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, October 31, 2018

End of Hill Cumorah pageant

The media reported that the Hill Cumorah pageant will be discontinued after 2020.*

This is awesome news for those members of the Church who still believe what the prophets and apostles have taught about the New York Cumorah, for two reasons.

Hill Cumorah Pageant audience from lds.org
1. There will be record attendance at the pageant in 2019 and 2020.

This will bring tremendous attention throughout the Church to the Hill Cumorah, just when the issue has already been elevated in the minds of members of the Church due to the censorship of the word Cumorah in the book Saints.

This attention will lead members to search for the teachings of the prophets and apostles, information they never get at BYU, CES, or from the M2C citation cartel.

Photo of Cumorah pageant on lds.org
Only M2C believers who reject the teachings of
the prophets and apostles would think of constructing
a Mayan pyramid in western New York.
2. The current iteration of the pageant teaches the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs geography (M2C) and can't be fixed without a complete revamping.

The stage itself is modeled after a Mayan pyramid. It would be an enormous expense to develop and build a new one.

To the left is a photo from lds.org showing the Mesoamerican setting.

The cancellation of this M2C pageant is long overdue.

I've been told that President Boyd K. Packer used to say the Church moves at two speeds: slowly and not at all. In that context, the elimination of these M2C pageants has been extremely rapid.

Photo of Manti pageant from DesNews link in footnotes
The Manti pageant also teaches M2C.

The thousands of attendees at these pageants have had M2C imprinted on their minds, many of them starting from childhood.

The pageant creators, directors, and participants have no idea they are teaching their audiences that the prophets and apostles are wrong.

Thanks to the efforts of M2C intellectuals and educators at BYU and CES, few members of the Church today know what the prophets and apostles have taught about Cumorah.

Fortunately, that is changing.

And eliminating these pageants will help turn the tide away from M2C.

Hill Cumorah Visitors Center that never explains
why this "hill in New York" is named Cumorah

I've noted before that the Hill Cumorah Visitors Center in New York teaches visitors that the "real" Cumorah is in Mesoamerica.

This has proven very confusing to visitors--and that's without even knowing what the prophets and apostles have taught.

Letter VII explains that Cumorah is in New York
The Visitors Center doesn't even have a display about the Church's acquisition of the Hill Cumorah and the General Conference session that followed, featuring President Ivins' important talk about the importance of Cumorah both in Church history and in the future.

Imagine how much more faith-affirming the Hill Cumorah Visitors Center would be if it informed visitors about what the prophets and apostles have actually taught about the Hill Cumorah.

President Romney speaking about the New York Cumorah
with four Presidents of the Church in attendance
A display on Letter VII would be a great start.

It could feature the original publication of Letter VII in the Messenger and Advocate. It could include the republications of Letter VII in the Times and Seasons, Millennial Star, Gospel Reflector, The Prophet, the special British pamphlet, and the Improvement Era.

Then it could reproduce all the other teachings of the prophets and apostles about the New York Cumorah. They could have a video replaying President Romney's talk, "America's Destiny."

Oliver Cowdery memorial,
1 mile north of the Hill Cumorah
Last year, we experimented with an Oliver Cowdery Memorial located one mile north of the Hill Cumorah, on the main road.

Thousands of people have visited the memorial, where they learn what the prophets and apostles have taught about the New York Cumorah. They have learned about Letter VII and how Cumorah fits within a possible North American setting.

We also offered nightly lectures on Church history for attendees at the pageant. Among the attendees were local pastors who had been among the anti-Mormon protesters at the pageant. It was great to get to know them and educate them about what we really believe, as opposed to what they've been taught to believe.

Stay tuned for upcoming events in Palmyra.
* E.g. https://www.sltrib.com/religion/2018/10/30/mormon-land-hill-cumorah/


film history: https://films.radiowest.org/film/a-mormon-pageant

Official statement: https://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/statement-local-celebrations-pageants-october-2018

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Church historians concede they censored Cumorah in Saints

When the book Saints was published, I noted that the term Cumorah had been censored from the text. I attributed this censorship to an effort by Church historians to revise Church history to accommodate their M2C* colleagues.

Recently the editors publicly acknowledged the censorship of Cumorah. In this post we'll examine their statement.

Many readers prefer short posts, so here are three twitter-length summaries:

1. Saints creates a false narrative present; i.e., characters in the book do not have 1827-1844 ideas about the New York Cumorah that is well established in original sources. 

2. Instead, the characters in Saints know nothing about Cumorah, a reflection of the late 20th century "two Cumorahs" theory created by M2C intellectuals.

3. In responses to criticism, the editors of Saints published an essay that seeks to explain their censorship of Cumorah with a series of inconsistent and counterfactual justifications.

4. The editors of Saints ultimately admit they censored the term Cumorah to "uphold" so-called "neutrality," a euphemism for accommodating the M2C theory of Book of Mormon geography.

Over a year ago I anticipated this outcome in Saints, which is part of a well-established a pattern by LDS intellectuals to erase the New York Cumorah from the historical record and from the knowledge of members of the Church.**

There is additional related revisionist editing in Saints, such as replacing  terms from original sources ("this continent" and "this country") with the M2C-approved term "the Americas." Another problem is the phony 20th century story about Mary Whitmer being shown the plates by Moroni.

