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.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Chris Heimerdinger

Chris Heimerdinger writes the "Tennis Shoes Among the Nephites" series. Reportedly, he has sold over a million copies in the series. I met Chris at his home years ago. He seemed to be a nice guy; at least he's friendly. But then I read some of what he's written, and while I make no judgments about his motivations, intentions, etc., which I will assume are all noble and sincere, I've reached a conclusion.

At this point, I don't think anyone since Benjamin Winchester has caused more damage than Heimerdinger in terms of confusing people about the Book of Mormon. It's one thing for BYU scholars to debate which hill in Central America is the "true" Cumorah; hardly anyone reads their scholarly work. True, it filters out through official Church media, but at least the Church formally claims neutrality (in practical terms, the Church seems neutral only about where in Mesoamerica the Book of Mormon events took place).

But Heimerdinger has deeply influenced the youth of the Church through his book series. A million copies? Are there any youth in the church who have not read his books? That's a survey I'd like to see. In my informal surveys of kids I know, homes I've visited, etc., I'd say his work is ubiquitous.

No wonder so many youth leave the Church when they realize there is zero evidence in Mesoamerica for the Book of Mormon.

Here's a blog exchange (http://frostcave.blogspot.com/2013/11/the-latest-from-cumorahs-hill.html) that made me curious:

  1. I'm excited the next book and have been waiting many years! ;) - But I recently came across the work of Wayne May on Book of Mormon archaeology and geography and has some interesting theories. Have you looked at his work and research?
  2. Wayne May is on the payroll for Rod Meldrum and his theories regarding placing the Book of Mormon events primarily within the borders of the united states. Much of the motive is for nationalistic, statist reasons, which is a real problem. Read the post I made on this blog entitled "American Exceptionalism and the Book of Mormon." I think you can actually watch my whole presentation if you type this into Youtube.com. Thanks Evan.
  3. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jXZp2k-LIaI


I know Wayne and Rod (as well as Matt Roper, Jack Welch, etc.) and I find them all to be sincere, thoughtful, and even meticulous in their research. But certainly Wayne is not on Rod's payroll. Wayne was working on Book of Mormon issues long before Rod got involved. So something is wrong here. 

I looked at the post Heimerdinger referenced and was appalled. See for yourself.

Maybe it should be no surprise that Heimerdinger was speaking to the Book of Mormon Archaeological Foundation's convention. His rhetoric seems like a perfect fit with that crowd (which, as I've pointed out before, includes 4 Emeritus General Authorities). I'm not going to take the time to comment in depth, but here is the core, with my comments in red:

Maybe they never dreamed that long-standing LDS scholarly forums like FAIR and FARMS or the Maxwell Institute would ever take them seriously. But again, is "seriously" the right word? Again, I don't think it quite fits. What I think the Heartland advocates and the LDS community in general have observed from LDS scholars is more akin to confusion and frustration. [I agree with this. I my interactions with FARMS, FAIR and the Maxwell Institute, their response to the Heartland theory has been to create a straw man version and then attack that.]  They are literally scratching their heads trying to figure out why this Heartland geographic model, which is, no matter what Meldrum and his people might admit, very well funded [compared to an author who sold over 1,000,000 copies of novels teaching the youth of the Church a false Mesoamerican geography? Or compared with the many BYU scholars funded by the tithe-payers who are also promoting a false Mesoamerican geography?] and very commercially ambitious, [compared with the Mesoamerican books, artwork and tours that have been marketed for decades?] has had any level of success at attracting followers whatsoever! 

In addressing this matter one cannot ignore the fundamental reasons why the Heartland model is so attractive and will continue to cultivate advocates of the kind who approached me at Costco. These reasons go beyond scholarship. They are so powerful that they utterly stifle scholarship. At this year's BMAF Conference we listened to several presentations citing scholarly arguments against the "Heartland" platform. [I have critiqued these. They are attacking straw men, relying primarily on the discredited Times and Seasons articles and their various "adjustments" to the Book of Mormon text.] However, I promise you, with most adherents to the Heartland model, such arguments have no effect upon them whatsoever. The core philosophy is such that most Heartlanders would respond, "Who cares if the scholarship is presently flawed! The scholarship will improve. The core philosophy is the thing." 

The motivations behind this movement may be diverse and difficult to sum up in a few words, but if pushed, the two that I would choose are the ones that appear in the title of this article: American Exceptionalism. [I'll have more to say on this in the future, but for now, think of the crowd to whom he was speaking and consider their agenda.]