Friday, March 27, 2020

Why keep talking about the New York Cumorah?

The title of this blog alludes to the wars described in the Book of Mormon, but the substance is the ongoing differences of opinion about Book of Mormon geography and historicity.

Framing the debate as a "war" is hyperbole, of course. Most Church members are not angry or emotional about their differences of opinion. They seek to understand and are interested in exploring the facts and various interpretations.

True, some people who have invested heavily in M2C get angry, but their bias is transparent, which destroys their credibility anyway. We can't expect employees of M2C advocacy groups to do anything but defend their employers. As Upton Sinclair said long ago, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

Some people want to see a cease-fire, which I'd be fine with if there were any casualties other than the egos of the M2C intellectuals and their followers. Instead, casualties from M2C continue to accumulate because it has become the de facto position of the Church. As such, people unfortunately attribute the logical and factual errors of M2C to the Church itself and lose their faith (or decline to continue with the missionaries).

Despite the bruised egos of the M2C intellectuals, I think it's important to continue to create a record, in print and on the Internet, of evidence that supports the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah.

In the future, when the prophecies are fulfilled, it will be important for the world to know that there have been faithful Latter-day Saints who accepted the teachings of the prophets all along.

The alternative is to remain silent as M2C further entrenches itself as the de facto position of the Church, only to be exposed as a hoax when the prophecies are fulfilled.

What prophecies, you might wonder?

Start with this one:

For new readers, here's a quick summary. There are three basic positions on these questions:

1. The Hill Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 is in New York as taught by LDS prophets.

2. The Hill Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 is elsewhere (such as in southern Mexico as taught by M2C intellectuals and their followers).

3. The Hill Cumorah does not exist in the real world (as taught by anti-LDS critics and the CES/BYU maps of Book of Mormon geography).

I accept alternative #1 and write blogs and books to explain why I disagree with #2 and #3.

When I started this blog, I actually thought there was a possibility of reaching a consensus of some sort among active LDS about this issue. By now, it's apparent that a consensus is unlikely, although I still discuss the possibility of consensus on the other blog:

Friday, February 7, 2020

Visiting Australia and preparing for the Second Coming

In the January 2020 Ensign, President Ballard wrote this:

The Lord is now preparing the world for His Second Coming, just as He prepared the world for the Restoration of His eternal gospel.

I'm wondering what that looks like. Does it have anything to do with the reality that everywhere in the world, people are becoming more prosperous, kind, loving, and happy? That's what the statistics show, and anecdotally I've observed these trends everywhere I've traveled over the last several decades.

I'm spending some time in western Australia right now. When we're not exploring new areas, I'm golfing every day and working on another book. Perth strikes me as one of the very best cities in the world in terms of livability, safety, harmony with the environment, emphasis on health and fitness, and generally kind people.

There are problems here, no doubt, arising in part from rapid economic and population growth in the context of cyclical trends for mining and other industries. But this city is exceptional in many ways.

There are about 15,000 LDS members in Western Australia in 4 Stakes and 1 Mission, all centered in Perth. Perth also has a temple. The LDS population is 0.62% of the total population of  the area (2.4 million inhabitants).

We attended a wonderful ward here last Sunday. I visited with the missionaries and a local member. I also visited with some of the workers at the temple. The results: pretty much the same as everywhere we travel. Awesome people, blaming stagnation in the Church on people being too comfortable in their lives to change their beliefs.

There are about 153,000 members in Australia, about the same as Florida (159,000), which has a comparable population (as of 2018).

Australia - 23,470,000
Florida - 21,300,000

Australia has an average of 505 members per ward/branch (224 wards, 79 branches as of 2018, a reduction of 3 wards and 3 branches from 2017, which was a reduction of 3 branches from 2016). Florida has 587 members/unit, but that could include part-time residents, of whom there are many. (In the overall U.S., there are 468 members/unit.)

Branches are smaller, so allocating members proportionately to wards and branches would mean there are at least 750 members per average ward here (assuming the membership numbers don't include a large "unknown" file). There were about 125 in attendance Sunday. I was told that the other ward that shares the building is "much smaller." One of the missionaries had recently been transferred from a small branch that had only 2 youth after one family moved away.

Twenty years ago, the average membership per unit was around 350. Generally, high per unit numbers mean high inactivity. (For example, in Chile, there are around 1,000 members/unit.)

I pointed out in another blog that, according to census records, the largest religious affiliation in Perth is None, followed by Roman Catholic, Anglican, Buddhism, Islam, and Hinduism. LDS come in 26th place, at 0.3%. This is well below Jehovah's Witnesses and Seventh-day Adventists.

All of this leads me to ponder what it means to say the Lord is preparing the world for his Second Coming.

President Ballard's awesome message about the preparation for the Restoration doesn't mention the Internet. We all know how much the Internet has connected people around the world. The other day we met a young man from Canada who lives near Ottawa. He was on a two-week "round the world" trip, stopping in every continent except Antarctica. We had lots to discuss because I've visited every place he's going, except for one city. He also wanted to hear about the week I spent in Antarctica.

The people in whose home we're staying are currently spending a few months in Germany. A guy I went golfing with a few days ago trades homes with people from around the world.

Everybody is connected, it seems, and that helps explain why people everywhere are more understanding, patient, and loving. Old prejudices are fading as people get to know one another. Language barriers are overcome with AI-driven translators everyone has on their phones. With some exceptions, everyone is tolerant and respectful of others' religions and cultural practices.

In my view, people everywhere are more prepared than ever to accept the Gospel. Then what accounts for the stagnant growth and activity?

