Longtime readers know how much I admire FairMormon,* so I'm doing a double service here, helping college and college-bound kids while promoting FairMormon's offer of a "scholarship." Here's the link. https://www.fairmormon.org/video-scholarship.
I commend FairMormon for motivating students to use their imagination to help explain and share gospel principles. Offering up to 10 "scholarships" of $200 each for any college student or senior in high school who submits a 3-5 minute video is a great idea.
But there's a serious danger here.
The scholarships must satisfy the subjective "judging" criteria.
This means prospective winners must be aware of FairMormon's editorial policy about the Book of Mormon.
Aspiring scholarship applicants need to know that they won't win if they produce videos that contradict FairMormon editorial policies. Don't portray Cumorah in New York, for example. You can't refer to, and especially not quote, Letter VII or anything Joseph Smith actually wrote about the Book of Mormon in North America. When it comes to Cumorah, you can't cite anyone who was alive when Joseph Smith was, because in his day, every member of the Church, including future leaders, knew Cumorah was in New York.
You can't portray Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery as credible and reliable when it comes to the New York Cumorah or the North American setting for the Book of Mormon. FairMormon wants people to believe Joseph was confused and changed his mind and depended on future scholars and professors to figure it out.
You also can't cite other prophets and apostles who have talked about Cumorah in New York, even when they did so in General Conference (e.g., 1975 and 1978).
Presumably, you're guaranteed a scholarship if you can think of a new way to explain FairMormon's core principle about the Book of Mormon: the two-Cumorahs theory that teaches (i) the Book of Mormon took place in Mesoamerica and (ii) Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were ignorant speculators who misled the Church about Cumorah being in New York. Explaining that one remains a bit of a challenge for those with Mesomania, so new videos on that topic will surely jump to the top of the judges' scorecard.
But resist the temptation, please.
Pick another topic.
The last thing we need is even more promotion of the two-Cumorahs theory that has already caused so much confusion and loss of faith.
The announcement indicates: "Who knows, if your video goes viral, you may become an internet star."
Mesomania is ripe with lots of good material for a viral video. Your chances for earning the "scholarship" are high if you go this route, but I hope prospective scholarship recipients choose other subjects.
Below are some topics to avoid. Although they are all based on the sources specified in the scholarship offer (Interpreter, Book of Mormon Central, etc.), and they would surely find a receptive audience there, these topics are exactly what President Joseph Fielding Smith warned the scholars about when he said the two-Cumorahs theory would cause members to become confused and disturbed in their faith in the Book of Mormon. The scholars ignore him, saying he didn't know what he was talking about, and a lot of people have deferred to the scholars, but I hope students know better.
- Picture this: a viral FairMormon video about the two-Cumorahs theory, complete with the reenactment of a BYU student's 40-year-old memory of Professor Sperry telling the class about how Joseph Fielding Smith didn't really mean it when he rejected the two-Cumorahs theory.
- A viral video about how Joseph and Oliver were the ones who were confused about Cumorah, because modern LDS scholars know better.
- A reenactment of the infamous "fax from the First Presidency" that is actually plagiarized from the Encyclopedia of Mormonism's article on Cumorah that was written by the guy who cited his own book as authority.
- A Raiders of the Lost Cumorah, set in southern Mexico, or Survivor: Cumorah, with a team from the Community of Christ (formerly RLDS) competing against a team from BYU.
The best part: whether you "earn" the "scholarship" or not, FairMormon gets to use your video without payment.
If you do produce a video promoting the two-Cumorahs theory and you don't win a scholarship from FairMormon, you might be able to sell it to one of the anti-Mormon sites that love to tell people about the two-Cumorahs theory.
Just for fun, I hope some students do produce videos about the Book of Mormon in North America. I'd like to see some videos that actually support Joseph and Oliver, who knew far more about the Book of Mormon than today's scholars. Even if FairMormon will reject your videos for violating their editorial policies, you have a much better chance of going viral if you help members of the Church understand what Joseph and Oliver actually said than if you reject them with the two-Cumorahs theory.
*I mean that. I do admire FairMormon and their efforts to answer questions. They've done a lot of great work assembling and organizing useful material. That said, I think people should know about their editorial position on Book of Mormon geography.
I would never refer anyone to their site for answers to questions about the Book of Mormon. FairMormon is 100% dogmatic Mesomania. People who go to their site will come away confused and disturbed in their faith because FairMormon promotes the two-Cumorahs theory exclusively. I keep hoping someday they will change their editorial stance, and I stand ready to help at any moment, but I'm not holding my breath.