Monday, October 30, 2017

Contributing to Book of Mormon Central

Many people are receiving fund-raising emails from Book of Mormon Central.

Here's my advice.

Tell them you will donate as soon as they do at least these two things: 

(1) give readers a full explanation of the North American setting (Moroni's America and the Heartland) as an alternative to their Mesomania; and

(2) explain clearly why they reject what Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, and all their contemporaries and successors have taught about the Hill Cumorah being in New York.
______________

Look at their logo and you'll see confirmation of their corporate mission "to increase understanding of the Book of Mormon as an ancient Mesoamerican codex." 

I don't think this mission deserves one penny of support because, as Joseph Fielding Smith warned, it causes members of the Church to "become confused and greatly disturbed in their faith in the Book of Mormon." In my view, this mission undermines all the good that Book of Mormon Central otherwise does. It's a major impediment to missionary and reactivation work.

Unless and until Book of Mormon Central changes its editorial policy on Cumorah, we should continue to consider them Book of Mormon Central America because they are not representing all faithful Book of Mormon evidence, studies, or scholarship.

Here's what their email looks like, complete with the famous logo depicting Mayan culture along with Hebrew, Greek and Egyptian.

Book of Mormon Central
Friends,

Book of Mormon Central has many exciting projects planned for the next year, and we need your help. Please consider a donation to Book of Mormon Central this season. The Book of Mormon is a cause worth supporting. Please share this email with family and friends. Scroll down for more information.

Kind Regards,
John W. Welch
Chairman
Kirk A. Magleby
Executive Director
Taylor Halverson
Board Member
Ruth Schmidt
Board Member
Scott Petersen
Board Member
Bob Babcock
Board Member
Click to Donate
PO Box 1538, American Fork, UT 84003-6538bookofmormoncentral.org

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Watching General Conference with your BYU Book of Mormon professor

Note: this is an administrative experiment. It's the same post from Friday.
__________________

Imagine you are attending or watching General Conference with your BYU Book of Mormon professor or your CES instructor in seminary or Institute.


President Uchtdorf speaks. He says this:

"In the western part of the state of New York near Palmyra is a prominent hill known as the “hill Cumorah.” (Morm. 6:6.) On July twenty-fifth of this year, as I stood on the crest of that hill admiring with awe the breathtaking panorama which stretched out before me on every hand, my mind reverted to the events which occurred in that vicinity some twenty-five centuries ago—events which brought to an end the great Jaredite nation....

"As the conflict intensified, all the people who had not been slain—men “with their wives and their children” (Ether 15:15)—gathered about that hill Cumorah (see Ether 15:11)....

"Thus perished at the foot of Cumorah the remnant of the once mighty Jaredite nation, of whom the Lord had said, “There shall be none greater … upon all the face of the earth.” (Ether 1:43.)

"As I contemplated this tragic scene from the crest of Cumorah and viewed the beautiful land of the Restoration as it appears today, I cried in my soul, “How could it have happened?”
...
"The tragic fate of the Jaredite and the Nephite civilizations is proof positive that the Lord meant it when he said that this “is a land of promise; and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall serve God, or they shall be swept off when the fulness of his wrath shall come upon them. And the fulness of his wrath cometh upon them when they are ripened in iniquity.” (Ether 2:9.)"

When President Uchtdorf finishes, you turn to your professor and say, "That was awesome. Food for thought. We should discuss this in class."

Your professor replies, "Not so fast. He was merely expressing his opinion. And he was wrong. Cumorah is not in New York. It's in Mesoamerica. Or it's in a fantasy land, as we show on our 'internal map' here at BYU. It's anywhere except New York."

You are stunned. "But he just said it was in New York. He stood on the hill where the final battles took place."

"Yes," your professor says, "he did say that. But he was wrong, I tell you. Haven't you read BYU Studies? Or the Interpreter? Or Meridian Magazine? Or FairMormon? Or Book of Mormon Central? All the scholars agree that the prophets and apostles who have said the Hill Cumorah was in New York were wrong."
_____

President Marion G. Romney
President Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, has not given that talk. But a previous Second Counselor in the First Presidency did. President Marion G. Romney was Second Counselor in the First Presidency to President Harold B. Lee and President Spencer W. Kimball. He gave the talk I quoted above in the October 1975 General Conference. You can see it here:
https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1975/10/americas-destiny?lang=eng

If you're a BYU student now, or have been a BYU student any time in the last few decades, your Book of Mormon professor will tell you exactly what our professor said in this scenario.

They all think the prophets and apostles are wrong about Cumorah being in New York.

If I'm wrong about that--if there are any BYU Book of Mormon professors who teach--or who even believe--that Cumorah is in New York--then I'd like to know about it.

Because right now, they're teaching students that Cumorah is anywhere but in New York.
_____

Now, let's continue with General Conference. The next speaker is Elder Bednar. He says this:

"Moroni’s father was commander of the armies of this ancient people, known as Nephites. His name was Mormon. The war of which we speak took place here in America some four hundred years after Christ. (See Morm. 6.)

"As the fighting neared its end, Mormon gathered the remnant of his forces about a hill which they called Cumorah, located in what is now the western part of the state of New York.

