Friday, June 28, 2019

Visit Cumorah with me

We made a quick video tour of Cumorah in preparation for the next-to-last-pageant (2019).

See it here:

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Sunset at Cumorah

This week we took some sunset photos at the Hill Cumorah. I used one to illustrate a post about sacred places, here:

People keep asking about the Interpreter article about Bayesian analysis of the Book of Mormon. I did mention it before in this blog, but my detailed review is here:

I've updated that review a little.

We'll have some fun news early next week. Stay tuned.

And if you haven't subscribed to you're missing the latest blogs.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Fun new video about seer stones

Maybe it's time to go ahead and write off the next generation completely?

Watch this video, especially starting around 2:30.

Notice, they don't even quote Joseph and Oliver:

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. JS-H 1:67

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.’ (Note after JS-H 1:75, excepted from Letter I, Messenger and Advocate, vol. 1 (October 1834), pp. 14-16.

There is a direct conflict between these statements and the statements about the stone-in-a-hat.

The revisionist Church historians choose to disbelieve Oliver Cowdery.

Some people choose to disbelieve the stone-in-a-hat statements.

The obvious way to reconcile the accounts is that Joseph used the stone-in-a-hat to demonstrate how the translation worked, not that he was demonstrating the actual translation.

I discussed this here:

Monday, June 24, 2019

Monday update - changes

This blog will change focus as I'll explain in the next few weeks.

People tell me they're interested in some topics more than others, so I'm reorganizing material to be more useful and accessible.

There have been 868 posts published on this blog since June 2014. I mentioned before there are 135 additional posts that I haven't published for various reasons. If I do publish them, they'll be on the other blogs as described below.

Everything related to Book of Mormon Central and the rest of the M2C citation cartel, including new posts, will be on the following blog:

I also added the following page to that blog to answer M2C questions/arguments.

If any of you have questions you'd like me to answer, just email them to me ( and I'll post answers on this answer page.

BTW, there are many original posts on that blog that we've retained. Most of them discuss a particular Kno-Why, such as this recent one:

Going forward, everything related to Church History will be on the following blogs:

The following blog will focus mainly on psychology and related issues.


These posts feed into other sites, including Amazon,, etc., but that can change at any time. When I update a post, the changes appear only on the original blogger sites. To get these updates, subscribe by email to the blog(s) you're interested in.

As always, I welcome feedback, especially corrections if I've misstated any facts or misunderstood anyone's arguments or positions. We promptly revise whenever we're made aware of errors. We want to be clear, objective and fair in all things all the time. We want everyone to make informed decisions about these topics.

As a quick guide to the transition, here are links to the top 3 posts from this blog in the last month, as well as the top 10 all time, as they appear now.

In most cases, I've learned a lot more since I originally posted them, but I haven't yet taken the time to revise/edit them.

Have you read all of them?

Top 3 last month:




Top 10 all time:











Sunday, June 23, 2019

Working with M2C believers

There is a contest of opinions going around that I'd like to help resolve through greater understanding. If you know any believers in M2C (the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory), ask them one question:

I accept the teachings of the prophets and apostles about the New York Cumorah. Can you help me understand why you disagree?

CAUTION: Usually, they will become defensive. If they work for the M2C citation cartel, they will become angry. You will see their response boils down to #3 below, but they resist this reality as long as they can.

IMPORTANT: Do not ask the question to start an argument.

Ask because you are genuinely curious. If you just want to argue, don't ask the question.

Emphasize you are not accusing them of anything. These are wonderful brothers and sisters with whom we share the most important beliefs about the gospel. We want to know why people think the things they do because we want to improve understanding and facilitate cordial relationships.

We're not criticizing them for their beliefs or saying they're wrong. (Many people feel personally attacked when their beliefs are questioned. This is especially true of M2C employees. Be sensitive and empathetic if they get emotional. Use your judgment. It may take a while to get past the emotions.)

Emphasize that we have no problem with people having different opinions.

We just want to know if they've made an informed decision. If so, fantastic. We don't expect everyone to think alike. In fact, you should have an open mind as well. Maybe they will tell you something you didn't know before. If you haven't ever changed your mind on this topic and you're convinced you're right, realize that they think the same way.

In almost every case, you'll see they have been trained by BYU/CES to think only of M2C and have not made an informed decision. They have never thought this through.

I can relate to them because I, too, trusted my M2C professors at BYU. I trusted FARMS, etc.

I wish someone had asked me that question 30 years ago. I wouldn't have spent decades believing M2C myself.

Here are the responses you'll get, depending on how well trained they are.

1. "The prophets have never said Cumorah is in New York."

Notice: no prophet or apostle has ever questioned, let alone repudiated, the teachings of his predecessors about the New York Cumorah. This is not "Mormon Chess" in which people can find contradictory quotes by prophets and apostles to support their positions.

Because the M2C citation cartel censors teachings that contradict M2C, most members of the Church today have never heard of Letter VII, President Romney's talk, etc. Refer them to the BYU packet here:

In most cases, they will be surprised. In many cases, they will say, "How come I've never heard about this?" In some cases, they'll say, "I need to study this." A few will even accept these teachings and wonder why they believed the M2C intellectuals and their employees in the first place.

Those who have been well trained by the M2C citation cartel will say, "Those were merely the opinions of men. They were not speaking as prophets and apostles."

Besides being disrespectful of the prophets and apostles, this answer contradicts the statements themselves, but don't argue about that. Notice: their response was not a response to the question. Pace them and ask, "then why do you reject their opinions?"

If they start talking about evidence, skip to #3 below.

2. "The Church has no position on Book of Mormon geography." 

This is a dodge they resort to because they are uncomfortable with the real answer.

They will refer to the anonymous Gospel Topics Essay which is not an answer to the question.

The essay has been changed once and can change again at any moment without notice.

Contrast this with the specific and clear teachings by well-known prophets and apostles contained in the Joseph Smith Papers, the General Conference reports, and books published by the Church including Jesus the Christ and A Marvelous Work and a Wonder. Not to mention prior statements that say the Church has always taught that Cumorah is in New York.

Here's the key point: the essay allows members to believe whatever they want. It says nothing about Cumorah and simply restates long-held positions about Book of Mormon settings other than Cumorah.

What the essay does not do is give a reason for rejecting what the prophets and apostles have taught about the New York Cumorah.

When M2C intellectuals and their employees, followers, and donors cite the essay, just respond by repeating the question, "Fine, but why do you reject the teachings of the prophets and apostles about the New York Cumorah?"

