Monday, December 24, 2018

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

I wish a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all the readers of these blogs. 2018 was awesome, and 2019 will be even better.

Many of the posts in this blog are prompted by readers who contact me by email. It's always great to hear from you.

People ask what I read, but that's too long a list. Here are some links I try to keep up with:

lds blogs:


Here's a link to the year-end review of a science web page I read regularly.


Here's a link to Ohio's archaeology blog:

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I'm traveling until January. See you then!
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For those interested, here's a link to my family's annual newsletter. 



Monday, December 17, 2018

Unsealing an indictment of M2C

In January, I'm going to unseal an indictment of M2C. It's a detailed and specific analysis of M2C, its history and development, the illusory nature of the "science" and "correspondences" cited by M2C, the rhetorical techniques used by the M2C intellectuals and their followers, and the impact of M2C on members and investigators of the Church.

Most followers of M2C are unaware of all of this.

Actually, most people who believe M2C are unaware of the teachings of the prophets. They don't know about the evidence from Church history and the sciences that support and corroborate the teachings of the prophets.

Even if the indictment does not resolve the issue of the location of the Hill Cumorah, at least it will help Church members and investigators make informed decisions about what to believe.

M2C is packaged as a common scam. That doesn't mean it is a scam, but it raises the question of why it is packaged as a scam. Promoters use censorship, misdirection, and sophistry to obscure their basic belief that the prophets are wrong and to confuse members of the Church. The promoters of M2C refuse to share a room with the critics of M2C. They refuse side-by-side comparisons. The indictment will make all of this clear for everyone to see.
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I planned to take a break from blogging over the holidays, but our M2C advocates and their followers continue to find new ways to persuade members of the Church to reject the teachings of the prophets.

Enough people have asked about the latest developments that I've agreed to respond.
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Last week Book of Mormon Central Censor published No-wise #493, titled "Why Should Latter-day Saints Beware Fraudulent Artifacts?" It's a good title, and it contains some good points, but overall the no-wise itself is deliberately misleading, as I discuss here:

http://www.bookofmormoncentralamerica.com/2018/12/no-wise-493-artifacts.html
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You'll notice in No-wise #493 that Book of Mormon Central Censor cites quotations from President M. Russell Ballard in such as way as to imply President Ballard endorses their views, including their repudiation of the teachings of the prophets.

Does anyone believe that President Ballard intended to communicate that message?

Look at what he actually said and decide for yourself.

The article is from the December 2016 Ensign titled "By Study and By Faith," which you can read here:
https://www.lds.org/ensign/2016/12/by-study-and-by-faith?lang=eng

Notice that President Ballard cited the example of President Marion G. Romney.

Book of Mormon Central Censor teaches its readers and followers that President Romney taught false doctrine in General Conference. Compare President Romney's General Conference address with M2C and you'll see this for yourself.

https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1975/10/americas-destiny?lang=eng

Does anyone think President Ballard intended to repudiate the teachings of President Romney?

I certainly do not. It's inconceivable to me to think that President Ballard would be teaching the Saints to disbelieve what President Romney taught.

Yet this is what Book of Mormon Central Censor wants you to believe President Ballard is doing.
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President Ballard gave an address at BYU a year later (Nov 2017) to further clarify the issue. You can read it here:
https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/m-russell-ballard_questions-and-answers/

In the BYU address, he said

If you have a question that requires an expert, please take the time to find a thoughtful and qualified expert to help you. There are many on this campus and elsewhere who have the degrees and expertise to respond and give some insight to most of these types of questions.

Let's ask, what questions require an expert?

Does it require an expert to read and understand Letter VII? To read and understand the consistent and persistent teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah?

Of course not.

Joseph and Oliver wrote Letter VII, and Joseph had it republished multiple times, precisely because it was so clear and easy to understand.

Here's what does require an expert: trying to persuade faithful members of the Church to disbelieve the prophets.

The M2C intellectuals and their followers have resorted to sophisticated sophistry to confuse and mislead members of the Church.

I don't think President Ballard wants us to consult experts who are trying to persuade us to disbelieve the prophets. Instead, those are the types of experts he warns us against.

His remarks surely are aimed at specialized topics that require advanced knowledge and experience to address.

I realize the M2C intellectuals claim they have been hired by the prophets to guide the Church, and they cite President Ballard's remarks to justify their position, but I think we're a long ways from needing experts to understand the plain, consistent teachings of the prophets, whether it's about the New York Cumorah or any other topic.
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Notice another comment President Ballard made. I hope everyone interested in Book of Mormon historicity and geography considers this carefully. We don't help the Brethren build up the Church, teach the doctrine of Christ, and help those in need when we start by telling people the prophets are wrong.

