Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Thoughts on contention

The topic of Book of Mormon geography can raise differences among people. Let's take it as a given that most people say they want to avoid contention, argument, debate, etc. This applies to their work, family, church, recreation, and other activities.

Jude describes what we should contend for:

Jude 1:3
Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.

That's the kind of contention that I've tried to conduct on this blog, my other blogs, and my articles and books.

Then there is another kind of contention that I seek to avoid:

3 Nephi 11:29-30
For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.
Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away.

Based on these and other passages, IMO it is important to contend for the faith and what is right, but it's just as important to do so without anger. 

Readers of this blog know that I think it's fun to have these exchanges. It's definitely frustrating that this whole thing about Cumorah not being in New York has gone on for so long, perpetuated by LDS scholars and educators, but there's no reason to get angry about it.

What's done is done.

It's up to us to take the initiative to fix it, all without anger. .

So when I write a piece titled "Fun with..." I mean that. There's no anger. We can all enjoy the discussion and hopefully move toward the day when we'll all see eye-to-eye.

And we can focus on the meaning of the text and it's origin, making us all better people.

Monday, October 24, 2016

More prophets and apostles for LDS scholars to reject

Current LDS scholars and educators who teach a Mesoamerican setting (or a Baja, Panama, Peru, or even a hypothetical or abstract setting) are rejecting every prophet and apostle who has ever addressed the location of Cumorah.

This scholarly approach is astonishing and not well known among active members of the Church, but it is well known among detractors. It's a major cause of confusion and loss of faith, just as Joseph Fielding Smith warned.

I'm curious what the apostles and prophets would have to say to convince these LDS scholars and educators to change their minds about Cumorah and accept the New York setting, once and for all.

Seriously, this situation reminds me of the children of Israel rejecting their prophets.

I've pointed out many times that modern LDS scholars and educators reject not only Oliver Cowdery's Letter VII, but also Joseph Fielding Smith's warnings about the "two-Cumorahs" theory. You can see this for yourself in their publications (including on FairMormon, here, where the display of sophistry is breathtaking).

It's one thing to say the Church has no official position on Book of Mormon geography, and quite another to say that every latter-day prophet and apostle who has addressed the location of Cumorah was wrong.

There is plenty of room for discussion about Book of Mormon geography beyond Cumorah, but the Cumorah pin has been firmly placed in New York from the beginning through at least 1978.

I've discussed this on my youtube channel, as well.

Joseph Fielding Smith first made his warning in the 1930s, about the time LDS scholars were embracing the idea that the "real Cumorah" of Mormon 6:6 was in southern Mexico.

He repeated his warning in the 1950s when we was President of the Quorum of the Twelve.

No matter. The LDS scholars say he didn't know what he was talking about. As recently as last week, they continue to take this position.

In other words, if you (or your children or grandchildren) are being educated at a BYU campus or by CES and the topic of Book of Mormon geography comes up, they will almost certainly be taught that Cumorah is not really in New York, that Oliver Cowdery was speculating and lying, and that Joseph Fielding Smith didn't know what he was talking about.

I've discussed that more than enough on this blog. You all know this by now.

And the LDS scholars and educators freely admit it. They're proud of it!

Here's more food for thought.

When Orson Pratt added the footnotes to the Book of Mormon in the 1879 edition, he correctly noted that the locations of Zarahemla, Lehi's landing, and other sites were not known, but were believed or thought to be in the places he mentioned.

Except he declared unequivocally that Cumorah was in New York. This is consistent with what Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and others taught from the outset.

Our LDS scholars are not only rejecting Joseph Smith and his contemporaries, along with Joseph Fielding Smith.

They are also rejecting more modern apostles, including Marion G. Romney and Mark E. Peterson.

President Marion G. Romney. In the October 1975 General Conference, Marion G. Romney, then First Counselor in the First Presidency, stated that Cumorah was in New York. Here's the link where you can watch or read his talk:

"In the western part of the state of New York near Palmyra is a prominent hill known as the “hill Cumorah.” (Morm. 6:6.) On July twenty-fifth of this year, as I stood on the crest of that hill admiring with awe the breathtaking panorama which stretched out before me on every hand, my mind reverted to the events which occurred in that vicinity some twenty-five centuries ago—events which brought to an end the great Jaredite nation.

"You who are acquainted with the Book of Mormon will recall that during the final campaign of the fratricidal war between the armies led by Shiz and those led by Coriantumr “nearly two millions” of Coriantumr’s people had been slain by the sword; “two millions of mighty men, and also their wives and their children.” (Ether 15:2.)

"As the conflict intensified, all the people who had not been slain—men “with their wives and their children” (Ether 15:15)—gathered about that hill Cumorah (see Ether 15:11)....

"Thus perished at the foot of Cumorah the remnant of the once mighty Jaredite nation, of whom the Lord had said, “There shall be none greater … upon all the face of the earth.” (Ether 1:43.)

"As I contemplated this tragic scene from the crest of Cumorah and viewed the beautiful land of the Restoration as it appears today, I cried in my soul, “How could it have happened?”
"The tragic fate of the Jaredite and the Nephite civilizations is proof positive that the Lord meant it when he said that this “is a land of promise; and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall serve God, or they shall be swept off when the fulness of his wrath shall come upon them. And the fulness of his wrath cometh upon them when they are ripened in iniquity.” (Ether 2:9.)"

[NOTE: those who don't know much about Pres. Romney should read a bio. He was a lawyer and he was widely recognized as a Book of Mormon scholar and spoke about the topic often in General Conference. The wikipedia entry is here.]

Mark E. Peterson. In the October 1978 General Conference, Elder Mark E. Peterson reiterated that Cumorah was in New York. Here's the link you can watch or read:

"Moroni’s father was commander of the armies of this ancient people, known as Nephites. His name was Mormon. The war of which we speak took place here in America some four hundred years after Christ. (See Morm. 6.)

"As the fighting neared its end, Mormon gathered the remnant of his forces about a hill which they called Cumorah, located in what is now the western part of the state of New York.

"Their enemies, known as Lamanites, came against them on this hill....

"When finished with the record, Moroni was to hide it up in that same Hill Cumorah which was their battlefield. It would come forth in modern times as the Book of Mormon, named after Moroni’s father, the historian who compiled it."

[NOTE: those who don't know much about Mark E. Peterson should read a bio. He was a prolific author. The wikipedia entry is here.]

I hope every Latter-day Saint will take the time to recognize what is going on here. Current LDS scholars and educators actually think these prophets and apostles didn't know what they were talking about. 

On my youtube channel, I'll show you how to do your own research and how to respond to the scholars and educators who continue to advocate these non-New York theories, because I don't want you to take my word for it. Look up the references I've given in my books and blogs. Make your own decisions about this topic.

As for me, I have no problem accepting what all of these prophets and apostles have said about Cumorah because it fits so well with the text and all the accounts in Church history--not to mention the archaeology, anthropology, geology, geography, etc.

Awesome trip--tours in general

Yesterday we completed the inaugural Book of Mormon Chronology Tour, from Florida (Lehi's landing) to New York (Cumorah). My thanks and congratulations to everyone who participated, plus the guest speakers along the way.

It was an amazing trip for me, and I learned a lot from each of the participants. (We have our own separate pages for tour discussions, so I'm not going to talk about it on this blog.)

The trip was so awesome I want to say something about tours generally.

Church history tours. During the trip, we shared a hotel with a Church history tour group. They were being told nothing about the abundant Book of Mormon connections to Church history in Iowa, Illinois, Ohio, and New York.

Same with the visitors to Church history sites, including visitors centers. It's extremely unfortunate, IMO. Can you imagine going all the way to Palmyra and standing on the Hill Cumorah and never even knowing what Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith said about what took place on and near that hill? About what Mormon observed when he was standing where you are?

We talked with a senior missionary who told us that just the day before, he was serving at the Hill Cumorah and he had some Mesoamerican advocate come up and insist this wasn't the "real" Hill Cumorah. The senior missionary had served his first mission in Ohio, so he knew what was going on with the Book of Mormon, and he told the visitor, but he didn't have Letter VII to use.

Now he does.

So if you're planning to go on a Church history tour, make sure it includes the Book of Mormon elements. If your guides and/or tour company don't even know about Letter VII, or if they reject it, don't go with them. You'll regret it otherwise because of all the things you'll miss out on.

"Book of Mormon" tours to Central America. If you're thinking of taking a "Book of Mormon" tour to Central America, be sure to read Letter VII first and ask your guides and travel company what they think about it.

You'll get your answer real quick.

I've been to Central America several times and I enjoy visiting and learning about the ruins and modern cultures there. I enjoy the scuba diving and the beaches as well. So by all means, visit Central America. Just don't think you're going to be visiting any Book of Mormon sites when you're there.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Do your teachers accept or reject Letter VII?

