Thursday, May 30, 2019

Travel: temples and evidence

Philadelphia temple at night

This web page has a nice temple counter:

In the last two weeks we visited 10 temples, some of them for the first time. That makes 87 total, just a little over half of the operating temples. We have visited temples in Central and South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia/NZ, and North America.

(When we visited Antarctica there were no temples, only a small Chilean military base.)

It's always inspiring to visit these temples and the missionaries and members who serve there. Last week we met a missionary from Mongolia. Almost everywhere we go, we meet people we know, who know us, or who are related one way or another.

The Latter-day Saints are awesome everywhere in the world.

Me at an awesome,
undisclosed location
Evidence. I've been doing a lot of traveling lately, partly to accumulate evidence about the Book of Mormon and Church history.

Sadly, thanks to M2C, many Church members (especially the youth) have been taught to reject the teachings of the prophets and instead rely on the teachings of intellectuals, based on what they deem to be "evidence."

Once a person sets aside the teachings of the prophets, he/she is "tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine" (Eph. 4:14). This is the situation in the Church today regarding Book of Mormon historicity.

Church members don't know what to think because they have rejected the teachings of the prophets, often without even realizing it.

While I think members of the Church ought to exercise faith and simply accept the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah, especially when the prophets have consistently, persistently, and uniformly taught the same thing, people cannot believe in something they have never been taught.

Paul expressed it this way: "how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?" (Romans 10:14).

We have reached the tipping point on this topic because most members of the Church today do not even know what the prophets have taught.

Decades of traveling around the world meeting members of the Church of all ages on every continent have shown me a sharp distinction between two groups of members.

1. Most members who know what the prophets have taught accept the New York Cumorah. 

2. Most members who accept M2C don’t know what the prophets have taught.

The exceptions, of course, are the intellectuals (and their followers) who know what the prophets have taught but reject those teachings.

Those who study on their own, or who were educated before the 1980s, usually fall into category 1. This group is aging, of course, so there are fewer and fewer members in this category.

Because M2C is currently being taught by CES, BYU, Visitors Centers, and Church media, while the teachings of the prophets about Cumorah are completely censored, young and new members of the Church fall into category 2.

The youth in the Church today are being trained to rely not on the teachings of the prophets, but instead on the opinions of intellectuals, based (as they claim) on evidence.

Fortunately, the teachings of the prophets about Cumorah are fully corroborated by evidence, so even by the standards of the M2C intellectuals, those teachings will ultimately prevail. 

It's just a shame that, in the meantime, so many members of the Church are being deprived of the teachings of the prophets.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Memorial Day 2019

The Hill Cumorah is the ultimate war memorial. It is the site of the final battles of the Jaredites and the Nephites.

As a military veteran myself, I pause to remember all those who have served in the military, both those alive today and those who have passed on.

As a blogger here, I pause to remember all those who have participated in the discussion about the Hill Cumorah, including those who have spoken, written or taught about the location of Cumorah, both those alive today and those who have passed on.

Below is a list of some of those involved, grouped by where they taught the real Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 is located. Their credentials are indicated. 

western New York
southern Mexico (M2C)
Joseph Smith (President of the Church)
H. A. Stebbins (RLDS scholar)
Oliver Cowdery (President of the Church)
L. E. Hills (RLDS scholar)
David Whitmer (3 Witnesses)
David A. Palmer (LDS author)
Brigham Young (President of the Church)
John Sorenson (BYU professor)
Heber C. Kimball (First Presidency)
John W. (Jack) Welch (BYU professor)
Wilford Woodruff (President of the Church)
Dan Peterson (BYU professor)
Parley P. Pratt (Quorum of the Twelve)
Kirk Magleby (LDS author)
Orson Pratt (Quorum of the Twelve)
Brant Gardner (LDS author)
Joseph F. Smith (President of the Church)
Noel Reynolds (BYU professor)
Joseph Fielding Smith (President of the Church)
Shirley Heater (CofC author)
Anthony W. Ivins (First Presidency)
Jerry Ainsworth (LDS author)
James E. Talmage (Quorum of the Twelve)
Joseph Allen (LDS author)
LeGrand Richards (Quorum of the Twelve)
Garth Norman (LDS author)
Marion G. Romney (First Presidency)
Louis C. Midgley (BYU professor)
Mark E. Petersen (Quorum of the Twelve)
John L. Lund (LDS author)
Ezra Taft Benson, Gordon B. Hinckley, Thomas S. Monson (Presidents of the Church)
Tyler Griffin (BYU professor), Matt Roper (LDS author) and others affiliated with Book of Mormon Central

Everyone on the list is an exemplary individual, faithful, devoted, educated, well-intentioned, etc. They have made their respective positions crystal clear for everyone to see, as plain as words can be in all cases.

