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.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Ensign, circa 1984

I've been informed that some of the Mesoamericanists are saying I'm not "happy" about a 32-year-old article published in the Ensign. Here's the link to that article. I'm wondering, why would I not be happy about that article?

First, as anyone who has read this blog should know by now, in 1984 I was all-in on Mesoamerica. This Ensign article was based on Sorenson's book, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon. I participated in a peer-review of an early manuscript of that book, well before it was published. When the articles came out in the Ensign, I shared them often; in fact, I loaned my copy of the Ensign containing this article to an investigator and never got it back.

Second, I kept an open mind even after accepting the Mesoamerican theory. I think anyone who approaches the issue with an effort to be scientific and objective must keep an open mind, but I know a lot of Mesoamericanists whose minds are locked shut. I like what Brother Sorenson wrote in the article:

The purpose of this article and the one to follow is to sketch a few vivid examples of changes in how some Latter-day Saint scholars view the Book of Mormon in the light of new theories and discoveries about the past. These articles are not intended to be an expression of official Church teachings, but on the basis of my own research and study, I have thought this new information to be worth consideration.

The key word there is change. Some LDS scholars changed their views based on evidence back in 1984. I hope some of them can do the same now.

Ironically, many Mesoamericanists cite this article as if it reflects official Church teachings because it was published in the Ensign. Their assertion flatly contradicts the article itself.

Third, I've always pointed out that I respect Brother Sorenson and his work. I have learned a lot from him, in person as well as in his books. That said, there is a fundamental error in his work, reflected in this quotation from the article:

there is presently known only one location in the Western Hemisphere that seems qualify as that scene.

I have pointed out in this blog and in my presentations that Brother Sorenson reached his conclusion because of a faulty premise that he (and his followers) have refused to re-examine. Given that premise, one would inevitably reach the conclusion that Brother Sorenson did; i.e., that the Book of Mormon took place in Central America somewhere. (When it gets into the details, Mesoamericanists can't agree on much--not even which river is the Sidon--but they still insist this is the only possible location.)

I think Brother Sorenson and his followers do wonderful work on Mesoamerican archaeology, anthropology, geology, etc. I enjoy reading their publications. I enjoy reading about ancient cultures everywhere in the world, but that doesn't mean I think all the "correspondences" between African or Cambodian or Japanese culture and the Book of Mormon are proof that the city of Zarahemla was located in those places, any more than I think the illusory correspondences between Mayan culture and the Book of Mormon mean Zarahemla was located in Mesoamerica.

It was apparent in 1984--and is even more apparent now--that Mesoamerican cultures have nothing to do with the Book of Mormon. It took me a while to realize (or admit) that, so I understand it takes a while for those who have been taught the Mesoamerican theory to think it through with an open mind. And yet, I'm confident that, eventually, the remaining Mesoamericanists will realize they've made a mistake.

So whoever thinks I'm not "happy" with the 1984 Ensign, just know I'm fine with it. In fact, it kind of reminds me of some mistakes printed in another Church publication back in 1842...

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