I stipulate this may not be important for the tiny percentage of people in the world who are raised LDS or who receive the gift of a spiritual witness powerful enough to break through their traditions. Here I'm discussing the reason for the gap between what is currently happening with the Book of Mormon in the world and what could be happening.
The Book of Mormon is the instrument God provided to gather Israel and to convince the world that Jesus is the Christ. Is it accomplishing that task? Little by little, sure, but I think there is a major impediment that is preventing much more widespread acceptance of the Book of Mormon.
God's loving involvement with the lives of people everywhere in the world not only vindicates the faith of religious believers, but confirms their individual biases that their religions traditions--the source of their belief in God--are true.
Think of an example of God's intervention in your life--maybe an answer to a prayer, a miraculous healing, or a chance encounter with someone that changes both of your lives. Whether you are LDS, Catholic, Hindu, Muslim, Pentecostal, or anything else, that intervention will confirm your bias that your religion is true. Your religion taught you that God has this power, so when the power was made manifest, it "proved" your religion is true, at least to your satisfaction.
During Christ's ministry, the people were deeply attached to their respective traditions. How did Christ break through the powerful psychology of confirmation bias?
In our day, the Book of Mormon is a tangible miracle that can be persuasive enough to break through confirmation bias psychology. When its divine authenticity is established, it can fulfill its role as the instrument God prepared to gather Israel and convince people that Jesus is the Christ.
Joseph discussed this point with the members of Zion's Camp as they crossed the plains of Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. They observed the mounds and artifacts of the Hopewell Indians, which Joseph said were left by the Nephites and constituted evidence of the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon. About a year later, Joseph and Oliver Cowdery wrote and published Letter VII, which firmly established the New York hill as the Hill Cumorah of Mormon 6:6.
Since then, many modern prophets have reaffirmed the New York Cumorah. The prophets have consistently and persistently taught that:
1. Cumorah is in New York.
2. We don't know where the other events took place. (This makes sense because there are so many plausible locations for Book of Mormon sites, and because so long as we know where one Book of Mormon site in the New World is located, it's not necessary to know the other sites to establish the divine authenticity of the book.)
The key point is that Cumorah is a sure, known connection between the Book of Mormon and the modern world, firmly established by the modern prophets.
Because it is based on the clear, unambiguous teachings of the modern prophets, the New York Cumorah is the house built upon a rock (Matthew 7:24-5; 3 Nephi 14:24-5).
By contrast, because it is premised on the repudiation of the modern prophets, M2C is the house built upon sand. (Matthew 7:26-7; 3 Nephi 14:26-7).
By teaching that the prophets were wrong, and that we actually have nothing but academic speculation to connect the Book of Mormon to the real world, M2C jettisoned the one sure touchstone between the Book of Mormon and reality in the New World.
Look at what M2C has done already.
Unmoored from its prophetic anchor in the New York Cumorah, the Book of Mormon has been cast adrift into a morass of speculation, semantics, and confusion. Now it is heading directly into the shadows of a "metaphorical" understanding, which is a euphemism for labeling it as fiction.
|BYU fantasy map, based on M2C
interpretation of the Book of Mormon,
teaches students that the prophets are
wrong about the Hill Cumorah
in New York
By repudiating the prophets, the M2C intellectuals have, even if inadvertently, accomplished what anti-Mormons have long sought.
They've detached the Book of Mormon from the real world.
I realize the M2C citation cartel has produced all kinds of books and articles that appear scholarly, peer-reviewed, etc. But to anyone who doesn't share the M2C bias--to anyone outside the M2C bubble--these materials are transparent confirmation bias.
Lists of carefully selected attributes of Mayan culture that "correspond" to carefully framed interpretations (and interpolations) of the text do not constitute persuasive evidence to anyone who doesn't already accept M2C because of their faith in the M2C intellectuals.
To the contrary, experts on ancient Mesoamerica, whether LDS or not, who don't share the M2C bias find the work of the M2C citation cartel unpersuasive at best.
People outside the M2C bubble, both LDS and otherwise, know this. Ask any missionary. All their investigators ask about evidence for the Book of Mormon.
The missionaries tell their investigators to pray about it. That's a fine answer, but we all know that investigators go to the Internet the moment the missionaries leave the house.
