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.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Upcoming BOMC conference to promote M2C

There are two conferences scheduled in April that focus on the Book of Mormon from two different perspectives: the New York Cumorah vs M2C (Mesoamerica/Two-Cumorahs). Today we'll look at the M2C conference because the presenters will demonstrate many of the techniques I'm discussing this week.

New York Cumorah. The Firm Foundation Expo is April 5-7 at the Davis County Conference Center. There are over 60 speakers scheduled from 9-9 each day in six different rooms. This works out to something around 120 separate presentations on a variety of topics.
Cost: $30.
Attendance: several thousand people.

M2C. The Book of Mormon Central (BOMC) conference is April 7 at the Utah Valley Convention Center. It goes from 9 to 5:15 and has 10 presentations.
Cost: $35. 
Attendance: a few hundred people.

I know most of the presenters at both of these conferences. Every one of them is awesome. They are good, smart people, and faithful members of the Church (except for a few non-LDS speakers, who are also good, faithful people). I have great respect for each one of them.

I would be happy to speak and participate at either or both conferences, but I was only invited to speak at the Firm Foundation.  

For me, the choice is easy even if I wasn't speaking, because the M2C conference is entirely predictable. They will be trying to persuade people to disbelieve the prophets about the New York Cumorah, but I don't think their efforts are succeeding no matter how many BYU professors they line up.

While there are some good non-M2C presenters at the M2C conference, that conference is essentially a chance to see for yourself how many techniques the intellectuals use to promote M2C.

Let's start with the BOMC logo. This is the logo from the old FARMS (Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies) that BOMC adopted. The logo represents the four languages and cultures that BOMC focuses on: Hebrew, Egyptian, Greek, and Mayan. 

I used to love FARMS. I read their publications, attended their presentations, etc. I was fully persuaded by their promotion of M2C. 

Over time it degenerated into "mean-spirited polemics" that led me to reconsider my previous acceptance of what they promoted. Looking back, it is apparent to me now that the whole focus on M2C was a mistake from the outset, and yet BOMC continues the FARMS legacy of M2C by using the same logo.

Like FARMS, BOMC is anything but neutral in its approach to the Book of Mormon. It promotes M2C exclusively and refuses to allow side-by-side comparisons of different geographical and cultural models. It refuses to even acknowledge alternative perspectives (such as the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah). Lately, it has "branched out" to allow consideration of BYU's fantasy map, which teaches students that the Book of Mormon is fiction.

For these reasons, the only honest name for Book of Mormon Central is Book of Mormon Central America.

Now, let's look at the M2C program. Obviously, my comments are merely my own opinions based on past experience. We could always be surprised and find BOMC supporting the teachings of the prophets instead of ridiculing and repudiating them as they have been doing up to now. If that happens, we'll discuss it in the blog.

1. BMC Staff - Book of Mormon Central: A Year in Review

BOMC has put out some wonderful materials that help readers and viewers understand many aspects of the Book of Mormon. But they have also incessantly promoted M2C. Mesomania infects everything BOMC does, to their choice of archiving material to the "Kno-Why" series they produce. In my view, their repudiation of the prophets' teachings about the New York Cumorah outweighs the otherwise good material they offer. You will see plenty of examples in this review.

2. Matt Roper & Paul Fields - Abinadi to Zenos...28 speakers in the Book of Mormon

This will be one of the best examples of confirmation bias you will ever see. Brothers Roper and Fields have been offering what I call "black box" stylometry studies for several years now. I say "black box" because they only show the results, never the methods, assumptions, or even database they use. (My past requests for such detail have been declined.) Consequently, their results are not replicable. But if you share their bias, you can be sure it will be confirmed during their presentation.

I imagine most of us want to believe there are 28 different speakers in the Book of Mormon, so it should be a fine presentation. And at least this time, we know what database they are using.

Brother Roper wrote the M2C article in BYU (M2C) Studies about which I commented here: 

3. Mark Wright, BYU Ancient Scripture - "In the Fields and in the Forests": Mesoamerican Ecology and Cosmology in the Book of Mormon

This will be interesting and informative because Brother Wright is an excellent presenter, but it will be just another example of illusory correspondences between the Mayans and the Book of Mormon. Brother Wright has been one of the most reasonable and rational M2C promoters, but, IIRC, he's one who has said he "can't unsee" Mesoamerica in the Book of Mormon, and that bias is evident in his work. He wrote an excellent article a while back, claiming that Mesoamerica is the "core" of Book of Mormon geography and North America is the "hinterlands." It was a great insight, except IMO he got it backward; i.e., North America is the core, and Mesoamerica is the "hinterlands" where Lamanite descendants migrated/intermarried after 400 A.D.. I commented on this back in 2014 here: 

4. Rob Jex, LDS Church Priesthood and Family Department - Book of Mormon Videos. 

This should be one of the non-M2C presentations. That said, IIRC, Brother Jex at one time promoted the Baja theory (http://www.bofmmodel.org/study/), which also rejects the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah. I don't know his current views about Cumorah. 

