Wednesday, July 26, 2017

FairMormon conference preparation #1

FairMormon is having their annual conference on August 3-4. It will be held in Provo. I have a conflict so I can't attend. Plus, they somehow forgot to invite me to speak.

:)

I encourage people to attend their conference, or watch it over the Internet, so you can see for yourselves that I'm not making anything up regarding their teachings. You might find it a bit pricey--a one-day pass is $30.95 without lunch, or $42.95 with lunch, but for "S&I" it is only $10 for both days because they desperately want to maintain Mesomania as long as possible, and the best way to do that is through S&I.

Look at their agenda, on this page: https://www.fairmormon.org/conference/august-2017

I predict that they will teach the following:

1. The Church approves of Darwinian evolution
2. The best way to understand the Book of Mormon is by using an abstract map that puts Cumorah into a mythical video-game setting.
3. Cumorah cannot be in New York.
4. Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were ignorant speculators who misled the Church about Cumorah being in New York.
5. Mesoamerican history is basically Book of Mormon history because of all the correspondences between Mesoamerica and what the text would have said had Joseph translated it correctly.

At the end of the conference, I'll review these predictions. Hopefully, my predictions will have turned out wrong.

But I doubt it.
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In this preparation post, I'll point out why you should never refer people to FairMormon when they encounter anti-Mormon propaganda.

In this case, FairMormon responds to questions posed by "The Interactive Bible."

Response to "Difficult Questions for Mormons: Book of Mormon Geography"


Here's the link.

FairMormon purports do to "fact checking" that results in this typical conclusion:

FACT CHECKING RESULTS: THIS CLAIM CONTAINS PROPAGANDA AND/OR SPIN - THE AUTHOR, OR THE AUTHOR'S SOURCE, IS PROVIDING INFORMATION OR IDEAS IN A SLANTED WAY IN ORDER TO INSTILL A PARTICULAR ATTITUDE OR RESPONSE IN THE READER


Think about that in the context of FairMormon's overall editorial approach. Then read their response to questions about Cumorah on this web page and see for yourselves how they carefully avoid the most important parts of Letter VII and related material in their futile effort to preserve their Mesoamerican and two-Cumorahs theory.

FairMormon goes so far as to quote from one part of Letter VII to support the idea that Oliver supported a hemispheric model, without even mentioning what Oliver said about Cumorah!

In my view, the anti-Mormon writers are far more honest in their questions than FairMormon is with its answers. 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Why BYU/LDS Mesoamerican advocates align with anti-Mormons about Cumorah

As I've pointed out before, BYU Studies, FairMormon and the rest continue to promote the Mesoamerican and two-Cumorahs theories. Right on their splash page, they have a link to "Charting the Book of Mormon," a document that strongly promotes Mesomania.

Look at their page on "Plausible Locations of the Final Battles" here.

https://byustudies.byu.edu/charts/13-159-plausible-locations-final-battles

They show a map of Mesoamerica and then explain it this way:

The hill Ramah/Cumorah, upon which both the Jaredites and Nephites fought their last battles (see Ether 15:11; Mormon 6:4–6), is shown here on the northwestern edge of the Tuxtla Mountains in Mexico, about ninety miles from a narrow pass (see Mormon 3:5). Other Jaredite locations, including Omer's flight to Ramah (see Ether 9:3), are also shown here. Again, these locations are plausible, but not definite.
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What is not included on their list of "plausible locations of the final battles" is the place where Joseph and Oliver said it actually took place; i.e., the hill Cumorah in New York.

This is one of many examples of how BYU Studies continues to teach that Joseph and Oliver were ignorant speculators who misled the Church about the Hill Cumorah.
_________________

This Mesomania has significant implications. BYU Studies offers a comparison of "The Two Final Battles" involving the Jaredites and the Nephites, here: https://byustudies.byu.edu/charts/11-138-two-final-battles



Notice the row titled "how many." They want people to believe that 2 million Jaredites were killed at Cumorah and "around" 230,000 Nephites.

This is the same theory that FairMormon wants people to accept. Here, for example, FairMormon claims the Hill Cumorah must be "large enough to view hundreds of thousands of bodies."