And there is no overlap between these two groups. They are as distinct as it gets.

Every member of the Church is free to choose which group to believe and follow when making a decision about the location of the Hill Cumorah of Mormon 6:6.

I think this table is completely fair and accurate, but I know there are some individuals in the Mexico column who object to this classification.

However, they know as well as everyone else that the teachings about Cumorah in each column of the table are specific and clear. These are facts easily found and verified.

The most common rationalization among those in the Mexico column is that the people in the New York column were merely stating their opinions as men.

Everyone is welcome to accept that interpretation.

Of course, that interpretation would apply to anything the prophets teach that one wants to reject.

Some of those in the Mexico column have persuaded themselves that the New York Cumorah is inconsistent with a Mesoamerican setting for most of the events in the Book of Mormon, which they take as a given.

But we all see the logical fallacy there.

The Mesoamerican setting is a mere assumption, based on a subjective interpretation of the text designed to fit the assumption. It's pure circular reasoning.

And, everyone is welcome to accept logical fallacies, including circular reasoning.

But at the same time, everyone is welcome to accept the teachings of the prophets.

No one is bound by the teachings of the intellectuals, except those who don't know what the prophets have taught.

Which students at CES and BYU never learn.

But they can learn it here:

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

A Waste of 1,000 Research Papers

A fascinating analysis explains how scientists have jumped on the wrong bandwagon regarding genetic research. There are so many parallels to M2C (the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory) and revisionist Church history that I wanted to share the article, along with key excerpts (in blue) and my observations (in red). In this post, I focus only on M2C, but the comparison to revisionist Church history (such as the book Saints) are obvious.

The entire article is worth reading (the link is below).

For example, the article describes the operation of citation cartels, such as the M2C citation cartel of Book of Mormon Central, FairMormon, BYU Studies, the Interpreter, etc.

Many fields of science, from psychology to cancer biology, have been dealing with similar problems: Entire lines of research may be based on faulty results. The reasons for this so-called reproducibility crisis are manifold. Sometimes, researchers futz with their data until they get something interesting, or retrofit their questions to match their answers. 
This is the basic approach of M2C. The M2C intellectuals have reinterpreted the text to match Mesoamerica. Tapirs = horses. Towers = pyramids. 
Other times, they selectively publish positive results while sweeping negative ones under the rug, creating a false impression of building evidence.
The M2C intellectuals rely on exactly this type of censorship and selective evidence to support the M2C hoax.
Beyond a few cases of outright misconduct, these practices are rarely done to deceive. They’re an almost inevitable product of an academic world that rewards scientists, above all else, for publishing papers in high-profile journals—journals that prefer flashy studies that make new discoveries over duller ones that check existing work. 
This describes BYU Studies, the Interpreter, Meridian Magazine, and the rest of the M2C citation cartel. Within LDS culture, these are the "high-profile journals" that everyone assumes are correct because, as the M2C intellectuals and their employees have claimed, they have been hired by the modern prophets to guide the Church.
People are rewarded for being productive rather than being right, for building ever upward instead of checking the foundations. These incentives allow weak studies to be published. And once enough have amassed, they create a collective perception of strength that can be hard to pierce.
This is what makes the M2C citation cartel work. It's a "collective perception of strength that can be hard to pierce." For nearly 4 years I have offered an alternative to M2C, but the M2C intellectuals and their employees, especially the handful of employees at Book of Mormon Central, not only refuse to consider the possibility that the prophets are correct about the New York Cumorah, they refuse to even discuss the issue or allow their followers and readers to know what the prophets have taught.