We'll discuss this more in upcoming days and weeks.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Come Follow Me, one more time

As a follow-up to my post on the changes to the manual, I'm providing a link to an article that you might find useful, as well as an excerpt from Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

The article includes an important account:

After his presentation, a couple approached Perkins. “They were both sobbing, almost uncontrollably. When they were able to compose themselves, [the wife] admitted that she and her family are racists and have been racist all their lives. She mentioned that they use the N-word every day. She cried, ‘No one ever told us this!’” Perkins says. “She was ashamed of how she had lived her life up to that point, in how she had thought about, spoke about, and treated other children of God. I remember the penetrating words of her husband. He stated, ‘I value my word. And good people taught me those things, and I believed them and taught them boldly to others. I can’t believe I hurt so many people with things that were just not true.’”
That day, Perkins witnessed what he had seen on countless occasions—the way incorrect teachings or misinterpreted scripture can warp people’s understanding of the gospel and each other. But he also witnessed how the truth and our Savior’s grace can transform our understanding and our hearts—a transformation he knows from experience.

In like manner, many Church members (and nonmembers) have had the experience of realizing that incorrect teachings and misinterpreted scripture can warp people's understanding of the Book of Mormon.

Here is the excerpt from Benjamin Rush, published in 1773. You can find this on Wordcruncher, the software that I hope all my readers have and use regularly.

An address to the inhabitants of the British settlements, on the slavery of the Negroes in America. To which is added, A vindication of the address, in answer to a pamphlet entitled, "Slavery not forbidden in Scripture; or, A defence of the West India planters." / By a Pennsylvanian. ; [Fifteen lines of verse, signed Proteus]

Address to the inhabitants of the British settlements in America, upon slave-keeping
Rush, Benjamin, 1746–1813.
The second edition.
[2], 28, [2], 54 p. ; 22 cm. (8 vo)
Printed and sold by John Dunlap.,
Philadelphia: :
M,DCC,LXXIII. [1773]
Attributed to Benjamin Rush in the Dictionary of American biography.

SO much hath been said upon the subject of Slave-Keeping, that an Apology may be required for this Address. The only one I shall offer is, that the Evil still continues. This may in part be owing to the great attachment we have to our own Interest, and in part, to the subject not being fully exhausted. The design of the following address is to sum up the leading arguments against it, several of which have not been urged by any of those Authors who have written upon it.

Without entering into the History of the facts which relate to the Slave Trade, I shall proceed to combat the principal arguments which are used to support it.

I need hardly say any thing in favour of the Intellects of the Negroes, or of their capacities for virtue and happiness, although these have been supposed, by some, to be inferior to [Page 2] those of the inhabitants of Europe. The accounts which travellers give us of their ingenuity, humanity, and strong attachment to their parents, relations, friends and country, show us that they are equal to the Europeans, when we allow for the diversity of temper and genius which is occasioned by climate. We have many well-attested anecdotes of as sublime and disinterested virtue among them as ever adorned a Roman or a Christian character. But we are to distinguish between an African in his own country, and an African in a state of slavery in America. Slavery is so foreign to the human mind, that the moral faculties, as well as those of the understanding are debased, and rendered torpid by it. All the vices which are charged upon the Negroes in the southern colonies and the West-Indies, such as Idleness, Treachery, Theft, and the like, are the genuine offspring of slavery, and serve as an argument to prove that they were not intended for it.

Nor let it be said, in the present Age, that their black color (as it is commonly called) either [Page 3] subjects them to, or qualifies them for slavery. The vulgar notion of their being descended from Cain, who was supposed to have been marked with this color, is too absurd to need a refutation.—Without enquiring into the Cause of this blackness, I shall only add upon this subject, that so far from being a curse, it subjects the Negroes to no inconveniencies, [Page 4] but on the contrary qualifies them for that part of the Globe in which providence has placed them. The ravages of heat, diseases and time, appear less in their faces than in a white one; and when we exclude variety of color from our ideas of Beauty, they may be said to possess every thing necessary to constitute it in common with the white people..

It has been urged by the inhabitants of the Sugar Islands and South Carolina, that it would be impossible to carry on the manufactories of Sugar, Rice, and Indigo, without negro slaves. No manufactory can ever be of consequence enough to society to admit the least violation of the Laws of justice or humanity. But I am far from thinking the arguments used in favour of employing Negroes for the cultivation of these articles, should have any Weight.—M. Le Poivre, late envoy from the king of France, to [Page 5] the king of Cochin-China, and now intendant of the isles of Bourbon and Mauritius, in his observations upon the manners and arts of the various nations in Africa and Asia, speaking of the culture of sugar in Cochin-China, has the following remarks.—"It is worthy observation too, that the sugar cane is there cultivated by freemen, and all the process of preparation and refining, the work of free hands. Compare then the price of the Cochin-Chinese production with the same commodity which is cultivated and prepared by the wretched slaves of our European colonies, and judge if, to procure sugar from our colonies, it was necessary to authorize by law the slavery of the unhappy Africans transported to America.  From what I have observed at Cochin-China, I cannot entertain a doubt, but that our WestIndia colonies, had they been distributed, without reservation amongst a free people, would [Page 6] have produced double the quantity that is now procured from the labour of the unfortunate negroes."

"What advantage, then, has accrued to Europe, civilized as it is, and thoroughly versed in the laws of nature, and the rights of mankind, by legally authorizing in our colonies, the daily outrages against human nature, permitting them to debase man almost below the level of the beasts of the field? These slavish laws have proved as opposite to its interest, as they are to its honour, and to the laws of humanity. This remark I have often made."

