In the abstract, it's a nice explanation of how the Book of Mormon is essential to missionary work. I thought I'd leave it alone without comment. But on further reflection, leaving it alone is unfair to unsuspecting members and investigators.
Coming from Book of Mormon Central, this KnoWhy is unbelievably audacious.
Because Book of Mormon Central continues to promote the two-Cumorahs, Mesoamerican theory of Book of Mormon geography exclusively. It's difficult to think of a bigger impediment to missionary work than that theory.
First, let me clarify that I really like the people at Book of Mormon Central and I appreciate the great work they've done in assembling reference materials. But I urge caution for anyone using the site because it does not live up to its statement of policies and in my opinion it does more harm than good regarding the geography question, which is core to the historicity question that is a major stumbling block for investigators and members alike.
Book of Mormon Central purports to be "officially geography neutral."
https://bookofmormoncentral.org/content/policies. But you will search in vain for anything on the page that supports or even gives a voice to alternatives to the two-Cumorah, Mesoamerican theory. Instead, they publish only pro-Mesoamerican and anti-alternative articles in their archive.
The "neutral" policy is a ruse to persuade readers that, because there are no alternatives on their site, there is only one legitimate theory, and that's the two-Cumorahs, Mesoamerican theory.
This makes sense when you realize that Book of Mormon Central is merely a front for the Book of Mormon Archaeological Forum, Inc., a long-time Mesoamerican advocacy group.
BMAF and BMC continue to denigrate and attack other concepts that are accepted by faithful Latter-day Saints everywhere, including what Oliver Cowdery wrote about Cumorah in New York in Letter VII, which Joseph fully embraced and republished multiple times. Not to mention Church leaders speaking in General Conference as recently as the 1970s. (For more info, go to http://www.lettervii.com/.)
Back to the KnoWhy.
Imagine you are an investigator. The missionaries bring you a Book of Mormon. You open it and see the images of jungles and massive stone cities and Mayan ruins. You ask the missionaries where these events took place and they tell you Central America, but no matter how many times you read the book, you don't find those elements and the missionaries can't point to a single scripture that mentions them.
You go online and quickly learn about Letter VII from various web sites and you ask the missionaries about Cumorah.* The missionaries refer you to FairMormon or Book of Mormon Central, which tell you Cumorah is in southern Mexico. The explanations you get boil down to Mormon scholars claiming Joseph and Oliver were ignorant speculators who were wrong, because modern Mormon scholars know better.
You say, "Didn't you tell me Joseph and Oliver translated the Book of Mormon? That they interacted with numerous divine messengers, including the Lord himself? That they were truthful about everything that happened?"
The missionaries say, "Yes."
You: "But Joseph and Oliver said Cumorah was in New York. So did all of their contemporaries and successors. And now you're telling me they were wrong?"
The missionaries: "Uh, they were right about everything except when it came to the location of Book of Mormon events. They thought Cumorah was in New York, but that's a false tradition that Joseph Smith embraced for unknown reasons. It's manifestly absurd. Here, look at all the scholarly writings that spell this out."
And they refer you to Book of Mormon Central (BMC), FairMormon, and the rest.
Below is a sample of what you'll read if you go to BMC. If you take the time to read even more, you'll find that the guru of Mesoamerican theory, John Sorenson, wrote this about the New York Cumorah that Joseph and Oliver taught:
Think of that.
What Joseph and Oliver taught is now "manifestly absurd" according to the two-Cumorahs, Mesoamerican advocates.
And this is from a long-time BYU faculty member who is cited about 450 times on Book of Mormon Central alone.
Classic articles on BMC.
Here are some of the classics on BMC. (I've addressed most of these on this blog if you're interested in the alternative views you won't find on BMC). At each link, they give you "More like this" which are additional articles that support the two-Cumorahs/Mesoamerican theory without ever linking to alternative perspectivs.
Were there two Cumorahs?
Abstract: No one doubts that the hill where Joseph Smith received the plates is known as Cumorah, but is the hill where the final battles between the Nephites and Lamanites took place another Cumorah? The book of Ether tells us that Omer traveled to this place of the last battles of the Nephites, and that the relatively short duration of this journey would not account for the three thousand miles from Middle America to New York. A similar journey was undertaken by Limhi’s men, of equally short duration. The description of the geographical features around the final battle site is also at odds with the topography of present-day Cumorah.
Archaeology and Cumorah Questions
Abstract: The archaeology of New York—and specifically the Hill Cumorah—is persuasive evidence that Book of Mormon peoples did not live in that region. By implication, the Cumorah of the golden plates is not the Cumorah of the final battles—Mormon’s hill and Moroni’s hill are not one and the same.
This is the entry in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism written by David Palmer, who cites his own book to explain that Cumorah cannot be in New York. This is the entry that was plagiarized for the phony fax from the office of the First Presidency that Mesoamerican advocates have cited multiple times.
The Final Battle for Cumorah
Abstract: Review of Christ in North America (1993), by Delbert W. Curtis.
Clark examines the scholarship and logic involved in assuming a one-Cumorah theory for Book of Mormon geography.
Looking for Artifacts at New York’s Hill Cumorah
Abstract: Landon Smith gives an account of artifact hunting in the fields surrounding Hill Cumorah, near Palmyra, New York. He presents evidence that the archaeology of New York does not support the idea that Book of Mormon peoples lived in that region or that New York’s Hill Cumorah was the scene of the final battles between the Nephites and Lamanites.
Plausible Locations of the Final Battles
Abstract: Though evidence from the Book of Mormon is not conclusive, final battles of the Nephites and the Jaredites probably took place not far north of the narrow neck of land. As shown, the Nephites marched from Angola, through David, and eventually came to the city of Joshua (see Mormon 2:4–6). Nephite defense lines lay in Joshua for fourteen years; finally they collapsed, and Nephites retreated across the narrow neck of land, fleeing to various sites (see Mormon 2:16). The hill Ramah/Cumorah, upon which both the Jaredites and Nephites fought their last battles (see Ether 15:11; Mormon 6:4–6), is shown here on the northwestern edge of the Tuxtla Mountains in Mexico, about ninety miles from a narrow pass (see Mormon 3:5). Other Jaredite locations, including Omer's flight to Ramah (see Ether 9:3), are also shown here. Again, these locations are plausible, but not definite.
There are lots more beauties like these, but I have to include my favorite:*
Response to Jonathan Neville’s Two Books: Moroni’s America: The North American Setting for the Book of Mormon and Letter VII
As I've been saying since I attended the pre-launch open house for Book of Mormon Central in December 2015, all I ask is an equal, or at least fair, presentation of alternative viewpoints on Book of Mormon Central.
Another way to say it is all I ask is that Book of Mormon Central live up to its purported policy of neutrality.
Another way to say it is all I ask is that Book of Mormon Central live up to the Church's policy of neutrality.
I don't expect this to happen anytime soon, but hope springs eternal...
*To its credit, BMC did post the first edition of my book, Letter VII. But soon enough they added Joe Anderson's long attack article without even linking to my rebuttal, which is here:
It's probably a good idea for BMC to avoid becoming a forum for back-and-forth debate, but so long as they are intent on promoting only one proposed Book of Mormon geography, it's an unreliable source for serious students, investigators and members.