Friday, September 30, 2016

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Hunt for the Wilderpeople is the most enjoyable movie we've seen this year. It's still playing in Salt Lake. Check it out in your local area.

Mesomania book now available

The Mesomania book is now on Amazon. You can find it here. This is an Amazon exclusive version, titled Mormon Mesomania.

By way of explanation, I'm not criticizing any current LDS scholars. I fully respect their efforts and deeply appreciate the good work they've done in many fields. Plus, they're great people. I just think they're making a fundamental mistake about the geography question and I'm just trying to understand the psychology behind the Mesoamerican theory. It's a fascinating topic, and I have a much longer manuscript, but everyone wants short books, so I made the Mesomania as short as I could.

For those new to this blog, I don't care what anyone thinks about Book of Mormon geography and historicity so long as it works for them and gets them to read the text and incorporate the teachings.

However, it seems obvious that the vast majority of the people in the world reject the Book of Mormon as a legitimate, authentic history. This includes members of the Church, too many of whom are inactive. Even among active members, many don't think the Book of Mormon is an authentic history.

I do.

And I think the Mesoamerican theory is a distraction that deters people from accepting the Book of Mormon as an authentic history. Of course, there are some people who find great value in seeing Mesoamerican culture in the text. That's fine. As I said, whatever works. You can apply the scriptures to yourselves by reading into the text attributes of African culture, Chilean culture, etc.

But when the scholars present only the Mesoamerican theory to their students (or, just as bad, an abstract map theory), and seek to present only that theory to the world through missionary work, in my view it's a serious mistake because, as Joseph Fielding Smith warned, the theory causes members (and investigators) to become confused and disturbed in their faith in the Book of Mormon.

I think the Mesoamerican distraction originated with Benjamin Winchester, William Smith and others in the 1840s, but it died down until the 1920s when the limited geography setting in Mesoamerica was developed by RLDS scholars. They were the first to reject the New York Cumorah; so far as I can discover, not a single person who knew Joseph rejected the New York Cumorah.

LDS scholars at BYU gradually adopted the RLDS position over the objection of Joseph Fielding Smith, and that's where we are today.

I'm hoping we can change course, embrace Letter VII and the other early teachings, and become united as LDS who have full faith in the historicity of the Book of Mormon.

In Mesomannia, I explain my views on the psychology that drives the effort by modern LDS scholars to promote the Mesoamerican theory. Among other things, they are seeking to accomplish these objectives:

1. Reject Letter VII by characterizing Oliver Cowdery as a speculative, unreliable man who lacks credibility.

2. Reject David Whitmer's accounts because he, too, was a speculative, unreliable man who lacks credibility.

3. Portray Joseph Smith as an uncertain man who 1) embraced a false tradition about the Hill Cumorah in New York and 2) changed his mind about the North American setting and embraced a Mesoamerican setting with the expectation that modern LDS scholars would answer the questions about Book of Mormon geography.

For me, those objectives undermine faith and are the fulfillment of Joseph Fielding Smith's warning.

And it's all so unnecessary.

Which is why I want to understand the psychology, and why I wrote Mesomania.

More memes

Here are a few more you can share:

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Summary for new readers

There are a lot of new readers coming here. Maybe it's because of the new semester at the BYU campuses or at the CES Institutes. Students are especially welcome because I know from experience you've been exposed to the Mesoamerican theory your entire lives. You may have never heard an alternative.

On this blog, I discuss issues related to Book of Mormon geography and historicity.

In my view, there is one fundamental choice that everyone interested in the Book of Mormon needs to make:

Is the Hill Cumorah (Mormon 6:6) in New York or elsewhere?

It's a simple choice.

What do you think?

I take the position that the Book of Mormon events took place in North America (north of Central America) and that Cumorah is in New York. If these concepts seem obvious to you, great. You haven't been persuaded by the handful of LDS scholars who are now spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to promote their insistence that the Book of Mormon took place in Mesoamerica.