A Waste of 1,000 Research Papers

In 1996, a group of European researchers found that a certain gene, called SLC6A4, might influence a person’s risk of depression.
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, a group of RLDS researchers reached the conclusion that the Hill Cumorah is in southern Mexico and that the entire narrative took place in a limited geographic area of Mesoamerica. This is M2C. 
Over the objections of LDS leaders, who reaffirmed the New York Cumorah in General Conference and purchased the hill in New York with Church funds, LDS scholars began adopting the RLDS theories. They taught it at BYU and CES for decades so that now, most members of the Church aged 60 or below have never learned anything different.
But a new study—the biggest and most comprehensive of its kind yet—shows that this seemingly sturdy mountain of research is actually a house of cards, built on nonexistent foundations.
Recent research on two fronts shows that M2C was built on a nonexistent foundation. 
M2C was based on the twin assumptions that (i) anonymous articles in the Times and Seasons about Nephites in Central America were correct and (ii)  the LDS prophets, starting with Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith, and continuing through Joseph F. Smith in the early 1900s, were wrong about the hill Cumorah in New York. Today's M2C intellectuals and their followers, including most employees at CES, BYU and COB (the Church office building), continue to believe these twin assumptions. 
But new research into Church history has discovered that the anonymous Times and Seasons articles had nothing to do with Joseph Smith and were never accepted or cited by him. Plus, of course, they had nothing to do with the New York Cumorah anyway. At the same time, new research has shown that Joseph, Oliver, and all their contemporaries and successors accepted the New York Cumorah.
On another front, new research into ancient North American civilizations demonstrates that the accounts in the Book of Mormon describe these civilizations, including their culture and locations, accurately and in detail. The New York Cumorah fits what anthropology, archaeology, geology and geography tell us.
Between them, these 18 genes have been the subject of more than 1,000 research papers, on depression alone. And for what? If the new study is right, these genes have nothing to do with depression. “This should be a real cautionary tale,” Keller adds. “How on Earth could we have spent 20 years and hundreds of millions of dollars studying pure noise?”
“What bothers me isn’t just that people said [the gene] mattered and it didn’t,” wrote the psychiatrist Scott Alexander in a widely shared blog post. “It’s that we built whole imaginary edifices on top of this idea of [it] mattering.” 
“There’s an unwillingness to part with a previous hypothesis,” he says. “It’s hard to wrap your head around the fact that maybe you were on a wild goose chase for years.”  
This is precisely what is happening with the M2C intellectuals at BYU, CES, and COB right now.
Dorothy Bishop of the University of Oxford argues that institutions and funders that supported candidate-gene work in depression should also be asking themselves some hard questions. “They need to recognize that even those who think they are elite are not immune to poor reproducibility, which leads to a huge amount of waste,” she says.
“We have got to set up a system, or develop a culture, that rewards people for actually trying to do it right,” adds Keller. “Those who don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.”
Let's hope that the M2C citation cartel can somehow develop a culture that does not continue to rely on censorship, academic bullying, and elitism to continue to repudiate the teachings of the prophets.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Starting over - C.S. Lewis

The oft-quoted C.S. Lewis provided a solution to the ongoing confusion/denial about Book of Mormon geography.

“I do not think that all who choose wrong roads perish; but their rescue consists in being put back on the right road. A sum can be put right: but only by going back til you find the error and working it afresh from that point, never by simply going on.”


For decades now, LDS intellectuals have been traveling down the road of the M2C hoax. Continuing along that road will lead only to further confusion and doubt.

The solution is to go back until we find the error; i.e., return to the origins of M2C among RLDS intellectuals who invented the two-Cumorahs theory in opposition to Joseph F. Smith and the other LDS prophets who reaffirmed the New York Cumorah.

These RLDS scholars rejected Letter VII and the teachings of the LDS prophets. Some LDS scholars in the early 1900s embraced the RLDS position over the objection of the LDS prophets. In the ensuing decades, through the academic cycle, these M2C intellectuals have persuaded generations of LDS members that the prophets were wrong about the New York Cumorah.

If, as Lewis suggests, we go back to this error and "work it afresh," we will see that:

1. The prophets have consistently and persistently taught that Cumorah is in New York.
2. We don't know for sure where other events in the Book of Mormon took place.

We can be sure that if people continue to repudiate the teachings of the prophets, and continue to conflate these two distinct teachings, confusion and doubt will continue to plague the Latter-day Saints--just as President Joseph Fielding Smith warned long ago.

But if we go back to the error and work it afresh, we will see that there is abundant physical and scientific evidence that supports the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah. Confusion and doubt will evaporate. 

Friday, May 17, 2019

Best 1830 replica Book of Mormon

Readers here know that I have lots of old books that I refer to from time to time. I also like replicas of old books.

When I taught at the LTM (MTC) years ago, I used to ask the missionaries for their favorite verse from the Book of Mormon. Then I photocopied that verse in a page from the original 1830 edition and laminated it for them as a bookmark for their scriptures. (No one had digital scriptures back then.)

