Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Top 10 posts of 2019

Here were the top 10 posts on this blog in 2019.

1. https://bookofmormonwars.blogspot.com/2019/08/the-fighting-preacher-willard-bean.html

2. https://bookofmormonwars.blogspot.com/2019/09/fluhman-mason-discussions.html

3. https://bookofmormonwars.blogspot.com/2019/08/review-of-case-for-book-of-mormon.html

4. https://bookofmormonwars.blogspot.com/2019/11/dr-houston-and-m2c-hoax.html

5. https://bookofmormonwars.blogspot.com/2019/09/revisiting-evolution-byu-vs-math.html

6. https://bookofmormonwars.blogspot.com/2019/10/mayan-warfare-at-byu.html

7. https://bookofmormonwars.blogspot.com/2019/07/mormon-stories-cultural-context.html

8. https://bookofmormonwars.blogspot.com/2019/10/the-fiction-narrative-grapes-of-thorns.html

9. https://bookofmormonwars.blogspot.com/2019/10/paradigm-shifts.html

10. https://bookofmormonwars.blogspot.com/2019/04/conference-classic-americas-destiny.html

We're looking forward to an awesome 2020!

BTW, here is the most popular all-time post on the Consensus blog:


The most popular all-time post on the Letter VII blog:


The most popular post on the BookofMormonCentralAmerica blog since it started:


These rankings do not reflect additional views on other sites, such as Amazon, moronisamerica, bookofmormonevidence, and other sites that repost these.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Divine authenticity: Comstock on Education

Below is an excerpt from a wonderful book, published in 1810, sold in Palmyra in 1819 as "Comstock on Education."

The excerpt explains how religion fails when it is taught as a superstition, attended by bigotry, instead of as a rational, evidence-based truth that embraces examination. Some might find it astonishing to realize that this was written over 200 years ago. It reads as if it could have been written yesterday. It is congruent with the Church's emphasis on family-centered, Church supported gospel learning, and it has application to M2C and other issues.*

One key passage: "Strive to comprehend the evidence for the divine authenticity of the sacred scriptures yourselves."

As you read this, recall that for Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, and their contemporaries and successors, the New York Cumorah was a key component of the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon.


Respecting the unfaithfulness of parents preparing the way for the reign of infidelity, and the 
importance of religiously educating children as a barrier against it. 

One of the most deplorable consequences attending a neglect of parental duty, is the prevalence of infidelity. The professed friends of religion have contributed, indirectly, to raise up a formidable enemy against it [i.e., against religion]. It is evident that the unfaithfulness of parents, in the government and religious education of their children, has prepared the way for the reign of this pernicious evil. 

Fifty years ago, there was perhaps fifty times the attention paid to the government and religious education of children in this country, in proportion to the number of inhabitants, that there has been for some years past. At that period there was scarcely an infidel to be found. If there were any who denied the divinity of Jesus Christ and the sacred scriptures, they were obliged to be silent ; for such characters were held in universal abhorrence. But now infidelity triumphs over shame, appears entirely without a mask, and often enters our temples, dedicated to the worship of that God and Saviour, whom it does not hesitate publicly to blaspheme without a blush....

But the popular cry is, that period was the reign of superstition and religious bigotry. And that superstition and bigotry served as blinders to their eyes, and prevented people from acting rationally. They disposed people to take things for granted on their parents' testimony, and place such an implicit confidence in their veracity, as forbid inquiry. But the present is the reign of reason, they say, a time for rational inquiry. These blinders are removed, and the human mind is rising above these prejudices, and people now see how much they have been imposed upon by their ancestors. 

And here it must be observed, that we have no objection against having religion come to the light. We believe it will bear the most critical investigation. And notwithstanding it has been to some a stumbling block, and to others foolishness, yet to every honest, unbiassed [sic] heart, to every one that believes, it is to their abundant satisfaction, the wisdom and the power of God. It does not stand in any need of such supports as superstition and bigotry, and we pointedly disavow them as necessary in the least to support religion. But they have often, Judas-like, betrayed it into the hands of its enemies. 

That there is a period, in which it is proper and necessary for children, on account of the weakness of their own mental powers, to place confidence in the judgment and opinion of parents, must be admitted. But that they should to old age, continue to be children, without making any inquiry after the reason on which, those opinions were founded, is an abuse of their rational powers. 

That this was too much the case with people formerly, we are disposed to grant. And with regard to the impropriety of it, we are pleased to see people's eyes opened, and their prejudices removed. Error is error, let it be found when or where it may, and we wish to have it detected. 

But there is that weakness, or imperfection, attached to human nature, that leads mankind, when they have discovered errors on one extreme, not to rest satisfied with correcting the error, and stopping at a medium, but like the vibration of a pendulum, rush into the opposite extreme. 

This has ever been the case. And although it has been observed by the wise and prudent, and the observation has been common, yet people in general have never been disposed to improve in this respect, by the failings of others. 

There is a medium between a superstitious, bigoted attachment to religion, and a bold, presumptuous renunciation of it. 

That medium, we conceive to be, a rational attachment to religion, founded on a conviction of its troth, reality and importance, produced by the most convincing, satisfactory evidence.

This rational attachment to religion, we profess; and we do earnestly recommend it to mankind. We believe it is the only source of true, solid enjoyment for them. 

But it is not surprising, that people who have never studied the evidences of Christianity, nor felt its enlightening influence on their hearts; who are disposed to think freely, when they come to see the influence which superstition and bigotry have had on their own, and the minds of others, and see what a restraint they have laid upon their rational powers; should be offended, and turn from religion with a degree of disgust.

