Tuesday, May 22, 2018

No-Wise #435 - Others' influence

BookofMormonCentralAmerica (BOMCA) is on a roll. They've been putting out No-wise articles and videos that are transparently absurd lately. I trust most members of the Church (and all nonmembers) see the logical and factual fallacies in these No-wise, but I'm taking a moment to comment on the latest one because people are asking me about it.

Here is the link:

I expect that long-time readers could point out the errors in this No-wise just as fast as I can, but I'll go through it anyway for new readers.

This beautiful painting by James Fullmer depicts a scene that is anywhere but where the Book of Mormon took place. The Nephites built with earth and timber, not stone (except one time when the built walls of stone).

The land of Desolation was the Jaredite land of Moron (Ether 7:6). The Nephite records don't describe the terrain, but the Jaredite refers to it in the context of a seashore and plains. The Book of Ether never mentions mountains in the New World. Instead, it mentions the "plains of Agosh" (Ether 14:15-16) and the "plains of Heshlon" which were near the "valley of Gilgal." (Ether 13:28-29). This makes sense if we have a river valley, but not a valley surrounded by mountains.

The No-wise starts off with a problematic mismatch between the text and the art.

The Know

Modern anthropological research tells us that the New World was already extensively populated when the Jaredites, Lehites, and Mulekites arrived. 
"Extensively populated" is a relative term. While Central America had fairly intensive populations with organized nations (kingdoms), the southeastern U.S. around 600 BC was populated by small groups of hunter-gatherers.  
This may lead readers to wonder why other societies are never mentioned in the Book of Mormon? The first thing to consider is that there are actually quite a few clues in the text which suggest that “others” were living in the regions where these colonies settled. The following list summarizes some of these clues:1 ["Some" implies there are lots more, but if there are additional clues, we'd like to know about them. This is a comprehensive list.]
  1. The reported size of early Nephite populations, the accounts of their warfare, and their unsanctioned polygamous marriages all indicate that they had an unbelievably high population growth rate.2 This suggests that outsiders mixed with and added to their population from the beginning. [There is no reported size of early Nephite populations. We make inferences from the text. One fallacy in this No-wise is the unstated assumption that Lehi's original party was small. Nephi tells us only about his own family, but Lehi could have brought servants and other families with him the way the Jaredites did. That said, I do agree that outsiders joined Lehi's group because Nephi says when he left, he took his family and "all those who would go with him." But this indicates Nephi was the leader, not a newcomer into a well-established culture and nation, as he would have been in Mesoamerica. The text supports an encounter with unorganized groups of hunter-gatherers, not an encounter with the Mayan empire.] 
  2. In the book of Jarom, readers learn that the hunter-gatherer Lamanites had become “exceedingly more numerous” than the Nephites who cultivated the land (Jarom 1:6). This situation goes against the historical trend of higher population growth among agricultural societies. It seems that outsiders would have been necessary to swell the Lamanite population so disproportionately.3 [Here the No-wise describes the 600 BC era inhabitants of the southeastern U.S., not the Mayans of Mesoamerica. The No-wise is oblivious to the problem because of BOMCA's confirmation bias, but readers who are not seeking to confirm M2C easily see how the description fits North America and not Mesoamerica.]
  3. Some researchers have felt that Jacob’s statements about Sherem, who “sought much opportunity” to speak with Jacob and who “had a perfect knowledge of the language of the people,” suggest that Sherem was an outsider to Nephite society (Jacob 7:3–4).4 This is because it makes little sense to emphasize that a community insider had a good grasp of their language or that he would have to seek out an encounter with Jacob. [Jacob 7:1 explains, "there came a man among the people of Nephi whose name was Sherem." You can search the phrase "came a man" and see that it is used in the Old and New Testaments and the Book of Moses not to signify an outsider but to signify a person who came forth; i.e., Luke 8:41 "And, behold, there came a man named Jairus, and he was a rule of the synagogue." Having a "perfect knowledge of the language" does not state or imply that he was an outsider; the text specifically says he used this skill for "flattery, and much power of speech," much like Alma the son of Alma (Mosiah 27:8) and those who sought the judgment seat in Alma 61:4. Sherem is a typical antiChrist, not an outsider from another culture.] 
  4. For several reasons, the Nephites’ quick ability to grow corn (maize) and raise flocks and herds seems unlikely unless they had obtained this knowledge from local natives.5 [There is never a suggestion in the text that the Nephites learned agriculture from locals; in fact, when Lehi landed, his people planted their own crops they had brought with them. They faced no interference from a nation-state or even competing people. We can't say "corn" in the Book of Mormon can only mean maize. The Book of Mormon uses Biblical language; "corn" in the Bible is a translation of seven different Hebrew words and three different Greek words, all of which mean a type of food crop. But even if the Nephites grew corn, it isn't mentioned until Mosiah, hundreds of years after Lehi landed, giving them plenty of time to learn about it.]
  5. The Mulekites’ language seems to have been “corrupted” too quickly for natural language evolution. This indicates that their language was being mixed with another language or languages from outside groups (Omni 1:17).6 [This claim misrepresents what Brother Sorenson actually wrote in the cited reference by implying the "outside groups" were indigenous Mayans. Instead, Sorenson noted the Mulekites could have either (i) adopted the language of the sailors who brought young Mulek to the promised land or (ii) "adopted a different, non-Hebrew language learned from some “other” people after arrival." Either way, the people of Zarahemla did not adopt a Mayan language because they had no writing.] 
  6. The terms “Nephite” and “Lamanite” were broad enough to include a variety of ethnic and cultural sub-groups.7 Moreover, there are examples of Book of Mormon societies adopting the name of a host group upon joining them.7  [This practice is common to all human societies (even modern immigrants become "Americans"), but the practice contradicts M2C because the Nephites did not adopt the name of their purported host culture of Mayans.]
  7. The way that Jaredite culture and names were preserved among the Nephites shows how cultural influence from one group upon another goes unmentioned and unexplained in the text.9 [This is an important point for several reasons, one of which is the likelihood that the Nephites encountered other remnants of Jaredites besides Coriantumr. Moroni says he wrote about the people "in this north country" and Ether was writing about his own family line, which leaves open the possibility (I think likelihood) that the Jaredites spread throughout the continent.]
  8. The use of some terms or group designations, such as “Lamanitish servants” (Alma 17:26) or “Ishmaelitish women” (Alma 3:7), hints at affiliated groups of outsiders.10 If the social identity of the servants or women was one of the named groups in the Book of Mormon, then we would expect a straightforward label. Instead, the “ish” indicates that they may have been outsiders who were adopted into the Lamanite and Ishmaelite tribal groups. [This explanation is a possibility, but the suffix 'ish in English means not only "like" or "similar" but also "belonging to" as in English, Danish, Spanish, etc. It's certainly not evidence of the Nephites being absorbed by a larger Mayan culture.] 
  9. Several prophetic interpretations of Isaiah hint that the Nephites were concerned with the spiritual welfare of “others” in the land.11 [This is a possible interpretation that applies to indigenous people whether Lehi landed in the Southeastern U.S. or in Central America, but it could also simply refer to those who had not accepted the gospel or to the Gentiles in the future.]
These textual clues suggest that the Book of Mormon and the secular history of the Americas are actually in agreement about the presence of other peoples in the land. However, these clues still don’t explain why outsiders were never mentioned directly in the text. One likely answer can be found by comparing the Book of Mormon with other ancient American historical documents.
Anthropologist John L. Sorenson has noted that ancient Mesoamerican histories are similarly ethnocentric—meaning that, like the Book of Mormon, they focus almost solely on a particular society or lineage and that they exclude political, cultural, or religious information that isn’t directly relevant.12 With this ancient American context in place, the Book of Mormon’s lack of information about outside societies is perfectly understandable and even expected.
[Ethnocentric histories are hardly unique to Mesoamerican literature, but beyond that, another explanation is that the indigenous people Lehi's group encountered were unsophisticated and unorganized. It seems far less plausible that the Nephites would avoid mentioning a vast, substantial and well-organized Mayan society than that they would avoid mentioning a few groups of hunter-gatherers in the southeastern U.S.]