I still prefer the original (pre-1879) editions of the Book of Mormon because they are easier to read, although certainly the verses make it easier to refer to specific passages. I think Orson Pratt made some mistakes when he created today's chapters and verses, but overall he did a fine job. However, it's always nice to read the text the way Joseph originally had it typeset.

Not long ago we visited Dartmouth, where the library has an original 1830 edition (with the Kirtland index at the back) that they let visitors handle. On another occasion, a friend of mine showed me his original 1830 edition. I opened the cover to see that his grandchildren had scribbled in crayon all over it. He said his grandchildren were more important than an old book, and of course I agreed with him.

Yesterday I saw the best replica of the 1830 Book of Mormon I've ever seen. If you're interested in this type of thing, you can check it out at this website:

I like this one best of all the ones I've seen because of its look and feel, and the people who created it pay a lot of attention to detail and authenticity.

They have replicas of other early LDS books that are worth considering, as well.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Trust people

When you know the truth, you are confident, serene, and generous.

But the same is true when you believe a hoax. Reality and confirmation bias look like the same thing to us.

So how do we tell whether what we believe is the truth or a hoax?

That's what prophets are for.

Every member of the Church knows, or should know, these two things:

1. The prophets have consistently and persistently taught that the New York Cumorah is the hill Cumorah of Mormon 6:6.

(Those who don't know these teachings need to review the BYU packet, here:

2. The M2C intellectuals teach that the prophets are wrong about Cumorah (M2C is the acronym for Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory taught by employees at CES, BYU, COB and the M2C citation cartel, led by Book of Mormon Central).

We trust people to make good decisions when they have good information. If they don't agree with us, that's fine, so long as they are making informed decisions.

M2C intellectuals don't trust members of the Church to make informed decisions.

Book of Mormon Central censors the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah because they know most members of the Church would follow the prophets if they knew what the prophets have taught.

Censorship does not work in the long run. It disrespects people and deprives them of agency. Here's a relevant example about America's Founders from a WSJ article:

America’s Founders rested the legitimacy of government on the will of the people, mediated through institutions such as the Senate and the Electoral College. They knew voters could be ignorant, gullible or manipulated by demagogues. To mitigate those concerns, they recommended education and free expression, so that false or dangerous claims could be exposed or refuted. They did not prohibit foreigners access to the American press. Soon enough, they were dealing with propagandists and would-be dictators, foreign and domestic, such as Aaron Burr and Napoleon. But whatever the drawbacks of the electorate and of a free press, they reposed their trust in the people to come to their own conclusions.

Those of us who still believe the prophets also trust people to come to their own conclusions, so long as they have good information.

I previously discussed the phenomenon that people who have the same information still reach different conclusions. If you haven't seen that, or don't remember it, review it again:

Much of the discussion and debate about Book of Mormon geography involves different interpretations and assumptions about the text. To the extent that these discussions extend beyond sharing information, they are pointless because semantic debates can never be resolved with finality.

Plus, you'll often see employees of Book of Mormon Central making arguments on behalf of their boss. You can't change the mind of an employee who wants to keep his/her job.

I retweeted this comment recently:

A simple strategy that will save you so many headaches: don't care about winning trivial arguments.

Someone says something you don't agree with? Smile, nod, and move on to more important things.

Life is short. Not caring about having the last word will save you so much time.

Monday, May 6, 2019

How knoweth this man letters...

Today in Sunday School here in Palmyra we discussed John 7.

15 And the Jews marvelled, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?

Bible commentaries point out that

The Jews taught their law and tradition in celebrated schools. As Jesus had not been instructed in those schools, they were amazed at his learning.

In our day, the M2C intellectuals who teach people to disbelieve the prophets make a similar argument. It goes like this:

How could Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery know the location of the Hill Cumorah, having never learned from scholars about all the "correspondences" between Mesoamerica and the M2C interpretation of text?

We can't help but notice how things never change.

Today we have intellectuals in the Church telling us to disbelieve the prophets because they were not adequately trained.

Here I'm referring specifically to the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah, including Letter VII. But the principle extends beyond that specific topic.

These M2C intellectuals expect "ordinary" members of the Church to defer to their expertise.

They insist people have to be "trained in the ministry" to understand the Book of Mormon.

They resort to intellectual bullying by creating the M2C citation cartel that censors what the prophets have taught about Cumorah.

They seem determined to wrestle the Book of Mormon out of the hands of the "common people" and make everyone dependent on them, the experts, to understand the text.

But we are not beholden to these intellectuals.

We can see for ourselves what the prophets have taught, such as here: