Tuesday, February 19, 2019

What is a Gospel Topics Essay?

A lot of Church members are wondering, what are the Gospel Topics essays, exactly?

One thing is for sure; they generate more ambiguity than they resolve. (My proposed remedy is at the end of this post.)

Living with ambiguity is part of the human condition. We can all accept that, even in the Church setting.

However, having academics enforce their personal views on the ground that they've been hired by prophets to guide the Church is definitely not part of the human condition.

These essays have created that condition within the Church today. I'm curious if that is really the intent of these essays.

I don't think it is.

But a lot of people do. And I'd like to know if they are right.
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There is a description here: https://www.lds.org/topics/essays?lang=eng

Here's what we know about the essays:

1. They are anonymous, but use material written by a small group of well-known scholars.
2. They have been approved by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve.
3. This is their purpose:

The purpose of these essays... has been to gather accurate information from many different sources and publications and place it in the Gospel Topics section of LDS.org, where the material can more easily be accessed and studied by Church members and other interested parties.

What does all this really mean? Do the essays merely represent the anonymous authors' opinions? Are they posted merely for our consideration, or do they reflect the beliefs and teachings of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve? Are the essays Church doctrine?

I'm curious about this because lately several LDS scholars have claimed that criticizing their academic writings is equivalent to criticizing the leaders of the Church, because the leaders of the Church have hired these academics to guide Church members.

That sounds like an outrageous position--no one I know of has sustained these academics as prophets, seers, and revelators--but it's easy to understand why these academics have assumed the authority they are claiming because of the way these essays are presented and framed.
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Aside from the issue of the authority of these essays, there are two serious problems.

1. The essays are not completely accurate, they reflect a specific academic point of view, and they are incomplete.
2. The essays question, and in some cases appear to change, long-accepted doctrines taught by prophets and apostles.

Here's an example from the DNA essay.

Scientists theorize that in an era that predated Book of Mormon accounts, a relatively small group of people migrated from northeast Asia to the Americas by way of a land bridge that connected Siberia to Alaska.4

Khan Academy and Gospel Topics version
The phrase I bolded here is a euphemism for what the cited article says; i.e., the so-called "era that predated Book of Mormon accounts" is actually 10 to 30 thousand years ago, with 15-17 kya as the approximate date of entry into the Americas of the two haplogroups specifically studied.

From this essay, are Church members expected to believe that Asians migrated to the Americas 15-30,000 years ago?

This in turn means that the first humans (homo sapiens) evolved around 200,000 years ago in Africa. Not exactly what the scriptures, including the latter-day scriptures, teach.
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One response Church members could have goes like this. Scientists have always theorized about lots of things, including the age of the Earth, the age of the first human, and other issues. The theories of men, even when mingled with scripture (on lds.org), are irrelevant to gospel truths as taught in the scriptures and by the prophets and apostles.

Another response goes like this.

The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve have approved these essays and encouraged us to study them. They believe what these essays teach. Therefore, we should be studying scientific theories in a gospel setting and use science to interpret the scriptures, the way the authors of these articles do.

Of course, the conflict between science and religion is usually explained away as "true science doesn't conflict with true religion." But in the Gospel Topics essays, we are presented with a conflict, right on lds.org, that cannot be reconciled. Either science or religion must yield.

The essays don't attempt to reconcile conflicts between science and the teachings of the scriptures and the prophets and apostles. Does that mean each member of the Church is entitled to his/her own views, or are we expected to accept the scientific theories taught on lds.org and sublimate (put on the proverbial shelf) the cognitive dissonance that results?

And are we expected to adopt as our own the views of the academics who wrote these essays?

The problem is accentuated by the way the teachings of past prophets and apostles are ignored and/or misrepresented in these essays.
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There are lots of reasons why I pose these questions, but among them is, what do we do when we see obvious errors in the essays? There is no forum or mechanism for proposing changes.

Once we're out of the realm of scripture and prophets, truth is best derived from careful and informed consideration of multiple perspectives and viewpoints. These essays reflect the opposite of that; they present one point of view, in some cases dogmatically, on a take-it-or-leave-it basis.

At a minimum, these essays should be revised to offer a variety of perspectives and interpretations for readers to consider.

Unless, of course, the essays actually do express the beliefs and teachings of the prophets and apostles.

In which case they supersede the scriptures, because the living prophets and apostles are more important than the dead ones.

In which case....

Well, from the example I gave above, we can all reach our own conclusions.



Monday, February 18, 2019

The M2C hoax

The Jussie Smollett hoax is bringing a lot of attention to the issue of hoaxes, fake news, etc.

One well-known author described the indicia of a hoax here. The video is great but it's 1:21:26 long.

Here are the five criteria:

1. Anonymous source.
2. "Hard to believe" story.
3. Others can't see it.
4. An ordinary explanation fits the facts.
5. Gell-Mann amnesia.

In this post I'll apply these criteria to the M2C theory, which I consider a hoax--albeit a sincere, well-intentioned hoax, for the most part.
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First, I need to explain M2C. It's the acronym for the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory that claims the "real" hill Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 is in southern Mexico. Proponents (including employees at BYU, CES and COB) claim the hill in New York is not the "real" hill Cumorah; it's merely the hill where Joseph found the plates but has nothing to do with the Book of Mormon events.

According to M2C intellectuals, unknown early Church members simply assumed that hill was the hill Cumorah of Mormon 6:6. They applied the name and Joseph Smith passively adopted the false tradition. His contemporaries and successors also taught this false tradition.

[Note: for context, the proposed BYU packet on Cumorah containing some of the teachings of the prophets about Cumorah can be seen here:
http://www.lettervii.com/p/byu-packet-on-cumorah.html]

Typical M2C map, featured
by BYU Studies
M2C is taken for granted by most intellectuals in the Church. Because they've been teaching it through CES and BYU for decades, it has become prevalent throughout the Church, through the academic cycle.

But M2C is simply a hoax, as we'll see below.

In the context of Church history, terms such as "ordinary" and "hard to believe" must be understood within the larger framework of miraculous events as described by Joseph and Oliver and their contemporaries (Moroni's visit, restoration of the Priesthood, etc.).

Also, it's important to point out that only the "two-Cumorahs" element is a hoax. The prophets have always taught that (i) Cumorah is in New York and (ii) we don't know where the other events took place. Therefore, based on the teachings of the prophets, we can't rule out Mesoamerica as a possible setting for Book of Mormon events other than those involving Cumorah.
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1. Anonymous source. Hoaxes typically begin with anonymous sources, so M2C fits this criteria.

M2C is based on anonymous articles published in the 1842 Times and Seasons. Consequently, the authorship is uncertain and there's no way to know upon what basis the claims were made. The articles claim that ruins in Central America were left by the Nephites, and even speculate that Zarahemla was in Guatemala, but they say nothing about Cumorah.

