Monday, November 20, 2017

Visiting the Apostles

No, I'm not referring to the leaders of the Church.

We've been in Australia and we visited the 12 Apostles on the southern coast, west of Melbourne.


Here are the "Apostles" on the east side of the walkway.

(If you look closely you can see the bruise under my right eye. That was a basketball injury from a few days before we left.)

It's fun that the day we left, I shoveled snow at our cabin a few hours before we got on a plane for warm, sunny Australia.



Here's a sign with a photo of the "Apostles" on the west side of the walkway.

Australia in November is perfect. There are some crowds, but not too many. The temperature is perfect. And the water is warm, relatively.

On another trip we visited Brisbane, where I heard the joke from a temple worker about Lehi's trip that I tell in my presentations. So far, no one has told me that Lehi visited Melbourne.

But here's a photo of the Melbourne temple.



Friday, November 17, 2017

Knowing Why BOMC censors North American as a working hypothesis

Book of Mormon Central has released a new book titled Knowing Why: 137 Evidences that the Book of Mormon is True. The book is a compilation of KnoWhys originally published on the web page and edited for the print publication.

There's a lot of good material in this book, but it is full of Mesoamerican dogma.

The first section opens with a wonderful photo that makes the reader think finally, Book of Mormon Central is going to consider what Joseph Smith said about the Book of Mormon.


This is the statue of Joseph and Hyrum that sits just west of the temple in Nauvoo. Behind them is the Mississippi River and the spot designated in D&C 125 as the city named Zarahemla. The settlement was actually named Zarahemla as required by the revelation, and there was an intention to build a temple there facing the one in Nauvoo, but the Saints were driven from Nauvoo before these plans could be realized.

Many think the Lord named the spot because it was the site of the ancient Nephite city of Zarahemla (a topic for another post). So when you open the book and see this, you think, wow, maybe our friends at Book of Mormon Central are finally going to relate the Book of Mormon to Church history.

But then you turn the pages and you're disappointed to see no such connection.

Which we should have expected based on the Mesoamerican references on the cover.

We have the usual suspects: a "Mayan temple" (Chichen Itza, constructed after Book of Mormon time frames), Lake Atitlan (a lake in the highlands of Guatemala which promoters of the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory like to call the Waters of Mormon), and several examples of Book of Mormon characters dressed up as Mayans.

I like a lot of the material Book of Mormon Central produces, particularly on their Old World research. But their Mesomania makes it difficult for me to accept their work overall. Their dogmatic editorial slant puts us in the position of constantly wondering whether they are telling us everything. Often they are not, as I'll show in just one example below.

The book is full of Mesoamerican imagery, commentary, and references, thereby assuring us that Book of Mormon Central continues to earn its nickname of Book of Mormon Central America.

The people behind this book claim that the "real Cumorah" is somewhere in southern Mexico. Their dogmatic insistence on repudiating Joseph, Oliver, and all the prophets and apostles who have spoken about Cumorah undermines the credibility of everything they do.*

This kind of thinking leads to the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory being displayed right on Temple Square, as I mentioned here:
http://bookofmormonwars.blogspot.com/2017/11/visiting-temple-square-moroni-at-hill.html
_____

I'm only taking the time to look at one example of Mesomania, but there are many that you will find if you read this book.

Item #72 on page 172 addresses the question, "Why are horses mentioned in the Book of Mormon?"

The answer: "Readers can interpret the presence of horses in the Book of Mormon in a variety of different ways."

But they only give us these three.

1. Horses in the Archaeological Record
2. Nephi Could Have Borrowed the Word Horse
3. Horse Could Be a Result of Translation

Let's look at each one.

1. Horses in the Archaeological Record

This section cites Daniel Johnson's excellent article in BYU Studies, which Book of Mormon Central has in its archive here: https://archive.bookofmormoncentral.org/node/310

The article includes this map:


The article explains: "By conventional wis­dom, horses from these [Spanish] expeditions would have to be the earliest sources for horses later described among indigenous peoples. As documented by the Spanish conquerors and their chroniclers themselves, the actual events of each of these excursions into the New World prove such an assertion practically impossible... Researchers used to believe that horses discarded by Hernando de Soto’s men in 1541 were the ancestors of all American horses west of the lower Mississippi. That assertion now rests firmly in the realm of fiction."

The article notes that while researchers have tested DNA samples from Mexico, they all date to ice age or post-contact periods. However, they "have had surprising results from some North American samples. A horse bone from Pratt Cave near El Paso, Texas, dated from 6020 to 5890  BC. Another specimen from Wolf Spider Cave in Colorado dated from AD 1260 to 1400. A bone from Horsethief Cave in Wyoming dated to 1100 BC."

These are within Book of Mormon time frames for Jaredites, and they are in locations we would expect if the Jaredites landed in North America and "spread upon the face of the land."

But, as a BYU Studies publication, the article cannot corroborate what Joseph Smith taught about Cumorah in New York. It cannot connect the evidence in North America to a North American setting. 

Instead, the article has to focus on Mesoamerica, where a horse tooth was found in Yucatan, and indulge in speculation such as this:

"Analysts can safely say it is likely that no horses existed in the Yucatán Peninsula or elsewhere in Mesoamerica by the Maya Postclassic era. But what if some horse populations survived in remote enough areas and in small enough numbers not to have been noticed by the Span­ish conquerors and other European settlers?"

Compare that to the widespread and well-established use of horses by the North American Indian tribes, including horses such as the pinto that cannot be traced to Spanish breeds.

2. Nephi Could Have Borrowed the Word Horse

Because there were no horses in Mesoamerica during Book of Mormon time frames, the book proposes this: "Another approach to this question suggests that the word horse in the Book of Mormon is being used to refer to a different animal... Different Maya and Aztec groups applied their labels for deer or tapir to the Spaniards' horses."

I'm all in favor of multiple working hypotheses, but why does Book of Mormon Central go to such lengths to reject (and censor) any working hypothesis that corroborates what Joseph, Oliver, and all the modern prophets and apostles have taught about Cumorah in New York?

3. Horse Could Be a Result of Translation

Here we have the infamous theory that Joseph mistranslated the text. "It is also possible that horse is a 'translator anachronism,' Brant A. Gardner explained... Without the original text, it is impossible to be sure whether horse is a loan-shift the Nephites made or an anachronism caused by translation, but in either case the word horse would not refer to what today's readers might assume or expect."

