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.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

"Divers ways"

This is the first post of the new year, and I want to clarify a very important point that sometimes gets lost in the discussions.

When he finished the Book of Mormon, Moroni added a sermon his father gave about how to discern good from evil. He explained:

Moroni 7:24 And behold, there were divers ways that he did manifest things unto the children of men, which were good; and all things which are good cometh of Christ

In the context of the Book of Mormon, there are divers ways (many or diverse ways) that God works with people. They are all good.

Specifically, there are many different opinions and theories about Book of Mormon geography. People have strong testimonies of the Book of Mormon regardless of which theory they accept. I had a strong testimony of the Book of Mormon during the decades when I believed the Mesoamerican theory. For me, the North American theory worked better and enhanced my testimony and understanding, but that doesn't mean I didn't have a testimony when I believed the Mesoamerican theory, and it doesn't mean that those who still believe in the Mesoamerican theory don't have strong testimonies. Sometimes we confuse our testimony of the Book of Mormon with our belief in a particular geography theory and that's an enormous mistake.

Let me emphasize this: you can have a strong testimony of the Book of Mormon regardless of which theory you believe, and just because someone else believes a different theory than you doesn't diminish their testimony or enhance yours. 

Mormon made another key point in this sermon:

Moroni 7:16 - for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.

Throughout this blog, I've tried to emphasize that there are alternatives to the predominant Mesoamerican theory that invite people to do good and to persuade people to believe in Christ. You don't have to accept any particular theory to have a strong, vibrant, deepening testimony of the Book of Mormon. I know that from personal experience, as well as the experience of many, many other members who have shared that experience. For us, the North American setting works better, and we are the ones for whom I write this blog.

But this is not to say that other people don't find just as much value in other theories.

If we apply the test Mormon asked us to, I think we'll all see that so long as a theory of geography (and Church history) invites people to do good and to persuade to believe in Christ, it is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ.

No believer in the Book of Mormon should reject the faith and beliefs of another believer in the Book of Mormon, especially not over a geography question. There is evidence to support the Book of Mormon throughout the Americas, more than enough to support all the various theories that are out there. We should rejoice in all of this evidence and support one another.

I realize I have taken some strong positions at times in this blog, but it was all with the intent to demonstrate that there is merit in non-Mesoamerican theories, and that they can and do support strong faith in the Book of Mormon that brings people to Christ. I started this blog because I felt the academic world had unfairly attacked and excluded faithful members of the Church who believe in the North American theory. But now I see that changing. There is a much more accepting attitude developing, a more inclusive and loving approach that I want to be part of. I think that as this approach takes hold and everyone supports one another, we will see a flood of evidence come forth to support the Book of Mormon. And I'm pretty sure that's what we all want to see.

Of course, the most important thing is the impact the Book of Mormon has on individual lives. It's the tool the Lord gave to bring people to Christ in our day. When it serves that purpose, we all rejoice. That's the goal of everyone who knows and loves the Book of Mormon. I think we're at a place now where we can recognize that the Lord works in divers ways, and we don't have to insist that the way the Lord works with us is the way he should work for everyone.

To the extent my blog or books may have come across as denigrating someone else's theory, I apologize. It took much longer than I thought it would to make the point that alternatives to the Mesoamerican theory have merit and value in the lives of faithful members of the Church. My intent has been to support and validate those who accept the North American theory, the New York Cumorah, and all that goes with it. But I don't say or imply that those who think differently don't have a testimony of the Book of Mormon, of the restoration, or of Christ. I want people to realize that there are legitimate alternatives to the prevailing consensus among scholars because, in fact, the Lord does work in divers ways.

In other words, to the extent I comment on Book of Mormon geography in the future, it will be to celebrate any and all evidence from wherever it comes. I have seen in my own life that the Lord works in divers ways, and I'm sure that's true of everyone who reads this blog.

Let's spend 2017 supporting one another and doing all we can to share the Book of Mormon and our testimonies of Christ with the world.

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