However, I approach the conference differently. I've attended in the past and might this year if time allows. I encourage anyone interested in Book of Mormon historicity and geography to attend.
First, there are usually some good speakers on topics other than Book of Mormon geography.
Second, and I need to emphasize this, the people affiliated with FairMormon are faithful LDS doing what they think is right. I'm not attacking any of them as individuals. I am approaching this with civility and respect, but I think it's important that people know what is being presented to the world by FairMormon.
Third, I wouldn't be writing this post if FairMormon had responded to my comments from last year. If you go to the conference, you will observe first hand how deeply embedded the Mesoamerican ideology is. This is not unique to FairMormon, of course, but FairMormon holds itself out as the place Mormons and investigators should go for answers. In my view, it's the last place you'd want to go because of the way they handle the Book of Mormon. You can refer people to FairMormon if you want, but you should know ahead of time what is on their web page. I have another post on that topic scheduled for later this week.
Last year, on July 14, I blogged about the FairMormon approach to the Hill Cumorah as an example. Nothing has changed on their web page as far as I can tell. In my post, I wrote this (slightly edited):
Consider the FairMormon entry on the Hill Cumorah. It is found here. It is a response to this question:
"If Mormon chapter 6 is a literal description of the destruction of the Nephites by the Lamanites — approximately 100 thousand were killed by swords and axes — why hasn't any evidence of the battle been found at the site that was traditionally identified as the hill Cumorah in western New York state?"
FairMormon and Anti-Mormon web pages both claim the New York setting is impossible because there is no evidence that hundreds of thousands--or millions--of men were killed there in a great battle.
And yet, there is no question that the early members of the Church believed the New York Hill Cumorah was the same as the Book of Mormon Hill Cumorah; i.e., the site of the final battles.
FairMormon and Anti-Mormons share these three premises:
1. Jaredites and Nephites died in the hundreds of thousands or millions at Cumorah;
2. There is no archaeological evidence of such massive battles in New York;
3. The early LDS believed the New York Cumorah was the Book of Mormon Cumorah.
[Note: the first two of these premises are incorrect, as I'll show later.] [Note: I'm not revisiting all of that material in this blog today.]
Anti-Mormons accept these three premises on their face and conclude the Book of Mormon is false.
FairMormon accepts these three premises on their face and concludes the early LDS were wrong.
Instead of rejecting the Book of Mormon, though, FairMormon claims the Book of Mormon Cumorah is in Mesoamerica; i.e., they promote a "two Cumorah" theory.
Immediately after the question about Mormon 6, FairMormon poses this question:
If Joseph Smith returned the gold plates to a cave in the Hill Cumorah, why is there no evidence of this cave?"
Last year, I didn't discuss the cave issue because the information about the room discovered in the Hill Cumorah wasn't public (although I knew about it). Now that the information about the a room in the hill that matches the description of the one given by Brigham Young and others has been made public, let's look at FairMormon's argument.
Here is how they frame the issue:
Question: Is there a cave in the Hill Cumorah containing the Nephite records?It's a common rhetorical trick to construct a question so that the answer validates one's theory. Here, FairMormon knows the answer to their question is no. But it's the question itself that is flawed, not what the early LDS people said.
If you've been reading my blogs, you already see the errors in this question. David Whitmer and Oliver Cowdery said the records were no longer in Cumorah. (I think it's because they moved them, but that's another story.) Plus, Brigham and the others said the records Joseph and Oliver saw were in a room in the hill. "Oliver says that when Joseph and Oliver went there, the hill opened, and they walked into a cave, in which there was a large and spacious room... The first time they went there the sword of Laban hung upon the wall; but when they went again it had been taken down and laid upon the table across the gold plates."
FairMormon focuses on the term cave. What does Brigham mean by a cave? The term comes from the Latin cava, from cavus meaning hollow. One definition is "A large underground chamber, typically of natural origin." Brigham says it was a room; i.e., man-made. True, typically a cave is of natural origin as the definition states, but the term means an underground hollow cavity, whether natural or man-made.
In this case, the early LDS described a room built into the Hill Cumorah. The photo of the underground room in Cumorah shows how the walls were built of layed-up stone.
So if we accept the historical accounts, the answer to the FairMormon question has to be no. But the question is designed to produce that answer and does not represent what Brigham and the others said. A fair (no pun intended) question would be, "Is there a room in the Hill Cumorah that could have once held the Nephite records?" The answer to that question is yes.
Having posed a misleading question, FairMormon continues with an even worse line of reasoning.
This "answer" is a perfect example of why I never recommend that people with questions go to FairMormon. To validate the two-Cumorah theory, they claim the ten accounts of Joseph and Oliver going to this room in Cumorah involve a "vision" and not a real experience. Here's a quotation from the FairMormon page: "If, therefore, the story attributed to Oliver Cowdery (by others) is true, then the visits to the cave perhaps represent visions, perhaps of some far distant hill, not physical events."
Notice what is being said here. It's another effort to undermine Oliver Cowdery, just like they are doing with Letter VII; i.e., "If Oliver's story is true, it was just a vision of a hill in Mexico."
FairMormon ended the quotation from Brigham Young prior to the point where Brigham explained why he related these accounts. Read what he said and decide for yourself if he was relating a questionable story by Oliver Cowdery about a "vision" of a hill somewhere in Mexico:
"I tell you this as coming not only from Oliver Cowdery, but others who were familiar with it, and who understood it just as well as we understand coming to this meeting, enjoying the day, and by and by we separate and go away, forgetting most of what is said, but remembering some things. So is it with other circumstances in life. I relate this to you, and I want you to understand it. I take this liberty of referring to those things so that they will not be forgotten and lost. Carlos Smith was a young man of as much veracity as any young man we had, and he was a witness to these things. Samuel Smith saw some things, Hyrum saw a good many things, but Joseph was the leader.
"Now, you may think I am unwise in publicly telling these things, thinking perhaps I should preserve them in my own breast; but such is not my mind. I would like the people called Latter-day Saints to understand some little things with regard to the workings and dealings of the Lord with his people here upon the earth."
In my view, Brigham Young wanted people to know about the room in Cumorah because it helps us understand how the Lord works with his people here upon the earth. He knew, as David Whitmer did, that there was no danger in people finding the plates in the room because they had been moved from Cumorah. (I think Brigham knew where the plates were, but that's another story as well.)
To me, characterizing this account as a vision of a hill in Mexico undermines faith just as much as characterizing Letter VII as speculation.