Later, the article quotes Brother Gardner to say, "In the vast majority of the cases, it is reasonable that we are seeing a translation anachronism rather than a historical anachronism."

How about a working hypothesis that Joseph translated the text correctly and the Nephites did have horses in North America? 

That possibility never appears in the article.
_____

BTW, you'll be interested to note that Covenant Communications published the book. Covenant has a long-held editorial policy in favor of the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory. They have rejected books that corroborate what Joseph and Oliver taught about the New York Hill Cumorah because they are "too controversial."
_____

*Some say my "dogmatic insistence" that Joseph and Oliver were correct about Cumorah is the problem. Some the problem is my "dogmatic insistence" that every other prophet and apostle who has spoken about Cumorah, including members of the First Presidency speaking in General Conference, is correct.

I freely admit that I am biased in favor of supporting the teachings of the prophets. Apart from Mesomania, I can't understand why Book of Mormon Central is so firmly biased against supporting those teachings.

But it's not only a case of deferring to the prophets. The archaeology, anthropology, geology, and geography of North America, starting with Cumorah in New York, are all a better fit to the actual text than the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory.



Thursday, November 16, 2017

Visiting Temple Square - Moroni at "a hill in New York"

As I explained on the consensus blog, I visited the North Visitors Center on Temple Square again Tuesday to see the awesome display of two Cumorahs.


I want to point out some details of "Moroni's Cumorah," which our LDS intellectuals describe as "a hill in New York" where Moroni deposited the plates after walking 2,400 miles north from the "real Cumorah" they are still searching for in southern Mexico.

Why they're looking in Mexico is a fun story for another day.

But for now, imagine you're a missionary serving on Temple Square.

Millions of people visit Temple Square every year, and you take them to see this display of Mormon abridging the record in a Mayan cave. Then you take them across the hall (the distance representing the 2,400 miles) to New York where Moroni is burying the plates.

As a missionary, you hope your visitors don't know anything about Church history, because if they do, they will ask questions you can't answer without contradicting these displays.

For example, what happens when a visitor points out that Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, Brigham Young, and every other prophet and apostle who has spoken on the issue has declared that there is one Cumorah and it is in New York?

Are you supposed to explain that these exhibits, which directly contradict the prophets, are wrong? Or are you supposed to say we believe the intellectuals now instead of the prophets?

Do you just hope no one asks the question? And how do you deal with the cognitive dissonance you feel every day when you walk through these displays?
_____

The problem is, these displays reflect what our intellectuals say, not what the scriptures and the prophets say.

Our intellectuals can't explain Church history so they resort to magical thinking and invented scenarios that contradict what Joseph and Oliver explained.

You're a missionary, taking a visitor to look at the display of Moroni on "a hill in New York."


You explain that Moroni hauled the plates 2,400 miles from Mayan territory in Mexico, back where Mormon abridged the plates in a Mayan cave, and then buried them in a stone box on "a hill in New York," just as Joseph explained in Joseph Smith-History 1:51-52. 


But you know better than to look up the scripture, and you definitely don't read it to your visitor, because the scripture says the box contained the plates, the Urim and Thummim, and the breastplate. That's all. Oliver affirmed this in Letter VIII.

"What about the round thing?"



"That's the Liahona," you explain as you press the button to watch the video. You bite your tongue as the video shows Moroni putting the Liahona in the stone box because you know there are no accounts of the Liahona being in the stone box.

Lehi with the Liahona

Moroni puts the Liahona in the stone box
"And those letters?"

"Oh, those are letters Moroni's father wrote to him. He included them in the plates, in the Book of Moroni."

"So he wrote on the plates in New York?"

You know he did--Moroni told Joseph the record was "written and deposited" not far from Joseph's home--but you can't say that because it contradicts your script and the displays so you say, "We don't know where he wrote on the plates."

"But he's burying the plates so he already wrote on them. Why did he carry the letters all the way from Mexico if he already copied them onto the plates?"

"It's just a concept, I guess." By now, you want to change the subject, but your visitor is still interested in the display.

"What about that sword?"


"Oh," you say, "that's the sword of Laban."

Your visitor presses the button on the screen and watches as Moroni puts the sword of Laban into the stone box.

Moroni puts the sword of Laban in the stone box

"Wow," your visitor says, "that is a deep box. Or a small sword."

You say nothing. Now you're really glad you didn't read the scriptures to your visitor, and you want to divert your visitor's attention to one of the films or something. 

Later, you wonder if your companion is wondering the same things you do, like, who made these displays? You find yourself wondering if someone translated the sealed portion to come up with all this stuff, but you realize the displays are really just reflecting the theories of a bunch of Mormon intellectuals who don't believe the scriptures or what the prophets have said.
_____

These displays are sophisticated persuasion. 

The intellectuals who teach at BYU and in CES know that Joseph and Oliver taught that the Hill Cumorah was in New York. They explicitly stated that the "hill in New York" was not only the place where Moroni buried the plates, but also the scene of the final battles of the Jaredites and the Nephites and the location of Mormon's depository of Nephite records and artifacts. Their teaching was affirmed by Brigham Young and many others.

But the intellectuals teach that all the prophets and apostles are wrong.

Instead, they insist the "real Cumorah" is in Mexico, and they promote their theory at BYU, in CES, in BYU Studies, at FairMormon, and elsewhere.

But they have a problem.

They've been able to successfully suppress Letter VII--try finding a reference to it in any of the "scholarly," "peer-approved" LDS publications. They've been able to confuse students by claiming that the prophets themselves sent mixed messages, as I've explained here: 

But they haven't been able to change the scriptures (yet). 

Instead, they pre-suade people through art, media and displays so that when people read the scriptures, they already have a mental image that is more persuasive than the words on the page.

Anyone reading Joseph Smith-History (or Letter VIII) sees that there were three things in Moroni's stone box. But once you've been pre-suaded by the Visitors Center, you will actually believe the box also contained the Liahona and the sword of Laban.

Why do the intellectuals need you to think this?

Because of D&C 17:1

"Behold, I say unto you, that you must rely upon my word, which if you do with full purpose of heart, you shall have a view of the plates, and also of the breastplate, the sword of Laban, the Urim and Thummim, which were given to the brother of Jared upon the mount, when he talked with the Lord face to face, and the miraculous directors [Liahona] which were given to Lehi while in the wilderness, on the borders of the Red Sea."

