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.

Monday, March 6, 2017

How paradigms shift

In the world of science, a consensus among scientists is based on theories that seem to explain natural phenomena the best. When a change in consensus develops, it almost always starts with an individual or a small group. The new idea or theory takes a while to catch the interest of others, and even longer to persuade them to move from the old theories to the new theories.

While the consensus is moving, there are fewer people who have moved to the new idea than there are in the group who still adheres to the old consensus. It's a transitional phase leading to a tipping point where the majority shift over.

Right now, as of March 2017, the change in consensus about Book of Mormon geography is in the transitional phase. More and more people are abandoning the Mesoamerican theory in favor of the North American setting. Most people probably don't think about the issue much, but among those who do, most are changing. The last ones to change will probably be the ones who have promoted that theory during their careers.

When we see a shift in a paradigm or consensus, the way you can judge movement in one direction is how many are moving from the minority (North American) position to the majority (Mesoamerican) position, and how many are moving the other way.

In my case, I moved from siding with the majority for several decades to siding with the minority over two years ago. Maybe it's my own confirmation bias, but in my experience, hundreds of other LDS people have also gone from Mesoamerica to North America. There are actually thousands who have done so in recent years, starting before I joined their ranks. I'm actually unaware of anyone who has moved from the North American setting to the Mesoamerican setting once they are aware of the facts and evidence.

This is a classic pattern leading to a tipping point. The only thing that matters is the direction of movement in the face of new information about Church history, the sciences, and the basic premise of the two-Cumorahs theory.

At this point it's only a question of when, not whether, the Mesoamerican theory will become a minority position and, ultimately, a footnote in Church history.

It's also important to recognize there are smart, educated, faithful people on all sides of the Book of Mormon geography question. It's not a matter of intelligence or testimony. Well-informed, smart people are on multiple sides of many different issues. The question of Book of Mormon geography is mostly a matter of choice among priorities, as well as access to information.

Everyone who chooses a position for whatever reason (the most common reason being what one was taught) and then engages in confirmation bias will become more and more convinced about the chosen position and less and less able to understand the other side.

The intellectual history of this topic strongly favors the Mesoamerican theory because it has been around for decades and has become the consensus view of LDS scholars and educators, which means that most people in the Church have been taught a version of the Mesoamerican theory.

That paradigm has prevailed largely by suppressing and ignoring aspects of Church history that undermine the premise of the Mesoamerican theory; i.e., the two-Cumorahs theory. For example, how many members of the Church today have ever read Letter VII? Although it was published in every Church magazine through the Improvement Era, it has never been published in the Ensign. It is not mentioned in any Church manuals that I'm aware of. And yet, it is one of the most persuasive items on this topic.

Which is why it has been ignored and suppressed, and why there are now LDS scholars and educators seeking to persuade members to disbelieve what Oliver Cowdery wrote about Cumorah.

More information is better than less, so the effort to ignore and suppress Letter VII is doomed to failure. That's another reason why I think the tipping point in favor of the North American setting is fast approaching.

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