M2C is based on the speculations of scholars that (i) Cumorah cannot be more than a few hundred miles from Zarahemla and (ii) assuming Zarahemla was in Guatemala (based on the anonymous Times and Seasons articles) or Mexico, then Cumorah cannot be in New York and must be in Mexico.

The M2C citation cartel continues to focus on these articles. For example, recently Book of Mormon Central Censor featured the articles in a video. The Gospel Topics Essay on Book of Mormon Geography also featured these anonymous articles.

2. "Hard to believe" story. The "two-Cumorahs" theory is inherently hard to believe because it's difficult for Church members to believe that Joseph would passively adopt a false tradition.

M2C frames Joseph Smith as an ignorant speculator who misled the Church about the New York Cumorah. Joseph and all of his contemporaries and successors have taught the New York Cumorah. M2C requires those who accept the prophets and apostles as divinely appointed to nevertheless repudiate their teachings.

Plus, as mentioned above, these anonymous articles don't even mention Cumorah. Letter VII, which teaches that it's a fact that the hill in New York is the Cumorah of Mormon 6:6, was published in official Church newspapers both before and after the anonymous articles by Joseph's own brothers (Don Carlos and William). On that basis alone, it's hard to believe the anonymous articles should have any impact on the Cumorah question.

Letter VII was written by Oliver Cowdery, who was Assistant President of the Church at the time, with the assistance of Joseph Smith and the express approval of Sidney Rigdon and Frederick G. Williams, the four of whom constituted the First Presidency when Letter VII was first published. It has since been endorsed by every prophet and apostle who has ever officially addressed the question of Cumorah.

For Church members, it is hard to believe all of these Church leaders, including members of the First Presidency speaking in General Conference, would mislead the Church.

[M2C proponents claim that the New York Cumorah is "hard to believe" because there is no evidence that 230,000+ people died there in one battle. I happen to agree with them on that evidence issue, given their assumptions, but I don't agree with the premise that the text says there were 230,000+ people killed there, which I think is a misreading of the text that contradicts Letter VII anyway. The physical evidence does support the numbers actually stated in the text, but that's topic for another day.]

3. Others can't see it. No one outside the M2C bubble can make sense of the idea of Book of Mormon events taking place among the Mayans, but two Cumorahs is even less believable. Most Church members who are aware of the teachings of the prophets and apostles about the New York Cumorah accept those teachings and can't believe anyone takes the two-Cumorahs theory seriously. They just can't see Joseph Smith and other Church leaders misleading the Church about the New York Cumorah.

Non-LDS Mayan experts think the Book of Mormon itself is a hoax to the extent it supposedly took place in Mesoamerica. Meanwhile, the findings of archaeologists in North America support what the text actually says, as opposed to the M2C interpretation of the text.

4. An ordinary explanation fits the facts. The consistent and persistent teaching by the prophets and apostles about the New York Cumorah has an ordinary explanation: it's what early Church leaders taught, based on their personal experiences.

The statement in Letter VII that it is a fact that the New York Cumorah is the same as described in Mormon 6:6 has a very simple, ordinary explanation: Joseph and Oliver personally visited the depository of Nephite records in that hill, so they knew it was the Cumorah of which Mormon wrote.

Plus, Joseph told his parents that Moroni called the hill Cumorah even before he got the plates. Before the Book of Mormon was completely translated, David Whitmer encountered one of the Three Nephites who was taking the Harmony plates to "Cumorah." In 1830 Oliver taught that Moroni had named the hill Cumorah anciently.

The most ordinary explanation for the anonymous Times and Seasons articles is that they were speculation by people (i) who didn't know from personal experience where Book of Mormon events took place, (ii) who were eager to promote evidence for the book, and (iii) who never contemplated the idea that their speculation would later be interpreted as a rejection of the New York Cumorah. The most likely candidates as authors who shared these characteristics are Benjamin Winchester, William Smith (who was actually editing the paper), and W.W. Phelps, who assisted as editor.

[Note: M2C advocates claim Joseph would have repudiated the anonymous articles if he didn't agree with them. That's conjecture, of course, but there is an ordinary explanation for his silence: he was the nominal editor, and he couldn't repudiate his own paper without delegitimizing everything else the paper published. Rather than expressly embrace, endorse, or ratify the anonymous articles, Joseph Smith resigned as nominal editor immediately after these articles were published. He never once personally connected the Book of Mormon to Central or South America; in fact, in March 1842 he had expressly rejected such speculation when he wrote the Wentworth letter, and in October 1842 he referred specifically to Cumorah in D&C 128:20 in connection with the other events that took place in western New York (and Harmony).]

5. Gell-Mann amnesia. This phenomenon has been explained this way:

The Gell-Mann amnesia effect describes the phenomenon of an expert believing news articles on topics outside of their field of expertise even after acknowledging that articles written in the same publication that are within the expert's field of expertise are error-ridden and full of misunderstanding. 

This element of a hoax applies specifically to media reports, but it applies to M2C because the proponents of M2C believe what Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, and David Whitmer said about their experiences except with regard to the New York Cumorah.

For example, M2C intellectuals reject Letter VII's statement that it is a fact that Cumorah is in New York, but they accept Oliver's statements of fact in those same letters regarding the restoration of the Priesthood, Moroni's visit to Joseph Smith, the stone box that contained the plates, etc. They accept David Whitmer's statements about what he observed, except for his statements about the messenger taking the plates to Cumorah. They accept the accounts of Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, and Wilford Woodruff, except regarding the visit of Joseph and Oliver to the repository in Cumorah. They accept Lucy Mack Smith's personal history, except for what she recorded about Cumorah.

The reason the intellectuals reject the statements of Joseph, Oliver and David is because they, the experts, claim special expertise regarding the Hill Cumorah. Of course, none of them have any of the personal experience these three men reported. The main expertise of the M2C intellectuals about Cumorah is figuring out ways to persuade members of the Church to disbelieve the prophets and apostles.

M2C fantasy map of the
Book of Mormon
But let's assume the M2C intellectuals do have some sort of legitimate expertise regarding Cumorah. If they reject Joseph, Oliver and David based on their expertise, then for them to accept the rest of what Joseph, Oliver and David taught is an application of the Gell-Mann amnesia effect; i.e., they should reject everything Joseph, Oliver and David taught if they disbelieve the one teaching--the New York Cumorah--about which they claim expertise.

Maybe that's why they're teaching the youth that the Book of Mormon took place in a fantasy world.

The M2C intellectuals are well down the path toward deeming the Book of Mormon to be inspired fiction. It's difficult to reach another conclusion, if one is convinced that the M2C hoax is the only (or even the "best") explanation for the Book of Mormon.
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All of this is to show that M2C fits the criteria for a typical hoax.

Hoaxes don't survive scrutiny, especially when juxtaposed with actual facts and explanations that make sense. That's why Book of Mormon Central Censor and other members of the M2C citation cartel continue to refuse to let their readers compare, on a side-by-side basis, the New York Cumorah with M2C. They use censorship to prevent their readers from even knowing what the prophets have taught and what evidence supports those teachings.

