Tuesday, March 19, 2019

More censorship from part 1 of the M2C hoax

After my post yesterday, some people wondered if there are other examples of how Lucy Mack Smith's account has been censored.

One of the best-known books about Lucy's History of Joseph Smith was edited by Scot and Maurine Proctor.

Yesterday, we saw that Lucy quoted Joseph saying "As I passed by the hill of Cumorah, where the plates are, the angel of the Lord met me."

Recall, this was in early 1827, well before Joseph obtained the plates in September. The statement explains the true origin of the name Cumorah as applied to the hill in New York where Moroni put the plates in the stone box.

If you read the Proctors' book, pages 134-5, you will see that Joseph's statement is missing.

The Saints book also censored Joseph's statement, as have all the Church history accounts that I've checked lately, including Rough Stone Rolling, as we saw yesterday.

I realize this degree of censorship is difficult to believe. Such censorship is right out of George Orwell's 1984.

[That's a reference many younger people won't understand. Starting about ten years ago, my college students told me they had never heard of the book. Apparently it is no longer taught in high school, which helps explain why so many younger people are so easily fooled by fake news and hoaxes. Another topic for another day.]

Fortunately, censorship is difficult in today's world for those who seek the truth. You can verify what I'm reporting for yourself in the links to the Joseph Smith Papers and in the Proctors' book, as well as in Saints.

How do these revisionist historians get away with censoring Joseph's 1827 statement about Cumorah?

I'm going to show you.
_____

There are two versions of Lucy's history. The first one, the rough draft, she dictated to Martha Coray in Nauvoo in 1844-1845. Martha's husband Howard helped. Then, in 1845, Martha and Howard wrote a "fair copy" of the history under Lucy's direction. This was an updated, edited version.

The table below shows both versions of Lucy's history. If you look at the links to the Joseph Smith Papers, you can see where parts of the original 1844-1845 version were lined out and replaced.

The quotation of Joseph referring to the hill Cumorah in early 1827 is in the revised, 1845 version. The corresponding part of the old version was lined out.

But the Proctors, like the editors of Saints, used the older, deleted version instead of the updated one. 

Why?

All we can do is infer from the editing decision.

Normally, we would expect a historian to use the original author's updated, edited version, especially when the author lined out the original and replaced it with more detail.

In this case, both the Proctors and the revisionist Church historians reject the New York Cumorah. Rather than include Lucy's updated, specific quotation, they just deleted so their readers will never know about it.

This table shows how they accomplished this. The left column is the rough draft (1844-1845). The right column is Lucy's updated 1845 version. The print in black and red is the unused original of each version.

The lines through the type represent the text that Lucy deleted when she updated and revised her account.

The print in blue is the Proctors' version, which is basically what we read in Saints as well. You can see that they switched back and forth between the accounts to compose a single version that you can read in their book on pages 134-5.

You'll also notice that much of the blue is lined out. That's because the Proctors (like the editors of Saints) used the material Lucy deleted rather than her updated, revised version that included the Cumorah statement.

The passage in red is the key point about Cumorah, which the editors censored.

1844-1845 (rough draft)
1845 (revised by Lucy)
But to return to the <​first​> circumstance which I commenced relating he did not return home till the night was considerably advanced his Father and myself were together I no one else was present when he entered the house he seemed threw himself into a chair seemingly much exhausted he was <​as​> pale as ashes his Father exclaimed Joseph why have <​you​> staid so late has anything happened you we have been in distress about you these 3 hours 
But to return, he did not get home till the night was far spent. On coming in, threw himself into a chair, apparently much exhausted. My husband did not observe his appearance, and immediately exclaimed, “Joseph, why have you staid so late? has anything happened you? we have been much distressed about you these three hours.


As Joseph made no reply, he continued his interrogations until I finally said: now, father, (as that was the manner in which I commonly addressed him) let him rest a moment— dont touble him now— you see he is home safe, and he is very tired; so pray wait a little. The fact is, I had learned to be a little cautious about matters with regard to Joseph; for I was accostomed to see him look as he did on that occasion, and could not easily mistake the cause thereof.
after Joseph recovered himself a little he said Father I have had the severest chastisement that I ever had in my life


Presently he smiled, and said in a very calm tone, “I have taken the severest chastisement, that I have ever had in my life”. My husband, supposing it was from some of the neighbors, was quite angry; and observed,
Chastisement indeed! Said Mr. Smith Well upon my word I would like to [know?] who has been takeing you to task and what their pretext was its pretty well too if you are to be detained till this time of night to take lectures for your bad practises—



I would would like to know what business any body has to find fault with you.”
Joseph smiled to see his Father so hasty and indignant. Father said he it was the angel of the Lord. he says I have been negligent that the time has now come when the record should be brought forth and that I must be up and doing that I must set myself about the things which God has commanded me to do but Father give yourself no uneasiness as to this reprimand <​for​> I know what course I am to pursue an[d] all will be well.”
“Stop, father, Stop.” said Joseph, “it was the angel of the Lord— as I passed by the hill of Cumorah, where the plates are, the angel of the Lord met me and said, that I had not been engaged enough in the work of the Lord; that the time had come for the record to <​be​> brought forth; and, that I must be up and doing, and set myself about the things which God had commanded me to do: but, Father,’ continued he, ‘give yourself no uneasiness concerning the reprimand that I have received; for I now know the course that I am to pursue; so all will be well.”
It <​was​> signified to him when he should make annother effort to obtain the plates which was september 22 but at this time he did not make this known to us
It was also made known to him at this interview, that he should make another effort to obtain the plates on the 22d. of the following September; But this he did not mention to us at that time.


Here's a photo of the pages in the Proctors' book so you can verify what I'm showing if you don't have a copy.