The official Testimony of the Three Witnesses only mentions the plates. That's all anyone talked about at the time. It was only later that they saw the other objects, along with many other things. That's why the verse separates the other objects with the clause "and also." It was later, at the depository, not in the woods near Fayette, that the witnesses saw these other objects.

Oliver and Joseph explained that Mormon's depository was in the New York hill, and Brigham Young confirmed that these additional objects were in Mormon's depository in the New York hill. 

But our intellectuals insist they were wrong because Mormon's depository was actually in Mexico, as depicted in the display on Temple Square. 

Therefore, the only possible source for the Liahona and the sword of Laban was Moroni's stone box.

Therefore, according to the intellectuals, the scriptures are wrong, or at least incomplete. Joseph Smith forgot to list the Liahona and the sword of Laban when he wrote Joseph Smith-History 1:51-52. Oliver Cowdery forgot to mention them in Letter VIII.  

That's why the display depicts this.


If the display depicted the words of the prophets instead of the words of the intellectuals, we'd have Mormon's depository and Moroni's stone box in the same hill, as Joseph, Oliver and all of their contemporaries and successors have taught. 



We would have Moroni placing only the plates, the Urim and Thummim, and the breastplate in the stone box.

We would have the other objects in the depository.

And the missionaries wouldn't have to dance around the obvious disconnect between the displays and the words of the prophets. 

 

New book preview-Why Mormons Need the Book of Mormon

Several readers have asked about my book titled Why Mormons Need the Book of Mormon. We haven't formally launched it yet, but it is on Amazon right now for $9.99.

Go to amazon.com and search for "Why Mormons Need the Book of Mormon."

As some of you know, this is a first in a series that I'll be announcing in January.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Higher Education’s Deeper Sickness

Today's WSJ contains an editorial titled

"Higher Education’s Deeper Sickness"

The article focuses on the domination of leftist ideas at major universities.

"In 1969 the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education found that there were overall about twice as many left-of-center as right-of-center faculty. Various studies document the rise of that ratio to 5 to 1 at the century’s end, and to 8 to 1 a decade later, until in 2016 Mitchell Langbert, Dan Klein, and Tony Quain find it in the region of 10 to 1 and still rising.

"Even these figures understate the matter. The overall campus figures include professional schools and science, technology, business and mathematics departments. In most humanities and social-science departments—especially those central to a liberal education, such as history, English and political science—the share of left-of-center faculty already approaches 100%."

Substitute "proponents of the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory" for "left-of-center faculty" and you have the situation at BYU's religion department.
_____

This passage applies:

The imbalance is not only a question of numbers. Well-balanced opposing views act as a corrective for each other: The weaker arguments of one side are pounced on and picked off by the other. Both remain consequently healthier and more intellectually viable. But intellectual dominance promotes stupidity. As one side becomes numerically stronger, its discipline weakens. The greater the imbalance between the two sides, the more incoherent and irrational the majority will become.
What we are now seeing on the campuses illustrates this general principle perfectly. The nearly complete exclusion of one side has led to complete irrationality on the other. With almost no intellectual opponents remaining, campus radicals have lost the ability to engage with arguments and resort instead to the lazy alternative of name-calling: Opponents are all “fascists,” “racists” or “white supremacists.”
In a state of balance between the two sides, leadership flows naturally to those better able to make the case for their side against the other. That takes knowledge and skill. But when one side has the field to itself, leadership flows instead to those who make the most uncompromising and therefore intellectually least defensible case, one that rouses followers to enthusiasm but can’t stand up to scrutiny. Extremism and demagoguery win out. 
_____

This is how we end up with a fantasy map of Book of Mormon geography, based on the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs interpretation of the text, being taught to BYU students.

This is how we end up with an "independent" organization called Book of Mormon Central America that is funded, staffed, and promoted exclusively by supporters of the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory, including BYU professors.

This is how we end up with BYU Studies promoting exclusively the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory on its home web page.

This is how we end up with BYU faculty repudiating what the prophets and apostles have taught about the Hill Cumorah being in New York.

And so forth...

Monday, November 13, 2017

Social-validation feedback loop

People wonder why the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory is so widely believed and taught at BYU and in CES.

It's a combination of ignorance and the social-validation feedback loop. But education will fix the former and lead to changes in the latter.

1. Ignorance. Few BYU/CES teachers know about Letter VII. They have never been taught about it themselves, but some may have discovered it on their own. In such cases, they are taught by BYU/CES to consider it an irrelevant and false statement by Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith, a historical artifact that should never be mentioned and certainly not taught at BYU/CES.

Consequently, these teachers do not know how frequently Letter VII was reprinted during Joseph's lifetime, or how consistently Church leaders have reaffirmed it, including members of the First Presidency speaking in General Conference. But when they do learn the facts, these faculty tend to change their minds.

Data show the impact of Letter VII on LDS members' belief in the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory before and after learning about Letter VII. When we look at these numbers, we see why the intellectuals continue to suppress and oppose Letter VII.




[Note: Most of those who retain a belief in Mesoamerica after learning about Letter VII are intellectuals who have taught or written about the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory or are otherwise invested in that theory for various reasons. For a list of reasons they've given for rejecting Letter VII, see here.]

As more BYU/CES teachers learn about Letter VII, the data suggest that believing and sustaining Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery will become more acceptable than the current practice of repudiating them. 

They will then teach their students to sustain and believe the prophets and apostles by accepting Letter VII and all the consistent and repeated statements in support of the New York Cumorah.

Eventually, the North American setting will become the consensus view and social validation will switch.

2. Social-validation feedback loop. The Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory has been the popular theory for intellectuals to believe because it portrays Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery as ignorant, uneducated men who changed their views when exposed to scholarly works. Their successors who affirmed Letter VII's teachings about the New York Cumorah, including members of the First Presidency speaking in General Conference, were duped by the false tradition Joseph and Oliver started.

If you consider yourself an intellectual, you like to think your education and sophistication make your beliefs superior than those of mere Church prophets and apostles who started and perpetrated an ignorant folk belief about Cumorah being in New York. 

Plus, as an intellectual, you must continue the tradition. You have to read, listen to, and repeat what the intellectuals at BYU have been promoting through FARMS, BYU Studies, the Interpreter, FairMormon, BMAF (and its corporate subsidiary Book of Mormon Central), Mesoamerican Meridian Magazine, and the rest.

If you toe the line of the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory, your students will think you are smart, your colleagues (and supervisors) will approve, and the scholarly, peer-approved publications (former known as the citation cartel) may even publish your articles.