I've made over 300 posts on this topic on this blog alone. I've looked at the issue from many perspectives. I've examined 1) what the scholars have published, 2) relevant archaeology, anthropology, geology, geography, and most importantly, 3) the text itself.

From every perspective--save one--the evidence supports the North American setting.

The sole exception is the Mesomania perspective. Mesomania is seeing Mesoamerica in the text and not being able to unsee it.

If you think Cumorah is not in New York, then you have been persuaded by the LDS scholars who don't even want you to know about alternative ideas--or what Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery said about the subject.

Here's another way to look at it:

If you think Cumorah is in New York, then you agree with Oliver Cowdery, Joseph Smith, David Whitmer, and everyone who knew those men personally. You agree with Joseph F. Smith, George Albert Smith, and Joseph Fielding Smith.

If you think Cumorah is not in New York, then you agree with most LDS Book of Mormon scholars today.

It's that simple.

That's why I say if you don't think Cumorah is in New York, it really doesn't matter where you think it is.

Feel free to look around and comment. Most readers email me instead of commenting, but comments are welcome.

I especially like to hear from people who disagree. My objective here is to focus on facts and logic, so I'm eager to correct any errors.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Again with the volcanoes

I hope you're sitting down.

Book of Mormon Central continues to double down on the volcano nonsense.

Usually, Mesoamerican advocates claim they want to stick with the text. What they really mean is, they want to stick with their interpretation (i.e., their translation) of the text.

In this case, the text never mentions volcanoes. With that in mind, look at this KnoWhy:

I've written about the volcano theory before. It is pure confirmation bias. Here's the logic:

1. BOMC insists the Book of Mormon took place in Central America.
2. Central America is part of the ring of fire of active volcanic activity.
3. Therefore, the destruction in 3 Nephi must have been caused by volcanoes.

The Mesoamerican advocates want you to believe that in the 1,000-year history of the Nephites in Mesoamerica, even though they never once mentioned volcanoes, they actually lived in one of the most active volcanic areas on the planet.

In that 1,000 years, there was only one volcanic eruption, and it was the one in 3 Nephi.

But even then, the Book of Mormon authors forgot to mention a volcano!

If you want to learn about a real-life natural disaster that closely matches the 3 Nephi description without the addition of volcanoes, go here:

Letter VII memes

I showed these at the conference 10 days ago and a lot of people want to have them to repost on Instagram, Twitter, etc.

I keep hearing reports that more and more people are reading and discussing Letter VII. We're still a long way from having every member of the Church read it during 2016, but we're getting closer all the time. Sharing these memes is one way to help.

You can share the link to Letter VII in the Joseph Smith Papers so people can read Letter VII right out of Joseph's own history, here.

You can share the link to the original publication in the Messenger and Advocate here.

You can share the link to the Second Edition on Amazon here.


Here's the meme to help people remember which of Oliver Cowdery's letters explains the Hill Cumorah is in New York:

These are some of the other Letter VII memes. I'll post Mesomania, two-Cumorah, and other memes in the next few days.

You can also find links to Letter VII in the Times and Seasons and the Gospel Reflector.

Or, people can read the first edition of my little book at Book of Mormon Central here. (Note: if you refer people to that site, be sure to warn them that Book of Mormon Central (BOMC) promotes Central America exclusively. BOMC still refuses to remain neutral on Book of Mormon geography or to even inform members of the Church that there are alternatives to Mesoamerica. A perfect example is how they keep insisting the 3 Nephi destruction was caused by volcanoes, even though the text never once mentions a volcano.)

Monday, September 19, 2016

The neutrality illusion

“One day everything will be well, that is our hope. Everything's fine today, that is our illusion.” 
― Voltaire

In politics, business, science, and most other fields, whoever has the dominant position or theory likes the status quo just fine. When challenged, the dominant position or theory typically proposes some form of neutrality. For the dominant party, nothing could be better than an agreement on neutrality that preserves the status quo.

That's what we're facing with the issue of Book of Mormon geography.