I worry sometimes that members expect too much from Church leaders and teachers—­expecting them to be experts in subjects well beyond their duties and responsibilities. The Lord called the apostles and prophets to invite ­others to come unto Christ—not to obtain advanced degrees in ancient history, biblical studies, and other fields that may be useful in answering all the questions we may have about scriptures, history, and the Church. Our primary duty is to build up the Church, teach the doctrine of Christ, and help those in need of help.

Fortunately the Lord provided this counsel for those asking questions:

Seek ye diligently and teach one another words of ­wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.5

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Origins of M2C - LDS prophets vs RLDS scholars

Many current members of the Church think the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory (M2C) has been around from the early days of the Church.

Here is one of the clearest explanations of M2C that I'm aware of:

BYU map depicting the RLDS teaching about Cumorah
that contradicts all LDS prophets and apostles
To return especially to the location of the original hill Cumorah: We find no word by angels or by the voice of the Lord that the hill where Joseph found the plates was the historic hill. No revelation in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants so designates it, and nowhere in his history did Joseph Smith write of it as Cumorah. In Times and Seasons volume 3, page 771, he says "stands a hill," and "this hill," and the angel told him to come to "that place" each year. At the final time he says that he went to "the place" where the plates were deposited.... 

I have no objection to that hill being also called Cumorah, with the understanding that the ancient hill Cumorah is still undiscovered, and that sometime its secrets will be revealed and come to the knowledge of God's people.... 


For thirty-five years I held the error about Cumorah, until Early Cothell, of Independence, took the blinds off, and then study made all plain to me. But there have been so many controversies that I have hesitated for years about writing on this matter for publication, although urged to do so. But now, because many are dissatisfied with the old theory, I present this article in the interest of truth, that error be removed and the truth be made plain....

You might think this is a quotation from the latest no-wise from Book of Mormon Central Censor, or BYU Studies, or another publication of the M2C citation cartel. Indeed, many of the writings of the M2C citation cartel are virtually identical to this passage.

Notice especially the emphasis on how "study" made two-Cumorahs plain. This is the M2C orientation; i.e., unless you are trained correctly, you can't understand the Book of Mormon or the teachings of the prophets.

Or perhaps you think this passage comes from the 1980s, when David Palmer, John Sorenson, FARMS, etc., made the M2C theory popular among Latter-day Saints.

In reality, this passage is about 100 years old.

It was written by Elder H. A. Stebbins, of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (RLDS), before he died in 1920.
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Today's LDS students and youth know little to nothing about the RLDS. It was a group that rejected the leadership of Brigham Young. They adopted this resolution in 1854:

No. 1. Resolved, That this conference regards the pretensions of Brigham Young, James J. Strang, James C. Brewster, and William Smith and James Wood's joint claim to the leadership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints as assumptions of power in violation of the law of God, and consequently we disclaim all connection and fellowship with them. 


Elder Stebbins served on the committee that compiled these resolutions, which you can see here:

The passage was quoted by L. E. Hills, another RLDS, who published it in a 1924 book titled New Light on American Archaeology.

You can read it yourself here:

https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=wu.89058377359;view=1up;seq=135

Notice that after quoting Stebbins, Hill went on to write, "I want later to take up the question of where Moroni was when he made the abridgment of the Jaredite record, and also show that he never left Mexico until he had completed that abridgment and nearly all of his writings."

Of course, this directly contradicts the teachings of every LDS prophet and apostle who has ever formally discussed the hill Cumorah, including members of the First Presidency speaking in General Conference.

Today's M2C intellectuals agree with Stebbins and Hills. 

They disagree with Joseph Fielding Smith, Marion G. Romney, Oliver Cowdery, etc.

The M2C cartel doesn't even want you to know what the prophets and apostles have taught, as we've seen over and over, with the latest example being the Saints book.
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This idea of "two Cumorahs" prompted Church Historian and Apostle Joseph Fielding Smith (JFS) to object. He explained that

Because of this [two-Cumorahs] theory some members of the Church have become confused and greatly disturbed in their faith in the Book of Mormon. It is for this reason that evidence is here presented to show that it is not only possible that these places could be located as the Church has held during the past century, but that in very deed such is the case.