The Why

These findings suggest that the Book of Mormon’s lack of detail about surrounding peoples and cultures is a subtle evidence of its historical authenticity. [Seriously? This is not an unreasonable argument if the Nephites encountered unsophisticated groups of hunter-gatherers such as those that lived in the Southeastern North America round 600 B.C., because such groups would have had little influence on the Nephite Hebrew culture. But this argument is a stretch even for confirmation bias when the claim is that the Nephites encountered Mayan culture in Mesoamerca without ever once mentioning stone temples, volcanoes, or the 3 Js; jade, jungles and jaguars. The absence of any indicia of Mayan culture beyond illusory "correspondences" is one of the strongest arguments against M2C.] 
It is also consistent with claims made by several Book of Mormon authors that they couldn’t record even a “hundredth part” of their peoples’ history.13 [Fair enough, but that 1% does describe features of North American culture dating to Book of Mormon time frames, including construction using earth and timber, not stone; Mosiah encountering large populations of illiterate people; living among plains instead of mountains; experiencing earthquakes and floods but not volcanoes; and building ships and shipping things. All of this with no mention of basic elements of Mesoamerican culture.]
They directly tell us that much more is going on in the background. Therefore we shouldn’t be surprised to discover that large amounts of historical or cultural information, such as descriptions of other societies, is missing from the text. As President Anthony W. Ivins of the First Presidency stated in 1929, “We must be careful in the conclusions that we reach. The Book of Mormon … does not tell us that there was no one here before them. It does not tell us that people did not come after.”14
President Ivins is exactly correct here, just as he was the year before when he spoke about the Hill Cumorah in New York: Maybe someday we'll have an actual Kno-Why on Cumorah that tells readers what President Ivins said about Cumorah. In the meantime, readers can look here: http://bookofmormonwars.blogspot.com/2017/03/conference-classics-president-anthony-w.html
The strong likelihood that others were in the land also has implications for DNA studies. The Church essay on this topic has explained,
When a small population mixes with a large one, combinations of autosomal markers typical of the smaller group become rapidly overwhelmed or swamped by those of the larger. The smaller group’s markers soon become rare in the combined population and may go extinct due to the effects of genetic drift.15
In other words, when a small colony like the Jaredites, Lehites, or Mulekites mixes with a larger population, as we would expect them to have found in ancient America, then the DNA of the immigrant colonies would likely be lost to us within only a few generations. For this and other reasons, “DNA studies cannot be used decisively to either affirm or reject the historical authenticity of the Book of Mormon.”16 [This deserves more commentary than I have time to do here.]
Finally, the unmentioned presence of other peoples should help us remember why the Book of Mormon was written in the first place. Nephi explained, “I do not write anything upon plates save it be that I think it be sacred” (1 Nephi 19:6).17 Mormon similarly stated that his record was written so that a remnant of his people would “know concerning your fathers, and also the marvelous works which were wrought by the power of God among them” (Mormon 7:9).18 [This is important because who has the Lord designated as Lamanites? See D&C 28, 30, and 32 for the answer. Hint: he referred to the Indians living in New York and Ohio. Second hint: Joseph Smith replaced Orson Pratt's long explanation of Central and South America with the direct, specific statement that "The remnant are the Indians that now inhabit this country." See https://mormonmesomania.blogspot.com/2018/05/joseph-smith-edits-orson-pratt.html]
In essence, the Book of Mormon is a spiritual and religious history. Its focus is on particular groups of people, their sacred revelations, and their miraculous experiences. It was never meant to be a cultural survey of the Nephites and Jaredites, or any of the others who interacted with them. Its narrow spiritual focus can help us remember to similarly prioritize spiritual things—especially the realty and teachings of Jesus Christ—in our own lives.
[This is axiomatic, but ignores the importance of the physical evidence that led President Cowdery to write Letter VII in the first place, and led Joseph Smith to make sure it was republished throughout the Church multiple times during his lifetime.]
As Elder Russell M. Nelson explained,
Some authors have focused upon [the Book of Mormon’s] stories, its people, or its vignettes of history. Others have been intrigued by its language structure or its records of weapons, geography, animal life, techniques of building, or systems of weights and measures.
Interesting as these matters may be, study of the Book of Mormon is most rewarding when one focuses on its primary purpose—to testify of Jesus Christ. By comparison, all other issues are incidental.19

Further Reading

Matthew Roper, “Nephi’s Neighbors: Book of Mormon Peoples and Pre-Columbian Populations,” FARMS Review 15, no. 2 (2003): 91–128.
Brant A. Gardner, “The Other Stuff: Reading the Book of Mormon for Cultural Information,” FARMS Review 13, no. 2 (2001): 29–37.
John L. Sorenson, “When Lehi’s Party Arrived in the Land, Did They Find Others There? Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 1, no. 1 (1992): 1–34.