These are exactly the same claims made by anti-Mormons to undermine faith in the Book of Mormon. 

And Oliver Cowdery addressed these false claims way back in 1835.

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Oliver explained that Mormon foresaw the approaching destruction and its parallel to the Jaredite destruction in the same place. Speaking from Mormon's perspective, and after describing the mile-wide valley west of the Hill Cumorah, Oliver wrote:

"In this vale lie commingled, in one mass of ruin the ashes of thousands, and in this vale was destined to consume the fair forms and vigerous systems of tens of thousands of the human race—blood mixed with blood, flesh with flesh, bones with bones and dust with dust!"

Oliver described the remains of the Jaredites as "the ashes of thousands." Not millions, but thousands. Not even tens of thousands. Just thousands.

When we read the Book of Mormon carefully, we recognize that Oliver was correct. The 8-day Jaredite battle at Cumorah could not have involved more than a few thousand, as we see from the count of the actual number killed on the last two days. Coriantumr realized that two million of his people had been killed long before they reached Ramah, or Cumorah. (Ether 13) There were additional battles leading up to Cumorah. Even after four years, they could gather only a relatively few people to Cumorah, so few that after six days of battle, there were only 121 people left. The next day, there were only 59 left. Even if we assume that half the people were killed each day, that calculates to about 7,744 on the first day of battle.

Hence, Oliver wrote that there were the "ashes of thousands," not even tens of thousands.

Same with the Nephites.

Oliver says "tens of thousands" were to be killed, including Lamanites and Nephites. 

Mormon said he could see 20,000 from the top of Cumorah. (Mormon 6:11-12). The rest of his people, the ones Mormon lists in verses 13-15, had died long before the final battle at Cumorah. Mormon and Moroni could not see those dead people from Cumorah. Let's say an equivalent number of Lamanites were killed. That totals 40,000. This fits the "tens of thousands" Oliver mentioned.

You can read this right out of Joseph Smith's own history, titled History, 1834-1836, which is found in the Joseph Smith Papers here: http://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/history-1834-1836/83. The portion I quoted is from this page: http://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/history-1834-1836/92

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There are two important keys here.

First key: Mesoamerican advocates and anti-Mormons make the same claims, albeit for different reasons.

Estimates based on the text and what Oliver and Joseph said:

Jaredites: under 10,000
Nephites and Lamanites: tens of thousands.

Estimates based on the claims of Mesoamerican advocates and anti-Mormons:

Jaredites: 2 million
Nephites and Lamanites: hundreds of thousands.

The anti-Mormons like the large numbers because there are no known locations anywhere in the Western Hemisphere where there is evidence of hundreds of thousands of people being killed at a single site, let alone 2 million.

The Mesoamerican advocates like the large numbers because they think this excludes the New York hill as a "plausible" candidate for Cumorah, which is one of the foundations of their "two-Cumorahs" theory. They think Cumorah must be a huge volcanic mountain somewhere in Mexico, large enough to accommodate these large numbers of people.

Second key: what evidence should we expect to find at Cumorah? 

Our assumptions make a big difference. The smaller numbers would lead us to conclude that the New York hill fits just fine; i.e., we don't need a massive mountain somewhere upon which 2 million people could fight and die. We don't even need a place where hundreds of thousands of people could fight and die. And we wouldn't expect to find evidence of such mass destruction.

What we do have in western New York is a series of small forts and defensive positions, mass graves containing hundreds, but not thousands, of bodies, and in the vicinity of the hill Cumorah itself, decades of farmers plowing up arrowheads, ax heads, and similar stone weapons which they gave away or sold to tourists. Just a few years ago a Jaredite era arrowhead was found on top of the Hill Cumorah, not far from the parking area. All of this is consistent with the tens of thousands of people killed, but not the hundreds of thousands claimed by anti-Mormons and Mesoamerican two-Cumorahs advocates.