"Their enemies, known as Lamanites, came against them on this hill....

"When finished with the record, Moroni was to hide it up in that same Hill Cumorah which was their battlefield. It would come forth in modern times as the Book of Mormon, named after Moroni’s father, the historian who compiled it."

You turn to your professor and say, "Are you saying Elder Bednar was wrong, too?"

Your professor faces you. "Sad to say, yes. He was merely expressing his opinion. And he was wrong. Didn't I just explain what all the scholars say?"

"But don't you teach us to heed the words of the apostles?"

Your professor is losing patience. "Yes, but not when they are expressing their own opinions. In that case, we are free to disagree with them."

"How do we know when they are merely expressing their opinions?" you ask.

"That's easy." Your professor smiles. "Whenever they disagree with the consensus of BYU/CES scholars, they are expressing their opinions. And in this case, they are wrong. Cumorah cannot be in New York."
Elder Mark E. Petersen of the Twelve
_____

Elder Bednar hasn't given the talk I quoted above. But Elder Mark. E. Petersen of the Twelve did, in the October 1978 General Conference. https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1978/10/the-last-words-of-moroni?lang=eng
_____

Another rhetorical tactic your BYU/CES educators will try is to say "The Brethren haven't spoken on this recently."

What they're saying is, 150 years of consistent teaching about Cumorah in New York is not enough. 

They're trying to tell you that the Lord has to repeat things every X number of years, or we are free to reject what the prophets and apostles have taught.

My question is, why keep any records at all? Why have the scriptures, or the General Conference reports, or the records of what Joseph and Oliver and other prophets and apostles have taught, if we aren't supposed to heed them after X number of years?

And how do we come up with the X number of years? Is this in the Handbook of Instructions? Or did a committee of scholars arrive at X because they disagree with teachings that are more than X number of years old? What is the cut-off for ignoring what past prophets and apostles have taught?

In my view, 150+ years of consistent teachings on a specific topic is more than enough for us to "heed the words of the twelve." To insist that the Lord repeat the teaching periodically evinces a lack of faith.
_____

The next time some BYU or CES educator tries to tell you that the Book of Mormon took place in Central America, ask whether he/she heeds the words of the prophets and apostles.

If he/she says yes, ask about the New York Cumorah, beginning with Letter VII and continuing through General Conference.

They will tell you what the professor in my scenario said; i.e., that we heed the prophets and apostles except when they are expressing their opinions, and we know they're expressing their opinions when the intellectuals disagree with them.

Then it's up to you to decide whom to believe.
__________

Since at least 1835, the prophets and apostles have consistently taught that Cumorah is in New York. It wasn't until the 1920s that scholars began teaching that the prophets and apostles were wrong.

Now, in 2017, our LDS intellectuals have pretty well universally rejected the prophets and apostles on this important issue. 

One has gone so far as to ridicule people who believe the prophets and apostles--as well as the prophets and apostles themselves.

BYU Professor John L. Sorenson, in Mormon’s Codex (Deseret Book, 2015), p. 688, writes There remain Latter-day Saints who insist that the final destruction of the Nephites took place in New York, but any such idea is manifestly absurd. Hundreds of thousands of Nephites traipsing across the Mississippi Valley to New York, pursued (why?) by hundreds of thousands of Lamanites, is a scenario worthy only of a witless sci-fi movie, not of history.”

This ridicule of those who believe the prophets and apostles was published by Deseret Book and the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship at BYU.

Popular LDS intellectual and author Terryl Givens wrote the Foreword to this book, claiming "John Sorenson has again upped the ante with what will immediately serve as the high-water mark of scholarship on the Book of Mormon."

Sadly, Professor Givens is correct. Everyone who promotes the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory (or the latest iteration, the "internal map" being taught at BYU right now) agrees with Professor Sorenson on the Cumorah issue. 

Ridiculing the prophets and apostles on this topic has become the default position of our LDS intellectuals, including those teaching at BYU and CES.*
_____

* There may be faculty at BYU or CES who believe what the prophets and apostles have taught about Cumorah. If so, they are silent. Their silence may be due to peer pressure or to institutional policy, but either way, I'd like to know about any faculty who believe Cumorah is in New York. I won't name them, but I'd like to know if there is even one in the system anywhere.

The same goes for Church employees who work in media, public relations, Church magazines, etc.

So far, from all the reports I get, all BYU/CES faculty continue to teach what Professor Sorenson taught in his book; i.e., that the idea of Cumorah in New York is "manifestly absurd."

I've even been told that one BYU professor, if he knows there are students in his class who believe in the New York Cumorah, skips over his slides that promote the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory.

Occasionally I'll hear that someone is "open" to other ideas. How is one "open" to considering the possibility that the prophets and apostles were correct? In what sense does being "open" to this idea constitute heeding the words of the apostles? (3 Nephi 12:1).

It's like saying one is "open" to the idea that the Book of Mormon is an authentic history, that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, etc.

Being "open" to the idea that the apostles have not been wrong is a euphemism for rejecting their words.