Monday, May 21, 2018

No-wise #429 - sunken cities

It's time to take a look at another No-wise from our friends at Book of Mormon Central. You can see it here:

Believers naturally seek actual or at least plausible evidence to support the claims of the Book of Mormon, just as critics seek to deny there is any actual or plausible evidence. This process has two elements: (i) what does the Book of Mormon say and (ii) what physical evidence matches up with the text.

The problem with M2C is the evidence simply doesn't fit well. Whether it's the plains of the Nephites that don't exist in Mesoamerica (and which Joseph said were in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio anyway), or the dominant presence of volcanoes in Mesoamerica that are nowhere even mentioned in the text, the M2C intellectuals resort to re-translations of the text and illusory correspondences that are persuasive only to those who have already accepted M2C.

Plus, of course, M2C requires the repudiation of the teachings of the prophets about the hill Cumorah in New York. Consequently, even a "win" for M2C is a "loss" for faith in the prophets.

By now, readers realize that many of the No-wise are pure confirmation bias. I ignore most of them, but this one caught my attention because of a reader and I'll use it to illustrate the dangers of confirmation bias.

No-wise such as this make me wonder, does anyone really fall for these?

They start with a scripture: “Yea, and the city of Onihah and the inhabitants thereof, and the city of Mocum and the inhabitants thereof, and the city of Jerusalem and the inhabitants thereof; and waters have I caused to come up in the stead thereof.”

3 Nephi 9:7

Then they cite a prior verse: “great city Moroni have I caused to be sunk in the depths of the sea, and the inhabitants thereof to be drowned” (3 Nephi 9:4). 

As "evidence" of such a sunken Nephite city, the No-wise refers to a site in Guatemala called Samabaj. Anciently, this was an island that flooded around 250-300 A.D. The site has around 30 buildings where around 150 people lived. Scientists say it was flooded due to volcanic action, which by itself should exclude it from consideration as a Book of Mormon site, since the text never once mentions volcanoes.

And yet, the M2C intellectuals claim this is evidence of a "great city Moroni." They cite the infamous Sorenson book, Mormon's Codex, and explain it in the notes.

Sorenson, Mormon’s Codex, 647. According to Sorenson, his proposed Book of Mormon geography “plausibly places the city of Jerusalem on the south shore of the Lake Atitlan. The near agreement in time between the flooding described in the Book of Mormon city and the rise of the lake waters over Samabaj, as well as the seemingly abrupt manner of that rise, is striking.” Although the timing of Samabaj’s flooding may be too late, Sorenson’s geographical correlation is still intriguing and deserves further consideration and exploration.

You have to appreciate this understatement: "Although the timing of Samabaj's flooding may be too late..." Never do the M2C intellectuals allow facts to impede the illusory correspondences they find to support M2C.

There's a delightful article published by BOMCA's corporate owner, too:

If you're not suffering from Mesomania (i.e., you're not seeking to confirm your M2C bias), you realize that this one hamlet of Samabaj is no match at all for the list of cities that were sunk in the water and in the earth as described by 3 Nephi. None of those were described as island cities, either.

You might wonder, if the Mesoamerican hamlet is not evidence to support the Book of Mormon, is there any evidence of sunken cities elsewhere?

Yes. Pretty much everywhere in the world.

Some years ago I went to Alexandria, Egypt, to scuba dive at Heracleion, a sunken city, but the water was too murky. (We went diving at Sharm el Sheikh instead, which was one of the best places I've been diving anywhere in the world.)

You can find lots of other examples on the Internet, but typically these are isolated cases. What we need is a set of conditions that would allow a series of cities of indeterminate size to be sunk by water and into the depths of the earth.

There is one place where that happens: along the Mississippi River.

Kaskaskia, 1993 flood
The first capital of Illinois was Kaskaskia. Prior to that, it was a major French colonial town, with 7,000 inhabitants.

Kaskaskia was located on the banks of the Mississippi River but the river shifted course and flooded the site. Now there are 14 residents there.

Flooding along the Mississippi is not unusual, of course. Even in modern times, despite the system of dams and locks, the river sometimes floods dramatically.
Changing course of the Mississippi

This graphic shows how the course of the river has changed over the last 1,000 years or so.

Cities built along the shore anciently would have been flooded much like Kaskaskia.

Just like 3 Nephi describes.

True, verse 4 says the "great city Moroni" was "sunk in the depths of the sea." The term "sea" in the Bible is a translation of a Hebrew word that refers to large bodies of water, including a mighty river. In the Bible, the term refers to the Nile. The lower Mississippi is even more mighty than the Nile, so it makes sense for the Nephites to refer to it as the west sea south.

Notice also that a city can be sunk under the water or under the earth along this river, just as the text describes. The Steamboat Arabia is an example of how a location can be "buried up in the depths of the earth," as the text describes. See http://1856.com/. This steamboat was found 45 feet underneath a farm in Kansas, 1/2 mile from the current course of the river.

Are we going to find the buried Nephite cities someday? It seems unlikely because the Lord said he "buried up in the depths of the earth, to hide their wickedness and abominations from before my face, that the blood of the prophets and the saints should not come up any more unto me against them."

As we saw at the beginning of this post, people seek evidence to support the claims of the Book of Mormon. Along the Mississippi we find real-world, modern examples of exactly what the scriptures describe. It's still possible, theoretically, that a city dating to 34 A.D. could be found buried underneath a farm some distance from the present course of the river.

The main point, though, is that the descriptions in 3 Nephi are not only plausible along the Mississippi River, but are demonstrable using even contemporary experience. Until we have LiDAR able to penetrate 45 feet or more it's unlikely we'd ever find these sunken cities, but Kaskaskia and the Steamboat Arabia show how the events described in 3 Nephi make sense.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

No-wise # 431 - if you tell a lie often enough

No-wise #431 is maybe my favorite No-wise so far. As a compilation of the "best of" the sophistry that Book of Mormon Central (BOMC) has been perpetrating for years, it is an awesome display of confirmation bias.

No-wise graphic focusing on Central America to promote
the corporate goal of Book of Mormon Central America
This No-wise is part of the pattern of deception that we continue to see. BOMC typically quotes from anti-Mormon references while omitting the teachings of the prophets, and this No-wise is a prime example.