It is just like depraved human nature. This has led many in this day, profanely to say, what is the Almighty that we should serve him ? and what profit should we have if we should pray unto him? It is vain to serve God.

But it is observable in this case, that religion is not so much the object of disgust, as the manner in which people adhere to it, and are influenced by it.

But it is denied that a superstitious bigoted attachment is a rational one, or that religion in such cases has its genuine influence. 

When the great Jehovah made the rational soul of man, he designed it should be happy in the enjoyment of himself, without laying restraint upon his rational powers. And when man had sinned, and fallen under the curse, and God entered into a covenant of grace for his redemption from sin, he ordained that religion, and what is implied in it, should be the only thing that should make men happy, without laying the least restraint upon the free, unbiassed exercise of reason. And this religion certainly does, whilst it forbids, and even mocks at that false reasoning, and vain philosophy, which is used as a shelter for vice, 

The scriptures inform us, that the carnal mind is enmity against God. That the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, that he cannot know them, because they are spiritually discerned. We grant that there is something in religion, as it respects the heart, that appears mysterious, or unaccountable to natural men. But it appears so, not because it is irrational, but because their understandings are darkened, through the moral blindness of their hearts. 

And here we observe, that it is not uncommon for very loose, wicked men, when taking a view of their own characters, to despair of ever enjoying the blessings which religion promises its friends. In this situation, human nature has been disposed to fly to some shelter, to screen it from those curses which it denounces upon its enemies. And this has commonly been, to renounce religion, and deny its divine authenticity. And they take occasion from every unfavourable circumstance, connected with religion, to justify themselves for doing it. 

But with respect to superstition, and what is commonly called religious bigotry, it is evident that they are not the natural, legitimate offspring of religion. They have their origin in the weakness and depravity of human nature. And we grant that religion has been the occasion of the depravity of the human heart discovering itself, or operating in these particular ways. 

But this we conceive affords no ground, or colour of objection against religion. And we farther grant, that on these accounts religion has often been made a tool of state, and has been improved by the aspiring arid ambitious, to obtain the most abominable purposes ; yet we conceive this affords no ground of objection against it. As well might people be prejudiced against money, because it was improved by a Judas to betray his Lord, as to object against religion on these accounts. 

And it is further observable, that superstition and bigotry are not the natural, or necessary fruits of a religious education. These evils do not necessarily follow, as unavoidable consequences upon the religious education of children. We grant, however, that they follow, as consequences of a certain improper method of religious instruction. 

When parents religiously educate their children, under the influence of superstition or bigotry, these consequences commonly follow. These evils produce their own likeness. When children are taught their creed, or what they ought to believe, and what they ought to do, and their mouths are shut against any inquiry, and they are taught that it is criminal to make inquiry, because it may imply 
doubt, and this, enforced by awful considerations suggested to the imagination; it commonly makes such an impression as leads children to think they must never inquire, that to inquire will be sinful ; and in this opinion they grow to manhood. In this manner children have taken things for granted, on their father's testimony. This is the principal fountain from whence these evils flow. 

This, as our Saviour said of the phairisees, is taking away the key of knowledge. This method of instruction is to be deplored. We have reason to believe that it has carried, and is carrying thousands of stupid mortals blinded to destruction....

These neglects of parents, and their slothfulness in the religious education of their children, have contributed to aid the cause of infidelity in our country. An affecting, lamentable consideration ! Yes, parents, your unfaithfulness to your children has contributed, indirectly, to raise up enemies against religion, and to strengthen their cause....

It is a fact, parents, and one that ought to alarm you, that the discerning among the enemies of religion are highly gratified with your inattention to your children. They know how subject the minds of children and youth are to the influence of education. And they have been mortified to see, that where a faithful attention has been paid to their religious education, their own sentiments have generally been held in abhorrence. 

And this very consideration has led the enemies of religion to educate young men with their sentiments, and send them out into the world as teachers of schools, and instructors of children and youth, to disseminate their own pernicious opinions, in order to prevent the religious education of children, and counteract its influence. These enemies of religion see, and they are pleased ts see, that where parents neglect their duty to their children, they indirectly aid their cause. A garden neglected will soon be full of noxious weeds ; so the youthful mind, that is not instructed in the principles of the Christian religion, nor impressed with its truths, falls an easy prey to those false reasonings, and foul sentiments, which, like unclean spirits from the mouth of the dragon, or the bottomless pit, are destroying the souls of men, and hurrying them down to their own native regions. 

Friends of Zion, these considerations are truly alarming. This subject is truly interesting, it demands your serious, prayerful attention. It demands your vigorous exertions. The enemies of Christianity, you see, are bold and enterprising. They have raised their stance and are officiously busy to enlist people unto it....

Study, therefore, to know your duty in all its branches... educate your children rightly, point out to them forbidden paths, show them their danger, and train them up in the way they should go. 

And be particular, as their minds expand, to impress them with the consideration, that religion is a rational thing, and that it lays no restraints upon their rational powers. Instruct them in the great doctrines of the Christian religion. Strive to understand them yourselves, and whatever you inculcate, as matter of faith, as soon as your children are able to make the inquiry, let them know you have reason for believing it ; and that if they are not able now to comprehend it, express your hope that they will be able, when their understandings are more enlarged. Strive to comprehend the evidence for the divine authenticity of the sacred scriptures yourselves, and as soon as your children are able, help them to understand it. Teach them their duty, and make it as plain as possible, and help them as far as you can, to see the propriety and reasonableness of it....