By comparison, consider the famous Battle of Hastings, which was relatively recent (1066). The battle changed the course of British history. 10,000 men were said to have died there, in a specific spot of England that was well documented and known ever since. They found one skeleton that might be related to the battle, as explained here. The article says, "No bones have previously been discovered of anyone who fought and died during the historic event.... The Norman invaders were thought to have buried their dead in a mass grave. Although no grave pits of the Normans have been found, it is believed that this is due to the high acidity of the soil, which means all the remains have long deteriorated."

There are ongoing debates about even the location of the battle. E.g., here and here.



Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Noel Reynolds and authorship

LDS Living published an article about Noel Reynolds and his article that explains Joseph Smith did not write the Lectures on Faith. You can see it here: http://www.ldsliving.com/Former-BYU-Professor-Shares-Evidence-the-Lectures-on-Faith-Were-Not-Written-by-Joseph-Smith/s/85893

I agree with Reynolds' assessment. I've always liked his work.

Here's a key passage from the LDS Living article:

Reynolds says there's evidence to suggest that [Sidney] Rigdon was the book's author. 
For instance, Reynolds's asserts there is no proof Joseph Smith ever even looked at the lectures, the only statement that he did so was made by a secretary trying to fill 18 months worth of missing daily records from Joseph Smith's life, with no first-hand accounts of Joseph Smith actually looking at the lectures or writing them. 

"The second thing we can look at is did Joseph use the lectures, did he claim them, did he quote them, did he teach from them, did he ever repeat these teachings? The answer to that is no, not once," Reynolds says. 

Though the author for Lectures on Faith remains to be known on the book cover as Joseph Smith, Reynolds holds to the evidence he has brought forward that it may, in fact, be Rigdon. 
____________

This is fascinating for three reasons.

First, the methodology Brother Reynolds used--comparing the Lectures on Faith with the respective writings of Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon--is the same methodology I used to figure out who wrote the anonymous articles in the 1842 Times and Seasons that were the origin for the Mesoamerican theory. That methodology led me to Benjamin Winchester, as I explained in my books The Lost City of Zarahemla, Brought to Light, and The Editors: Joseph, William and Don Carlos Smith.

Second, Brother Reynolds looked at Joseph's use of the lectures. His conclusion, which I bolded above, applies equally to the anonymous Mesoamerican articles. There is no proof Joseph Smith ever even looked at these articles (or the Stephens books they quoted), he never claimed them, he never quoted them, he never taught from them, and he never repeated them. In fact, not once did Joseph Smith ever link the Book of Mormon to any geography outside of North America.

Third, I'm informed that Brother Reynolds is a strong supporter of the Mesoamerican and two-Cumorahs theory. Maybe I'm wrong and I'd like to know if I am.

This is especially ironic because the exact same misattribution that took place with the Lectures on Faith also took place with the Mesoamerican articles upon which the Mesomania scholars and educators rely.

If Brother Reynolds and other Mesomania scholars and educators applied the same methodology to the Times and Seasons as they applied to the Lectures on Faith, no one would be promoting the two-Cumorahs and Mesoamerican theories any more.






Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Mormon's repository in Cumorah explained in Letter VII

I posted must-see comments on Mormon's repository here:

http://www.lettervii.com/2017/07/mormons-repository-in-cumorah-explained.html

Columbus reconsidered

The Columbus narrative articulated by FairMormon and others claims Nephi was referring to Columbus when he wrote what is now 1 Nephi 13. I think there are other possibilities, as I've discussed before, but here's another thing to consider.
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In 1 Nephi 18, Nephi describes his voyage across the sea and his arrival in the "promised land."

22 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, did guide the ship, that we sailed again towards the promised land.

23 And it came to pass that after we had sailed for the space of many days we did arrive at the promised land; and we went forth upon the land, and did pitch our tents; and we did call it the promised land.
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Now, compare this to how he describes "Columbus" in 1 Nephi 13:

12 And I looked and beheld a man among the Gentiles, who was separated from the seed of my brethren by the many waters; and I beheld the Spirit of God, that it came down and wrought upon the man; and he went forth upon the many waters, even unto the seed of my brethren, who were in the promised land.

13 And it came to pass that I beheld the Spirit of God, that it wrought upon other Gentiles; and they went forth out of captivity, upon the many waters.