They won't want to tell you their reason. They will do almost anything to avoid answering. But eventually they will get around to it.

3. "Because the New York Cumorah doesn't fit my interpretation of the text."

This is the real reason, and the only reason, why the M2C intellectuals, their followers, employees and donors, reject the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah. 

This is not criticism.

This is just reality.

Once everyone understands this, there will be no more "contests of opinions" because we can all agree on our respective biases and leave peacefully together.

They will undoubtedly say they reject the teachings of the prophets and apostles about the New York Cumorah because of "evidence," but that's a pretext and a delusion. The "evidence" they site is post hoc rationalization to support their interpretation of the text.

None of the typical reasons they cite (anonymous 1842 Times and Seasons articles, statements by prophets and apostles about Lamanites in Latin America, the location of Zion, etc.) has anything to do with the New York Cumorah--except as it relates to the M2C interpretation of the text.

In fact, there is nothing necessarily inconsistent between a Mesoamerican setting and a New York Cumorah except for the M2C interpretation of the text.

While I happen to think the North American setting makes more sense than any Mesoamerican setting, I'm open to all ideas. Until the prophets and apostles speak about these issues, I rely on what they've said in the past. And they have consistently and persistently taught that Cumorah is in New York.

One thing I'm not open to is devaluing and repudiating the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah just because some academic interprets the text to fit his/her preferred geography. That approach leads to confusion and doubt about everything the prophets have taught.

Separately, I've explained how the entire M2C interpretation of the text is based on a false premise (that Joseph couldn't have known about ancient civilizations in Central America) supported by circular reasoning and illusory evidence.

I've also explained how the scientific evidence supports the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah.

By now, we all know that people confirm their biases by interpreting "evidence" to fit their preconceptions. The facts don't matter. This should be especially obvious to every member of the Church who accepts the Book of Mormon. We know that at least a billion people have looked at the same evidence that we think supports the Book of Mormon, but they have rejected it.

(BTW, this is why Book of Mormon Central's marketing campaign is so ridiculous. If the evidence they offer was "clear and convincing" we wouldn't have 99% of the people who look at that evidence rejecting it. Somebody needs to do some A/B testing outside the M2C bubble.)

I freely admit my bias is to accept the teachings of the prophets and apostles.

If your M2C friends are self-aware and honest, they will admit that their bias is to favor the theories of intellectuals over the teachings of the prophets and apostles. 

It's a simple choice. Nothing to argue about.

So long as people are making informed choices, we're happy with whatever they decide for themselves.

Finally, you should be able to answer the inverse question. They will ask something such as this"

"I think the Book of Mormon took place in a limited geography of Mesoamerica. Can you help me understand why you disagree?"

By now, I'm sure you can answer easily and lovingly.

Hopefully, you can have a productive discussion with your friends. You're not trying to persuade them or change their minds. You're honestly curious about what they think, how they arrived at their conclusions, etc.

All you want to do is encourage them to make informed decisions.

Regardless of what they decide, move forward with faith and love together.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Dan, BMC, and deferring to scholars

There's a new book titled Conformity: The Power of Social Influences that explains much of the behavior of the M2C citation cartel. I posted a review here:

Below I discuss Kno-Why #521 from Book of Mormon Central (BMC), a discussion of Book of Mormon witnesses that may be the most astonishing piece they've published so far. We love all the people at BMC, but seriously, they're the last ones people should listen to regarding the witnesses.

Not coincidentally, BMC employees and affiliates are also working on the upcoming movie on the Witnesses produced by the Interpreter Foundation, which you can read about here:

The Kno-Why tries to support the testimonies of the Book of Mormon witnesses, which, presumably, is also the purpose of the film. We can all agree that's a fine objective.

Here's the problem.

BMC (and the Interpreter Foundation) want people to believe some, but not all, of what the witnesses said. 

These are the least credible organizations imaginable to support the testimonies of the Book of Mormon witnesses. 

If the intellectuals at BMC and the Interpreter agree with what the witnesses said, you're supposed to believe the witnesses. But if the intellectuals at BMC and the Interpreter disagree with what the witnesses said, you're supposed to believe the intellectuals instead of the witnesses. 

None of this is surprising to those who read the material produced by the M2C citation cartel.

Trailer for Witnesses movie,
featuring Terryl Givens,
M2C promoter and author of
Foreword to Mormon's Codex
- BMC and the Interpreter Foundation promote M2C (the Meosamerican/two Cumorahs theory).

- The first principle of M2C is the claim that the Three Witnesses were unreliable whenever they spoke or wrote about the New York Cumorah.

- None of the M2C intellectuals believe what the Three Witnesses said when the witnesses' statements contradict M2C; i.e., these intellectuals believe M2C more than the Three Witnesses.

Trailer for Witnesses movie,
featuring Matt Roper,
M2C promoter and employee
of Book of Mormon Central
- The arguments made by the M2C intellectuals to justify disbelieving what the Three Witnesses said about Cumorah are the identical arguments made by the critics to justify disbelieving everything the Three Witnesses said.

Just watch the trailer for the Witnesses movie and you'll how the M2C intellectuals discuss the witnesses. We can be sure they're not going to tell the public what the witnesses said about the New York Cumorah.

Reading this Kno-Why reminds me of a larger point.

I don't understand why some members of the Church give so much deference to scholars. It borders on reverence in some cases. Respect is fine--we respect everyone, ultimately--but I keep hearing people quoting scholars as authority for one thing or another.

These scholars are just people doing their jobs.

Unlike ordinary members such as you and I, these scholars are paid to study the scriptures and "interpret" them. Many are paid to teach the youth in the Church. We can assume they are all great people, devoted, faithful, committed, etc. Every one of them I have spent time with is awesome, exemplary, etc., so I vouch for their character (if not their ideas).

There are a lot of LDS scholars who work in a variety of fields, but here I'm mainly referring to the M2C intellectuals and revisionist historians, along with their followers and employees. Most are supported by tithing funds (BYU, CES, COB) or other donations and have a much higher standard of living than most members of the Church around the world who pay that tithing. Some brag about their world travels, close relationships with the Brethren, etc. As Gershwin wrote, nice work if you can get it.

To be clear, I appreciate and respect the work they do. I use their material all the time and encourage others to do the same. I consider their views and biases, but I certainly don't defer to their interpretations or ideas.

Consider their work as a tool, like your phone. I use my phone all the time, but I don't defer to the philosophies of the people who invented, designed, manufactured, shipped and marketed the phone. The phone is a useful implement, just like the materials produced by LDS (or other) scholars.