When viewed through the perspective of history, it is bizarre that the concept that Cumorah is in New York--and no place else--is now considered controversial or even heretical. In Joseph's day, it was ubiquitous, published in 3 Church newspapers, included in Joseph's own history, etc. In the lifetime of those who knew him, the New York Cumorah was universally accepted.

But starting with RLDS scholars in the 1920s, and over the objection of Joseph Fielding Smith, LDS scholars gradually reached a consensus that Cumorah is not in New York. This position, sometimes called the two-Cumorah theory, underlies the Mesoamerican theory.

The Mesoamerican theory is so well established that it shows up in the Hill Cumorah pageant, in the illustrations in the missionary and foreign language editions of the Book of Mormon, in the Joseph Smith Papers, and throughout the publications of LDS scholars and educators.

And the scholars want to keep the status quo.

It's understandable.

But it's not acceptable.

I'm going to make some announcements in the next week or so that might make this situation clearer for everyone involved.

In the meantime, I'm traveling and probably won't have time to post.

So keep reading Letter VII and sharing it with as many people as you can.


Sunday, September 18, 2016

Some deplorable Mesomaniac activity

Following my presentations this weekend, I answered questions for over an hour each time. I also met many individuals between sessions, in the halls, etc. One consistent theme was the unbelievable way Mesomaniacs have treated people who dare challenge the so-called consensus.

First, let me explain that term. As anyone who has read the Mesomania book knows, I think Mesomania is not really a choice; it's a psychological condition that is nearly universal among LDS because of the artwork and educational materials--including Church manuals and magazines--that we've all been exposed to since childhood. Mesomania is one of the first elements of Mormonism that investigators learn about because of the artwork in the blue editions of the Book of Mormon. So it's no one's fault that they have Mesomania; it's something every LDS has to some degree.

Consequently, I don't think the term Mesomaniac applies to the vast majority of the members of the Church. I reserve that term for people who are so obsessed with the Mesoamerican setting that they can't tolerate alternative ideas.

In the last few days, I've had a shocking number of people tell me stories of how they've been treated by Mesomaniacs. These Mesomaniacs include CES faculty, Priesthood leaders, and fellow ward members. In many cases, challenges to the Mesoamerican theory is met with charges of apostasy, shunning, and even attempts to shame. It's deplorable, to use a suddenly popular expression.

I attribute this Mesomaniacal reaction to defensiveness, actually. The basic premises of the Mesoamerican theory are so indefensible, in my opinion, that when challenged, proponents have no alternative but to lash out this way.

I need to clarify another point. There are some proposed Mesoamerican settings that also accept the New York Cumorah. By my definition, those are not a result of Mesomania. In fact, Arnold Friberg himself depicted the New York Cumorah, not some mountain in Mexico, and if we had left that painting in the blue editions, we'd have fewer problems than we have now.

The real problem with Mesomania is when it leads to the rejection of Oliver Cowdery, Joseph Smith, and David Whitmer when it comes to the Hill Cumorah in New York. IOW, Mesomania = the Two-Cumorahs approach. In many cases, it is driven by the conviction that Joseph Smith wrote the anonymous articles in the 1842 Times and Seasons. Some of the Mesomania scholars have told me those articles are not a significant factor in their deliberations and I accept that. There is zero historical evidence that Joseph wrote those articles. But among many, many members of the Church, Joseph's authorship of these anonymous articles is fundamental and turns them into Mesomaniacs.

For now, let me suggest this. If you're in a CES class (broadly defined to include seminary, institute, Sunday School, BYU (any campus), a fireside, etc.) and someone promotes the Mesoamerican theory, you're perfectly entitled to observe that the Church has no official position on Book of Mormon geography. If, as happens far too often, the presenter argues that all the scholars agree, you should 1) point out that not all the scholars agree, 2) that there is no doctrinal reason to accept or even rely on what any scholar says, and 3) ask if he/she has read Letter VII. You'll soon see that the presenter has never heard of Letter VII. Or, if they have, they haven't read it. Instead, they've read some dismissive obfuscation in FairMormon, the Interpreter, or the like.