But censorship is a short-term strategy that depends on power and control. It won't last forever. Soon enough, the M2C hoax will be apparent and then we'll all be united at least on the issue of the New York Cumorah.






Friday, February 15, 2019

Cumorah and Presidents Lee and Kimball

Yesterday I discussed a video from Book of Mormon Central Censor titled "What did prophets think about Book of Mormon geography? Their old books may give clues."

The title alone exposes the nonsensical premise. We don't need "clues" from private annotations when their thoughts were declared openly in General Conference.
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The video begins by rehashing the intellectual foundation for M2C; i.e., the anonymous articles in the 1842 Times and Seasons. M2C proponents claim Joseph Smith wrote, edited, or approved of these articles, solely because his name appeared on the boilerplate credits at the end of each issue of the newspaper. It's absurd, really; the boilerplate also said Joseph "printed" the paper, but not even M2C proponents claim Joseph actually set type or ran the printing press.

Nevertheless, M2C intellectuals and their followers continue to promote the bogus Times and Seasons premise because it allows them to frame Joseph Smith as an ignorant speculator who misled the Church about the New York Cumorah, and who learned Book of Mormon geography from a popular travel book. Then, as well-qualified PhDs, these intellectuals assert their own views as superior to what the "unqualified" Brethren have always taught about the New York Cumorah.
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As we saw yesterday, the video examines notes made in two books owned by Presidents Kimball and Lee. The mind-reading exercise is a futile attempt to support M2C, or at least to cause enough confusion that there is room to accommodate M2C.

Harold B. Lee's note: two Hill Cumorah's?
The annotations in these books do suggest that at some point, Spencer W. Kimball and Harold B. Lee considered the alternative theories about Book of Mormon geography, and, at least in President Lee's case, the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory (M2C) specifically.

No one except an M2C believer could infer that President Lee's note means he accepted M2C. At most, we can infer he considered the points made by Hammond.*

The question for us today is, has the Cumorah issue ever been addressed formally?

Yes. Of course it has been.

President Lee with
President Tanner and
President Romney
When President Lee became President of the Church in July 1972, he chose as Second Counselor Elder Marion G. Romney, who had been a member of the Quorum of the Twelve since October 1951 and an Assistant to the Twelve for ten years prior to that.

Historical trivia: Marion G. Romney was called as an Assistant to the Twelve on April 6, 1941. Harold B. Lee was called as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve on April 10, 1941. The two had a long association, to say the least. They served together for over 30 years before they worked together in the First Presidency.

More trivia: President Lee served as a counselor in the First Presidency to President Joseph Fielding Smith, who specifically denounced M2C.

President Lee died on December 26, 1973. Four days later, Spencer W. Kimball was ordained President of the Church. He retained President Romney as Second Counselor.

In October 1975, President Romney addressed the Hill Cumorah question in General Conference. He unambiguously declared that the Hill Cumorah--the scene of the final battles of the Nephites and Jaredites--was in New York, and that it was the same hill from which Joseph obtained the plates.

Let's examine the context of President Romney's talk.
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Is it possible that President Lee ever discussed the Cumorah issue with President Romney?

That's a rhetorical question, of course. It's unimaginable that these two men, working closely together for decades, would have never discussed the issue, especially in light of the dog-eared page in President Lee's copy of Hammond's book Geography of the Book of Mormon.

Nevertheless, the Cumorah question was hardly the most pressing issue they faced. When we look at the conference addresses from Oct 1972, we see a focus on sustaining the new prophet, Harold B. Lee. https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1972/10?lang=eng

In his first talk to the Priesthood, President Lee said:

The trouble with us today, there are too many of us who put question marks instead of periods after what the Lord says. I want you to think about that. We shouldn’t be concerned about why he said something, or whether or not it can be made so. Just trust the Lord. We don’t try to find the answers or explanations. We shouldn’t try to spend time explaining what the Lord didn’t see fit to explain. We spend useless time.

If you would teach our people to put periods and not question marks after what the Lord has declared, we would say, “It is enough for me to know that is what the Lord said.”

One would think that this direction from President Lee would suffice to resolve the question: The prophets and apostles have always taught that the Hill Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 is in western New York.

However, M2C exists because certain intellectuals in the Church put a question mark instead of a period after what the prophets and apostles have taught about the New York Cumorah.

President Lee's message is especially interesting in light of the ear-marked page in Hammond's Geography of the Book of Mormon. Hammond's entire thesis is a big question mark he put after the teachings of the prophets and apostles about the New York Cumorah.

The Brethren have consistently and persistently taught two things:

1. The Hill Cumorah is in New York. Period.
2. We don't yet know where the other events took place. Period.

Everything else is subject to further study, analysis, and speculation.

This is my own approach, in this blog, in my books and articles, and in my presentations. Beyond the New York Cumorah, anything is possible.

The M2C tactic conflates the two issues; the M2C intellectuals need to create this confusion because most Church members, once they learn what the prophets have taught, agree that Cumorah is in New York. Church members are surprised to learn that the M2C intellectuals openly repudiate the prophets, even though M2C is on full display throughout the Church, including in visitors centers.

In my view, so long as the further study is intended to support the prophets, it's beneficial. But if it's intended to repudiate the prophets, it's not beneficial.

The M2C intellectuals disagree with me on that, which is fine--so long as they make their position clear and don't hide it behind a facade of "neutrality."

Everyone involved with this discussion seeks and relies upon facts. It is the interpretation of the facts that is driven by which bias one has. And the fundamental bias of M2C is the claim that the prophets are wrong about Cumorah.

Here's how M2C interprets the teachings of the prophets:

1. The Hill Cumorah is in New York? Question mark for the prophets, but the scholars know the hill Cumorah is in southern Mexico.
2. We don't yet know where the other events took place? Question mark for the prophets, but the scholars teach with certainty that these events took place in Mesoamerica.

BTW, it's interesting that recently Elder Neil L. Anderson reminded us of President Russell Marion Nelson's similar statement:

In 1982, two years before being called as a General Authority, Brother Russell M. Nelson said: “I never ask myself, ‘When does the prophet speak as a prophet and when does he not?’ My interest has been, ‘How can I be more like him?’” And he added, “My [philosophy is to] stop putting question marks behind the prophet’s statements and put exclamation points instead.”
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President Lee died unexpectedly in December 1973. During his presidency, so far as I know, no official statements were made about the Cumorah question. The issue hadn't reached the level of importance of the other matters they needed to address.

President Romney gave his Cumorah talk in October 1975, under the direction of President Kimball.

He gave the talk after personally visiting the Hill Cumorah in July, 1975, presumably on assignment.

The M2C intellectuals feel free to reject President Romney's talk because he wasn't President of the Church; he was just a counselor in the First Presidency. Had President Kimball given the talk, they say, then they would accept the New York Cumorah.