This could all be a simple misunderstanding, of course. But readers should know that Scot and Maurine Proctor are the publishers of Meridian Magazine (https://ldsmag.com/), which has the nickname of "Mesoamerican Magazine" because of the way it constantly promotes M2C.

Whether it's a coincidence or not, their careful editing of Lucy's history just happens to censor an important part of Church history that just happens to refute M2C.

Just the same way as the book Saints does, sadly.

M2C is a hoax - Part 1

I'm repurposing the content of this blog to make it more accessible and more widely available. Until then, the next few posts will summarize my conclusions about the topics we've discussed on this blog.
_____

The bottom line: The Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs (M2C) theory is a hoax. 

That's not to say there's anything wrong with people believing M2C. People believe all kinds of hoaxes. I speak from experience because for decades I, too, believed the M2C hoax. 

In retrospect, it is apparent to me that I fell for it because I believed my CES/BYU teachers and didn't realize they were not giving me all the facts so I could make an informed decision. Most of them, probably, didn't know all the facts. Like me, they too had been trained by M2C promoters.

But intentionally or not, they were censoring material they didn't want me to consider because it contradicted their own belief in M2C.

And today, hundreds of thousands of LDS youth are being subjected to the same censorship tactic, except now it's even worse because they're learning the Book of Mormon in a setting of fantasy and mythology.

Today let's look at what people must do to believe M2C. 
_____

Every proponent of M2C has a serious responsibility. This includes:

1. the originators (the RLDS scholars who developed it in the late 19th century), 
2. the early adopters (the LDS scholars who embraced it over the objection of LDS leaders), 
3. the mainstreamers (the LDS scholars who took it mainstream in the 1980s)
4. the promoters (the M2C citation cartel and their employees)
5. the educators (the CES/BYU/COB employees who teach M2C with fantasy maps)

Every person in these categories is teaching people that the prophets were wrong.* 

This is not a contentious or controversial statement. It's just a fact. The M2C proponents all admit it; how could they not? And as fellow members of the Church, we accept them as faithful, devoted Latter-day Saints who, like us, love the Lord and want to share his Gospel with the world. We don't have a problem with their beliefs and teachings because we believe anyone can believe and teach whatever they want.

We just object to their practice of not informing their students and followers of all the facts, including this point:

The foundation for M2C is the premise that the prophets are wrong about the New York Cumorah.
_____

It's one thing for an academic to look at words on paper (or on a screen) and conclude that the author was wrong, based on the academic's expertise, experience, and the consensus of like-minded academics. Academics project their own thought processes on the historical documents. They apply their reasoning and their subjective interpretations, filtering history through their own confirmation bias.

But it's another thing to look at what those words represent.

The words that explain the New York Cumorah were not the product of people writing ignorantly, cavalierly, negligently, or deceitfully. 

The people who wrote and spoke about the New York Cumorah were people who recognized the importance of what they wrote and said, who spoke from experience and acknowledged their duty to God and their own responsibility for what they wrote.

In the October 2009 General Conference, Elder Jeffery R. Holland discussed the Book of Mormon and made this declaration: "and if he or she leaves this Church, it must be done by crawling over or under or around the Book of Mormon to make that exit."

Let's paraphrase that and say, "and if he or she rejects the New York Cumorah, it must be done by crawling over or under or around the prophets and apostles to make that rejection."
_____

Lucy Mack Smith
I'll give just one example today--Lucy Mack Smith. 

For over a decade, Lucy had responded to questions about her son Joseph Smith. When he was murdered, she dictated her account so it could be written for everyone to read. Today's historians, including the revisionist LDS historians, still rely on her account of Joseph Smith's early life as the most detailed we have.

They just censor parts they don't agree with. 

The prime example of this is the Saints book. Below is a passage they censored. Actually, they edited around this passage. 

[For those new to this blog, I posted a table of their editing tactics here: 
https://bookofmormonwars.blogspot.com/2018/09/why-saints-censors-key-history.html]

In her account, Lucy explains that in early 1827, Joseph came home late from a trip to Manchester and rested a moment before explaining what happened.

The fact is, I had learned to be a little cautious about matters with regard to Joseph; for I was accostomed [sic] to see him look as he did on that occasion, and could not easily mistake the cause thereof. Presently he smiled, and said in a very calm tone, “I have taken the severest chastisement, that I have ever had in my life”. My supposing it was from some of the neighbors, was quite angry; and observed, “I would would like to know what business any body has to find fault with you.”
“Stop, , Stop.” said Joseph, “it was the angel of the Lord— as I passed by the hill of Cumorah, where the plates are, the angel of the Lord met me and said, that I had not been engaged enough in the work of the Lord; that the time had come for the record to <​be​> brought forth; and, that I must be up and doing, and set myself about the things which God had commanded me to do: but, ,’ continued he, ‘give yourself no uneasiness concerning the reprimand that I have received; for I now know the course that I am to pursue; so all will be well.”
It was also made known to him at this interview, that he should make another effort to obtain the plates on the 22d. of the following September; But this he did not mention to us at that time.


This is obviously a big deal. Lucy quotes Joseph himself as identifying the hill as Cumorah even before he obtained the plates. He could only have learned this from Moroni, who was tutoring and preparing him. 

Parley P. Pratt corroborated this teaching by writing in his Autobiography that it was Moroni who called that hill Cumorah anciently, but the M2C advocates and revisionist Church historians censor his statement, as well.

The M2C advocates and revisionist Church historians censor Lucy's account because they think Lucy was wrong. 

They think she either made it up or confused it with a false tradition about Cumorah that arose later. A standard teaching of the M2C promoters is that Joseph Smith never identified the "hill in New York" as Cumorah. Instead, according to them, Joseph adopted a false tradition that was developed by unknown early Church members that assigned the name Cumorah to that hill.

