Friday, April 3, 2020

Read afresh: prophetic clarity vs. academic confusion

Tomorrow is General Conference. President Nelson asked us to prepare. You may wish to begin your preparation by reading afresh Joseph Smith’s account of the First Vision as recorded in the Pearl of Great Price.... 

Never has it been more important to "read afresh" the teachings of the prophets. There is more truth in one page of scripture than in 1,000 pages of academic commentary and interpretation.

The scriptures and the prophets are clear and direct. Academic commentary is confusing and indirect.

When they "analyze" the words of the prophets, the academics provide a steady stream of "yes, but" "maybe, but" and "that's their opinion, but."

Set aside the teachings of the scholars for a while. Focus on the teachings of the prophets instead.
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The scriptures and the prophets consistently and persistently teach two key elements of the Restoration.

1. Joseph Smith was a prophet who told the truth about what he experienced.

2. The Book of Mormon is an authentic history of real people who had the gospel of Jesus Christ.

No one leaves the Church when they believe these two things.
No one joins the Church unless they believe these two things.

You might be thinking of an isolated exception. If so, think it through again.
_____

Millions of people have declined to accept the missionaries' invitation because they do not accept these two elements. Thousands of people have left the Church because they come to reject these two elements.

Why does this happen?

There are as many reasons as there are individuals; every individual is unique. But there are common themes.

People gain testimonies when they read and hear the teachings of the prophets. The Holy Ghost testifies to them, in all the different ways Moroni explained in Moroni 10.

People lose testimonies when they read and hear the teachings of scholars, academics, and critics who reject the plain teachings of the prophets.
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After General Conference, you will probably want to learn more about what the prophets have taught.

You might have to do a little work to find the teachings of the prophets on these topics. Start with the scriptures. Read original sources in the Joseph Smith Papers. Read reports of General Conference.

Read books written by prophets and published by the Church, such as Elder Talmage's Jesus the Christ and the Articles of Faith (but not the recent manuals that edit out key passages because of an academic agenda).

[If you want to read what the prophets have taught about Cumorah, I've assembled a list here:
http://www.lettervii.com/p/byu-packet-on-cumorah.html]
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As you read afresh the teachings of the scriptures and the prophets, you will be able to discern the difference between those teachings and the following theories of men that swirl through the Church today:

1. Joseph Smith didn't really translate the Nephite plates. He didn't even use them.
2. Joseph Smith didn't really use the Urim and Thummim that Moroni provided with the plates. Instead, he simply read words that appeared on a seer stone he found in a well.
3. Joseph Smith couldn't have translated the Book of Mormon because the language is from an unknown translator from the 1500s.
4. Joseph Smith didn't know anything about the ancient Nephites.
5. Joseph Smith learned about the Nephite civilization from scholars and travel books.
6. The real Hill Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 is in southern Mexico, not in New York.
7. The Book of Mormon is a real history, but we know nothing about where any events took place.
8. The best way to teach the Book of Mormon is with a fantasy map based on an interpretation that repudiates the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah.
9. The Book of Mormon may not be an accurate translation because Joseph didn't know anything about Mayan culture.
10. The Book of Mormon teaches truth, but is not a real history. It's a work of 19th century fiction.
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Here's a thought exercise.

Read afresh the scriptures and the teachings of the prophets. Then read the anonymous Gospel Topics Essays. Those essays, in many cases, put more emphasis on the teachings of the scholars who wrote them than on the teachings of the prophets.

Read afresh what Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery wrote about translating the Book of Mormon with the Urim and Thummim. They were clear, direct, and consistent.

Now read what others claim about the translation, including the academic commentary covered at length in the Gospel Topics Essay (which doesn't quote or even cite much of what Joseph and Oliver taught). It is a mass of confusion.
_____

Keep in mind this distinction:

The scriptures and the prophets are clear and direct. Academic commentary is confusing and indirect.




Thursday, April 2, 2020

The M2C triumvirate: hallowed hands throwing Joseph under the bus

President Nelson has asked us all to prepare for General Conference. "What does that look like? You may wish to begin your preparation by reading afresh Joseph Smith’s account of the First Vision as recorded in the Pearl of Great Price....  It is your personal preparation that will help April’s general conference become for you not only memorable but unforgettable. The time to act is now."

"Reading afresh Joseph Smith's account" of all of his experiences is an ideal way not only to prepare for General Conference but to understand the Restoration so we can all fulfill what President Nelson encouraged us to do. "God is trusting us, all of us, to play an important role in the Restoration of His gospel."

But if you "read afresh" Joseph Smith's accounts, you will discover that much of what he taught is missing from the M2C-inspired materials we see today. 

In his message, President Nelson quoted from the Wentworth letter. Another part of that letter provided the titles for the Saints books about Church history (discussed below): "the Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing."

We can all agree with Joseph's promise that "no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing."

But what about hallowed hands?