For thousands of members of the Church, the censorship of Cumorah has become a serious enough issue that the editors of Saints responded publicly (although they haven't yet responded  to the other revisionist problems in Saints).

Their response confirmed that they've been revising Church history to accommodate M2C.  They now characterized their editorial policy as their effort to "uphold" what they perceive to be "neutrality" regarding Book of Mormon geography, a euphemism for accommodating 20th century theories about two-Cumorahs.

All along, I've emphasized that the censorship of Cumorah is an issue of accuracy in Church history, not a question of Book of Mormon geography. 

The New York Cumorah says nothing about where the other events took place. In fact, for decades, Church leaders have consistently taught two things:

1. The hill Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 is in New York.
2. We don't know where the other events took place (i.e., neutrality).

M2C intellectuals (including the historians) confuse members of the Church by conflating these two teachings. What they now characterize as "neutrality" is actually an explicit repudiation of the prophets and apostles, including members of the First Presidency speaking in General Conference.

Because M2C contradicts the plain teachings of the prophets and apostles, M2C intellectuals don't want Church members to know what the prophets and apostles have taught.

Saints is just the latest iteration of this effort.

I emphasize that I greatly admire and respect everyone involved with the Saints project, as well as all the historians and staff responsible for the Joseph Smith Papers, the Church History Library and Museum, and all the other wonderful resources available today. I encourage everyone to learn as much as possible about Church history and to read Saints.

My comments are intended to improve the book and to eliminate the misinformation it contains so that current and future generations will be accurately informed about Church history.

Below, I consider the justification essay in full. As you read it, keep in mind that these are professional, experienced writers who chose their words carefully.

In fact, you might want to read their essay first and see how many logical and factual errors you can find. Then compare your analysis with mine.


Original in blue, my comments in red.

Saints and Book of Mormon Geography
Jed Woodworth and Matt Grow

12 October 2018

Since the publication of Saints, Volume 1: The Standard of Truth, 1815–1846, some concern has been expressed online and to us personally that the text of the book has expressed a preference against a “heartland” model of Book of Mormon geography. 

No doubt they have heard concerns--thousands of Church members are concerned about Saints for many reasons--but "a preference against a "heartland" model is not the point I've raised. 

The censorship of Cumorah is a serious problem because it undermines the accuracy of Church history as conveyed in Saints. It creates a false historical narrative as I explain below.

This is not a question of Book of Mormon geography because the New York Cumorah accommodates many models of geography, just as the prophets have taught. The invocation of a "heartland" model in this essay is merely an effort to deflect from the real issue.

We have been disappointed to read online commentary from individuals favoring a “heartland” model of Book of Mormon geography that asserts Saints works in subtle (and even conspiratorial) ways to suppress their views. This is not true.

Again, this does not respond to my concerns because I don't think Saints suppresses anything other than the truth about Church history. Plus, the censorship of Cumorah is anything but subtle.

Much of the concern has resulted because the word “Cumorah” does not appear in Saints

Skillful writers use passive voice this way to disclaim responsibility, as if it's the word's fault it doesn't appear.

As I mentioned above, the censorship of Cumorah is only one of several editorial decisions to revise Church history in Saints. In this essay they avoid the other problems.

This omission has led some to believe that we left out that word in order to speak against a “heartland” model. We assure you that this is simply not the case. 

I readily accept this assurance because it's irrelevant.

So far, the justification given for censoring Cumorah amounts to a straw man fallacy. A straw man argument is "giving the impression of refuting an opponent's argument, while actually refuting an argument that was not presented by that opponent."

I've asserted that the editors of Saints censored Cumorah not to "suppress" or "speak against" a "heartland" model, but to accommodate (make room for) M2C. As you'll see in a moment, they admit that's exactly what they did. 

It's an enormous difference, consistent with the pervasive effort to accommodate M2C by other intellectuals, as I describe in my footnotes below.

We have worked on Saints for many years, Matt as a general editor of Saints and Jed as a review editor of Volume 1. In those capacities, we have read all the draft chapters and editorial comments accompanying these drafts. No one under our observation—writers, editors, external reviewers, General Authority reviewers—has expressed any concern about the word “Cumorah” or articulated any need to expunge it from the record. 

This purported justification for censorship demonstrates exactly the problem I raised about current LDS scholarship.

Notice the wording: no one involved "has expressed any concern about the word "Cumorah."

How could a term as significant in the history of the Church as "Cumorah" never once come up in a conversation in years of working on Saints?

The obvious answer is that the claim is untrue. 

First, as I've shown, the editors had to carefully circumvent Lucy Mack Smith's quotation of Joseph referring to the hill of Cumorah in 1827 before he even obtained the plates. If there were no "concerns" about Cumorah, there is no excuse for what they did. They quoted a passage that Lucy lined out when she revised her history because her revision included her direct quotation of Joseph referring to Cumorah in 1827.