Obviously, Lucy Mack Smith disagreed. 

If she was telling the truth, the supposedly "false tradition" actually originated with Moroni, and Joseph expressed it before he had even seen the plates.

The M2C advocates and revisionist Church historians, including the editors of Saints, recognize the conflict between Lucy's testimony and their theory of Book of Mormon geography. They don't have an answer except to say Lucy was wrong. 

And they don't want members of the Church to even know about what Lucy said.

I say the M2C advocates and revisionist Church historians should let members of the Church make an informed decision for themselves instead of simply censoring historical evidence they disagree with. 

You'll see this censorship everywhere. It's not limited to the M2C citation cartel. 

M2C has become so ubiquitous you can't trust anything you read, apart from the actual historical documents.

Censorship is one of the tragedies of the Saints book, but that's not the only example.

Even the wonderful book Rough Stone Rolling, the most influential biography of Joseph Smith which supposedly is fact-based and relies to a great extent on Lucy's history, censors her passage above.

First, the book accommodates the M2C "false tradition" narrative by stating that the hill was called "Cumorah" later, "from a name in the Book of Mormon."

"The hill where the plates were supposed to be buried stood about three miles south and east of the Smith farm and just a few hundred feet to the east of the main road between Palmyra and Canandaigua. Later it was called "Cumorah," from a name in the Book of Mormon."

Richard Lyman Bushman, Rough Stone Rolling, p. 45.

This is written in the passive voice--"it was called"--to avoid attributing the identification of Cumorah to Joseph Smith (or Moroni).

Here's how the book handles Lucy's passage. Notice what is quoted and what is paraphrased.

Page 56. 

When it grew dark and Joseph was still not back, the parents started to fret. At last an exhausted Joseph came through the door and dropped into a chair. For a long time he sat silent while his father plied him with questions. Lucy held back. "The fact was," she said, "I had learned to be a little cautious about matters with regard to Joseph, for I was accustomed to see him look as he did on that occasion, and I could not easily mistake the cause thereof." Finally Joseph said quietly, "I have taken the severest chastisement that I have ever had in my life." The angel had met Joseph on the road near Cumorah and warned him that he "had not been engaged enough in the work of the Lord; that the time had come for the Record to be brought forth; and that I must be up and doing and set myself about the things which God had commanded me to do." Joseph appeared calm. "I now know the course that I am to pursue, so all will be well."

The censorship is astonishing. Few readers of the book notice the subtle accommodation of M2C. I'm sure long-time readers of this blog see what's happening, but I'll spell it out for new readers.

Instead of Lucy's account, which has Joseph, in early 1827 and in his own words, saying "as I passed by the hill of Cumorah, where the plates are," Rough Stone Rolling paraphrases the passage by saying, "The angel had met Joseph on the road near Cumorah." 

This vague, paraphrased version supports the M2C version that the naming of Cumorah was a false tradition that arose "later," a false tradition that both Lucy and Joseph passively adopted well after the fact.
_____

My critics will claim that I'm blind to errors in Lucy's account. My answer is, she's like any other witness. We have to consider her credibility based on all the typical factors, including her capacity to observe the events she describes. In some cases, she relates things she heard from others, or makes assumptions about events she didn't personally observe.

In this case, though, she was present when Joseph returned from Manchester. She even remembered the look on his face (read the entire account in context). She didn't paraphrase what he said; she quoted him. These are all strong indicia of veracity.

There is no reason to reject her account except for an ideological agenda.

And there is certainly no reason to censor her account except for an ideological agenda; i.e., to promote, or accommodate, M2C.
_____

Now, let's think about the responsibility involved with those who reject and/or censor Lucy's account. 

In my view, Lucy deserves deference. Her account is not mere academic words on a page, the way it is treated by those who don't want to accept what she wrote.

When you study her life history, the sacrifices she made, and her devotion to the Restoration and the Savior Himself, it is inexcusable to reject her testimony for purely ideological reasons.

I ask every M2C proponent and revisionist Church historian to carefully consider what Lucy wrote at the conclusion of her history.

I shall leave the world to judge concerning what I have written as seemeth them good. But this much I will say, that the testimony which I have given, is true; and will stand forever. 

And the same will be my testimony in the day of God Almighty; when I shall meet them, concerning whom I have testified, before angles and <​the​> spirits of the just made perfect; before Arch-angles and Seraphims; Cherubims and Gods; where the brief authority of the— unjust man will shrink to nothingness before him, who is the Lords of Lords, and God of Gods.

https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/lucy-mack-smith-history-1845/325



_____
*Some readers might think the Gospel Topics Essay on Book of Mormon Geography settles this matter--i.e., that it announces that the prophets are wrong--but read it again. The essay simply lets people believe whatever they want, which is basic doctrine established a long time ago in the Articles of Faith. And notice that the essay asks Church members not to claim prophetic or Church support for their theories. I'm not claiming any prophetic or Church support for what I'm writing here. Quite the opposite: I'm seeking to support the prophets, not the other way around. I'm not asking for donations by claiming the Church supports my ideas, the way FairMormon, the Interpreter, and Book of Mormon Censor Central do.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Oliver Cowdery and M2C

I'm repurposing the content of this blog to make it more accessible and more widely available. People have asked for this for a long time and we're finally getting around to it.

I'll announce the new format in April, the week after General Conference.

The next few posts will summarize my conclusions about the topics we've discussed on this blog.
_____

Separately, I've started my series on The Next Mormons on another other blog, here:

https://dearlatterdaysaints.blogspot.com/2019/03/tnm-issue-1-personal-values.html
_____

People continue to make comments on this blog, but as I explained a long time ago, as the blog got more popular I started getting a lot of spam, and I don't have time to sort through comments to approve/disapprove them. Readers can email me and I'll respond individually or in posts here. (Actually, a lot of these posts are prompted by questions/comments from readers.)
_____

Before discussing President Cowdery, we re-emphasize that we love all our brothers and sisters, regardless of what they think about Book of Mormon geography or any other issue. The discussion is friendly with no animosity.