All we want is for people to read and consider Letter VII. Everyone in the Church during Joseph's lifetime was familiar with it and accepted it. There are some LDS scholars today who insist Oliver Cowdery made it up, or was speculating, and therefore they insist that either way he was wrong. They're entitled to their opinions and the consequences that flow from undermining the credibility and reliability of one of the Three Witnesses (who was the Assistant President of the Church when he wrote Letter VII), but you're not obligated to agree with them.

No one is.

We want every member of the Church to become educated on this specific issue and then to reach his/her own conclusions.

So if you haven't read Letter VII, yet, do it right now. If you have, share it with everyone you know.

And if people call you an apostate for talking about Letter VII, remind them you're reading it out of Joseph's personal history and have them search it for themselves in the Joseph Smith Papers.

NOTE: Letter VII is far from the only problem with the Mesoamerican theory, but it is a fundamental document in Church history that every member of the Church today should be familiar with. Portions of Letter I are already included in the Pearl of Great Price, and in my opinion, portions of Letter VII should be added. It is that fundamental to understanding the Book of Mormon, not only its geography but the covenant and promises it contains. I doubt that will happen anytime soon, but now that the Joseph Smith Papers are available to anyone with Internet access, anyone can read Letter VII in Joseph's own history.

Short conference report

The conference was wonderful in every way. It sold out ahead of time, so I heard from a lot of people who were disappointed they couldn't attend, but the sessions, I'm told, were recorded and will be available later. As always, Rod Meldrum did an amazing job organizing and running the conference. The speakers were effective and conveyed information and insights that everyone in the Church should be aware of.

I don't have time to discuss each speaker, but I do want to mention the ongoing development of art depicting the Book of Mormon in the North American setting. This can do more to educate LDS and non-LDS than any number of articles and books because our society is so visually oriented. I hope people will resist the ongoing effort to imprint Mesomania on the minds of the people.

In a separate post, I'm going to discuss a few observations about Mesomania in response to my presentations.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Mesomania and the Conference

People are wondering about the new book, Mesomania. My publisher decided to release it at the conference next week, so you'll have to wait for that.


Thanks to everyone who participated in the survey. I think you'll be happy with the cover we have. You'll enjoy the content even more, I hope!

There will be a lot of cool stuff at the conference. I've heard it's already sold out, so they're going to set up streaming access, if possible. I'll be out of town until Friday, so I'm speaking Friday and Saturday.

I hope to see lots of you there. 

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Dialogue on Mormonism No. 3

In July 1841, the Times and Seasons (the Mormon newspaper in Nauvoo) published "Dialogue on Mormonism No. 1" (available here) and "Dialogue on Mormonism No. II" (available here). These are discussions of Mormonism in a question-and-answer format. They are fictional representations of a conversation between people investigating the Church. The second one adds a missionary to the conversation.

Although the Dialogues are a little dated, it is interesting to see how some of the themes and questions remain relevant today, 175 years later.

At the end of this post I'll reproduce the two Dialogues in full. First, though, I'm posting an updated Dialogue that represents what takes place regularly today.


Dialogue On Mormonism.
No 3 (2016)

Between Mr. Mathews & Mr. Roberts.

Mr. M. Good morning Mr. R.

Mr. R. You won't believe this, but I met with some of your Mormon missionaries last night.

Mr. M. Really?

Mr. R. My wife set it up without telling me. Some friend at her work invited us over.

Mr. M. What did you think?

Mr. R. My wife was impressed. Taking time out of college like that...

Mr. M. What about you?

Mr. R. I don't see the point. I mean, we're already Christian.

Mr. M. But this is another testament of Jesus Christ.

Mr. R.  I get that, but you can't compare the Bible to the Book of Mormon.

Mr. M. They both talk about Christ, just on different continents.

Mr. R. Look, I'll be honest with you. We had a nice time. The missionaries were sincere, I don't doubt that. But while they were talking, a million arguments came to mind. I didn't want to be rude, but I asked a simple question they couldn't answer. After that, I kind of tuned out.

Mr. M. What question?

