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, April 14, 2016

The "fun" series

This "fun" series examines the "can't unsee" problem with the Mesoamerican theory. It comes from this quotation: “Once you start looking at the Book of Mormon through a Mesoamerican lens, you can’t unsee it.”

To say you "can't unsee" something is equivalent to saying you can only see one thing; i.e., admitting you don't have an open mind. Consequently, this lens is causing a serious problem. Many analogies come to mind. Think of the Lord of the Rings movies, when the wearer of the Ring is portrayed as "moving through a shadowy realm where everything is distorted." That's what the Mesoamerican lens (or lenses, spectacles, etc.) does to those who look through it. It turns them into Mesoamerican "seers."

The Church is officially neutral on the question of Book of Mormon geography--a wise and appropriate position.

The problem is that the Mesoamerican seers dominate LDS scholarship and publications and media and institutions, including CES, BYU, etc. They carefully fit the lenses on their students, starting in Primary, so that by the time students reach college and beyond, many of them, too, "can't unsee" Mesoamerica. But when an event yanks off the Mesoamerican spectacles--such as an encounter with an Internet page, a skeptical investigator, a former Mormon--the fallacies of the Mesoamerican theory become apparent. Having never been taught, or even exposed to, an alternative to the Mesoamerican setting, unsuspecting but once-faithful members too often jettison the Book of Mormon along with the Mesoamerican theory.

I have no problem with people believing whatever they want to believe, in the spirit of Article of Faith 11. My problem is the Orwellian suppression of alternative views by LDS scholars. They deprive their readers, hearers, and students of the opportunity to make an informed choice about what to believe regarding Book of Mormon geography and historicity.

To understand why, it's helpful to look at how the Mesoamerican lenses operate. They turn wearers into "seers" who

1) see Mesoamerican terms in the text that are invisible to those not wearing the lenses (which leads to them using the Sorenson and other translations of the text instead of Joseph's translation);

2) are unable to see any evidence that contradicts their theories (the Mesoamerican lenses blind the wearer);

3) interpret Church history to cast doubt on the Three Witnesses and other important statements;

4) use rhetorical sleight of hand and logical fallacies to perpetuate their theories;

5) participate in a citation cartel that excludes both consideration and exposure of facts and analysis that contradict their theories.

The primary purpose of this blog is to help Mesoamerican seers remove their spectacles for a moment and take a look at the text Joseph dictated and Oliver wrote down, in light of other things these two men said, and then compare that text to actual archaeology, anthropology, geography, geology, etc. 

There is tremendous resistance to this approach; those scholars who wear the Mesoamerican lenses have great difficulty removing them. I'm beginning to suspect that, in some cases, they are unable to do so. 

Nevertheless, they need to try. There are many terms for this process, including an open mind, intellectual honesty, the scientific method, a robust exchange of ideas, etc. Any scientist who is confident of his/her own theory is eager to share it with the world and test it in every way possible--and trust others to do the same. 

Let's break up the citation cartel and trust faithful LDS people with alternatives to the Mesoamerican model.

Some of my favorite quotations on open mindedness that are relevant to the "can't unsee" problem:

“If someone is able to show me that what I think or do is not right, I will happily change, for I seek the truth, by which no one was ever truly harmed. It is the person who continues in his self-deception and ignorance who is harmed.” 
― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

“Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won't come in.” 
― Isaac Asimov

“It is a narrow mind which cannot look at a subject from various points of view.” 
― George Eliot, Middlemarch

“It is never too late to give up your prejudices” 
― Henry David Thoreau

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