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.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Solving Cumorah

Here's a pop quiz you can take or try on your friends.

Is Cumorah in North America or Central America?

A large majority of the LDS people I've asked say Cumorah is in New York. Probably 90% of Church members would say that. Usually, they wonder why I ask about Central America.

Typically, people say something such as, "It never made sense to me that Moroni carried the plates all the way to New York from Mexico, but I never thought much about it."

That's a tell for cognitive dissonance. People avoid thinking about the obvious problem created by Mesomania because it makes them uncomfortable.  

Plus, they don't realize what LDS scholars and educators are teaching about Cumorah and they're usually surprised when I tell them. 

Most members of the Church accept the New York Cumorah, but they also think the Church has endorsed a Central American setting for most of the events of the Book of Mormon. How could they not, the way Mesomania has permeated LDS culture? But this creates the uncomfortable cognitive dissonance that they mitigate by blocking the obvious questions from their minds. 

I should say, most active members just avoid thinking about it. People who do think about it do one of three things:

1. Reject the scholars and educators.
2. Reject the prophets and apostles.
3. Reject all of the above because of the confusion caused by the scholars.

It really is this basic and simple.

I wish everyone would reject the scholars and educators, but that's difficult if you're a student. And what you learn in Church education stays with you. If you're a missionary, you have to show people images of Central America when you introduce them to the Book of Mormon. 

It's unbelievable.

Unbelievable in the sense that missionaries actually have to use these images, and unbelievable in the sense that it is simply not believable to most investigators--especially those who actually read the book and don't find anything about jungles and Mayans and pyramids.

I hope no one rejects the prophets and apostles just because the scholars do. 

And I wish no one rejected all of the above, but unfortunately that may be the most common response to the conflict. It's what most investigators do, for sure. 

On the topic of Cumorah, I think 99% of Church members will choose to accept the prophets and apostles instead of LDS scholars once they learn there is a conflict between the two. 

Resolving the Cumorah question is really a matter of educating the Saints.

Look at it this way. The New York Cumorah was declared by Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery and corroborated by David Whitmer and Lucy Mack Smith. These were the only ones involved with the Book of Mormon before it was printed who commented on Cumorah. Later, every contemporary of Joseph Smith's who mentioned Cumorah agreed that it was in New York. Later prophets and apostles, including Joseph Fielding Smith, Marion G. Romney, and Mark E. Peterson, also said Cumorah was in New York.

On the other hand, not a single prophet or apostle has ever said Cumorah was in Mexico--or anywhere else other than New York.

Key point: the only ones who insist Cumorah is not in New York are LDS scholars and the educators who follow them.

It's a simple choice for each member of the Church: Do you follow the prophets and apostles, or do you follow the scholars?

If you want to get a sense for the difference between prophets and apostles vs. scholars, read Letter VII. Then read this blog post. Compare the two approaches.

In Letter VII*, you have the Assistant President of the Church making a matter-of-fact observation that the final battles of the Jaredites and Nephites took place in the mile-wide valley west of the hill Cumorah in New York. He describes Mormon standing at the top of the hill surveying the carnage, etc. Then you have Joseph Smith including it in his own history and having it reprinted so every Latter-day Saint can read it. Simple, clear, authoritative, declarative.

In the scholarly analysis, you have no mention of prophets and apostles. Instead, you have a series of strained interpretations of the text and inferences designed to fit a preconceived narrative that supports the Mesoamerican setting. You have a claim that Cumorah must be "in a location prone to seismic and volcanic activity," even though the text never mentions volcanoes. I hope by now readers can see how the 30 criteria specified in that article are imaginary. Complex, confusing, speculative, and hypothetical.

For me, it's an easy decision.

How about you?


* People reading this blog know about Letter VII. (If you don't, go to this blog http://www.lettervii.com/ right now.)



  1. It's a simple and easy choice. The scholars are wrong.

  2. I think they're not all that way wrong wrong-- It seems like they've mis-matched the Nephite nation with the wrong geographic location. Should we ever find out the nation(s) that existed in Mesoamerica, I'm wondering if we'd find a lot of commonalities between their religion and that of the Nephites. The assumption that only the Nephite group was unique in being led to a land of promise is pretentious. I'm sure all the Mesoamerican work won't be wasted, it's just not Nephite.

  3. We don't have to listen to scholars or prophets. The text itself tells us everything we need to know. 1st Nephi 13 and Ether 2-3 identify the Promised Land where Lehi landed and the Gentiles later came.