On the Internet, investigators quickly learn that (i) no non-LDS Mayan expert sees connections between the Book of Mormon and the ancient Mayans; (ii) there is a conflict between the LDS prophets and the M2C intellectuals (e.g., here); and (iii) the most aggressive opponents to the New York Cumorah are the M2C intellectuals themselves.
Think how different it would be for investigators (and missionaries) if the M2C intellectuals aligned themselves with the prophets!
The M2C intellectuals have years of practice finding ways to repudiate the prophets. They say Cumorah is a "clean hill," that there is no archaeology to support the Book of Mormon events in Ohio and New York, etc. I've addressed all of these arguments on the merits in this blog and other places. The bottom line, as Joseph Smith himself observed, is that the evidence for the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon is seen in the mounds and artifacts that are currently on display throughout the Midwestern and Eastern United States. There is no scientific need (or justification) to repudiate the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah.
I also realize the M2C intellectuals don't like it when I point out they've repudiated the prophets. They prefer the explanation that the prophets weren't speaking as prophets when they taught the Hill Cumorah is in New York; i.e., they were merely speaking as men, and they were wrong because the M2C intellectuals know better.
As the saying goes, that's an exception you could drive a Mack truck through. Any time a prophet teaches something you don't like, or you disagree with, just say he's speaking as a man and you're home free. Outside of the M2C bubble, I can't see many LDS accepting that approach.
And imagine a missionary explaining this to an investigator.
Missionary: "We have a living prophet."
Investigator: "But according to the Internet, your own scholars think your prophets were wrong about the Hill Cumorah in New York."
Missionary (to himself): Hmm, that's a good point. That's what my CES/BYU teachers told me.
Missionary (to investigator): "A prophet is only a prophet when he's speaking as a prophet."
Investigator: "So you can pick and choose what you want to believe?"
Missionary: "Yes. Well, not really. We still believe most of what the prophets teach..."
How can people accept the Book of Mormon as a divine translation of an authentic history of real people when we can't confidently tell them of one single connection between the text and the New World setting?
No one had this problem while Joseph Smith was alive. Everyone knew Cumorah was in New York. In fact, no one had this problem until a few decades ago, when M2C intellectuals began using the Academic cycle to persuade vulnerable students that the prophets were wrong.
It continues to amaze me that millions of people come to our visitors centers in Salt Lake City and Palmyra, New York, only to learn that the prophets were wrong when they said the Hill Cumorah was in New York.
It's confusing enough to show Mesoamerican imagery in every Church building and publication. But on top of that, visitors see M2C being explicitly taught on Temple Square, a direct repudiation of the teachings of the prophets. Sooner or later, the CES/BYU fantasy maps will make their way into Church buildings and media and visitors centers (as they already have in the Palmyra, New York, chapel).
When we reach that point, how can we expect anyone to accept the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon?
I realize that the M2C intellectuals and their followers believe the "correspondences" they've found in Mesoamerica affirm their spiritual beliefs in the authenticity of the Book of Mormon. And that's fine. It's natural for people to confirm their biases, regardless of what they are.
If people want to believe the Book of Mormon took place in Baja California, or Peru, or Chile, or Panama, or Guatemala, or Mesoamerica, or Eritrea, or Malaysia, and they can confirm their bias by evidence that is meaningful to them, that's great. They are reconciling their faith with their reality, as they see it.
But obviously, this only works for those who already believe the Book of Mormon because the Lord has given them the spiritual gift of exceedingly great faith, as Moroni explained.
Those who have been given a different spiritual gift--say, the gift of knowledge or of wisdom--are unlikely to overcome their own confirmation bias without a tangible miracle.
That tangible miracle should be the Book of Mormon.
A house built on stone is a tangible miracle--especially when it is the modern prophets who have identified the stone, in this case, the New York Cumorah.
But M2C has demolished the house built on stone and replaced it with a house built on sand.
Until we return to the teachings of the prophets, there is no tangible miracle for the people of the world to accept.
If/when we apply the teachings of the prophets to establish the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon, starting with the New York Cumorah, we can break through the psychology of confirmation bias that currently prevents people throughout the world from seriously considering what that means in their lives.