"Liberty and property form the basis of abundance, and good agriculture: I never observed it to flourish where those rights of mankind were not firmly established. The earth, which multiplies her productious with a kind of profusion, under the hands of the free-born labourer, seems to shrink into barrenness under the sweat of the slave. Such is the will of the great Author of our Nature, who has created man free, and assigned to him the earth, that he might cultivate his possession with the [Page 7] sweat of his brow; but still should enjoy his Liberty." Now if the plantations in the islands and the southern colonies were more limited, and freemen only employed in working them, the general product would be greater, although the profits to individuals would be less,—a circumstance this, which by diminishing opulence in a few, would suppress Luxury and Vice, and promote that equal distribution of property, which appears best calculated to promote the welfare of Society.— I know it has been said by some, that none but the natives of warm climates could undergo the [Page 8] `excessive heat and labor of the West-India islands. But this argument is founded upon an error; for the reverse of this is true. I have been informed by good authority, that one European who escapes the first or second year, will do twice the work, and live twice the number of years that an ordinary Negro man will do nor need we be surpriz’d at this, when we hear that such is the natural fertility of soil, and so numerous the spontaneous fruits of the earth in the interior parts of Africa, that the natives live in plenty at the expence of little or no labor, which, in warm climates, has ever been found to be incompatible with long life and happiness. Future ages, therefore, when they read the accounts of the Slave Trade (—if they do not regard them as fabulous) — will be at a loss which to condemn most, our folly or our Guilt, in abetting this direct violation of the Laws of nature and Religion.

But there are some who have gone so far as to say that Slavery is not repugnant to the Genius of Christianity, and that it is not forbidden in any part of the Scripture. Natural [Page 9] and Revealed Religion always speak the same things, although the latter delivers its precepts with a louder and more distinct voice than the former. If it could be proved that no testimony was to be found in the Bible against a practice so pregnant with evils of the most destructive tendency to society, it would be sufficient to overthrow its divine Original. We read it is true of Abraham’s having slaves born in his house; and we have reason to believe, that part of the riches of the patriarchs consisted in them; but we can no more infer the lawfulness of the practice, from the short account which the Jewish historian gives us of these facts, than we can vindicate telling a lie, because Rahab is not condemned for it in the account which is given of her deceiving the king of Jericho.  We read that some of the same men indulged themselves in a plurality of wives, without any strictures being made upon their conduct for it; and yet no one will pretend to say, that this is not forbidden in many parts of the [Page 10] Old Testament. But we are told the Jews kept the Heathens in perpetual bondage . The Design of providence in permitting this evil, was probably to prevent the Jews from marrying amongst strangers, to which their intercourse with them upon any other footing than that of slaves, would naturally have inclined them . Had this taken place—their national religion would have been corrupted—they would have contracted all their vices , and the intention of Providence in keeping them a distant people, in order to accomplish the promise made to Abraham, that "in his seed all the nations of the earth should be blessed," would have been defeated; [Page 11] so that the descent of the Messiah from Abraham, could not have been traced, and the divine commission of the Son of God, would have wanted one of its most powerful argument […]​ to support […]​. But with regard to their own countrymen, it is plain, perpetual slavery was not tolerated. Hence, at the end of seven years or in the year of the jubilee, all the Hebrew slaves were set at liberty , and it was held unlawful to detain them in servitude longer than that time, except by their own Consent.  But if, in the partial Revelation which God [Page 12] made, of his will to the Jews, we find such testimonies against slavery, what may we not expect from the Gospel, the Design of which was to abolish all distinctions of name and county. While the Jews thought they complied with the precepts of the law, in confining the love of their neighbour "to the children of their own people," Christ commands us to look upon all mankind even our Enemies  as our neighbours and brethren, and "in all things, to do unto them whatever we would wish they should do unto us." He tells us further that his "Kingdom is not of this World," and therefore constantly avoids saying any thing that might interfere directly with the Roman or Jewish Governments: and although he does not call upon masters to emancipate their slaves, or slaves to assert that Liberty wherewith God and Nature had made them free, yet there is scarcely a parable or a sermon in the whole history of his life, but what contains the strongest arguments against Slavery. Every prohibition [Page 13] of Covetousness—Intemperance—Pride—Uncleanness—Theft—and Murder, which he delivered,—every lesson of meekness, humility, forbearance, Charity, Self-denial, and brotherly-love, which he taught, are levelled against this evil;—for Slavery, while it includes all the former Vices, necessarily excludes the practice of all the latter Virtues, both from the Master and the Slave.—Let such, therefore, who vindicate the traffic of buying and selling; Souls, seek some modern System of Religion to support it, and not presume to sanctify their crimes by attempting to reconcile it to the sublime and perfect Religion of the Great Author of Christianity.

[Page 14]There are some amongst us who cannot help allowing the force of our last argument, but plead as a motive for importing and keeping slaves, that they become acquainted with the principles of the religion of our country.—This is like justifying a highway robbery because part [Page 15] of the money acquired in this manner was appropriated to some religious use.—Christianity will never be propagated by any other methods than those employed by Christ and his Apostles. Slavery is an engine as little fitted for that purpose as Fire or the Sword. A Christian Slave is a contradiction in terms.  But if we enquire into the methods employed for converting the Negroes to Christianity, we shall find the means suited to the end proposed. In many places Sunday is appropriated to work for themselves, reading and writing are discouraged among them. A belief is even inculcated amongst some, that they have no Souls. In a word,—Every attempt to instruct or convert them, has [Page 16] been constantly opposed by their masters. Nor has the example of their christian masters any tendency to prejudice them in favor of our religion. How often do they betray, in their sudden transports of anger and resentment, (againsst which there is no restraint provided towards their Negroes) the most violent degrees of passion and fury!—What luxury—what ingratitude to the supreme being—what impiety in their ordinary conversation do some of them discover in the presence of their slaves! I say nothing of the dissolution of marriage vows, or the entire abolition of matrimony, which the frequent sale of them introduces, and which are directly contrary to the laws of nature and the principles of christianity. Would to Heaven I could here conceal the shocking violations of chastity, which some of them are obliged to undergo without daring to complain. Husbands have been forced to prostitute their wives, and mothers their daughters to gratify the brutal lust of a master. This—all—this is practised—Blush—ye impure and hardened wretches, while I repeat it—by men who call themselves christians!