But if you express any degree of support for what Joseph and Oliver (and all their contemporaries and successors) taught about the Hill Cumorah (i.e., that it's in New York), you will be deemed an ignorant rube and told not to discuss your quasi-apostate theories.
_____

The great thing about social validation, though, is that once it switches, it can switch fast. We can only hope it happens sooner than later.
_____

Lately, BYU and CES have apparently asked their teachers to not link the Book of Mormon to any real-world geography.

IOW, teachers are not supposed to do what Joseph and Oliver did.

Teachers are supposed to pretend that Church leaders have not consistently and specifically taught the New York Cumorah for over 150 years.

Because BYU/CES students are not supposed to know this.

Instead, they're supposed to study the Book of Mormon as taking place in a fantasy land.



This "abstract map" is creating a new social-validation feedback loop.

Students at BYU/CES will learn the map, teach it to investigators, and then, when they become teachers themselves (and staff employees in the Church), they'll teach the fantasy map to upcoming generations.

The Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory is being replaced by the fantasy map, which really teaches there is no Cumorah in the real world.
_____

Or, maybe members of the Church will express their dismay and disgust at what the intellectuals have been doing and share their belief in and support of Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. 




Saturday, November 11, 2017

More on the DNA essay

People are asking for more explanation about yesterday's post about the Gospel Topics DNA essay. Some are wondering how the essay shows we LDS are all Darwinians now.

These are just my reactions to the essay. I'm not being critical of the essay. I'm simply offering suggestions for improvement in the future. (The essay has already been edited at least once.)

First, I'll note some irony about the Book of Mormon geography. Then I'll comment on the science.

Here's the link to the essay: https://www.lds.org/topics/book-of-mormon-and-dna-studies?lang=eng

1. Repudiating the prophets. Apart from the conclusion, the essay quotes exactly one General Authority: President Anthony W. Ivins of the First Presidency, who said this in the April 1929 general conference: "We must be careful in the conclusions that we reach. The Book of Mormon … does not tell us that there was no one here before them [the peoples it describes]. It does not tell us that people did not come after.”

But the footnotes to the essay cite LDS scholars who have specifically repudiated what President Ivins taught just a year previously, when he spoke in General Conference about the Church's acquisition of the Hill Cumorah in New York. 

President Ivins: "The passages which I have quoted from the Book of Mormon... definitely establish 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."

https://archive.org/stream/conferencereport1928a#page/n13/mode/2up

Of course, President Ivins was simply repeating what Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery taught in Letter VII, which Joseph had republished multiple times while he was alive. This is what all of Joseph's contemporaries taught about the Hill Cumorah in New York, as well as all of his successors who have addressed the topic.

However, Footnote 6 of the DNA essay cites John L. Soreson's book Mormon's Codex: An Ancient American Book, in which brother Sorenson wrote, "There remain Latter-day Saints who insist that the final destruction of the Nephites took place in New York, but any such idea is manifestly absurd. Hundreds of thousands of Nephites traipsing across the Mississippi Valley to New York, pursued (why?) by hundreds of thousands of Lamanites, is a scenario worthy only of a witless sci-fi movie, not of history.”

The DNA essay is telling careful readers that President Ivins' teaching about Cumorah in General Conference is "manifestly absurd."

Footnote 8 cites the anonymous Times and Seasons article and attributes it to Joseph Smith, even though that same issue of the Times and Seasons contains a letter (D&C 127) that Joseph mailed to the editor because he was in hiding at the time; i.e., according to this theory, Joseph mailed a letter to himself. [The historical evidence shows that Joseph had little to no direct involvement with editing the paper, any more than he was directly involved with printing it. In fact, he resigned from the paper after another article about Central America was published as a headline.]

Footnote 9 cites an article that discusses the Wentworth letter, which Joseph apparently adapted in part from Orson Pratt's pamphlet, without pointing out that Joseph replaced Pratt's extended musings on a Central and South American setting with the correction that "The remnant are the Indians that now inhabit this country." The author of this article has consistently repudiated what President Ivins taught about the Hill Cumorah in New York.

The citation to these sources in the DNA essay convey an official endorsement of the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory, contrary to the widely understood policy of official neutrality on Book of Mormon geography. 

I've pointed out that the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory has become the de facto official position of the Church, and this essay is another indication of that. 

All I ask is, if we're going to repudiate Letter VII and all the other teachings of modern prophets and apostles about the Hill Cumorah in New York, why don't we do it overtly to eliminate the confusion?

2. Darwinian evolution. The theory of evolution by natural selection has come a long way since Charles Darwin, but colloquially, the term refers to evolution including natural selection, mutation, migration, and genetic drift. These concepts are explained in the DNA essay, including the footnotes.

3. Scientific Claims. In supporting its conclusion,* the essay relies on key scientific claims,including these:

a. The human species split from the chimpanzee species about 6.5 million years ago:
[fn 19. "For our calibration, we therefore assumed a human-chimpanzee species split of 6.5 mya, with an additional estimated 0.5 My for mtDNA lineage coalescence."]
b. The human species originated in Africa and dispersed about 55-70,000 years ago.
[fn 19. The corrected rate yields an age of modern human expansion in the Americas at ∼15 kya that—unlike the uncorrected clock—matches the archaeological evidence, but continues to indicate an out-of-Africa dispersal at around 55–70 kya, 5–20 ky before any clear archaeological record.]
c. A 24,000-year-old Siberian individual provides key evidence about the genomes of modern Native Americans. 
[fn 17. "The genome sequence of a 24,000-year-old Siberian individual has provided a key piece of the puzzle in the quest for Native American origins. The ancient Siberian demonstrates genomic signatures that are basal to present-day western Eurasians and close to modern Native Americans."]
d. Coalescence for X2a occurred 14,200-17,000 years before present.
[fn 15. "the date of coalescence for X2a (14,200–17,000 cal yr BP) significantly precedes the hypothesized migration from the Middle East."]
_____
All of these and more present a different view of the origin of man than the scriptures, to say the least, yet this is what we are supposed to be studying and believing and teaching.

As I've said, I'm fine with this as an alternative working hypothesis, if people want to believe it, but I hope there is still room in the Church for those who interpret the scriptures more literally, as I mentioned in the original post.