The Joseph Smith Papers, for example, are awesome. But the notes often reflect the interpretations, biases, and ideas of the revisionist and M2C scholars. Focus on the documents. You can take or leave the notes.

I think the scriptures and the gospel are for everyone. You don't need an expert to tell you what the scriptures teach. And you really don't need an expert who tries to persuade you that the prophets are wrong.

President Ballard made this point at BYU when he said:

If you have a question that requires an expert, please take the time to find a thoughtful and qualified expert to help you. There are many on this campus and elsewhere who have the degrees and expertise to respond and give some insight to most of these types of questions.

That's great advice, so long as we first ask, what questions require an expert?

Does it require an expert to read and understand the scriptures? To read and understand Letter VII? To read and understand the consistent and persistent teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah?

Of course not.


Someone sent me a link to the latest Kno-Why from BMC that I referenced above. Here's the link.

You have to read it for yourself to appreciate the irony.

This Kno-Why is astonishing because the strongest attacks on the credibility of the Three Witnesses come directly from within the Church--from the M2C citation cartel, including Book of Mormon Central, the Interpreter, Fairmormon, and the rest.

Everyone expects critics of the Church to disbelieve the witnesses. That's axiomatic; if they didn't disbelieve the witnesses, they'd believe them. Presumably they'd accept the Book of Mormon (whether or not they join any church).

The Kno-Why goes through the usual list of statements and arguments. Of course, none of it is persuasive. There's enough evidence to support whatever you want to think about the witnesses. That's basic psychology. People see only evidence that confirms their biases; they are blind to evidence that contradicts their biases.

Here's what makes this Kno-Why so amazing.

The entire foundation of M2C rests on the claim that the Three Witnesses were unreliable!

For example, BMC's footnote 14 refers to David Whitmer's interview with Joseph F. Smith about David's experience with the plates. BMC cites this as a reason to believe David Whitmer. But that same interview included his statement about the messenger going to Cumorah, a statement that BMC rejects!

When I was returning to Fayette with Joseph and Oliver all of us riding in the wagon, Oliver and I on an old fashioned wooden spring seat and Joseph behind us, while traveling along in a clear open place, a very pleasant, nice-looking old man suddenly appeared by the side of our wagon who saluted us with, “good morning, it is very warm,” at the same time wiping his face or forehead with his hand. We returned the salutation, and by a sign from Joseph I invited him to ride if he was going our way. But he said very pleasantly, “No, I am going to Cumorah.’ This name was something new to me, I did not know what Cumorah meant. We all gazed at him and at each other, and as I looked round enquiringly of Joseph the old man instantly disappeared, so that I did not see him again.

[BTW, if you go to the link provided by BMC, it goes to a resource at BYU that omits three pages, including the page containing David's statement about Cumorah that I quoted above. You can see the entire interview here:

Here is a partial list of statements from the Three Witnesses that BMC wants people to disbelieve.

BMC expressly rejects what President Cowdery wrote about Moroni and Cumorah in Letters IV, VII, and VIII.

BMC expressly rejects Oliver Cowdery's statement to the Indians that Moroni himself called the hill in New York Cumorah anciently.

BMC expressly rejects Oliver Cowdery's statements that he and Joseph visited the depository of Nephite records in the Hill Cumorah on multiple occasions.

BMC expressly rejects David Whitmer's testimony about the messenger he met on the road to Fayette who was taking the Harmony plates to Cumorah.

BMC expressly rejects David Whitmer's testimony that Oliver told him about visiting the Nephite depository in Cumorah.

BMC expressly rejects David Whitmer's testimony that the plates are no longer in Cumorah but are not far from there.

BMC expressly rejects Martin Harris's statement that only he, David, Oliver and Joseph ever saw the plates that were kept in the wooden box.

I could go on, but you see the point.

Plus, of course, BMC expressly rejects the teachings of any prophet and apostle who has publicly supported the testimony of these witnesses about the New York Cumorah.

All of these statements have been published, but BMC censors them (except when they're justifying their disbelief in them).

Contrast that to what the Kno-Why says:

When viewed collectively, the witnesses’ published testimonies are favored by “an overwhelming preponderance of evidence.” Each of the relevant first-hand statements from members of the Three and Eight Witnesses reaffirm their original statements. In addition, the majority of second-hand or hearsay accounts of the witnesses’ statements—from friends, critics, and neutral observers alike—also support the witnesses published testimonies.

That point is just as true about the witnesses' statements about the New York Cumorah as it is about their statements about the plates.

BMC has zero credibility when it comes to supporting the testimony of the Three Witnesses. Why does anyone pay them any attention at all?

One good thing might come out of this Kno-Why.

Maybe people who actually read it will recognize that Book of Mormon Central has just completely destroyed their own arguments against the credibility of the witnesses.

Speaking of LDS intellectuals...

I'm told Dan Peterson--a wonderful, faithful, smart, and all-around great guy-- has been complaining about my criticism of the Interpreter. Maybe someday I'll read what he has to say, but it doesn't matter because he has had emotional reactions like this for decades, from the FARMS days through the present. He's taken what he perceives to be a lot of arrows for what he perceives to be his defense of the Church. If he has a problem, I'm always available for a meeting. I've never turned down an invitation to meet with any of the M2C intellectuals, but Dan has declined my invitation to meet. Now he's producing the Witnesses film through the Interpreter Foundation. We can be confident he's not going to allow viewers to know what the witnesses said about the New York Cumorah.

Then we have Book of Mormon Central, which is pretty much the same story. I'm told one of their employees is also complaining about my criticism of M2C, but that doesn't matter, either. He's just another employee doing a job. His bosses insist the witnesses and the prophets are wrong about the New York Cumorah because of M2C, so he's doing everything he can to support M2C. I have no problem with that.

In fact, I when I was his age, if I had been working for Book of Mormon Central, I probably would have done the same thing. Back then, I, too, had been persuaded to believe M2C. Fortunately, we all have chances to learn and grow.

Well, then we have Dan, still reacting the same way he's been doing for years...

The one thing I wouldn't have supported as an employee of Book of Mormon Central is the organization's ongoing censorship of alternatives to M2C.

Censorship is a normal practice among those who are insecure about their own positions, but it is surprising that in today's world, anyone in a free country supports censorship. Fortunately, censorship is a losing strategy in the long run.

I've noticed some very strange characteristics of M2C intellectuals. I don't mean to generalize, but in most cases, the M2C intellectuals are hyper-defensive. They view debates about facts and logic as if they were personal. They have a strong "us vs. them" mentality, sort of a siege mentality, as if it is them against the world. They get angry a lot.

