Friday, July 14, 2017

The official position of the Church - part 2

FairMormon is a group that does a lot of good by answering questions and assembling references and resources. But their editorial position is full-fledged Mesomania, and they employ clever techniques to promote their two-Cumorahs and Mesoamerican theories.

Which is why I can't recommend FairMormon to anyone who has questions.

They also tend to make authoritative statements on behalf of the Church while they omit inconvenient sources and use sophistry to mislead readers, at least in my opinion. I've told them about my concerns but they've completely ignored them.

Here's an example from their web page: "the Church has no official geography. No revelatory basis exists for any geographical scheme outside of the Book of Mormon text itself."

That's quite a statement to make about the D&C and Oliver's historical letters, many of which describe heavenly visitations but, according to FairMormon, are not "revelatory."

This FairMormon web page establishes the FairMormon/Mesomaniac position that an anonymous fax, plagiarized from an article in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, overturns the explicit statements of Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, all of their contemporaries, and other modern prophets and apostles who have spoken on the issue of one Cumorah in New York, including in General Conference.

See what you think after you go through this analysis.

I'm going to post their page below with my comments in red.
________________________________________

https://www.fairmormon.org/answers/Question:_Did_the_First_Presidency_identify_the_New_York_%22Hill_Cumorah%22_as_the_site_of_the_Nephite_final_battles%3F

Question: Did the First Presidency identify the New York "Hill Cumorah" as the site of the Nephite final battles? Of course, the answer is unequivocally yes. Joseph was President of the Church and Oliver was Assistant President at the time they wrote and published Letter VII. But FairMormon won't tell you that. Instead, they focus on an obscure letter written in modern times, as you're about to see. 

The First Presidency's secretary apparently answered a question according to his own understanding - No revelatory basis exists for this position. Notice how FairMormon characterizes Letter VII as not "revelatory" without informing readers that the letter even exists, let alone that Joseph and Oliver wrote it, that Joseph made sure every member of the Church in his day had access to it, that all of his contemporaries accepted it, and that no Church leader has contradicted it since. 

The First Presidency's secretary apparently answered a question according to his own understanding, [consistent with Letter VII and multiple talks in General Conference] and then at the direction of the First Presidency later clarified/corrected his statement to indicate that while many Latter-day Saints have expressed opinions about the location of Cumorah (or other Book of Mormongeography issues), the Church has no official geography. No revelatory basis exists for any geographical scheme outside of the Book of Mormon text itself. [Emphasis mine. Remember this when we see what members of the First Presidency have actually said about Cumorah.] 

A letter from the Secretary to the First Presidency said that "that the Hill Cumorah in western New York state is the same as referenced in the Book of Mormon"

In 1990, F. Michael Watson (secretary to the First Presidency) sent a letter to a questioner which read as follows:
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
Office of the First Presidency
Salt Lake City, Utah 84150
October 16, 1990
Bishop Darrel L. Brooks
Moore Ward
Oklahoma City Oklahoma South Stake
1000 Windemere
Moore, OK 73160
Dear Bishop Brooks:
I have been asked to forward to you for acknowledgment and handling the enclosed copy of a letter to President Gordon B. Hinckley from Ronnie Sparks of your ward. Brother Sparks inquired about the location of the Hill Cumorah mentioned in the Book of Mormon, where the last battle between the Nephites and Lamanites took place.
The Church has long maintained, as attested to by references in the writings of General Authorities, [emphasis mine, because this includes Letter VII and the writings of all of Joseph's contemporaries and every modern prophet and apostle since who has formally addressed the question] that the Hill Cumorah in western New York state is the same as referenced in the Book of Mormon.
The Brethren appreciate your assistance in responding to this inquiry, and asked that you convey to Brother Sparks their commendation for his gospel study.
Sincerely yours,
(signed)
F. Michael Watson
Secretary to the First Presidency
[This letter is clear and factual. Among the General Authorities who have written and spoken about this are Oliver Cowdery (with the assistance and approval of Joseph Smith), all of their contemporaries, including Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Wilford Woodruff, and others, Joseph Fielding Smith, Anthony W. Ivins, Marion G. Romney, and Mark E. Peterson. At the same time, no modern prophet or apostle has ever said Cumorah is anywhere else.]

Letter from F. Michael Watson sent 16 October 1990.