Today, we'll look at some of the ways in which the M2C triumvirate and their followers have managed to throw Joseph Smith under the bus.

[Note: there are several embedded links in this article if you'd like more information.]
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First, some brief history for context. Then we'll look at specific examples of throwing Joseph under the bus.

When the triumvirate set up F.A.R.M.S. at BYU in 1980, the group had a significant obstacle.

Committed to the M2C theory that the "real Cumorah" was in southern Mexico, they had to find a way to persuade Church members that the prophets were wrong about the New York Cumorah.

However, just two years before, in the October 1978 General Conference, Elder Mark E. Petersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles had reaffirmed what prior prophets had consistently taught about the New York Cumorah.

Moroni’s father was commander of the armies of this ancient people, known as Nephites. His name was Mormon. The war of which we speak took place here in America some four hundred years after Christ. (See Morm. 6.)

As the fighting neared its end, Mormon gathered the remnant of his forces about a hill which they called Cumorah, located in what is now the western part of the state of New York.

Their enemies, known as Lamanites, came against them on this hill....

When finished with the record, Moroni was to hide it up in that same Hill Cumorah which was their battlefield. It would come forth in modern times as the Book of Mormon, named after Moroni’s father, the historian who compiled it....

So this is the message of Moroni. He came back from the dead to deliver it—in these modern times.


His people were Americans, too. His words constituted a people-to-people message, ancient Americans speaking to modern Americans.

https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/1978/10/the-last-words-of-moroni?lang=eng

Three years previously, President Marion G. Romney had also testified about the New York Cumorah in the October 1975 General Conference.

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.

This second civilization to which I refer, the Nephites, flourished in America between 600 B.C. and A.D. 400. Their civilization came to an end for the same reason, at the same place, and in the same manner as did the Jaredites’.
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How did the triumvirate overcome the teachings of the prophets, which stood as an obstacle to M2C?

They employed the academic cycle. 

The wikipedia article on F.A.R.M.S. frames it this way:

Scholars, such as John L. Sorenson, say that the publications of FARMS represented a new trend within Mormonism: the emergence of progressive forms of Mormon orthodoxy. While its scholars are committed to literal interpretations of Mormon faith claims, they are willing to rethink traditional understandings of those claims. For example, FARMS has published a limited geography model for the Book of Mormon. This suggests that the events chronicled in the Book of Mormon occurred in a much smaller region than the traditional understanding, which argues the same events occurred across the entire Western hemisphere.

The conflation of a "hemispheric model" with the New York Cumorah is a red herring. The prophets always taught two things: The Hill Cumorah is in New York, and we don't know where the rest of the events took place. Some leaders (but never Joseph Smith nor Oliver Cowdery) speculated about a hemispheric setting, but it was never taught as a fact the way the New York Cumorah has been.

[Key point: Joseph did identify specific burial sites in the Midwestern U.S. as Jaredite and Nephite, respectively, a topic we'll discuss below.]

I was a student at BYU in the 1970s. They put me in an "Honors" program, apparently because I was a National Merit semifinalist (the only LDS and only boy from my high school in Arizona).

Brother Sorenson taught a group of us about anthropology and the Book of Mormon, focusing on Mesoamerica with the "progressive" slant. I didn't realize it then, but in retrospect I realize I was being groomed to trust the scholars instead of the prophets.

I was a willing subject, of course. I was enthralled with the Mesoamerican setting. Years later a friend of mine was an archaeologist who did a peer review of Brother Sorenson's early draft of what became An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon. I still have a copy of that draft around here somewhere.

Like most LDS students today, I was dazzled by the credentials, confidence, and erudition of the M2C scholars. I was completely convinced by the M2C triumvirate, and F.A.R.M.S. in general, that they were right and the prophets were wrong.

Thanks to the academic cycle, M2C progressed right through the Church as we students entered the workforce and used our resources and abilities to further the work of the Restoration. We became leaders at various levels of the Church. We went out with the missionaries, we taught the youth, and we discussed all of these things with anyone who was interested.

Brother Sorenson published two articles in the Ensign about Mesoamerica. F.A.R.M.S. published numerous books, newsletters, and articles promoting M2C. Faculty at BYU and in CES taught it explicitly.

There was a bit of a setback in 1990. A ward member from Oklahoma wrote to President Hinckley, inquiring about the Hill Cumorah. Presumably he was trying to reconcile M2C with what he had always been taught.

In response, the Office of the First Presidency wrote this, dated October 16, 1990:

Dear Bishop ___: l have been asked to forward to you for acknowledgment and handling the enclosed copy of a letter to President Gordon B. Hinckley from Ronnie Sparks of your ward. Brother Sparks inquired about the location of the Hill Cumorah mentioned in the Book of Mormon, where the last battle between the Nephites and Lamanites took place. The Church has long maintained, as attested to by references in the writings of General Authorities, that the Hill Cumorah in western New York state is the same as referenced in the Book of Mormon. The Brethren appreciate your assistance in responding to this inquiry, and asked that you convey to Brother Sparks their commendation for his gospel study.  
Sincerely yours,

F. Michael Watson
Secretary to the First Presidency

The letter had been personally approved by each member of the First Presidency, consisting of Ezra Taft Benson, Gordon B. Hinckley, and Thomas S. Monson, with their personal stamps, before it was sent out.

