Saturday, February 27, 2021

Come Follow Me 2021 and Intertextuality

This week's podcast and blog post discuss the topic of intertextuality. This is an exciting new approach to understanding the Book of Mormon (and the Restoration generally) as the fulfillment of centuries of Christian hopes and aspirations.

The podcast: comefollowme2021.com

The blog: http://comefollowme2021.org/

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Disinformation and the Mary Whitmer problem

A lot of what we think is a difference in opinions is really a difference in knowledge. People think their opinions are based on fact, but that's usually a delusion--especially when they don't have all the facts. 

And, as much as we wish it was not the case, we are not getting all the facts from current correlated Church history.


The Come Follow Me 2021 manual is the latest example, but that's because it is correlated with the Saints book.

In a way, this doesn't matter. It's funny, even, that our historians think they can mislead us this easily. Every member of the Church has responsibility to study these things and reach our own conclusions. Delegating our study to our historians, and then believing what they tell us, is a colossal mistake.

True, we should be able to trust them. But they have an agenda different from ours. They promote a version of Church history that they want us to believe. That's fine, but we don't have to take their word for it. 

Trust, but verify.

There are many Latter-day Saints who seek to understand Church history the way the people involved did; i.e., we want to understand Church history from the perspective of Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, and their associates.

And we're not reading that perspective in the Saints books and correlated materials based on Saints.

The millions of Latter-day Saints who read the Saints book in various languages around the world are reading disinformation designed to accommodate M2C (the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory). 

Even before the Saints book was published, Church historians knew they were misleading Church members, but they refused to change course. In the ensuing two plus years, they have refused to correct the record. We've had this discussion before, but I bring it up here because of the Come Follow Me 2021 manual.

The Saints book relies on the Lucy Mack Smith history over 100 times (129 times, according to my kindle version). But when it comes to Cumorah, the historians pretend that history doesn't exist.

Why?

We can't read minds, but not only did the historians refuse to correct Saints after I pointed out the obvious errors, one of the primary historians responsible for Saints is the editor of BYU Studies, which continues to promote M2C.

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One of the fundamental claims of those who believe M2C is that Joseph Smith never referred to the hill from which he got the plates as Cumorah.

Yet anyone can read his mother's description of what Moroni told Joseph the first time they met:

tell your father of this for he will believe every word you say the record is on a side hill on the Hill of Cumorah 3 miles from this place remove the Grass and moss and you will find a large flat stone pry that up and you will find the record under it laying on 4 pillars of cement— then the angel left him

https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/lucy-mack-smith-history-1844-1845/41

And later, in early 1827, before he even got the plates:

Presently he [Joseph] smiled, and said in a very calm tone, “I have taken the severest chastisement, that I have ever had in my life”. My husband, supposing it was from some of the neighbors, was quite angry; and observed, “I would like to know what business any body has to find fault with you.”

“Stop, father, Stop.” said Joseph, “it was the angel of the Lord— as I passed by the hill of Cumorah, where the plates are, the angel met me and said, that I had not been engaged enough in the work of the Lord; that the time had come for the record to be brought forth; and, that I must be up and doing, and set myself about the things which God had commanded me to do

https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/lucy-mack-smith-history-1845/111 

Here, we have Joseph's mother quoting him referring to Cumorah even before he obtained the plates. This identification is corroborated by Parley P. Pratt, David Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery and others. Yet these references were intentionally omitted from the Saints book and all of the correlated materials, including the Come Follow Me manual. 

Our M2C intellectuals reject Lucy Mack Smith's account about Cumorah not because she was not credible. If she was not credible, they wouldn't have cited her work 129 times.

Instead, they reject her account regarding Cumorah because they reject all the historical evidence regarding Cumorah.

Again, we ask, why?

Because they are convinced Cumorah is in Mexico, and they want all Latter-day Saints to accept their theory, to the point of actively promoting disinformation and censorship to achieve their goal.

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This is why we see millions of dollars promoting the Mark of M2C on so much content, including popular Come Follow Me podcasts and materials.

Look at the Mark of M2C at the top of this Come Follow Me page:



The strange persistence of the claim it was Moroni who showed the plates to Mary Whitmer is worth another look. 


The Come Follow Me 2021 manual repeats the Mary Whitmer story from the Saints book (volume 1). This ridiculous story has become so widely accepted that people call you an apostate for pointing out that it both

(i) contradicts the historical evidence and 

(ii) contradicts basic doctrine about the resurrection.