You can see it here:

It has been republished throughout the citation cartel.

When people told me about this No-wise, I was out of the country and didn't have time to look at it. Now that I have, I'm reminded of a well-known quotation:

If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State [i.e., the M2C citation cartel] can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.” Joseph Goebbels

In this case, the truth is the greatest enemy of M2C (the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory) which BOMC promotes by teaching that the prophets are wrong about the New York Cumorah. To persuade people to accept M2C, BOMC intentionally deceives members of the Church with material such as No-wise #431.

Sorry if that sounds harsh, but BOMC has used these tactics since its inception. That's why we call them Book of Mormon Central America (BOMCA).

BTW, remember that whenever you read a BOMCA No-wise, it is designed to fulfill the goal of their corporate owner BMAF:

Our goals are (1) to increase understanding of the Book of Mormon as an ancient Mesoamerican codex,

They are expressly, by their own admission, not interested in pursuing the truth. Instead, they are completely dedicated to pursuing the M2C agenda.

I've offered to do a quick peer review of BOMCA's material before they release it, but for some reason they've rejected my offer. Instead, I'll illustrate what my peer review would have looked like for this No-wise. These comments reflect solely my own opinion.

The original text of the No-wise is in black, with my comments in red and my emphasis in bold. Some of the more detailed points I put in my own footnotes, designated by capital letters (e.g., nA.). It's easy to go to the footnotes by searching the page in your browser for the capital letter with an "n" before it and a period after it.