People wonder what I want. I'm writing this and other blogs (hundreds of posts so far), as well as the books (not to mention a lot of speaking, youtube videos, and other activities), because I have two basic goals.

1. I would like to see every member of the Church read Letter VII (hopefully in 2016, but 2017 is okay too) and decide whether to accept or reject it. 

2. I would like every student (and every parent of students) in the Church to know if their teachers accept or reject Letter VII.

Here's why.

1. Read Letter VII. When Joseph Smith was alive, every member of the Church knew (or should have known, if they could read English) about Letter VII, which unambiguously declares that the Hill Cumorah (the Mormon 6:6 Hill Cumorah) was in New York. The New York location of Cumorah was unambiguously declared in the footnotes of the official edition of the Book of Mormon from 1879 through 1920. It was only after all of Joseph's contemporaries died off that RLDS scholars, and later LDS scholars, rejected the New York setting. 

I think every member of the Church should know this history and the importance that Joseph and Oliver placed on this fact. After all, Joseph included it in D&C 128. He instructed his scribes to copy it into his own history, as you can see for yourself if you go to the Joseph Smith papers and search for "Letter VII." 

Think of this: we have entire books (and lesson manuals) full of what are purported to be the teachings of Joseph Smith, even though many of them are derived from a single mention in someone's journal. Or, worse, they are derived from anonymous articles in the Times and Seasons!

On the other hand, Letter VII was written with Joseph's assistance, included in his own history at his specific direction, republished with his express permission, and referenced in D&C 128, yet it appears nowhere in the books and manuals about the teachings of Joseph Smith. 

Ask yourself why.

2. What teachers think. Obviously, teachers have tremendous influence. Students deserve to know where their teachers are coming from. Let's say you're a student at any BYU campus. Do you know if your professor accepts or rejects Letter VII?

If not, you should ask.

Are you a student in Institute or Seminary? Do you attend a Gospel Doctrine class in your ward? Relief Society? Priesthood meeting? Primary? Young Women or Young Men? Do you know what your teachers think about Letter VII?

If not, you should ask.

The reason is directly related to the core beliefs of our religion. Oliver Cowdery was one of the three witnesses to the plates, but he was also the only witness other than Joseph to many of the most important events of the Restoration, including the restoration of the Priesthood, several revelations in the D&C, and the restoration of the keys in the Kirtland Temple. 

Detractors claim Oliver was not a reliable, credible witness; that's one of their reasons for rejecting the existence of the plates. (They say the same about all the witnesses, of course, but Oliver was the Assistant President of the Church and a special witness as mentioned in the previous paragraphy.)

This is what makes rejection of Letter VII so problematic when it is our own people--our own educators--who are rejecting Letter VII.

I'll spell it out.

There are two groups of people who reject Letter VII on the grounds that Oliver Cowdery was merely speculating (or lying) when he said the final battles of the Jaredites and Nephites tool place in New York: 

1. Those who claim the final battles did not take place in New York (this includes Mesoamerican advocates, Baja advocates, and advocates of Panama, Peru, Chile, Malaysia, Eritrea, etc.).


2. Those who claim the final battles did not take place at all (anti-Mormons, former Mormons, and anyone else who rejects the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon). 

As always, I emphasize that this is not some kind of catechism. No one has to accept Letter VII. It's not a test of faithfulness or good standing, etc., and I don't want to imply that it is.

However, it is a serious question about how we approach Church history and the historicity of the Book of Mormon. 

In Joseph's day, everyone knew Cumorah was in New York. There is no ambiguity in Church history on this point, despite the attempts of modern LDS scholars to create some. 

You can believe the Book of Mormon took place somewhere else. But you should also recognize what the implications of your beliefs are, both for you and for those you teach. 

If you're a teacher in the Church, you need to be aware that students may have difficulty reconciling your rejection of Oliver Cowdery's Letter VII with your acceptance of everything else he wrote.

Just saying.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Joseph Fielding Smith rejected the two-Cumorahs theory

One of my favorite arguments from our friends who advocate a Mesoamerican setting for the Book of Mormon is their approach to Joseph Fielding Smith (JFS).

I mention Joseph Fielding Smith because he was the last President of the Quorum of the Twelve to specifically address Book of Mormon geography. 

He emphatically rejected the two-Cumorahs theory that most current LDS scholars and educators embrace. 

