Friday, August 17, 2018

Great news from FairMormon

I haven't had a chance to comment much on the annual conference of Fairly Mormon (aka FairMormon) that I attended in early August, but there was an important bit of great news that I hadn't thought about before in this way.

Elder Kevin Pearson of the Seventy gave an excellent presentation, as reported in this press release:

https://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/elder-pearson-independent-voices-needed-sustain-faith

He showed this slide. The press release explains what he said.

Elder Pearson said the Church’s effort to take the gospel of Jesus Christ to all the world presents a “massive challenge” due to a lack of awareness of the Church.

He said as many as 6.6 billion people of the 7.6 billion who inhabit the earth have never heard about the gospel. 

At first glance, that might seem like a problem. Nearly 200 years after the Restoration and to this day, most of the world's population has heard nothing about it.

But really it's more of an opportunity and blessing, because it means that 6.6 billion people have never be confused by M2C.

IOW, we members of the Church have an opportunity to get our story straight on the Book of Mormon before most of the world hears about it for the first time. 
_____

30 years ago this coming October General Conference, President Ezra Taft Benson gave an awesome challenge when he declared,

The Book of Mormon is the instrument that God designed to “sweep the earth as with a flood, to gather out [His] elect.” (Moses 7:62.) This sacred volume of scripture needs to become more central in our preaching, our teaching, and our missionary work.

He quoted Elder Bruce R. McConkie's words: "“Few men on earth, either in or out of the Church, have caught the vision of what the Book of Mormon is all about.  … The Book of Mormon shall so affect men that the whole earth and all its peoples will have been influenced and governed by it. … There is no greater issue ever to confront mankind in modern times than this: Is the Book of Mormon the mind and will and voice of God to all men?”

(Note: other speakers at that conference included Russell M. Nelson, Dallin H. Oaks, and M. Russell Ballard.)

If we really believe this--if we really believe that the Book of Mormon is intended for everyone on Earth--we better figure out how we are going to present it to the world.

BYU fantasy map of the
Book of Mormon--the worst
possible way to persuade the
world that the book is true.
Are we going to stick with the M2C intellectuals and teach the world what CES and BYU are teaching our youth?

That is, are we going to tell the world that the Book of Mormon took place in a fantasy land?

Are we going to tell the world that our own prophets are wrong about the New York Cumorah?

As of right now, from all I can see, the answer appears to be yes.

It seems obvious how well that's going to work out.
_____

The contrast in explanations below demonstrates the clarity of the prophets vs. the confusion of the M2C intellectuals.

Put yourself in the place of a prospective investigator. Two young people knock on your door--let's say they are Hare Krishna to give us a sense of how Mormon missionaries appear to people in other cultures--and ask you to read their holy book. They testify to you that it is the word of God.

You: "What is it about?"
Them: "It's an inspired translation of one-thousand years of sacred history that is found nowhere else."
You think: sounds interesting.
You: "Who were the people? Where did they live?"
Them: "Well... you just have to read it and pray about it and you will know it is true."

If you're like most people, busy and already satisfied with your religion, you'll probably end the conversation there, just as most investigators do. But maybe you'll cut them some slack.

You think: they misunderstood me.
You: "No, I mean, what people does the book talk about? Where did they live?"
Them: "They lived between 600 BC and 400 AD in the western hemisphere."
You think: Cool, I've always liked archaeology.
You: "You mean the Inca? the Aztecs?"
Them: "Well... we're not sure. Mostly we think they were Mayans."
You've recently read about Mayans in the news, so you say: "Don't we know all about the Mayans? You said this history of yours is found nowhere else."
Them: "Yes, it's the sacred history of people who lived among the Mayans but were not actually Mayans."
You (increasingly skeptical): "Where exactly did the people in your book live?"
They pull out a fantasy map, the one from BYU or CES.
Them: "We don't know where they lived in the real world, but the book describes a place such as this."