The Know

Readers of the Book of Mormon may wonder, at times, where in the Americas the events described took place. [The "Americas" is a term used by the revisionist historians to promote M2C. If you do a search in the Joseph Smith Papers for the term "Americas," you get 13 results. All of them are in the notes written by the revisionist historians who are helping the citation cartel promote M2C. In other posts I've shown how the revisionist historians are deceiving Church members by replacing what Moroni actually told Joseph (he referred to "this country" and "this continent," as well as Cumorah) by instead teaching that Moroni referred vaguely to "the Americas."]
Were the Nephites and Lamanites spread throughout both North and South America or did Book of Mormon events occur within a more confined area? nA. Where did Lehi’s ship land? Where were famous Book of Mormon cities, like Zarahemla and Bountiful, or the epic battlefields of the Nephites and Lamanites, such as Cumorah?
Interest in answering these questions began almost immediately after the Book of Mormon was published. [According to Joseph Smith,nB. Moroni instructed him about these questions even before he got the plates. Joseph's mother verified that Moroni told Joseph these things, including the name and location of Cumorah, long before he got the plates. M2C intellectuals don't want people to know this because they insist Joseph was too ignorant to know anything about Book of Mormon locations, so he had to learn from a travel book (see below) and eventually be corrected by the latter-day intellectuals at BYU/CES.] 
Only months later, a group of missionaries, including Oliver Cowdery, were apparently telling people in Ohio that Lehi “landed on the coast of Chile.”1 
[This is a delightful reference that illustrates the way BOMC tries to sow confusion. The No-wise cites a facsimile of the article that's difficult to read, but you can find it here: http://www.sidneyrigdon.com/dbroadhu/OH/miscohio.htm#111830. Just search the page for "Chili" and you'll see the reference. Notice that this newspaper account is highly critical and mocks the missionaries. It claims these missionaries told people someone stole some of their plates of gold (an apparent misunderstanding of the lost 116 pages). The article doesn't say which of the missionaries taught about "Chili" but Parley P. Pratt and his brother Orson did later say that, which I addressed here. Pratt clearly delineated between the speculative nature of the Chile landing and the certain location of Cumorah in New York.
More important is what BOMC doesn't tell readers. Parley P. Pratt recorded Elder Cowdery's speech to the Lamanites during this same mission to Ohio. Elder Cowdery taught that "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." (Autobiography of P.P. Pratt p 56-61, online here.)
Whenever you read material published by the M2C citation cartel, you will see examples of them quoting from anti-Mormon references while omitting the teachings of the prophets that contradict M2C.]
A couple of years later, W. W. Phelps linked the land of Desolation to the mid-western United States, ranging from the Mississippi to the Rocky Mountains.2 The next year, Phelps got a hold of reports about ancient ruins in Guatemala with stones “cemented by mortar,” and argued that this find was “good testimony in favor of the Book of Mormon,” specifically the account in Helaman 3:3–11.3
[M2C intellectuals cite Phelps almost as often as they cite early anti-Mormon literature because Phelps wrote a lot of speculative material linking the Book of Mormon to Central America. He was helping to edit the 1842 Times and Seasons in Nauvoo, a topic we'll discuss below. But he was never called as an apostle or prophet. If we stick with the words of the prophets, we avoid the confusion that enables M2C because the prophets have consistently and repeatedly made two points clear: (1) Cumorah is in New York and (ii) we don't know for sure where the other events took place.]
Clearly, for early Latter-day Saints, events in the Book of Mormon were believed to have spanned the entire Western Hemisphere. 
[Rhetoricians use "clearly" to fool readers into thinking their point is actually clear, but look at how this sentence is worded. It uses the passive voice with an indefinite "early LDS" so it cannot be falsified. Available writings show that some early LDS believed the Book of Mormon took place throughout the hemisphere, but that was not a universal belief, as demonstrated by the disparity between the theories of Lehi landing in Chile and him landing in Panama.]
Any and all ancient or pre-Columbian ruins and artifacts found throughout North, Central, and South America (known as a "hemispheric" geography approach) were quickly accepted as evidence of Book of Mormon peoples. [Again, this is a broad generalization that reflects the expressed opinions of a handful of writers, including whoever wrote anonymous articles in the Times and Seasons.]
Even Joseph Smith was not above the fray. ["Fray" is an ideal characterization of the way the M2C intellectuals like to frame the discussion. A "fray" is "a usually disorderly or protracted fight, struggle, or dispute." M2C intellectuals frame the questions this way because it enables them to (i) cast doubt on the teachings of the prophets and (ii) portray themselves as the only ones "qualified for the ministry" of resolving the "dispute." Those of us who accept the teachings of the prophets think Joseph was well above the fray. He was perfectly consistent and confident. He never once linked the Book of Mormon to anyplace other than North America, and everything he said or wrote put the Book of Mormon in North America, with Cumorah in New York, as we'll see below.]
In a letter to Emma while marching with Zion’s camp in 1834, Joseph Smith described their travels as “wandering over the plains of the Nephites” and “picking up their skulls & their bones, as a proof of its divine authenticity.”4
[Note what this excerpt omits. Here is the full quotation: "wandering over the plains of the Nephites, recounting occasionaly the history of the Book of Mormon, roving over the mounds of that once beloved people of the Lord, picking up their skulls & their bones, as a proof of its divine authenticity." Joseph was not merely picking up bones as proof; he was recounting the history of the Book of Mormon while crossing Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. Every person who participated on Zion's Camp who ever wrote about Cumorah affirmed that it was in New York. No one ever questioned that key point.
In nC. below, I examine the spin in footnote 4. The Joseph Smith Papers have devolved into part of the M2C citation cartel, and this note is a good example.]
Years later, Joseph Smith received a book on Central American ruins as a gift. In a letter thanking the giver, he stated that it “corresponds with & supports the testimony of the Book of Mormon.”5 
[Joseph purportedly wrote this letter just a few days after purportedly receiving these two volumes of travel books that are over 600 pages long. The letter is not in Joseph's handwriting; it is not even signed by him. Apart from this letter, there is no evidence that Joseph ever read or cared about these books. I think the historical evidence demonstrates that Wilford Woodruff composed the letter. Woodruff wrote about reading these travel books during his 1841 trip from New York, where he got them, to Nauvoo. I've explained all of this in detail on several blog posts and in Chapter 7 of my book, The Editors: Joseph, William and Don Carlos Smith. Before BOMC refused to publish my rebuttals to their criticisms of my work, I donated an early version of Chapter 7, which you can read in their archive here:  https://archive.bookofmormoncentral.org/content/1841-bernhisel-letter-joseph%E2%80%99s-or-wilford%E2%80%99s
The M2C dogma that Joseph Smith read these two travel books within a few days and relied on them to change his mind from what Moroni had taught him about the Nephites is laughable on its face, but that's what the M2C intellectuals want people to believe. The evidence of Wilford Woodruff's authorship is overwheming. As Woodruff noted a few months later, Joseph barely had time to sign his name to important documents prepared  by others. In this case, Joseph didn't even bother to sign his name to a purportedly personal letter.
Footnote 5 goes to an article in the Interpreter, a charter member of the M2C citation cartel. I've discussed all of this in considerable detail on my blog that peer reviews Interpreter articles. For example, see here: http://interpreterpeerreviews.blogspot.com/2015/10/ropers-bernhisel-argument-trifecta-of.html.
You can see much more detail on this by searching for "Bernhisel" on that blog.]
In 1842, while Joseph Smith was the editor, the Times and Seasons published several articles highlighting ruins in Central America as evidence for the Book of Mormon.6 
[Note 6 is awesome. I've addressed all of these references in detail in my blogs and books, which you can see by searching for key words on the blogs. Here's an example: 
The issue boils down to whether Joseph Smith wrote anonymous, speculative articles. Everyone agrees that the boilerplate at the end of the Times and Seasons during much of 1842 said that the paper was printed, edited and published by Joseph Smith. Everyone also agrees that Joseph did not spend his time in the print shop setting type and operating the printing press. IOW, he was not literally the printer. He was the nominal printer; i.e., the printer in name only. Likewise, he was merely the nominal editor. There is zero historical evidence that he actually did any editing of the newspaper. To the contrary, there are specific times when he didn't even know what the paper contained until after it was printed, which I've documented in my blogs and books about Nauvoo (The Lost City of Zarahemla, Brought to Light, and The Editors). This historical evidence is available for anyone to see, but the M2C intellectuals ignore it completely because it contradicts their narrative. 
Basically, I think William Smith was the acting editor of the Times and Seasons. Everyone acknowledges he was editing and publishing the Wasp from the same print shop and that the two papers shared editorial content. I think William published the anonymous editorials he got from Benjamin Winchester partly because Winchester had been silenced and partly because William and W.W. Phelps also edited those anonymous editorials. I think Joseph had nothing to do with them and resigned after the infamous (and anonymous) "Zarahemla" article was published in October 1842 because he realized these things could be attributed to him so long as his name was on the paper. There's a lot more involved, which I've explained in detail for anyone to see.]
Like his peers, the Prophet evidently believed that all ancient ruins and artifacts spanning across the American continents were evidence of Book of Mormon lands and peoples.
[Truly awesome rhetoric. First, who was a "peer" of Joseph Smith when it came to the Book of Mormon? The only possible peer was President Cowdery, who was present for most of the translation, who handled the plates, who entered Mormon's depository of Nephite records, and who received all the Priesthood keys together with Joseph Smith. And yet, the M2C intellectuals adamantly reject what President Cowdery taught (Letter VII and elsewhere). 
The M2C intellectuals claim they know what Joseph "evidently believed" based on these anonymous articles that made claims even the M2C intellectuals reject (such as the claim that Zarahemla was in Quirigua and that the post-classic Mayan ruins were built by Nephites). In fact, all the statements that can be directly attributed to Joseph, or that were specifically endorsed by him, point to North America and the New York Cumorah. M2C survives only by characterizing Joseph as an ignorant speculator who misled the Church, a characterization that I completely reject on principle and also because it is not supported by actual evidence.]
Although most early Latter-day Saints had a hemispheric understanding of Book of Mormon geography, there was no universally accepted model of Book of Mormon lands, and different opinions persisted about several topics. For example, while the idea that Lehi landed in Chile would grow to become a widespread tradition in the Church,7 under Joseph Smith’s editorship, the Times and Seasons stated that Lehi “landed a little south of the Isthmus of Darien,” that is, just south of Panama.8 In 1842, Parley P. Pratt seemed to place Desolation in Central America, contrary to Phelps earlier identification.9
[This reflects the two things that the prophets have consistently and repeatedly taught; i.e., (i) that Cumorah (Mormon 6:6) is in New York and (ii) we don't know for sure where the other events took place.]
Careful analysis of early writings on Book of Mormon geography reveals a diversity of ideas and opinions on the location of nearly every Book of Mormon place.10 [Except Cumorah, which the M2C intellectuals won't tell you.]
By 1890, President George Q. Cannon noted there were several different and conflicting Book of Mormon geographies in circulation, and “no two of them … agree on all points.” President Cannon then made clear that the First Presidency did not endorse any of these maps because, “The word of the Lord or the translation of other ancient records is required to clear up many points now so obscure.”11 
[President Cannon's 1890 comment is correct and consistent with all the teachings of the prophets. But so are the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah, which is a separate issue. In fact, President Cannon's fellow counselor in the First Presidency, Joseph F. Smith, republished Letter VII in the Improvement Era in 1899, which you can see here: http://www.lettervii.com/2016/10/letter-vii-in-improvement-era.html
This is yet another example of the consistent teachings of the prophets that (i) Cumorah is in New York and (ii) we don't know where the other events took place. M2C intellectuals keep confusing people by conflating these two separate points. I've explained this in more detail here: 