Mr. R. They said Jesus visited the people after his resurrection. The Bible tells us exactly where Jesus showed himself to his disciples. That's kind of important. I just wanted to know where Jesus appeared to these other people, supposedly the other lost sheep.

Mr. M. What did they say?

Mr. R. They said they didn't know. Just somewhere in the Americas. They opened a copy of the Book of Mormon and showed me illustrations in the front. There was a guy standing on a huge stone wall that looked like a European castle. And then there's a painting of Jesus visiting people in Mayan ruins. I asked if they were saying Jesus appeared to the Mayans. They said they guessed so. Is that right? You guys think Jesus visited the Mayans?

Mr. M. I guess so. That's what I've always been taught. I don't know if it was Mayans or Incas or Aztecs, but somewhere in Central America.

Mr. R. But the missionaries first said Joseph Smith found the gold plates in New York.

Mr. M. That's right.

Mr. R. That makes no sense. On the way home, my wife asked what I thought. I told her it's a strange story. I mean, it would be cool if Jesus visited people around the world after he was resurrected, but just because it sounds good doesn't mean it happened. When we got home, we googled it. Correct me if I'm wrong, but you Mormons have no idea where these people lived. You say there was a big civilization of people living the law of Moses, and they destroyed themselves in huge battles, but you have no idea where?

Mr. M. I don't know. I always assumed they lived in Central America somewhere.

Mr. R. That's what the missionaries said, too, but there are lots of Christian sites that say you've changed your mind. Not you, but your Church. First, these wars ended in New York. Now, they ended in Mexico. You just admitted you don't know, just like the missionaries didn't know. I don't see how you can expect me to believe something that you don't know yourself.

Mr. M. We believe the Book of Mormon is the word of God, so it doesn't really matter where it took place.We take it on faith.

Mr. R. My wife and I decided that we already have faith, based on a testament of Jesus that is reliable. We know where Jesus lived and where he died and was resurrected. Maybe he visited people in other places, like you say, but we can't change our entire lives just because you say so. We need evidence, at least as good as the Bible.

Mr. M. I'm sure there is evidence. There are lots of books about this. I can get some.

Mr. R. Have you read them?

Mr. M. Some of them, I think.

Mr. R. But you can't answer my question. That's exactly what the Christian sites said would happen. Joseph Smith and the witnesses said these people lived in New York and the Midwest, but now your scholars are saying Joseph Smith and the witnesses were wrong.

Mr. M. I don't think that's right. There is a lot of anti-Mormon stuff on the Internet.

Mr. R. Look, we've been friends a long time. I'm not anti-Mormon in any way and I don't want this to affect our friendship. I don't care what anyone believes so long as they are good people. But this isn't anti-Mormon propaganda. These are simple facts. I'm not trying to change your mind about your religion, but you ought to google this yourself. Just so you know what people like us find.

Mr. M. I appreciate that. I think I will. So are you going to see the missionaries again?

Mr. R. My wife is calling them today to cancel the next appointment.

Dialogue On Mormonism.
No 1 (1841)
Between Mr. Mathews & Mr. Roberts.

Mr. M. Good morning Mr. R. Did you go to hear the Mormon preach last evening?

Mr. R. No, indeed I did not, I think it below my notice to listen to those babblers.

Mr. M. Mr. R., do you call them babblers and think so meanly of them? I'm sure I heard nothing objectionable in the discourse last evening.

Mr. R. Why! have you not heard the reports which are in circulation respecting them?

Mr. M. Yes, I have heard a great many stories about this people, but some of them were so extravagant and carried their own refutation on the face of them, that I thought I would hear both sides of the question.

Mr. R. Well, for my part, I am astonished that any respectable person should give ear to them. Such imposters [impostors] should be discarded.

Mr. M. Probably, you may have been mis-informed, and have heard reports which have no foundation in truth. I think if you were properly informed on the subject, you would not feel so inimical to them. You know what the scriptures say "Prove all things and hold fast that which is good," and you know that public opinion is not always a proper standard for us to judge by, if it were so, our Savior would not have been crucified by the Jews, nor would the apostles have had to flee from one city to another, and be brought before magistrates and rulers.

Mr. R. Well, well Mr. M., that is good reasoning enough; but the idea of walking on the water, their pretensions of raising the dead, and other extravagant notions, are so absurd and ridiculous that I wonder any men of common sense should join them.

Mr. M. I have heard such stories, but when I talk with them on the subject, I find that they make no such pretensions, but speak very rationally, and I assure you they argue very logically on the scriptures.

Mr. R. Why! do you mean to say, that they believe any thing of our bible? Dont [Don't] you know that they have discarded our scriptures and have got a bible of their own?

Mr. M. Why sir, the preacher last evening confined himself exclusively to the scriptures of the old and new testament, and proved the doctrines he advanced from the same. I, afterwards, had some conversation with him, and made some enquiries [inquiries] respecting the Mormon bible as it is termed, and he very freely and candidly answered my enquires [inquiries], and said that the "Book of Mormon," was a record of the aborigines of this continent,
(page 456)

which had been preserved on plates, and handed down from generation to generation, until, on account of the wickedness of the people, they were hid up; and that Joseph Smith was informed by a heavenly messenger where those plates were-was instructed to obtain, and power was given him to translate them. I have not yet had time to examine the book, but I shall certainly read it, and then, afterwards, I shall judge; but they certainly beleive [believe] our bible Mr. R.

Mr. R. Mr. M., this is strange news. Why how can people get up such wonderful stories? There must be some foundation for them. Again, you know that the Rev. Mr. H. and other very worthy ministers, who are eminent for their piety and learning, speak hard things against them, and warn their people against receiving them into their houses, and not to countenance such redegadoes [renegades].

Mr. M. I am aware that this is the fact, and I am sorry that the preachers should have no better weapons to use than to publish the reports which they have done. If Mormonism is a deception why do they not argue the subject like men and christians? If the doctrines they teach are so monstrous, why do not the ministers of the different denominations, expose them and prove them so from the scripture? Such a course would be far more honorable than retailing slanderous reports.

Mr. R. But do the Mormons wish to have their religion investigated? Do they not assume a high dictatorial bearing, and refuse to answer any questions; but say, that if reason and scripture come in contact with their doctrines, they do not care, but assert, that they know that there doctrines are true?

Mr. M. Such have been the reports; but when the preacher had got through his discourse last evening, he said, that inasmuch as there were many reports in circulation respecting their church, and the doctrines they advanced, he would give an opportunity for any one to ask any questions on the subject, and, if any one had any objections to urge against the doctrines he had advanced, they were at liberty to do so.

Mr. R. Did any one make any objections?

Mr. M. No sir. The doctrines he advanced were elucidated with so much clearness, and proof upon every point he advanced was so abundant, that I saw no possibility of making any. Some questions were asked respecting the book of Mormon which were answered very satisfactory, and then the meeting separated. I remained some time longer and conversed with him on the various subjects he had advanced and found him very communicative indeed, and seemed to take considerable pleasure in giving information respecting their faith and doctrine. I wish you had been there Mr. M. [R ?] I think you would have a better opinion of these people if you could once hear them preach.

Mr. R. I probably might, but I do not think I should. I can never have a great opinion of any people who will condemn the whole world, and say "The temple of the Lord are we, and heathens all beside."-No, Mr. M. they cannot catch old birds with chaff. I should be sorry to indulge in prejudice against any sect; neither would I persecute any man for his religious opinion. But, really Mr. M., this Mormon doctrine is monstrous.

Mr. M. I have ever considered you a liberal minded person, and I really do think, that if you were to hear them preach once, you would think differently of them to what you do now; or, if you were to converse with them on the subject. I invited the preacher to come and spend the afternoon at my house, to converse with him more fully on these subjects; I should be very much pleased indeed, if you and Mrs. R., could make it convenient to come over, and chat with us awhile. I believe you will find the preacher a gentleman, very affable; and probably we may both hear some thing that may tend to our benefit.

Mr. R. I am obliged to you for your kind invitation and good feelings, probably I shall comply with your request; I shall go home and see if it will be convenient for Mrs. R. to accompany me.-However there is one privilege I wish to have, and that is, if I find the preacher garbling the scriptures, or advancing any erroneous notions, I want to expose him fully and treat him as he may deserve.

Mr. M. I am not afraid of your overstepping the bounds of a gentleman.-Good morning Mr. R.

Mr. R. Good morning.


Dialogue on Mormonism. II (1841)
Book of Mormon.
Between Mr. Mathews, Mr. Roberts, and Elder Pierce.

Mr. M. I am glad to see you and Mrs. R., I was ready to think that you were not coming this evening.

Mr. R. Indeed Mr. M. I must say, I felt no very great desire to come, but as I had given you reasons to expect my company, I thought you would think me too much predjudiced [prejudiced] against your favorite doctrine of Mormonism, if I staid [stayed] away. It was not so with Mrs. R. she no sooner heard of a Mormon preacher being at your house, than she made every preparation to come. You are aware that women are somewhat curious.

Mr. M. I am aware that is their prevailing characteristic; indeed I think we all ought to have curiosity enough to induce us to listen to truth. Elder P. had just commenced to give me an account of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, I suppose you are curious enough Mr. R. to listen to his statement.

Mr. R. This was the object of our visit. I shall be pleased to hear Elder P. proceed.

Elder P. The subject I was speaking upon was the much abused Book of Mormon, or as it is termed, by way of ridicule, the Mormon bible. Their being many foolish and extravagant stories afloat respecting it, I always deem it important to correct the public mind on this subject, before I proceed to any other item of doctrine in our religion. One impression that has gone abroad, is, that we put it in the stead of the Bible, the scriptures of the old and new testament. I presume you have heard it represented so.

Mr. R. Certainly I have, by several individuals, and I must say that I felt surprized [surprised] when Mr. M. told me this morning that such was not the case.

Mr. M. This has been the received opinion of this neighborhood, and is yet by some, for when I told Deacon Jones last evening that it was an erroneous idea we had imbibed, he plainly told me he knew better, and would not listen to any argument on the subject.

Elder P. Well gentlemen, I will endeavor to inform you what the Book of Mormon purports to be and then you can judge for yourselves. The Book of Mormon is a record of the aborigines of this continent, (America,) which was engraven on plates of precious metal, and handed down from father to son, from generation to generation. It gives an account of the first settlement of this land by the seed of Israel in the reign of Zedekiah king of Judah, some time before the Babylonish captivity. While in Jerusalem
(page 472)

during the decline of the Jewish polity, the Lord appeared to a man of the name of Lehi, and commanded him to take his family and journey into the wilderness, and also informed him of the destructions which should come upon the Jewish nation. Lehi obedient to the heavenly command, took his household and journeyed in the wilderness for some considerable time, subject to hunger and many privations, till at length they came to the borders of the sea, where they were instructed to build them a ship, and launch forth upon the mighty ocean. Having got every thing prepared, they did so, and were carried forward upon the waters for a long time, until, at length they arrived on this western continent: and after returning thanks to the Almighty for his protection and great deliverance, they engaged in cultivating the soil, and were prospered exceedingly upon the land and became very numerous indeed.

Mr. M. You will observe by this account Mr. R. that this people who landed here were Jews, this you know agrees with the idea, which many learned men have had, that the Indians are descendants of the Jews.

Mr. R. I am aware that this idea is generally entertained among the learned.

Mr. M. Pardon this interruption Elder P.

Elder P. I shall be pleased for you to make any remarks or ask any questions on any subject as I go along.
After their settlement here, part of the family being righteous, and part wicked and rebellious, they had considerable difficulty and strife, until at length the Lamanites, the wicked portion of the family, were smitten with a skin of blackness and became an idle and filthy people.
It also gives an account of their wars-the reign of their Kings and Judges-the prophesies of righteous and holy men who were among them, several of which have been fulfilled since the records have been found-their skill in architecture-their faith and knowledge of the truths of the gospel-the rending of the rocks on this land at the crucifixion of Jesus-and then gives a very interesting account of our Savior's appearing to the people on this continent after his resurrection at Jerusalem, agreeable to the saying of his, "I have other sheep which are not of this fold, them also, must I bring in"-his teachings to the people-his choosing apostles and establishing his kingdom after the same pattern he did on the old continent.

Mr. R. This is certainly new to me, but there is one very serious objection in the way, which I must have removed before I can believe the Book; and that is, if Christ established his church and kingdom on this continent how happens it that the Indians have no tradition of the fact, and are altogether unacquainted with the gospel?

Elder P. It is a question which naturally arises; and I think I shall, before I get through, be able to satisfy you why it is so. After Christ had established his church and sent forth his servants to proclaim the gospel, great success attended their labors, and the greater part of the people became obedient to the faith; true and undefiled religion flourished, and every blessing followed in its train. However, after sometime had elapsed, their began to be schisms in the church; predjudice [prejudice] and its attendant train of evils crept into their midst, until, finally, they began to fight one against the other-the Lamanites against the Nephites, until the Nephites were utterly destroyed from off of the face of the land-the last man remaining was Moroni, in whose possession were the sacred records which had been handed down to him, and which he was commandeed [commanded] to hide up unto the Lord, in consequence of the wickedness of the Lamanite, who had not only derided the name of Christ, but sought the lives of all such as proffessed [professed] christianity. Consequently they were given up to a wicked and rebellious heart, and became willing instruments in the hands of Satan, and continued to wander in darkness, ignorance and superstition, until the present time, the degenerate and fallen sons of noble and worthy sires.

Mr. M. I have always thought that there had been a more enlightened people on this continent, than the present Indians. The remains of ancient buildings, monuments &c., are evident proofs on this point

Mr. R. There can be no doubt on this subject. In the recent researches in Central America, the ruins of very large and splendid buildings have been found, but it does not necessarily follow that the Book of Mormon is true.

Elder P. By no means, but you will undoubtedly admit that it is circumstancial [circumstantial]
(page 473)

evidence in its favor. Another thing I would observe is, that there is no correct account given of their descent, or their history-the world has been shrouded in darkness on these matters; but the Book of Mormon like the rising sun, eradiates the gloom, throws a flood of light on the history and proceedings of this people, and brings to light things which have been hid from generation to generation-contain many predictions respecting their restoration to righteousness, and again becoming a 'fair and delightsome people.' I cannot better express my ideas on this point than in the language of the hymn, which has been composed by one of our preachers, and which we sung a short time before you came. I will endeavor to repeat it.

Mr. M. No, Elder P., pray sing it again. I am sure Mr. and Mrs. R., will be pleased to hear it, the tune and hymn are beautiful.

Mr. M. We will do our best.

O stop and tell m [me] Red Man, And long they've lived by hunting,
Who are ye? why you roam? Instead of work and arts,
And how you get your living? And so our race has dwindled
Have you no God;-no home? To idle Indian hearts.
With stature straight and portly, Yet hope within us lingers,
And decked in native pride, As if the Spirit spoke:-
With feathers, paints, and broaches, He'll come for your redemption,
He willingly replied:- And break your Gentile yoke:
"I once was pleasant Ephraim, And all your captive brothers,
When Jacob for me pray'd; From every clime shall come,
But oh! how blessings vanish, And quit their savage customs,
When man from God has stray'd! To live with God at home.
Before your nation knew us, Then Joy will fill our bosoms,
Some thousand moons ago, And blessings crown our days,
Our fathers fell in darkness, To live in pure religion,
And wander'd to and fro. And sing our Maker's praise."

To be continued.

[Note: the hymn, written by W.W. Phelps, was included in the first Mormon hymnal, compiled by Emma Smith with Phelps' assistance. The hymn survived through the 1927 hymnbook, but was dropped from the 1948 hymnal. These Dialogues were never continued. Dialogue No. II was reprinted in the Millennial Star, October 1841. Both Dialogues are anonymous, but as I've shown elsewhere, I think they were written by Benjamin Winchester.]