_____

*The purpose of the essay is to support this conclusion:

"Much as critics and defenders of the Book of Mormon would like to use DNA studies to support their views, the evidence is simply inconclusive. Nothing is known about the DNA of Book of Mormon peoples. Even if such information were known, processes such as population bottleneck, genetic drift, and post-Columbian immigration from West Eurasia make it unlikely that their DNA could be detected today. As Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles observed, “It is our position that secular evidence can neither prove nor disprove the authenticity of the Book of Mormon.”29

"Book of Mormon record keepers were primarily concerned with conveying religious truths and preserving the spiritual heritage of their people. They prayed that, in spite of the prophesied destruction of most of their people, their record would be preserved and one day help restore a knowledge of the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Their promise to all who study the book “with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ,” is that God “will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.”30 For countless individuals who have applied this test of the book’s authenticity, the Book of Mormon stands as a volume of sacred scripture with the power to bring them closer to Jesus Christ."

The question of evolution and the creation of Adam is a far more involved topic than I can address here, but the essay does not even acknowledge a literal interpretation of the scriptures as a possibility.

I leave it up to readers to decide whether the principles and time frame of Darwinian evolution, as established in this DNA essay, tend to prove or disprove the authenticity of the Book of Mormon.

For now, I'll just ask how the pre-Adamite human beings described in the DNA essay fit into the oft-repeated scriptural teaching that Adam and Eve were distinct individuals who were our first parents.

One purpose of the Book of Mormon is to corroborate the Bible. In Ether 1, Moroni explained:

3. And as I suppose that the first part of this record, which speaks concerning the creation of the world, and also of Adam, and an account from that time even to the great tower, and whatsoever things transpired among the children of men until that time, is had among the Jews—

4 Therefore I do not write those things which transpired from the days of Adam until that time; but they are had upon the plates; and whoso findeth them, the same will have power that he may get the full account.

Mosiah discussed this as well:

17 Now after Mosiah had finished translating these records, behold, it gave an account of the people who were destroyed, from the time that they were destroyed back to the building of the great tower, at the time the Lord confounded the language of the people and they were scattered abroad upon the face of all the earth, yea, and even from that time back until the creation of Adam." Mosiah 28:17

Aaron taught about this: "12 And it came to pass that when Aaron saw that the king would believe his words, he began from the creation of Adam, reading the scriptures unto the king—how God created man after his own image, and that God gave him commandments, and that because of transgression, man had fallen." Alma 22:12-13

As did Alma: "22 Now Alma said unto him: This is the thing which I was about to explain. Now we see that Adam did fall by the partaking of the forbidden fruit, according to the word of God; and thus we see, that by his fall, all mankind became a lost and fallen people." Alma 12:22-23

Moroni reiterated the importance of the creation of Adam in the verse every missionary teaches every investigator:

Moroni 10:3 "Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts."

Mormon taught about the family of Adam: Mormon 3:20 "And these things doth the Spirit manifest unto me; therefore I write unto you all. And for this cause I write unto you, that ye may know that ye must all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ, yea, every soul who belongs to the whole human family of Adam; and ye must stand to be judged of your works, whether they be good or evil..."

I raise this because everyone who reads this essay carefully will ask the same question. And the essay doesn't offer any alternatives to the current scientific understanding of Darwinian evolution with its associated time frames. 





Friday, November 10, 2017

Repudiating Joseph--we're all Darwinians now

[Note: some readers may think I'm being sarcastic here, but I'm not. There is no irony in this post. It's a serious issue that many LDS are not aware of.]

As long as our intellectuals are repudiating what Joseph and Oliver (and all their ordained successors) taught about the New York Cumorah, they might as well repudiate other things taught by the prophets (and the scriptures).

They're on a roll, so why not continue?

A popular example is Darwinian evolution.

LDS intellectuals have long sought to have the Church embrace Darwinian evolution, and now, in the Gospel Topics Essays, they have accomplished their goal.

The essay on DNA is found here: https://www.lds.org/topics/book-of-mormon-and-dna-studies?lang=eng.

As one delightful (and "faithful") analysis of the essay points out, "The samples used to prove this misunderstood LDS theory [that the Indians designated by D&C 28, 30 and 32 as Lamanites are really descendants of Abraham] are actually around 10,000 years old. This is out of the Book of Mormon timeline."

The Gospel Topics Essay fully embraces Darwinian evolution, including the theory that anatomically modern Homo sapiens evolved about 200,000 years ago.

And we thought family history going back to Adam was a challenge!
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Three years and two months after Joseph Smith Jr. was born, Charles Darwin was born in England. He published On the Origin of Species, which contains his theory of evolution and natural selection, in 1859.

According to our LDS intellectuals, had Joseph lived until 1859, he would have realized that Darwin was correct and the Bible was wrong.

This is the same approach our intellectuals take when they claim Joseph learned from the Stephens and Catherwood book about Central America that Moroni was mistaken about Cumorah in New York, the inhabitants of "this country" being Lamanites, etc.

According to the intellectuals, Moroni himself was confused, but the intellectuals have come to the rescue by determining that Cumorah is actually in Mexico.
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Courtesy of our intellectuals, the Gospel Topics essay is correcting another mistake that Joseph surely would have corrected had he lived long enough to read On the Origin of Species.

Joseph would have changed D&C 77:7, which teaches that the earth has a temporal existence of 7,000 years.

He would have edited D&C 28, 30 and 32 to clarify that the Indians living in New York, Ohio, and Missouri, who have different DNA haplogroups than the Lamanites living in Central America, were not actually Lamanites but descendants of people who arrived in the Americas more than 10,000 years ago.

He would have edited the Book of Mormon references to Adam and Eve as the first people and parents of all humanity.

He would have provided a new translation of Genesis and other Biblical passages to correct references to Adam and Eve as our first parents.

Because, according to our intellectuals, Adam and Eve are mythological symbols, Joseph would have prevented Joseph F. Smith from seeing Adam and Eve as distinct persons, as related in D&C 138:38.
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I'm all in favor of offering multiple working hypotheses. For some faithful, active LDS, Darwinian evolution is acceptable. Even inspiring, apparently. And that's fine.

However, I think a better approach would be to consider it as an alternative, not a replacement, for the traditional scriptural teaching of Adam and Eve as the first people, the parents of all of humanity.

Thanks to this Gospel Topics essay, which repudiates the scriptural teaching, LDS who accept the scriptural teaching are left wondering, where do my beliefs fit in? And, how do I reconcile the scriptures with what the Gospel Topics essay teaches?

There are still LDS (and other Christians) who accept and believe in what the scriptures teach. They know that science is continually changing in light of new information. Scientists don't know everything. This is a much longer topic, but there may yet be scientific confirmation of what the scriptures teach.