Two statements [they're really one statement, as you'll see] made available within the next three years clarified the Church's opinion on the matter

It is apparent that Bro. Watson seems to have been speaking on his own understanding of the matter, and not as an official declaration of Church policy. [Because he referred to the writings of the Church leaders listed above, Bro. Watson was not speaking for himself. FairMormon takes the position that the statements of these prophets and apostles, including those made in General Conference, are not official Church policy because FairMormon believes on its own authority that Cumorah cannot be in New York. Why? Because FairMormon thinks Joseph and Oliver were ignorant speculators who misled the Church when they wrote and endorsed Letter VII.] 

Two statements made available within the next three years clarified the Church's opinion on the matter. The first was the publication of the Encyclopedia of Mormonism. Although not an official statement of Church policy, two members of the Quorum of the Twelve, Elders Oaks and Maxwell, served as advisers during the production of the Encyclopedia. [Look at the logic here. Elder Watson referred to specific statements made by Joseph and Oliver, as well as others made in General Conference, including by members of the First Presidency. According to FairMormon, none of those constitute official statements. However, a self-serving article that made its way into the Encyclopedia of Mormonism is supposed to reflect the official position of the Church. (Although FairMormon also says it is "not an official statement of Church policy," their claim that there is no official position on Cumorah is based on this article.) I say the article is self-serving because it was written by David Palmer, who wrote the book In Search of Cumorah that certainly reflects one form of official position--the official position of the Mesomaniacs. Does anyone think Elders Oaks and Maxwell realized they were conferring official policy status onto Palmer's book by allowing this article to be published in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism (assuming they even read it)?]   Thus, [this word carries a lot of weight here] we have the following statement published in 1992:
In 1928 the Church purchased the western New York hill and in 1935 erected a monument recognizing the visit of the angel Moroni (see Angel Moroni Statue). A visitors center was later built at the base of the hill. Each summer since 1937, the Church has staged the Cumorah Pageant at this site. Entitled America's Witness for Christ, it depicts important events from Book of Mormon history. This annual pageant has reinforced the common assumption that Moroni buried the plates of Mormon in the same hill where his father had buried the other plates,
[The rhetoric here is clever. First, as I've mentioned, the entry in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism was written by David Palmer, who cites his own book as authority (FairMormon omits the citation at the end of the article, of course, possibly because they're starting to realize how ridiculous the citation cartel is, and this entry on Cumorah is one of the most blatant examples of that.) Nowhere in Palmer's article does he even mention Letter VII, despite it's being the most explicit and unambiguous statement about Cumorah in Church history. (In his book, he alludes to Letter VII IN A FOOTNOTE, without quoting it, and citing only the Messenger and Advocate as if Letter VII was an obscure oddity. He doesn't tell readers that Joseph helped write the letter and explicitly endorsed it at least three times.) Instead, in his article Palmer writes that the pageant has "reinforced the common assumption that Moroni buried the plates in the same hill where his father had buried the other plates." Palmer, FairMormon, and all the Mesomaniacs want people to believe that Letter VII, which declared the New York Cumorah to be a fact, written by the Assistant President of the Church with the full approval of Joseph Smith, is nothing more that an expression of a "common assumption" that was wrong. This is how these Mesomaniacs are teaching that Joseph and Oliver were ignorant speculators who misled the Church about Cumorah being in New York.]
thus equating this New York hill with the Book of Mormon Cumorah. Because the New York site does not readily fit the Book of Mormon description of Book of Mormon geography, 
[This statement is based on Palmer's imaginary list of requirements, set forth in his book and designed to fit Mesoamerica, that include the necessity for volcanoes that never even appear in the Book of Mormon. His requirements also include this: "the hill must be large enough to provide a view of hundreds of thousands of bodies." This is the same claim made by anti-Mormon critics, of course. But the text--and Letter VII itself--explain there were only "thousands" of Jaredites and "tens of thousands" of Nephites/Lamanites killed at Cumorah. Not "hundreds of thousands" (or millions). 

FairMormon wants you to believe that the Brethren take the official position that the Hill Cumorah in New York (labeled as "the New York site") cannot possibly be what Joseph and Oliver said it was. It's yet another way of telling the world that Joseph and Oliver were ignorant speculators who misled the Church. And yet, when you go through the actual text and compare it to the archaeology, anthropology, geology and geography, the New York Cumorah fits nicely.]
some Latter-day Saints have looked for other possible explanations and locations, including Mesoamerica. [Notice how only one alternative is even mentioned, and no surprise, it's Mesoamerica. This is how the Mesomaniacs have managed to infiltrate the Church, by suppressing information (Letter VII) and censoring any alternatives to their own theories.] Although some have identified possible sites that may seem to fit better (Palmer), [there's his self-serving citation to himself that FairMormon wants you to believe Elders Oaks and Maxwell specifically approved] there are no conclusive connections between the Book of Mormon text and any specific site that has been suggested.
—David A. Palmer, "Cumorah" in Daniel H. Ludlow, ed., Encyclopedia of Mormonism.