Second, as we'll see in a moment, the editors give as an alternative justification specific research they conducted about the term "Cumorah." If no one ever expressed any concern about the word "Cumorah," why would they have conducted the research to see when the term was first used?

Let's assume, alternatively, that the claim is true: no one discussed Cumorah. The censorship happened without anyone discussing the term Cumorah because everyone simply understood the term was not to be used. That, actually, makes sense--but it's precisely the problem I've sought to call attention to.  

The M2C ideology has been deeply imprinted on students at BYU and CES for decades. Consequently, it is highly believable that everyone involved with Saints has incorporated the belief that there are two Cumorahs. An easy way to understand it is they are all inside the M2C bubble. 

If everyone on the team thinks the same way, it is self-evident why no one "articulated any need to expunge it from the record." Everyone was on the same page. There was no one on the team who even thought to include Cumorah in the book because the idea that Cumorah is in New York is unthinkable to modern LDS intellectuals.

It makes no difference whether this groupthink arose because no one on the team knew what the prophets and apostles have taught, or because they have all rejected what the prophets and apostles have taught. The result is the same: censorship of the term "Cumorah."

To our knowledge, there have been no discussions about the need to put down one theory of Book of Mormon geography in order to promote another.

This is another expression of the straw man argument we saw above. No one suggested they "put down" a geography theory. The problem is revising Church history to accommodate M2C.

The purpose of Saints is to present a compelling narrative of the faith and sacrifice of early Latter-day Saints, not to weigh in (subtly or otherwise) on the various theories of Book of Mormon geography. 

This is axiomatic, really. That's why I pointed out the Cumorah issue is one of accuracy in Church history, not a question of Book of Mormon geography. No one expected Saints to "weigh in" on Book of Mormon geography. All we expected was accurate history and characters in an honest narrative present.

We have sought to uphold the Church’s position of neutrality on these theories: “Though there are several plausible hypotheses regarding the geographic locations of Book of Mormon events, the Church takes no official position except that the events occurred in the Americas.”1

Note: This justification contradicts everything they've written up to this point. Far from never even discussing Cumorah, now they admit they had an editorial policy to "uphold" what they consider "the Church's position of neutrality."

Their objective was not solely or purely to report accurate Church history in a narrative form, after all. 

This editorial agenda reveals that the historians realized that the original documents in Church history actually do have something to say about the geography of the Book of Mormon that, in their view, is not "neutral." 

Think about this for a moment.

They realized that the teachings of the founding prophets of the restoration about the New York Cumorah contradicted their version of the "position of neutrality" they wanted to "uphold," so they changed the wording of those documents and censored the term "Cumorah."

Now you see why this is such a serious problem.

You might wonder, how does "upholding" a policy of "neutrality" justify censoring the term Cumorah?

This iteration of "neutrality" is involved less with geography than with the teachings of the prophets and apostles. The "neutrality" policy, as articulated by the intellectuals, conflates the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah with the teachings of the prophets that we don't know where the other events took place. 

This is how the intellectuals justify their claim that there are "two Cumorahs." 

IOW, these historians are "neutral" on the question of whether or not to accept the teachings of the prophets. 

Actually, they're not even neutral on that. They've chosen not to tell readers what the prophets and apostles have taught about Cumorah.

Footnote 1 in their essay cites a Gospel Topics essay that was written by M2C scholars who cite M2C scholars exclusively, with no input from anyone who still supports what the prophets have taught. The Gospel Topics essay reflects the same M2C groupthink that prevailed during the creation of Saints.

For example, if you read the cited Gospel Topics essay, you'll see it quotes President Ivins' 1929 Conference address to support the alleged "neutrality" policy. However, the essay does not mention President Ivins' 1928 Conference address that specifically identifies the New York Cumorah

There is no contradiction between President Ivins' two discourses. He was articulating the well-established teachings that I itemized above; i.e., that Cumorah is in New York but we don't know for sure where the other events took place.

The M2C scholars (and Saints) conflate the two teachings because they don't want members of the Church to know what the prophets and apostles have taught.

The preface to Saints explains that the book is a narrative history. Narrative histories are governed by rules, and one of the rules implemented by our writing team is that characters are to live in the “narrative present” and not be burdened by the understanding of later time periods. 

The censorship of Cumorah directly violates this purported rule.

As a matter of historical reality, every character mentioned in Saints shared a belief that the Hill Cumorah was in New York. Letter VII was ubiquitous from 1835 through 1844. The letter that became D&C 128 was well known. 

The editors even admit that, at least as of 1835, the New York Cumorah was commonly accepted. (They know it was published in 1833, but they don't acknowledge that.) 

However, as presented in Saints, these characters have never heard of Cumorah.

Consequently, contrary to their own rule, the editors have created a deliberately false narrative history. 

The characters in Saints are burdened by the M2C understanding of modern time periods, just like the current generation who is being taught at BYU and CES (and by Saints) that Joseph got the plates from "a hill in New York" but not from Cumorah. 