[Page 17]But further—It has been said that we do a kindness to the Negroes by bringing them to America, as we thereby save their lives, which had been forfeited by their being conquered in war. Let such as prefer or inflict slavery rather than Death, disown their being descended from or connected with our mother countries.—But it will be found upon enquiry, that many are stolen or seduced from their friends who have never been conquered; and it is plain, from the testimony of historians and travellers, [Page 18] that wars were uncommon among them, until the christians who began the slave trades stirred up the different nations to fight against each other. Sooner let them imbrue their hands in each others blood, or condemn one another to perpetual slavery, than the name of one christian, or one American, be stained by the perpetration of such enormous crimes.
Nor let it be urged that by treating slaves well, we render their situation happier in this Country, than it was in their own.—Slavery and Vice are connected together, and the latter is always a source of misery. Besides, by the greatest humanity we can show them, we only lessen, but do not remove the crime, for the injustice of it continues the same. The laws of retribution are so strongly inculcated by the moral governor of the world, that even the ox is entitled to his reward for "treading the Corn." How great then must be the amount of that injustice, which deprives so many of our fellow creatures of the Just reward of their […]​.

But it will be asked here, What steps shall we take to remedy this Evil, and what shall [Page 19] we do with those Slaves we have already in this Country? This is indeed a most difficult question.’ But let every man contrive to answer it for himself. —

The first thing I would recommend to put a stop to slavery in this country, is to leave off importing slaves. For this purpose let our assemblies unite in petitioning the king and parliament to dissolve the African committee of merchants: It is by them that the trade is chiefly carried on to America. We have the more reason to expect relief from an application at this juncture, as by a late decision in favor of a Virginia slave in Westminster-Hall, the Clamors of the whole nation are raised against them. Let such of our countrymen as engage in the slave trade, be shunned as the greatest enemies to our country, and let the vessels which bring the slaves to us, be avoided as if they bore in them the Seeds of that forbidden fruit, whose baneful taste destroyed both the natural and moral world.— As for the Negroes among us, who, from having acquired all the low vices of slavery, or who from age or [Page 20] infirmities are unfit to be set at liberty, I would propose, for the good of society, that they should continue the property of those with whom they grew old, or from whom they contracted those vices and infirmities. But let the young Negroes be educated in the principles of virtue and religion—let them be taught to read, and write—and afterwards instructed in some business, whereby they may be able to maintain themselves. Let laws be made to limit the time of their servitude, and to entitle them to all the privileges of free-born British subjects. At any rate let Retribution be to done God and to Society 

[Page 21]And now my countrymen, What shall I add more to rouse up your Indignation against Slavekeeping. Consider the many complicated crimes it involves in it. Think of the bloody Wars which are fomented by it, among the African nations, or if these are too common to affect you, [Page 22] think of the pangs which attend the dissolution of the ties of nature in those who are stolen from their relations. Think of the many thousands who perish by sickness, melancholy, and suicide, in their voyages to America. Pursue the poor devoted victims to one of the West India islands, and see them exposed there to public sale. Hear their cries, and see their looks of tenderness at each other, upon being seperated.—Mothers are torn from their Daughters, and Brothers from Brothers, without the liberty of a parting embrace. Their master’s name is now marked upon their breasts with a red hot iron. But let us pursue them into a Sugar Field: and behold a scene still more affecting than this—See! the poor wretches with what reluctance they take their instruments of labor into their hands,—Some of them, overcome with heat and sickness, seek to refresh themselves by a little rest.—But, behold an Overseer approaches them—In vain they sue for pity.—He lifts up his Whip, while streams of Blood follow every stroke. Neither age nor sex are spared.—Methinks one of them is woman far advanced in her pregnancy.—At a little distance from these [Page 23] behold a man, who from his countenance and deportment appears as if he was descended from illustrious ancestors—Yes—He is the son of a Prince, and was torn by a stratagem, from an amiable wife and two young children.—Mark his sullen looks!—now he bids defiance to the tyranny of his Master, and in an instant—plunges a Knife into his Heart.—But let us return from this Scene, and see the various modes of arbitrary punishments inflicted upon them by their masters. Behold one covered with stripes, into which melted wax is poured—another tied down to a block or a stake—a third suspended in the air by his thumbs—a fourth—I cannot relate it.—Where now is Law or Justice?—Let us fly to them to step in for their relief.—Alas!—The one is silent, and the other denounces more terrible, punishments upon them. Let us attend the place appointed for inflicting the penalties of the law. See here one without a limb, whose only crime was an attempt to regain his Liberty.—another led to a Gallows for stealing a morsel of Bread, to which his labor gave him a better [Page 24] title than his master—a third famishing on a gibbet—a fourth, in a flame of Fire! his shrieks pierce the very heavens.—O! God! where is thy Vengeance!—O! Humanity—Justice—Liberty—Religion!—Where,—where are ye fled.—

This is no exaggerated Picture. It is taken from real Life.—Before I conclude I shall take the liberty of addressing several Classes of my countrymen in behalf of our Brethren (for by that name may we now call them) who are in a state of Slavery amongst us.

In the first place let MAGISTRATES both supreme and inferior, exert the authority they are invested with, in suppressing this evil. Let them discountenance it by their example, and show a readiness to concur in every measure proposed to remedy it.