By now, readers here know that David Whitmer, the only person who described a personal encounter with both Moroni and the messenger who showed the plates to his mother, clearly distinguished between the two individuals. David further explained that Joseph Smith identified the messenger as one of the Nephites. Mary Whitmer herself said that the messenger identified himself as "Brother Nephi." It was her grandson who said she must have been mistaken because it was Moroni who had charge of the plates. 

As usual, our M2C scholars disregard historical evidence that contradicts their theories, as well as the statement of a woman (Mary Whitmer). In this case, they prefer the bizarre claim of her grandson over Mary's identification because it accommodates their M2C theory.

If we're going to change Church history by rejecting what David and Mary Whitmer said, it's time to revise the artwork based on the historical accounts. It's also time to re-write the scriptures.

This approach is consistent with the way our historians and M2C intellectuals are changing Church history and re-writing the scriptures on other topics, such as SITH.

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Let's start with re-writing Alma.

43 The spirit and the body shall be reunited again in its perfect form; both limb and joint shall be restored to its proper frame, even as we now are at this time, except that we can change our age, height, and appearance at will; and we shall be brought to stand before God, knowing even as we know now, and have a bright recollection of all our guilt. (Alma 11:43)

23 The soul shall be restored to the body, and the body to the soul; yea, and every limb and joint shall be restored to its body; yea, even a hair of the head shall not be lost, and we shall have power that we can change our age, height, and appearance at will; but otherwise all things shall be restored to their proper and perfect frame. (Alma 40:23)

Next, let's change the artwork.

OLD




NEW




OLD




NEW




Tuesday, February 23, 2021

The rising generation

People wonder why so many of our LDS intellectuals disbelieve what Joseph and Oliver taught about the Urim and Thummim, the New York Cumorah, the plains of the Nephites, etc.

Maybe a passage from the Book of Mormon helps us understand.

Now it came to pass that there were many of the rising generation that could not understand the words of king Benjamin, being little children at the time he spake unto his people; and they did not believe the tradition of their fathers.

(Mosiah 26:1)

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The historical record is clear and unambiguous. Joseph learned the name of the hill where the plates were buried from Moroni himself during their first visit. He referred to the hill as Cumorah before he even got the plates. A divine messenger, whom Joseph identified as one of the Nephites, took the abridged plates from Harmony to Cumorah. Joseph and Oliver visited the depository of Nephite records in the Hill Cumorah at least three times. Joseph referred to the source of the Nephite plates as Cumorah in D&C 128:20. Oliver declared it was a fact that the hill in New York was the very hill Mormon referred to in Mormon 6:6. Joseph and Oliver consistently and persistently taught that Joseph translated the plates with the Urim and Thummim.

But many--apparently most--of our current LDS scholars (including historians) reject all of this in favor of the idea that the "real Cumorah" is in southern Mexico.

No wonder people, both inside and outside the Church, are confused and disturbed in their faith in the Book of Mormon.

Of course, we don't have to take the words of scholars as a given. 

We can all read the historical sources for ourselves. 

We can read the words of the prophets who have reiterated and reaffirmed these teachings over and over.

And we can make informed decisions for ourselves.

11 And also it is an imperative duty that we owe to all the rising generation, and to all the pure in heart—
12 For there are many yet on the earth among all sects, parties, and denominations, who are blinded by the subtle craftiness of men, whereby they lie in wait to deceive, and who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it—
13 Therefore, that we should waste and wear out our lives in bringing to light all the hidden things of darkness, wherein we know them; and they are truly manifest from heaven—
14 These should then be attended to with great earnestness.
(Doctrine and Covenants 123:11–14)

the end

Monday, February 22, 2021

Oliver, Joseph, and scribes and Pharisees

The question of Cumorah boils down to whether people believe what Joseph and Oliver said, or whether people believe our latter-day scribes and Pharisees. 

It's a clear choice. 

Once you decide whom to believe, you can confirm your choice with a corresponding interpretation of the scriptures and the relevant external evidence.

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In the conference last Saturday, I illustrated this point with two slides. (click to enlarge)


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Reasons to disbelieve Joseph and Oliver:

- The New York Cumorah contradicts the theories of intellectuals that the "real" Cumorah is somewhere in southern Mexico (although not yet located), because of their claim that the entire Book of Mormon took place in a limited area of Mesoamerica. 

- Everyone who said Cumorah was in New York was wrong. Credentialed modern scholars are more credible and reliable than eye-witnesses and angelic ministrations.

- There is no evidence that millions of Jaredites and/or hundreds of thousands of Nephites/Lamanites died around Cumorah.

Reasons to believe Joseph and Oliver:

- Moroni told Joseph the name of the hill on his first appearance to Joseph.

- Joseph referred to the hill as Cumorah even before he got the plates.

- According to David Whitmer, a divine messenger, whom Joseph identified as one of the Nephites, took the abridged plates from Harmony to Cumorah.

- Joseph and Oliver visited the depository of Nephite records in the hill Cumorah in New York at least three times.

- After Heber C. Kimball joined the Church in 1832 he visited Cumorah and observed the embankments still around the hill. Most have since been plowed under, but one small remnant remains. He also observed numerous hilltop fortifications.

- In the eight historical essays published in 1834-5, Oliver declared it was a fact that the mile-wide valley west of Cumorah in New York was the site of the final battles of the Jaredites and Nephites.

- Joseph helped write the essays, had them copied into his own history as part of his life story, and had them republished in the Gospel Reflector, the Times and Seasons, the Prophet, and the Millennial Star.

- All of Joseph's contemporaries and successors who ever discussed the topic reaffirmed what Joseph and Oliver taught.

- Physical evidence is consistent with expectations based on the text. Archaeologists have discovered Adena (Jaredite) and Hopewell (Nephite) sites in western New York, including hastily-constructed hilltop fortifications we would expect from the retreat of the Nephites to Cumorah.

- Farmers in western New York, including around Cumorah, have plowed up abundant arrowheads, stone axes, etc. They were so abundant around Cumorah that kids used them for skipping stones.

- Nowhere do the scriptures say millions, or even hundreds of thousands, of people died at Cumorah. Oliver wrote that only "thousands" of Jaredites (less than 10,000) and "tens of thousands" (not hundreds of thousands) of Nephites/Lamanites died in the valley west of Cumorah, which is consistent with the text. 

- The bodies in the battles were left unburied, meaning they would dissolve quickly, just like the bones of deer and other animals. Useful weapons or other materials would be taken by the victors and/or others who passed through the area over the centuries. Other famous battles in history, such as the Battle of Hastings that involved 10,000 people, have left no evidence after hundreds of years. 

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This brief overview supports whatever you want to believe, whether you believe or disbelieve Joseph and Oliver.


Friday, February 19, 2021

Reminder: conference tomorrow, February 20, 2021

I'm speaking at an online conference tomorrow, Saturday, February 20, 2021. Here's the link:

https://4mevents.org/

I'll be discussing the Cumorah issue along with other related topics, as well as responding to questions.

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Come Follow Me 2021

There are lots of online resources for Come Follow Me 2021. I've seen/read several, and they are fine. The most common thing I hear about them is that they mostly cover the same things you've heard a million times before. Again, that's fine. Repetition is important.

Readers here know that our podcast and blog covers faith-affirming aspects of the Doctrine and Covenants and related Church history that no one else seems to be addressing. For example, most of the other resources have fully embraced SITH and ignore the historical problems with that theory. 

Blog: http://comefollowme2021.org/

Podcast: comefollowme2021.com

We're getting some great questions and feedback from the podcast and my blog so we're incorporating those in future podcasts and blog posts.

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We've been adding more content to mobom lately.

We added a self-test quiz about the Book of Mormon to the mobom site (Museum of the Book of Mormon). Go to https://www.mobom.org/home and click on "BofM quiz" at the menu on the top of the page, or scroll down the home page to the link below the Questions or Feedback button.



Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Offensive logos

Offensive logos have been in the news lately. Logos are being changed and modified to promote greater unity in the world.

The same interest in unity should motivate our LDS scholars to replace their offensive logo, as we'll discuss below.

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A few days ago, Quaker Oats announced the new branding to replace the Aunt Jemima brand. 

That was one of several logos and brands that changed to respond to complaints they were offensive.


Among Latter-day Saints, there is a logo that many find offensive because it conveys the message that only one theory of Book of Mormon geography is acceptable. 

It is bad enough that this contradicts the Church's position of neutrality, but that's not all. It is a brand that actively censors, opposes, and attacks faithful Latter-day Saints who still believe what the prophets have taught about the New York Cumorah.



In addition to its offensive nature, the logo contradicts a basic principle of academia: the open mind. By incorporating M2C into the design, this logo forecloses multiple working hypotheses about Book of Mormon historicity.

The logo is used not only for Book of Mormon related topics. It has migrated to Come Follow Me, the Pearl of Great Price, and numerous publications.




I've previously proposed a modification that replaces the Mayan glyph with the actual language of the Book of Mormon:


From long experience, we cannot expect our M2C intellectuals to change their minds about M2C. We don't care if they do, actually; we think the approach of multiple working hypotheses is the best available option. 

But maybe, in the interest of unity in the Church (and academic integrity), they could at least change their logo to something more suitable and less offensive.




 









Friday, February 12, 2021

Simplicity again

I think it's healthy and productive to have discussions about Church history and Book of Mormon historicity because it can promote unity and understanding, even if we don't end up agreeing. 

Especially if we don't end up agreeing.

I take as a given--I stipulate--that everyone honestly believes what they say. Everyone has good intentions. Everyone wants to be helpful.

The more we can simplify the issues and clarify that, ultimately, our beliefs are a result of our choices, the easier it is to understand one another and accept the differences in complete harmony.

Harmony through diversity.

Some time ago I discussed the principle of simplicity as it relates to Book of Mormon historicity.*

Most debates merge toward two opposing sides, and in this case, the debate is between New York Cumorah vs. non-New York Cumorah. Usually this is framed as M2C vs Heartland.

Our M2C scholars honestly believe the prophets were wrong. The Heartlanders honestly believe they were correct. 

This is a very simple discussion. 

I don't discuss this as a right/wrong situation. It's a matter of personal preference. I hope we can all agree on that, at least.

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Below is a comparison diagram I'm going to discuss at a zoom conference on February 20th. It shows the interaction between the scriptures, the prophets and external evidence.

Everyone has access to the same sources. We can all read the text of the scriptures. We can all read the teachings of the prophets. And we can all read the external evidence, including anthropology, archaeology, geology, geography, etc.

People can disagree about all three components, of course. We can interpret the scriptures differently. We can emphasize some evidence instead of others, or interpret the same evidence differently. 

What we can't do is disagree about what the prophets have said about Cumorah. There, we can only accept or reject what they said.

The New York Cumorah is supported by all three components. Think of them as legs of a stool. It stands up, no problem.


The Mexican Cumorah (M2C) is supported only by two of the three components or legs. M2C proponents necessarily repudiate what the prophets have taught; otherwise, their approach doesn't work.

And that's fine. People can be faithful, thoughtful, dedicated Latter-day Saints while also believing the prophets were wrong about this issue.






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*original simplicity post, edited

Simplicity

William of  Ockham
The simplest explanation is usually the best, a principle often described as Occam's razor. "Among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected."

On the topic of Book of Mormon geography, which setting requires the fewest assumptions?

Which explanation is the simplest?

The North American setting has one assumption.

1. Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery knew that the Hill Cumorah in New York was the place where the Nephite and Jaredite civilizations were destroyed. Everything directly attributable to them is consistent with that setting. Contrary ideas are not directly attributable to them; therefore, these contrary ideas were produced by other people who didn't know what Joseph and Oliver knew.

The Mesoamerican setting relies on a series of assumptions:

1. Joseph Smith didn't know where the Book of Mormon events took place.
2. Oliver Cowdery (or another unknown person) at some unspecified date started a folk tradition that Cumorah was in New York, based on an incorrect assumption.
3. Joseph misled his wife Emma when he wrote to her about crossing the plains of the Nephites after he'd crossed Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois.
4. Oliver memorialized the incorrect folk tradition in Letter VII in 1835.
5. Joseph, for unexplained reasons, passively adopted Oliver's speculation and had it widely published.
6. Joseph, who wrote very little himself, nevertheless wrote a series of  articles in the Times and Seasons about Central America that he left anonymous for unknown reasons.
7. David Whitmer, late in life, conflated his own specific memory of the first time he heard the word "Cumorah" with Oliver's folk tradition.
8. Etc.

Which set of assumptions makes the most sense to you?

____________________________

Here are some relevant quotations about simplicity.

“If you can't explain it to a six year old, you don't understand it yourself.”
― Albert Einstein

To which Groucho Marx replied:

“A child of five could understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five.”
― Groucho Marx

“Truth is ever to be found in the simplicity, and not in the multiplicity and confusion of things.”
― Isaac Newton

“Why did they believe? Because they saw miracles. Things one man took as chance, a man of faith took as a sign. A loved one recovering from disease, a fortunate business deal, a chance meeting with a long lost friend. It wasn't the grand doctrines or the sweeping ideals that seemed to make believers out of men. It was the simple magic in the world around them.”
― Brandon Sanderson, The Hero of Ages

“People who pride themselves on their "complexity" and deride others for being "simplistic" should realize that the truth is often not very complicated. What gets complex is evading the truth.”
― Thomas Sowell, Barbarians inside the Gates and Other Controversial Essays

“..things are never as complicated as they seem. It is only our arrogance that prompts us to find unnecessarily complicated answers to simple problems.”
― Muhammad Yunus, Banker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty

“I am not a genius, I am just curious. I ask many questions. and when the answer is simple, then God is answering.”
― Albert Einstein