Our rule states: “The whole story as we understand it will be told, but readers will be following that story scene-by-scene, or even volume-by-volume, as the narrative progresses. If readers desire a broader view of the story or want additional information, extensive footnotes are included, and other in-depth material is available online, including links to essays, videos, and other sources.”

I've discussed some of these footnotes here. https://saintsreview.blogspot.com/2018/10/the-saints-footnote-on-cumorah-packers.html. If you read the cited reference, you'll see it reflects late 20th century ideas.

Good luck to anyone who wants to understand what the prophets and apostles have taught about the New York Cumorah. You won't find these teachings easily available anywhere in the work of current LDS intellectuals, and the Gospel Topics essay is a good example of how the intellectuals have confused Church members with their selective quotations from President Ivins.

Thus, as Saints tells it, Joseph Smith walks into the “woods,” not the Sacred Grove, in 1820. There he has a “vision” of God and Christ, not the First Vision.2 In the same way, Joseph walks to a “hill” not far from his father’s home, not to the Hill Cumorah.3 

This is another straw man fallacy. No one is saying that Saints should have called the woods the Sacred Grove. Neither Lucy Mack Smith nor Oliver Cowdery, the two major sources cited in the early chapters of Saints, referred to the Sacred Grove or First Vision, but they both explicitly referred to Cumorah as the hill where Joseph got the plates.

Furthermore, Joseph himself identified the hill as Cumorah before he even got the plates. Joseph was present when he, David and Oliver encountered the messenger taking the Harmony plates to Cumorah. Joseph collaborated on Letter VII and had it republished multiple times. Joseph referred to Cumorah explicitly in D&C 128.

Censoring Cumorah creates an explicitly false narrative history for each of these important figures in Saints.

The reason for omitting “Cumorah” is not that the writers wanted to expunge it in order to promote a geographical theory. 

Notice how their excuses have evolved. First, no one even discussed or had a concern about Cumorah. Now they have given several justifications for their censorship, all of which amount to pretexts.

We can easily accept that they didn't do it "to promote a geographical theory," because no one has claimed they did. To that extent, this is another straw man fallacy.

However, they've already admitted they had an editorial agenda to "uphold" the "position of neutrality." That's not technically promoting a theory, but it is definitely revising Church history to accommodate M2C.  

Notice that nowhere in this essay do they ever deny seeking to accommodate M2C.

The reason is that there is no historical evidence that Moroni called the hill “Cumorah” in 1823.

This is a very carefully written sentence. It's both another straw man fallacy and a deflection.

The straw man is whether or not Moroni called the hill "Cumorah" in 1823. It's an irrelevant point. Joseph could have learned the term from Moroni at any point between 1823 and 1827.

What is important is that there is historical evidence that in 1827, before he got the plates, Joseph referred to the hill as "Cumorah." These historians know this, but they word their statement here to deflect from that evidence, without overtly denying it exists. 

Joseph's mother, Lucy Mack Smith, quoted Joseph referring to the hill Cumorah in 1827, in a passage these editors deliberately avoided when they wrote Saints, as I showed here.

From whom could Joseph have learned that term other than Moroni? It doesn't matter, really; he could have learned it from other angelic messengers or visions that he never mentioned. The point is, Joseph himself referred to the hill as Cumorah at that early date, before he could have read it from the plates which he hadn't yet obtained.

Therefore, it is not a lack of historical evidence that drove the decision to censor Cumorah

The historians relied on Lucy Mack Smith's history throughout the early chapters of Saints. They also know that Parley P. Pratt reported, in 1831, that he and Oliver Cowdery were teaching that the hill was called Cumorah by Moroni anciently.

The censorship of Cumorah was an editorial decision by these historians to not use the evidence they had, solely because it contradicted their editorial agenda to "uphold" what they consider to be a "position of neutrality." And by "neutrality" they mean accommodating M2C.

Of course, early Latter-day Saints, including Joseph Smith, later called the hill Cumorah, but the best research on the subject puts the term into common circulation no earlier than the mid-1830s.4 

Here is the research they did about the word Cumorah. Remember when they started this list of justifications by claiming no one was ever concerned about the term?

Recall also their claim that they were writing a narrative history, with characters in the "narrative present." Here they acknowledge the narrative present for early Latter-day Saints included the New York Cumorah, but they've deliberately chosen to replace that narrative present with the modern notion of "neutrality" developed by M2C intellectuals in recent decades.

On this point, we will undoubtedly see the same false narrative present in future volumes of Saints

Through at least 1990, Church leaders have spoken about the New York Cumorah. The purchase of the hill was a major event in Church history, as explained by President Ivins in 1928. But the editors of Saints will expunge all mention of Cumorah, draining characters in all four volumes of an important part of their reality.

Let's consider this latest justification based on what was not in "common circulation" until the mid-1830s.

By this standard, Saints should not relate any of the history found in the early chapters of the book, except for what is contained in the brief 1832 history (assuming that does not qualify as mid-1830s). 

Of course, that wouldn't work; most of their citations in the early chapters of Saints are to records created in the mid-1830s.

Although they don't tell you, these historians know the hill from which the plates were retrieved was identified openly as Cumorah in January 1833, in The Evening and the Morning Star, about six months after the 1832 history was recorded. 