A full discussion is here:

http://bookofmormonwars.blogspot.com/2016/10/joseph-fielding-smith-rejected-two.html
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For many people, the choice between Hills and JFS is an easy one.

If you're a proponent or follower of M2C, you think Stebbins and Hills were correct.

If you accept the teachings of the LDS prophets and apostles about the New York Cumorah, you think JFS was right.

Regardless of whom you believe, you can find plenty of evidence from archaeology, anthropology, geography and geology to support your belief. You can interpret the text to fit your belief.

That's why this whole issue boils down to whether you choose to follow the prophets or to follow the intellectuals who say the prophets are wrong.
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Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Grooming for M2C

Based on the inquiries I get, many people are still perplexed about the prevalence of M2C* in the Church today. This post is a quick summary for new readers.

Church members are perplexed because M2C directly and specifically repudiates the teachings of the prophets and apostles about the hill Cumorah in New York.

Promoters of M2C are faithful, well-meaning members of the Church who honestly think the prophets are wrong. These promoters teach that the prophets were merely "expressing personal opinions" but were wrong because they lacked the education to fully understand the Book of Mormon and the relevant sciences.

According to the M2C intellectuals, Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, and their successors were ignorant speculators who misled the Church about the New York Cumorah.

So we ask again, how did M2C spread throughout the Church?

There's a simple explanation.

The youth in the Church have been, and still are being, groomed to believe M2C.

It starts with portrayals of Mayan temples in books for primary-age children.

No matter where you look, images of Mayan temples are indelibly linked to the Book of Mormon.


Then, in Seminary, Institute, and at BYU campuses, students are taught to understand the Book of Mormon by reference to fantasy-world maps, designed to resemble Mesoamerica.

These fantasy-world maps imprint an interpretation of the text that was developed specifically to justify M2C.

These maps have the side-effect of framing the Book of Mormon as fictional, akin to The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, or any popular video game.

Throughout the Church, the teachings of the prophets and apostles about the New York Cumorah are censored.

The book Saints is merely the latest example.

The authors publicly admitted they created a false historical narrative to censor the New York Cumorah and accommodate the modern idea of M2C.

But Saints is not alone. The New York Cumorah has been censored from lesson manuals, Church media, Church artwork, etc.


You can still find the teachings of the prophets and apostles if you read the General Conference reports and the Joseph Smith Papers, but even there, the search software suppresses Cumorah so it's more difficult to find.
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M2C originated with scholars from the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who also claimed Brigham Young was a false prophet.

Over the objection of LDS leaders including Joseph Fielding Smith, LDS scholars nevertheless embraced M2C.

Even when members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve taught the New York Cumorah in General Conference, these M2C scholars taught their students the prophets were wrong.

BYU Studies M2C map
Intellectual support for M2C grooming was provided for years by FARMS. FARMS was disbanded, but the intellectuals behind FARMS created new organizations to promote M2C.

Now M2C is being enforced by BYU Studies, the Interpreter, FairlyMormon, Meridian Magazine, and other members of the M2C citation cartel.


Fine young LDS scholars, educated by BYU and/or CES, believe what they've been taught about M2C, and now they are helping groom their peers and younger people through social media.


An organization called "Book of Mormon Central," which I refer to as "Book of Mormon Central America" and "Book of Mormon Central Censor" (BOMCC), has a corporate goal "to increase understanding of the Book of Mormon as an ancient Mesoamerican codex."

To accomplish this goal, BOMCC has an extensive and aggressive fundraising initiative, seeking donations from members of the Church to promote M2C.

BOMCC has editorial policy of actively promoting M2C, while also censoring any alternative ideas, including the teachings of the prophets and apostles.
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The antidote to M2C, like the antidote to all kinds of problems, is the plain teaching of the prophets and apostles.

If you don't know what they have taught, you can start with Letter VII, an important explanation of the New York Cumorah from Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith. Letter VII is discussed here: http://www.lettervii.com/.
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In upcoming posts, we'll examine the intellectual genealogy and psychology of M2C. We'll also look at the underlying sciences and how real-world science supports the teachings of the prophets.

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* M2C is the acronym for the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory of Book of Mormon geography, which teaches that the prophets and apostles are wrong about the New York Cumorah, and that all the events of the Book of Mormon took place in a limited area of Mesoamerica.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Fun with censorship

Last week we were flying on Saudia, the airline of Saudi Arabia, between Jeddah and Riyadh, among other locations.