[That raises the question of why we bother having anyone but the President of the Church speak in General Conference if we're free to reject what all the prophets and apostles teach except for what the President says, and then only while he's actually in the office of President. The approach of the M2C intellectuals prohibits the President of the Church from assigning others to present Church doctrine or speak authoritatively on any topic. He can't even assign his own counselors in the First Presidency to do so.]

Let's consider two alternative explanations for President Romney's talk.
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M2C scenario. The M2C intellectuals claim that President Romney was wrong about the New York Cumorah. They acknowledge (condescendingly) that President Romney honestly believed what he taught, but they claim that he, like all of his predecessors, was simply wrong because they were misled by Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, thanks to Letter VII and D&C 128:20.

BYU fantasy map, teaching that
the prophets are wrong
The M2C intellectuals also claim that Spencer W. Kimball was uncertain about the Hill Cumorah because he considered M2C as a possibility. As evidence, they cite his possession of the Popal Vuh, complete with passages he underlined, and various anecdotal accounts of statements he made while visiting Central and South America on assignments over the years.

[BTW, I've looked into these claims in some detail. So far, not a single M2C intellectual has been able to show me where President Kimball ever once questioned the New York Cumorah. All their anecdotes involve point 2; i.e., we don't know where the other events took place.]

In the M2C scenario, we can imagine the First Presidency discussing the upcoming General Conference. President Kimball asks his counselors what they plan to discuss, or they agree on topics to discuss and decide which of them is going to cover which topics.

Knowing President Kimball believes M2C, or at least thinks it is a possibility, President Romney doesn't want to alert President Kimball that he plans to discuss the New York Cumorah, so he demurs. "I'm going to discuss the destiny of America," he says. "Plus, I'm going on vacation in July to visit Church history sites."

Then, in the October conference, President Romney stuns President Kimball by claiming, falsely, that the real Hill Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 is in western New York.

M2C: Five Presidents of the Church
listen to President Romney teach
false doctrine in General Conference
Future Presidents of the Church, Ezra Taft Benson, Howard W. Hunter, Gordon B. Hinckley, and Thomas S. Monson, are all in attendance at that conference. None of them ever corrects or even questions what President Romney taught about the New York Cumorah.

Instead, in 1990, Ezra Taft Benson, Gordon B. Hinckley, and Thomas S. Monson, the members of the First Presidency at the time, each approve with their personal stamps a letter that states, "The Church has long maintained, as attested to by references in the writings of General Authorities, that the Hill Cumorah in western New York state is the same as referenced in the Book of Mormon."

But they are all wrong, according to the M2C scenario.

Thanks to the M2C intellectuals and their followers, employees at BYU, CES, and COB are teaching our youth that the prophets are wrong about the New York Cumorah.

The entire M2C citation cartel teaches that the prophets were wrong, including FairMormon, Book of Mormon Central, the Interpreter, Meridian Magazine, BYU Studies, the Maxwell Institute, etc.
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Letter VII scenario. Those who accept Letter VII and the teachings of the prophets and apostles believe President Romney was correct about the New York Cumorah. They think that when President Romney testified that what he taught was true, he was speaking as a member of the First Presidency and he actually taught the truth.

Let's say President Kimball and President Lee both discussed the question of Book of Mormon geography with President Romney on occasion. Maybe more than once. Let's say that they discussed the books they read and their visits to Central and South America.

President Lee dies after only three General Conferences. The First Presidency never got around to the topic of Cumorah.

President Kimball notices a trend toward the two-Cumorahs theory, which has been percolating among LDS intellectuals since at least the 1920s. He knows President Joseph Fielding Smith had denounced the idea of two Cumorahs because it would cause members of the Church to become confused and disturbed in their faith in the Book of Mormon.

But he also knows the intellectuals at BYU are rejecting what all the past prophets and apostles had taught. The Hammond book was only one example of this.

President Marion G. Romney
declaring that Cumorah is in New York
The First Presidency discusses the matter. President Kimball assigns President Romney to study the question and visit the Hill Cumorah in New York. President Romney attends the opening night of the Hill Cumorah pageant (it was held on July 25-Aug 2 that year). Having done his research, President Romney stands on top of the hill and listens to the Spirit.

He returns and reports to the First Presidency. President Kimball assigns him to speak about Cumorah in the October Conference. The entire First Presidency approves the talk in advance.

President Romney delivers it in General Conference.

President Kimball expects this talk to settle the matter of Cumorah.

But he doesn't realize how quickly and easily the intellectuals at BYU and CES rationalize that the prophets and apostles are wrong.
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You can decide which scenario is more plausible: M2C or Letter VII.
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Let's consider why President Kimball would have chosen President Romney to visit Cumorah and then talk about it so directly in General Conference.

President Romney was born in Mexico. When he was about 15 years old, his family fled from the Mexican Revolution and moved to California, leaving everything behind. Eventually they moved to Idaho. He became a lawyer and worked as an assistant prosecuting attorney in Salt Lake City.

His background seemed to give him a special interest and expertise on the topic of America. Hence the title of his General Conference talk about Cumorah: "America's Destiny."

At BYU, President Romney gave such talks as "The Vision of the Founders" (1970) and "America's Fate and Ultimate Destiny" (1976).

As a prosecuting attorney, President Romney learned to evaluate alternative arguments about facts. As an Apostle, he learned that teaching pure truth is more powerful than making intellectual arguments.

Anyone who reads his talk about Cumorah can see there was no hesitation or equivocation about the New York Cumorah. He made his point crystal clear.

Now it's a question every member of the Church can answer: do we accept or reject the teachings of the prophets?
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You can read about President Romney's talk here, where I have a link to his address on lds.org:

http://bookofmormonwars.blogspot.com/2016/10/more-prophets-and-apostles-for-lds.html

President Romney said, "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."

He went on to describe the demise of the Nephites at the same spot. At the conclusion, he testified of the truthfulness of what he taught.

This was nothing more or less than a reaffirmation of what had been taught since before Joseph obtained the plates, when Moroni told Joseph the name of the hill.

Every prophet and apostle who has ever formally addressed Cumorah has affirmed these teachings. None has repudiated their predecessors or fellow Quorum members.

All this is so well known and well established that the speculation about Cumorah by today's M2C scholars is inexcusable.

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* The M2C citation cartel likes to focus on an obscure, unofficial comment Harold B. Lee once made, possibly with the Hammond book in mind. They think it shows that President Lee didn't know if Cumorah was in New York. I discussed that here:

http://bookofmormonwars.blogspot.com/2017/10/fairmormons-famous-harold-b-lee.html

Thursday, February 14, 2019

M2C employees at work - BOMCC video

I've been asked to comment on a recent video from Book of Mormon Central Censor that bears the audacious title of "What did prophets think about Book of Mormon geography? Their old books may give clues."