Is it this six-month period that constitutes the critical dividing time between what is credible Church history and what is not?

If so, Saints needs a lot more revision than I've proposed.

Note that the 1832 history does not mention the name of the "angel of the Lord" who came to Joseph Smith, but Saints reports, on p. 22, that "The angel called him by name and introduced himself as Moroni." 

The name Moroni was not in common circulation earlier than the mid-1830s, when Oliver Cowdery explained the angel's name was Moroni in Letter IV in 1835, and when verses were added to D&C 27, also in 1835. 

On the same page 22, Saints reports that "the angel wore a seamless white robe," but that description comes from Oliver Cowdery's Letter IV, also published in 1835.  

The editors of Saints freely rely on mid-1830s sources (including Oliver's letters) to support the earlier narratives they approve of. 

That makes their latest justification for censoring Cumorah--"common circulation no earlier than the mid-1830s"--a mere pretext. 

It's true that Lucy dictated her history after Joseph's death in 1844, but Saints relies on her history throughout the early chapters because she is considered a reliable eye-witness. As we've seen, Lucy's account has Joseph identifying the hill as Cumorah well before many of the events covered in the first few chapters of Saints. But Saints doesn't want readers to know that.

Let's explore this in more detail.

When it's a topic the editors like, such as Joseph translating the plates by looking at a stone in a hat, they happily cite references from as late as 1879 (cited several times in Chapter 4). 

But when it's a topic the editors don't like, such as the term Cumorah, suddenly the very sources they rely on most are not credible. 

Look at the citations in Chapters 3-5. Most of them fall within three categories:

(i) Oliver Cowdery's letters (1834-5)
(ii) Joseph Smith-History (1838)
(iii) Lucy Mack Smith's History (1844-5).

Of these, Joseph Smith's history is the shortest. It's also the only one that doesn't explain that the hill Cumorah is in New York, the only one that says it was Nephi who visited Joseph instead of Moroni, etc.

The editors of Saints want us to believe that when they cite President Cowdery's letters and Lucy Mack Smith's History, those sources are credible. But those same sources are not credible when they refer to the New York Cumorah because...

They don't explain why. 

These unpersuasive post hoc rationalizations only make the censorship problem more apparent.

The main historical source concerning events at the hill between 1823 and 1827 comes from the history Joseph Smith began in 1838. There Joseph uses the term “hill,” never “Hill Cumorah.”5 

Recall, in the previous sentence they argued that earlier sources are more credible than later ones (i.e., Cumorah was not in "common circulation" until documents showed up in the mid-1830s). 

Now they're telling us a later source is more credible than an earlier source.

And what does it mean to say a source is "the main historical source" anyway? The editors did not rely exclusively or even principally on the 1838 history. That history was so sparse that they supplemented it with many other sources--including Oliver Cowdery's letters and Lucy Mack Smith's history. 

Joseph's history never referred to Moroni as the name of the angel. It doesn't describe his robe as seamless. It lists only a few of the scriptures Moroni quoted. It doesn't include the dialog between Joseph and Moroni quoted on page 26 of Saints.

All of that information and more comes from Oliver's letters.

The editors want us to believe they omitted Cumorah because Joseph's 1838 history is the "main historical source," even though in Chapter 3 most of their citations were to Oliver's letters and Lucy Mack Smith's History, both of which explain the hill where Joseph found the plates was Cumorah.


There's another problem with this justification. The 1838 history says it was Nephi, not Moroni, who visited Joseph Smith in 1823. If the editors really thought the 1838 history was the "main historical source," they should have stuck with its Nephi narrative.

But they didn't.


Because they know Oliver's letters and other evidence identifying the angel as Moroni are more credible than the 1838 history. Censoring Cumorah because the word doesn't appear in the 1838 history is the weakest justification offered so far._____

As senseless as this justification appears, it has a long intellectual genealogy. A standard assertion by the proponents of M2C and the historians who agree with (or accommodate) them is that Oliver Cowdery's letters are not reliable.

This presents a problem for the producers of Saints because they had to rely on these letters for several important historical details. But since they are justifying their censorship of Cumorah by telling us the letters are not all that important after all, let's compare them to Joseph's 1838 history and see why they are cited so often in Saints for everything except Cumorah.

Joseph helped write Oliver's letters. He referred to them as President Cowdery's letters (since Oliver was Assistant President of the Church when he wrote letters IV through VIII). 

The letters were copied into Joseph's own journal as part of his life story. These letters provide more detail about many of the events than Joseph's 1838 history. 

Oliver's letters were first published in 1834-5. Joseph's history was recorded in 1838, but it was not published until 1842, when it was published once in the Times and Seasons.

Between the time when Joseph's 1838 history was recorded and when it was published in the Times and Seasons, Oliver's history was republished at least 3 times, at least twice with Joseph's approval. They were published in the Gospel Reflector, the Times and Seasons, and the Millennial Star, all in 1840-1841. The next year, Joseph's history was published in the Times and Seasons. Then, in 1844, Joseph's brother William republished Oliver's letters again, this time in the New York City paper The Prophet. (Letter VII appeared two days after Joseph's martrydom.) 

