorical comparison and trying to transform it into factual evidence that the Nephites were literally Mayans (or vice versa). 

To do so, they had to reject Joseph's translation and supply their own, both by interpreting the language in the text in odd ways (tapirs = horses, west = north, etc.) and by making non-textual inferences such as the presence of volcanoes. Plus, and maybe worse, they had to repudiate the clear, unequivocal, repeated teachings of the prophets that there is one Cumorah and it is in New York.
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In a way, we could say there is a fine line between reality and metaphor. Comparing Thing One to Thing Two would not be a metaphor if both Things were actually the same thing.

But then, of course, it wouldn't be a comparison. It would be a description.

How does the M2C metaphor far in reality?

Not a single Nephite/Lamanite or even Hebrew artifact dating to Book of Mormon times has ever been found in Mesoamerica.

Every "correspondence" is not only not factual evidence, but the interpretation is highly subjective. M2C is the purest form of confirmation bias possible.

This is also true of the North American setting, as the M2C intellectuals are eager to point out. I readily agree there are plenty of subjective "correspondences" between the Nephites and the archaeology, anthropology, etc. of North America, just as there are correspondences between the Nephites and the Mayans. In both cases, people are confirming their biases when they interpret these correspondences.

But in terms of Book of Mormon historicity, there are some facts. The only definite Nephite artifacts we know of were found in New York:

(i) those in Moroni's stone box on the Hill Cumorah in New York (the only specimen of Nephite cement we have) and

(ii) those in Mormon's depository of Nephite records in the same hill.

(Note: If you're an M2C follower, you'll object that there was no depository in New York because Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball and Wilford Woodruff were not speaking literally when they related how Joseph, Oliver and others entered that hill. That's the first indication that M2C is purely a metaphor; i.e., they don't take the teachings of the prophets literally.)

Beyond these two facts, there are the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah, which would not satisfy those who don't believe the prophets. But for those who accept the prophets, the New York Cumorah is a given.
_____

This may all be obvious to you, but it wasn't to me until recently, when one of the M2C intellectuals objected to my observation that the Mesoamerican setting is metaphorical. (That's not even counting the 2C (two-Cumorahs) component, which is even more fanciful and which directly contradicts the teachings of the prophets.)

Actually,*I had been referring to the BYU/CES fantasy map, which may not even rise to the level of metaphorical because it is pure fantasy; i.e., not comparable to any real object.

The M2C scholar insisted "There's absolutely nothing "metaphorical" about a Mesoamerican setting for the Book of Mormon. The dirt and stones there are as real as they are anywhere else."

The first sentence struck me as a nonsequitur because of the point made by the second sentence. Here's how.

Everywhere on the planet we find "dirt and stones" (except on the surface of the sea, but no one thinks the Book of Mormon describes Waterworld.) Consequently, every theory of Book of Mormon geography is "real" in the sense that it ties the Book of Mormon to the real world.

The only exception is the very one I referred to: i.e., the fantasy map being taught by BYU and CES.

Consequently, it could be that this M2C intellectual was distinguishing the BYU map from the Mesoamerican setting, which would be a fascinating separate discussion because the map was developed and is being taught by members of the M2C citation cartel and this particular intellectual has never, so far as I known, objected to the fantasy map.

Come to think of it, why would he object?

BYU fantasy map showing Cumorah anywhere
but New York, thereby teaching the students to
believe the scholars instead of the prophets.
After all, the fantasy map was developed by using the Sorenson translation and the M2C interpretation of the text and is designed to groom students into accepting M2C once they're out from under the constraints of the BYU administration which has told the professors to stop teaching M2C (although they continue to do so anyway, according to students who report to me what's going on in their Book of Mormon classes at BYU).

Look at the fantasy map and you'll see what the M2C scholars wish Mesoamerica looked like.

Of course, it looks nothing like the real Mesoamerica. It looks nothing like anyplace on the actual planet Earth.

For the "real-world" interpretation, you have to go to BYU Studies, which features a link right on its home page to the "plausible" setting for the Book of Mormon, which, no surprise, is Mesoamerica.

BYU Studies version of Cumorah, designed to teach
readers that the prophets are wrong, so students should
believe the scholars instead.
BYU Studies gets away with this because... I'm not sure why, apart from pure Groupthink and confirmation bias.

The reason doesn't matter because everyone who reads BYU Studies, and certainly everyone who contributes to it, is expected to believe M2C.

The map serves to confirm their biases.

It also serves to groom the "seasoned" members of the Church who have never learned the BYU or CES fantasy approach to the Book of Mormon.

But now, thinking of M2C as a metaphor, we don't have to conclude that the prophets are wrong. We can look at these maps and see how ancient people moved around, what they ate, how they organized, etc. Then we can look for similarities in Nephite culture that help us understand the text.

What we need to stop doing is pretending a metaphor is a reality.
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Those interested can look at the definition of a metaphor and see how it applies. Here's the Oxford Dictionary definition:

A figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action to which it is not literally applicable. ‘when we speak of gene maps and gene mapping, we use a cartographic metaphor’

Grammarly explains it this way:

A metaphor is a figure of speech that describes an object or action in a way that isn’t literally true, but helps explain an idea or make a comparison.

