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.

Monday, August 20, 2018

The M2C web-now Joseph didn't even translate the plates

The Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory (M2C) has spun an enormous web.

M2C started as an innocent thought experiment on how to vindicate what people mistakenly believed that Joseph Smith taught in anonymous articles in the 1842 Times and Seasons.

M2C web
Based on these anonymous articles, these experts simply assumed the Book of Mormon took place in Central America. Then they calculated that New York was too far away, so the prophets were wrong abut that being the location of Cumorah.*

Now Mesomania has reached the point where M2C intellectuals are teaching that Joseph Smith didn't even translate the Book of Mormon.

The intellectual genealogy of M2C is a fascinating topic that I've discussed before, as long-time readers know. In upcoming posts, I'll discuss how the M2C web has captured Church history, including the new book Saints and ideas about Joseph's use of the plates.

The latest fad is the Early Modern English theory (EME).

For several reasons, I've been reluctant to comment on EME, which has been put forth by Royal Skousen and Stanford Carmack, but it has reached a stage where I'm going to go ahead and explain what I think, FWIW.

I greatly admire and respect Brothers Skousen and Carmack. They are awesome people and outstanding scholars, meticulous and thorough and faithful. I often rely on and cite Brother Skousen's work on the Original and Printers Manuscript of the Book of Mormon. Plus, I'm very grateful to Book of Mormon Central for making his work available to the public. You can see it here:
and here


In recent years, Brother Carmack has developed a theory that the text of the Book of Mormon was dictated in Early Modern English, a form of English that predates the King James Bible. The idea is that Joseph didn't merely copy the King James Bible, and he didn't try to emulate Biblical language the way books such as The Late War did, but instead he didn't translate the Nephite plates at all.

According to the EME theory, Joseph merely read the seer stone in the hat. The stone displayed the translation that had been accomplished by an unknown person using language that predated Joseph by 300-400 years.

I'm simplifying, of course, and you can read all the detailed articles in the Interpreter if you want. But I think you see the problem already.

Now we're supposed to believe that not only did Joseph not use the plates (the latest fad in revisionist Church history), but he didn't even translate them.

This is a critical component of the M2C web because it further supports the M2C position that Joseph knew nothing about the Book of Mormon. Or, if he knew anything, he surely knew much less than today's M2C intellectuals know.

Therefore, pursuant to the 14th Article of Faith, we need to follow today's scholars even when they disagree with what Joseph Smith (and the revelations) taught.

Readers here know about the M2C citation cartel. Prominent participants in the cartel include BYU Studies (edited by John W. (Jack) Welch) and the Interpreter (founded and edited by Dan Peterson). Brothers Welch and Peterson have long been among the most prominent and forceful proponents of M2C. They, along with John Sorenson and their followers, have taught M2C throughout the Church. They, more than anyone, have woven the M2C web.

Envision the M2C web as a filter. Anything that fits M2C can pass through unharmed, but anything that contradicts M2C, including the teachings of the prophets, is trapped, quarantined, and sucked dry.

To mix metaphors, without the enduring and adamant support of M2C by Brothers Welch and Peterson, M2C would dissipate like the morning dew.

Not only do they have highly influential positions at BYU Studies and the Interpreter, but they are long-time BYU faculty. They are two of the most prominent of the scholars who have been hired by the prophets to guide the Church, pursuant to the 14th Article of Faith.

To be sure, BYU Studies and the Interpreter produce a lot of important and useful scholarly material that is unrelated to M2C and is therefore not tainted by Mesomania. I encourage people to read both journals, as well as the other publications of the M2C citation cartel.

However, we have to be vigilant when BYU Studies and the Interpreter combine to enthusiastically embrace something. The reason?

M2C is founded on the premise that the prophets are wrong about the New York Cumorah. 

Therefore, the M2C citation cartel does everything possible to support this premise. 

In September, BYU Studies and the Interpreter are sponsoring a lecture by Brothers Skousen and Carmack to introduce their latest book about Early Modern English. This prompted me to discuss it on this blog.

IMO, the Early Modern English theory, however it originated, is part of the M2C web and is being used to support M2C.

According to the cartel, anyone who believes what the prophets have taught about Cumorah believes in a notion that is "manifestly absurd" and "worthy only of a witless sci-fi movie." John L. Sorenson, Mormon's Codex.

According to the cartel, all the prophets who have taught that Cumorah is in New York were ignorant speculators who misled the Church by repeating a false folk tradition. This includes Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, Brigham Young, Wilford Woodruff, Joseph F. Smith, James E. Talmage, etc., all the way down to President Marion G. Romney and Elder Mark E. Petersen, both of whom declared in General Conference that Cumorah was in New York.

But the M2C citation cartel has a dilemma. How do they persuade members (and leaders) of the Church that the prophets have all been wrong?

The M2C academic cycle
The academic cycle explains how M2C has permeated the Church overall, but let's look in more detail on how it works.