Obviously, it was a personal letter not intended for widespread dissemination, but it is a simple statement of fact, easily verified by consulting conference reports and other materials.

Yet it didn't slow down F.A.R.M.S. or the triumvirate at all.

In 1991, Brother Welch became Editor-in-Chief of BYU Studies. From then until the present, the journal has promoted M2C, featuring the map I posted yesterday and lots of M2C articles, book reviews, etc.

Numerous Ensign covers and other artwork depict M2C. Even the North Visitors Center on Temple Square teaches M2C.

Over the years, there were occasional setbacks, such as the "shake-up" at the Mormon Studies Review, reported here:
https://archive.sltrib.com/article.php?id=54358137&itype=CMSID, and the eventual destruction of F.A.R.M.S., discussed here:
https://www.patheos.com/blogs/enigmaticmirror/2015/09/08/how-byu-destroyed-ancient-book-of-mormon-studies/

Despite the ups and downs, M2C has successfully indoctrinated millions of Latter-day Saints, few of whom even know what the prophets have taught on this subject.
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Here are some examples of what the M2C academic cycle has produced as M2C followers have assumed various responsibilities in the Church.

1. Joseph Smith Lesson Manual. Remember the Wentworth letter from the beginning of this post? President Nelson quoted it in his message. The Saints books are named after phrases from the letter.

You can find the Wentworth letter in the lesson manual titled Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith.

https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/teachings-joseph-smith/chapter-38?lang=eng

If you go there, you will see that Church employees edited Joseph's words to omit (censor) material that contradicts M2C.

Original letter in blue (with the omitted portions in red): 

"Through the medium of the Urim and Thummim I translated the record by the gift and power of God.

"In this important and interesting book the history of ancient America is unfolded, from its first settlement by a colony that came from the Tower of Babel at the confusion of languages to the beginning of the fifth century of the Christian era. We are informed by these records that America in ancient times has been inhabited by two distinct races of people. The first were called Jaredites and came directly from the Tower of Babel. The second race came directly from the city of Jerusalem about six hundred years before Christ. They were principally Israelites of the descendants of Joseph. The Jaredites were destroyed about the time that the Israelites came from Jerusalem, who succeeded them in the inheritance of the country. The principal nation of the second race fell in battle towards the close of the fourth century. The remnant are the Indians that now inhabit this country. This book also tells us that our Savior made His appearance upon this continent after His Resurrection;"

Because the employees deleted this important passage, very few members of the Church today know what Joseph Smith taught. 

True, you can find the original version of the Wentworth letter in the Joseph Smith Papers or in another (English) source, but the lesson manual is the principal source of Joseph's teachings for most members of the Church. It has been translated into most of the languages in the Church, including Spanish, French, Portuguese, Chinese, German, etc.

Church members speaking those languages have no other source for the Wentworth letter than this edited and censored source!

You might ask, how did M2C influence this censorship? In two ways.

First, the statement bolded above--The remnant are the Indians that now inhabit this country--teaches that the Indians in the United States are the descendants of Lehi. This is consistent with D&C 28, 30 and 32. It is consistent with everything Joseph told those Indian tribes directly about their ancestors. But it isn't consistent with M2C because the Indians in the northeastern U.S. differ genetically from the indigenous tribes of Latin America (which includes Mesoamerica).

Second, the manual was published about the time when the DNA controversy surfaced. DNA demonstrates that the indigenous inhabitants of Latin America have Asian ancestry. (We'll save the discussion of DNA for another time.) Obviously, that discovery contradicted the claim that all the indigenous people of Latin America were Lamanites.

IOW, the manual omitted Joseph Smith's teachings because M2C-believing employees thought that science contradicted Joseph's teachings.

But as we just saw, the Indians Joseph identified as Lamanites--the Indians the Lord identified as Lamanites in D&C 28, 30 and 32--are distinct genetically from the indigenous people in Latin America.

It turns out that Joseph's teaching here was prophetic. At the time, no one knew there were two distinct ancient civilizations in what is now the United States. People knew there were mounds everywhere; hundreds of thousands of them were raided for treasure and plowed up for farmland. 

It wasn't until decades later that archaeologists and anthropologists determined there were two distinct civilizations. The older one, now called Adena, corresponds with Jaredite time frames. The less old one, now called Hopewell, corresponds with Nephite time frames.

Furthermore, on other occasions Joseph Smith personally identified burial ruins of what we now know as Hopewell as Nephites. He also personally identified burial ruins of what we now know as Adena as Jaredites.

