The Oliver Cowdery issue is even more important than I've let on so far.
I'll explain why later this week. It's an entire chapter in one of my new books.
First I want to comment on what a few of the better known Mesoamericanists have written on the topic of Oliver Cowdery. It's not much; often he rates merely a footnote or a passing reference that doesn't even mention his name, as I'll show.
A lot of people are reading this blog now, including several Mesoamericanists, and I welcome any corrections or citations to additional material. The Cowdery issue is a major--I would say fatal--obstacle to the Mesoamerican geography and I think people should know how they have handled it.
First up is Dan Peterson, BYU professor, formerly with FARMS, now publisher of the Interpreter.
Dan Peterson maintains a fun and informative blog at Patheos titled "Sic et Non." I recommend it. Dan's a good guy who does a great job with the blog and imparts fascinating information on a daily basis. But he's also part of the citation cartel and he's intransigent on the issue of Book of Mormon geography. For example, on July 23, he wrote a post citing Matt Roper's secret note from Hugh Nibley that supposedly proves the Sorenson translation was correct; i.e., the Mesoamerican theory is "true" because Hugh Nibley supported it. (Well, not publicly, but if you're an insider, etc.).
Here are a couple of things Dan wrote in the comments to his post:
"No, the "Heartlanders" could be speculating and be right. But they're wrong."
"And, of course, I don't think that Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith were wrong."
"I'm frankly tired of being portrayed as rejecting Joseph Smith on this matter -- as I have been far more times than I can count..."
If Dan would talk with me, one of my first questions might be, why do you think you're being portrayed as rejecting Joseph Smith on this matter? Particularly if you don't think he and Oliver Cowdery were wrong?
He sort of answered these questions on his blog. When asked how to reconcile Joseph and Oliver explicitly identifying the New York Cumorah as the scene of the final battles, Dan didn't respond.
I'm not sure how he could respond, but I would love to know. He had just written that he didn't think Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith were wrong, but if they weren't wrong, then there is only one Cumorah, and it's in New York, and the Mesoamerican theory falls apart.
It's really that simple.
Here's another puzzler. Dan wrote a piece titled "Not So Easily Dismissed: Some Facts for Which Counterexplanations of the Book of Mormon Will Need to Account." He writes, "in support of its paradigm, FARMS has published tens of thousands of pages of material by, to this point, roughly three hundred and fifty writers, mostly drawing upon ancient history, philology, classics, anthropology, legal history, literary analysis, philosophy, biblical studies, archaeology, Mesoamerican studies, and similar disciplines in order to cast light upon the Book of Mormon." In the realm of logical fallacies, we might call this is an appeal to quantity. No matter how many times Mesoamericanists repeat the same flawed arguments, not matter how many times the citation cartel drops names, the problems won't go away. (I'll comment on Dan's Mesoamerican studies points in a subsequent post.)
In this piece, Dan focuses on early Church history, including translation of the Book of Mormon, in which Cowdery played a significant role. Dan includes Cowdery among those witnesses who are "not so easily dismissed." And yet, when it comes to Mesoamerica, he completely dismisses Cowdery. Apart from the Mesoamerican dogma, there is no explanation for how Dan rejecting Cowdery's description of Cumorah is consistent with his claim that Cowdery cannot be so easily dismissed--not to mention his claim that he doesn't think Cowdery was wrong.
Isn't it obvious that if you reject what Cowdery wrote on one topic, you raise questions about what he wrote on other topics? That's not to say we have to accept whatever Cowdery wrote. Unlike Dan, I think there were some things Cowdery may have been wrong about, and Cowdery himself alluded to speculation, such as when he wrote about the depth of the hole Moroni originally dug. "However, on this point I shall leave every man to draw his own conclusion, and form his own speculation, as I only promised to give a description of the place at the time the records were found in 1823." So Cowdery knew the difference between speculation and fact/revelation, and he never speculated about what Moroni told Joseph, about what he [Oliver] experienced, or about the Book of Mormon Cumorah being in New York. In fact, when Brigham Young told the world about Oliver and Joseph visiting the room in the hill that contained more plates--they visited at least twice--he also said that Oliver avoided talking about a lot of these things in public. If anything, Oliver was conservative about these things.
I presume that Dan, like other Mesoamericanists, will claim that Cowdery was merely speculating about Cumorah. But to make Mesoamerica work, they have to claim Cowdery was "speculating wrong."
As opposed to the anonymous writer of the 1842 Times and Seasons Mesoamerican articles, who was "speculating right,"of course...