From my perspective, those are all characteristics of uncertainty and insecurity.

Another attribute, the claim that they are hired by the prophets to guide the Church, may be a factor. Those who actually believe this would naturally be hyper-defensive. Those who deny the M2C scholars think this way don't know what their employees have said.

None of this matters to those of us who don't defer to these scholars. Which, hopefully, is the approach most people take.

We're confident and happy, with no animosity or anger toward anyone. We're happy to exchange views. We freely refer people to the M2C citation cartel publications and websites. We want people to know what they're teaching.

Really, the only thing we oppose is censorship.

For anyone interested in knowing more about the M2C psychology from an academic perspective, there's a nice article on motivated reasoning here:

Thursday, June 20, 2019

M2C impact on Church history

Here are three issues in Church history that are obstacles for people because the prevailing narratives make the truth claims about events in Church history less credible. This is a serious problem for the youth, for investigators (friends) and for less-active members.

There are solid answers, based on historical evidence, that LDS scholars ignore or reject mainly because of M2C.

1. The plates. There are a lot of inconsistencies about the plates. Here are a few.

-Martin Harris said that only he, David Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery, and Joseph Smith ever saw the original plates.
- Witnesses said the plates weighed 30 pounds others said 60 pounds.
- The Eight Witnesses said they handled the plates but none of them said any portion was sealed.
- A divine messenger took the original plates to Cumorah before meeting Joseph in Fayette and giving him the plates of Nephi to translate.

None of this can be explained by the prevalent narrative that there was only one set of plates, and that Moroni hauled this set of plates 2400+ miles north from southern Mexico.

LDS intellectuals will tell you to put these questions "on the shelf" because they reject what two of the three witnesses said about the Hill Cumorah.

There is an answer to these inconsistencies.

Joseph Smith translated the original plates in Harmony and gave them to the messenger before leaving for Fayette. The messenger took those plates to the depository of Nephite records in the Hill Cumorah, found the plates of Nephi (to replace the lost 116 pages), and brought those to Fayette so Joseph and Oliver could translate what we know today as 1 Nephi through Words of Mormon.

You can see the diagram here:

Simple. But because it contradicts M2C, you'll never hear about it from our LDS intellectuals.

2. The translation process. Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery (as well as the revelations in the D&C) consistently said Joseph translated the engravings on the plates by using the Urim and Thummim, or Nephite translators that had been prepared for that purpose. Moroni put them in the stone box so Joseph could use them.

However, several witnesses said Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon (after the 116 pages were lost) by reading words off a stone he put in a hat.

In terms of truth claims, the stone-in-a-hat scenario is obviously a far cry from Joseph actually translating the engravings on the plates using instruments prepared by the Lord for that purpose.

There are three ways to resolve this inconsistency.

A. We can say Joseph and Oliver used the term "Urim and Thummim" to apply to any device used for translation, including both the Nephite interpreters and the seer stone Joseph found in a well years earlier. Church historians (and Church publications and web pages, including the Gospel Topics Essay) now teach that Joseph translated the Book of Mormon with the stone-in-a-hat technique. They teach that Joseph didn't even use the plates after all, but that they were always covered in a cloth or even outdoors. Because they believe Joseph didn't even use the plates, they can't explain how Joseph knew the Title Page was the last leaf of the plates, or why the Lord told Joseph he would have to translate the plates of Nephi (D&C 10).

B. We can say Joseph and Oliver told the truth but everyone else who spoke or wrote about the stone-in-a-hat scenario was a liar; i.e., Joseph never used the stone-in-a-hat technique. This requires one to believe a grand conspiracy over decades.

C. We can say that everyone told the truth according to what they observed, but people made inferences that they reported as facts. Joseph and Oliver translated the engravings on the plates using the Nephite interpreters, which they called Urim and Thummim. People also saw Joseph put a stone in a hat and dictate words to a scribe. But what these witnesses saw was a demonstration, not the actual translation.

I favor option C, and I provide all the detail in my upcoming book (to be released in August). The key is, Joseph was commanded never to show the Nephite interpreters or the plates to anyone. That commandment was a nullity if Joseph didn't even use the interpreters or the plates. Plus, the stone-in-a-hat scenario negates all the work Mormon and Moroni did when they abridged and protected the plates.

Why a demonstration? People were constantly asking about the translation process, but Joseph was expressly forbidden to let anyone see the interpreters or the plates. The solution: demonstrate how the translation works by putting a stone anybody can see in a hat anybody can see and then dictating words to a scribe while letting people infer they were watching the actual translation.

3. The language of the text. There are three basic explanations for the text of the Book of Mormon.

A. Composition. Critics claim Joseph and/or co-conspirators wrote the entire book, drawing from their experiences and sources available to them. The language is that of Joseph and/or his co-conspirators. Joseph read the words of such a manuscript to Oliver Cowdery when they were alone, and used the stone-in-a-hat demonstration to mislead observers.

B. Transcription. Because the stone-in-the-hat scenario has been embraced in today's Church, the concept of translation has evolved to the point where most LDS intellectuals now think Joseph merely transmitted (transcribed) words that appeared on the stone. They claim the language is not Joseph Smith's because he was unschooled and didn't know big words, the grammar of Early Modern English, etc. IOW, our LDS scholars now teach that Joseph didn't really translate the text. He simply read out loud the words that appeared on the stone in the hat.

C. Translation. After years of instruction from Moroni (and probably Nephi, one of the Three Nephites), Joseph used the Nephite interpreters to study the characters, translate them, write them down, and then give some of them to Martin Harris to take to New York. When Martin returned, Joseph dictated his translation to Martin, who then lost the 116 pages. Nearly a year later, Joseph dictated the translation of the text we have today to Oliver Cowdery (except for a few pages). The text we have today reflects Joseph's own vocabulary and speech patterns.

For reasons I explain in detail in my August book, Option B is the least plausible. Option C is better supported by the evidence than Option A. Plus, of course, it coincides with Option C from the method of translation.

What does the translation process have to do with M2C?

I'm glad you asked.

The basic premise of M2C is that Joseph didn't know about Mesoamerican culture, that he was illiterate and barely educated, and that he speculated about the New York Cumorah, the plains of the Nephites, etc.

The idea that Joseph was smart and educated enough to produce the text of the Book of Mormon contradicts the M2C narrative. The more ignorant and speculative Joseph was, the better, as far as the intellectuals are concerned. They assert more knowledge than the prophets on lots of topics, but especially on the topic of the New York Cumorah.