I'm also told that BYU has implemented a policy of not linking the Book of Mormon to any actual geography. Maybe that policy was intended to stop the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory, but if that was the intent, it has utterly failed because BYU is now teaching a fantasy "internal map" based specifically on the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs interpretation of the text, with a computer graphic that looks exactly like what most people think is South and Central America. For sure, Cumorah on this map is not in New York.

Here's a previous post on this abstract map:
 http://bookofmormonwars.blogspot.com/2016/06/abstract-maps-revisited.html

Saturday, October 28, 2017

No-Wise 376: additional records

Our favorite web page recently discussed additional records to come forth:

https://knowhy.bookofmormoncentral.org/content/what-were-the-%E2%80%9Cother-records%E2%80%9D-nephi-saw-in-vision

They think the additional records of which Nephi spoke are the various ancient manuscripts related to the Bible. It's true that ancient manuscripts have been found that corroborate and/or tend to prove that our current Bible is a reasonably accurate transmission of much older copies. But those manuscripts don't add to our knowledge; they just confirm the accuracy of the text.

We know from our modern prophets that additional Nephite records will yet come forth. They were stored in Mormon's depository in the Hill Cumorah in New York before Joseph, Oliver, and other brethren moved them.

But they will yet come forth.


Friday, October 27, 2017

Watching General Conference with your BYU Book of Mormon professor

Imagine you are attending or watching General Conference with your BYU Book of Mormon professor or your CES instructor in seminary or Institute.

President Uchtdorf speaks. He says this:

"In the western part of the state of New York near Palmyra is a prominent hill known as the “hill Cumorah.” (Morm. 6:6.) On July twenty-fifth of this year, as I stood on the crest of that hill admiring with awe the breathtaking panorama which stretched out before me on every hand, my mind reverted to the events which occurred in that vicinity some twenty-five centuries ago—events which brought to an end the great Jaredite nation....

"As the conflict intensified, all the people who had not been slain—men “with their wives and their children” (Ether 15:15)—gathered about that hill Cumorah (see Ether 15:11)....

"Thus perished at the foot of Cumorah the remnant of the once mighty Jaredite nation, of whom the Lord had said, “There shall be none greater … upon all the face of the earth.” (Ether 1:43.)

"As I contemplated this tragic scene from the crest of Cumorah and viewed the beautiful land of the Restoration as it appears today, I cried in my soul, “How could it have happened?”
...
"The tragic fate of the Jaredite and the Nephite civilizations is proof positive that the Lord meant it when he said that this “is a land of promise; and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall serve God, or they shall be swept off when the fulness of his wrath shall come upon them. And the fulness of his wrath cometh upon them when they are ripened in iniquity.” (Ether 2:9.)"

When President Uchtdorf finishes, you turn to your professor and say, "That was awesome. Food for thought. We should discuss this in class."

Your professor replies, "Not so fast. He was merely expressing his opinion. And he was wrong. Cumorah is not in New York. It's in Mesoamerica. Or it's in a fantasy land, as we show on our 'internal map' here at BYU. It's anywhere except New York."

You are stunned. "But he just said it was in New York. He stood on the hill where the final battles took place."

"Yes," your professor says, "he did say that. But he was wrong, I tell you. Haven't you read BYU Studies? Or the Interpreter? Or Meridian Magazine? Or FairMormon? Or Book of Mormon Central? All the scholars agree that the prophets and apostles who have said the Hill Cumorah was in New York were wrong."
_____

President Marion G. Romney
President Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, has not given that talk. But a previous Second Counselor in the First Presidency did. President Marion G. Romney was Second Counselor in the First Presidency to President Harold B. Lee and President Spencer W. Kimball. He gave the talk I quoted above in the October 1975 General Conference. You can see it here:
https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1975/10/americas-destiny?lang=eng

If you're a BYU student now, or have been a BYU student any time in the last few decades, your Book of Mormon professor will tell you exactly what our professor said in this scenario.

They all think the prophets and apostles are wrong about Cumorah being in New York.

If I'm wrong about that--if there are any BYU Book of Mormon professors who teach--or who even believe--that Cumorah is in New York--then I'd like to know about it.

Because right now, they're teaching students that Cumorah is anywhere but in New York.
_____

Now, let's continue with General Conference. The next speaker is Elder Bednar. He says this:

"Moroni’s father was commander of the armies of this ancient people, known as Nephites. His name was Mormon. The war of which we speak took place here in America some four hundred years after Christ. (See Morm. 6.)

"As the fighting neared its end, Mormon gathered the remnant of his forces about a hill which they called Cumorah, located in what is now the western part of the state of New York.

"Their enemies, known as Lamanites, came against them on this hill....

"When finished with the record, Moroni was to hide it up in that same Hill Cumorah which was their battlefield. It would come forth in modern times as the Book of Mormon, named after Moroni’s father, the historian who compiled it."

You turn to your professor and say, "Are you saying Elder Bednar was wrong, too?"

Your professor faces you. "Sad to say, yes. He was merely expressing his opinion. And he was wrong. Didn't I just explain what all the scholars say?"

"But don't you teach us to heed the words of the apostles?"

Your professor is losing patience. "Yes, but not when they are expressing their own opinions. In that case, we are free to disagree with them."