IOW, both Nephi and the "man among the Gentiles" sailed to "the promised land."

What if they went to the same region?
__________________

Here's a map showing Columbus' route of discovery. Nephi does not describe the "man among the Gentiles" making multiple voyages. He refers only to the first voyage that took him to "the seed of my brethren, who were in the promised land." For that reason, I focus on the first voyage.

The green line in the map is Columbus first journey to the Americas. The pink line is his route home. The yellow line is the route of the Mulekites from Moroni's America. The orange line is Lehi's route from Moroni's America.


I think Lehi landed in Florida for all the reasons I've explained in Moroni's America. He may have sailed south of Cuba to get there because of ocean currents and wind, but it's interesting that Mulek, Lehi and Columbus converge on the same areas.

Of course, the first people Columbus encountered were from Florida (they had inhabited the Bahamas). So if you want to believe Columbus was the man identified by Nephi, then the first people he encountered were not from Mesoamerica or South America; they were from North America, not far from where Lehi originally landed (in Florida).

If you have Mesomania, you'll ignore Columbus' first voyage, the only one Nephi described, and instead focus on his later voyages where he sailed along the coast of Honduras. Then you'll say Honduras is "close enough" to Guatemala and southern Mexico.

You'll also claim that although Lehi landed on the west coast of Central America (or Chile, or Baja, or Panama), and Columbus sailed by the east coast, they both went to the same promised land.

For me, Nephi's description makes far more sense if Lehi, Mulek, and Columbus converged on the same basic place in the Caribbean. I even think Nephi's vision of "Columbus," which he had before they left the old world, helped him recognize the promised land once he arrived there.

But that's just me.

:)

Monday, July 17, 2017

The official position of the Church - part 3 (FairMormon and Letter VII)

I have to preface this by clarifying that I don't like being the bearer of bad news. I think there's a serious need for a website such as FairMormon that would be truly honest and open (and neutral about Book of Mormon geography). But as I'll show here, FairMormon is anything but that.

It's unbelievable to me that a web site that has spent so much time and effort to explain Church-related issues would continue to promote the idea that Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were ignorant speculators who misled the Church about something so basic as the New York Cumorah.

It's a shame, really, but it is what it is.

If you go to FairMormon and search for "Letter VII" you get 11 hits, none of which quote from Letter VII except for

1. the Messenger and Advocate page that reproduces the entire newspaper and

2. the passage and commentary in the section below, which is quoted in two of their web pages:
___________________

Oliver Cowdery (Jul 1835): "A history of the inhabitants who peopled this continent, previous to its being discovered to Europeans by Columbus"

Oliver Cowdery to W.W. Phelps in Messenger and Advocate
A history of the inhabitants who peopled this continent, previous to its being discovered to Europeans by Columbus, must be interesting to every man; and as it would develope the important fact, that the present race were descendants of Abraham....[1]
Note that "this continent" refers to both North and South America; Columbus never set foot in the present day United States; he was confined to the CaribbeanSouth America, and Central America.(Click here for maps of Columbus' voyages.)

Notes


  1. Jump up Oliver Cowdery to W. W. Phelps, "Letter VII," (July 1835) Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate 1:155-159. off-site

https://www.fairmormon.org/answers/Source:Oliver_Cowdery:Jul_1835:A_history_of_the_inhabitants_who_peopled_this_continent,_previous_to_its_being_discovered_to_Europeans_by_Columbus
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This is fascinating for several reasons.

1. It shows that FairMormon can quote from Letter VII but chooses not to whenever Oliver and Joseph disagree with FairMormon's editorial Mesomania. On the very next page from this quotation about Columbus, Letter VII explains that it was a fact that between the Hill Cumorah and the ridge a mile to the west, "the entire power and national strength of both the Jaredites and Nephites were destroyed." That passage and the rest of Letter VII FairMormon does not want anyone to see because it repudiates their "two-Cumorahs" and Mesoamerican theories.