Let LEGISLATORS, reflect upon the trust reposed in them. Let their laws be made after the Spirit of Religion—Liberty—and our most excellent English Constitution. You cannot show your attachment to your King, or your love to your country better, than by suppressing an evil which endangers the dominions of the [Page 25] former, and will in Time destroy the liberty of the latter.  Population, and the accession of strangers, in which the Riches of all countries consist, can only flourish in proportion as slavery is discouraged. Extend the privileges we enjoy, to every human creature born amongst us, and let not the Journals of our Assemblies be disgraced with the records of laws, which allow exclusive privileges to men of one color in preference to another. 

Ye men of SENSE and VIRTUE—Ye ADVOCATES [Page 26] for American Liberty, rouse up and espouse; the cause of Humanity and general Liberty. Bear a testimony against a vice which degrades human nature, and dissolves that universal tie of benevolence which should connect all the children of men together in one great Family.—The plant of liberty is of so tender a Nature, that it cannot thrive long in the neighbourhood of slavery. Remember the eyes of all Europe are fixed upon you, to preserve an asylum for freedom in this country, after the last pillars of it are fallen in every other quarter of the Globe.

But chiefly—ye MINISTERS OF THE GOSPEL, whose dominion over the principles and actions of men is so universally acknowledged and felt,—Ye who estimate the worth of your fellow creatures by their Immortality, and therefore must look upon all mankind as equal,—let your zeal keep pace with your opportunities to put a stop to slavery. While you enforce the duties of "tithe and cummin," neglect not the weightier laws of justice and humanity. Slavery is an Hydra sin, and includes in it every violation of the precepts of the Law and the [Page 27] Gospel. In vain will you command your flocks to offer up the incence of Faith and Charity, while they continue to mingle the Sweat and blood of Negro slaves with their sacrifices.—If the Blood of Able cried aloud for vengeance;—If, under the Jewish dispensation, Cities of refuge could not screen the deliberate murderer—if even manslaughter required sacrifices to expiate it,—and if a single murder so seldom escapes with impunity in any civilized country, what may you not say against that trade, or those manufactures—or Laws,  which destroy the lives of so many thousands of our fellow creatures every year?—If in the Old Testament "God swears by his holiness, and by the excellency of Jacob, that the Earth shall tremble and every one mourn that dwelleth therein [Page 28] for the iniquity of those who oppress the poor and crush the needy," who buy the poor with silver, and the needy with a pair of shoes, what judgments may you not denounce upon those who continue to perpetrate these crimes, after the more full discovery which God has made of the law of Equity in the New-Testament. Put them in mind of the Rod which was held over them a few years ago in the Stamp, and Revenue Acts. Remember that national crimes require national punishments, and without declaring what punishment awaits this evil, you may venture to assure them, that it cannot pass with impunity, unless God shall cease to be just or merciful.


Monday, February 3, 2020

update on Phoenicia

Long-time readers know about the Phoenicia expedition. Here's an important press release:
Replica Phoenician Ship Makes Landfall in Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Unprecedented 6,000-Mile Atlantic Voyage

Tuesday, February 4, 2020 at 12:
(Time is approximate due to sea and weather conditions)
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla., Jan. 31, 2020 -- Coral Ridge Yacht Club is set to host replica Phoenician ship, Phoenicia for its first U.S. landing after a five-month voyage of over 6,000 miles. The voyage is part of the Phoenicians Before Columbus Expedition, designed with the help of the US-based Phoenician International Research Center, to show that Phoenician ships could have crossed the Atlantic over 2,000 years before Christopher Columbus “discovered” the American continent.
The Phoenicia began its voyage from Carthage, Tunisia on September 28, 2019. After sailing from Carthage to Cadiz, Spain, Essaouira, Morocco and Tenerife in the Canary Islands, the ship left the Old World on November 23, 2019 and safely reached port in the Dominican Republic on December 31, 2019, having crossed the Atlantic Ocean using nothing but wind, current, sail and compass.
The Phoenicia will make landfall on American shores Tuesday, February 4, 2020, docking at Coral Ridge Yacht Club in Fort Lauderdale, Florida (2800 Yacht Club Boulevard). Viewing of the landing is open to the public. To reserve a space, call Coral Ridge Yacht Club at 954-566-7886.
“We are honored to host the Phoenicia and its crew at Coral Ridge Yacht Club, and to be part of this exciting moment in history,” said Commodore Pru Lewis. “We are also excited to welcome the local community to our Club to view this magnificent ship.”

The Phoenicia is a traditionally-built replica of a Phoenician merchant vessel, based on a 600 BC design. British Adventurer and Expedition Leader, Philip Beale FRGS, captains the Phoenicia, sailing with a multi-national crew with representatives from the United States, Lebanon, Tunisia, United Kingdom, Norway, Holland, Brazil and Indonesia. Amongst the crew is filmmaker Yuri Sanada from Aventuras Produções, Brazil. He is documenting life on board as well as the challenges the Phoenicians were likely to have faced. 
According to Greek geographer and historian, Strabo, the Phoenicians traded and settled along the East Atlantic coast, prompting Beale’s belief in the likelihood that the Phoenicians would have attempted to sail West in the hope of discovering more lands. Beale commissioned the building of the Phoenicia ship 12 years ago. It was traditionally built in Syria and its design was based on the wreckage of the Jules Vernes 7, discovered in the Mediterranean in the early 1990’s. The Phoenicia is believed to be the only replica of its kind in the world. Having already circumnavigated Africa in the First Phoenician Ship expedition (2008-10), Beale was once again at the helm for the cross Atlantic challenge; reiterating his passion for the seafaring Phoenicians. 

The Expedition has been endorsed by the Ministries of Information and Tourism of the Republic of Lebanon and received support, expedition supplies and services from numerous organizations in the Republic of Tunisia, prior to the launch of the Expedition from Carthage, Tunisia in September 2019. The Expedition is part of the United Nations Environment ‘
Clean Seas Campaign’, taking daily water samples to measure micro plastic levels and raising awareness about plastic pollution in the ocean.

A wide international following has already grown for this unusual and inspired endeavor. Some believe the Phoenicians made it to the Americas and look for genealogy and archaeological evidence there. Beale is focused on highlighting their engineering and maritime skills and hopes that one day his work will contribute to wider archaeological findings to inform a bigger Phoenician story. Phoenicians 
Before Columbus is approved by the UK’s Scientific Exploration Society and the expedition is the proud recipient of the 2019 Captain Scott Society’s ‘Spirit of Adventure’ Award.

The journey across the Atlantic from Tenerife to the Dominican Republic took 39 days, a distance of some 3,700 miles. From the Dominican Republic to Florida, the journey of 1,000 miles 
will take 12 days. Once completed, the total voyage from Carthage, Tunisia to Florida will have covered over 6,000 miles, taking five months to complete.
For more information or media inquiries, contact:
Roz Alford, Coral Ridge Yacht Club
Cell: 404-580-0387

ABOUT CORAL RIDGE YACHT CLUBFor over 70 years, Coral Ridge Yacht Club has beckoned to those who love the water, enjoy an active social life and who desire living life to the fullest. Established in 1947, the Club is located on Florida's famed Gold Coast along the Intracoastal Waterway and offers an escape into a tropical paradise. Mingling the traditions of old-world elegance with fun, fellowship and relaxation, this charming haven offers the magic of the true South Florida lifestyle, including award-winning cuisine, picturesque landscapes and an abundance of social activities and entertainment.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Changes in Come Follow Me

Some people wonder about the changes I mentioned in this blog recently.

The point of my post was that the manuals are not doctrine, they are subject to change at any time without notice, and even the Brethren don't always know what they contain before they are published.

I don't know why anyone would give credence to lesson manuals, books such as Saints, and other such materials regarding topics in which these things contradict the teachings of the scriptures, General Conference addresses, and original documents from Church history.

Web page links can change at any time, so if you couldn't find the links I provided, here are the two screen captures so you can see them.

The original manual:

The revised manual:

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Who reviews Church curriculum?

For years, M2C intellectuals, their employees and their followers have told me that the views of CES, BYU and COB employees are the views of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve because the Brethren review all of these materials.

If that's the case, then how did the Come, Follow Me 2020 manual on the Book of Mormon leave Elder Gary Stevenson “deeply saddened and hurt” by a section in the manual that, according to the Church News, included an error "referencing outdated commentary about race" that should not be in the manual (the commentary on 2 Nephi 5:20-21, which is on page 24 in the print/pdf version but has been removed from the online version)?

print/pdf version (as of today):

Online version (which has been edited to remove the outdated commentary):

Was Elder Stevenson the only one of the Brethren who was "deeply saddened and hurt" by the error? That seems unlikely, given the context of his address.

And, as you can see from the links above, the error was promptly edited in the online version and will probably be edited eventually in the pdf and print versions.

How did an error such as this show up in the most important Church manual of 2020?

The answer seems obvious to me. The CES, BYU and COB materials are prepared by employees who convey their own ideas in drafts that they send up the chain. Certainly there are General Authorities who review the work of these employees, but many of them share the same biases and beliefs as the employees.

Anyone who has worked in a large organization know that decisions made at the lower levels constrain the options available to decision makers.

We've discussed that before.

We see similar problems with the anonymous Gospel Topics Essays, the Saints book, and other curriculum.

For example, I doubt the Brethren specifically approved the errors in Volume 1 of the Saints book, such as the phony Mary Whitmer story that portrays Moroni as a shape-shifter. When he appeared to Joseph Smith, he was taller than average men, wore a robe, etc. If you believe the revisionist historians and M2C intellectuals, Moroni shifted his shape to appear as a short stocky old man with a very long beard.

According to Mary, the person who showed her the plates called himself Brother Nephi. According to David Whitmer, Joseph Smith said the person was one of the Nephites, meaning the 3 Nephites. This is all consistent, as we've discussed before.

But our revisionist historians and M2C intellectuals insist Mary and David and Joseph were wrong because they can't have one of the 3 Nephites taking the Harmony plates to Cumorah.

By now, we've all seen how Church curriculum teaches M2C. Some examples we've discussed on this and other blogs:

We have the BYU/CES fantasy maps which teach that the Hill Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 is anywhere but in New York where Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery said it was.

We have the Mesoamerican artwork throughout Church curriculum, the Ensign, and lesson manuals.

We have the Arnold Friberg painting of Mormon and Moroni at the Hill Cumorah in New York being removed from the missionary edition of the Book of Mormon and replaced with the painting of Christ visiting the Nephites at a ruined Mayan temple with Chichen Itza in the background.

See, e.g.,

Everyone understands that in a large organization, leaders have to delegate. They have to trust subordinates. Naturally, errors creep into curriculum, as Elder Stevenson pointed out.

The problem is when the subordinates have their own agendas, such as revising Church history and promoting M2C. That problem is compounded by people believing everything that shows up in a manual, the Ensign, the Gospel Topics Essays, etc.

The best solution is for each individual to prayerfully study and consider the source material. When that's impractical, you need to be very careful about delegating your own beliefs to intellectuals, even when they are employed by CES, BYU, or COB.

My advice: follow the prophets, not the employees.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Two scenarios - which do you believe?

2020 is the year of the Restoration in the sense of the 200th anniversary of Joseph Smith's first vision.

What will be the long-term impact of this momentous year? Will anyone outside currently active members of the Church care?

The answer will depend, to some degree, on what they learn about the Restoration.

One narrative is inspiring and has a long history of prophetic affirmations.

The other narrative is bizarre and academic in origins and nature.

