Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Breaching the dam: Proctors and Dehlin, variations on a theme



Rice paddies in the Philippines
When I was a kid, we lived in the Philippines. 

Rice paddies are a boy’s paradise. Different levels of water, separated by banks of earth—you can imagine how excitedly a thoughtless kid would punch a tiny hole in a dam and watch the water trickle out, erode the sides, and soon gush out.

Fortunately, the Filipino farmers chased us out before we damaged their fields. One time they seized my little brother and made threats that scared us enough to never return.

I'm glad they did that. We had no business messing with their dams.

In the Church today, certain intellectuals have punched what they thought was a tiny hole in the dam of faith. 

M2C is a breach in the dam of faith.* It teaches faithful members, and the world as a whole, that the founding prophets of the Restoration misled the Church when they taught that the Hill Cumorah is in western New York. 

Apparently the M2C intellectuals still think they can control the flow out of the breach, but the side banks are eroding and the result is entirely predictable.

And no one is chasing them away from the fields.

But you can.
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Meridian Magazine, (aka “latterdaysaintmag.com”), is published by Scot and Maureen Proctor. It's a great magazine, full of useful news and inspirational articles. 

But they are deeply committed to M2C and promote M2C in conjunction with Book of Mormon Central, FairMormon, etc. That's why I refer to it as Meridian M2C Magazine.

They recently published a well-written, thoughtful article titled “It Wasn’t the Evidence that Broke Your Shelf.”

You can read it here:


The article is a fascinating discussion of John Dehlin’s Mormon Stories podcast and web page, which has had a significant impact on many LDS members and prospective members.** 

Along with the CES Letter, Mormon Stories has raised “historicity” concerns that have led many prospective members to reject the Restoration and have led many LDS members to cease activity in the Church or leave entirely. 

In some cases, the problems stem from misunderstanding, bias confirmation, and unrealistic expectations. In other cases, the problems are being addressed by certain LDS intellectuals who basically agree with the historicity concerns because of their ideology. 

There are good alternative explanations that many people don't know about because the intellectuals dominate the conversation and censor alternative views. We discuss those on another blog. Here, we focus on the M2C problem.
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The article asserts that it is not “evidence” in the abstract that is the problem, but the subjective interpretation of the evidence that leads people to reach their conclusions.

That’s a valid point; by now we all know, or should know, that people don’t make decisions based on objective facts and sound logic. Otherwise, we’d all agree on matters of religion, politics, science, etc.

Instead, we select facts and reasons to justify the decisions we have already made for mostly emotional and social reasons.

Sometimes it's not even interpretation of evidence that is the problem; instead is the rejection of evidence.

When it comes to the Restoration, we have an example of rejecting important evidence.

We have faithful members who, because of their M2C ideology, actually agree with and support the critics who disbelieve the prophets. 

These two groups differ only in the extent to which they claim the prophets have misled the world.

To the Proctors and other M2C advocates, the difference between faith and disbelief depends not on whether the prophets have misled the world, but instead depends on how much and how often you think they have misled the world.


The "high-water mark of scholarship on the Book of Mormon," according to Terryl Givens, is Mormon's Codex. Here's what that book has to say about the teachings of the prophets regarding the New York Cumorah:

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

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


Every proponent of M2C agrees that the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah are wrong--"manifestly absurd" to be precise. 

Ask them and you'll see. 
Ask any of your friends that believe in M2C. 
Ask anyone at FairMormon, Book of Mormon Central, the Interpreter, BYU Studies, or Meridian Magazine
Ask your Seminary, Institute, or BYU teacher about the New York Cumorah and they will tell you the prophets are wrong because the "real" Hill Cumorah is in Mexico. 

Hence the breach in the dam.

The dark brown streak on the left side of the dam
near the gray bedrock is a leak.
M2C wasn't a significant problem, at first.
Think of the 1976 Teton Dam disaster as a metaphor* for what's happening right now.

M2C advocates take it as an article of faith that the prophets misled the world when they taught that the Hill Cumorah was in New York. 

They say that when Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith wrote Letter VII, declaring it is a fact that the Hill Cumorah is in New York, they were wrong.

The leak grows and mud gushes out.
General Authorities reaffirm the NY Cumorah,
but the intellectuals and their followers reject them.
They say that when Joseph and Oliver wrote that the final battles of the Nephites and Jaredites took place in western New York, they were merely expressing ignorant speculation and they were wrong. 

They say that all the Church leaders who have taught that Cumorah is in New York were also expressing their personal opinions and were wrong. Numerous articles in Meridian Magazine have asserted this claim.

Why?

Because, according to the M2C intellectuals, the "real" Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 is somewhere in southern Mexico.

Consequently, all the prophets and apostles who reaffirmed the New York Cumorah, including 
The dam nears collapse.
Peep stones replace the Urim and Thummim.
members of the First Presidency speaking in General Conference, misled the Church by teaching and testifying to the truthfulness of their own private, incorrect opinions.
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Most M2C advocates also embrace the teaching of the revisionist historians that Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery misled the world when they said Joseph translated the engravings on the plates by using the Urim and Thummim that Moroni provided for that purpose. 

According to these intellectuals, Joseph didn’t even use the plates. He didn’t use the Urim and Thummim. Instead, he simply read words that appeared on a peep stone he put in a hat. According to them, all the prophets and apostles who said otherwise simply misled the Church.

For the Proctors and other M2C advocates, being a faithful member of the Church means accepting these two errors, but not other errors.

Mormon Stories and CES Letter agree with the Proctors

They also tell their followers to start with M2C and peep stones. But while the M2C advocates ask their followers to stop there, the critics encourage their followers to proceed from there. 

Then, once you add up enough errors, you can conclude that the entire traditional narrative of LDS history is false; therefore, the Book of Mormon is fiction, the divine interventions never happened, and Church leaders have misled the world ever since.

Teton dam disaster
IOW, the only difference between the M2C/peep stone “faithful” narrative and the M2C/peep stone “critical” narrative is telling yourself to stop inquiring beyond the M2C/peep stone.

That’s like telling the water, after the dam breaks, to stop midstream on its own.
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The alternative, of course, is to not break the dam in the first place.

In my view, there is abundant evidence that corroborates the teachings of the prophets, including the New York Cumorah and the Urim and Thummim translation. 

It’s not a question of “uncovering” evidence. It’s not a question of exposure to “uncorrelated information."

It’s a question of accepting the teachings of the prophets and then examining the evidence that supports those teachings.

The Proctors and other M2C/peep stone advocates reject the evidence that supports the teachings of the prophets. That’s why they think the prophets misled the Church about these two matters.

The M2C intellectuals have broken the dam, the water’s rushing out, and now it’s just a question of whether anyone is going to repair the dam, and if so, when.
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The answer, of course, is to fortify your own faith and then help others as you can.

President Eyring discussed an important lesson from the Teton Dam disaster that applies as well to the current situation.

I have seen that faith and courage many times when believing Latter-day Saints have faced fearsome trials. For one example, I was in Idaho when the Teton Dam broke on June 5, 1976. A wall of water came down. Thousands fled from their homes. Thousands of homes and businesses were destroyed. Miraculously, fewer than 15 people were killed.
What I saw there, I have seen whenever Latter-day Saints stand firmly on the rock of a testimony of Jesus Christ. Because they have no doubt He watches over them, they become fearless. They ignore their own trials to go to the relief of others. And they do so out of love for the Lord, asking no recompense.
For example, when the Teton Dam broke, a Latter-day Saint couple was traveling, miles away from their home. As soon as they heard the news on the radio, they hurried back to Rexburg. Rather than going to their own home to see if it was destroyed, they went looking for their bishop. He was in a building that was being used as the recovery center. He was helping to direct the thousands of volunteers who were arriving in yellow school buses.
The couple walked up to the bishop and said, “We just got back. Bishop, where can we go to help?” He gave them the names of a family. That couple stayed mucking out mud and water in one home after another. They worked from dawn to dark for days. They finally took a break to go see about their own home. It was gone in the flood, leaving nothing to clean up. So they turned around quickly to go back to their bishop. They asked, “Bishop, do you have someone for us to help?”
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*Metaphors can help explain things because of similarities and patterns. They are not the thing being explained. 
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**The article features the inevitable references to Terryl and Fiona Givens, a couple of staunch M2C promoters. (Terryl wrote the Foreword to Mormon’s Codex.) I’ll comment on the Givens excerpts separately.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

December 5, 1834

I wasn't able to post this on December 5th, so I'm posting it today instead.

December 5, 1834, was an important day in Church history. It was the day when Oliver Cowdery was ordained Assistant President of the Church.

Many members of the Church today are unaware of this event. For example, did you know it was John the Baptist who directed that Oliver Cowdery be ordained to this office?

You can read the minutes of the meeting in Joseph Smith's History, 1834-1836, here:

https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/history-1834-1836/19

5 December 1834 • Friday
Friday Evening, December 5, 1834. According to the direction of the Holy Spirit, President Smith, assistant Presidents,  and , assembled for the purpose of ordaining <​first​> High Counsellor  to the office of assistant President of the High and Holy Priesthood in the Church of the Latter-Day Saints.
It is necessary, for the special benefit of the reader, that he be instructed <​into, or​> concerning the power and authority of the above named Priesthood.
First. The office of the President is to preside over the whole Chu[r]ch; to be considered as at the head; to receive revelations for the Church; to be a Seer, and Revelator <​and Prophet—​> having all the gifts of God:— having taking <​Moses​> for an ensample. Which is Second. the office and station of the above President Smith, according to the calling of God, and the ordination which he has received.
Second. The office of Assistant President is to assist in presiding over the whole chu[r]ch, and to officiate in the abscence of the President, according to their <​his​> rank and appointment, viz: , first;  Second, and  Third, as they <​were​> are severally called. The office of this Priesthood is also to act as Spokesman—taking Aaron for an ensample.
The virtue of this the <​above​> Priesthood is to hold the keys of the kingdom of heaven, or the Church militant.
The reader may further understand, that Presidents <​the​> reason why President <​High Counsellor​> was not previously ordained <​to the Presidency,​> was, in consequence of his necessary attendance in Zion, to assist  in conducting the printing business; but that this promise was made by the angel while in company with President Smith, at the time they recievd the office of the lesser priesthood. And further: The circumstances and situation of the Church requiring, Presidents  and  were previously ordained, to assist President Smith.
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Why are we discussing this in this blog about M2C?

Because the M2C advocates claim that Oliver Cowdery was wrong when, as Assistant President of the Church, he wrote in Letter VII that it is a fact that the Hill Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 is in New York.

It takes a lot of audacity to repudiate the teachings of an Assistant President of the Church who was called to that position by John the Baptist directly.

Oliver was truthful about everything except...

Letter VII from Messenger and Advocate, July 1835
Those who reject Letter VII cite no justifications for disbelieving President Cowdery other than their preference for a different location for the Hill Cumorah (M2C).

Consider Oliver Cowdery's participation in the Church to put Letter VII in context. When he wrote it, he was the Assistant President of the Church. He had been commanded by revelation to select materials to publish. All eight of Oliver's letters about history are accepted by Church historians as important insights into the early events of the Church.

The only ones who object to any of Oliver's writings are the M2C advocates who reject a few paragraphs out of one of the eight letters.

Oliver published Letter VII in July 1835. In February 1835, he, as one of the Three Witnesses, had selected the first members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. He gave them their aspostolic charge. In April 1836, he, along with Joseph Smith, was visited in the Kirtland temple by Moses, Elias, Elijah, and the Savior Himself. Oliver and Joseph were given the keys of the gathering of Israel and the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham.

M2C advocates expect you to believe that Oliver Cowdery could faithfully record the entire Book of Mormon, most of the Book of Moses, and much of Church history. Oliver could faithfully edit and publish two Church newspapers, the Book of Commandments, and the original Doctrine and Covenants. He could accurately write the statement for the Three Witnesses. Of all the writing he did, you're supposed to believe he was faithful and accurate except for a few paragraphs in one letter, solely because those paragraphs establish the New York Cumorah as a fact, which contradicts the opinions of the M2C scholars.

Here is the chronology. Everything that is okay is marked green. The items the scholars object to is marked red.