And by doing this you may erect a hedge around your vineyard, which it will be difficult for your enemies to break over. God in his providence, is calling upon you to be more faithful in this branch of your duty. And we press it upon you as the most prudent measure, to stop a dreadful torrent, and the contaminating influence of those pernicious sentiments, which threaten to overwhelm our country. 

But in recommending the religious education of children, we do not expect the approbation of that class of men, who avow infidelity, in opposition to the sacred scriptures. We expect to incur their displeasure. And you may expect it and their opposition too. But this, Christians, we must beat. 


*This has obvious application to the ongoing censorship being practiced by Book of Mormon Central and other M2C organizations.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Dr. Houston and the M2C hoax

In a previous post, I mentioned the bizarre headline announcing the visit of Dr. Stephen Houston to BYU (bizarre because of the way it was worded). Dr. Houston spoke about some archaeological discoveries in Central America.

I wasn't able to attend, but I've heard from some attendees. I also have some screen shots of the presentation, which are basically the same images from previous accounts of the LIDAR work done in Guatemala recently. He gave a similar presentation at the Library of Congress, which you can see here:


Professor Houston, a former BYU professor who now teaches at Brown University, is not LDS. I'm told that at his recent presentation at BYU, he said, "It's really hard to see how the Book of Mormon relates to Mesoamerica--especially for archaeologists."

By now, I think it's becoming apparent that it is really hard for anyone outside the delusional M2C bubble to see how the Book of Mormon relates to Mesoamerica.

Probably that's because M2C is a hoax, based on a mistake in interpreting Church history. The M2C hoax persists only because our M2C scholars and their followers continue to censor, suppress, and repudiate the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah.

Which is fine, so long as everyone involved understands what's going on here.

I've previously discussed the disconnect between non-M2C Mesoamerican scholars and M2C scholars who "can't unsee" Mesoamerica when they read the Book of Mormon. This post is an example:


M2C is an outstanding example of bias confirmation. No matter what discoveries archaeologists make in Mesoamerica, our LDS M2C intellectuals will suddenly "find" something in the text that fits.

Dr. John Sorenson was one of the best at doing this, so it's appropriate that this lecture was named for him. 

For example, the largest enumerated army in the entire Book of Mormon was a Lamanite army that had 42,000 men. But now that LIDAR has discovered millions of Mayans, our M2C scholars claim the Book of Mormon wars involved massive armies.

Mesoamerica features volcanoes. The Book of Mormon does not. Naturally, our M2C scholars "find" volcanoes in the text, just as they "find" tapirs, mountainous terrain, etc.

If you're not inside the M2C bubble, the M2C hoax is obvious. If you're still inside the bubble--if you still follow the M2C intellectuals instead of the prophets--you might want to step outside the bubble for an hour or so and look around.

You'll be surprised to discover that actual archaeology, anthropology, geology, geography, etc., support the teachings of the prophets--something you'll never learn as long as you're inside the M2C bubble.

We thank Dr. Houston for his presentation and comments.

Maybe a few more presentations such as this will finally pop the M2C bubble and liberate members of the Church to believe the teachings of the prophets once again.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Mayan Warfare at BYU

Although I don't write about the topic on this blog much any more, the topic is apparently thriving at BYU, based on this headline:

"Dr. Stephen Houston Speaking on Mayan Warfare at BYU"

The Mayan warfare at BYU apparently involves the M2C advocates and the handful of professors who still believe what the prophets have taught about the New York Cumorah. 

I hope someone attends and takes notes for me.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

The fiction narrative - Grapes of thorns

Fantasy map: the seed of fiction
Unless there is a change of course soon, within a few years it will become commonplace for faithful members of the Church to believe and teach that the Book of Mormon is fiction. Even today it's not unusual to meet active members who think this.

The seeds of the fiction narrative have already been planted in the minds of the youth.

It seems unlikely, to say the least, that the fiction narrative will produce the fruit of strong testimonies and conviction.

After all, do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?

From the time a handful of scholars persuaded so many LDS to disbelieve the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah, the fiction narrative became inevitable.

IOW, the M2C narrative leads directly to the fiction narrative. Looking for Book of Mormon events in Mesoamerica is like looking for Biblical sites in eastern China because there are ancient cities there. If one tried hard enough, one could find "correspondences" between those ancient cities and the descriptions in the Bible, applying the same circular reasoning that the M2C advocates apply to "see" the Book of Mormon in Mesoamerica.

Some people find it impossible to believe that the fiction narrative would ever become mainstream in the Church.

But the seed of fiction cannot produce the fruit of divine authenticity.

Think about the fruit another seed has produced.

Twenty years ago, members of the Church would have said it was impossible that someday, LDS scholars would teach that Joseph Smith didn't really translate the Book of Mormon, that he didn't use the Urim and Thummim that came with the plates, and that he didn't even use the plates themselves.

After all, Joseph and Oliver consistently and persistently taught that Joseph translated the engravings on the plates with the Urim and Thummim. The revelations in the D&C teach the same thing. The prophets have reaffirmed their testimony innumerable times over the years.

And yet, here we are today.

The ideas that Joseph didn't use the plates, didn't use the Urim and Thummim, and didn't translate anything is completely mainstream.

Scene from Church film that teaches the
stone-in-a-hat theory of translation
This is a still image from a movie now being shown in visitors centers that depict Joseph Smith staring at a stone in a hat to dictate the text, while the plates remain under a cloth, a useless prop.