5. John Bytheway, LDS Author - Experiencing the Book of Mormon in the Garden

Probably great, also untainted by M2C.

6. Father Lehi Award to Clate and Carol Mask. 

Brother Mask is a long-time M2C advocate. He's on the Advisory Board of BMAF, the owners of BOMC. 

BMAF is the group whose mission statement is "to increase understanding of the Book of Mormon as an ancient Mesoamerican codex." 

This group expressly repudiates the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah. 

Brother Mask has given many years of commendable service in Central America, but like many people who live and server there, he promotes M2C and rejects Letter VII and the prophets.

7. John W. Welch, BYU Law School - April 7th and the Commencement of the Translation of the Book of Mormon

This looks to be a shortened version of Brother Welch's excellent presentation about the translation from a few months ago, which I discussed here:

This is the presentation in which Brother Welch discussed the timeline of the translation, but because Brother Welch promotes M2C, he censors the critical encounter between David Whitmer and the messenger taking the plates to the Hill Cumorah. 

The M2C people have no explanation for why the messenger would be taking the Harmony plates to Cumorah because they have convinced themselves that (i) there was only one set of plates (ii) the "real Cumorah" is in Mexico, and (iii) the "hill in New York" is merely the place where Moroni put the plates in a stone box. Their explanation for David Whitmer's account is that David was mistaken, confused, senile, or was repeating the false Cumorah tradition created and promulgated by Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery.

Brother Welch always does a fine presentation, with good detail and analysis of the facts. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of BYU Studies, AKA BYU M2C Studies. The home page links to a map of Mesoamerica as the only "plausible" setting for the Book of Mormon. The best one shows the "plausible" locations of the final battles in southern Mexico, with Cumorah as a mountain near the coast of the Gulf of Mexico: https://byustudies.byu.edu/charts/159-plausible-locations-final-battles.

The work of the M2C intellectuals explains why the Hill Cumorah Visitors Center near Palmyra does not even inform visitors of what the prophets have taught about the Hill Cumorah. 

Needless to say, Brother Welch will not discuss the two sets of plates, the depository, or Letter VII.

Ironically, I'll also be discussing the translation of the Book of Mormon on April 7th, but at the FIRM conference. Unlike presenters at the M2C conference, I'll be supporting the teachings of the prophets about Cumorah.

8. Gerrit Dirkmaat, BYU Church History - The Printing of the Book of Mormon

This should be an informative presentation. Brother Dirkmaat probably won't venture into the question of geography, but IIRC, he has tried to explain why no one should believe Letter VII. 

9. Jo Ann Seely, BYU Ancient Scripture - Lehi's Jerusalem

Surely a fascinating presentation on Jerusalem, with no implications for M2C.

10. Tyler Griffin, BYU Ancient Scripture - Book of Mormon Geography: A powerful backdrop to the book’s message

BYU fantasy map that teaches the prophets are wrong
Brother Griffin is a consultant to BOMC and teaches Book of Mormon classes at BYU. He is one of the developers and promoters of the BYU fantasy map of the Book of Mormon. 

The map places Cumorah in a location (at the top of the map to the left here) that is as different from New York as possible.

The reason: this fantasy map is based on the M2C interpretation of the text, but apparently the faculty aren't supposed to relate the Book of Mormon to any real-world location, so instead they teach the students by using a fantasy world.

I consider this map to be a return to the anti-Mormon claims of Mormonism Unvailed that the Book of Mormon is fiction. It was partly the book that President Cowdery was refuting with facts when he wrote and published his Gospel Topics essays, including Letter VII, all the way back in 1835. But today, instead of using the facts related by President Cowdery, these M2C intellectuals teach students to disbelieve those facts.

If you ever get a chance, ask Brother Griffin what he thinks about Letter VII. He usually says that (i) it was never canonized, (ii) it was merely Oliver's personal opinion, and (iii) Oliver was wrong because of M2C.

If you ask him about all the other prophets who have taught that Cumorah is in New York, he usually says those Brethren were also wrong. They were merely expressing their personal opinions, but modern M2C scholars have determined they were mistaken. They were speaking according to their "best understanding at the time." He will say that even when members of the First Presidency declared in General Conference that Cumorah is in New York, they were merely expressing their own incorrect opinions. He will also say that Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, and Wilford Woodruff were wrong about President Cowdery visiting Mormon's depository in the Hill Cumorah.

When you hear these M2C rationalizations, remember what President Ezra Taft Benson taught:

We encourage earthly knowledge in many areas, but remember if there is ever a conflict between earthly knowledge and the words of the prophet, you stand with the prophet and you’ll be blessed and time will show you have done the right thing....

The learned may feel the prophet is only inspired when he agrees with them, otherwise the prophet is just giving his opinion—speaking as a man...

As a prophet reveals the truth it divides the people. The honest in heart heed his words but the unrighteous either ignore the prophet or fight him....


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