If you made it this far with them, you'll end the conversation now. As nice as they are, these young people are obviously deluded.

But maybe your curiosity prompts you to look them up on the Internet. You discover that, in fact, their prophets did once explain that the book described two civilizations, both of which had final wars of extermination in western New York. That's intriguing, but it's not what these young visitors told you about Mayans. Maybe you look a little more. If you do, you soon discover that the scholars in this religion say the prophets were wrong.

You think, if their own scholars don't believe their prophets, why should I?
And you lose all interest.
_____

Now, compare that with this scenario.

You: "What is it about?"
Them: "It's an inspired translation of one-thousand years of sacred history that is found nowhere else."
You think: sounds interesting.
You: "Who were the people? Where did they live?"
Them: "They were the ancestors of the Native Americans in the Eastern United States. They were divided into two great nations. One destroyed the other at a battleground in western New York."
You: "I've never heard of this before."
Them: "They left behind vast earthworks and artifacts in museums across the United States, but no written records. Except this." They hold up the book.
Now, you have something specific and real to latch onto. You take the book from them.

They say, "It describes how Jesus Christ visited the people after his resurrection..."
_____

Confusion vs. clarity. 

We understand why academics prefer the confusion, the endless semantic debates, the constant search for more highly selective "correspondences" to confirm their biases.

But most people in the world don't share their Mesomania. Investigators are not going to invest time and energy trying to make sense of M2C and the never-ending debates among the M2C scholars about their various "models" of Book of Mormon geography.

Most people in the world don't care about all the details, so long as they have clarity and reality.

This is exactly the type of clarity that prophets have long provided regarding the Book of Mormon. It is why Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery wrote Letter VII and why Joseph had it republished in all the Church newspapers.

Here is the clarity taught by the prophets.

1. Cumorah is in New York.
2. We don't know where the rest of the events took place because there are so many plausible locations, but that doesn't matter because we do have one sure touchstone between the Book of Mormon and the New World to rely upon.
_____

Living as I am now in a country that has an even smaller percentage of LDS than the world as a whole, the scope of President Benson's challenge is all the more daunting. It's one thing to talk about the Book of Mormon to my Catholic neighbors, but what about my Hindu and Muslim neighbors?

In the world today, there are over 1 billion Hindus, nearly 1.8 billion Muslims, about 1 billion Buddhists and believers in other Asian and African traditional religions. There are about 1.2 billion nonreligious and agnostics/atheists. Plus, of course, 2.4 billion Christians. Most Christians who have heard of the Book of Mormon have already rejected it (and have leaders who strongly oppose it).

As Elder Pearson pointed out, most of these people have never heard of the Book of Mormon, the restored Gospel, etc. Many of them have barely heard of Jesus Christ.

Do we really think the best way to approach them is to tell them we have a sacred record of real people but we have no idea where they lived or who they were?

Or, worse, that we can only explain the Book of Mormon by referring to a fantasy map?

It's an absurd proposition.

And it's all the more absurd because our own scriptures declare who the Lamanites were and where their descendants live; i.e., New York, Ohio, and the Midwest (D&C 28, 30, 32). Our own prophets have consistently and persistently declared that both the Jaredites and the Nephites fought wars of annihilation that culminated in western New York.

But instead of sharing this clarity--this crystal clear clarity from the prophets--the M2C intellectuals have generated a mass of confusion with illusory correspondences to Mayan culture.
_____

Elder Pearson also pointed out that “Of the remaining 1.0 billion people who likely have heard of the Church, approximately half have an unfavorable impression about us.”

There are a lot of factors involved with that unfavorable impression that I don't have time to get into. People debate religious precepts, interpretations of the Bible, social issues, etc.

But fundamentally, when our message to the world about our unique scriptures, the Book of Mormon, is that our own prophets were wrong about where it took place so we explain it with a fantasy map, how can we expect anyone to take us seriously?

Ironically, Fairly Mormon is one of the major contributors to this mass of confusion.

More later...

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