The script for this film was adapted from a passage in the 1834 book, Mormonism Unvailed.

Here is the passage.

now playing at a
Visitors Center
near you
The translation finally commenced. They were found to contain a language not now known upon the earth, which they termed "reformed Egyptian characters." The plates, therefore, which had been so much talked of, were found to be of no manner of use. After all, the Lord showed and communicated to him [Joseph] every word and letter of the Book. Instead of looking at the characters inscribed upon the plates, the prophet was obliged to resort to the old ''peep stone," which he formerly used in money-digging. This he placed in a hat, or box, into which he also thrust his face. Through the stone he could then discover a single word at a time, which he repeated aloud to his amanuensis, who committed it to paper, when another word would immediately appear, and thus the performance continued to the end of the book. 

The screenwriters could have chosen instead to use the scriptures for a text, but the scholars and film producers claim the scriptures are, at best, misleading. They prefer Mormonism Unvailed over the scriptures.

Actually, they could have used another passage from Mormonism Unvailed:

Another account they give of the transaction, is, that it was performed with the big spectacles before mentioned, and which were in fact, the identical Urim and Thumim mentioned in Exodus 28 — 30...

Of course, the second version is the one Joseph and Oliver testified was true. Right in the Pearl of Great Price, where everyone can read it, we have their testimony:

Having removed the earth, I obtained a lever, which I got fixed under the edge of the stone, and with a little exertion raised it up. I looked in, and there indeed did I behold the plates, the Urim and Thummim, and the breastplate, as stated by the messenger. ...  immediately after my arrival [in Pennsylvania] I commenced copying the characters off the plates. I copied a considerable number of them, and by means of the Urim and Thummim I translated some of them... Two days after the arrival of Mr. Cowdery (being the 7th of April) I commenced to translate the Book of Mormon, and he began to write for me.
(Joseph Smith—History 1:52, 62, 67)

Oliver Cowdery describes these events thus: “These were days never to be forgotten—to sit under the sound of a voice dictated by the inspiration of heaven, awakened the utmost gratitude of this bosom! Day after day I continued, uninterrupted, to write from his mouth, as he translated with the Urim and Thummim, or, as the Nephites would have said, ‘Interpreters,’ the history or record called ‘The Book of Mormon.’
(Joseph Smith—History, Note, 1)

I realize that our revisionist historians claim that when Joseph and Oliver used the term Urim and Thummim they actually meant the peep stone; i.e., they claim Joseph and Oliver were misleading the Church by using a code word for the peep stone described in Mormonism Unvailed

That's how they rationalize using Mormonism Unvailed instead of the scriptures to explain Church history and the origins of the Book of Mormon.

You can read it right in the Saints book, volume 1.

Buried with the plates, Moroni said, were two seer stones, which Joseph later called the Urim and Thummim, or interpreters. The Lord had prepared these stones to help Joseph translate the record.... Sometimes Joseph translated by looking through the interpreters and reading in English the characters on the plates. Often he found a single seer stone to be more convenient. He would put the seer stone in his hat, place his face into the hat to block out the light, and peer at the stone. Light from the stone would shine in the darkness, revealing words that Joseph dictated as Oliver rapidly copied them down.

Saints, Volume 1, pp. 22, 61, available here:

Saints teaches revisionist history that directly contradicts the scriptures quoted above and everything that Joseph and Oliver said about the translation. For example, here's what Joseph actually said about the Urim and Thummim:

He said unto me I am a Messenger sent from God, be faithful and keep his commandments in all things. He told me also of a sacred record which was written on plates of gold. I saw in the vision the place where they were deposited. He said to me the Indians were the literal decendants of Abraham. He explained many of the prophecies to me; one of which I will mention, which is in Malachi 4th chapter. Behold, the day of the Lord cometh <​(&c​> He also informed me that the Urim & Thummim was hid up with the record, and that God would give me power to translate it with the assistance of this instrument;


It's undoubtedly true that several people testified they saw Joseph put a stone in a hat and dictate words. What they never testify to, however, is that Joseph said he was translating the Book of Mormon. They never relate what words he dictated. All the evidence indicates Joseph was demonstrating the process, not translating the Book of Mormon in front of an audience.

After all, Moroni (and the Lord) had told Joseph he could not show the plates or Urim and Thummim to anyone until the translation was complete. He couldn't possibly have translated the plates in public view without violating that prohibition.

With the peep stone in the hat narrative as precedent, do you still think it's impossible that the seed of the fiction narrative will bear fruit?

I posted some comments about the faith crisis here:


Monday, October 14, 2019

Paradigm shifts

Everyone loves and hates paradigm shifts, depending on whether they like or dislike the new paradigm. Everyone who promotes a new paradigm cites Thomas Kuhn and his Copernicus example, or another famous historical shift in understanding and perception. They don't cite the numerous attempts at creating a new paradigm that don't catch on because they are nonsense or because they are merely revivals of long-discredited ideas.

People continue to ask about the stone-in-a-hat issue. As I anticipated, thousands of people left Education Week in Provo last August believing that (i) Joseph dictated the Book of Mormon by reading words that appeared on a metaphysical teleprompter (the peep stone in a hat) and (ii) Joseph didn't translate the plates but instead the words were provided by an unknown intermediary translator.

The purveyors of this narrative have tried to frame it as a "paradigm shift" because that sounds smart, cool, progressive, and informed.

This peep-stone-in-a-hat narrative was revived a few years ago by a group of LDS historians. They claim it is a "new paradigm" but they forgot to mention a key fact.