This all comes back to the truth claims.

Imagine you are a youth in the Church attending Seminary or Institute or BYU. In which of the following explanations would you be more likely exercise faith?

Current CES/BYU teachings. Joseph Smith was an uneducated farm boy who found a seer stone in a well and produced the entire Book of Mormon by reading words that appeared on the stone when he put it into a hat and covered his face with the hat. Yes, he found gold plates, but he didn't use them. Yes, Mormon and Moroni were real people, and they worked hard at considerable personal risk to abridge the Nephite records, but all that effort was only done so Joseph could have metal plates to show to 11 men who served as witnesses. And yes, Martin Harris said only the 3 witnesses ever saw the plates, but he was wrong. Yes, David Whitmer and Oliver Cowdery said the Nephite depository was in the Hill Cumorah in New York, but they were wrong, too. So were all the prophets who repeated these teachings.

Alternative teachings. Although he attended little formal school, Joseph Smith was prepared from a young age to translate the Book of Mormon. Moroni directed him the the stone box that contained the plates and the Urim and Thummim prepared by the Lord for the translation of the plates. Joseph took these plates to Harmony and translated the engravings on them. After he and Oliver translated the last leaf of the plates (the Title Page), Joseph gave the plates to a divine messenger who took them to the depository of Nephite records in the Hill Cumorah in New York. The messenger brought the plates of Nephi to Fayette, where Joseph and Oliver translated them. Martin Harris was correct that only the Three Witnesses and Joseph himself ever saw the original Harmony plates. David and Oliver were correct that the depository of Nephite records was in the Hill Cumorah in New York. All the prophets who repeated these teachings were likewise correct.

The choice between these explanations could not be any plainer.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Does the Book of Mormon matter?

Yesterday Jana Reiss published an important article about how the Church addresses people in their 20s and 30s.

She concludes: "I don’t think they will move the needle back to the way things used to be, for three reasons." Her reasons are (i) social issues, (ii) disaffiliation in society overall, and (iii) young people resist centralized authority.

I found this interesting because two words never came up in her article: truth, and Book of Mormon.

People still respond to truth.

Gospel living has always entailed some contrast with society as a whole.

It seems to me that skepticism about truth claims is a more basic problem than the reasons Reiss identified, and the 20 changes she listed have little to no bearing on the truth claims.

In fact, the Saints book (#16 on her list) created a false historical present purely to accommodate M2C.

We've seen how half of Millennials and even some BYU professors no longer believe the Book of Mormon is an authentic history.

That's an easily predictable outcome when BYU and CES teach the Book of Mormon with fantasy maps, especially when those maps are a pretext for teaching the M2C hoax.

Here's another change Reiss should have mentioned: The Gospel Topics Essay on Book of Mormon Geography.

Now, "the Church’s only position is that the events the Book of Mormon describes took place in the ancient Americas."

That is a big change from the past and seems to be another accommodation to younger people who have been taught M2C their entire lives, but it's not exactly a reaffirmation of what the prophets have taught. It is difficult to see how this watering down of the teachings of the prophets will build faith.

Thanks to employees at BYU, CES and COB who believe in and promote M2C, very few Millennials or GenXers are familiar with the following teachings that have long been part of the Church's truth claims:

"The Church has long maintained, as attested to by references in the writings of General Authorities, that the Hill Cumorah in western New York state is the same as referenced in the Book of Mormon."

"This modernistic theory (M2C) of necessity, in order to be consistent, must place the waters of Ripliancum and the Hill Cumorah some place within the restricted territory of Central America, notwithstanding the teachings of the Church to the contrary for upwards of 100 years." 

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

"At about one mile west rises another ridge of less height, running parallel with the former, leaving a beautiful vale between. The soil is of the first quality for the country, and under a state of cultivation, which gives a prospect at once imposing, when one reflects on the fact, that here, between these hills, the entire power and national strength of both the Jaredites and Nephites were destroyed.

By turning to the 529th and 530th pages of the book of Mormon you will read Mormon’s account of the last great struggle of his people, as they were encamped round this hill Cumorah."

"In the western part of the state of New York near Palmyra is a prominent hill known as the “hill Cumorah.” (Morm. 6:6.) On July twenty-fifth of this year, as I stood on the crest of that hill admiring with awe the breathtaking panorama which stretched out before me on every hand, my mind reverted to the events which occurred in that vicinity some twenty-five centuries ago—events which brought to an end the great Jaredite nation."

The point of the Restoration was bringing truth to the world and establishing Zion. The Book of Mormon was a critical element. The keystone, actually.

And righteousness will I send down out of heaven; and truth will I send forth out of the earth, to bear testimony of mine Only Begotten; his resurrection from the dead; yea, and also the resurrection of all men; and righteousness and truth will I cause to sweep the earth as with a flood, to gather out mine elect from the four quarters of the earth, unto a place which I shall prepare, an Holy City, that my people may gird up their loins, and be looking forth for the time of my coming; for there shall be my tabernacle, and it shall be called Zion, a New Jerusalem.
(Moses 7:62)

Moving away from truth claims about the Book of Mormon seems to be the opposite of sweeping the earth with truth. Replacing those truth claims with M2C and fantasy maps is even worse.

And what about establishing Zion? Everyone seeks a just, fair, and loving society, with no poor among us and everyone seeking to serve and honor others.

The world has shown itself unable to establish Zion, despite an abundance of resources, teachings, and aspirations. That's because establishing Zion requires a change of heart. It's a process, not a goal, and the gospel can make it a reality.

But hardly anyone even knows about this because no one talks about it any more.

That's a topic for another time and place.

Let's get back to the Book of Mormon.

Yesterday we saw how the underlying premise of M2C is fake. That's why I call it a hoax.

The M2C hoax reminds me of this: Whatever you think and believe will very much shape your reality." -

M2C advocates have long maintained that the Mesoamerican setting is evidence of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon because Joseph could not have known about ancient civilizations in Mesoamerica.

The premise is fake because long before Joseph translated the plates, the ancient civilizations in Mesoamerica were well known. (Plus, the Book of Mormon doesn't describe Mesoamerica anyway, but that's a separate topic.)

The originator of M2C, an RLDS scholar named H.A. Stebbins, recognized that the premise of M2C would be invalid if, in fact, Joseph knew about ancient Mesoamerican civilizations before he translated the plates. In 1897, Stebbins wrote an article attempting to rebut the evidence that these civilizations were well known. Basically, he claimed the Europeans didn't know about the Mesoamerican ruins until after 1830, which may or may not be true but it's irrelevant because, as we saw yesterday, Humboldt's book was on sale in Palmyra in 1819. This is getting too far into the weeds, but if you're interested, email me and I'll email you the reference.

Once LDS intellectuals adopted the Stebbins M2C theory, they ran with it. Let's look at some of the LDS intellectual background for M2C.

Extract from John Lloyd Stephens,
one of the displays at the "Worlds of Joseph Smith"
symposium at the Library of Congress
The M2C hoax was on full display at the disastrous Library of Congress event in 2005. That event, titled "The Worlds of Joseph Smith," portrayed the Book of Mormon as a Mesoamerican document. Speakers described Joseph Smith as ignorant, speculative and dependent on intellectuals. I discussed that conference here.

Here is an excerpt from a presentation at that conference:

Consequently,  what  Joseph  Smith  knew  and  understood about the book ought to be research questions rather than presumptions. Thanks  in  large  part  to  his  critics,  it  is  becoming  clear that Joseph Smith did not fully understand the geography, scope, historical scale, literary form, or cultural content of the book.

What is clear is that Joseph did not understand the M2C interpretation of the text. Having been tutored by Moroni, and having visited the depository of Nephite records in the Hill Cumorah in New York, the plains of the Nephites in Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, the site of Zelph's burial, etc., Joseph understood the content of the book quite well. 

He explained what Moroni taught him: "I was also informed concerning the aboriginal inhabitants of this country and shown who they were, and from whence they came; a brief sketch of their origin, progress, civilization, laws, governments, of their righteousness and iniquity,  about the culture, mode of transportation, and other features."   

For  example,  early  Mormons  believed  Book  of  Mormon  lands stretched  throughout  all  of North  and  South  America,  a  presumption clearly at odds with the book itself (fig. 1a).⁸

Some early Mormons believed that, but only a handful wrote about that theory. Projecting the ideas of a few onto an entire population is a logical fallacy, of course. Here, it's even worse than usual because Joseph Smith explicitly rejected the hemispheric model. 

When he wrote the Wentworth letter, he based it on Orson Pratt's pamphlet, An Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions. In that pamphlet, Pratt had spent several pages outlining the hemispheric model. Joseph crossed out that section and replaced it with this: "the remnant [of the Nephites and Lamanites] are the Indians that now inhabit this country." Recall that he was writing from Nauvoo Illinois to an editors in Chicago Illinois. When he wrote "this country" he was not writing about Mesoamerica.

BTW, if you google "Wentworth letter," don't go to the first link. That one goes to the lesson manual, Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith. The curriculum committee (which is dominated by M2C believers) edited out Joseph's teaching about the Indians. Fortunately, the full Wentworth letter slipped past the censors into the Ensign in 2002, and you can still find it here.)]

The book speaks specifically only of a limited land about the size of Pennsylvania. 

Anyone can read the text and see that its descriptions of geography are anything but specific. The M2C interpretation confines it to a small area because that's the only way the M2C intellectuals can make it fit. (Ironically, Pennsylvania is a lot closer than southern Mexico.)

In 1842, after reading about ancient cities in Central America, Joseph speculated that Book of Mormon lands were located there (fig. 1b). 

Joseph as speculator, the framing every intellectuals loves because it elevates the scholars above the prophets. This sentence is a double hoax because ancient cities in Central America were known from at least 1804, when von Humboldt visited President Thomas Jefferson and told him about the ruins there, and because Joseph had nothing to do with the anonymous 1842 Times and Seasons articles.

I derive two lessons from his speculation: First, Joseph did not know exactly where Book of Mormon lands were; second, he considered their  location  an  important  question  addressable  through scholarship.

Here is the self-serving repudiation of the prophets accompanied by the inevitable demand for full employment of scholars. 

BTW, almost every time you attend an academic conference such as this, at least one speaker will emphasize how important it is to continue more research. Scholars are understandably dependent on the financial support (and gullibility) of ordinary people, but in many cases, they are spending your money on rabbit holes that lead nowhere.

I'm all in favor of more information, but the M2C hoax has consumed millions of dollars and untold hours of wasted effort, all because the scholars decided the prophets were mere speculators, misleading the Church with their incorrect opinions. 

You can go through the work of the M2C citation cartel and find nothing but M2C all the time. The cartel includes FairMormon, Book of Mormon Central, the Interpreter, BYU Studies, Meridian Magazine, and everyone who supports and reproduces their M2C materials.

The cartel resorts to censorship, obfuscation, and similar tactics to maintain M2C. But ultimately, they can't suppress the teachings of the prophets forever.

Or, maybe they can.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Undisclosed location

In April I did a series of posts on the M2C hoax and the Illusion of Scholarship - Mormon's Codex. This week we'll revisit M2C as I explain why I think M2C is a hoax based on illusory scholarship.

People are wondering where I'm hanging out lately. I have about 75 days before leaving the country again for an extended absence, so I'm in an undisclosed location trying to get a lot of work done. Here's what I look at each day.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Guide to avoid contention

I hear from a lot of people involved with missionary and activation work. In an effort to help avoid contention, this post is a guide to discussing the question of Cumorah with your friends.

Those of us who accept the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah are happy and confident. We see the consistency between what the prophets have taught, the descriptions in the text of the Book of Mormon, and relevant anthropology, archaeology, geology, etc. The more we learn, the more we see that the prophets were right all along.

We understand the text better because it all makes sense in this setting. We don't have to rely on experts who tell us Joseph didn't translate it correctly, or didn't translate it at all, that he was an ignorant speculator, etc. We're puzzled by BYU professors who don't believe the Book of Mormon is a real history and by BYU professors who teach the Book of Mormon by using a fantasy map.

We see how the two-sets-of-plates explains what were once discrepancies in accounts in Church history. We see how Joseph was consistent throughout his lifetime and did not change his mind because of a popular 1841 travel book.

Everything is awesome, and it gets better all the time.

We want to share all of this, but we get a lot of pushback from our M2C friends.

The key point: contention is pointless. It never changes anyone's mind.  All you can do is provide information. Let your friends make up their own minds and accept their decisions. Don't expect anyone else to believe something just because you do. If you try to change someone else's opinion, you will become frustrated or even angry. Just look at how the M2C employees are acting on the Internet.

One approach, of course, is to avoid the question. Never tell anyone what you've learned or what you think. If you're involved with missionary or reactivation work, just respond to the inevitable question about historicity by saying "We don't know where any of the events took place, where the people lived, etc."