To reiterate: long before archaeologists did, Joseph Smith distinguished between the two civilizations that lived anciently in what is now the Central and Eastern United States, and he specifically identified their bones as Jaredite and Nephite/Lamanite.

He taught this concisely and clearly in the Wentworth letter, but few Church members know it because the M2C censors edited Joseph's teachings out of the manual.

2. Saints book, volume 1.

By now, readers here are familiar with the censorship of Cumorah from the Saints book, volume 1.

The historians have admitted they changed Church history to accommodate modern concepts of historicity and geography, a euphemism for M2C. I've discussed all of this here:

https://saintsreview.blogspot.com/2018/10/the-historians-explain-censorship-in.html

The censorship of Cumorah is not the only M2C-driven change to Church history. I've described others in that blog, such as the fake story that it was Moroni who showed the plates to Mary Whitmer (It was one of the Three Nephites, and he called himself Nephi. Presumably this is the same Nephi who met with Joseph Smith numerous times, another topic for another day.)

Like the Joseph Smith manual, Saints has been translated into dozens of languages and is the only practical source of Church history for current and future generations.

Within a few years, no members of the Church will know anything about what the prophets have taught regarding the Hill Cumorah, except the historians and M2C scholars who have already censored it everywhere they can.

Well, there is an exception.

Many members of the Church learn what the prophets have taught from critics such as the CES Letter, Mormon Stories, the Tanners, various Christian ministries, etc.

Imagine being a youth, missionary, or ordinary member of the Church and learning for the first time from a critic of the Church what the prophets have taught about the New York Cumorah. Not exactly a faith-promoting scenario.

It's difficult to see how teaching "revisionist" Church history that omits these teachings because the M2C scholars disagree with them is preferable to teaching and embracing these teachings.

3. Saints book, volume 2. 

As I've pointed out, volume 2 of Saints is much better than volume 1.

https://saintsreview.blogspot.com/2019/06/saints-volume-2-looks-great.html

However, there are obvious omissions driven by M2C that people should be aware of. I've discussed a couple here:

https://saintsreview.blogspot.com/2020/04/saints-vol-2-omitting-cumorah-from.html

https://saintsreview.blogspot.com/2020/04/saints-vol-2-omitting-cumorah-from-jfs.html
_____

Long-time readers here know there are many other examples, including the fantasy maps used by BYU and CES.

We haven't even discussed SITH (stone-in-the-hat) and all the ramifications of that. We now have faithful scholars in the Church teaching that Joseph Smith didn't translate the plates. They say he didn't even use the plates. Others claim he used both the Urim and Thummim and the SITH, a claim that is unsupported by the sources. Still others support SITH by changing the meaning of the words Joseph used.

Of course, the SITH narrative contradicts the consistent and persistent teachings of the prophets over decades, just like M2C does.

I'll summarize the SITH issue with a table from my latest book, A Man That Can Translate:

There is another approach that is not purely historical in nature. It is the hierarchy of reliability, based on theological considerations. The following table categorizes the major witnesses/observers in descending order of reliability.

Evidence ranked by reliability
translation of 116 pages
translation of BofM

SS
UT
SS
UT
Moroni (Ether, JS-H, Letter IV, etc.)




D&C (Sections 3, 6, 7, 10, 11, 14, 17)




Joseph Smith, Jr.




Oliver Cowdery




Lucy Mack Smith




Martin Harris




David Whitmer




Emma Smith




Mormonism Unvailed statements




Elizabeth Cowdery




William E. McLellin





Those who accept the scriptures as divine would by definition consider them reliable. Next would be Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, the principle participants in the translation.

The table shows that the most reliable evidence concurred that the Urim and Thummim—the Nephite interpreters—were provided by the Lord specifically for the purpose of translating the plates. They also concur that Joseph used the Urim and Thummim to translate the plates.
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We'll continue this series next week, but in the meantime, I hope everyone takes the advice of President Nelson to read afresh the accounts of Joseph Smith.

Notice: President Nelson did not encourage us to read the commentaries. He did not encourage us to read scholarly interpretations.

He encouraged us to read the originals.

The originals contain the "good information" that leads to "good inspiration."

Read the account in the Pearl of Great Price (Joseph Smith--History). 

[Whatever you do, don't get distracted by the Gospel Topics Essay on Translation of the Book of Mormon that omits most of what Joseph said on the topic, including the relevant passages from Joseph Smith--History.\

Read what Joseph wrote in the Wentworth letter. 

[Just don't read the version in the manual. Read the original, entire and unedited (as Joseph specifically requested).]

You can still find a complete version in an old Ensign, here:
https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/2002/07/the-wentworth-letter?lang=eng

For the earliest detailed history of Joseph's experiences, read the eight essays he helped Oliver Cowdery write. You can find them in the Times and Seasons, the Messenger and Advocate, the Improvement Era, the Gospel Reflector, the Prophet, and the Millennial Star.

Notice: you won't find them in the Ensign. Yet.

But it's probably easiest to read them right in Joseph's own history, starting here:

https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/history-1834-1836/48

Although they didn't discuss the First Vision in these essays, they did discuss the events leading up to Moroni's first visit through the restoration of the Priesthood, providing important details that are unfamiliar to many Church members.
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Wednesday, April 1, 2020

M2C triumvirate: from RLDS to Book of Mormon Central

Preliminary points.

1. Some people wonder how a discussion of M2C (the Mesoamerican/two Cumorahs theory) is good preparation for the upcoming General Conference. I'll address that specifically tomorrow, but we're discussing this topic within the framework of President Nelson's teaching that "good inspiration is based upon good information."

2. Our focus on the M2C triumvirate is the opposite of an ad hominem argument. The M2C triumvirate are each exemplary scholars and members of the Church. This is a discussion of ideas and priorities, not individuals. We are focusing on the intellectual genealogy of M2C and the thinking errors that enable it to persist today. This involves the origins of M2C and the techniques used to perpetuate it.

3. Finally, the discussion involves the treatment of the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah (i.e., that the Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 is in western New York). We distinguish between M2C and M. It is the 2C element that repudiates the teachings of the prophets. M is an open question.

The same prophets who have taught the New York Cumorah (NY1C) have also said that beyond Cumorah (Mormon 6:6), we don't know where other events took place. That is really the only viable position to take at this point because there are thousands of sites that could relate to Book of Mormon history and geography.

[Note: the anonymous Gospel Topics Essay on Book of Mormon Geography conflates these two points, a logical and factual error that should be corrected, but the error could be attributed to the essay's complete avoidance of the Cumorah question.]
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A key point: facts don't matter. If you have ever tried to persuade people to change their minds by presenting facts, you know it doesn't work. That's why we are not trying to persuade anyone of anything. We seek only to help people discover "good information" and detect "bad information" so they can make their own informed decisions.

People believe they have their own facts that are better than yours. If they realize their facts fall short, they change the subject. Hundreds of thousands of LDS missionaries have experienced this directly.

That's why the critical dynamic is your starting point. Whatever your initial premise, you can find facts that support it. If you support the prophets, you find facts that corroborate their teachings. If you disregard the prophets in favor of scholars, you find facts that corroborate the scholarly theories.

It's really that simple.

Knowing this, the M2C triumvirate and their followers have focused on LDS students. An LDS youth cannot get through Primary, Seminary, Sunday School, Institute, or BYU without being indoctrinated into M2C.

For M2C advocates, this is a feature, not a bug. But many former LDS members made the mistake of conflating M2C with the Church's position, and when they see the errors of M2C, they lose their faith--just as the prophets have warned.

We think it strengthens faithful members to vindicate the teachings of the prophets instead of repudiating those teachings.
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The M2C triumvirate and their RLDS predecessors developed 2C because of M; i.e., they (i) assumed Mesoamerica was the setting, (ii) then decided that the New York Cumorah was too far away, and (iii) then decided that the prophets were wrong about NY1C.

Those of us who accept NY1C instead take the opposite approach. We assume the prophets were correct about the New York Cumorah and proceed from there.

[At this point, ask yourself, what assumption do you start with?]
_____

As we've discussed, M2C originated with scholars from the RLDS Church in the late 1800s. These RLDS scholars developed a map of Book of Mormon events that placed all the events in a limited geography of Mesoamerica, with Cumorah in southern Mexico near the Gulf of Mexico. This was the origin of M2C.

In April 1917, an RLDS scholar of the Book of Mormon (named L.E. Hills) published a map that depicted M2C.


LDS leaders opposed M2C. When the Church purchased the Hill Cumorah in western New York in 1923, President Ivins (2nd Counselor in the First Presidency) devoted an entire address in General Conference to the importance of the New York Cumorah as the repository of Nephite records in that area (Mormon 6:6).

Hills' location of Cumorah

Elder Joseph Fielding Smith, then an Apostle and Church Historian, rejected the 2C element as we saw yesterday.

He warned that the "two Cumorahs" theory would cause members of the Church to become confused and disturbed in their faith in the Book of Mormon.

The prescience of that warning is obvious today. But that doesn't matter to the M2C scholars.

Books published by the Church such as Jesus the Christ, The Articles of Faith, and A Marvelous Work and a Wonder spelled out the New York Cumorah. Prophets in General Conference reiterated it.

But that still didn't matter to the M2C scholars. They taught their students that the prophets were merely expressing their own incorrect opinions. They still teach that today, right at BYU and in CES.

Why?

Because they found Hills' M2C theory more appealing than the "private, incorrect opinions" of the prophets. 
_____

The M2C triumvirate developed their own version of Hills' map.


This one has been promoted on the main page of BYU Studies for many years. You can see it here:
https://byustudies.byu.edu/charts/160-plausible-locations-mesoamerica-book-mormon-places

M2C triumvirate's location of Cumorah
You can see that they moved their "Cumorah" some miles east of where Hills had put it. The M2C scholars have proposed several variations, but they all agree that the prophets were wrong about the New York Cumorah.

If you're wondering why BYU Studies would promote an M2C map, there is an easy answer.

For decades the Editor-in-Chief of BYU Studies was Brother Jack Welch, a member of the M2C triumvirate.

BYU Studies has been one of the most effective tools used by the M2C triumvirate to promote M2C.

BTW, we can expect M2C promotion to continue under its current editor (as of January 2020), Brother Steven C. Harper. Brother Harper, a BYU Church History professor and a wonderful guy, was instrumental in the development and editing of the Saints series of books about Church history.

By now it is well known that Saints, Volume 1, deliberately created a false historical narrative to purge the New York Cumorah from Church history. Instead of presenting Church history from the perspective of the historical figures, the authors of Saints accommodated the modern M2C theory by censoring all mention of Cumorah from Volume 1.

This is one reason why most Church members today, and all future generations, will never learn what the prophets have taught about the New York Cumorah.
_____

For those members of the Church who still believe what the prophets have taught, it is puzzling why M2C has become so prevalent in the Church today. Because of the work of the M2C triumvirate, working through various channels including the academic cycle, M2C has become the de facto position of the Church, based on Church media, manuals and curriculum.

For example, BYU and CES applied the M2C interpretation of the text of the Book of Mormon--the interpretation behind the M2C maps depicted above--and created a fictional fantasy map to use in Book of Mormon classes.

Consequently, every active LDS youth is being taught to understand the Book of Mormon in a fictional setting that also teaches them that the prophets are wrong about the New York Cumorah.

We're told that some BYU faculty no longer believe the Book of Mormon is an authentic history. That's an increasingly common belief, even among active LDS. None of this is a surprising result of teaching the Book of Mormon using fantasy maps, mingled with elements of Mayan culture.

People are free to believe whatever they want, of course. If you think L.E. Hills and the M2C triumvirate are correct, and the prophets are wrong, that's fine.

But it should be just as fine with you that others think the prophets are correct and L.E. Hills and the M2C triumvirate are wrong.

[more]










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Joseph Fielding Smith.

"Within recent years there has arisen among certain students of the Book of Mormon a theory to the effect that within the period covered by the Book of Mormon, the Nephites and Lamanites were confined almost entirely within the borders of the territory comprising Central America and the southern portion of Mexico-the isthmus of Tehauntepec probably being the "narrow neck" of land spoken of in the Book of Mormon rather than the isthmus of Panama.

"This modernistic theory 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. Because of this theory some members of the Church have become confused and greatly disturbed in their faith in the Book of Mormon. It is for this reason that evidence is here presented to show that it is not only possible that these places could be located as the Church has held during the past century, but that in very deed such is the case."

Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3:232–243.

BMC, the most prominent advocacy group for M2C, was founded by, and is currently operated by, followers of Dr. John Sorenson, who wrote this about the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah:

"There remain Latter-day Saints who insist that the final destruction of the Nephites took place in New York, but any such idea is manifestly absurd. Hundreds of thousands of Nephites traipsing across the Mississippi Valley to New York, pursued (why?) by hundred of thousands of Lamanites, is a scenario worthy only of a witless sci-fi movie, not of history." 

Mormon's Codex, p. 688.

Those involved with BMC are awesome, faithful Latter-day Saints whom I personally like and admire for their work, with the exception of their approach to the teachings of the prophets on this topic.

The simple answer is that the people who founded and currently manage BMC have been promoting M2C for decades. 41 years ago they founded FARMS, an organization that was abolished in 2010.

Many readers have no idea what FARMS is, so let's discuss it.

BMC is managed by the founders of FARMS. They convinced themselves decades ago that the prophets were wrong about Cumorah and that M2C is the only viable explanation for the Book of Mormon.

To understand BMC, you need to understand FARMS,



Here's an example from a 1979 paper. Notice how the theory is stated as a fact.

The Book of Mormon is the religious chronicle of a small group, descendents [sic] of a common ancestor, who migrated to Mesoamerica and flourished for nearly 1000 years before being culturally assimilated and then militarily annihilated by the larger and more powerful native civilization.  

In 1984 the FARMS newsletter titled Insights explained why the logo incorporates a Mayan glyph:

WHAT DOES THE F.A.R.M.S. LOGO STAND FOR? Many people have asked what the F.A.R.M.S. logo means. Here is a brief explanation. The logo is composed of characters from Hebrew, Creek, Mayan and Egyptian, which are four of the main ancient languages and cultures relevant to Book of Mormon reseach [sic]. The characters are set in four stone blocks, symbolizing archaeology and ancient reseach [sic]. The Blocks are fit together like a puzzle. The Hebrew "aleph" in the upper left hand corner and the Greek "omega" in the lower right hand corner are the first and last letters of the Hebrew and Greek alphabets, standing for the "first and the last" (Isaiah 48:12), or the "Alpha and the Omega" (Rev. 1:17), who is Jesus Christ. The Mayan glyph is stylized, representing Mesoamerican studies. The Egyptian "Wd3t-eye" is the "whole-eye of the Sun-god Re" which was an ancient symbol of resurrection, since a myth told how the eye was torn to pieces and put back together. We have chosen this Egyptian hieroglyph because of an astonishing connection with the Book of Mormon, namely that the "pieces" of this eye were used by the Egyptians as mathematical symbols for their grain-measures. In other words, the tear duct was worth 1/64; the eye lash was 1/32; the left white of the eye was 1/16; the eyebrow was 1 /8; the pupil was 1 /4; and the right white of the eye was 1/2. The whole eye was one full measure. This binary fractional system is extremely reminiscent of the weights and measures of the Nephites in Alma 11. There a leah is half of a shilum, which is half of a shiblon. which is half of a senum, which is half of an amnor, etc. Moreover this Egyptian measurement system was used to weigh and convert amounts of barley, wheat and other grains into silver and gold, just as the Nephite system was used. See Alma 11:7. This is described more technically in the F.A.R.M.S. Preliminary Report, "Nephite Weights and Measures in the Time of Mosiah II." In addition, the round pupil of this eye was also used by the Egyptians as the round outline of the hypocephali which they used in burials, of which Facsimile 2 in the Book of Abraham is an example.

THis

THREE THREATENING DANGERS. There are at least three dangers that threaten the Church within, and the authorities need to awaken to the fact that the people should be warned unceasingly against them. 

As I see these, they are flattery of prominent men in the world, false educational ideas, and sexual impurity.

But the third subject mentioned—personal purity, is perhaps of greater importance than either of the other two. We believe in one standard of morality for men and women. If purity of life is neglected, all other dangers set in upon us like the rivers of waters when the flood gates are opened.—Improvement Era, Vol. 17, No. 5, p. 476. March, 1914.



Leaders of thought frequently express admiration for the social conditions of the Latter-day Saints, the simplicity and earnest- ness of their worship, their care for the poor, and the honesty and purity of their daily lives. For these reasons our people are sought as colonizers in various parts of the country, men having seen that their industry and good character are of immense value in the building of a community and in the development of a country.

I sometimes fear that we are not altogether worthy of some of the good things said of us, and that they have a ten- dency to throw us off our guard, make us less watchful, and lull us to sleep, as it were, thus handicapping our continued efforts in the upward direction of right. Incorrect educational ideas are implanted in the hearts of our young people, often at home, and nearly always abroad. We have hundreds of young men, and young women, too, for that matter, who go abroad to receive their higher education, who partake to a great extent of the teachings of the world in these institutions. Not infrequently many of them return filled with the so-called "higher criticism" which not only tends to disbelief in the inspiration of the Holy Scriptures, but disbelief in God, and in the saving mission and divinity of Jesus Christ our Lord, upon which Christi- anity and the faith of the Latter-day Saints are founded.

But the third subject mentioned,—personal purity, is per- haps of greater importance than either of the other two. We believe in one standard of morality for men and women. If purity of life is neglected, all other dangers set in upon us like the rivers of waters when the flood gates are opened. Our youth naturally incline to follow the tendencies of the age in this direction, which is toward impurity in thought and action, impropriety in dress, and a double moral standard which gives men liberties in sin which are not, and should not be, tolerated in women. The general in- clination is towards moral looseness. It does not appear, not- withstanding declarations to the contrary, that the people are growing better in this respect, and that is a fearful thought to contemplate. Hence, there never was greater need than now of teaching our people to lead clean lives, and of impressing upon our young men the imperative necessity of moral cleanliness. So many examples come to the surface every day showing sexual iniquity and impurity that it is time to cry out against this sin. Parents, teachers and Church authorities must diligently warn their son* and daughters against these vile sins of the world, and make plain to them the sorrow and death that await the sinners. The warning should come in a Christ-like, earnest, and sincere spirit, in wisdom, and without cant and hypocrisy.





Tuesday, March 31, 2020

The M2C triumvirate

Millions of people are staying home to help prevent or slow the spread of COVID-19. Many members of the Church around the world are spending their time reading and studying, preparing for General Conference. It's a good time to focus on the keystone of our religion: the Book of Mormon.

Pursuant to President Nelson's counsel that "good inspiration is based upon good information," it is important for every member of the Church to seek "good information." Although many Church members seem to just want someone to tell them what to believe, seeking the truth is an individual responsibility that we cannot delegate to others, especially when the topic involves the Book of Mormon.

On this blog, we focus on the historicity and geography of the Book of Mormon as evidence of its divine authenticity.

No one needs any expertise to understand and believe the teachings of the prophets. This includes the clear, consistent and persistent teachings of the prophets about the New York Hill Cumorah.

Yet most Church members are ignorant of those teachings. Many of those who do know what the prophets have taught have nevertheless been persuaded to reject their teachings in favor of M2C (the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory). 

After all the debates about evidence, logic, history, geography, geology, anthropology, archaeology, metallurgy, language, etc., the ongoing influence of M2C boils down to three men: the M2C triumvirate.

On a personal level, I like all three of them. Each is a faithful, smart, productive and sincere member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We can learn a lot from their work. But that has no bearing on whether we should accept their theories and teachings.

These were the founders of F.A.R.M.S. in 1979, which taught M2C from its inception. Today they are the brains behind Book of Mormon Central (BMC).

Through various channels they have taught M2C to thousands of Church members for decades.

They are the drivers of the academic cycle, whereby young Latter-day Saints are taught to understand the Book of Mormon through the lens of M2C and then go on to teach M2C to their children, students, peers, etc. The academic cycle turns theories into unquestioned assumptions that many come to believe are "true." Even when they contradict the teachings of the prophets.

Now the M2C triumvirate is raising and spending millions of dollars annually to promote M2C to the world through BMC, hiring fine young scholars and artists to spread the message that the prophets were wrong about the New York Cumorah.

All of that is fine. We're each entitled to believe whatever we want. We can donate to whatever cause we think is important. No one is an "apostate" simply because his/her beliefs contradict someone else's.

But we don't have to accept the teachings of the scholars over the teachings of the prophets. 

Much of what the M2C triumvirate does (apart from M2C) is awesome and deserves our support. I have learned a lot from them and continue to use the resources provided by BMC and the rest of the M2C citation cartel. I wish I could support their work 100%, but I cannot, at least not as long as they continue to undermine the teachings of the prophets about Cumorah, without at least acknowledging those teachings and the evidence that supports the prophets.
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The approach of BMC can be summed up in the following quotation from Brother Sorenson. Recall the long list of prophets who have taught the New York Cumorah, summarized at this link.

There are many of us Latter-day Saints who still believe those teachings. We are not ignorant, uneducated, or naive. We have sought and found evidence from various sciences that corroborates the teachings of the prophets. Original Church history documents also support the prophets.

Now, read what Brother Sorenson says about us and the teachings of the prophets:

“There remain Latter-day Saints who insist that the final destruction of the Nephites took place in New York, but any such idea is manifestly absurd. Hundreds of thousands of Nephites traipsing across the Mississippi Valley to New York, pursued (why?) by hundreds of thousands of Lamanites, is a scenario worthy only of a witless sci-fi movie, not of history.”

John L. Sorenson, Mormon’s Codex (Deseret Book, 2013), p. 688.

Those who heed the words of the prophets know that Joseph Fielding Smith warned against M2C over a period of decades.

"Within recent years there has arisen among certain students of the Book of Mormon a theory to the effect that within the period covered by the Book of Mormon, the Nephites and Lamanites were confined almost entirely within the borders of the territory comprising Central America and the southern portion of Mexico-the isthmus of Tehauntepec probably being the "narrow neck" of land spoken of in the Book of Mormon rather than the isthmus of Panama.

"This modernistic theory 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. Because of this theory some members of the Church have become confused and greatly disturbed in their faith in the Book of Mormon. It is for this reason that evidence is here presented to show that it is not only possible that these places could be located as the Church has held during the past century, but that in very deed such is the case."


Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3:232–243.

Other members of the First Presidency have reaffirmed the New York Cumorah in General Conference. But their teachings have been rejected by the M2C scholars, particularly by the M2C triumvirate.
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In upcoming posts, we'll examine how the M2C triumvirate has adopted, refined, and promoted M2C over the years. It is a fascinating study that involves history, bias confirmation, cognitive dissonance, rhetoric, and more.

Setting aside personal prayer and revelation, most of us seek "good information" first from the scriptures, second from the prophets, third from original sources of Church history, data from the sciences, etc., and finally from teachers, experts, friends, the Internet, etc.

[Ask yourself, have you inverted this hierarchy of evidence?]

True, we can't become experts in everything. For some topics, we necessarily rely on teachers and experts in various fields to introduce and guide us to their areas of expertise. They can help us find good information.

But they can also deflect us from good information.

Sometimes, good information is mingled with bad information. Sometimes the theories of men are mingled with scripture.

We trust teachers and experts to help us filter out irrelevant or incorrect material, but in many cases their biases instead cause them to filter out material that contradicts their own theories. If we're too deferential (and lazy), we can easily be easily manipulated into accepting their theories without making informed decisions based on good information.

And some topics don't require expertise, even when experts insist you need training for their ministry.