This is not a "new paradigm" at all. It's a zombie version of an old narrative that was killed years ago by Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery.

I discussed this here:

In that post, I observed this:

We can understand the chronology of the alternative theories through a simple chiasmus:

Joseph produced the Book of Mormon by reading words off a stone-in-a-hat (critics) [1834]
     Joseph translated the plates with the Urim and Thummim (alternative account) [1834]
     Joseph translated the plates with the Urim and Thummim (taught for decades by LDS leaders) [1834-2015]
Joseph produced the Book of Mormon by reading words off a stone-in-a-hat (revisionist historians) [2015 to present] 

The "paradigm shift" was presented to BYU educators in this article that comes complete with the inevitable Kuhn/Copernicus reference:

Alert educators could tell something was up. The article is basically an ad for the book, From Darkness unto Light. Worse, the article pretends that the peep stone narrative is new, and that everyone in the Church needs to adjust to this "paradigm shift."

Nowhere does From Darkness unto Light quote or discuss the peep stone theory as it was introduced in 1834 in the book Mormonism Unvailed. I included the relevant passage in the link above, but here it is again:

On page 18, which you can read hereMormonism Unvailed acknowledges two alternative explanations of the translation. The first involved the seer stone (which the book calls a "peep stone") that Joseph put in a hat to read off the words that appeared. Setting aside the sarcasm of this passage, we can see that the first paragraph below is what our revisionist Church historians are teaching today (although they claim Joseph saw a group of words instead of a single word at a time).

The translation finally commenced. They were found to contain a language not now known upon the earth, which they termed "reformed Egyptian characters." The plates, therefore, which had been so much talked of, were found to be of no manner of use. After all, the Lord showed and communicated to him [Joseph] every word and letter of the Book. Instead of looking at the characters inscribed upon the plates, the prophet was obliged to resort to the old ''peep stone," which he formerly used in money-digging. This he placed in a hat, or box, into which he also thrust his face. Through the stone he could then discover a single word at a time, which he repeated aloud to his amanuensis, who committed it to paper, when another word would immediately appear, and thus the performance continued to the end of the book. 


South Park depiction of the
stone-in-a-hat theory
This version of the translation was been infamously portrayed in an episode of South Park, as well as on many web pages critical of the Church.

Now, this stone-in-a-hat theory has been embraced in Church publications, as mentioned above.

Mormonism Unvailed acknowledged an alternative explanation of the translation. This is the explanation that Joseph and Oliver always gave, albeit not exactly the way it is explained in Mormonism Unvailed.

Another account they give of the transaction, is, that it was performed with the big spectacles before mentioned, and which were in fact, the identical Urim and Thumim mentioned in Exodus 28 — 30, and were brought away from Jerusalem by the heroes of the book, handed down from one generation to another, and finally buried up in Ontario county, some fifteen centuries since, to enable Smith to translate the plates without looking at them ! 

Mormonism Unvailed is not noted for accuracy in its presentation about the Book of Mormon. Here, the authors missed the points that (i) the Urim and Thummim that Joseph received was not brought from Jerusalem by Lehi but instead had been used by the Jaredites in America, and (ii) Joseph actually looked at the plates with the spectacles.

However, the passage quoted above makes a clear delineation between the stone-in-a-hat theory and the Urim and Thummim narrative. (Elsewhere in the book the authors distinguish between the peep stone and the spectacles.) Everyone who read Mormonism Unvailed understood these were two competing explanations of the translation of the Book of Mormon. There was no suggestion that Joseph, Oliver, or anyone else referred to the "seer stone" as the Urim and Thummim. All contemporary accounts referred to the interpreters Moroni put in the stone box as the Urim and Thummim.

The peep stone theory is having the same effect today that Mr. Hurlbut hoped for when he published it in Mormonism Unvailed. The theory makes the plates themselves superfluous.

If an unknown "intermediary translator" could generate words that appeared on the metaphysical teleprompter (the peep stone in a hat), why did Mormon go to all the trouble of abridging the Nephite records? Why would the Nephites bother keeping records at all? Why would Moroni risk his life to preserve and add to the abridgment? Why bother with the plates of Nephi to replace the lost 116 pages?

Maybe we can replace the "paradigm shift" with another paradigm shift back to what the prophets have taught. 

Friday, September 13, 2019

Revisiting evolution - BYU vs. math

A while ago I did a somewhat deep dive into the evolution issue. I read a lot, talked to a variety of people, etc. I concluded that the math didn't work for evolution, but I also recognized I wasn't enough of an expert to give an opinion and I didn't have anything original to contribute yet.

So I didn't write about it.

Some time ago, I saw that someone has discussed it in some length.


One of my favorite parts of this article is the first sentence of the second paragraph.

He’s not giving up Darwinism without some remorse. “It means one less beautiful idea in our world,” says David Gelernter.
This isn’t someone you’d expect to reject Darwin. He lives and works at the heart of the intellectual establishment. He’s a renowned computer scientist at Yale University — the New York Times called him a “rock star” — and served on the National Council on the Arts. 
The writer, Rachel Alexander, whom I presume is favorable toward Gelernter, frames this as "unexpected" because Gelernter is well educated and works at Yale. She's probably correct, which corroborates the point I made in another blog about the elites in Babylon.

And it also shows why our intellectuals have been promoting evolution.

I find this whole thing funny because just as our BYU intellectuals have managed to construct an "evolution" exhibit on campus in the Bean museum, and just as they've been able to convince most of their students that evolution is "true," we have a real scientist, detached from agendas and not trying to curry favor with his peers, announcing that evolution cannot explain the natural world.