1. They start by censoring the teachings of the prophets. This requires the coordinated efforts of the M2C citation cartel, plus the Church History, Curriculum and Correlation Departments. That's why we never see the teachings of the prophets about Cumorah in the curriculum, in lesson manuals, or on display in visitors centers. That's why the new Church history book Saints edits out all the early references to Cumorah, changes the wording of the original documents, etc.
It's basically censorship.

2. The problem is, the teachings of the prophets are widely available in older publications. We can read about it in Jesus the Christ, A Marvelous Work and a Wonder, Doctrines of Salvation, , in early Church publications, and the addresses in General Conference. None of those books or other sources are on the missionary reading lists any longer, though. Few if any of the youth in the Church have read these or even know about them.

Even fewer Church members read old General Conference addresses. Sure, they're available on lds.org--they're part of the historical record, after all--but people barely read the current General Conference addresses.

Little by little, as older generations die off, the teachings of the prophets about Cumorah will continue to fade into oblivion.

Really, the biggest problem for M2C is Letter VII, which is found right in Joseph Smith's personal history, which means it's available in the Joseph Smith Papers. It's not impossible that the editors of the Joseph Smith Papers will decide to purge Letter VII from the documents if too many people start reading it, the way the Correlation Department purged a critical passage from the Wentworth letter in the Joseph Smith lesson manual, but we can hope that doesn't happen. Meanwhile, Letter VII is pretty well buried in the Joseph Smith Papers, with no editorial comments calling attention to i.

3. What does an M2C intellectual do with people who somehow discover what the prophets have taught about Cumorah?

Thanks to the Internet, censorship cannot succeed. Some people, on their own, will find out what the prophets have taught.

The M2C intellectuals start by claiming the prophets were only expressing their opinions, and they were wrong. Even CES and BYU teachers tell this to any students who dare to ask how M2C can be reconciled with the teachings of the prophets.

Some Church members know that President Ezra Taft Benson specifically warned against this rationalization, when he said, ""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." 

You'll never see a member of the M2C citation cartel mingle their philosophy with this teaching from a prophet. How could they?

But never fear, they have more arrows in their quiver.

4. The next fallback is the one taken by Fairly Mormon and the Correlation Department; i.e., they say the prophets have never actually taught that Cumorah is in New York. In other words, who do you believe, Fairly Mormon and the Correlation Department, or your lying eyes?

They accomplish this by conflating two separate issues.

The prophets have always taught that while Cumorah is in New York, we don't know for sure where other Book of Mormon events took place. This is a perfectly reasonable position to take that is also perfectly consistent with the New York Cumorah.

But the M2C intellectuals mingle the two teachings to confuse people. They explain that the prophets were actually not even expressing their opinions (to avoid President Benson's observation) but that they were merely articulating possibilities about the geography, including the New York Cumorah.

This is the current position that you will be told if you inquire directly to Church leaders and you receive the response from the Correlation Department that I discussed before.

That's a long introduction, but it leads directly to the Early Modern English theory.

To avoid contradicting the prophets, M2C is now positioned to say the prophets never knew anything!

This is a multi-step process as well, but it requires you to believe that Joseph Smith did not know that much about the Book of Mormon. That's how he could be fooled into accepting the erroneous folk tradition that the hill Cumorah was in New York.

In fact, M2C scholars are now teaching that Joseph didn't even translate the plates after all.

The latest thinking about the translation is that Joseph didn't use the plates. You'll hear this from M2C intellectuals as well as Church historians. Missionaries serving at Church history sites have been told to explain this to people who ask about the translation. The new Church films about Harmony and Fayette depict this revisionist history.

Forget what the D&C says about translating the engravings or working it out in the mind. Forget what Oliver Cowdery and Lucy Mack Smith said about Joseph looking at the plates through the interpreters. Now we're being told to believe that the plates sat covered in a cloth the entire time (except when they were out in the woods), serving a sort of talisman to somehow build faith. Joseph merely read what was written on a stone that he put in a hat.

Then along comes the Early Modern English theory that Joseph merely read a translation that was performed by someone else, living 300 to 400 years before Joseph.

The bottom line of all this: Joseph knew less about the Book of Mormon than today's scholars, who have been hired by the prophet to guide the Church. 

Therefore, if the scholars teach M2C, M2C is what we are to believe. If the scholars say Joseph didn't use the plates, we have to believe that. If the scholars say Joseph didn't even translate the Book of Mormon, we have to believe that.

If we wonder what to think about the scriptures or the teachings of the prophets, we should turn to Dan Peterson's Interpreter to have all these things interpreted for us.

IMO, neither M2C nor the revisionist Church history fits the facts or the revelations.

Tomorrow I'll explain why, with respect to EME.

* The M2C intellectuals concocted the idea that there are really two Cumorahs. The one in New York, according to M2C, is not the Cumorah of Mormon 6:6; i.e., Moroni had to haul the plates from the "real Cumorah" which is somewhere in Mexico to New York.

The belief in M2C (which I call Mesomania) has led LDS intellectuals to not only repudiate the prophets, but to revise Church history and engage in Orwellian tactics to perpetrate and perpetuate M2C.

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