JFS was clear, but LDS scholars rejected him--twice--and they continue to reject him today. 

This leaves us with a simple choice, as explained at the end of this post.
What do you think?

The two-Cumorahs theory is the basic premise behind the Mesoamerican geography that you have been taught your whole life by BYU/CES and Church media.

In my view, of course, that theory is false. It was developed by RLDS scholars in the 1920s and embraced by LDS scholars at BYU over the objection of Joseph Fielding Smith.

These scholars know Joseph Fielding Smith explicitly rejected their two-Cumorahs theory, as I've discussed on this blog many times.

But they don't want ordinary members to know that.

So, for example, on FairMormon they don't even tell readers what Joseph Fielding Smith actually had to say. Instead, they quote 30-year-old hearsay to justify their rejection of what he said.

For people who supposedly sustain the Prophets, Seers and Revelators of the Church, it's an audacious argument.

Here's a fun experiment you can try. 

Ask your BYU/CES teacher or your ward's Mesoamerican advocate what he/she thinks of Joseph Fielding Smith.

If necessary, remind them that he was a President of the Church, a President of the Quorum of the Twelve, and an apostle for 60 years before becoming President. He was Church Historian and Recorder for 49 years (until he became President).

Remind them that he said the two-Cumorahs theory (the theory that the "real" Cumorah is in Southern Mexico) was false and would cause members to become confused and disturbed in their faith in the Book of Mormon.

(As an aside, that has proven to be a prophetic statement, as evidenced by any number of anti-Mormon or former Mormon blogs.)

If they have Mesomania, this is what your Mesoamerican advocate will tell you about Joseph Fielding Smith:

1) he didn't know what he was talking about and/or
2) he once said man would not land on the moon.

They may not even know that President Smith met with the Apollo astronauts and said he was wrong for having said men would not land on the moon. JFS readily acknowledged mistakes he had made when giving his opinions on various topics.

But instead of saying he made a mistake about the two-Cumorahs theory, he reiterated his position when he became President of the Quorum of the Twelve.

Your BYU/CES teacher might refer you to FairMormon or one of the other so-called scholarly sites that promote Mesoamerica.

But don't let them avoid the question.

It really boils down to a simple choice:

Or, to be even more clear:

It doesn't get much more basic and clear than this.

You might come across a BYU/CES scholar, or ward Mesoamerican advocate, who adopts the FairMormon hearsay approach that consists of this:

JFS said people can believe whatever they want.
Therefore, JFS changed his mind on the topic.

You don't have to go to law school to see the logical fallacy of that reasoning.

What is an Apostle supposed to do when he sets forth a clear, unambiguous position but the LDS scholars reject what he teaches? 

How about when he becomes President of the Quorum of the Twelve and reiterates his position, but the LDS scholars still reject what he teaches?

It's really not a question of what the scholars think. It's a question of what we think.

Our own Article of Faith 11 teaches:

11 We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.

Joseph Fielding Smith couldn't tell people what they must think without violating this Article of Faith. He simply declared the truth and let people decide whether or not to accept it.

Joseph and Oliver did the same thing with Letter VII.

Just because LDS scholars have chosen to reject Letter VII and Joseph Fielding Smith (and so much more) doesn't mean you have to.

It's your choice.

Just make sure it's an informed choice.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Moroni's America youtube channel

So many people asked for videos that we made a bunch. There are some on the Moroni's America youtube channel already, with more coming soon.

See what you think:

We like suggestions for future videos, too.


Friday, October 7, 2016

Foreign language versions

Because so much traffic to this and my other blogs comes from non-English speaking countries, I've added google translate buttons.

Now, no matter what language you speak, you can have the full content easily translated into your native language.

Google does a great job with automatic translation, but there are a few errors from time to time. To introduce foreign-language readers to the North American setting, I've had a couple of posts translated to be posted on language-specific blogs. I'm doing some testing now but next week I'll post those links for anyone who would like to share them with people who speak Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, and other languages as we add them.

It has also occurred to me that Letter VII and other important Church history documents have never been translated outside of English.

The Joseph Smith Papers, for example, are available only in English. You can try to translate them online, but it's very difficult and involves a lot of cutting and pasting. Basically, you have to know English to navigate the pages and do searches. You can cut and paste specific text to translate it, but if you don't speak or read/write English, you can't really use the website.

If you want to try it, Letter VII is here. You plug the url into google translate and it will translate only the headings, not the text itself.