Framing the science as an alternative working hypothesis, instead of a final word as the Gospel Topics essay does, would be a more prudent and more accurate approach, IMO.
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On what other topics have the intellectuals succeeded in repudiating Joseph Smith?

Thursday, November 9, 2017

It doesn't matter?

I keep hearing that the location of the Hill Cumorah "doesn't matter."

Usually I hear this from advocates of the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory who realize their theory contradicts the teachings of the prophets and apostles. They handle their cognitive dissonance by telling themselves--and others--that the geography doesn't matter.

This is an avoidance mechanism.


But by claiming it doesn't matter, they are aggravating and prolonging the problem that is causing members to become confused and disturbed in their faith. The mixed messages about Cumorah are an impediment to investigators. People leave the Church when they lose faith in the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon, as the surveys show.

Maybe worst of all, every year thousands of students at BYU and in CES are being taught to disbelieve the prophets and apostles, and this will continue until the issue is resolved. 
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For Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, the location of Cumorah mattered.

A lot.

When confronted with the 1834 anti-Mormon book Mormonism Unvailed [sic], the book that claimed the Book of Mormon was fiction based on the writings of Solomon Spaulding, did they respond by saying the geography doesn't matter?

No.

In Letter VII, they declared the authenticity of the Book of Mormon by affirming that it was a fact that the final battles of the Nephites and Jaredites took place in the mile-wide valley west of the hill in New York where Joseph found the first set of plates in Moroni's stone box.

The Hill Cumorah, as Moroni called it.

They declared this was also the site of Mormon's depository (Mormon 6:6)

Joseph Smith made sure every member of the Church in his day knew this truth. Letter VII was reprinted in the Times and Seasons, the Gospel Reflector, the Millennial Star, the Prophet (the New York newspaper), and the Improvement Era.

Joseph's own brothers, Don Carlos and William, both reprinted it. It was included in a special pamphlet in England.

Joseph himself referred to it again in D&C 128.
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Why are so many active LDS eager to reject not only what Joseph and Oliver declared about Cumorah, but also their emphasis on its importance?

Joseph and Oliver knew the location of the Hill Cumorah mattered, because a claim that it didn't matter would amount to conceding the argument that the Book of Mormon was fiction; i.e., that Mormonism Unvailed was correct.

The latest iteration of the claim that the Book of Mormon is fiction is the "abstract map" being taught at BYU and CES.

Look at this location of Cumorah. It doesn't exactly look like New York, does it?

It doesn't look like anywhere on planet Earth.

That's because it's not. It's a fantasy map, teaching the students that the Book of Mormon took place in a fictional world.

It's unbelievable that it is BYU/CES teaching this.

One would expect something like this to come out of an anti-Mormon ministry. It's the modern equivalent to Mormonism Unvailed.

And I think we should respond the same way Joseph and Oliver responded to Mormonism Unvailed; i.e., we should reaffirm the consistent teachings of the prophets and apostles that Cumorah is in New York.
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Let's return to the question, Why are so many active LDS eager to reject not only what Joseph and Oliver declared about Cumorah, but also their emphasis on its importance?

For many active LDS, the geography of the Book of Mormon may not matter. They have faith that the book is true. End of story. That's a gift of the Spirit, but those who have that gift can't expect everyone to have the same gift. Everyone has different spiritual gifts. (Moroni 10, D&C 46, 1 Corinthians 12)

[Besides, it's an ironic argument. Religious people everywhere have implicit faith in their beliefs. We send missionaries to them precisely because we know faith alone can lead people to believe in things that aren't true.]

Other active LDS don't believe the Book of Mormon is a literal history. Instead, they think it's a sort of inspired parable, teaching correct principles like the parables in the New Testament.

Still other LDS believe in the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon and it is for that reason that they seek evidence of its reality. The same reason why people learn about Israel and Egypt, whether through books or travel, lead faithful LDS to want to know more about the setting and context of the Book of Mormon.

The only reason there is confusion about the Hill Cumorah is that intellectuals in the Church have decided the prophets and apostles are wrong, and they've been teaching students at BYU/CES for decades to believe this.

These intellectuals are causing cognitive dissonance for members and investigators alike.

Overall, IMO, it is the confusion about the Hill Cumorah that leads members of the Church to resolve their cognitive dissonance by saying the location of the Hill Cumorah doesn't matter.

But Joseph and Oliver knew otherwise.

I think by now it is obvious that they were right.

We ought to accept them as the prophets and apostles they were, and as the two witnesses of the restoration of the Priesthood, the translation of the Book of Mormon, and the visitation of Moses, Elijah, Elias, and the Savior Himself.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Case study--Using art to prove Mesoamerican setting and failing the scholarship test

Two days ago I posted an observation about how the intellectuals in the Church seek to prove their Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory by citing Church artwork.

Here's a prime example.

It's based on the mural I posted yesterday, the one showing the "sons of Mosiah" approaching a Mayan pyramid city.

According to a blog post titled "Mesoamerican MTC Mural," the message of the mural is repeated in several places at the MTC. "Multiple copies of this particular mural showing the four sons of Mosiah about to enter a Lamanite city are on display throughout the buildings."

Here's an image from that blog post:

Missionaries studying by mural depicting Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory. Photo by LDS Church News!
Continuing from the blog post: "The scene portrays the land of Nephi with stepped pyramids, in a tropical or sub-tropical setting with palm trees and low-latitude shrubs, beside a lake, surrounded by spectacular, densely-forested mountains.... Tropical Kaminaljuyú (KJ), our candidate for the city of Nephi, was built on Lake Miraflores and is surrounded by imposing, densely-forested volcanoes. See the article "Kaminaljuyu" for dozens of correspondences between KJ and the Book of Mormon text. These parallels are convincing enough that KJ is on our list of outstanding archaeological evidences."

The blog post notes the promoters of the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory:

"All nine contemporary Mesoamerican correlations of which I am aware (Joe & Blake Allen, Ric Hauck & Joe Andersen, Kirk Magleby & Javier Tovar, Elder Clate W. Mask, Jr., Garth Norman, Bob Roylance & Richard Terry, Shelby Saberon & Mark Wright, John L. Sorenson, Aric Turner) place the city of Nephi within 85 air kilometers of Kaminaljuyú in the Guatemalan highlands."

These intellectuals don't even notice the deep irony of their internal confusion; i.e., they can't agree even on their Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs interpretation of the text. This is exactly the kind of confusion we expect when we reject the clear, consistent, and enduring teachings of the prophets and apostles about the New York Cumorah.

Then the post includes this map of Mesoamerica:

Proposed Locations for the City of Nephi
So far as I know, this map hasn't made it to the walls of the Provo MTC--yet. But it is implicit in all of these Mesoamerican murals, and every missionary knows that.

Especially if they've been taught the "abstract map" at BYU/CES, which depicts the Book of Mormon in a fantasy land designed to resemble Mesoamerica.

Here's the most astonishing part of the blog post:

"It is gratifying to know that hundreds of thousands of missionaries entering the field in coming years will leave the MTC with a striking mental image derived from the best current LDS and Restoration Branch (formerly RLDS) scholarship on Book of Mormon lands.... Kudos to the Missionary Department."

Think about that one for a moment.

These Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs advocates feel "gratified" that their ideology is being actively promoted at the MTC--including their repudiation of what Joseph, Oliver, and all their contemporaries and successors have taught about the Hill Cumorah in New York.

If I had been responsible for promoting this ideology to the point that it is enshrined at the MTC, I would be working as hard as I could to undo the damage and instead reaffirm what the prophets and apostles have consistently and explicitly taught for over 150 years.
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There are two more elements of this that should be noted.

First, it was the RLDS (aka, "Restoration Branch") who started the whole limited geography Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory in the 1920s. At the time, Church historian and 20-year Apostle Joseph Fielding Smith denounced it. But LDS scholars ignored him and instead embraced the RLDS position.

Now, the RLDS are ambivalent about the Book of Mormon. Some still believe in its divine authenticity and actual historicity, but others do not.

At the 2007 Community of Christ World Conference, President Stephen M. Veazey ruled as out of order a resolution to "reaffirm the Book of Mormon as a divinely inspired record." He said, "While the Church affirms the Book of Mormon as scripture, and makes it available for study and use in various languages, we do not attempt to mandate the degree of belief or use."

BYU is following a similar pattern by first, repudiating what the prophets and apostles have consistently taught about Cumorah, and second, by requiring students to learn the Book of Mormon by using an "abstract map" (a euphemism for a fantasy map) that reinforces the repudiation of the prophets and apostles by depicting Cumorah in a Mesoamerican-type setting as far from New York as possible.
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The second point is the claim that the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory, depicted throughout the MTC, is "derived from the best current LDS and Restoration Branch (formerly RLDS) scholarship on Book of Mormon lands."

There are actually groups from LDS and RLDS who regularly travel to southern Mexico in a quixotic search for Cumorah. It's comical, really, but serious in the sense that these intellectuals are teaching not only BYU and CES students, but missionaries at the Provo MTC that the prophets and apostles are wrong.

But my favorite part of this is the claim that this is the "best current scholarship."

Everyone knows that the Mormon Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs advocates have painted themselves into a tiny corner. 

Not only are they repudiating the prophets and apostles, but the best actual Mesoamerican scholarship uniformly rejects the Mormon claims. None of these Mormon intellectuals have managed to publish their theories in actual peer-reviewed journals.

BYU Studies and the Interpreter are peer-approved, not peer-reviewed. They don't seek or accept input from scholars who don't already share their ideology. (I've had some of them tell me they are "diverse" because of the disagreements about details such as where in Guatemala the City of Nephi is located, as alluded to in the quotation above. That's the extent of the "diversity of views" they allow.)

In fact, I know one actual Mesoamerican scholar who has written textbooks on the topic and who left the Church because he realized there was no possible connection between Mesoamerican history/culture and the Book of Mormon.

I've said for years that the "correspondences" between the actual Mayan civilization and the Book of Mormon are illusory. The idea that Lehi's colony was completely absorbed into a massive Mayan culture is preposterous on its face, without even considering all the textual reasons why that would be impossible. That's why these intellectuals have to use their own translation of the text (by "seeing" volcanoes, pyramids, tapirs, and other things Joseph forgot to translate correctly) to make their theories work.

IOW, the "best current LDS scholarship on Book of Mormon lands" is a joke to actual Mesoamerican scholars. 

As it should be, given that this "scholarship" is nothing more than a repudiation of the prophets and apostles who have consistently taught that Cumorah is in New York.



Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Confusing messages at the MTC

National flags at Provo MTC
A few months ago I toured the MTC in Provo, a wonderful campus that trains thousands of missionaries to go into the world to teach about the Restoration and bring people to Christ.

The campus is beautifully decorated with inspiring art and murals, such as these:






Some of the murals depict prophets, apostles, and missionaries in various settings. Here's one of Nephi in the Old World, for example:


Buildings are named after famous missionaries, such as LeGrand Richards, who taught that the Hill Cumorah was in New York.

"It was at this time that Mormon deposited in the Hill Cumorah all the records that had been entrusted to him except a few plates that he gave to his son Moroni. (See Mormon 6.) About A.D. 420, Moroni placed these plates with those his father, Mormon, had already deposited in the hill. (See Moroni 10:1-2.)" A Marvelous Work and a Wonder, p. 73.

Another building is named for Parley P. Pratt, who also taught that Cumorah is in New York.

"This Book, which contained these things, was hid in the earth by Moroni, in a hill called by him, Cumorah, which hill is now in the State of New York, near the village of Palmyra, in Ontario County.” Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, p. 43.

The administration building is named for Wilford Woodruff, who among other things taught that Cumorah was in New York:

"[Joseph] went [into] a Cave in the Hill Comoro with Oliver Cowdry & deposited those plates upon a table or shelf. In that room were deposited a large amount of gold plates Containing sacred records...  Joseph Smith said that Cave Contained tons of Choice Treasures & records." 

Another building is named after Heber C. Kimball, who also taught that Cumorah was in New York:

"Joseph and others... went into a cave in the hill Cumorah, and saw more records than ten men could carry... There were books piled up on tables, book upon book. Those records this people will yet have, if they accept of the Book of Mormon and observe its precepts, and keep the commandments."

There is a building named after Edward Stevenson, who also taught that Cumorah was in New York:

"At one time a fierce battle was fought near where Buffalo, N.Y., now stands, wherein two million were lying strewn upon the earth, slain in battle and no one to bury them, till the stench drove them southward to the Hill Ramah, which was called Cumorah by the Nephite race."

Stevenson also related David Whitmer's statement that Oliver and Joseph had visited the room in Cumorah that contained the portion of gold plates not yet translated, etc.
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Missionaries studying in these MTC buildings are never told that the men for whom the buildings are named taught that there is one Hill Cumorah and it is in New York. 

They are never told that Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery taught the same thing.

The missionaries are never told that members of the First Presidency, speaking in General Conference, have reaffirmed this basic teaching.

Instead, they are subjected to images of Mesoamerica.

Probably the most famous one is this:

The sons of Mosiah depicted in Guatemala


I zoomed in on the image so you can see the destination for the "sons of Mosiah."

Mayan pyramid city, the destination for the "sons of Mosiah."
It's a Mayan city of stone pyramids, reflecting the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory promoted by LDS intellectuals who have repudiated the consistent teachings of modern prophets and apostles.

There are other depictions of Mesoamerica in the MTC that I won't show here.

And there are exactly zero depictions of Cumorah in New York.
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I've been told by multiple sources that around 40% of returned missionaries leave the Church or go inactive after their missions. I can't independently verify that statistic, but that's about the percentage of my own missionary companions who have left the Church.

Imagine being a missionary at the Provo MTC, studying and eating and living in buildings named for valiant missionaries you want to emulate.

But only after you get into the mission field, or after you get home, do you learn that the setting for the Book of Mormon you were taught--a setting promoted by LDS intellectuals and reinforced by Church media and even the artwork in the MTC--repudiated the teachings of the very men for whom those buildings were named.

Imagine how you would feel to have believed and taught this Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory, only to later discover Letter VII's explicit, detailed teaching about the New York Cumorah and all the supporting statements by prophets and apostles for over 150 years.

You would feel you've been lied to misled at the MTC, at BYU, in CES, and even in your Church classes.

At a minimum, you would feel confused and disturbed, as Joseph Fielding Smith warned when he discussed this Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory.

But for many such missionaries, they lose their faith in the Book of Mormon, and that leads them out of the Church or into inactivity.

All because LDS intellectuals insist on promoting their pet theories, even to the point of telling the youth--and the missionaries--that the prophets and apostles are wrong.
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Monday, November 6, 2017

How intellectuals "prove" their theories

The intellectuals in the Church who support the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory have a final argument they are making.

They openly acknowledged that they repudiate every prophet and apostle who has spoken about Cumorah for the last 150 years.

They also admit that while they insist their interpretation of the text is the "correct" one, they can't agree among themselves about such basics as the location of Cumorah, the narrow neck of land, or even the river Sidon.

Nevertheless, they insist the Church has endorsed their position because of Church art.

They sometimes state that the Church is "neutral" on Book of Mormon geography, but they wink at that because they, like everyone else, know the Church's media department has depicted the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory since at least 1981.

Here's a graphic that shows the cycle:



Here's how it works.

1. Mesoamerican advocates such as the old FARMS (morphed into the Interpreter), FairMormon, BMAF, and now BMAF's corporate subsidiary Book of Mormon Central (BOMC), develop a theory of Book of Mormon geography that repudiates the prophets and apostles by insisting that the Hill Cumorah (Mormon 6:6) "cannot" be in New York.

Instead, these intellectuals persuade themselves that Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, and all of their contemporaries and successors were ignorant speculators who misled the Church about Cumorah's location. This includes members of the First Presidency speaking in General Conference.

2. The intellectuals teach the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory to students at BYU and in CES. Lately, they've begun presenting the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory as an "abstract map" based on the standard Mesoamerican interpretation of the text.

I've blogged about this here:
http://bookofmormonwars.blogspot.com/2017/08/alarming-news-from-byu-education-week.html,
here:
http://bookofmormonwars.blogspot.com/2017/04/update-on-abstract-maps.html
and here:
http://bookofmormonwars.blogspot.com/2016/06/abstract-maps-revisited.html

Obviously, this abstract map is a ruse to evade the new prohibition at BYU against using a real-world geography. Except it's even worse, because they're depicting Cumorah in a fantasy land. Apparently, as long as we don't show Cumorah in New York, any other geography is fine to teach at BYU/CES now.

3. With the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory firmly imprinted on their minds by teachers they trust, these BYU/CES students graduate and enter the workforce. Some become artists; others become Church employees. They depict the Book of Mormon just as they've been taught by the intellectuals; i.e., as a story of people living in southern Mexico and Guatemala, the area of Mesoamerica which they claim is the location of the promised land and the great nation that would be the site of the restoration and that would fulfill Isaiah's prophecies and that would send missionaries throughout the world, etc.

4. The Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs artwork and media gain widespread acceptance in the Church by default, including the two-Cumorahs display on Temple Square in the North Visitors Center and the illustrations in the missionary edition of the Book of Mormon itself.

Then the Mesoamerican proponents use this artwork and media as evidence that the Church approves their theory.

Tomorrow I'll give a recent example of this approach.

Brilliant plan, isn't it?

Except in my opinion, teaching students that the intellectuals are right and the prophets and apostles are wrong is exactly the opposite of what these BYU/CES faculty should be doing.

This plan, well-executed by the intellectuals, is based on a premise that I question.

They claim the Brethren (meaning the highest leaders of the Church) have approved of this artwork because of its content; i.e., that the Brethren endorse the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory.

Maybe that's the case.

But the premise relies on this basic assertion: that the Brethren have repudiated all prior prophets and apostles who have spoken about Cumorah in New York without a more official statement than a series of artists' conceptions.

Instead, at least in my opinion, the far more likely explanation is that the Brethren delegate the artwork to experts whom they trust because they were educated by BYU/CES. To the extent the Brethren "approve" this artwork, it is not because they are making an official statement about the Church's position on the Hill Cumorah.
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That said, the impact of this artwork and media is powerful. In my view, it has misled generations of youth, missionaries, investigators, and even mature members of the Church. It is the fulfillment of Joseph Fielding Smith's early warning that because of this theory, members of the Church would become confused and disturbed in their faith in the Book of Mormon.

These intellectuals are teaching their students to believe them, the intellectuals, whenever their opinions differ from what the prophets and apostles have said. This problem extends far beyond the question of Cumorah, of course, but this is a specific application that everyone can see and that the intellectuals openly admit.
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BTW, I think the Brethren also rely on the expertise of the intellectuals who are trusted enough to teach at BYU/CES. At least, that's what the intellectuals have told me.

The fact that these intellectuals have not informed the Brethren about all the facts, or even about all the alternatives to their Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory, is a serious problem that I'll be discussing more in the future.