The Why

The number of maps has only grown over the course of the 20th and into the 21st century as many have continued to propose various models.12 While questions of geography are far from settled, our understanding of the book’s physical setting has improved thanks to the increasingly more rigorous work of many scholars interested in questions of Book of Mormon geography. For example, today most proposals focus only on a specific area or region of the American continent, because more careful study has made it clear that the scope of Book of Mormon lands must be limited.13
[This is a striking claim. Those of us who accept what the prophets have taught about the New York Cumorah, Zelph, and Joseph's letter to Emma think Joseph Smith himself limited the lands of the Book of Mormon to North America; specifically, the territory of the United States circa 1842. It was the early speculators and latter-day intellectuals who concocted the hemispheric and M2C geographies.]
But through all of this the Church has continued to maintain a stance of neutrality, as expressed by President Cannon in 1890.14 
[See how the M2C intellectuals try to cause confusion about Cumorah? Here they don't even acknowledge President Smith's republication of Letter VII in 1899.]
Even the location of the final Nephite and Jaredite battles has been considered uncertain.15 
[We knew they would cite the phony fax as soon as we saw the title of this No-wise. This fax was plagiarized from the Encyclopedia of Mormonism article on Cumorah written by David Palmer, who cites his own book to cast doubt on the teachings of the prophets. It is not only circular reasoning, but it is deceptive and unscholarly to create doctrine this way. I've addressed all of this in detail here 
Nothing said on the topic by Church leaders, past or present—Joseph Smith included—is recognized as revelation. As apostle John A. Widtsoe said, “As far as can be learned, Joseph Smith, translator of the book, did not say where, on the American continent, Book of Mormon activities occurred.”16
[This gets to the fundamental point made by the M2C intellectuals. Notice how they refer here to "revelation." They reject what the prophets have consistently and repeatedly taught, including in General Conference, so long as the prophets have not specifically claimed a revelation. If that's the standard, then why do we bother with General Conference, the handbook of instructions, etc? The intellectuals claim that anything taught by the prophets that disagrees with their M2C dogma is merely the opinion of men. Of this point, President Benson taught, The learned may feel the prophet is only inspired when he agrees with them, otherwise the prophet is just giving his opinion—speaking as a man...
The M2C intellectuals claim to be the authorities on the Book of Mormon. Some of them have told me that we should follow them, not the prophets, on these issues. They've told me that when the Brethren have questions about the Book of Mormon, they call the people at Book of Mormon Central for answers.
Before you choose the intellectuals over the prophets, consider carefully what the prophets have actually taught. You should start with Letter VII and then consider this post:
For me, when the prophets speak in General Conference and specifically testify and witness that their teachings are true, I accept their teachings. But if you're an M2C intellectual, you reject their teachings as mere opinions. 
In fact, the M2C intellectuals look down on the prophets because they don't have the academic credentials that the intellectuals claim gives them the authority to determine what Joseph Smith thought, and to determine that the prophets are wrong. 
Even while remaining officially neutral, however, several Church leaders have encouraged appropriate and diligent study of the topic, even recommending how to properly study it out. 
[Coming from Book of Mormon Central America, this statement drips with irony. BOMCA refuses to allow alternative viewpoints--including those of the prophets--on their web site. This No-wise itself is a perfect example of quoting anti-Mormon sources and omitting what the prophets have taught. 
To study something means to assess all the facts and evidence, using sound reasoning, considering multiple perspectives and interpretations. That is the antithesis of BOMCA's approach. Instead, they carefully select evidence that supports their corporate mission of framing the Book of Mormon as a Mayan text and suppress contrary evidence. They refuse to allow even a dialog about alternative ideas. In my view, their approach is intentionally deceitful and should be called out at every opportunity.]
President Cannon, for instance, wrote, “there can be no harm result from the study of the geography of this continent at the time it was settled by Nephites, drawing all the information possible from the record which has been translated for our benefit.”17 Elder James E. Talmage said:
The fact is, the Book of Mormon does not give us precise and definite information whereby we can locate those places with certainty. I encourage and recommend all possible investigation, comparison and research in this matter. The more thinkers, investigators, workers we have in the field the better; but our brethren who devote themselves to that kind of research should remember that they must speak with caution and not declare as demonstrated truths points that are not really proved.18
Ultimately, as several leaders have stressed, while the subject is of interest and has value, readers should not let it distract them from true purpose of the Book of Mormon. Elder Russell M. Nelson explained that he has “read much that has been written about” the Book of Mormon, including studies of “its language structure or its records of weapons, geography, animal life, techniques of buildings, or systems of weights and measures.” Yet, “Interesting as these matters may be, study of the Book of Mormon is most rewarding when one focuses on its primary purpose—to testify of Jesus Christ.”19
[All LDS believers heartily agree with President Nelson's statement here. The reason we love the Book of Mormon is because it teaches about Christ.
But the quotation is a non sequitur to this article, which seeks to persuade people to disbelieve the prophets. 
The Title Page itself says the Book of Mormon is intended to convince people that Jesus is the Christ. That purpose is thwarted when we have M2C intellectuals openly repudiating the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah. 
President Cowdery and Joseph Smith thought it was important to establish the New York Cumorah as a fact to counter the anti-Mormon claims that the book was fiction. Now the M2C intellectuals use those same anti-Mormon sources to counter the claims of the prophets.]

Further Reading

Matthew Roper, “Limited Geography and the Book of Mormon: Historical Antecedents and Early Interpretations,” FARMS Review 16, no. 2 (2004): 225–275.
John E. Clark, “Book of Mormon Geography,” in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 4 vols., ed. Daniel H. Ludlow (New York, NY: Macmillan Publishing, 1992), 1:176–179.
John L. Sorenson, The Geography of Book of Mormon Events: A Source Book, rev. ed. (Provo, UT: FARMS, 1992).