It's another rehash of standard M2C dogma that I would normally ignore, but in addition to the typical M2C mind-reading exercise, it contains an interesting twist and a little-known old M2C reference that deserves attention.

The question of Cumorah was resolved years ago, right in General Conference, by a member of the First Presidency. But M2C scholars think he was wrong, and so they continue to promote confusion and uncertainty, as they do in this video.

Actually, this video gives us another chance to see how and why the Cumorah issues was resolved.
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To understand the context of the video, we have to recognize that the employees who create these videos work for an organization that has the specific goal "to increase understanding of the Book of Mormon as an ancient Mesoamerican codex." These are fine young scholars and we respect employees who do their jobs. They "toe the company line." We expect nothing but M2C advocacy from employees and affiliates of Book of Mormon Central Censor, as their donors well know, and that's fine--so long as no one operates under the misperception that anything from Book of Mormon Central Censor is "neutral" on the question of Book of Mormon geography.

The video features the anonymous Times and Seasons articles and the two-volume Stephens and Catherwood travel books on Mesoamerica. M2C is entirely dependent on the assumptions that (i) Joseph Smith learned about Book of Mormon geography from these two travel books and (ii) Joseph Smith changed his mind about the New York Cumorah.

Both assumptions are outcome-oriented; i.e., because M2C intellectuals want to believe they know more about the Book of Mormon than Joseph Smith did, they frame him as an ignorant speculator who misled the Church about the New York Cumorah after learning about Central American ruins from a travel book.

M2C proponents never tell their followers that Letter VII, which establishes the New York Cumorah as a fact, was republished both before and after Joseph referred to Cumorah in D&C 128:20. There is no question that Joseph and his contemporaries taught it was a fact that Cumorah (Mormon 6:6) was in New York.

Nothing in the anonymous Times and Seasons articles disputes or even questions that fact.

IOW, even if Joseph had something to do with those anonymous articles--and the historical evidence indicates he not only had nothing to do with them but he opposed them--they have zero impact on the clear teachings that the Hill Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 is in New York.

To suggest otherwise is to rely on circular reasoning and sophistry, as I'll show here.
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President Kimball's copy of Popol Vuh
The interesting twist in the video is the inference that President Kimball and President Lee accepted, or accommodated, M2C.

For example, the video shows President Kimball's copy of the Popol Vuh, complete with his redlining of passages.

You see the inference. But I have copies of these and similar books that I've also marked, not because I believed what the authors were saying, but because I wanted to understand their points.

(You should see all the notes I have in Mormon's Codex, for example, not to mention my notes in From Darkness unto Light.)

Harold B. Lee's earmark
Another book featured in the video is Harold B. Lee's copy of a 1959 book by Fletcher B. Hammond (1876-1967) titled Geography of the Book of Mormon.

Lee's note says "were there two Hill Cumorah's? one in B of M history one from which plates came"

Tomorrow I will get to how Presidents Kimball and Lee resolved these questions. For the rest of this post, let's look at the Hammond book a moment.

We can't tell exactly when Harold B. Lee earmarked page 75 in the Hammond book, but because the book was published in 1959 and Lee was ordained an Apostle in 1941, he was an Apostle when he read it, probably soon after it was published, say, in the early 1960s. (Lee was called to the First Presidency in January 1970 and became President of the Church in July 1972.)

Hammond fantasy map
Between pages 72 and 73, Hammond provided a graphic that is essentially the current BYU fantasy map.

It shows the Hill Ramah - Cumorah right about where the BYU fantasy map shows it.

Hammond just didn't have the sophisticated computer graphics that make the BYU map as "realistic" as the latest video game.

Now, here's the fun part. Page 72 is Hammond's explanation:

Chapter 4
Where is the Book of Mormon Hill Cumorah?

Pursuant to the above heading, Book of Mormon readers might consistently ask, why say "Book of Mormon hill Cumorah?"" why not just say: "Where is the hill Cumorah?" Many Book of Mormon scholars assert that the hill Cumorah is in what is now New York state. To justify that assertion disrupts and confuses the entire concept of Book of Mormon geography. To correctly correlate that hill with other countries and places named in the sacred record it must be placed on a map so as to show consistency and harmony in the travels of the Book of Mormon peoples. All of the places and countries named in the record may be consistently assembled on a map which may cover some of the countries now known as Mexico and Central America. This cannot be done if the hill Cumorah is placed on a map in the vicinity of what is now Palmyra, New York.

It is admitted freely and without recourse that ever since the year 1830, or thereabouts, all Latter-day Saints, who are acquainted with Mormon history, not only believe, but know that 

"Convenient to the village of Manchester, Ontario county, New York, stands a hill of considerable size, and the most elevated in the neighborhood,"

p. 73

and that this hill is called, and is known as "The Hill Cumorah." Therefore, it must be, that since about 1830 there have been two Hills Cumorah in Mormon literature; but it was not so during the times of the Book of Mormon peoples. It is my aim to show that the Book of Mormon peoples knew but one hill Cumorah, and that it was not in what is now New York state. To accomplish this aim it was necessary to keep in mind all the time that conclusive facts of the matter can come only from the Book of Mormon, exclusively.

Hammond proceeds to quote from the text and explain his interpretation.

p. 74.
... There are two indirect references to the hill Cumorah in the Book of Ether, and both of these references do unite the hill with two other specific places. It is the location of these two places named in Ether that enables us to correctly locate the Book of Mormon hill Cumorah in what is now known as Mexico or Central America....

It is important, however, to note that at the commencement of this great war the Nephite people were then living in and had control of the over-all land of Zarahemla, which comprised the northern part of the land southward; and that the Lamanites were living in and had control of the land of Nephi, which comprised the southern part of the land southward.

To connect this land of Zarahemla with present day Central America, it seems appropriate to here quote the Prophet Joseph Smith. He had been reading Stephens' INCIDENTS OF TRAVEL IN CENTRAL AMERICA. In TIMES AND SEASONS, Vol. 3, Page 927, he is reported to have said:

Continuing on p. 75 Hammond provides an excerpt from the anonymous Times and Seasons articles!
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This is the point I've been making over and over: this video, and the books it features, demonstrate that M2C is founded upon, and still depends entirely upon, anonymous articles that say nothing about the Hill Cumorah.

M2C is purely circular reasoning that repudiates the teachings of the prophets.

The loop goes like this:
1. the anonymous articles establish Mesoamerica as the home of the Nephites, so therefore
2. Cumorah cannot be in New York, so therefore
3. Joseph changed his mind about Cumorah, so therefore
4. there are two Cumorahs, because
5. the anonymous articles establish Mesoamerica as the home of the Nephites.
6. Repeat over and over.

No need to belabor this. The logical and factual fallacies of M2C are available for all to see (except those inside the M2C bubble are blind to them).

Here's another fascinating aspect of Hammond's book. He quotes an excerpt from the Wentworth letter on p. 84, but he cuts it off right before the key sentence, in which Joseph rejected Orson Pratt's speculation about Central America by declaring, "The remnant are the Indians that now inhabit this country."