"How do we know when they are merely expressing their opinions?" you ask.

"That's easy." Your professor smiles. "Whenever they disagree with the consensus of BYU/CES scholars, they are expressing their opinions. And in this case, they are wrong. Cumorah cannot be in New York."
Elder Mark E. Petersen of the Twelve
_____

Elder Bednar hasn't given the talk I quoted above. But Elder Mark. E. Petersen of the Twelve did, in the October 1978 General Conference. https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1978/10/the-last-words-of-moroni?lang=eng
_____

Another rhetorical tactic your BYU/CES educators will try is to say "The Brethren haven't spoken on this recently."

What they're saying is, 150 years of consistent teaching about Cumorah in New York is not enough. 

They're trying to tell you that the Lord has to repeat things every X number of years, or we are free to reject what the prophets and apostles have taught.

My question is, why keep any records at all? Why have the scriptures, or the General Conference reports, or the records of what Joseph and Oliver and other prophets and apostles have taught, if we aren't supposed to heed them after X number of years?

And how do we come up with the X number of years? Is this in the Handbook of Instructions? Or did a committee of scholars arrive at X because they disagree with teachings that are more than X number of years old? What is the cut-off for ignoring what past prophets and apostles have taught?

In my view, 150+ years of consistent teachings on a specific topic is more than enough for us to "heed the words of the twelve." To insist that the Lord repeat the teaching periodically evinces a lack of faith.
_____

The next time some BYU or CES educator tries to tell you that the Book of Mormon took place in Central America, ask whether he/she heeds the words of the prophets and apostles.

If he/she says yes, ask about the New York Cumorah, beginning with Letter VII and continuing through General Conference.

They will tell you what the professor in my scenario said; i.e., that we heed the prophets and apostles except when they are expressing their opinions, and we know they're expressing their opinions when the intellectuals disagree with them.

Then it's up to you to decide whom to believe.
__________

Since at least 1835, the prophets and apostles have consistently taught that Cumorah is in New York. It wasn't until the 1920s that scholars began teaching that the prophets and apostles were wrong.

Now, in 2017, our LDS intellectuals have pretty well universally rejected the prophets and apostles on this important issue. 

One has gone so far as to ridicule people who believe the prophets and apostles--as well as the prophets and apostles themselves.

BYU Professor John L. Sorenson, in Mormon’s Codex (Deseret Book, 2015), p. 688, writes There remain Latter-day Saints who insist that the final destruction of the Nephites took place in New York, but any such idea is manifestly absurd. Hundreds of thousands of Nephites traipsing across the Mississippi Valley to New York, pursued (why?) by hundreds of thousands of Lamanites, is a scenario worthy only of a witless sci-fi movie, not of history.”

This ridicule of those who believe the prophets and apostles was published by Deseret Book and the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship at BYU.

Popular LDS intellectual and author Terryl Givens wrote the Foreword to this book, claiming "John Sorenson has again upped the ante with what will immediately serve as the high-water mark of scholarship on the Book of Mormon."

Sadly, Professor Givens is correct. Everyone who promotes the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory (or the latest iteration, the "internal map" being taught at BYU right now) agrees with Professor Sorenson on the Cumorah issue. 

Ridiculing the prophets and apostles on this topic has become the default position of our LDS intellectuals, including those teaching at BYU and CES.*
_____

* There may be faculty at BYU or CES who believe what the prophets and apostles have taught about Cumorah. If so, they are silent. Their silence may be due to peer pressure or to institutional policy, but either way, I'd like to know about any faculty who believe Cumorah is in New York. I won't name them, but I'd like to know if there is even one in the system anywhere.

The same goes for Church employees who work in media, public relations, Church magazines, etc.

So far, from all the reports I get, all BYU/CES faculty continue to teach what Professor Sorenson taught in his book; i.e., that the idea of Cumorah in New York is "manifestly absurd."

I've even been told that one BYU professor, if he knows there are students in his class who believe in the New York Cumorah, skips over his slides that promote the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory.

Occasionally I'll hear that someone is "open" to other ideas. How is one "open" to considering the possibility that the prophets and apostles were correct? In what sense does being "open" to this idea constitute heeding the words of the apostles? (3 Nephi 12:1).

It's like saying one is "open" to the idea that the Book of Mormon is an authentic history, that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, etc.

Being "open" to the idea that the apostles have not been wrong is a euphemism for rejecting their words.

I'm also told that BYU has implemented a policy of not linking the Book of Mormon to any actual geography. Maybe that policy was intended to stop the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory, but if that was the intent, it has utterly failed because BYU is now teaching a fantasy "internal map" based specifically on the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs interpretation of the text, with a computer graphic that looks exactly like what most people think is South and Central America. For sure, Cumorah on this map is not in New York.

Here's a previous post on this abstract map:
 http://bookofmormonwars.blogspot.com/2016/06/abstract-maps-revisited.html



Thursday, October 26, 2017

Facts, reason, filters and BYU's "abstract map"

A lot of people are frustrated that our LDS intellectuals don't respond to facts and reason when it comes to Church history and Book of Mormon historicity/geography. But the intellectuals think they developed their theories by a rigorous academic process based on facts and reason.