The Secretary to the First Presidency later clarified his earlier statement: "there are no conclusive connections between the Book of Mormon text and any specific site"

On April 23, 1993, F. Michael Watson arranged for a clarification letter after a discussion with a FARMS staffer. The text is similar and consistent with [a nice euphemism; It was actually plagiarized from the article by just reordering some sentences] what was published in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism the previous year:
The Church emphasizes the doctrinal and historical value of the Book of Mormon, not its geography. While some Latter-day Saints have looked for possible locations and explanations [for Book of Mormon geography] because the New York Hill Cumorah does not readily fit the Book of Mormon description of Cumorah, there are no conclusive connections between the Book of Mormon text and any specific site.[1]
Since the text of this letter was published in the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, some critics have charged the FARMS authors with either manipulating the Church into sending the letter, or forging the letter text altogether. [Notice they never provide a copy of this letter. Maybe one exists. If so, plenty of people would like to see it. It's exceptionally strange that the author of an article would claim to quote a letter that he does not possess and cannot explain who does possess it. Meanwhile, the actual letter from Elder Watson that started all of this does exist, as they show in this web page.]
Matt Roper of the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship located a faxed copy of the same [how do we know it's the "same" if we don't have the original letter? Remember, this fax is plagiarized from Palmer's EOM article] statement sent from the Office of the First Presidency, along with its cover page, and sent FAIR a copy with permission to post it. The 1993 fax was sent by Senior Executive Secretary for the Office of the First Presidency, Carla Ogden, to Brent Hall of FARMS. (Sister Ogden continues to serve in this position as of 2009). The text of the fax matches exactly the text reported to have been in the response by Watson as described in the FARMS Review. The cover letter reads as follows:
I thought you would be interested in this FAX from Michael Watson, secretary to the First Presidency. [Except Elder Watson's name appears nowhere on the fax.] We have been receiving a number of questions from the Oklahoma, Texas area where anti-Mormons [This is exactly the problem. Anti-Mormons frequently point out that our own LDS scholars claim Joseph and Oliver were ignorant speculators who misled the Church. That is why it is critical that this issue be resolved, and I think it should be resolved by reaffirming what Joseph and Oliver said from the beginning.] are using a letter from Brother Watson to a Bishop where Brother Watson said that the Church supports only one location for Cumorah, and that is the New York location. [I've looked but have been unable to find a single instance of a Church leader repudiating Letter VII. Instead, I've only found multiple confirmations of what Joseph and Oliver said.] I talked with him on the phone the other day and told him of the questions that were coming to us. He responded that the First Presidency would like to clear up that Issue and he would FAX me with that clarification. [Maybe this is an accurate statement of what happened, but people often hear what they want to hear.]

Thanks 

[signed] Brent [Hall]
[The fax says nothing about Elder Watson. At any rate, it is nothing more than a plagiarized excerpt from the Palmer article in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism. FairMormon wants us to believe that this essentially anonymous, plagiarized fax constitutes official Church policy that overrules every statement by the modern prophets and apostles, starting with Joseph and Oliver, including those made in General Conference by members of the First Presidency. If you want to believe this is how the Church reveals official policy, feel free to do so. I'm, shall we say, skeptical.] 

Fax from the Office of the First Presidency to FARMS dated April 23, 1993.
(Phone and numbers have been redacted from these scans; they are otherwise unaltered. The top of the First Presidency's fax had "Apr 23 '93 12:25 PM FIRST PRESIDENCY SLC P.1" in fainter letters applied by the receiving fax, which does not appear on the scan.)

Notes

  1. Jump up Correspondence from Michael Watson, Office of the First Presidency, 23 April 1993. Cited with commentary in William J. Hamblin, "Basic Methodological Problems with the Anti-Mormon Approach to the Geography and Archaeology of the Book of Mormon," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 2/1 (1993): 161–197. wiki off-site GL direct link

No comments:

Post a Comment