  • 1.The Golden Bible, or, Campbellism Improved,” Observer and Telegraph (Hudson, Ohio), November 18, 1830, spelling modernized.
  • 2.W. W. Phelps, “The Far West,” The Evening and the Morning Star 1, no. 5, October 1832.
  • 3.W. W. Phelps, “Discovery of Ancient Ruins in Central America,” The Evening and the Morning Star, 1, no. 9, February 1833; spelling and capitalization altered.
  • 4.Joseph Smith to Emma Smith, June 4, 1834, pp. 57–58, online at josephsmithpapers.org. Many historians believe this is alluding to the Zelph incident. For more information, see Book of Mormon Central, “Who Was Zelph? (Helaman 6:6),” KnoWhy 336 (July 7, 2017).
  • 5.Joseph Smith to John M. Berhnisel, November 16, 1841, online at josephsmithpapers.org. See Matthew Roper, “John Bernhisel’s Gift to a Prophet: Incidents of Travel in Central America and the Book of Mormon,” Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 16 (2015): 207–253.
  • 6.Traits of the Mosaic History, Found among the Azteca Nations,” Times and Seasons 3, no. 16, June 15, 1842, 818–820; “American Antiquities,” Times and Seasons 3, no. 18, July 15, 1842, 858–860; “Extract from Stephens’ ‘Incidents of Travel in Central America’,” Times and Seasons 3, no. 22, September 15, 1842, 911–915; “Facts are Stubborn Things,” Times and Seasons 3, no. 22, September 15, 1842, 921–922; “Zarahemla,” Times and Seasons 3, no. 23, October 1, 1842, 927–928. Motivated by geographical theories which are contradicted by these articles, some have tried to distance Joseph Smith from their authorship and publication. Both historical and statistical analysis, however, strongly support Joseph’s involvement with these articles. See Matthew Roper, “Joseph Smith, Revelation, and Book of Mormon Geography,” FARMS Review 22, no. 2 (2010): 70–83; Matthew Roper, Paul J. Fields, Atul Nepal, “Joseph Smith, the Times and Seasons, and Central American Ruins,” Journal of Book of Mormon and Other Restoration Scripture 22, no. 2 (2013): 84–97; Neal Rappleye, “‘War of Words and Tumult of Opinions’: the Battle for Joseph Smith’s Words in Book of Mormon Geography,” Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 11 (2014): 37–95; Matthew Roper, “Joseph Smith, Central American Ruins, and the Book of Mormon,” in Approaching Antiquity: Joseph Smith and the Ancient World, ed. Lincoln Blumell, Matthew J. Grey, and Andrew H. Hedges (Salt Lake City and Provo, UT: Deseret Book and BYU Religious Studies Center, 2015), 141–162; Matthew Roper, Paul Fields, and Larry Bassist, “Zarahemla Revisited: Neville’s Newest Novel,” Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 17 (2016): 13–61.
  • 7.The popularity of this tradition was largely due to Orson Pratt and Fredrick G. Williams. Orson Pratt was heard teaching that Lehi “came across the water into South America” as early as 1832. See B. Stokely, “The Orators of Mormon,” Catholic Telegraph 1, April 14, 1832. Pratt’s views on Book of Mormon geography became widespread and influential with the release of the 1879 edition of the Book of Mormon, which included footnotes, written by Pratt, making external correlations to Book of Mormon places. In a footnote to the phrase “we did arrive to the promised land” in 1 Nephi 18:23, Pratt noted, “believed to be on the coast of Chile, S. America” (spelling modernized). See Joseph Smith Jr., trans., The Book of Mormon: An Account Written by the Hand of Mormon (Liverpool, Eng.: William Budge, 1879), 47. Fredrick G. Williams copied a highly specific statement that Lehi landed “in Chile thirty degrees south Latitude” (spelling modernized), which later was believed to be a revelation from Joseph Smith. The actual origins of the statement, however, are murky and unclear. See Fredrick G. Williams III, “Did Lehi Land in Chile? An Assessment of the Frederick G. Williams Statement,” FARMS Preliminary Report (1988); Frederick G. Williams, “Did Lehi Land in Chile?,” in Reexploring the Book of Mormon: A Decade of New Research, ed. John W. Welch (Salt Lake City and Provo, UT: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1992), 57–61.
  • 8.Facts are Stubborn Things,” Times and Seasons, 3, no. 22, September 15, 1842, 922.
  • 9.Parley P. Pratt, “Ruins in Central America,” Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star 2, no. 11, March 1842, 161–165.
  • 10.Matthew Roper, “Limited Geography and the Book of Mormon: Historical Antecedents and Early Interpretations,” FARMS Review 16, no. 2 (2004): 225–275, esp. pp. 254–255.
  • 11.George Q. Cannon, “Editorial Thoughts: The Book of Mormon Geography,” Juvenile Instructor 25, no. 1 (1890): 18.
  • 12.For comparison of 60 different proposals, see John L. Sorenson, The Geography of the Book of Mormon Events: A Source Book (Provo, UT: FARMS, 1992), 37–206.
  • 13.See John L. Sorenson, Mormon’s Map (Provo, UT: FARMS, 2000), 55–81. Already in 1903, some were disputing proposals for Book of Mormon geography on the grounds that “students could not reconcile the statements as to time consumed in traveling from one place to another with Zarahemla being at the point claimed by him.” See “Book of Mormon Students Meet: Interesting Convention Held in Provo Saturday and Sunday,” Deseret Evening News, May 25, 1903; reprinted in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 22, no. 2 (2013): 109. In 1909, B. H. Roberts suggested, “the physical description relative to the contour of the lands occupied by the Jaredites and Nephites … can be found between Mexico and Yucatan with the Isthmus of Tehuantepec between,” but ultimately continued to promote a hemispheric view. B. H. Roberts, New Witnesses for God, 3 vols. (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret News, 1909), 3:502–503. Even in the 19th century, there was precedent for limiting the scope of Book of Mormon geography. See Roper, “Limited Geography,” 242–255, 260–265.
  • 14.See Roper, “Limited Geography,” 255–260; “Is there a revealed Book of Mormon geography?” FairMormon AnswersWiki, online at fairmormon.org.
  • 15.In a Fax sent from the office of the First Presidency, April 23, 1993, F. Michael Watson—then secretary to the First Presidency, said, “While some Latter-day Saints have looked for possible locations and explanations [for Book of Mormon geography] because the New York Hill Cumorah does not readily fit the Book of Mormon description of Cumorah, there are no conclusive connections between the Book of Mormon text and any specific site.” See “Did the First Presidency identify the New York ‘Hill Cumorah’ as the site of the Nephite final battles?” FairMormon AnswersWiki, online at fairmormon.org. Elder John A. Widtsoe, of the Quorum of the Twelve and President Harold B. Lee also considered the location of the final Nephite battles an open question. See John A. Widtsoe, “Evidences and Reconciliations: Is Book of Mormon Geography Known?,” Improvement Era 53, no. 7 (July 1950): 547; Harold B. Lee, “Loyalty,” address to religious educators, 8 July 1966; in Charge to Religious Educators, 2nd ed. (Salt Lake City: Church Educational System and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1982), 65; quoted online at fairmormon.org. See also David A. Palmer, “Cumorah,” in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 4 vols., ed. Daniel H. Ludlow (New York, NY: Macmillan Publishing, 1992), 1:346–347; Rex C. Reeve Jr., “Cumorah, Hill” in Book of Mormon Reference Companion, ed. Dennis L. Largey (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 2003), 222–224.
  • 16.Widtsoe, “Is Book of Mormon Geography Known?,” 547.
  • 17.Cannon, “Book of Mormon Geography,” 19.
  • 18.James E. Talmage, Conference Report, April 1929, 44. Also consider Widtsoe, “Is Book of Mormon Geography Known?,” 547: “Students must depend, chiefly, upon existing natural monuments, such as mountains, rivers, lakes, or ocean beaches, and try to identify them with similar places mentioned in the Book of Mormon. Ruins of early cities are also used as clues by the investigator. Usually, an ideal map is drawn based upon geographical facts mentioned in the book. Then a search is made for existing areas complying with the map. All such studies are legitimate, but the conclusions drawn from them, though they may be correct, must at the best be held as intelligent conjectures.”
  • 19.Russell M. Nelson, “A Testimony of the Book of Mormon,” Ensign, November 1999, online at lds.org.