Everyone involved in this discussion has the same purpose of helping others understand and appreciate the Book of Mormon so it can be more effective in bringing people to Christ.

There is no cause for contention. The Church's policy of neutrality allows everyone to think whatever they want, consistent with the Articles of Faith.

All we seek is full disclosure for every member of the Church and everyone else interested in the Book of Mormon.
_____

Today I'll summarize the Oliver Cowdery situation.

Yesterday's Come Follow Me lesson included a portion of Oliver Cowdery's blessing to the original Quorum of the Twelve.

A lot of people haven't read it, so I posted it on my Letter VII blog here:

http://www.lettervii.com/2019/03/olivers-apostolic-blessing.html

It's interesting to note that Oliver wrote Letter VII (the essay that declares it is a fact that the Hill Cumorah in New York is the scene of the final battles of the Jaredites and Nephites and the site of Mormon's depository of Nephite records) in his capacity as Assistant President of the Church.

He wrote Letter VII with the assistance of Joseph Smith.

He wrote Letter VII just a few months after ordaining the original Quorum of the Twelve and a few months before receiving the priesthood keys from Moses, Elias and Elijah in the Kirtland temple (together with Joseph Smith).

Joseph had his scribes copy Letter VII into his personal history, where you can read it in the Joseph Smith Papers, here. Joseph had Letter VII reprinted in all the Church newspapers during his lifetime. Both of his brothers who served as editors of newspapers, Don Carlos and William, republished Letter VII in their respective newspapers.
M2C: the Mesoamerican/
two-Cumorahs theory of
Book of Mormon
geography


Yet the M2C intellectuals in the Church, all of whom trace their Priesthood to Oliver Cowdery, continue to insist that Oliver misled the Church when he wrote Letter VII.

Everyone needs to realize how powerful the M2C hoax is.
_____

It is not contentious or argumentative to share and discuss relevant facts about the origins and rationale for M2C.

The M2C rationale for disbelieving President Cowdery is that there are no extant records that he ever claimed a revelation about the location of Cumorah.

This was one of the rationales used by the scholars from the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when they developed the "two-Cumorahs" theory in the first place. (I'll show their work later this week.)

Those of us who still believe President Cowdery recognize that he and Joseph had lots of revelations they didn't record, such as the ones they mentioned here:

73 Immediately on our coming up out of the water after we had been baptized, we experienced great and glorious blessings from our Heavenly Father. No sooner had I baptized Oliver Cowdery, than the Holy Ghost fell upon him, and he stood up and prophesied many things which should shortly come to pass. And again, so soon as I had been baptized by him, I also had the spirit of prophecy, when, standing up, I prophesied concerning the rise of this Church, and many other things connected with the Church, and this generation of the children of men. We were filled with the Holy Ghost, and rejoiced in the God of our salvation.
74 Our minds being now enlightened, we began to have the scriptures laid open to our understandings, and the true meaning and intention of their more mysterious passages revealed unto us in a manner which we never could attain to previously, nor ever before had thought of. 
We don't presume to say what Joseph and Oliver did or did not have revelations about. It's simple: we accept what they taught. And they taught that the hill in New York is the Hill Cumorah of Mormon 6:6, in Letter VII and elsewhere.

Plus, we accept the statements of David Whitmer, Brigham Young, and others that Oliver told them about the times he and Joseph actually visited Mormon's depository of records in the Hill Cumorah. If true, Oliver would need no revelation on the matter. His personal experience there would more than justify his statement of fact about Cumorah.

Plus, we accept the statement of Joseph's mother Lucy that Joseph referred to the hill as Cumorah even before he got the plates.

Plus, we accept the statement of Parley P. Pratt, quoting Oliver Cowdery, that Moroni called the hill Cumorah anciently.

Plus, we accept the statements of every prophet and apostle who has ever formally addressed the issue, including members of the First Presidency speaking in General Conference.

Plus, we think the relevant sciences - archaeology, anthropology, geology, geography - support the teachings of the prophets as well as the text of the Book of Mormon (although not the M2C interpretation of the text).

We don't claim prophetic or Church support for any theory of Book of Mormon geography. Instead, we support what the prophets have taught.
_____

No one has to accept President Cowdery's statement or anyone else's. We're all free to believe whatever we want. We have no problem with people believing M2C or any other theory of Book of Mormon geography, including the BYU/CES fantasy/mythology approach.

We just want everyone in the Church to be fully informed of the facts so they can make informed decisions for themselves.

While we have no problem with people believing whatever they want, we think that M2C survives mainly because the M2C citation cartel continues to censor and reject the teachings of the prophets about Cumorah, while also claiming both prophetic and Church support for M2C.
_____

Next: the M2C hoax.





Friday, March 15, 2019

Writing to President Nelson - Correlation Department response

A lot of Church members write letters to President Nelson. He receives probably thousands of letters every day. As in any large organization, staffers open his mail and distribute it to appropriate departments for responses.

If you write to him about Book of Mormon geography issues, your letter is routed to the Correlation Department. I discussed this last year in a blog post, here.

I'm sure the anonymous employees at the Correlation Department want to do the right thing. Their form letter includes a personal section that acknowledges any specific circumstances people include in their letter. It's impressive how the Church works so diligently to serve the needs of the members throughout the world, even to the point of answering thousands of letters.

However, an attachment to the form letter lists statements by Church leaders about Book of Mormon geography. It appears that the Correlation Department employees got their information from the M2C citation cartel, mostly likely from FairlyMormon which uses the same quotations on its web page, also out of context and incomplete.