Some of the BYU employees have shown the effectiveness of their persuasion.

Polling data reveal a decades-long residual rejection of evolution in the United States, based on perceived religious conflict. Similarly, a strong creationist movement has been documented internationally, including in the Muslim world. 

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS, Mormon), a generally conservative denomination, have historically harbored strong anti-evolution sentiments. We report here a significant shift toward acceptance, compared to attitudes 30 years earlier, by students at Brigham Young University, which is owned and operated by the LDS church. 

This change appears to have multiple explanations. Students currently entering the university have been exposed to a much-improved introduction to evolution during high school. More importantly, there has been a significant decrease in negative messaging from Church authorities and in its religious education system. There is also evidence that current students have been positively influenced toward evolution by their parents, a large percentage of whom were BYU students, who earlier were given a strong science education deemed compatible with the maintenance of religious belief. 

A pre-post comparison demonstrates that a majority of current students become knowledgeable and accepting following a course experience focused on evolutionary principles delivered in a faith-friendly atmosphere. Elements of that classroom pedagogy, intended to promote reconciliation, are presented. 

Our experience may serve as a case-study for prompting changes in acceptance of evolution in other conservative religious groups.


Great. Just as uninhibited scientists figure out evolution cannot work, our BYU faculty is teaching the youth of the Church to believe evolution.

Here's a nice article on the evolution of evolution at BYU.


This one reflects some fun biases from the author as well. Here's a great line:

This message from the First Presidency was anti-evolution and science. 

Of course, nothing in the message was "anti-science." The message opposed the "theories of men."

Not to be left out, FairMormon chooses the ad hominem approach by attacking people instead of explaining the issues.


And, of course, Dan the Interpreter chimes in:


The end

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Fluhman - Mason discussions

NOTE: a lot of subscribers here don't realize I've moved my main blog to

This BookofMormonWars blog is transitioning toward a broader discussion of the Book of Mormon, particularly among Christians.

In the meantime, I'll make occasional comments on LDS-related issues.

The discussion at the link below reminds me of what happens in non-LDS homes when a family members joins the LDS church. I've heard this type of concern many times in many places.


This conversation sounds like these fine brethren have never heard of this problem before, as if people leaving is a brand new idea to them. Of course, that's not the case. Both of them are well aware of the faith-crisis problems.

I agree with what Brother Mason said in this interview:

In general, I would like us to figure out what we really believe and then be unapologetic about it, even in our first encounter with interlocutors (if and when the question comes up).

If we don’t believe something, then we shouldn’t teach it and ideally should disavow it if it has been taught before.  If we’re unsure about something, then we should say so and then allow for a diversity of viewpoints.

I prefer a straightforward approach rather than tap dancing around unpopular or difficult issues, and believe that we gain more respect by being honest and confident than shifty and defensive.


"Shifty and defensive" is a great description of the M2C proponents. They resort to censorship to maintain the illusion of M2C. If instead the M2C citation cartel adopted the approach suggested by Mason here--i.e., allow for a diversity of viewpoints--I would have stopped blogging about M2C a long time ago.

Instead, Book of Mormon Central, the Interpreter, FairMormon, and the rest continue to promote M2C exclusively and disparage anyone who disagrees with them.

The M2C citation cartel is one of the underlying reasons for the problems Fluhman and Mason discuss in this conversation.

It's way past time to acknowledge, respect, and accommodate multiple views about Book of Mormon geography and historicity. Perhaps our scholars at BYU, CES, and COB will someday actually honor the Church's policy of neutrality.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Review of A Case for the Book of Mormon

People are asking me what I think of Tad R. Callister's book A Case for the Book of Mormon.

Overall, it's probably effective for bias confirmation; i.e., if you're a follower of the M2C citation cartel, you'll be happy to see your biases confirmed. There are plenty of citations of the usual suspects, all members of the M2C citation cartel.

However, if you still believe the teachings of the prophets, you might find parts of the book troublesome. And if you are a nonmember, a questioning member, or a youth seeking for answers, you will likely come away hoping that there is a much stronger case for the Book of Mormon than what is offered in this book.

For a positive review, read anything from Book of Mormon Central. Brother Callister is donating the proceeds of the book to Book of Mormon Central, so naturally, Book of Mormon Central and its employees are promoting the book as much as they can. He's a featured speaker at the FairMormon conference as well.

If you buy this book, you are helping to promote and promulgate M2C.

Here's an example of a positive review:

My take is a little different.

The book makes a good opening statement for a case for the Book of Mormon, but because it relies so much on material from FairMormon, Book of Mormon Central and the rest of the M2C citation cartel, it is ultimately not all that helpful for people who seek answers to questions posed by knowledgeable critics.

Here, I'll give just two examples of the issues I noted.

At one point, Callister writes:

To suggest that Joseph Smith dictated more than five hundred pages of history and doctrine with no notes or rewrites (only minor changes to his original draft, and most of them grammatical, without the aid of any gospel scholars, and without the power of God, in approximately sixty-five working days, is totally incomprehensible and inconsistent with my experience and the experience of every doctrinal writer I know. It reminds me of the observation made by Hank Smith, a popular Latter-day Saint speaker and teacher: "A person with an experience is never at the mercy of a person with an opinion." 35

35. Excerpt from various talks given by Hank Smith and confirmed to the author in an email dated Sept. 1, 2017.

While I agree that Joseph's dictation of the Book of Mormon is a demonstration of the gift and power of God, citing one's personal experience is not a persuasive argument. I'm told that Joseph only wrote out one sermon. Yet he delivered over 200 for which we have no record, and many more for which we have at least some record. In most if not all of these, he cited scripture from memory. 

