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, August 8, 2018

Do LDS scholars speak for God?

An online blog exchange the other day* finally revealed publicly the thought process of the M2C scholars. I've waited a long time to be able to write about this.

The exchange revealed the mindset among M2C intellectuals that explains much of what I've been discussing in this blog.

This mindset justifies them in using censorship, sophistry, and presuasion to protect and promulgate their M2C theories and to persuade Church members to disbelieve the prophets.

In the course of explaining why he wrote a Kno-Why for Book of Mormon Central, the blogger responded to my comments in this blog by writing this:

As long as you keep screaming about “M2C intellectuals” ruining the Church, you’re actually telling people to disbelieve the modern prophets and apostles who keep hiring them to work for the Church and guide the Church’s membership in intellectual and historical matters.**

There is a lot packed into this shocking claim.

Reading past his histrionics, we see what he is claiming; i.e., the modern prophets and apostles are hiring these M2C intellectuals "TO GUIDE THE CHURCH'S MEMBERSHIP IN INTELLECTUAL AND HISTORICAL MATTERS."

Long gone, apparently, are the days when we're supposed to follow the prophets. According to these intellectuals, Church leaders have hired them to guide the Church. 

The corollary: criticism of these scholars constitutes criticism of Church leaders, which is criticism of God.

This is every scholar's dream: infallibility and immunity from criticism.

No wonder members of the M2C citation cartel do everything they can to maintain their power and influence.***

What would lead a fine young LDS scholar to make such a claim?

At first glance, we could infer that this scholar merely fits the stereotype of a college student who deeply admires his professors and mentors, putting them on a pedestal. As such, his claims could be easily ignored.

But in this case, his claim is the product of what he has been taught at BYU and especially at Book of Mormon Central.

How do I know that?

Some time ago I had a conversation with one of the leaders of Book of Mormon Central. I asked how he justified repudiating the prophets; i.e., how he could reconcile his M2C convictions with the unambiguous and persistent teaching of the prophets that Cumorah is in New York. The conversation went something like this****

Him: "The prophets were merely expressing their own opinions about Cumorah, as men. And they were wrong."

Me: "But they testified of the truth of what they taught about Cumorah being in New York. Joseph Fielding Smith warned that the two-Cumorahs theory would cause members of the Church to become confused and disturbed in their faith in the Book of Mormon."

Him: "Joseph Fielding Smith also said men would never walk on the moon. We take everything he said with a grain of salt."

[Note: JFS joked about his comment when he met with the Apollo astronauts, but he never joked about his warning regarding M2C, which he reissued while President of the Quorum of the Twelve.]

Me: "Are you saying we should follow the intellectuals instead of the prophets?"

Him: "We follow the modern prophets, not the dead ones. And whenever the modern prophets have questions about the Book of Mormon, who do they call?"

Me: "Who?"

Him: "Jack Welch [Chairman of Book of Mormon Central and Editor-in-Chief of BYU Studies]. He has bailed the Brethren out in the past. They trust him because he's the Church's main expert on the Book of Mormon. They rely on him for answers."

Me: "Let me get this straight. Are you saying we should rely on Jack Welch instead of the prophets?"

Him: "Absolutely. The dead prophets didn't have the knowledge and understanding we have today. That's why they were wrong about Cumorah. The current prophets rely on Jack Welch, so we do also. Jack believes in M2C, and that's why we teach M2C exclusively at Book of Mormon Central. If you want to follow the living prophets, you have to follow Jack Welch."

[Let me assure readers that the conversation was not with Brother Welch. I have no idea if he would countenance this conversation, but regardless, it is what the young people are being taught, as we see in the comment above about how the employees are hired to guide the Church. But this brings up a related point. Brother Welch is so influential that his support of M2C is what keeps it alive. If Brother Welch ever decided to follow the prophets instead of the intellectuals regarding the New York Cumorah, M2C would vanish.]

In retrospect, this conversation explains everything that I have been writing about the choice between the prophets vs the scholars.

The M2C intellectuals, as well as the M2C employees at BYU, CES, and COB, don't see a conflict between their teachings and the teachings of the prophets because, in their minds, the prophets have hired them to guide the Church.

IOW, according to the M2C intellectuals, if there is a conflict between what they teach and what past prophets have taught, the past prophets are wrong because the modern prophets have empowered these employees to speak for God.

Hence, these intellectuals have the absolute right to contradict any dead prophet they want. They have the absolute right to edit out past teachings they disagree with.

The intellectuals have further vindicated their beliefs by observing that BYU and CES are subject to supervision by the modern prophets. The Departments of the Church are run by Committees that include modern prophets. Therefore, they claim that anything published or depicted by these organizations is the will of God, even if it repudiates the past prophets.

You can see how alluring such a notion would be for an intellectual.

Imagine: your theories, developed in collaboration with other like-minded intellectuals, are inherently endorsed by God. They are beyond reproach. They cannot even be questioned, let alone challenged.

Infallibility and immunity from criticism.

Now you see why the M2C citation cartel operates the way it does.

In an ideal world, we should be able to rely on everything published by BYU, CES and COB. It's a legitimate point that these organizations are managed by faithful members of the Church who have good intentions. They are supervised by Church leaders through Committees in the various Departments of the Church.