Date
Event

1829 April
Transcribes Book of Mormon as Joseph dictates

1829 May
Receives Aaronic Priesthood from John the Baptist, baptizes Joseph and is baptized by him

1829 May
Receives Melchizedek Priesthood from Peter, James and John

1829 June
Sees the plates and angel as one of the Three Witnesses

1829 June
Completes Book of Mormon and makes a printer’s copy, supervises printing and publication

1830 April
Helps organize the Church as a Second Elder and apostle, ordains Joseph Smith as First Elder

1830 June
Transcribes Book of Moses 1:1 through 5:43

1830 Oct.
Leaves on mission to the Lamanites

1830 Nov.
Baptizes Sidney Rigdon

1831 Jan.
Arrives in Jackson County, Mo.

1831 Summer
Meets Joseph in Jackson County

1831 Nov.
Takes revelations from Ohio to Missouri for publication

1832
Helps Phelps with printing operation in Missouri

1832 Apr.
Approves Book of Commandments

1833 Nov.
Sets up printing press in Kirtland, reprints Evening and Morning Star

1833 Dec.
Begins editing Evening and Morning Star

1834 Feb.
Chosen as founding member of Kirtland Council

1834 May-Aug.
Leader in Kirtland after Zions Camp left

1834 Oct
Edits LDS Messenger and Advocate and Northern Times

1834 Oct
Publishes Letter I about Church history, part of which is in the current Pearl of Great Price

1834 Nov
Publishes Letter II about Church history

1834 Dec
Publishes Letter III about Church history

1834 Dec
Ordained by Joseph Smith as “Assistant President of the Church”

1835
Publishes Letter IV about Church history

1835 Feb
With David Whitmer and Martin Harris, selects first members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

1835 Feb
Gives apostolic charge to the Twelve Apostles

1835 Mar
Publishes Letter V about Church history

1835 Apr
Publishes Letter VI about Church history

1835 May
Resigns from Messenger and Advocate

1835 July
Publishes Letter VII about Church history

1835 Aug.
Gets Doctrine and Covenants approved for printing

1835 Oct.
Publishes Letter VIII about Church history

1836 Mar.
Resumes editing the Messenger and Advocate

1836 Apr.
Visited in Kirtland temple by Moses, Elias, Elijah, and Christ, receives the keys of the gathering of Israel and dispensation of gospel of Abraham

1836 July
Accompanies Joseph to Salem, MA

1837 Feb.
Turns over printing company to Joseph and Sidney

1838 July
“Excluded from fellowship” for accusations against Joseph

1848 Nov.
Rebaptized into the Church

1850 March
Dies in Richmond at home of David Whitmer

Now, read the ordination of President Cowdery and decide what you think about his credibility.

After addressing the throne of mercy, President Smith laid hands upon , and ordained him to the Presidency of the High priesthood in the Church, saying:
Brother, In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, who was crucified for the sins of the world, that we through the virtue of his blood might come to the Father, I lay my hands upon thy head, and ordain thee a President of the high and holy priesthood, to assist in presiding over the Chu[r]ch, and bearing the keys of this kingdom— which priesthood is after the order of Melchizedek— which is after the order of the Son of God— And now, O Father, wilt thou bless this thy servant with wisdom, knowledge, and understanding— give him, by the Holy Spirit, a correct understanding of thy doctrine, laws, and will— Commune with him from on high— let him hear thy voice, and receive the ministries ministring of the holy angels— deliver him from temptation, and the power of darkness— deliver him from evil, and from those who may seek his destruction,— be his shield, his buckler, and his great reward— endow him with power from on high, that he may write, preach, and proclaim the gospel to his fellowmen in demonstration of the Spirit and of power— may his feet never slide— may his heart never feint— may his faith never fail. Bestow upon him the blessings of his fathers Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and of Joseph— Prolong his life to a good old age, and bring him in peace to his end, and to rejoice with thy saints, even the sanctified, in the celestial kingdom; for thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

Presidents Rigdon, and Williams, confirmed the ordinance and blessings by the laying on of hands and prayer, after which each were blessed with the same blessings and prayer.
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Every member of the Church ought to be grateful to and respectful of Oliver Cowdery for the important role he played in the Restoration of the Gospel.