Another consideration: no one in the Church is compelled to believe anything. "We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may." People are free to believe the Book of Mormon took place anywhere they want to. Mesoamerica, Baja, New York, the Midwestern U.S., Panama, Chile, Peru, Eritrea, Malaysia--even the BYU/CES fantasy map--whatever works for each person. No one is required to believe what the prophets have taught, even about the hill Cumorah.
That said, members of the Church are confused because while the New York Cumorah is well established in the teachings of the prophets, M2C is taught at CES/BYU and is depicted widely in Church media, artwork, visitors centers, and curriculum.
|BYU fantasy map of the Book of Mormon|
which teaches students that the prophets are wrong
And these same teachers try to avoid the problem by suppressing Letter VII and the other teachings of the prophets--which is exactly the problem that the Millennials cited as the reason they left the Church.
Many people claim the Cumorah issue is not important, but you don't have to spend more than a minute on the Internet to discover the deep chasm between the teachings of the prophets and the teachings of the M2C intellectuals on this point. E.g., http://www.utlm.org/onlineresources/cumorah.htm
We can pretend the youth (and the missionaries) are unaware of the issue, but that's self-delusion of major proportions.
Sometimes there are those who feel their earthly knowledge on a certain subject is superior to the heavenly knowledge which God gives to his prophet on the same subject. They feel the prophet must have the same earthly credentials or training which they have had before they will accept anything the prophet has to say that might contradict their earthly schooling. How much earthly schooling did Joseph Smith have? Yet he gave revelations on all kinds of subjects. … 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....
As members of the Church we have some close quarters to pass through if we are going to get home safely. We will be given a chance to choose between conflicting counsel given by some. That’s why we must learn—and the sooner we learn, the better—to keep our eye on the Prophet, the President of the Church.
There is definitely a major conflict between the earthly knowledge of the M2C intellectuals and the words of the prophets regarding the Hill Cumorah. The M2C intellectuals actually make the argument President Benson identified when they say President Cowdery and all the other prophets were "just giving [their] opinions."
The question for us is, do we stand with the intellectuals or with the prophets?
Now, back to our questions.
We can only surmise, from what the M2C intellectuals say, that it doesn't matter how many times the Brethren declare the New York Cumorah. The M2C intellectuals will reject the teachings of the prophets regardless.
In addition to these fundamentally important Priesthood-related events, President Cowdery had personally visited Mormon's depository in the Hill Cumorah in New York, so he wrote Letter VII from personal experience.
*M2C is the acronym for the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory; i.e., the theory that the "real" hill Cumorah is somewhere in southern Mexico because the Book of Mormon events took place in Mesoamerica.