nA. This is clever sophistry because it presents a false choice. On its face, the question seems to contrast the hemispheric vs limited geography models, which is fine, but that's not really what it says. There are statements from Church leaders that place descendants of Lehi throughout the hemisphere, which M2C'ers use to confuse people about what the prophets have actually said about Cumorah. The question of the location of the descendants of the Nephites and Lamanites (and Jaredites) is entirely separate from the question of where the events took place.

nB. In describing Moroni's first visit, Joseph wrote, "I was also informed concerning the aboriginal inhabitants of this country [America] 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, and the blessings of God being finally withdrawn from them as a people, was [also] made known unto me; I was also told where were deposited some plates on which were engraven an abridgment of the records of the ancient prophets that had existed on this continent." See the Wentworth letter, here: 

nC. Comments on footnote 4.

 4. Joseph Smith to Emma Smith, June 4, 1834, pp. 57–58, online at josephsmithpapers.org. Many historians believe this is alluding to the Zelph incident. For more information, see Book of Mormon Central, “Who Was Zelph? (Helaman 6:6),” KnoWhy 336 (July 7, 2017).

We don't know who the unidentified "many historians" are, as if the number of them makes a difference anyway, but how could Joseph have been alluding to the Zelph incident when he wrote of wandering over the plains? Zelph was one event, but Joseph wrote of recounting occasionally (i.e., more than once) the history of the Book of Mormon. We can infer that these "many historians" are the revisionist M2C historians at the Joseph Smith Papers because they have inserted a note to Joseph's letter to Emma. Note 14 reads:
On 3 June, the Camp of Israel passed through the vicinity of what is now Valley City, Illinois, where several members of the camp climbed a large mound. At the top, they uncovered the skeletal remains of an individual JS reportedly identified as Zelph, a “white Lamanite.” Archeologists [sic] have since identified the mound as Naples–Russell Mound #8 and have classified it as a Hopewell burial mound of the Middle Woodland period of the North American pre-Columbian era (roughly 50 BC to AD 250). (Godfrey, “The Zelph Story,” 31, 34; Farnsworth, “Lamanitish Arrows,” 25–48.) 
The Joseph Smith Papers have devolved into part of the M2C citation cartel, and this note is a good example. They cite Godfrey's article, which, because it was published by BYU Studies, predictably promotes M2C by portraying Joseph as a confused speculator who misled the Church until the latter-day intellectuals rescued the Church by promoting M2C. E.g., Godfrey wrote, "evidently Joseph Smiths views on this matter were open to further knowledge. Thus in 1834 when Zelph was found Joseph believed that the portion of America over which they had just traveled was the plains of the Nephites and that their bones were proof of the Book of Mormon's authenticity. By 1842 he evidently believed that the events in most of Nephite history took place in Central America."
Those of us who accept the teachings of the prophets reject the M2C narrative about Joseph Smith being confused and learning about the Book of Mormon from a travel book, but our views are never acknowledged, let alone explained, by the M2C citation cartel. For example, Donald Q. Cannon wrote "Zelph Revisited" nC., a reference omitted from the Joseph Smith Papers and BOMCA. Brother Cannon concluded, "The journal accounts of Joseph Smith's activities and his letter indicate that he believed that Book of Mormon history, or at least a part of it, transpired in North America. What does one do with such a prophetic statement? Some have dismissed it as a joke or playful exercise of Joseph's imagination. 19 Others have chosen to emphasize discrepancies and possible contradictions in the source accounts, thereby discrediting what Joseph Smith said. 20
It seems to me that either approach carries heavy risks. When one chooses to state that Joseph Smith can't be taken seriously on p.109] this issue, the door is opened to question his statements on other issues. Where does it stop? Does the First Vision, with the discrepancies in the primary source accounts, also come under the doubt and skepticism applied here to Zelph? Why can't we simply take Joseph Smith at his word?"
Donald Q. Cannon, "Zelph Revisited," Regional Studies in the Latter-day Saint Church History: Illinois, edited by H. Dean Garret (Provo, Utah: Department of Church History and Doctrine, Brigham Young University (1995): 57-109. Available online at gospel link, here: http://www.gospelink.com/library/document/29393?highlight=1

BTW, I previously addressed No-wise #336 here: http://www.bookofmormoncentralamerica.com/2017/07/fun-with-zelph.html. A BOMCA employee, Zander, posted a typical comment there, to which I responded.]