We love everyone involved with Book of Mormon Central and share their stated objectives of sharing the gospel. However, we think their single-minded focus on the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory (M2C) undermines their mission and contradicts the Church's policy of neutrality. Here, we explain why. They could fix the problem by recognizing that many members of the Church still believe what the prophets have taught about the New York Cumorah, but they refuse to do so.
Monday, April 2, 2018
Conference thoughts - April 2018
Naturally, everyone is talking about the change in the Priesthood quorums and ministering, which are awesome. Because this blog focuses on Book of Mormon issues, I see three elements in the conference that are directly relevant.
Recall that the M2C* intellectuals have two main excuses for rejecting Letter VII and all the other prophets and apostles who have re-affirmed the New York Cumorah. As you consider these, recall what Elder Andersen said Saturday morning: "Don't be surprised if at times your personal views are not initially in harmony with the teachings of the Lord's prophet.... Some will try to overly dissect the prophet's words. struggling to determine what is his prophetic voice, and what is his personal opinion." He quoted President Nelson as saying, "My philosophy is to stop putting question marks behind the prophet’s statements and put exclamation points instead."
It is inexplicable to me how casually and adamantly the M2C intellectuals reject the words of the prophets and apostles about the New York Cumorah, but even more puzzling is how many Church members follow these intellectuals.
Here are the M2C arguments and how I saw them addressed in this Conference.
BYU fantasy map of the Book of Mormon, teaching the prophets are wrong
1. "It was their opinion, and they were wrong." If you know BYU/CES employees who advocate M2C or the fantasy maps of the Book of Mormon, ask them about Letter VII. Many of them will claim they never heard of it. I've met long-time BYU/CES people who actually never had heard of Letter VII, thanks to the ongoing suppression efforts of the M2C intellectuals.
But if they have heard of Letter VII, they will tell you that Letter VII was merely President Cowdery's opinion, and he was wrong. They will tell you that Joseph Smith passively accepted this false tradition when Letter VII was copied into his personal history and republished multiple times with Joseph's permission/direction.
They will tell you that when James E. Talmage wrote Articles of Faith (a book published by the Church itself), he was wrong, too. They will tell you that members of the First Presidency speaking in General Conference were wrong, along with the various Apostles who also taught that Cumorah was in New York.
You should ask these M2C intellectuals why they teach that all these prophets and apostles were wrong. In response, they'll tell you Cumorah cannot be in New York because it has to be in Mesoamerica. It's purely circular reasoning.
[Note: most CES/BYU/Church employees have been trained to repeat some stock answers such as Cumorah's geology as a drumlin and why the text never mentions snow, all of which I've addressed on this blog and none of which have nothing to do with why the M2C intellectuals reject the prophets.]
Bottom line: according to the M2C intellectuals, all these Church leaders were merely expressing their opinions, and the prophets and apostles were wrong because the M2C intellectuals know better than the prophets and apostles.
This includes BYU/CES teachers currently teaching Book of Mormon classes to our youth. Imagine the youth learning that the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah were merely their "opinions."
This selective repudiation of the prophets has been discussed throughout the scriptures, and it was reiterated in this weekend's General Conference.
2. "We don't go back more than 30 years." If you wonder why you have never heard about Letter VII or the teachings of the prophets and apostles about the New York Cumorah, ask some BYU/CES employees. They will tell you they don't go back more than 30 years to quote from General Authorities, except in the case of Presidents of the Church, and then only to quote what Presidents have said while President. This is because they know that the New York Cumorah was clearly and unambiguously declared from at least 1835 through General Conference in 1975 and 1978. (That was 40 years ago now, but they started this 30-year rule some years ago.)
What did we learn from this Conference about these twin pillars of M2C?
1. Opinion excuse. Elder Anderson specifically mentioned the "it's just their opinion" rationale. He quoted President Nelson but didn't quote President Benson in his remarks, although perhaps President Benson's teaching may appear in the published footnotes.
2. 30 years excuse. The Brethren went back to the original revelations to explain the change in the Priesthood quorums. President Oaks quoted Joseph F. Smith, who published Letter VII in the Improvement Era when he was editor in 1899. Other prophets and apostles from the past were also quoted. The arbitrary BYU/CES 30-year rule doesn't apply to the Brethren speaking in General Conference because Church leaders want members of the Church to know what their predecessors taught, and they consider those teachings relevant and important today.
In my view, the rationalizations of the M2C intellectuals were repudiated in this General Conference. IOW, we saw the repudiation of the M2C intellectuals who repudiate the prophets.