Here are the basics:

A metaphor states that one thing is another thing
It equates those two things not because they actually are the same, but for the sake of comparison or symbolism
If you take a metaphor literally, it will probably sound very strange (are there actually any sheep, black or otherwise, in your family?)
Metaphors are used in poetry, literature, and anytime someone wants to add some color to their language

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*I'm not providing the link for several reasons, but mainly because the original conversation is irrelevant to this post, once it provided the seed for this thought.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

The illusion of "research" among M2C intellectuals

First, I posted the video of the River Kwai - Letter VII connection here:
https://youtu.be/5r9cYJffSTo

Second, I posted a new item on the Fairly Mormon blog, here:
https://fairlymormon.blogspot.com/2018/08/the-mothers-of-invention-new-cumorah.html

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Today, I want to discuss the illusion of "research."

Most people think their opinions are based on common sense. But really, the idea of "common sense" is nothing but a rationalization after the fact; i.e., after you make your decision, you attribute it to "common sense."*

Here's how you can test for this. If two people disagree about something, ask them which one has common sense.

They will both say they do.
_____

You might object that there are known facts about which people cannot disagree, such as the freezing temperature of water (under a given set of circumstances).

A topic that has no emotional element is an exception to the common sense rule. Your everyday decisions, such as how much lunch to pack, is based on your experience and expectations. You don't pack an entire roasted chicken for lunch because you know you couldn't eat it all. That's actual common sense.

Everything else that we think is common sense involves emotional variables that overwhelm our sense of reason and facts. Psychologically, confirmation bias acts as a filter to exclude facts and rational arguments that contradict our beliefs so that we actually think our opinions are common sense.
_____

For this reason, people are delusional when they think they are "doing their own research" before making up their minds on a topic. Doing research entails following someone else's rabbit trail.*

Recently, a young M2C scholar attempted to persuade people to disbelieve President Cowdery's Letter VII because it declares that it is a fact that the final battles of the Jaredites and Nephites took place in the mile-wide valley west of the Hill Cumorah in New York.

He knows that every prophet who has addressed the topic has affirmed the New York Cumorah, but he disagrees because he's done "research" and anyway, it's just common sense that Cumorah cannot be in New York.

So how does he persuade people to repudiate the prophets?

Simply by telling them to read "research" published by others who repudiate the prophets.

Anyone who takes that advice and thinks they have done their research is delusional.

Your pre-existing opinion--your bias--is telling you to follow the path set out by the M2C scholars. You think this is the "best" approach because you're gathering information, and these are the "best" sources because they teach for BYU or CES, or they're employed by the Church, or your friends and family admire them.

But all you are doing is confirming your bias.

"You actually think you're looking at the "best" information and ignoring the "bad" information, but right there is the problem. If it's your opinion which information is bad or good, so you are not being influenced by the information; instead, you are using the information to reinforce your bias."*

Many people delude themselves into thinking something such as this: "I know some people are sheep, but not me. I do my own research."

Anyone who thinks like this is even more delusional because they are in complete denial. An exception would be a person who actually does original research and actually changes his/her opinion as a result. None of the M2C intellectuals has changed their opinion because M2C is what they were taught beginning at a young age.
_____

If M2C scholars were serious, they would encourage people to do at least three things:

1. Read what the prophets have taught about Cumorah in New York, along with all the science that corroborates the New York Cumorah and the work of those who support the New York Cumorah.
2. Read the M2C literature that seeks to repudiate the prophets.
3. Compare the two approaches side-by-side.

But they'll never do that. 

As this young M2C scholar did, they want people to do step 2 only.
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The best examples of delusional scholarship I know of is the M2C citation cartel. 

They believe their research always confirms their biases because their biases are "true."

The citation cartel actually believes that they do "peer review" when they send articles around dto like-minded scholars.

The citation cartel includes FairMormon, Book of Mormon Central, the Interpreter, BYU Studies, Meridian Magazine, etc. All of them insist on M2C and refuse to consider, let alone publish, concepts of Book of Mormon geography and Church history that support what the prophets have taught about the New York Cumorah.

I encourage you to read their publications and see for yourself.

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*h/t to Scott Adams at https://www.pscp.tv/w/1eaKbVLgDmQKX


Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Fairly Mormon and the River Kwai

1. I posted a new comment at the Fairly Mormon blog, here:
https://fairlymormon.blogspot.com/2018/08/fair-mormon-vs-fairly-mormon.html

2. I also posted a very important new comment on the consensus blog, here:
https://bookofmormonconsensus.blogspot.com/2018/08/self-image-and-ideas.html

3. I'm going to upload a video about the Bridge on the River Kwai later today, but I have a tee time in an hour so I don't have time to do it now. Just wanted you to know it will be on the Moroni's America youtube channel. If you're a subscriber, you'll get an email notification.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsM_rodh-bmZMfVuFIyKxjw/feed

4. It's going to be an awesome day, so keep smiling!