Which do you think will be more persuasive and influential for people in the world?

The Restoration itself is a challenging concept for many people. It was unexpected by most of Christianity, but some people hoped and prayed for it. Some anticipated it. Most resisted and rejected it.

That's the situation today, even after 200 years.

Joseph's explanation that the angel Moroni guided him to the plates, the breastplate and Urim and Thummim, is straightforward and clear. The Book of Mormon, as well as the Doctrine and Covenants and Joseph's own statements, corroborated by Oliver Cowdery's statements, are consistent.

They all affirm that Joseph Smith translated the engravings on the plates by the gift and power of God, using the Nephite interpreters Joseph and Oliver called the Urim and Thummim.

For many people, the existence of ancient gold plates is difficult to believe but not impossible. Joseph Smith translating an ancient text is difficult to believe, but not impossible, given his four years of preparation and training, plus the months he spent with the plates, copying and translating characters before Martin Harris arrived to work as a scribe.

Joseph and Oliver stuck with their account their entire lives. Their faithful contemporaries and successors repeatedly re-affirmed that narrative.

Joseph Smith, not using
the Urim and Thummim
Then, about 15 years ago, a different narrative made its way into the Church. It is based on several statements made by, or attributed to, people who claimed to be witnesses to the translation. The statements claim that Joseph did not use the Urim and Thummim to translate the engravings on the plates.

Instead, he put a seer stone in a hat and read words that appeared. He didn't consult the plates, which sat under a cloth the whole time (if they were even in the room). He didn't use the Urim and Thummim.

The new narrative became popular quickly.

Except it's not a new narrative.

It's an old narrative, initially promoted by Joseph's fiercest opponents and, in more recent times, promoted by critics such as the CES Letter, the Tanners, and others.

Now, it's being taught throughout the Church. We see it in the Ensign, in Church media, lesson manuals, etc.

The new narrative is a direct conflict with what Joseph and Oliver taught. Some have tried to say that when Joseph and Oliver referred to the Urim and Thummim, they actually meant the seer stone.

But that idea contradicts the plain history.

The 1834 book Mormonism Unvailed described two narratives. In one, Joseph produced the seer stone by reading words that appeared on a stone in a hat. In the other, he used the Urim and Thummim, aka the spectacles or interpreters that came with the plates.

Joseph and Oliver repeatedly testified that Joseph used the Urim and Thummim. Never once did they state or imply that Joseph used a seer stone he found somewhere.

Put yourself in the position of a nonmember, or a member who questions his/her faith. Which one of the following scenarios is more believable?

1. Joseph Smith actually translated the ancient engravings on metal plates by using the Nephite interpreters (Urim and Thummim) prepared for that purpose.


2. Joseph Smith merely read words that appeared on a seer stone he put in a hat that functioned as a supernatural teleprompter.

It's pretty easy to compare the different approaches to Church history and Book of Mormon issues. The chart below offers some side-by-side comparisons.

Scenario 1
Scenario 2
Urim and Thummim
When Moroni hid up the abridged plates in the stone box in the Hill Cumorah in New York, he included special interpreters prepared by the Lord to translate the engravings on the plates. He told Joseph Smith about these, calling them the Urim and Thummim (U&T).
When Moroni hid up the abridged plates in the stone box in the Hill Cumorah in New York, he included special interpreters prepared by the Lord to translate the engravings on the plates. He told Joseph Smith about these, but did not call them the Urim and Thummim (U&T). W.W. Phelps or someone else came up with that name and Joseph and Oliver applied it retroactively when they related what Moroni told Joseph Smith.
U&T vs. seer stone
Joseph obtained the U&T and used them to translate characters. Then he used the U&T to translate the 116 pages. When the 116 pages were lost, he had to forfeit the plates and the U&T and lost the gift of translation. Later he received the plates and U&T back again, along with the gift of translation.
Joseph obtained the U&T and used them to translate characters, but it was more convenient for him to use a seer stone he had found in a well years previously. When the 116 pages were lost, he had to forfeit the plates and the U&T and lost the gift of translation, although he kept the seer stone. Later he received the plates and U&T back again, or maybe didn’t, depending on whom you believe, but it doesn’t matter because Joseph didn’t use the U&T anyway.
Plates vs seer stone
Using the U&T, he translated the abridged plates in Harmony, then the small plates of Nephi in Fayette.
Using the seer stone, he dictated the Book of Mormon text without referring to the plates, which sat nearby covered with a cloth.
Joseph and Oliver
Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery always said Joseph translated the engravings on the plates with the U&T. Others said Joseph did not use the U&T but instead used a seer stone in a hat. These observers apparently witnessed a demonstration of the process Joseph conducted to satisfy their curiosity, but not the actual translation because the Lord had forbidden him from showing the U&T and plates to anyone.
Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery always said Joseph translated the engravings on the plates with the U&T, but that was misleading because actual witnesses said Joseph did not use the U&T but instead used a seer stone in a hat. These observers told the world how the translation was actually done.