At the outset, I mentioned three elements. The third is the issue of ministering.
Disbelief in the Book of Mormon is a major obstacle for activation and missionary work. Yet M2C puts faithful members (and missionaries) in the position of contradicting the prophets and apostles while explaining the Book of Mormon and all the M2C materials published through the Correlation Department (as well as the visitors centers). It's an inherently contradictory approach.
Since M2C became established around 1980, the M2C intellectuals have largely succeeded in suppressing the teachings about the New York Cumorah. But days of suppression and censorship are over, thanks to the Internet (and the Joseph Smith Papers if you look hard enough).
Joseph Smith himself recognized the importance of actual evidence when he recounted "the history of the Book of Mormon" while passing through Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, which he said were "the plains of the Nephites." He described "roving over the mounds of that once beloved people of the Lord, picking up their skulls & their bones, as a proof of its divine authenticity."
If Joseph thought "proof of its divine authenticity" was important during his lifetime, why would it not be now? The answer is simple: because the M2C intellectuals have persuaded so many people that the "best evidence" of the Book of Mormon contradicts the teachings of the prophets. That's why the Correlation Department diverts attention from the issue, as I'll explain tomorrow.
Ironically, the best evidence supports the prophets, but the M2C intellectuals are too invested in their theory to recognize this evidence.
Naturally, the M2C intellectuals will observe that the topic of the New York Cumorah was not specifically addressed. But the New York Cumorah has been repeatedly taught by Church leaders, including in General Conference, and has never been modified, changed, or even questioned by any member of the Twelve or First Presidency.
The Brethren don't have to respond to every theory raised by the intellectuals, whether it is M2C or another topic. Instead, it is the M2C intellectuals who should be replacing the question marks they place after the words of the prophets with exclamation marks.
When the entire Church is united on the course Joseph and Oliver established regarding the "proof of the divine authenticity" of the Book of Mormon, ministering to the people (members and nonmembers) will be much more effective.
Many people don't realize that President Nelson and President Oaks were originally called to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles at the same time in April 1984. President Spencer W. Kimball called them to fill vacancies caused by the deaths of Elders LeGrand Richards and Mark E. Petersen.
The latter two Apostles both specifically taught that Cumorah was in New York.
LeGrand Richards: "It was at this time that Mormon deposited in the Hill Cumorah all the records that had been entrusted to him except a few plates that he gave to his son Moroni. (See Mormon 6.) About A.D. 420, Moroni placed these plates with those his father, Mormon, had already deposited in the hill. (See Moroni 10:1-2.)" A Marvelous Work and a Wonder, p. 73.
Mark E. Petersen: 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.... 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... His people were Americans, too. His words constituted a people-to-people message, ancient Americans speaking to modern Americans.https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1978/10/the-last-words-of-moroni?lang=eng
It's unimaginable to me that either President Nelson or President Oaks would contradict the two Apostles whose deaths caused the vacancies in the Quorum that President Kimball called them to fill. For that matter, it was President Kimball's counselor in the First Presidency, President Marion G. Romney, who delivered the one of the most specific and forceful declarations about Cumorah in New York since Letter VII itself (quoted below).
For more historical background on the Apostles, go here:
Elder Anderson quoted from Ezekiel 33 regarding the role of the prophets as watchmen and the responsibility of those who hear the prophets to heed their warning.
On this blog we've reviewed the warnings from prior prophets and apostles. Joseph Fielding Smith warned that the two-Cumorahs theory would cause members of the Church to become confused and disturbed in their faith.
Marion G. Romney warned that the covenant upon "this land" remains in place, as demonstrated by the destruction of two great nations at Cumorah: "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."
Think about these and related warnings as you read the passage quoted by Elder Andersen.
https://www.lds.org/scriptures/ot/ezek/33.4-6,8?lang=eng&clang=eng#p3 1 Again the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, 2 Son of man, speak to the children of thy people, and say unto them, When I bring the sword upon a land, if the people of the land take a man of their coasts, and set him for their watchman: 3 If when he seeth the sword come upon the land, he blow the trumpet, and warn the people; 4 Then whosoever heareth the sound of the trumpet, and taketh not warning; if the sword come, and take him away, his blood shall be upon his own head. 5 He heard the sound of the trumpet, and took not warning; his blood shall be upon him. But he that taketh warning shall deliver his soul. 6 But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman’s hand. 7 ¶ So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me. 8 When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. 9 Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul. _____ *M2C is the acronym for Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory