long ago ideas

“When we are tired, we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago." - Friedrich Nietzsche Long ago, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery conquered false claims that the Book of Mormon was fiction or that it came through a stone in a hat. But these old claims have resurfaced in recent years. To conquer them again, we have to return to what Joseph and Oliver taught.

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Moroni's America and Scripture Central

I often say that about 80% of what Book of Mormon Central (and Scripture Central) do is great work. 

Here's a good example. Kudos to Scripture Central and Tad Callister.

Monday, September 25, 2023

Easy way to understand Cumorah

The 200th anniversary of Moroni's first visit to Joseph Smith reminds us that the entire controversy about Cumorah depends entirely on which assumption you make.

It's very simple.

All we need is clarity, charity and understanding.



1. Everyone agrees on the basic fact that President Oliver Cowdery, as Assistant President of the Church, declared it is a fact that Cumorah/Ramah in the Book of Mormon is the same hill Cumorah in western New York where Moroni deposited the plates. 

2. Everyone agrees that Oliver's declaration was republished in Church newspapers during Joseph's lifetime and copied into Joseph's journal as part of his life history.



1. Some people assume Oliver told the truth.

2. Other people assume Oliver did not tell the truth. These people include both nonbelieving critics and believing LDS scholars who advocate the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory (M2C).


1. Those who assume Oliver told the truth infer he had good reason to know about Cumorah, such as his visits to the repository in the hill Cumorah and his interactions with divine messengers.

2. Those who assume Oliver did not tell the truth infer he was either (i) a liar or (ii) an ignorant speculator who misled the Church as a result of his identification of Cumorah/Ramah.

The ensuing theories are supported by evidence consisting of 

- interpreting the text

- finding supporting historical references

- finding supporting archaeology, anthropology, geology, geography, etc.

Graphically, it looks like this:

Those who assume Oliver was wrong end up either (i) rejecting the historicity of the Book of Mormon or (ii) following the M2C logic as spelled out by Sidney Sperry, L.E. Hills, John Sorenson, and their followers.

Very simple.

Friday, September 22, 2023

200th anniversary of Moroni's visit

Today marks the 200th anniversary of Moroni's first visit to Joseph Smith. It was on this day in 1823 when Moroni told Joseph Smith that the record had been "written and deposited" not far from his home and that it was in the "hill of Cumorah."

(click to enlarge)

Moroni's identification of the hill as Cumorah was well known to Joseph Smith and his contemporaries. Joseph's successors in Church leadership reaffirmed it repeatedly. No Church leader has ever repudiated what Joseph and Oliver taught. 

But many scholars have rejected the New York Cumorah/Ramah. Today, as a result of the teachings of these scholars, fewer and fewer Latter-day Saints know about the history of Cumorah/Ramah and why the New York setting is so important. 

And yet, the historical record is readily available for everyone to see. For an overview of Cumorah, see: https://www.mobom.org/cumorah-overview


Lots of people are commemorating the event. 

Last Saturday I spoke about Cumorah at the Book of Mormon Evidence conference in Salt Lake City. 

Today, FAIR is holding a virtual conference:


In the interest of clarity, charity and understanding, we note that the speakers include some of the usual suspects awesome scholars who promote M2C (Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory) and SITH (stone-in-the-hat theory), but there's always a possibility that we will see some diversity of faithful views at FAIR. Maybe someday FAIR will even include speakers who still believe what the prophets have taught about Cumorah/Ramah and the translation of the Book of Mormon. We remain optimistic.

Book of Mormon Central (BMC) is hosting its annual $250/plate fundraising dinner so they can spend more millions to promote M2C and SITH. Donors have their choice of Filet Mignon with gratin potatoes, lemon asparagus, and crispy leeks or Miso Glazed Salmon with horseradish whipped potatoes, baby carrots and roasted shallots. 

BMC touts itself as the "largest producer of Come, Follow Me enrichment material outside the official Church, and the largest producer of Book of Mormon content in the world." They claim to "reach more than million [sic] people each week across 3 languages via websites, videos, social media channels, email, and the acclaimed ScripturePlus mobile app," all to elevate the SITH and M2C theories of scholars over the plain, unambiguous teachings of the prophets. 

The people at BMC are awesome, and we remain optimistic that BMC, too, will someday recognize that many Latter-day Saints still believe what the prophets have taught about the New York Cumorah/Ramah. Maybe someday they will even host a side-by-side comparison so everyone, Latter-day Saints and otherwise, can compare the different views about the origin and setting of the Book of Mormon.


In the meantime, here's a reminder of who teaches what:

People who taught/teach that:

Cumorah/Ramah is in New York

Cumorah/Ramah is not in New York

Joseph Smith

E. D. Howe

Oliver Cowdery

Charles Shook

Lucy Mack Smith

L. E. Hills

David Whitmer

John Sorenson

Brigham Young

John W. (Jack) Welch (Book of Mormon Central)

Heber C. Kimball

John Dehlin (Mormon Stories)

Joseph F. Smith

Dan Vogel

James E. Talmage

Jeremy Runnels (CES Letter)

LeGrand Richards

Dan Peterson (Interpreter)

Marion G. Romney

Sandra Tanner (Utah Lighthouse ministry)

Thursday, September 21, 2023

2 conferences in Salt Lake City

Last week (Friday and Saturday) we attended two conferences in Salt Lake City, Utah.

The Joseph Smith Papers conference (https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/articles/2023-joseph-smith-papers-conference-registration) was held at the Conference Center.

The FIRM Foundation conference (https://bookofmormonevidence.org/events/) was held at the Hilton Hotel, about half a mile from the Conference Center.

The conferences were obviously much different. Both had wonderful presentations. It was fun to renew friendships with people at both conferences. 

I was the final speaker at the FIRM Foundation and I pointed out that both conferences were full of awesome, faithful Latter-day Saints who are interested in Church history. The two groups often have different interpretations and approaches to Church history, but they can and should all get along, respect one another, and learn from one another. 

I encouraged everyone to pursue clarity, charity, and understanding.

There are many positive indications of movement toward mutual respect and a sincere desire to understand the different worldviews. That's why I think everything is awesome.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Fun with Cumorah on the Church website

The Church has a website about Cumorah.


It's no wonder so many people are confused about Cumorah. Look at this fun quotation:

In the 1820s, the hill did not have a name. It later became known as Hill Cumorah because Moroni, the Book of Mormon’s final author and the angel who met with Joseph Smith, wrote that he had hidden the gold plates in a hill called Cumorah (see the introduction to the Book of Mormon).

Who writes this stuff? Seriously, what are we supposed to think when we read such opinion written as if it was fact.

The first statement in bold is not factual; it is merely an opinion that the documented accounts of the hill being referred to as Cumorah in the 1820s were false. This includes statements from Joseph Smith, Lucy Mack Smith, David Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery, and Martin Harris.

Of course, anyone even vaguely familiar with Church history and basic logic knows this statement cannot be shown to be true anyway. At most, we can say "we have no contemporaneous historical documents from the 1820s that identify the hill as Cumorah." But that's a far cry from saying the hill did not have a name in the 1820s, and that it became known as Hill Cumorah only "later."

Even if we didn't have statements from the people listed above, no one can say the "hill did not have a name" in the 1820s because that is proving a negative. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, etc. All it would take is one person giving it a name to make the statement false, and we have few documents from the 1820s that refer to the hill at all--except for recollections about events in the 1820s in which people refer to the hill as Cumorah.

The historical evidence we do have indicates the hill was "known as Cumorah" beginning in 1823 when Moroni first visited Joseph Smith. This is the most parsimonious explanation, and it explains all the other historical references.

As for the second sentence in the paragraph on the Church's website, this one is fun too because no one can point to any historical source that states or implies that the hill was named Cumorah because Moroni "wrote" that he had hidden the gold plates in a hill called Cumorah. In fact, the reason why the M2C scholars insist the "real Cumorah/Ramah" is in Mexico is because Moroni, when he wrote his portion of the text, did not identify the name of the hill where he buried the plates.

The sentence would at least be supported by historical evidence if it read, "Moroni, the Book of Mormon’s final author and the angel who met with Joseph Smith, told Joseph that he had hidden the gold plates in a hill called Cumorah," as reported by Lucy here

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

Few Latter=day Saints are familiar with this historical record because it contradicts the M2C narrative. Instead, we are given nonsensical statements such as the one on the Church's website first quoted above. 

As if that's not enough, the statement refers to the "Introduction to the Book of Mormon," but that reference doesn't support the claim in the second sentence either.

After Mormon completed his writings, he delivered the account to his son Moroni, who added a few words of his own and hid up the plates in the Hill Cumorah. On September 21, 1823, the same Moroni, then a glorified, resurrected being, appeared to the Prophet Joseph Smith and instructed him relative to the ancient record and its destined translation into the English language.

The historical record supports the claim that Moroni identified the hill as Cumorah when he first visited Joseph Smith, but it does not support the claim made on the Church's website that Moroni wrote that he buried the plates in a hill called Cumorah.

Everyone familiar with the historical record knows the hill was named Cumorah because 

1) that's the name Moroni gave it the first time he met Joseph Smith, 

2) that's the name Joseph used for it even before he got the plates, 

3) that's the name used by the messenger who took the abridged plates from Harmony to Cumorah, and

4) that's the name by which Oliver Cowdery identified the hill during the mission to the Lamanites.

Plus, of course, Joseph explained in D&C 128:20 that the name of the hill preceded the time when he obtained the plates.

Readers of this blog know all these references, but the author of the sentences on the Church website apparently doesn't. The references are all available here:


Regardless of the inaccuracy of what the Church's website says about how the hill Cumorah was named, at least the maps on the Church's website accurately identify the hill as Cumorah.



Editing to change meaning

An article in the Wall St. Journal today points out that

You’ve probably heard the adage that “behind every great fortune is a great crime.” It’s attributed to the French novelist Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850), and it seems to come up whenever a prestige journalist wants to express disdain for capitalism.

The article gives examples from the NYTimes, Financial Times, and Bloomberg.


The supposed quotation is based on a passage in Balzac's novel “Père Goriot,” about a group of grifters in Paris in the early 1800s. The actual quotation:

“The secret of great wealth with no obvious source is some forgotten crime, forgotten because it was done neatly.”

Omitting the bolded clause completely changes the meaning. 

The journal explains that, in contrast to mainstream media,

Others who use Balzac as a moral touchstone are more conscientious. In “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” (2013), the left-wing French economist Thomas Piketty juxtaposed his condemnation of modern economic inequality with extensive references to Balzac. Yet he avoids mythical quotes and makes a startling acknowledgment for someone who advocates extreme wealth redistribution: Steve Jobs, he offers, “is the epitome of the admired and talented entrepreneur who fully deserves his fortune.” For some Balzac fans, not every great fortune starts with a crime.


Selective editing to change the meaning of original material is an ongoing problem with many academics who seek to promote their own agendas. In this blog we've looked at several examples. We'll discuss more in upcoming posts.

Thursday, September 14, 2023

The golden plates - part 2

Richard Bushman's new book, Joseph Smith's Gold Plates: A Cultural History, is an excellent resource. 

For example, on page 171, Bushman describes the "two sets of plates" scenario, in which Joseph translated the abridged plates from Moroni's stone box when he was in Harmony, PA, and then Joseph translated the original plates of Nephi (the small plates) when he was in Fayette.

This explains why David Whitmer said the messenger said he was going to Cumorah. This is the messenger to whom Joseph gave the plates before leaving Harmony. David, Joseph and Oliver encountered him on the road when they were going from Harmony to Fayette. Joseph explained he was one of the Three Nephites and he had the plates.

More and more people think this messenger took the abridged plates to the repository in Cumorah, where he picked up the original plates of Nephi (the small plates) to bring them to Fayette for Joseph to translate.


Amazon description of the book: 


Renowned historian Richard Lyman Bushman presents a vibrant history of the objects that gave birth to a new religion.

According to Joseph Smith, in September of 1823 an angel appeared to him and directed him to a hill near his home. Buried there Smith found a box containing a stack of thin metal sheets, gold in color, about six inches wide, eight inches long, piled six or so inches high, bound together by large rings, and covered with what appeared to be ancient engravings. Exactly four years later, the angel allowed Smith to take the plates and instructed him to translate them into English. When the text was published, a new religion was born.

The plates have had a long and active life, and the question of their reality has hovered over them from the beginning. Months before the Book of Mormon was published, newspapers began reporting on the discovery of a "Golden Bible." Within a few years over a hundred articles had appeared. Critics denounced Smith as a charlatan for claiming to have a wondrous object that he refused to show, while believers countered by pointing to witnesses who said they saw the plates. Two hundred years later the mystery of the gold plates remains.

In this book renowned historian of Mormonism Richard Lyman Bushman offers a cultural history of the gold plates. Bushman examines how the plates have been imagined by both believers and critics--and by treasure-seekers, novelists, artists, scholars, and others--from Smith's first encounter with them to the present. Why have they been remembered, and how have they been used? And why do they remain objects of fascination to this day? By examining these questions, Bushman sheds new light on Mormon history and on the role of enchantment in the modern world.