Each time we taxied before takeoff, they played a video of a prayer of Mohammed for travelers, which was pretty cool. The plane had a large prayer room at the back, with a digital map showing the direction of Mecca wherever we were flying.

Last Man Standing, with Arabic subtitles
We watched an episode of Last Man Standing and noticed that every so often, the audio (in English) dropped out.

They were censoring certain words.

I made a partial list:

church
pig
Christmas
Dear God
For the love of God
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On one level, it is understandable why the Saudi government would censor these words. The terms would be offensive to some Muslims. But the censorship portrays a false narrative.

The characters in Last Man Standing actually say the forbidden words because they are not Muslim. They are Christians living in the United States. Viewers of the censored version of the show see an inaccurate version of the reality of the characters.

Just like readers of the book Saints get an inaccurate version of the reality of early members of the Church. I discuss this in a new post here:

https://saintsreview.blogspot.com/2018/12/selective-standards-toward-historical.html
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Years ago, I had to submit films I made to the Saudi censors before they could be displayed within the country. Sometimes I had to make edits to satisfy the censors. I didn't mind doing so, but I wonder how effective such censorship is in today's world.

On one hand, the Internet makes information available everywhere (except in countries that still censor the Internet).

On the other hand, most people don't make more than superficial inquiries. They go to sources they trust, and accept them. If those sources engage in censorship, that censorship will be successful.

The M2C citation cartel knows this, which is why they continue to engage in censorship.

Especially Book of Mormon Central Censor.


Thursday, December 6, 2018

Employees make the decisions

A few months ago, I sent a suggestion for a comic to Scott Adams, who writes Dilbert. The comic came out last Sunday.

You can see it here:

https://dilbert.com/strip/2018-12-02

The comic explains how employees control organizations by limiting the options presented to the decisionmakers.

I think this comic explains why M2C* is so prevalent throughout the Church.

The New York Cumorah has been effectively censored for so long, it never merits consideration any more.

The book Saints is the latest expression of M2C.

The authors explained they censored Cumorah to create a false historical narrative present (i.e., characters in Church history who never heard of Cumorah in New York) specifically to promote modern ideas about Book of Mormon geography (i.e., M2C, framed as "neutrality").

The authors also claimed that the question of Cumorah never even came up in the years of writing and editing Saints. Supposedly no one even thought to accurately portray what early members of the Church believed about the New York Cumorah.

Just like in the Dilbert cartoon, decisionmakers involved with Saints were shown alternative drafts that all censored the New York Cumorah.

As a result, Saints insures that current and future generations will never learn what the prophets and apostles have actually taught about the New York Cumorah.
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Two facts exist:

1. The prophets and apostles have consistently and persistently taught that Cumorah is in New York. No prophet or apostle has ever rejected that teaching.

2. Most current LDS intellectuals and educators have rejected the teachings of the prophets and apostles about Cumorah in New York.

BYU fantasy map of Cumorah

M2C map of Cumorah in Mexico
Instead, these intellectuals and educators teach that Cumorah is in Southern Mexico, or else in a Mexico-like fantasy land (BYU and CES maps).







Recently, some LDS scholars have claimed that the modern prophets have hired them to guide the Church. They seem to think that justifies them in censoring the historical accounts so that Church members generally, like the decisionmakers involved with Saints, don't even have the option to make informed decisions.

In my view, it doesn't take an expert (or a PhD) to read and understand the teachings of the Book of Mormon and the latter-day prophets. 

What requires expertise is to use sophistry and semantics to repudiate the teachings of the prophets while claiming to sustain them.

Fortunately, efforts to censor the teachings of the prophets won't succeed. We can still read about the New York Cumorah in the Joseph Smith papers, in the reports of General Conference, and in the writings of the prophets and apostles.

The problem is, most people who have been taught M2C accept it at face value because they trust the employees to accurately convey the teachings of the prophets and apostles. Most people are shocked when they discover the degree of censorship that has been taking place.

I'm still hopeful that this will change. Eventually, people throughout the Church will learn what the prophets and apostles have taught about the New York Cumorah.
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*M2C is the acronym for the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory. M2C advocates and their followers have created a citation cartel (BYU Studies, Book of Mormon Central Censor, FairlyMormon, the Interpreter, Meridian Magazine, the old FARMS, etc.) that censors the teachings about the New York Cumorah. M2C is now being taught widely, including at the Temple Square Visitors Center, at the Hill Cumorah Visitors Center in New York, in the missionary editions of the Book of Mormon, by the fantasy maps taught by BYU/CES, etc.