Joseph actually translated the engravings on the plates, using his own language as any translator necessarily does.
Joseph merely read words that appeared on a seer stone in a hat. The language is Early Modern English which long predated Joseph Smith and which he could not have known.
Title Page
Joseph said the Title Page was a literal translation of the last leaf of the plates.
We don’t know how he knew the Title Page was a literal translation or that the Title Page was on the last leaf of the plates because he didn’t use the plates.
Need for plates
Mormon and Moroni abridged the Nephite and Jaredite history so a future prophet could translate the engravings on the plates using the interpreters prepared for that purpose.
We don’t know why Mormon and Moroni abridged the Nephite record and gave Joseph the interpreters because he never used them. Instead he just read words that appeared on a seer stone.
U&T and seer stones two separate things
In 1834, the book Mormonism Unvailed identified the two alternative descriptions of the process. When Joseph and Oliver responded to that book in their first essays on Church history, they reaffirmed that Joseph used the U&T.
In 1834, the book Mormonism Unvailed identified the two alternative descriptions of the process. When Joseph and Oliver responded to that book in their first essays on Church history, they said Joseph used the U&T, but they really meant he used the seer stone.
LDS vs RLDS position on U&T
Joseph’s contemporaries and subsequent LDS Church leaders have always reaffirmed the account given by Joseph and Oliver. RLDS Church leaders and other dissidents denied Joseph used the U&T and said he used the seer stone in a hat.
Joseph’s contemporaries and subsequent LDS Church leaders have always reaffirmed the account given by Joseph and Oliver. RLDS Church leaders and other dissidents denied Joseph used the U&T and said he used the seer stone in a hat.
LDS scholars
In the last few years, LDS scholars have embraced the RLDS position and it has become widespread among LDS people.
In the last few years, LDS scholars have embraced the RLDS position and it has become widespread among LDS people.
Moroni and Cumorah
Moroni called the hill in New York “Cumorah.”
Moroni did not call the hill in New York “Cumorah.” Parley P. Pratt (or Oliver Cowdery) was mistaken about that.
Joseph’s first mention of Cumorah
Joseph referred to the hill as Cumorah after meeting the angel there months before he got the plates in 1827.
Lucy Mack Smith was mistaken when she said Joseph referred to the hill as Cumorah.
Letter VII
As Assistant President of the Church and with the assistance of Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery stated it was a fact that the final battles of the Nephites and Jaredites took place in the mile-wide valley west of the Hill Cumorah in New York. (Letter VII)
President Cowdery misled the Church when he said it was a fact. He was merely speculating and he was wrong when he wrote Letter VII.
Letter VII republication
Joseph Smith had his scribes copy Letter VII into his journal as part of his life history and approved the republication of Letter VII in the Gospel Reflector and Times and Seasons.
Joseph didn’t pay much attention to what Letter VII said and it doesn’t matter because he didn’t know anything about Book of Mormon geography anyway.
NY depository
—Brigham Young
Joseph and Oliver visited the repository of Nephite records in the New York Cumorah multiple times, as Brigham Young explained because he feared the truth would be forgotten.
Brigham Young misled the Saints about this because Oliver merely had a vision of this visit but it never really happened. And the vision was of a hill in Mesoamerica anyway.
NY depository —Wilford Woodruff
Wilford Woodruff taught about the repository of Nephite records in the New York Cumorah.
Wilford Woodruff misled the Saints about this.
NY depository
Heber C. Kimball
Heber C. Kimball said he visited the Hill Cumorah in New York and saw the embankments still around it. He also taught about the repository in the hill.
Heber C. Kimball misled the Saints about his.
Joseph’s contemp-oraries
All of Joseph’s contemporaries affirmed that the Hill Cumorah was in New York.
All these Church leaders misled the Church by repeating false speculation.
Later Church leaders
Every prophet and apostle who has formally addressed the Hill Cumorah, including members of the First Presidency speaking in General Conference, reaffirmed that there is one Hill Cumorah and it is in New York.
All these Church leaders misled the Church by teaching their own private, incorrect opinions as the truth.
Anony-mous articles in the Times and Seasons
In 1842, anonymous articles published in the Times and Seasons speculated that Mayan ruins in Central America were left by the Nephites. Joseph Smith was the nominal editor of the Times and Seasons but had little to do with the paper. He was also the named printer but he did not operate the printing press, either.
In 1842, anonymous articles published in the Times and Seasons speculated that Mayan ruins in Central America were left by the Nephites. Joseph Smith was the nominal editor of the Times and Seasons so he wrote or approved of the articles, even though they referred to ruins built long after Book of Mormon times.
Letter VII again
In the late 1800s, LDS Church leaders republished Letter VII and began seeking to purchase the Hill Cumorah in New York.
In the late 1800s, RLDS scholars determined that the hill in New York could not be the real Cumorah. Instead, the real Cumorah had to be in Mesoamerica.
Purcha-sing Hill Cumorah
In the early 1900s, the LDS Church purchased the Hill Cumorah in New York and reaffirmed its importance as the repository of Nephite records, the scene of the final battles, etc.
In the early 1900s, RLDS scholars published books to prove the New York hill could not be the real Cumorah. To reconcile statements from early Church history, there had to be “two Cumorahs.”
In the mid to late 1900s, LDS scholars adopted the RLDS position of two Cumorahs, with the real Cumorah in Mesoamerica, now known as M2C.
In the mid to late 1900s, LDS scholars realized the RLDS scholars were correct while LDS Church leaders were wrong.
LDS scholars taught M2C for decades, while censoring the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah.
LDS scholars taught the correct ideas of M2C for decades, while de-correlating the incorrect teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah.
The Church is currently neutral on the question of Book of Mormon geography but has not stated a specific position about the New York Cumorah.
The Church is currently neutral on the question of Book of Mormon geography, which means the living prophets have repudiated the teachings of the dead prophets about the New York Cumorah.
Evidence—North America
Evidence from archaeology, anthropology, geography and geology corroborate the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah.
Evidence from archaeology, anthropology, geography and geology demonstrate the fallacy of the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah.

Evidence from archaeology, anthropology, geography and geology in Mesoamerica has no connection with Book of Mormon descriptions.
Evidence from archaeology, anthropology, geography and geology in Mesoamerica has shows lots of correspondences with Book of Mormon descriptions, so long as you assume the Book of Mormon was not translated correctly; i.e., “horses” are actually “tapirs,” “towers” are actually “massive stone pyramids,” etc.