We all know how well that goes over.

The other approach is to say you believe the Hill Cumorah is in New York, as the prophets have taught, but we don't know for sure the location of other events (as the prophets have also taught) because there are so many plausible locations throughout the Americas. You have ideas that seem to work, but you're not claiming any prophetic or Church support.

That's a solid answer. It's the same answer people give about the Bible; i.e., we know where Jerusalem is, and some of the other locations, but we don't know where all the events took place.

If you take the second approach, you will probably get pushback from M2C intellectuals, their employees, and their followers.

Here is a question to ask when we discuss the Hill Cumorah with our M2C friends:

How many times do the prophets have to reaffirm the New York Cumorah before you will accept what they teach?

For most M2C intellectuals and their employees, the answer in their mind is this: "I'll never accept that. The prophets don't know. Our experts have interpreted the Book of Mormon for us and they say Cumorah can only be in Mesoamerica."

But they won't say that. Instead, they'll get angry and refuse to talk about it.

We reply, "Fine. We'll have to agree to disagree." No contention. Zero. Just move on.

For others, the answer is "Just one more time. Then I'll accept it."

We reply, "Seriously?"

For many M2C believers who have followed the M2C citation cartel carefully, the answer is, "I didn't know the prophets ever taught or reaffirmed that Cumorah is in New York."

We say, "Here's what they have taught."

They say, "Wow, I had no idea. I believe what the prophets have taught. They don't have to reiterate it again. I'll accept what they have taught."

As always, we emphasize that the New York Cumorah does not determine the locations of the rest of the events in the Book of Mormon. You can accept the New York Cumorah and still believe the other events took place in Mesoamerica, Panama, Chile, Baja--wherever you want.

IMO, so long as our leading intellectuals in the Church claim (and teach) that we need the modern prophets to reaffirm the New York Cumorah "one more time" before they'll accept it, there is no reason for the prophets to teach it yet again.

These intellectuals (and their followers) have rejected the teachings of all the prior prophets and apostles on this topic. We have no reason to believe they would accept the New York Cumorah even if President Nelson taught it tomorrow.

As they Savior said in John 5,

46 For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me.
47 But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?

If you discuss Book of Mormon geography, especially the New York Cumorah, with an M2C brother or sister, you will observe a series of reactions.

Usually, as we saw above, they get angry and refuse to discuss the issue. This follows the example of the M2C intellectuals they follow.

If they are not as deeply emotional as Dan Peterson and his peers, they might engage in a discussion of the merits.

If they don't know much, the conversation will go something like this:

You: "I think Cumorah is in New York."

Them: "The experts (and their followers and employees) all say you're wrong."

You: "Do you sustain those experts as prophets, seers and revelators?"

Them: "Well, no, but their employees say they are hired by the prophets to guide the Church."

You: "And you believe that?"

Them: Silence.

You: "The intellectuals in the M2C citation cartel censor information that contradicts their theories. Why don't we discuss the facts so you can make an informed decision for yourself?"

Them: "Sounds good."

If all your friends know about Cumorah is what they've learned from BYU, CES, FairMormon, the Interpreter, BYU Studies, Book of Mormon Central, etc., they're ignorant. They have no idea what the prophets have taught. Once they learn the truth, they may change their minds immediately. This is rare because few people have open minds.

If they are knowledgeable about the facts, and still believe in M2C, your M2C friends will respond with a series of "yes, but" statements, again following the lead of the M2C intellectuals.

The conversation will go like this:

You: Joseph knew the hill was named Cumorah even before he got the plates, as he related to his mother.

M2C: Yes, but maybe his mother misheard or misremembered.

You: She included this in her revision, which indicates it was specific and intentional.

M2C: Yes, but maybe she was relating the false tradition about Cumorah.

You: During their mission to the Lamanites in 1830, Parley and Oliver taught people that Moroni said the hill was named Cumorah anciently.

M2C: Yes, but maybe they were the ones who started the false tradition.

You: Shortly after he joined the Church, Heber C. Kimball visited the Hill Cumorah in New York and observed the embankment still around the hill.

M2C: Yes, but maybe he was mistaken.

You: Part of that embankment still exists.

M2C: Yes, but maybe it's a coincidence, or some farmer created it.

You: In Letter VII, Oliver said it was a fact that the mile-wide valley west of the Hill Cumorah was the scene of the final battles of the Jaredites and Nephites.

M2C: Yes, but maybe he was only stating his opinion.

You: But he said it was a fact.

M2C: Yes, but maybe he was speculating.

You: He was the ordained Assistant President of the Church, designated as spokesman.

M2C: Yes, but maybe he was speculating.

You: He and Joseph had been inside the Nephite depository of records inside the Hill Cumorah.

M2C: Yes, but maybe that was a vision of a hill in Mexico.

You: They went multiple times.

M2C: Yes, but maybe it was still a vision.

You: Joseph had his scribes copy Letter VII into his personal history as part of his life story.

M2C: Yes, but maybe he accepted the false tradition because he speculated, too.

You: Subsequent prophets and apostles have reaffirmed Letter VII. [Going through the list of Brigham Young, Wilford Woodruff, Joseph F. Smith, George Albert Smith, President Ivins, President Romney, etc.]

M2C: Yes, but maybe they were speculating, too. In fact, they were definitely speculating, because our experts have interpreted the Book of Mormon for us and they say Cumorah is in Mesoamerica.

[This is where you get back to the beginning.]

You: How many times do the prophets have to reaffirm the New York Cumorah before you will accept what they teach?

M2C: Just one more time. Then I'll believe.

Gospel Topics Essay reposted

As we saw recently, "Many BYU professors, even on the religion faculty, do not believe the Book of Mormon is historical."

It's pretty easy to see why.

Many years ago, President Joseph Fielding Smith denounced M2C by stating that "Because of this theory some members of the Church have become confused and greatly disturbed in their faith in the Book of Mormon."

That prophetic warning has never been more important than it is now.

First, I emphasize that there is no need to contend about any of this. 

Contention is pointless anyway. Facts don't matter because most people merely confirm their biases regardless of the evidence. I'm only addressing those who are still developing their biases and those few who have an open mind about this topic. I fully realize that M2C has been imprinted on the minds of most members of the Church; I, too, believed it for decades.

I especially don't expect M2C intellectuals, their followers or their employees, to do anything but confirm their biases.