When parts of Joseph's 1838 history were canonized as Joseph Smith-History, an excerpt from Oliver's Letter I was included as a footnote.

The historians know all of this history, but they're confident you don't, so they don't address this larger context in this essay.

Saints follows Joseph’s lead.

This sentence is clever rhetoric. Maybe they hope it's the "take-home" quotation from their essay. But it is contrary to the historical record. 

The record shows us that Joseph led on this issue when he told his mother about the name Cumorah before he even got the plates.

Joseph led by helping Oliver write the eight historical letters, including Letters VII and VIII.

Joseph led by having the letters copied into his personal history.

Joseph led by having them republished multiple times so all the members of the Church in his day could learn Church history. 

Joseph led by writing D&C 128:20.

20 And again, what do we hear? Glad tidings from Cumorah! Moroni, an angel from heaven, declaring the fulfilment of the prophets—the book to be revealed.


Thanks to Saints, current and future generations will have no idea what Joseph Smith, his contemporaries, and his successors as prophets and apostles were referring to when they spoke and wrote about the New York Cumorah.

As our rule states, additional material connected with Saints contains “a broader view of the story.” In the Church History Topics, where the rules of narrative history do not apply, the term “Cumorah” can be found (see topics entitled “Angel Moroni” and “Sacred Grove and Smith Family Farm” at saints.lds.org or on the Gospel Library App).

Of course, this explains nothing about the censorship of Cumorah in Saints. Proper nouns are used throughout Saints. Referring to the name of the hill the way their own sources did would have simplified and clarified, not confused or slowed down, the narrative. 

Furthermore, it would have fulfilled instead of violated the purported narrative rule:  "characters are to live in the “narrative present” and not be burdened by the understanding of later time periods."

Every single character described or quoted in Saints believed Cumorah was in New York. 

Falsely conveying the impression that people thought the plates were found in a nameless "hill in New York" is not honest history.  

I hope everyone involved with producing Saints will reconsider the censorship of Cumorah and the other revisionist elements designed to "uphold" a concept of "neutrality" on the geography issue.

Censorship and revision of original documents is a matter of Church history, integrity, and clarity. 


When none of the pretexts given in the essay make sense except one, we are left with the only rational reason given for the censorship of Cumorah; i.e., the editors' decision to "uphold" their version of "neutrality on Book of Mormon geography."

IOW, the essay concedes that my criticisms are correct. 

They did not revise Church history to attack any so-called "heartland" model of geography, a claim I didn't make, but they did revise Church history to accommodate the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs setting in the pursuit of what they think is neutrality.

I consider such revisionism unjustified and unconscionable.

Unless Saints is revised to more accurately teach actual Church history, current and future generations throughout the world will be:

(i) kept ignorant of the teachings of the prophets and apostles about the hill Cumorah and other issues,

(ii) confused by references in both the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants, and

(iii) susceptible to critics who use this ignorance and confusion to undermine the faith of members of the Church and to deter investigators.


[1] “Book of Mormon and DNA Studies,” note 6, Gospel Topics, topics.lds.org.

[2] See Saints, volume 1, chapter 2.

[3] See Saints, volume 1, chapters 3 and 4.

[4] See Cameron J. Packer, “A Study of the Hill Cumorah: A Significant Latter-day Saint Landmark in Western New York,” (master’s thesis, Brigham Young University, 2002), chapter 3.

[5] This history initially refers to it only as “the place,” but Joseph’s scribe James Mulholland appended a slip of paper to the volume describing “a hill of considerable size, and the most elevated of any in the neighborhood.” The back of the slip of paper explains that he made the addition in consultation with Joseph. See Joseph Smith History, 1838–56, volume A-1, 7 and attached slip, in Karen Lynn Davidson and others, eds., Histories, Volume 1: Joseph Smith Histories, 1832–1844, volume 1 of the Histories series of The Joseph Smith Papers, edited by Dean C. Jessee and others (Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2012), 232–33 (draft 2).

Oliver, too, described the hill by its physical attributes in Letter VII. Like Mulholland, Oliver wrote that the hill "is as large, perhaps, as any in that country... I think I am justified in saying that this is the highest hill for some distance round." 

Mulholland's note explained "“I mentioned to President Smith that I considered it necessary that an explanation of <​the location of​> the place where the box was deposited would be required in order that the history be satisfactory." He did not suggest that the name of the place be included.

In light of D&C 128:20 (Joseph's lead that the historians chose not to follow), is it legitimate to claim that the 1838 history is the lead they should follow, just because Mulholland did not name the hill in that history? Here's what the essay on the Angel Moroni says as it explains the error in Joseph's 1838 history:

This reference [to Nephi] likely originated with Joseph Smith’s clerk James Mulholland, who began in 1839 to combine various manuscripts of Joseph Smith’s history into a single narrative. Evidence suggests Mulholland did not take dictation from Joseph Smith but rather worked from sources available to him that have not survived. Mulholland could easily have been confused about the identity of the angel since many of Joseph’s earlier accounts before Mulholland’s draft did not mention the angel’s name.