2. On the merits, FairMormon uses ellipses to take this excerpt out of context. In Letter VII, this Columbus sentence is part of a series of paragraphs that describe the temptations Joseph felt when he was walking to the hill Cumorah for the first time. The paragraph continues that these ideas running through Joseph's mind "seemed to inspire further thoughts of gain and income from such a valuable history. Surely, thought he, every man will seize with eagerness, this knowledge, and this incalculable income will be mine." These were Joseph's thoughts before he even saw the plates for the first time. However, FairMormon quotes it here as authority for the idea that Oliver was teaching what the Book of Mormon taught.

3. Further on the merits, notice what Oliver says Moroni actually taught Joseph: "He then proceeded and gave a general account of the promises  made to the fathers, and also gave a history of the aborigines of this country, and said they were literal descendants of Abraham." This was in Letter IV, a passage FairMormon never quotes. Oliver uses the term "country" consistently throughout these letters to mean (i) the United States or (ii) a smaller local area or region. E.g., he wrote that the Priesthood "has been held in reserve to the  present century, as a matter of right, in this free country." Referring to Cumorah, Oliver writes, "Why I say large, is, because it is as  large perhaps, as any in that country... The soil  is of the first quality for the country." We have Oliver referring to both a region and a nation as a "country," but neither of these mean an entire continent, let alone a hemisphere. Twice Oliver refers to continent (Savior's ministry and the twelve) but of course an event occurring on a small parcel of land takes place in a country (region), a nation (U.S.) and a continent, all at once. It's the difference between specific and general. When you specify the "country" you're not specifying the continent, but when you specify the continent, you necessarily include all the countries and regions located on that continent.

IOW, Moroni told Joseph that the record gave a history of the "aborigines of this country," meaning those who lived in the immediate area around Palmyra or in the "free country" of the United States, but when he was heading for the hill for the first time, Joseph was thinking how he could obtain "incalculable income" from a history of the "inhabitants who peopled this continent."

4. As long as FairMormon considers Oliver as an authority about the contents of the Book of Mormon, note that Oliver continues in Letter IV with this: "He said this history was written and deposited not  far from that place [i.e., Joseph's home]." Obviously, if the history was written near Joseph's home in New York, it wasn't written in Mesoamerica. FairMormon never quotes this sentence, either.

5. As for Columbus, when he "discovered" the "continent" on his first voyage, the first land he sighted was the island of San Salvador, now part of the Bahamas. He continued to Long Island, about 350 miles from the coast of Florida, before continuing to Cuba and Hispaniola. The Bahamas, which became a British colony like the 13 colonies that became the United States, fell to the Spanish during the Revolutionary war. In 1762, the British seized Cuba but traded it back to Spain in return for Florida.

Ironically, Florida is the most likely landing site of Lehi. Columbus came much closer to Florida (350 miles)  than to Central America (1,200+ to Guatemala or 1,400+ to Mexico). Neither Columbus nor Lehi ever visited Guatemala or Mexico. Not that this matters anyway--the Vikings "discovered" America long before Columbus, and the Lamanites living in New York at the time when Columbus "discovered the continent to the Europeans" were still inhabitants who peopled this continent.

Now, compare a real map of Columbus' route to the one FairMormon links to here: https://pool.fairmormon.org/images/8/80/Columbus1.PNG. FairMormon goes so far as to cut off the part of the map showing Columbus' first (and most northern) landing! You can't make this stuff up.

6. This out-of-context quotation, combined with the omission of much more specific and relevant quotations, shows that FairMormon's purported "neutral" position is a sham designed to mislead readers. Here's their statement: "Summary: The geographical setting of the Book of Mormon has been the subject of serious study and casual speculation since before the book was first published. The Church has been neutral when it comes to issues relating to Book of Mormon geography, as is FairMormon."
https://www.fairmormon.org/answers/Topical_Guide/Book_of_Mormon/Geography

Except, as I've showed here, FairMormon is anything but neutral.
__________________

I'll leave it to readers to explore the other uses of Letter VII by FairMormon. My favorite is here:
https://www.fairmormon.org/answers/Question:_Where_is_the_Hill_Cumorah%3F

I've gone through this one before. It's my favorite because of the out-of-context quotation from Letter VII discussed above, the omission of any of the relevant passages from Letter VII as mentioned above, and this line, which is an all-time classic:

"Despite this early "identification" of the Hill Cumorah of the Book of Mormon with the hill in New York, readers who studied the text closely would later conclude that they could not be the same."