My effort in this blog is about education, not persuasion or contention. I encourage people to make informed decisions, which requires facts, but I don't care what anyone else believes. Each individual is responsible for his/her own views. I write this blog to explain why I think what I think, but anyone is free to agree or disagree, no problem. If I was contending, I'd approach this much differently.

As it says above the title of every post, "This is a friendly discussion among brothers and sisters who all love the Book of Mormon and believe it is actual history. We seek unity on how to interpret the text and Church history. This blog focuses on the North American setting as the simplest and best explanation of Book of Mormon geography, with Cumorah in New York, but we recognize other settings are meaningful for other people."

I suppose there are some people who read this, like the BYU professors mentioned above, who don't believe the Book of Mormon is actual history. But they're not really part of the discussion.

Here's what I do care about: I care when M2C intellectuals pushing their own theories:

(i) censor the teachings of the prophets,

(ii) actively teach the youth of the Church theories that contradict the teachings of the prophets,

(iii) when students discover the teachings of the prophets on their own, teach these students that the prophets are wrong; and

(iv) claim the support of the Church and the prophets by virtue of their employment at BYU/CES/COB and by virtue of their close friendship and relationships with Church leaders.


Version 2 of the anonymous Gospel Topics Essay on Book of Mormon Geography has a new home:

It looks identical to the version 2 that appeared in February, which I previously discussed. Go to this link if you want to see the changes between Version 1 and Version 2.

I'm told the essay was written by a committee, which is why it is anonymous.

The essay says, "the Church’s only position is that the events the Book of Mormon describes took place in the ancient Americas."

This is a distinct change from the 1990 letter from the Office of the First Presidency, personally approved by President Ezra Taft Benson and his counselors, Gordon B. Hinckley and Thomas S. Monson, which reads:

“The Church has long maintained, as attested to by references in the writings of General Authorities, that the Hill Cumorah in western New York state is the same as referenced in the Book of Mormon.”

The anonymous essay stands for itself, of course. But it has been changed once, and it can be changed again.

Readers here know that Version 1 included a mangled 1929 quotation from President Ivins that tried to accommodate M2C. When I pointed out that in 1928 President Ivins gave a General Conference address reaffirming the New York Cumorah, the committee replaced Version 1 by deleting President Ivins completely. You can see President Ivins' 1928 address here:

Seems to me that the essay would have been more informative and would have clarified the matter by including and explaining both quotations by President Ivins instead of deleting them altogether.

The problem hasn't gone away. The Gospel Topics Essay on DNA studies retains the 1929 quotation from President Ivins, but of course does not include the 1928 address.

This is all interesting because it leads to the question, what is a "Gospel Topics Essay." Is it scripture? Does it supersede the scriptures and all prior teachings of the prophets?

Some say yes (especially the M2C intellectuals, their followers and employees).

I'm just asking, and I'm not alone in wondering about this.

For example, the Gospel Topics Essay on DNA studies teaches Darwinian evolution. Here's a quotation from one of the sources cited in footnote 16:

The earliest evidence for anatomically modern humans comes from fossils located in Ethiopia that can be dated to about 150,000–190,000 years (150–190 kyr) ago,. Beyond Africa, fossil evidence of anatomically modern humans has been reported as early as about 100 kyr ago in the Middle East and about 80 kyr ago in southern China. However, other hominins, such as Neanderthals, which disappeared from the fossil record about 40 kyr ago (Fig. 2), have been found throughout Eurasia as far back as 400 kyr.

Anyone can see the conflict between that quotation and the teachings of the scriptures and the prophets.

E.g., D&C 77:6.

Q. What are we to understand by the book which John saw, which was sealed on the back with seven seals?A. We are to understand that it contains the revealed will, mysteries, and the works of God; the hidden things of his economy concerning this earth during the seven thousand years of its continuance, or its temporal existence.

Are we to understand that the Gospel Topics Essay supersedes D&C 77:6?

How does the DNA essay relate to the essay titled Fall of Adam and Eve?

I'm fine with the ambiguity. I'm fine with leaving it up to each member of the Church to make his/her own informed decisions based on study and faith, as they feel guided by the Spirit. Each person can study the science and the scriptures and reconcile them however they want.

In fact, the Gospel Topics Essay on Book of Mormon Geography seems to be saying that everyone is entitled to his/her own opinion, so long as they don't claim prophetic or Church support.

That's a sound approach, consistent with Articles of Faith 9 and 11.

There's an enormous difference between claiming prophetic or Church support, and seeking to support the prophets and the Church.

Is "having an opinion" the same as "having an informed opinion?"

Obviously not.

Article of Faith 9 assures us "We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God."

No one can believe something God has revealed if they don't know what God has revealed. No one can believe the teachings of the prophets if they don't know what the prophets have taught.

How can members of the Church make informed decisions when the essay itself doesn't inform anyone of what the prophets have taught about the topic?

For example, the essay gives no citations to the teachings of the prophets, such as those included here:

The essay does not address Letter VII, which declares it is a fact that the final battles took place in the mile-wide valley west of the Hill Cumorah in New York. Letter VII also declares that the depository of Nephite records was inside the same hill.

Letter VII was written by President Oliver Cowdery and specifically endorsed by all the members of the First Presidency at the time: Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon and Frederick G. Williams. Oliver and Joseph personally visited the depository on multiple occasions. Every member of the Quorum of the Twelve and First Presidency who has ever addressed the issue has reaffirmed Letter VII's teaching about the New York Cumorah. None has questioned, let alone repudiated, the New York Cumorah.

But the anonymous Gospel Topics Essay does.

Well, the M2C intellectuals claim it does.

As I read it, the Gospel Topics essay specifically addresses only the opinions expressed over the years about Book of Mormon locations other than Cumorah. That's what President Ivins in 1929 was addressing. The essay does not, on its face, revoke the clear, specific teachings about the fact that Cumorah is in New York.

Besides the teachings of the prophets, there are lots of reasons to accept the New York Cumorah based on the text and relevant anthropology, archaeology, etc. Nevertheless, some people think the teachings of the prophets would be a good place to start.

The essay has already been changed once. It can be changed again. 

I encourage the committee to revise the essay a third time.

This time, help members of the Church make informed decisions by including references to the teachings of the prophets.

If the Church's position is now that prior prophets were wrong, make that clear. If the Church's position is that the consistent teachings of the prior prophets and apostles about the New York Cumorah were merely their opinions, make that clear.

It's beyond time to clarify the situation President Joseph Fielding Smith identified all those years ago.

But if that's not possible, at least members of the Church should be fully informed about what the prophets have taught so they can make informed decisions.