Another problem is the quotation from Hank Smith in the footnote. It sounds a lot like this one from Leonard Ravenhill:

“A man with an experience of God is never at the mercy of a man with an argument.”

Sourcing quotations is often difficult, but one must wonder if this one originated with Hank Smith or Ravenhill.

Here is a second example. In his book Brother Callister discusses the book The Late War based on a study by the Johnsons. 

Here's a point I make in an upcoming article:

The Johnson study [on The Late War] received a strange reaction from LDS scholars. They raised two objections. First, they sought to distance Joseph Smith from The Late War, claiming there is no evidence he ever read the book. Second, they claimed there were more differences than similarities.
For example, in his discussion of The Late War, Tad R. Callister, an LDS General Authority and former General Sunday School President, recently wrote, “I doubt that Joseph read any of the books alleged by the critics to be sources for the Book of Mormon before the translation process commenced. There is no historical evidence confirming that he did.”[1]
Despite his belief that Joseph did not read the book, Callister recognized the possibility. “In the event that Joseph read any of these books, no doubt he learned some words or phrases that enhanced his vocabulary that would be available for future use in translation—that would seem natural to me.”
It does seem natural; in fact, this is evidence that Joseph did translate the text in his own language. One wonders, why did Callister first argue that Joseph didn’t read the book?
Callister does not say, but we can infer that it could be because the current narrative among LDS historians holds that Joseph did not translate the plates; instead, these historians teach that Joseph merely read English words that appeared on a stone in a hat.[2] In that case, he wouldn’t need an “enhanced vocabulary” from The Late War or any other source.
The second argument by LDS scholars—that there are more differences than similarities between The Late War and the Book of Mormon—is an argument against outright plagiarism, but it rings hollow because it does not refute the critics’ point that The Late War influenced at least the vocabulary Joseph used in producing the Book of Mormon. Differences between the two books do not erase similarities. The question becomes how much influence, not whether there was any influence at all.

[1] Callister (2019): 79.
[2] See the Gospel Topics Essay on Book of Mormon Translation, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/gospel-topics-essays/book-of-mormon-translation?lang=eng&_r=1. The Church’s web page teaches Primary children that “Joseph used a special rock called a seer stone to translate the plates” and that “Joseph didn’t have much schooling, so he wasn’t good at writing or spelling.” https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/friend/2017/02/golden-plates-to-book-of-mormon?lang=eng

Friday, August 2, 2019

The Fighting Preacher - Willard Bean

If you haven't seen the movie The Fighting Preacher, you need to go ASAP. It's an outstanding depiction of a little-known aspect of LDS Church history.

97% on Rotten Tomatoes!


This is the story of Willard Bean, who was called on a mission to Palmyra in the early 1900s.

The boxing ring he set up was in the building across Main Street from today's Oliver Cowdery Memorial, too.

The photo in this article shows the boxing ring:


The movie is doing some good business, but not as good as it deserves. Go see it. And take someone.


Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Topics we can't talk about

There is an obvious reality when it comes to problems: if you can't talk about them, you can't fix them.

This is the elephant-in-the-room problem.

It is classic organizational behavior to ignore problems and pretend they don't exist. Management often considers it disloyal to discuss certain problems. Here is a good example from an article in Forbes that I link to at the end of this post.

After completing a culture assessment for a major corporation I was doing my “What? So what? and Now what?” presentation to the senior management team. That’s where I describe the results, point out the implications of the findings, and make recommendations for change. One of the findings was that the CEO had a shoot-the-messenger reputation that was stifling open dialogue on key operational issues.
In sharing some of the open-ended comments from the survey, I put up a slide with a direct quote from one of the anonymous respondents: “I would love to share my ideas with [the CEO], but it’s not safe to speak your mind around here. All he seems to want is a bunch of yes-men.”
Within a nanosecond of reading that comment the CEO slammed his fist on the table and shouted “That’s ridiculous! Find out who said that and usher him out the door! We don’t have room in this organization for people who are too weak-kneed to speak up.” All the other executives sort of cowered in silence at this display of fury. Then I simply said: “I. Rest. My. Case.” After a long pause the CEO smiled, then chuckled, then broke into a hearty laugh.
The elephant in the room (the CEO’s bullying style) had been identified, and now the CEO and his team (and later others) were ready to discuss the undiscussable. They were finally on their way to taming the elephant. And taming that elephant led to identifying and taming others.

We see the elephant-in-the-room in the Church as well.

I, along with many other members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, notice that there are elephants in the room that no one can talk about.

It's unfortunate because many of these elephants exist because of past mistakes, and these mistakes can be resolved fairly easily be refocusing on the teachings of the prophets instead of the teachings of modern intellectuals.

For example, there is a lot of confusion about Church history and Book of Mormon historicity that people don't feel free to discuss. The recent Gospel Topics Essay on Book of Mormon geography  expressly prohibits discussing the topic in Church settings.

Treating these issues as elephants in the room doesn't prevent people from thinking about them. It just moves the conversation to other forums, notably the Internet. Web pages such as Mormon Stories and CES Letter thrive by focusing on these elephants in the room.

As long-time readers know, I've addressed some of these topics in my blogs and books. There is more to come.

In the meantime, there is an excellent discussion of the elephant-in-the-room problem here:


Monday, July 29, 2019

Cumorah was in New York in 1923

In 1923, Church leaders recognized that the Hill Cumorah in western New York was the Hill Cumorah of Mormon 6:6. It was the scene of the final battles of the Jaredites and Nephites, just as President Oliver Cowdery described it in Letter VII.

BYU Studies has an excellent article on the commemoration that year of the 100th anniversary of Moroni's first visit to Joseph Smith. I posted comments about it on my new blog, where I am accumulating everything relevant to Cumorah.


The question to consider: What will the 200th anniversary be like?

Unless there is a course-correction to the current trend, in 2023 any celebration at the "hill in New York" will involve only the set of plates Joseph obtained from Moroni's stone box on the hill. There will be no mention of Jaredites or Nephites having lived in that area.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Flooding along the Mississippi

Nice interactive NASA image that compares normal with flood-stage rivers in the Midwest.


Those of us who think the Book of Mormon events took place in this area think the cities sunk in 3 Nephi were destroyed and buried underneath these rivers. When we look at the map, we can see how and why that would happen.

Friday, July 12, 2019

2019 Cumorah pageant part 2

I've uploaded another video about the Hill Cumorah Pageant.


Turtle Island (North America)
In this video, we visit the Skanonh Great Law of Peace Center in Liverpool, NY (outside of Syracuse).


The guide discusses the creation story, including the formation of Turtle Island which is North America. We can compare this to 2 Ne. 10:20: we have been led to a better land, for the Lord has made the sea our path, and we are upon an isle of the sea.

Some people are confused by that, concluding that Lehi's promised land must be an island. There are several ways to interpret/understand this passage, but the Native American concept of Turtle Island fits pretty well.

Port Byron
Next we pass through Port Byron, where Brigham Young lived for a while. The town has a historical marker to that effect.

The house where some believe he lived is still standing, as we see in the video.

Peter Whitmer cabin
After that, we visit the Peter Whitmer farm where Joseph and Oliver translated the plates of Nephi that Joseph received from the messenger who brought them from the Hill Cumorah.

Finally, we end up at the first night of pageant (dress rehearsal). There were some great protesters outside. You can see them on the video. There were around 5,000 people, which is a big crowd for the rehearsal. Unfortunately, it rained pretty hard, but I didn't get that in the video.


The reconstructed cabin in the video was long thought to be built on the original foundation of the Whitmer home. This was always a little problematic because the cabin had only two small bedrooms upstairs, one of which Joseph and Oliver used to translate the plates of Nephi.

In the last year or so, Church archaeologists have found evidence of more buildings on the property. It now appears that the Whitmer home was a double cabin, twice as large as the one that was rebuilt that we walk to in the video. It's not yet clear which building(s) were the Whitmer home, but the current cabin always seemed a little small for all the events that took place there, including the organization of the Church in 1830.

This is also the home in which David Whitmer described people sitting around the table when Joseph demonstrated how he translated the plates by putting a stone in a hat and reading off words. That's much different than the actual translation, of course, for which Joseph used the Urim and Thummim and the actual plates.

Mary Whitmer and the plates
The messenger was
"Brother Nephi,"
not Moroni.
BTW, the missionaries are telling everyone the phony story of Moroni showing Mary Whitmer the plates. Mary did see the plates, but it wasn't Moroni who showed them to her. The M2C intellectuals want you to think it was Moroni because they don't want people to know about the Hill Cumorah in New York.

According to Mary, it was "Brother Nephi," one of the 3 Nephites, who showed her the plates. David said it was the same person who took the Harmony plates to Cumorah.

The phony story about Moroni was invented by Mary's grandson, but Church historians and M2C intellectuals liked it better so they incorporated it into the Saints and now we have everyone in the Church learning false history, all because the M2C intellectuals don't want people to even know about the New York Cumorah.


I've explained all of this here




and here


Have a great day! 

Thursday, July 11, 2019

new video-Cumorah pageant 2019

The latest video shows some of the set up for the 2019 Cumorah pageant and a visit to the awesome Latter-Day Harvest Bookstore in Palmyra.


Subscribers to the Moroni's America channel get automatic notifications of new videos.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

The fundamentals - Church history

So often, organizations and people lose focus when they forget the fundamentals.

Those who have questions about Church history should remember this advice from twitter:

When in doubt, go back to the fundamentals. When you're sure, build on the fundamentals. When not making progress, go back to the fundamentals. When you are making progress, build on the fundamentals. The fundamentals never go away. If anything, they become more pronounced.

Fundamentals in Church history:

1. Joseph Smith obtained metal plates from a stone box on the Hill Cumorah in western New York.

2. Using the Urim and Thummim that were in the stone box, he translated the engravings on the plates into English while in Harmony, PA.

3. He returned the Harmony plates to a divine messenger who took them back to the Hill Cumorah.

4. In Fayette, NY, Joseph translated the plates of Nephi.

5. The Hill Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 is the same hill in New York from which Joseph got the plates.

Very simple.

Here's an example from football.

“This is a football.”

In his best-selling book, When Pride Still Mattered: A Life Of Vince Lombardi, author David Maraniss explains what happened when Lombardi walked into training camp in the summer of 1961.
He took nothing for granted. He began a tradition of starting from scratch, assuming that the players were blank slates who carried over no knowledge from the year before… He began with the most elemental statement of all. “Gentlemen,” he said, holding a pigskin in his right hand, “this is a football.”
Lombardi was coaching a group of three dozen professional athletes who, just months prior, had come within minutes of winning the biggest prize their sport could offer. And yet, he started from the very beginning.