Consequently, the form letter is yet another exercise in censorship and misdirection, thanks to the M2C citation cartel.

If your only source of information is material approved by the Correlation Department, you will never learn what the prophets have taught about the Hill Cumorah. 

President Nelson has declared that "Good inspiration comes from good information." 

When the Correlation Department is not sending out good information, what results can we expect?

As always, I urge the well-meaning but apparently uninformed employees in the Church Office Building (COB), at CES, and at BYU to reject the censorship and misdirection foisted on them by the M2C citation cartel. 
_____

It is far better to give members of the Church all the relevant information so they can make informed decisions on their own. That's the only way to implement the official Church policy of neutrality.

Here is a table that compares what the Correlation Department sends out with what they should send out if they want to exemplify the neutrality position of the Church.

Anonymous Form Letter from the Correlation Department
(original in blue)
Suggested additions/revisions

(comments in black, suggestions in red)
Dear [Brother/Sister X]
Keep unchanged.
We have been asked to respond to your letter to [President Nelson, the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve, individual members of that quorum, etc.]
Keep unchanged.
As you are aware, much has been said and written about Book of Mormon geography over the past 180 plus years. Many have invested much time in trying to determine the precise location of sites noted throughout the Book of Mormon.
Keep unchanged.
As part of their research efforts, some have proposed their understanding of specific geography which they feel best matches the Book of Mormon record. However, to date, there is no official Church position as to the precise locations of the noted geography.
Here’s where the problem starts. The letter is confusing two separate, clear teachings of Church leaders. To be accurate, the letter should be revised along these line:

As part of their research efforts, some have proposed their understanding of specific geography which they feel best matches the Book of Mormon record. However, to date, there is no official Church position beyond the clear, consistent teachings of the prophets and apostles that:
1. The Hill Cumorah is in New York.
2. We don’t know for sure where the rest of the events took place.
During your research you may have also discovered that while several have made suggestions as to geographic specificity, neither the First Presidency, nor the Lord, Himself, have definitively revealed the precise locations of the geography and events under consideration.
During your research you may have also discovered that while several have made suggestions as to geographic specificity, neither the First Presidency, nor the Lord, Himself, have definitively revealed the precise locations of the geography and events under consideration, apart from the Hill Cumorah in New York.

In 1980, the entire First Presidency individually and personally endorsed a letter sent from their office which read, “The Church has long maintained, as attested to by references in the writings of General Authorities, that the Hill Cumorah in western New York State is the same as referenced in the Book of Mormon.”

The location of Cumorah was established by Moroni even before Joseph obtained the plates. It was formally published in Letter VII, written by President Oliver Cowdery in 1835 and republished in every official Church newspaper, often at Joseph Smith’s direction, through the Improvement Era. The New York Cumorah is also consistent with D&C 128:20.
The following statement from President George Q. Cannon seems representative. He said: “The First Presidency have often been asked to prepare some suggestive map illustrative of Nephite geography but have never consented to do so” (Gospel Truth, 476-477).
The following statement from President George Q. Cannon seems representative regarding locations other than Cumorah.

He said: “The First Presidency have often been asked to prepare some suggestive map illustrative of Nephite geography but have never consented to do so” (Gospel Truth, 476-477).
Additionally, President Russell M. Nelson spoke about the Book of Mormon saying: “Since President Monson’s challenge six months ago, I have tried to follow his counsel. Among other things, I’ve made lists of what the Book of Mormon is, what it affirms, what it refutes, what it fulfills, what it clarifies, and what it reveals. Looking at the Book of Mormon through these lenses has been an insightful and inspiring exercise! I recommend it to each of you” (Ensign, November 2017).
Keep unchanged.
President Nelson has also said, “I would like to add my testimony of the divinity of this book. I have read it many times. I have also read much that has been written about it. Some authors have focused upon its stories, its people, or its vignettes of history. Others have been intrigued by its language structure or its records of weapons, geography, animal life, techniques of building, or systems of weights and measures. Interesting as these matters may be, study of the Book of Mormon is most rewarding when one focuses on its primary purpose—to testify of Jesus Christ. By comparison, all other issues are incidental” (Ensign, November 1999, 69).
Keep unchanged.
We hope that this emphasis, noted by the prophet, will be a blessing to you as you continue your study of the Book of Mormon. We also hope that the attached document will prove to be helpful as you continue that study.
Keep unchanged.
[inserted note addressing specific personal concerns]
Keep unchanged.
We have copied your stake president on this response and invite you to visit with him further if you have additional questions regarding this or any other matter.
Keep unchanged.
May the Lord bless you in your lives. [unsigned]
Keep unchanged.


Attached document
 Attached document
Prophetic Statements on BOM Geography

President Russell M. Nelson

"I would like to add my testimony of the divinity of this book. I have read it many times. I have also read much that has been written about it. Some authors have focused upon its stories, its people, or its vignettes of history. Others have been intrigued by its language structure or its records of weapons, geography, animal life, techniques of building, or systems of weights and measures.