Hammond goes on to cite George Reynolds, who claimed the Jaredite destruction was "in some part of the region which we know as Central America," and Thomas Stuart Ferguson, who famously wrote "that the only area of the New World meeting the requirements of the many references to geography in the Book of Mormon is Middle [Central] America."

The balance of the chapter is a wonderful collection of logical fallacies that have to be seen to be believed. For example, Hammond started out by claiming that "it was necessary to keep in mind all the time that conclusive facts of the matter can come only from the Book of Mormon, exclusively" but his entire argument is based on the anonymous Times and Seasons articles and an appeal to authority by citing others who also believe the anonymous Times and Seasons articles.

At one point, Hammond writes, "There is no statement in public records by Joseph Smith nor Oliver Cowdery that Mormon ever deposited anything in the New York hill Cumorah." Maybe Hammond didn't know about Letter VII, but in there, Oliver expressly declares that Mormon deposited the Nephite records in the New York hill he called Cumorah. If he knew about Letter VII, Hammond deliberately omitted it from the discussion, like he did the sentence from the Wentworth letter that is problematic for M2C. Hammond cites Heber C. Kimball a couple of times, but omits Kimball's description of the embankments around the Hill Cumorah in New York that he visited shortly after joining the Church.

Hammond's book established the precedent for the M2C citation cartel; i.e., supposedly scholarly work that (i) omits inconvenient facts, (ii) relies on logical fallacies; and (iii) cites exclusively other like-minded scholars who commit the same errors.
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At one point, Hammond writes, "There is no present country in Central America, or elsewhere, patterned after the Book of Mormon lands. The only conclusion that can be drawn from all of this discussion is that the entire face of the land of Central America has been changed since the destruction of the Nephites about 400 years after the crucifixion of Christ."

To his credit, Hammond recognizes the futility of locating the Book of Mormon events in Central America, even using on his M2C interpretation of the text. The problem is, no such destruction as he proposes is plausible; ruins predating the Nephite era haven't moved.

He ends up claiming that "the Lord has changed the Book of Mormon lands since the extinction of the Nephites so that no one can say: Here is the 'narrow neck of land'; here is the narrow strip of wilderness; here is the river Sidon; here is the hill Cumorah in Central America; here is the hill Shim in the land of Antum; etc.; etc. If such places could be ascertained with certainty, knowledge of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon would come without faith; and that kind of knowledge is static."

I don't know what to make of this line of reasoning. In the first place, if accurate, then why did Hammond write the book at all? To undermine faith?

More importantly, if accurate, this line of reasoning means the Bible doesn't require faith, because the major Biblical sites are well known. That's a topic for another day, but the idea that knowing where Book of Mormon events took place would eliminate faith is nonsensical. To the contrary; such knowledge would support and enhance faith, just as it does with the Bible.

Besides, the prophets and apostles have clearly said, "here is the hill Cumorah." They just said it is in New York, which destroys all of Hammond's assumptions.
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M2C is not the only theory that repudiates the prophets, of course. Recently a comment on a video on my youtube channel linked to another M2C analysis similar to Hammond's, except this comment claims Cumorah is actually in South America.

Let's call it SA2C.

Here's the link to the comment on youtube.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K6zEZmA0cEE&lc=z23ltrvrrlzkcx5wq04t1aokgkhb03qvwiwrciz5qroebk0h00410

Here's the link to SA2C.

https://carlospolar.quora.com/Two-Hills-Cumorah

And here was my response.

Thanks for your comment. All kinds of ideas can be generated when we ignore the prophets, but Letter IV, written by President Oliver Cowdery with the assistance of President Joseph Smith, Jr., explains that when Moroni first visited Joseph Smith, he told him that the record had been "written and deposited" not far from Joseph's house; i.e., Mormon and Moroni abridged the record while they lived in western New York. Letter VII explains that the final wars of the Nephites and Jaredites took place in the mile-wide valley west of the Hill Cumorah in New York and that Mormon deposited all of the Nephite records in the same hill. https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/history-1834-1836/90 Every prophet and apostle who has ever addressed the issue has reaffirmed the New York Cumorah, including members of the First Presidency speaking in General Conference. Furthermore, it's a common misunderstanding that there were 230,000 Nephites at Cumorah. Letter VII explains there were only thousands of Jaredites and tens of thousands (not hundreds of thousands) of Nephites/Lamanites who died there, which is what a careful reading of the text confirms. Mormon was recounting all the armies who had died in the Nephite wars, not only those who died at Cumorah, and he had been the leader of the armies for decades. Plenty of evidence has been found in that area; Heber C. Kimball personally observed the embankments around the hill Cumorah shortly after he joined the Church in 1832.


Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Historicity is key

Everyone agrees that the primary message and purpose of the Book of Mormon--convincing the world that Jesus is the Christ--is more important than its history, geography, etc.

But that's not the same as saying the historicity of the Book of Mormon--meaning, it's status as an authentic history of real people--doesn't matter at all.

Without the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon, would it be any more relevant than inspirational sermons based on the Bible?

Early Church leaders and authors, including Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, recognized the importance of historicity. Responding to claims the book was fiction, they wrote a series of eight historical essays--the original Gospel Topics essays, except they were signed by Oliver and personally endorsed by Joseph--that set forth facts to counter the claims of the critics.

One of those facts, cited in Letter VII, was the New York setting for the Hill Cumorah, described in Mormon 6:6.
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BYU Fantasy map of the
Book of Mormon
Today, many people appear to have abandoned that approach.

Instead of teaching the New York Cumorah as fact, in our day employees at CES and BYU teach their students about the Book of Mormon using M2C-inspired, computer-generated fantasy maps that are tantamount to teaching the Book of Mormon is fiction.

The New York Cumorah doesn't answer questions about the rest of Book of Mormon geography--there are innumerable possibilities because there are innumerable ancient sites about which we don't have much information. The problem isn't figuring out where the Book of Mormon fits; the problem is choosing among the many alternatives where it does fit.

The rest of the geography doesn't matter only because we have a known, real-world "pin in the map" we can rely upon to establish historicity. 

Unlike the fantasy maps, the New York Cumorah firmly places the text in the real world--just as prophets and apostles have consistently and persistently taught from the earliest days of the Church.

M2C is devastating because it removes the one sure connection among (i) the Book of Mormon, (ii) the real world, and (iii) the teachings of the prophets.

The M2C intellectuals have replaced certitude and confidence with their self-serving ambiguity and uncertainty. This is the fulfillment of the warning of Joseph Fielding Smith, when he said of M2C that "Because of this theory some members of the Church have become confused and greatly disturbed in their faith in the Book of Mormon.”
_____

I'm curious how we can expect to convince the world that Jesus is the Christ when our own scholars--and all their students, including missionaries--resort to a fantasy map to explain the text.

Imagine the situation in reverse. This is a sequence that occurs daily, around the world, in one form or another.

Missionaries knock on your door and tell you about an inspirational, Christ-centered book that contains a thousand years of history of a branch of the House of Israel. You're surprised because you've never heard about this before, so you ask, "Who were these people? Where did this happen?"

The missionaries reply, "We have no idea, except that it was somewhere in the Americas."

If you're not so stunned at this response that you thank them politely and excuse yourself (feeling sorry for the nice young people), you might take a copy of the book and look through it.

After they leave you get on the Internet and in just a few minutes discover that the missionaries' own Church leaders have taught that an important place in the book--the Hill Cumorah--was in western New York, at the same hill where Joseph found the plates.

That makes sense. You wonder why the missionaries didn't just tell you that in the first place.

When the missionaries return, you ask them about this.

You: "I read on the Internet that your Church leaders said something called the Hill Cumorah is in New York. It's supposed to be an important place in your Book of Mormon."

Missionary #1: "Yes, it's an important place, but we don't think it was in New York, after all."

Missionary #2: "Well, some people think it's in New York, but most of us think it was in Mexico. That's what all our scholars say. But it could be anywhere."

You: "Hold on. I just read that your own leaders said it was in New York."

Missionary #1: "They were probably wrong."

Missionary #2. "The thing is, we don't know. But we promise that if you'll read the book, you'll know it's true." 

And just like that, the missionaries dissuade yet another interested person from further inquiries.
_____

Here's something to consider, from Elder Spencer W. Kimball:

“I’ve known people who have been promised in their patriarchal blessings that they would live to see the temple built and some of them are dying and haven’t seen the temple built. Do you know why? In my estimation, the Lord’s time table is directed a good deal by us. We speed up the clock or we slow the hands down and we turn them back by our activities or our procrastinations. And do you know why I think people who are actually promised that they would live to see the temple built are dying before the completion of the temple? Because we haven’t converted the Indians in large enough numbers; never shall we go to Jackson County until we have converted and brought into this church great numbers of Lamanites. Now you just as well set that down as a basic fact.”–From a copy of the December 1963 talk obtained from President Kimball’s secretary as quoted in Book of Mormon Student Manual (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2nd ed., 1981), 427-28


Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Poor information - Elements of the M2C indictment

President Nelson has observed that "good inspiration is based upon good information." What does this mean when Church leaders get poor or incomplete information instead of good information?
_____

I'm still hearing from people who want to see the indictment of M2C.

In previous posts, I've explained how M2C is imprinted on the minds of Church members through the academic cycle. Hopefully the academic cycle will be disrupted by the policy announced in the Gospel Topics Essay on Book of Mormon Geography (GTE-BofMG).

Time will tell.

In the meantime, I'll preview a few elements of the indictment that I will unseal in April if the M2C disaster isn't resolved before then.

Today we'll consider three elements: GTE-BofMG, Saints, and the Wentworth letter. I think that, had Church leaders been provided good information in the past, a lot of the problems we face today would never have developed in the first place.

There is one common thread to these issues: Church employees (CES, BYU, COB) giving leaders poor or incomplete information.

Church leaders are extremely busy, with more demands on their time than they can possibly meet. Elder Holland recent referred to "topics that absorb 15 of us who toss and turn when we would like to sleep and slumber.”

Surely, receiving poor information from people they trust and rely on doesn't help them fulfill their responsibilities or get good sleep.

The most important example I discuss today is the Wentworth letter. Had previous leaders recognized what Joseph Smith taught there, the Asian DNA in Latin America would never have been a problem.
_____

1. First, let's consider the recent example of poor information given to leaders: the GTE-BofMG.

On its face, the essay appears reasonable and balanced.

However, the essay was drafted by a committee of M2C believers who relied on the M2C citation cartel. The essay uses a quotation from President Ivins that has been a staple among M2C proponents at FairlyMormon and the rest of the citation cartel, as well as by M2C proponents in the Correlation Department at COB.

As we've seen, GTE-BofMG
(i) takes President Ivins' quotation out of context,
(ii) inserts a misleading paraphrase, and
(iii) ignores President Ivins' specific and direct General Conference talk about the importance of the Hill Cumorah in New York.

Unsuspecting and uninformed readers of the essay would have no idea about these three problems because they assume and expect the authors provided full and accurate information (which they did not do).

This gives us two possible scenarios about the origins of the essay. You decide which is more plausible.

a. The drafting committee informed the Brethren about President Ivins' General Conference talk about Cumorah but the Brethren chose to ignore it and instead released the misleading paraphrase and out-of-context quotation on GTE-BofMG; or

b. The drafting committee did not inform the Brethren about President Ivins' General Conference talk about Cumorah and did not explain how the Ivins quotation in the essay was out-of-context and how the paraphrase was misleading. Instead they provided the GTE-BofMG as is and the Brethren, assuming they had been given accurate and complete information, approved it.

Anyone who has worked for a large organization knows the second scenario is routine. That's how organizations function. Staff does the research, then prepares reports, position papers, etc., and leadership approves, modifies or rejects the material, based primarily on organizational goals and direction. Leadership doesn't do its own research; that's the job of the staff.

The second scenario is even more likely in the Church setting because it is unimaginable that the Brethren would knowingly and intentionally publish such misleading material as the GTE-BofMG contains.

2. The next example is the Saints book. I've shown how our current revisionist historians have been changing Church history to accommodate M2C. The worst example is probably the Saints book.

The editors admitted they created a false historical narrative present because of M2C, as I discussed here:

https://saintsreview.blogspot.com/2018/10/the-historians-explain-censorship-in.html

The M2C accommodation problem actually goes much deeper than that, as we'll see in the indictment.

3. One of the biggest challenges in the Church right now is the CES Letter, and one of the main elements of that is the problem of DNA and statements by Church leaders about Lamanites in Latin America.

This whole issue is a result of poor information provided to Church leaders.

The "Lamanites in Latin America" concept should have been extinguished when Joseph Smith wrote the Wentworth letter.

By now, it is well known that Joseph adapted Orson Pratt's 1840 missionary pamphlet when he wrote the Wentworth letter.

Less well known is that Joseph explicitly deleted all of Orson Pratt's speculation about Central and South America. He replaced that speculation with the specific statement that "The remnant are the Indians that now inhabit this country."

I detailed all of this in my book Brought to Light, but it's too much detail to explain in a blog post. If you're interested, you can compare the Pratt pamphlet to the Wentworth letter by going to the Joseph Smith Papers, here:
https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/church-history-1-march-1842/1
and here:
https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/appendix-orson-pratt-an-interesting-account-of-several-remarkable-visions-1840/1

Joseph's simple yet profound statement corroborates D&C 28, 30 and 32. However, Joseph's contemporaries, especially the Pratt brothers, Benjamin Winchester, William Smith, and others, completely ignored what he taught.

I searched for this sentence in Journal of Discourses and General Conference addresses in WordCruncher (1839-1970 and 2008-2018) and found no hits.

Apparently Joseph's direct statement about the identity of the Lamanites has never been quoted in General Conference.

"Indians" were mentioned 1,066 times (3 times since 2008). "Lamanites" were mentioned 592 (43 times since 2008) times.

I was curious why this statement has never been quoted.

The answer, apparently, is that people didn't know about it.

The Wentworth letter is not found in Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, which was first published in 1938 and for many decades was the primary source for Joseph's teachings.

Long-time readers here know the statement was deliberately censored in the chapter on the Wentworth letter in the 2007 manual Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith.

Our M2C citation cartel doesn't exactly highlight this teaching, so you won't find it there, except in one astonishing article that uses sophistry to explain how Joseph's teaching about "this country" actually referred to Central America!

To find Joseph's teaching about the identity of the remnant, a Church leader would have had to read the original March 1, 1842, Times and Seasons (or Vol. 4, chapter 31 of Documentary History of the Church). The statement, as important as it is, would not likely stand out among the thousands of words in those two references.

That explains why no one has quoted it in General Conference.

[Fortunately, the censors missed one source. A careful student can read it in the 2017 Church manual on the Pearl of Great Price, which includes the entire, uncensored Wentworth letter.
https://www.lds.org/manual/the-pearl-of-great-price-student-manual-2018/the-articles-of-faith?lang=eng. That was a carryover from the 2000 manual, and probably a carryover from an earlier version. You can also read the entire, uncensored Wentworth letter in the 1878 Liahona, here
https://www.lds.org/liahona/1978/06/the-wentworth-letter?lang=eng. In 1978, Elder Mark E. Petersen taught the New York Cumorah in General Conference. Again, this was before the M2C censors took over. Sadly, most Church members today rely on the lesson manual that censored what Joseph taught.]

If Joseph's specific teaching about the remnant of Lehi's people had been embraced instead of buried, would we have accepted the idea that all of the indigenous people in North, Central and South America, plus the Pacific Islanders, were descendants of Lehi?

That seems unlikely.

Now we're in a situation where we can justify the hemispheric teachings only by inferring there were at least some migrations and intermarriages between the actual remnant of Joseph in North America and the rest of the hemisphere, but that's a weak argument, made worse by the DNA evidence.

By ignoring Joseph's teaching, people (both within and outside the Church) are left with confusion. We have no idea where the Book of Mormon took place or who the Lamanites are.

Many Church members are oblivious to the problem, but critics (and investigators) are definitely not. Here's an example that lays it out pretty well.
_____

Getting back to GTE-BofMG, the essay is important because at least it stops the bleeding; i.e., it prohibits future teaching of M2C in Church settings.

But because of the poor information given by the employees to the leaders, the essay ignores the consistent, persistent teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah and instead claims we have no idea about anything having to do with Book of Mormon geography.

BYU's fantasyland map of the
Book of Mormon
While I agree that we can't say for sure where any of the events occurred other than at Cumorah, knowing that Cumorah exists in the real world--as taught by the prophets--is an entirely different proposition than the idea that the best we can do with the Book of Mormon is portray it in a computer-generated fantasy land.







Monday, February 11, 2019

Loserthink and M2C

People are telling me they are disappointed I didn't unseal the indictment of M2C in January. I wanted to, but in my view, the new Gospel Topics Essay on Book of Mormon Geography superseded the indictment.

Without the implicit support of the Church, which was withdrawn by the new policy announced in the essay, M2C will fade into oblivion on its own.

But it may take a while. Inertia is difficult to overcome, and for decades, M2C has been imprinted on the minds of LDS youth and members. I call it Mesomania, and many of our fine young LDS scholars are infected with it. Nevertheless, M2C won't endure on its own.

That said, we don't know if the new policy against discussing theories of Book of Mormon geography will actually be enforced at CES, BYU, and COB. As long as the media, artwork, visitors centers, and other presentations continue to display M2C, that theory will continue to be imprinted.

I'll give it a month or two to see whether the new policy causes any perceptible changes.

Already, Book of Mormon Central Censor has published a blog post claiming they're "neutral" and they've posted evidence of the Book of Mormon from North America. Of course, they're anything but "neutral." Anyone can see that their archive is full of articles attacking the New York Cumorah and any models of geography based on the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah. We don't expect them or any of the rest of the M2C citation cartel to change.
_____

In the meantime, here's something to consider regarding M2C.

A while back I described the M2C proponents and their followers as living in intellectual and emotional bubbles.

http://bookofmormonwars.blogspot.com/2018/08/m2c-web-part-3-late-war-influence.html

I wrote this:

I propose that we could do a much better job sharing the Book of Mormon and bringing people to Christ if we took a more realistic approach to the way we frame our positions. A key element is believing the words of the prophets.
_____

A fine example of this is the response to The Late Warand other pseudo-biblical books. The principal responders have been members of the M2C citation cartel, such as FairMormon* and the Interpreter.

They are writing from within the M2C bubble to others within that bubble, which is fine for people living in that bubble. But the billions of people I mentioned above are well outside the M2C bubble and are highly unlikely to ever enter it.

It's for those billions (and anyone else who is outside the M2C bubble) that I have worked through The Late War issue.
_____

As these billions of people begin to learn about the Book of Mormon, they will search the Internet for more information. In no time, they will come across the critics who cite The Late War as a reason to disbelieve the Book of Mormon. If the only responses from Church members that they can find are those published so far by the M2C citation cartel, I think unbiased investigators will find the critics more persuasive for the reasons I explain below.

When the critics are more persuasive, people are unlikely to give the Book of Mormon serious consideration. That's an outcome we must work to avoid to give the billions of people in the world a fair chance to accept the Gospel.
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Modified cover from twitter
The bubble metaphor shows up on the cover of a new book that will come out in the fall. It's by Scott Adams, and it is titled Loserthink: How Untrained Brains Are Ruining America.

The cover depicts people living in bubbles.

This is how I envision the M2C intellectuals and their followers.

When we research the intellectual genealogy of M2C and how it developed over the years, we discover several several strains of Loserthink. These are described in the indictment of M2C.

Among the most prominent is bias confirmation. M2C involves a specific interpretation of the text that M2C believers "cannot unsee." They have convinced themselves that they are following the text itself instead of their M2C interpretations. They can't even consider, let alone comprehend, alternative interpretations of the same text.

Their interpretation is so deeply ingrained that they have convinced themselves the prophets are wrong about the New York Cumorah because it doesn't fit their M2C interpretation!

It would be laughable if it wasn't such a serious situation.

Other elements of M2C loserthink include inertia, citation cartels, groupthink, and more. Maybe we'll get a chance to unseal the indictment, but hopefully it won't be necessary.

In the meantime, when you read material published by the M2C citation cartel or hear their presentations, think of them inside these intellectual and emotional bubbles and try to be empathetic.