Can you believe that one?

"Readers who studied the text closely," meaning if you believe Cumorah is in New York, you haven't studied the text closely. I.e., Joseph and Oliver didn't study the text closely.

They just translated it. Oliver wrote most of the entire text by hand, twice. He and Joseph visited Mormon's repository in the New York hill. They communed with angels, handled the plates, etc.

But because they forgot to "study the text closely" the way our modern Mesomania LDS scholars and educators have, Joseph and Oliver misled the Church and all their contemporaries. If not for our modern Mesomania  LDS scholars and educators, we'd still be walking in the dark, thanks to Joseph and Oliver.

Or, as I believe, it's the other way around. Joseph and Oliver were specific, declarative, and unequivocal because they knew, from personal experience, that the repository was in the New York hill. Meanwhile, our Mesomania LDS scholars and educators are trying to confuse people and characterize Joseph and Oliver as ignorant speculators who misled the Church.

By now, readers of this blog also know all about the phony Mesomania "requirements" set up for Cumorah.

And this is how our Mesomania scholars present "the official position of the Church."

______________________

If anyone finds anything "neutral" about Book of Mormon geography on the FairMormon site, please send it to me ASAP. There's always a chance for an editorial change at FairMormon. A slim chance, but I'd like to know about it if and when it happens.

As always, I'm eager to correct any errors on this or any other posts the moment anyone brings them to my attention.





Sunday, July 16, 2017

the deleware Nation of Lamanites

Oliver Cowdery wrote a letter dated April 8, 1831, from Jackson County, Missouri, to the Saints in Kirtland. He described some of the events of the mission to the Lamanites.

I think everyone agrees that "early" members of the Church believed the American Indians in the U.S. and its territories were Lamanites. Here, Oliver refers to the Delaware Indians as the "deleware Nation of Lamanites."

That fits pretty well with what the Lord said in D&C 28, 30 and 32.
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Here is a short history of the Delaware nation:

The historically Algonquian-speaking Delaware refer to themselves as Lenni Lenape. At contact, in the early 17th century, the tribe lived along the Delaware River, named for Lord de la Warr,[4] territory in lower present-day New York state and eastern New Jersey, and western Long Island
The Delaware nation was the first to sign a treaty with the new United States. They signed the treaty on the 17th September 1778. Despite the treaty, the Delaware were forced to cede their Eastern lands and moved first to Ohio, later Indiana(Plainfield), Missouri, Kansas, and Indian Territory. The ancestors of the Delaware Nation, following a different migration route, settled in Anadarko. Other Delaware bands moved north with the Iroquois after the American Revolutionary War to form two reserves in Ontario, Canada.[4]
Traditionally the Delaware were divided into the Munsee, Unami, and Unalachtigo, three social divisions determined by language and location... 

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Among other things, Oliver wrote:

"I this day received heard from the deleware Nation of Lamanites by the man who is employed by government a smith for that Nation he believes the truth and says he tha[n]ks God he does believe and also says that he shall shortly be baptized which I pray God may be the case for truly my brethren he is a man he also says that we have put more into the lamenites during the short time we we were permited to be with them (which was but a few days[)] then all the devels in the infernal pit and and and all the men on earth can get out of them in four generations he tells me that, that evry Nation have now the name of Nephy who is the son of Nephi & handed down to this very generation, there is only a part of that Nation here now but the remainder are expected this spring the principle chief says he believes evry word of the Book & there are many <more> in the Nation who believe and we understand there are many among the Shawnees who also believe & we trust that when the Lord shall open the <our> way we shall have glorious times for truly my brethren my heart sorrows for them for they are cast out & dispised and know not the God in whom they should trust we have traveld about in this country considerable and proclaimed repentence and very <many> are very anxious serious & honest."

You can see the entire letter here:

http://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/letter-from-oliver-cowdery-8-april-1831/1