As I've mentioned, Letter VII appears nowhere on (except a single citation in a footnote on a point not related to Cumorah). There's an entire article on Cumorah that doesn't mention Letter VII, here.

There's another page in the media section that implies the Mormon 6:6 Cumorah is not the one in New York. Check it out here and see how carefully worded it is. Notice the distinction between the Book of Mormon "Cumorah" and the statement, "In our era, the Hill Cumorah is a drumlin-hill between the towns of Palmyra and Manchester, New York, where the gold plates... was unearthed."

[While I'm on this topic, Cumorah isn't even mentioned in the Institute Course titled Religion 275, Teachings and Doctrine of the Book of Mormon. The cover of the manual gives us a nice view of Mesoamerican palm trees, though. The manual tries to avoid geography altogether. For example, on p. 100 there's a quotation by Ezra Taft Benson about "Christ's coming to America." Everywhere else, the manual refers to Christ's visit "to the Americas," plural. Well, except for the copyright page that states the manual was "Printed in the United States of America."

Seminary: The Seminary manual includes the term once, in this fascinating paragraph on p. 475:

"When and where was it written?

"Mormon likely wrote chapters 1–7 of this book between A.D. 345 and A.D. 401 (see Mormon 2:15–17; 8:5–6). He finished his writings after the final battle between the Nephites and the Lamanites at Cumorah in A.D. 385 (see Mormon 6:10–15; 7:1). Moroni probably wrote the material in chapters 8–9 between the years A.D. 401 and A.D. 421, as he wandered “for the safety of [his] life” (see Mormon 8:4–6; Moroni 1:1–3)."

Notice that Mormon "finished" his writings after the final battle at Cumorah. Of course, this doesn't answer the question of where Cumorah was. The manual doesn't mention that Oliver Cowdery wrote that Moroni told Joseph the account was "written and deposited" not far from his house. That means it was written not far from the Smith home near Palmyra. (This makes sense, since the repository of Nephite records in the hill Shim until Mormon moved the records to the hill Cumorah, so he would have had to do the abridgment somewhere near Joseph's home.)

Overall, the seminary manual does a good job covering some of the scriptures about Cumorah, but it still doesn't mention Letter VII (or Letter VIII), which tell us a lot about Cumorah.

Sunday School. The Sunday School manual has the Arnold Friberg-inspired Mayan temple on the cover (the same motif that we've seen incorporated in the logos of the Meosamerican advocacy groups). Lesson 43 covers Cumorah, but of course says nothing about where Cumorah is and does not mention Letter VII.

Fortunately, the manual suggests teachers use Friberg's painting "Mormon Bids Farewell to a Once Great Nation," which depicts both Mormon and Moroni on the Hill Cumorah in New York, next to a huge oak tree in the autumn. That's the solid, awesome painting that was removed from the missionary and foreign language editions of the Book of Mormon in 1981, replaced by the painting of Moroni, by himself, burying the plates at Cumorah in New York. The scholars approved that one because it is consistent with the two-Cumorahs theory, while the Friberg Cumorah painting repudiates the two-Cumorahs theory. If we're going to keep republishing the Friberg paintings set in the New World, why can't we republish his Cumorah painting, which is consistent with the text, instead of his jungle/pyramid paintings, which defy the text?

The point of all of this is that you can be a diligent LDS student in seminary, institute, and Sunday School your entire life and never once learn that Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith wrote and endorsed Letter VII, which contains the fundamental teaching that Cumorah was in New York. That "oversight" in the manuals leaves people vulnerable to the two-Cumorahs theory.

You can find Letter VII in various online sources, but again, you have to know English first.

And, of course, you can read it in context in my little book.


This is a long way of saying that even if you live in Utah and speak English, you have to exert some effort to learn about Letter VII. It was ubiquitous in Joseph's day; it is unknown in ours.

We can fix that. 

Just tell everyone you know to read Letter VII when your Sunday School class gets to Lesson 43.

Meanwhile, though, if it's that difficult to overcome the suppression of Letter VII by the scholars when you speak English, think of how difficult it would be to learn about it if you don't speak English.

Consequently, one of my first posts in the foreign language blogs translates the key portions of Letter VII.

From everything I can tell, the foreign language versions of this blog are the first time Letter VII has been formally translated into these other languages. 

So next week, when I publish the links to those blogs, share them with everyone you know who speaks those languages.