Why the disconnect?

We need to recognize that most people don't base their opinions on facts and reason, and don't respond to facts and reason that contradicts their opinions. We only think we do, but we're mostly engaged in confirming our biases. And our biases are imprinted by people we trust. Once imprinted, we see everything through bias-confirming filters.

That's how we end up in a world in which so many people disagree so fervently even when they think they're looking at the same facts and applying sound logic and reason.

Scott Adams explains this in his typically succinct and insightful manner:

Arguing On Twitter With Facts - Dilbert by Scott Adams

If you think your opinions are based on facts and logic, but you still agree with everything you've been taught, you might want to take another look. Other people, applying different filters because they were taught differently, will look at the same facts and logic and reach different conclusions.

NOTE: This analysis omits the element of personal experience, which in the Church context includes our personal witness and testimony of the truths of the Gospel. Plus, in the gospel setting, we do (or should) defer to the prophets and apostles as we "give heed unto the words of these twelve" (3 Nephi 12:1).

The words of the prophets and apostles will give us reliable filters through which we can understand and interpret the world accurately. This is why it is so problematic for us to reject their words. We're left with our own inaccurate filters.

Hence the problem: too many of us give heed unto the words of the LDS (and non-LDS) intellectuals instead.
_____

I know this from personal experience. For over 30 years, I was fully invested in the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory I had been taught at BYU. I deferred to people I considered faithful experts.

It was only when I realized my professors had a specific agenda to promote their Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory--to the point of suppressing contradictory information and rejecting the words of the prophets and apostles--that I realized their theory was constructed on a false premise. Actually, several false premises, as I've explained in my books and blogs.

Now, after years of Church service and missionary work, I can see how subversive this theory really is. (People want me to avoid using loaded terms such as subversive, but I can't think of a more accurate term. I'm open to suggestions.)

These trusted professors are still teaching students to reject the words of the prophets and apostles whenever they disagree with the conclusions of the intellectuals at BYU.

If you've read FARMS, FairMormon, BYU Studies, the Interpreter, Meridian Magazine, etc., you know who I'm talking about.

The same people run BMAF.org, Book of Mormon Central, FairMormon and other web pages.
_____

Their influence is pervasive. Think about this:

There are 33,363 students at BYU (https://news.byu.edu/about). (Somehow, only 5,127 are first-year students, but of course everyone was once a first-year student.) There are around 370,000 living graduates from BYU. There are far more graduates from CES.

Every one of these BYU/CES students has been taught the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory, either explicitly (as I was taught) or implicitly.

Most full-time Church staff are BYU graduates, including people working in the committees and departments that handle media, curriculum, Church History, missionary, scriptures and other areas, as well as CES, Public Affairs, etc. If they didn't graduate from BYU, they went through a CES program.

Consequently, the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory has been institutionalized as a common understanding. BYU and CES graduates view facts and logic through the filters imprinted by the faculty, particularly the Religious Education faculty.

Do these faculty members teach students that Cumorah is in New York?

No.

Instead, they teach new students that Cumorah is either (i) in Mesoamerica or (ii) in a fantasy land designed to look like Mesoamerica (see http://bom.byu.edu/).*

This means they are teaching their students that Joseph and Oliver and all their contemporaries and successors, including members of the First Presidency speaking in General Conference, were wrong when they taught that Cumorah was in New York.

Why were they wrong?

Because these modern prophets and apostles disagreed with the theories developed by the intellectuals at BYU.
_____

The filters created by the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory are powerful because of the implied endorsement of Church leaders. After all, these students are attending Church-sponsored BYU/CES.

However, it is the promoters of this theory, not any Church leaders, who are responsible for creating these filters. 

Because everyone involved graduated from BYU/CES, the filters are reinforced not only in the publications and web pages I listed above, but in media, visitors centers, lesson manuals, art, and even in the illustrations in the missionary edition of the Book of Mormon itself. (See examples here:
http://bookofmormonwars.blogspot.com/2016/12/yes-they-do-teach-two-cumorahs-theory.html)

In my opinion, it is the intellectuals who caused this problem by refusing to heed the words of the prophets and apostles. 

Now, it is up to the intellectuals to solve the problem by teaching their students to heed the words of the prophets and apostles instead of rejecting them.
________________

*The developers of the fantasy map recognize they are creating a specific filter, so they include this disclaimer:

"The Church and BYU stay neutral in questions of exactly where the Book of Mormon took place. The Lord could have removed all questions regarding the exact locations of these events but he did not. For that reason, our design team has chosen to develop an internal map that shows relational directions and approximate distances that match the approximately 550 geography descriptions in the text as closely as possible. These are artistic renditions." (http://bom.byu.edu/)

I'll deconstruct this disclaimer with my comments in red.

The Church and BYU stay neutral in questions of exactly where the Book of Mormon took place. 

1. This is a straw man fallacy because the issue is the location of Cumorah, not the broader question of "exactly where the Book of Mormon took place." Since at least 1835, Church leaders have been explicit and united in teaching that Cumorah is in New York. The intellectuals have sown confusion because they convinced themselves that the Book of Mormon describes volcanoes, which don't exist in New York, but Church leaders have never varied from the New York Cumorah. When members of the First Presidency specifically speak on a topic in General Conference, they are not being "neutral" on that topic. 