But what if it turns out that the M2C employees filter out everything that contradicts their theories before it reaches the Committee level?

What if the Brethren are never even presented with contrary evidence?

In an upcoming post, I'll show how that is exactly what is happening.

In the meantime, let this belief among the M2C intellectuals sink in a while.

Because they think they speak for God, these intellectuals actually think God justifies everything they think and do.

They believe they are justified in repudiating past prophets and in teaching Church members to do likewise.

They believe they are justified in establishing the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory (M2C) and in using whatever tactics are necessary to accomplish that goal, including censorship, obfuscation, presuasion, and sophistry.

They believe they are justified in maintaining the citation cartel, in which they review one another's work to make sure it complies with the M2C orthodoxy.

Plus, this justification extends to all intellectuals throughout the Church, so long as they are hired by the Church in one way or another.

To be sure, this is not a universal belief among Church employees. Most of them, surely, do not think they speak for God. But enough of them who are in positions of authority do think this, and they teach it to their followers. Hence the comment that started this post.

I think most Church members would prefer to follow the prophets themselves, both those living and those who have passed on, instead of the M2C intellectuals.

I think the M2C intellectuals know this as well.

That's why they created the M2C citation cartel to censor the teachings that contradict M2C. Now we have Book of Mormon Central Censor which is taking this tactic to a new level.

In upcoming posts, we'll discuss these issues in more detail.


*Here's what led to this post.

The other day we had a long exchange online with a contributor to Book of Mormon Central who had just written Kno-Why #453. This is the one that purports to instruct Church members how to understand and use President Cowdery's eight historical essays on the priesthood and Church history. The M2C intellectuals have long claimed to be the ones who decide for the Church which teachings of the prophets are reliable and credible.

Their entirely predictable bottom line: don't believe Letter VII because it contradicts M2C.*

During the exchange, among other gems, he made this statement:

So please, Jonathan, spare us all the self-righteous BS about how “M2C intellectuals” are trying to get people to disbelieve the prophets and apostles.

Because guess what: as long as you keep doing what you’re doing, you are, in fact, doing the exact same thing. As long as you keep screaming about “M2C intellectuals” ruining the Church, you’re actually telling people to disbelieve the modern prophets and apostles who keep hiring them to work for the Church and guide the Church’s membership in intellectual and historical matters.

Let's parse this a bit.

He characterizes as "BS" my observations that "'M2C intellectuals' are trying to get people to disbelieve the prophets and apostles." Yet these comments were a response to a post that listed 7 reasons why people should disbelieve President Cowdery, as well as all the subsequent prophets who reaffirmed what Letter VII teaches; i.e., that Cumorah is in New York.

IOW, the sole objective of the Kno-Why and the blog post was to persuade people to disbelieve what past prophets and apostles have taught and testified of.

I discussed Kno-Why #453 here:
http://bookofmormonwars.blogspot.com/2018/07/m2c-intellectuals-terrified-of-letter.html and here:

You can read the whole exchange here, unless he takes it down (in which case I have it archived anyway). https://www.plonialmonimormon.com/2018/07/seven-reasons-why-letter-vii-is-not-a-heartlander-silver-bullet.html#comment-5568

**The scholar appeared to limit the scope of his claim by saying these scholars speak for God only in "intellectual and historical matters."

Let's consider how much of a limitation this is.

Apart from Priesthood ordinances, Church administration, and individual counseling, what aspects of the Church do not fall within the category of "intellectual and historical matters?" Pretty much every doctrinal issue is either intellectual or historical, especially when these intellectuals claim that interpreting the scriptures is an intellectual exercise.

Now we see why BYU, CES, and COB employees feel justified in developing, promoting and enforcing their M2C catechism by whatever means are necessary. They believe they are speaking for God.

This mentality has led them to revise Church history, censor critical teachings, and assume the authority for declaring what is and what is not a "correct belief."

These M2C scholars actually think they are immune from criticism because they speak for God. That's why they feel entitled to censor views they disagree with.
That's why they felt entitled to establish the M2C citation cartel in the first place.
That's how they rationalize their ongoing effort to persuade the youth of the Church to disbelieve the prophets and believe them, the intellectuals, instead.

As always, I express my respect and admiration for these scholars and the work they do. I rely upon and cite their work all the time and encourage others to read it. I like them all on a personal level. They are all great people, faithful members of the Church, etc. My comments focus not on any individuals but on what they are teaching and the tactics they're using to disseminate their teachings throughout the Church. This mentality has developed organically over many years, and it is a natural extension of the stereotypical academic arrogance that has been observed since ancient times--e.g., 2 Ne. 9:29. I'm not calling anyone to repentance. I'm not calling anyone an apostate. I merely seek to expose what has been going on, without assigning any blame to any individual, so that ordinary members of the Church can choose whether to follow the prophets or the scholars. For me, it's a clear choice once we know all the facts.

**** I didn't record the conversation, but I remember it distinctly because of how much it shocked me. The gist has been verified several times, most recently in the comment about how the Brethren hire the scholars to guide the Church.

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