Interesting as these matters may be, study of the Book of Mormon is most rewarding when one focuses on its primary purpose—to testify of Jesus Christ. By comparison, all other issues are incidental."  [Ensign, November 1999, 69.]
Keep unchanged.
President Gordon B. Hinckley
The evidence for its [Book of Mormon] truth, for its validity in a world that is prone to demand evidence, lies not in archaeology or anthropology, though these may be helpful to some. It lies not in word research or historical analysis, though these may be confirmatory. The evidence for its truth and validity lies within the covers of the book itself. The test of its truth lies in reading it. It is a book of God. Reasonable men may sincerely question its origin; but those who have read it prayerfully have come to know by a power beyond their natural senses that it is true, that it contains the word of God, that it outlines saving truths of the everlasting gospel, that it came forth by the gift and power of God “to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ.” (Book of Mormon title page.) (Ensign, November 1984, 52)
Keep unchanged.
President Harold B. Lee
Some say the Hill Cumorah was in southern Mexico (and someone pushed it down still farther) and not in western New York. Well, if the Lord wanted us to know where it was or where Zarahemla was, He’d have given us latitude and longitude, don’t you think? And why bother our heads trying to discover with archaeological certainty the geographical locations of the cities of the Book of Mormon like Zarahemla?
The witness of the Book of Mormon is not found in the ruins of Central and South America. They may be outward evidences of a people long since disappeared. The real witness is that which is found in the Book of Mormon itself. [The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, 155- 156.]
This is a favorite quotation from the M2C citation cartel, so it’s not surprising the Correlation Department includes it here. I'm told that this statement is the guiding principle for screening material before it gets to the First Presidency; i.e., anything that involves Book of Mormon geography is diverted before it reaches the First Presidency. 

But as written, the quotation is misleading because it is taken out of context. This was an informal comment to Church educators, warning them against teaching false doctrine. I’ve discussed that here.

Providing the entire context may not be feasible in a short summary; if that's the case, the passage should be deleted. But if the Department wants to include this obscure passage anyway, and continue to omit the context, they should at least supplement it with another statement by President Lee that summaries the rest of the context of his informal statement to Church educators:

“Hugh Nibley apparently has no patience with the doubters as to the N.Y. Cumorah.”
President Howard W. Hunter
Faith is required for a divine reason. Faith is the assurance of the existence of a truth even though it is not evident or cannot be proved by positive evidence. Suppose that all things could be proven by demonstrative evidence. What then would become of the element of faith? There would be no need for faith and it would be eliminated, giving rise then to this query: If faith is the first step or principle of the gospel and is eliminated, what happens to the gospel plan? The very foundation will crumble. I submit that there is a divine reason why all things cannot be proven by concrete evidence. [Ensign, May 1975, 38.]
Keep unchanged.
President George Q. Cannon 
There is a tendency, strongly manifested . . . among some of the brethren, to study the geography of the Book of Mormon. . . . We are greatly pleased to notice the . . . interest taken by the Saints in this holy book. . . . But valuable as is the Book of Mormon both in doctrine and history, yet it is possible to put this sacred volume to uses for which it was never intended, uses which are detrimental rather than advantageous to the cause of truth, and consequently to the work of the Lord. . . .   

The brethren who lecture on the lands of the Nephites or the geography of the Book of Mormon are not united in their conclusions. No two of them, so far as we have learned, are agreed on all points, and in many cases the variations amount to tens of thousands of miles. These differences of views lead to discussion, contention and perplexity; and we believe more confusion is caused by these divergences than good is done by the truths elicited. 
   
How is it that there is such a variety of ideas of this subject? Simply because the Book of Mormon is not a geographical primer. It was not written to teach geographical truths. What is told us of the situation of the various lands or cities of the ancient Jaredites, Nephites and Lamanites is usually simply an incidental remark connected with the doctrinal or historical portions of the work and almost invariably only extends to a statement of the relative position of some land or city to contiguous or surrounding places and nowhere gives us the exact situation or boundaries so that it can be definitely located without fear of error.  
  
It must be remembered that geography as a science, like chronology and other branches of education, was not understood or taught after the manner or by the methods of the moderns. It could not be amongst those peoples who were not acquainted with the size and form of the earth, as was the case with most of the nations of antiquity, though not with the Nephites. Their Seers and Prophets appear to have received divine light on this subject. 
   
The First Presidency have often been asked to prepare some suggestive map illustrative of Nephite geography but have never consented to do so. Nor are we acquainted with any of the Twelve Apostles who would undertake such a task. The reason is that without further information they are not prepared even to suggest. The word of the Lord or the translation of other ancient records is required to clear up many points now so obscure that, as we have said, no two original investigators agree with regard to them. . . .    

For these reasons we have strong objections to the introduction of maps and their circulation among our people which profess to give the location of the Nephite cities and settlements. As we have said, they have a tendency to mislead instead of enlighten, and they give rise to discussions which will lead to division of sentiment and be very unprofitable. We see no necessity for maps of this character, because, at least, much would be left to the imagination of those who prepare them; and we hope that there will be no attempt made to introduce them or give them general circulation.   


Of course, there can be no harm result from the study of the geography of this continent at the time it was settled by the Nephites, drawing all the information possible from the record which has been translated for our benefit. But beyond this we do not think it necessary, at the present time, to go, because it is plain to be seen, we think, that evils may result therefrom. (Jan. 1, 1890, JI 18-19) (Gospel Truth, 476-477)
Keep unchanged, except include the full quotation, which I posted here. In the portions omitted by the Correlation Department, President Cannon gave specific examples of the problems. None of them involved Cumorah.

Informed readers can tell that President Cannon was clearly referring to speculation about geography beyond the New York Cumorah.

This is evident from his statement that ”The First Presidency have often been asked to prepare some suggestive map illustrative of Nephite geography but have never consented to do so. Nor are we acquainted with any of the Twelve Apostles who would undertake such a task.

Of course, Letter VII originated with the First Presidency in 1835 and ever since, members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve have affirmed the New York Cumorah in writing and in General Conference addresses.

President Cannon notes accurately that none of the Brethren who have reaffirmed the New York Cumorah have undertaken the task of preparing a map of Nephite geography. That’s because they are two separate issues.

The passage should be introduced with an explanation.

President Cannon was aware that members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve had consistently taught that the Hill Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 is the hill in New York from which Joseph obtained the plates. No members of those quorums has ever questioned or repudiated that teaching. However, members of those quorums, as well as other members of the Church, have entertained different ideas about other aspects of Book of Mormon geography. President Cannon addressed this separate issue with these comments.

There is a tendency, strongly manifested... [etc.]


President Joseph F. Smith
A Book of Mormon geography conference was held at Brigham Young Academy on May 23-24, 1903 President Joseph F. Smith gave the following counsel regarding the discussion on the location of Zarahemla:

"President Smith spoke briefly, and expressed the idea that the situation [location] of the city [of Zarahemla] was one of interest certainly, but if it could not be located the matter was not of vital importance, and if there were differences of opinion on the question it would not affect the salvation of the people; and he advised against students considering it of such vital importance as the principles of the Gospel." (Deseret Evening News, May 25, 1903, 7)


Note: The present associate editor of The Instructor was one day in the office of the late President Joseph F. Smith when some brethren were asking him to approve a map showing the exact landing place of Lehi and his company. President Smith declined to officially approve the map, saying that the Lord had not yet revealed it, and that if it were officially approved and afterwards found to be in error, it would affect the faith of the people. (George D. Pyper, Associate Editor) [The Instructor, Vol. 73, April, 1938, #4, 160.]
This is another example of the difference between the New York Cumorah and the rest of the geography.

In 1899, nine years after President Cannon published his comment about Book of Mormon geography, President Joseph F. Smith published Letter VII in the Improvement Era. This demonstrates that, from the perspective of the First Presidency, teaching that Cumorah is in New York is consistent with neutrality on the rest of Book of Mormon geography. That position has also been explained by other prophets.

This dichotomy between the New York Cumorah and the rest of Book of Mormon geography has been so well established by so many of the prophets that it is inexcusable to continue to conflate the two separate issues.

While serving as editor of the Improvement Era in 1899, President Joseph F. Smith republished Letter VII in the newspaper, reaffirming that it is a fact that the Hill Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 is in western New York.

He later reiterated the distinction between Cumorah and other Book of Mormon sites. A Book of Mormon geography conference was held at Brigham Young Academy on May 23-24, 1903 President Joseph F. Smith gave the following counsel regarding the discussion on the location of Zarahemla:

"President Smith spoke briefly, and expressed the idea that the situation [location] of the city [of Zarahemla] was one of interest certainly, but if it could not be located the matter was not of vital importance, and if there were differences of opinion on the question it would not affect the salvation of the people; and he advised against students considering it of such vital importance as the principles of the Gospel." (Deseret Evening News, May 25, 1903, 7)

Note: The present associate editor of The Instructor was one day in the office of the late President Joseph F. Smith when some brethren were asking him to approve a map showing the exact landing place of Lehi and his company. President Smith declined to officially approve the map, saying that the Lord had not yet revealed it, and that if it were officially approved and afterwards found to be in error, it would affect the faith of the people. (George D. Pyper, Associate Editor) [The Instructor, Vol. 73, April, 1938, #4, 160.]
President Anthony W. Ivins
There is a great deal of talk about the geography of the Book of Mormon. Where was the land of Zarahemla? Where was the City of Zarahemla? and other geographic matters. It does not make any difference to us. There has never been anything yet set forth that definitely settles that question. So, the Church says we are just waiting until we discover the truth. All kinds of theories have been advanced. I have talked with at least half a dozen men that have found the very place where the City of Zarahemla stood, and notwithstanding the fact that they profess to be Book of Mormon students, they vary a thousand miles apart in the places they have located. We do not offer any definite solution. As you study the Book of Mormon keep these things in mind and do not make definite statements concerning things that have not been proven in advance to be true. [Conference Report, April 1929, 15-16.]
This is yet another example of a member of the First Presidency who made a clear delineation between the New York Cumorah and the rest of the geography.

To provide this quotation without also providing President Ivins’ conference address about the New York Cumorah is misleading at best.

President Anthony W. Ivins

Reference has been made by the president to the acquisition by the Church of the spot of ground in the state of New York known as the
Hill Cumorah….

The passages which I have quoted from the Book of Mormon and the more extended discussion of this subject by Elder B. H. Roberts which was published in The Deseret News of March 3 definitely established the following facts:
That the hill Cumorah, and the hill Ramah are identical.

That it was around this hill that the armies of both the Jaredites and Nephites fought their great last battles.

That it was in this hill that Mormon deposited all of the sacred records which had been entrusted to his care by Ammaron, except the abridgment which he had made from the plates of Nephi, which were delivered into the hands of his son, Moroni.

We know positively that it was in this hill that Moroni deposited the abridgment made by his father, and his own abridgment of the record of the Jaredites, and that it was from this hill that Joseph Smith obtained possession of them.

This sealed portion of the record which came into the hands of Joseph Smith but was not translated by him so far as we are aware, with the abridgment made by Mormon, the record of Ether, and the other sacred records which were deposited in the hill Cumorah still lie in their repository, awaiting the time when the Lord shall see fit to bring them forth, that they may be published to the world.

Whether they have been removed from the spot where Mormon deposited them we cannot tell, but this we know, that they are safe under the guardianship of the Lord, and that they will be brought forth at the proper time, as the Lord has declared they should be, for the benefit and blessing of the people of the world, for his word never fails.

All of these incidents to which I have referred, my brethren and sisters, are very closely associated with this particular spot in the state of New York. Therefore I feel, as I said in the beginning of my remarks, that the acquisition of that spot of ground is more than an incident in the history of the Church; it is an epoch—an epoch which in my opinion is fraught with that which may become of greater interest to the Latter-day Saints than that which has already occurred. We know that all of these records, all the sacred records of the Nephite people, were deposited by Mormon in that hill. That incident alone is sufficient to make it the sacred and hallowed spot that it is to us. I thank God that, in a way which seems to have been providential, it has come into the possession of the Church.

I bear witness to you that the words which I have read here, quoted from the Book of Mormon, which refer to the future will be fulfilled. Those additional records will come forth, they will be published to the world, that the children of our Father may be converted to faith in Christ, our Lord and Redeemer, through obedience to the doctrines which he taught. May God our Father hasten that day, is my humble prayer, and I ask it through Jesus Christ. Amen.

(Conference Report, April 1928, 10-15)

There is a great deal of talk about the geography of the Book of Mormon. Where was the land of Zarahemla? Where was the City of Zarahemla? and other geographic matters. It does not make any difference to us. There has never been anything yet set forth that definitely settles that question. So, the Church says we are just waiting until we discover the truth. All kinds of theories have been advanced. I have talked with at least half a dozen men that have found the very place where the City of Zarahemla stood, and notwithstanding the fact that they profess to be Book of Mormon students, they vary a thousand miles apart in the places they have located. We do not offer any definite solution. As you study the Book of Mormon keep these things in mind and do not make definite statements concerning things that have not been proven in advance to be true. [Conference Report, April 1929, 15-16.]
Matthew Cowley
I would like to bear my testimony to you about the book which you are studying in the Relief Society, The Book of Mormon. I know nothing about archaeology. I have not studied the maps which apparently relate to The Book of Mormon, the travels of the Lehites, the Lamanites, and so forth. I know very little about the outside evidences of The Book of Mormon, but I have a testimony of the divinity of this book, and that testimony has come to me from within the two covers of the book itself.      
To me, archaeology, and all that archaeologists discover, which may in a way prove the genuineness of the book-these discoveries are lost in the spirit of the book itself, and if you can't find a testimony within the covers of this book, there is no need to look elsewhere. (Matthew Cowley Speaks, 110)
Keep unchanged, although it’s not clear why this quotation was chosen, when other quotations about the New York Cumorah are available in books written by Apostles that, unlike Matthew Cowley’s book, were actually published by the Church. These include Articles of Faith by James E. Talmage and A Marvelous Work and a Wonder by LeGrand Richards.
Mark E. Petersen
We have had speculation, for instance, on the part of some with respect to Book of Mormon geography, and it is plain, unadulterated speculation and not doctrine. And if a General Authority has speculated on Book of Mormon geography he did not represent the view of the Church while doing so. [“Revelation,” address to religious educators, 24 August 1954. (in charge to religious educators, 2nd ed. 1982, 137]
Elder Petersen specifically taught the New York Cumorah in General Conference in 1978, but the form letter uses this obscure quotation from 1954 against Elder Petersen himself.

Instead of the obscure 1954 quotation, the letter should use this quotation from Elder Petersen made in General Conference: 
"

Mark E. Petersen

Moroni's father was commander of the armies of this ancient people, known as Nephites. His name was Mormon. The war of which we speak took place here in America some four hundred years after Christ. As the fighting neared its end, Mormon gathered the remnant of his forces about a hill which they called Cumorah, located in what is now the western part of the state of New York... When finished with his record, Moroni was to hide it up in that same Hill Cumorah which was their battlefield. It would come forth in modern times as the Book of Mormon, named after Moroni's father, the historian who compiled it.

(“The Last Words of Moroni,” Conference Reports, October 1978)

The quotation from a 1954 private meeting, unless accompanied by Elder Petersen’s General Conference address, leads members of the Church to believe that Elder Petersen himself was engaged in "unadulterated speculation" when he spoke about the New York Cumorah in General Conference in 1978. That is inexcusable. Elder Petersen’s conference address, combined with the 1954 statement, reiterate the persistent, consistent teachings of the prophets that:
1. The Hill Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 is in New York.
2. We don’t know for sure where the other events in the Book of Mormon took place.

Any list of prophetic statements on Book of Mormon geography should include President Marion G. Romney’s 1975 General Conference address titled “America’s Destiny.”

President Marion G. Romney

In the western part of the state of New York near Palmyra is a prominent hill known as the “hill Cumorah.” (Morm. 6:6.) On July twenty-fifth of this year, as I stood on the crest of that hill admiring with awe the breathtaking panorama which stretched out before me on every hand, my mind reverted to the events which occurred in that vicinity some twenty-five centuries ago—events which brought to an end the great Jaredite nation.

You who are acquainted with the Book of Mormon will recall that during the final campaign of the fratricidal war between the armies led by Shiz and those led by Coriantumr “nearly two millions” of Coriantumr’s people had been slain by the sword; “two millions of mighty men, and also their wives and their children.” (Ether 15:2.)

As the conflict intensified, all the people who had not been slain—men “with their wives and their children” (Ether 15:15)—gathered about that hill Cumorah (see Ether 15:11)....

Thus perished at the foot of Cumorah the remnant of the once mighty Jaredite nation, of whom the Lord had said, “There shall be none greater … upon all the face of the earth.” (Ether 1:43.)

As I contemplated this tragic scene from the crest of Cumorah and viewed the beautiful land of the Restoration as it appears today, I cried in my soul, “How could it have happened?”...

The tragic fate of the Jaredite and the Nephite civilizations is proof positive that the Lord meant it when he said that this “is a land of promise; and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall serve God, or they shall be swept off when the fulness of his wrath shall come upon them. And the fulness of his wrath cometh upon them when they are ripened in iniquity.” (Ether 2:9.)"…

I bear you my personal witness that I know that the things I have presented to you today are true—both those pertaining to past events and those pertaining to events yet to come.

(“America’s Destiny,” Conference Reports, October 1975)

I hope this table is useful for the employees at the Correlation Department as well as every member of the Church who wants to make informed decisions about this topic.