2. The location of Cumorah does not determine "exactly where the Book of Mormon took place." That broader topic remains open for discussion and study and further revelation. But the location of Cumorah is, or should be, unequivocal if we heed the words of the prophets and apostles. When Oliver Cowdery wrote Letter VII, he was the ordained Assistant President of the Church. On that basis alone, we should heed his words. Plus, Joseph Smith assisted in writing the letters and endorsed them on multiple occasions. But Oliver was also qualified by personal experience, having been one of the men who actually visited Mormon's depository in the New York hill he identified as Cumorah. All subsequent prophets and apostles who have addressed the topic have officially affirmed what Joseph and Oliver taught.

3. This "neutrality" argument is a euphemism for giving the intellectuals an excuse to promote their own agenda and to teach students not to heed the words of the prophets and apostles when they disagree with what the intellectuals think.

4. Despite this lip service, BYU is hardly neutral. For decades, the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory was publicly and widely promoted at BYU (and in CES). BYU publications, including BYU Studies, continue to promote the theory to this day. This very map is based on the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs interpretation of the text, and it explicitly shows Cumorah not in New York! That's not neutrality. That's taking a specific position.

5. Even if BYU intellectuals suddenly became actually neutral, proclaiming neutrality is a transparent ruse unless the institution or people claiming neutrality either (i) reject past positions that have become the "consensus" or at least (ii) give an equal voice to alternatives. To date, the intellectuals at BYU have done neither. 

6. The version of "neutrality" expressed in this disclaimer is like the Neutrality Acts of the 1930s that prevented the U.S. from taking sides as Nazi Germany invaded other countries and seized their land.

Actually, it's more like the way the Soviet Union was "neutral" after the Soviet takeover of Eastern Europe after World War II. Once they took the territory, the Soviets were happy with the status quo and were "neutral" on further border changes.

Enshrining a favorable status quo by proclaiming "neutrality" after the invasion or domination is a favorite tactic of totalitarians. I don't think it is an appropriate tactic for BYU to engage in. 

The Lord could have removed all questions regarding the exact locations of these events but he did not.

Another straw man fallacy. We're not talking about "all questions regarding the exact locations." We're talking about one specific location: Cumorah in New York. The intellectuals at BYU use this straw man argument because they don't want parents (and donors) to realize that they teach their students that Joseph, Oliver and all their contemporaries and successors were wrong.

For that reason, our design team has chosen to develop an internal map that shows relational directions and approximate distances that match the approximately 550 geography descriptions in the text as closely as possible. 

Here is the filter. The intellectuals use the term "neutral" because it has a connotation of "unbiased," but this "internal map" is based on the Sorenson translation of the Book of Mormon, adjusted 90 degrees so it goes north/south instead of using Sorenson's "west means coastline" theory. 

This "internal map" is nothing more than the "consensus" interpretation of the intellectuals who promote the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory. It is designed to confirm the bias of that interpretation.

By claiming that the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory matches "the text as closely as possible," these intellectuals are communicating the message that other interpretations do not follow the text, or do not follow it closely. 

The weakness of their position is evident by their ongoing refusal to show students alternative interpretations of the text (especially not those that follow the text more closely).

And they continue to refuse to teach students what the prophets and apostles have said on the topic of Cumorah in New York.

This is the antithesis of neutrality, and everyone knows it.

These are artistic renditions.

These "artistic renditions" are specific teachings that Cumorah is not in New York, which means the prophets and apostles are wrong.




Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The Power of the Book of Mormon vs. BYU intellectuals

In April 2017, President Monson gave his awesome talk, "The Power of the Book of Mormon," here.

In October 2017, President Nelson gave another awesome talk about the power of the Book of Mormon, summarized here. "These and other truths are more powerfully and persuasively taught in the Book of Mormon than in any other book. The full power of the gospel of Jesus Christ is contained in the Book of Mormon. Period."

The power of the Book of Mormon is undeniable among those who read and accept it.
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What prevents people from reading and accepting it?

Disbelief.

And what causes people to disbelieve?

We expect all kinds of opposition from outside. People don't want to change their beliefs or their behavior, so naturally they're going to resist the Book of Mormon, which urges them to do both. Opponents cast doubt on the origins of the Book of Mormon, its historicity, and its relevance.

They always have and they always will.

The more serious problem is what is going on at BYU right now.
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As an institution, BYU completely embraces the Book of Mormon, as it should.

However, intellectuals at BYU are undermining faith by teaching students that:

- Joseph didn't even use the plates to translate the Book of Mormon, thereby defying his own words and the revelations.

- the Book of Mormon took place in a fantasy land based on the Mesoamerican interpretation of the text, thereby defying both the purported neutrality position and the literal reality of the account. See http://bom.byu.edu/

- if the Hill Cumorah exists at all, it is in Mexico, thereby defying what Joseph and Oliver taught, based on their actual experience with Mormon's depository in the hill in New York (Mormon 6:6).
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As long as BYU continues to undermine faith by teaching these ideas, how can we expect the power of the Book of Mormon to have its full impact among members of the Church, let alone among nonmembers?


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Truth will cut its own way

Joseph Smith is reported to have said this on July 9, 1843:

"If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No; I will left them up, and in their own way too if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning; for truth will cut its own way."

http://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/history-1838-1856-volume-e-1-1-july-1843-30-april-1844/36
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There is enough content in this brief quotation to justify numerous discussions and blog posts, but I'll summarize just a couple of things here.

I like the way Joseph referred to persuasion. Let's try some reasoning.

Which of the following two approaches to Book of Mormon geography is better

1. A geography based on a New York Cumorah that supports and sustains what Joseph and Oliver taught, as affirmed by all of their contemporaries and successors (including members of the First Presidency speaking in General Conference).

OR

2. A geography based on Cumorah being anywhere except New York, that frames Joseph and Oliver, as well as all their contemporaries and successors (including members of the First Presidency speaking in General Conference), as ignorant speculators who misled the Church by expressing personal opinions that were false (and, in the case of Joseph and Oliver, specifically identifying their false opinions as fact).

If you think option 2 is better, then you can teach at BYU, write for BYU Studies, and contribute to Book of Mormon Central, FairMormon, etc.

If you think option 1 is better, your ideas are censored by the above institutions and publications.
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Now, let's consider the last part of the quotation.

If we have confidence that "truth will cut its own way," we are happy to have people consider all the facts. 

That's why I cite the Mesoamerican sources so frequently. I want people to know what these intellectuals are saying.

In my experience, once they learn about Letter VII, few members of the Church knowingly reject what Joseph and Oliver taught there. 

The ones who continue to reject Joseph and Oliver despite Letter VII are those who are so deeply imprinted with the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory that they literally "can't unsee it," to use the words of a BYU professor.

The only reason the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory has prevailed is because our LDS intellectuals have suppressed Letter VII and the teachings of the prophets and apostles who have affirmed what Joseph and Oliver taught about Cumorah being in New York.

Why do they do this?

Because they have persuaded themselves that their interpretation of the text is superior to unequivocal teachings of Joseph and Oliver about the Hill Cumorah.

Our LDS intellectuals don't trust members of the Church to discern the truth on their own.
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We will know that our LDS intellectuals believe that "truth will cut its own way" when they give their readers--and their students--all the information about the New York Cumorah.

At a minimum, this will require the following:

1. BYU offers students a version of their digital map that refers to Letter VII and shows Cumorah in New York instead of requiring them to learn a fantasy map that frames the Book of Mormon as fiction.
http://bom.byu.edu/download-bom-maps-in-hd/

2. BYU Studies publishes an article about Letter VII and the prophets and apostles who have affirmed the New York Cumorah, including members of the First Presidency speaking in General Conference.

3. Book of Mormon Central (https://bookofmormoncentral.org/) stops being Book of Mormon Central America and offers its readers all the research and information about the Book of Mormon, instead of pursuing its editorial position "to increase understanding of the Book of Mormon as an ancient Mesoamerican codex" (http://bmaf.org/about/mission_statement).

4. FairMormon invites proponents of the New York Cumorah to provide material to allow a side-by-side comparison of the two approaches: i.e., Cumorah in New York vs. Cumorah anywhere else.

Based on recent experience, I doubt these events will ever occur, at least not so long as the people currently in charge remain in charge.
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Notice, I'm not even mentioning the Interpreter or Meridian Magazine, because the editors of those publications are even more intransigent than the ones I listed...




Monday, October 23, 2017

How FairMormon sows contention

I read a comment on lds.org that led me to write something important about FairMormon. Here's the comment:

As of late, I have found myself arguing with many of my conservative and liberal LDS brothers and sisters on social media. Mainly, those take snippets from current General Conference talks, warp them to satisfy their confirmation bias that they have developed, use them to guilt trip and beat into submission those who may not agree with their philosophy, all while they ignore the established doctrines that do not sustain their warped views at all. What's is the proper way of debating these types of people who are leading many astray? If these brothers and sisters are going to blatantly ignore Scripture and Prophets anyways, is it worth the time and effort to debate them at all? It is hard to just testify of the truth and leave it at that on social media because that's usually where the confrontational arguments stem from in the first place. Someone testifies, but then someone has a counter-testimony that rejects the first. Both cannot be the truth.

https://www.lds.org/broadcasts/face-to-face/oaks-ballard?cid=HP_TH_19-10-2017_dPFD_fCNWS_xLIDyL1-C_&lang=eng#d

This is exactly what we expect will happen when people go to FairMormon for answers.

FairMormon has a distinct editorial point of view that they don't disclose. They pretend to be neutral and to follow Church leaders, but in reality they are promoting their own agenda with well-planned and executed sophistry.

While FairMormon purports to provide "faithful answers to criticisms of the LDS church," FairMormon emphatically teaches readers to disregard the words of the prophets and apostles that contradict the editorial opinions of the FairMormon staff.

This leads to exactly the type of disputation and contention that the Savior warned against in 3 Nephi 11. I blogged about this separately here: https://bookofmormonconsensus.blogspot.com/

The latest issue of the New Era refers to fairmormon and BookofMormonCentral (https://www.lds.org/new-era/2017/10/to-the-point?lang=eng), and as I've always said, both sites contain good material.

But you need to use extreme caution in referring to both sites because they are pushing a specific agenda that involves rejecting the words of the prophets and apostles. 
_____

FairMormon's work is causing members of the Church to become confused and greatly disturbed in their faith in the Book of Mormon, just as Joseph Fielding Smith warned.

Here's one example. On this page
https://www.fairmormon.org/answers/Book_of_Mormon/Hill_Cumorah/Quotes

they declare, "Church leaders have expressed a variety of opinions over the years regarding the location of the Hill Cumorah."

Instead of the "variety of opinions" FairMormon wants their readers to believe, the modern prophets and apostles have been united and clear in affirming Oliver Cowdery's teaching that it was a fact that the Hill Cumorah is in New York.

Look at how FairMormon deceives members of the Church by omitting the material that contradicts the FairMormon editorial position that promotes the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory.

Here's their list of "Church leaders" supposedly expressing "a variety of opinions:"

They list exactly one General Conference address, the one by President Romney of the First Presidency. We have to give them credit for that, at least, but they list it as an example of "an opinion."

FairMormon's overall editorial position is that any statement by the prophets and apostles that contradicts FairMormon's beliefs is merely an "opinion" that can be rejected.

Notice how this list of statements by "Church leaders" specifically omits Letter VII, written by the ordained Assistant President of the Church and repeatedly endorsed by Joseph Smith. FairMormon omits General Conference addresses confirming Letter VII given by President Ivins and Elder Peterson. They omit statements from Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Wilford Woodruff, and others.

All of these undisclosed statements by modern prophets and apostles are consistent and explicit about Cumorah being in New York.

Instead, FairMormon lists President Lee's obscure comment out of context, because they know that in the actual talk, President Lee listed the two-Cumorahs theory among other false doctrines taught by seminary and institute teachers, as I've shown here:  http://bookofmormonwars.blogspot.com/2017/10/fairmormons-famous-harold-b-lee.html

Next they list Paul R. Cheesman as a "Church leader."

Next, they cite the phony fax to repudiate an official letter from the office of the First Presidency, which I've discussed here: http://bookofmormonwars.blogspot.com/2016/11/how-to-create-some-doctrine.html

Finally, they attack President Joseph Fielding Smith's warning about the two-Cumorahs theory as merely his opinion and therefore something to be ignored. "These are not the droids you're looking for."

This final item on the list is especially audacious because they don't even show readers what President Smith actually said.* Instead, they give readers two paragraphs of sophistry designed to encourage readers not to heed the words of the prophets and apostles.
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There's a lot more on FairMormon to discuss, but I'll just mention this one.

On this page, they purport to show "Statements on Book of Mormon geography made during Joseph Smith's lifetime: 1829-1840."  https://www.fairmormon.org/answers/Book_of_Mormon/Geography/Statements/Nineteenth_century/Joseph_Smith%27s_lifetime_1829-1840

This one is framed as a comprehensive list, but notice that it omits Letter VII!

Well, not completely. I'll explain below, after I show you FairMormon's list:

If you look carefully, you'll see the entry "Oliver Cowdery (Jul 1835). If you click on that link, you get not Letter VII entire, and not the passage in which he explains it is a fact that the final battles took place in the mile-wide valley west of the Hill Cumorah in New York. Instead, you get this:

Oliver Cowdery (Jul 1835): "A history of the inhabitants who peopled this continent, previous to its being discovered to Europeans by Columbus"

Oliver Cowdery to W.W. Phelps in Messenger and Advocate
A history of the inhabitants who peopled this continent, previous to its being discovered to Europeans by Columbus, must be interesting to every man; and as it would develope the important fact, that the present race were descendants of Abraham....[11]
Note that "this continent" refers to both North and South America; Columbus never set foot in the present day United States; he was confined to the the Caribbean, South America and Central America. (Click here for maps of Columbus' voyages.)
This is sophistry that should be admired by everyone who studies techniques of persuasion. If you want to mislead people, you can learn a lot from FairMormon.

I've discussed this page in detail here:
http://bookofmormonwars.blogspot.com/2017/07/the-official-position-of-church-part-3.html


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*FairMormon has finally put President Smith's warning on its web page, but it immediately framed the warning as meaningless because of 50-year-old hearsay by a student who attended a BYU class by Sidney B. Sperry who supposedly claimed that President Smith told him he was entitled to his own opinion. Check it out for yourself:
https://www.fairmormon.org/answers/Book_of_Mormon/Geography/Statements/Twentieth_century/Joseph_Fielding_Smith

So on one hand, we have an Apostle and Church Historian warning that the two-Cumorahs theory will cause members of the Church to become confused and greatly disturbed in their faith, and then, as President of the Quorum of the Twelve, repeating that same warning.

On the other hand, we have FairMormon teaching its readers that, based on anecdotal 50-year-old hearsay, "It seems clear, then, that Elder (later President) Smith did not regard his views as the product of revelation, nor did he regard it as illegitimate to have a different view of the matter."