Since Joseph didn't dictate the 1838 history, how is it a legitimate excuse for censoring Cumorah from the historical record? 

*M2C is the acronym for the Mesoamerican/Two-Cumorahs theory that teaches the "real" Hill Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 is not in New York but instead is somewhere in southern Mexico. M2C is based on the assertion that Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were ignorant speculators who misled the Church when they taught that Cumorah was in New York. M2C has been accepted by many LDS intellectuals, and is being taught at BYU and CES.

**Certain LDS intellectuals recognize that the New York Cumorah taught by the prophets and apostles for decades contradicts their M2C theory. While they have long claimed the prophets and apostles are wrong, most members of the Church don't realize this, and the M2C intellectuals don't emphasize the point. Instead, they have been carefully erasing the New York Cumorah. Examples of their efforts include:

- The censorship of a critical portion of the Wentworth letter in the lesson manual Teachings of the Presidents of the Church--Joseph Smith, discussed here.
- Manipulating the search engine in the Joseph Smith Papers so a search for "Cumorah" does not produce critical references to the New York site.
- Censoring the David Whitmer account of meeting the messenger who was taking the Harmony plates to Cumorah.
- Creating a display in the North Visitors Center that depicts Mormon abridging the Nephite records from a cave in Mesoamerica, while Moroni is burying the plates off in the distance in New York.
- Creating confusion about the actual teachings of the prophets and apostles by taking certain teachings out of context and censoring teachings about the New York Cumorah (M2C citation cartel, including FairMormon, Book of Mormon Central, BYU Studies, etc.).
- Teaching the Book of Mormon at BYU and CES with fantasy maps that depict Cumorah in an area that resembles Mesoamerica and is anything but New York.

Of course, in the Internet age, censorship is a fool's errand. No matter how much the intellectuals seek to scrub the record of the New York Cumorah, anyone can read Letter VII, the General Conference reports, and all the historical references to the New York Cumorah.

How does it build faith for Church members to be kept ignorant of the teachings of the prophets and apostles?

How will current and future generations react when the first they hear of the New York Cumorah is when critics of the Church make them aware of it?
E.g., http://www.utlm.org/onlineresources/cumorah.htm

The real tragedy here is that the extrinsic evidence corroborates the teachings of the prophets, while M2C is based on illusory correspondences that lead people to disbelieve the teachings of the prophets.

Monday, October 29, 2018

More on illusory Mesoamerican correspondences

Last week we looked at the M2C claim that the Book of Mormon authors used a Mayan calendar. I pointed out it is an illusory correspondence, like all M2C correspondences.

But actually, it's not even a correspondence at all.

The M2C "correspondences" are no more real than the black dots in this optical illusion. When you carefully examine them, they vanish.

Illusory black dots
Specifically, we looked at this M2C claim:

We have known for years that Samuel the Lamanite's four hundred year prophecies in Helaman 13:5, 9 are examples of Mesoamerican (Maya) baktun prophecies. A baktun is 20 katuns, 144,000 days or 400 years. Another clear example of a baktun prophecy is Alma 45:10. Moroni reports baktun history in Mormon 8:6. Then, to erase all doubt about the time reckoning system his culture used, Moroni ends his record by reporting one final katun history Moroni 10:1.


A reader pointed out that a "baktun" is not 400 years, contrary to the M2C scholarship. It is 144,000 days, which is 394.25 solar years. The entire premise of the "correspondence" is false.

First, there is no "correspondence" between the Book of Mormon authors' reference to 400 years and Mayan calendar terms or counts.

Second, Book of Mormon authors never prophesied about a period of 394.25 years.

But the Old Testament Hebrews did use 400 years for prophecy.

Which do you think makes more sense?

On the Hebrew hand, we have Book of Mormon time frames identical to Biblical time frames involving Biblical events that Book of Mormon authors actually wrote about.

On the M2C hand, we have Book of Mormon time frames different from Mayan time frames involving Mayan events that Book of Mormon authors never wrote about.

How does anyone fall for these illusory M2C "correspondences" any longer?

More fun: the term "baktun" itself was invented by scholars.

See https://en.m.wiktionary.org/wiki/b%27ak%27tun

Understanding M2C is not a difficult, complex analysis that requires advanced degrees. It's simply a case of spot the difference.

Why is it so difficult for M2C intellectuals to spot the difference?


Friday, October 26, 2018

5 year correspondences

A good indicator of confirmation bias is pattern recognition. For M2C, a standard form of pattern recognition is the claim that an element from one culture "corresponds" to an element in another culture, thereby somehow linking the two cultures.

There's an excellent example in a recent post from one of my favorite bloggers. This one is titled "5 Year Prophecies." You can see it here: http://bookofmormonresources.blogspot.com/2018/10/5-year-prophecies.html

Let's have a look. Original in blue, my comments in red. My emphasis in bold.

In the book The Ancient Future of the Itza: The Book of Chilam Balam of Tizimin written by unknown Maya scribes over centuries and translated and annotated by Munro  S. Edmonson, (Austin: University of Texas Press: 1982), we find a significant correspondence with the Book of Mormon.

You might wonder, as I have, why the M2C intellectuals use the term "correspondence" so frequently. 

Here's a simple Google definition: 

a close similarity, connection, or equivalence.
"there is a simple correspondence between the distance of a focused object from the eye and the size of its image on the retina"
synonyms: correlation, similarity, resemblance, comparability, compatibility, agreement, consistency, congruity, conformity, uniformity, harmony, affinity, accordance, accord, concurrence, coincidence; association, relationship, connection, interaction
"there is some correspondence between the two variables"

It's a great term because it can imply an equivalence or affinity while preserving deniability. The fluid meaning allows the claim to be as close or as attenuated as one wants.

Of course, a "similarity," no matter how close, means only that one thing reminds us of another. 

Munro Sterling Edmonson (1924 - 2002) was a Mayanist on the faculty of the Middle American Research Institute (MARI) at Tulane. 

Here we get an application of the "quality" filter. Presumably, we'll see what this qualified expert had to say about the Book of Mormon.

He is best known for a highly-acclaimed translation of the Popol Vuh published in 1971 that was the best available until BYU's Alan  Christenson came out with his superior translation in 2003. 

Oops. So much for our "quality" expert. He has been eclipsed by a BYU M2C scholar. Since the blog post doesn't address the Popol Vuh, why the gratuitous reference to Christenson? Are we supposed to infer that this makes Christenson a "more quality" expert than Edmonson?  

There are many books of Chilam Balam known by the Yucatecan city of their provenance (Chumayel, Mani, Teabo, etc.) and they share many characteristics as divinatory almanacs tied to the cyclical Maya calendar. They are sometimes called "prophetic history" because they contain both predictions for the coming katun (7,200 day or 20 year cycle) and a history of the past katun. Important elements in the books of Chilam Balam are where was the seat of government, who was the ruler, and what were the major events that took place during a given katun? 

All fascinating, I'm sure, but what's the point?

All of this sounds very like what we read in the Book of Mormon.

Ah. Here comes the "correspondence." You can see already how illusory this is. What human society did not care about where was the seat of government, who the ruler was, and what major events took place in that society? 

By this standard, there is a "correspondence" between every human society and the Book of Mormon. Which, actually, is useful; at least the Book of Mormon matches up with human society. It's not a book about aliens (although presumably even aliens would care about these three elements). 

And, of course, every fictional society has these three elements.

One parallel caught my attention. In his introduction, Edmonson says the predictions were usually given 5 years before the beginning of a katun (The Ancient Future of the Itza, p. xii).  

5 year periods are not unique to Mayans, of course. The Soviet Union made five-year plans famous in the modern world, and India has also used them. 

We have a brilliant example of a five year prophecy by Samuel the Lamanite in Helaman 14:2. 

Hold on. The simplest explanation, of course, is coincidence. Samuel visited the Nephites because they were wicked. The Nephites rejected him. He left. The Lord commanded him to go back. We don't know what time frame this all took, but it could have involved months. Nothing special about the 5 years.

What makes this example "brilliant" is the M2C confirmation bias.

But it turns out, even if we assume the 5 years was more than a coincidence, it could relate directly to the most famous 5 year prophecy in the world, given by Joseph in Egypt, in Genesis 45:6.

4 And Joseph said unto his brethren, Come near to me, I pray you. And they came near. And he said, I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt.

5 Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life.

6 For these two years hath the famine been in the land: and yet there are five years, in the which there shall neither be earing nor harvest...

11 And there will I nourish thee; for yet there are five years of famine; lest thou, and thy household, and all that thou hast, come to poverty.

Joseph is a familiar figure in the Book of Mormon, which contains at least six passages, from 1 Nephi through Ether, that specifically refer to Joseph in Egypt. Here's an example: 

1 Nephi 5:14 And it came to pass that my father, Lehi, also found upon the plates of brass a genealogy of his fathers; wherefore he knew that he was a descendant of Joseph; yea, even that Joseph who was the son of Jacob, who was sold into Egypt, and who was preserved by the hand of the Lord, that he might preserve his father, Jacob, and all his household from perishing with famine.

Joseph in Egypt was a type for the Nephites in America. 

Ether 13:7 For as Joseph brought his father down into the land of Egypt, even so he died there; wherefore, the Lord brought a remnant of the seed of Joseph out of the land of Jerusalem, that he might be merciful unto the seed of Joseph that they should perish not, even as he was merciful unto the father of Joseph that he should perish not.

Just as Joseph promised salvation to his family after five years of drought, a five-year prophecy familiar to the Nephites since Joseph was their common ancestor and the type of their migration to the new world, Samuel the Lamanites gave a five-year prophecy of the coming of the Redeemer. 

Does this qualify as a "correspondence" in M2C mindset? 

Apparently not. Because next we're going to see that the Nephites didn't think about Joseph in Egypt. Instead, they cared about how Mayan priests prophesied!

We have known for years that Samuel the Lamanite's four hundred year prophecies in Helaman 13:5, 9 are examples of Mesoamerican (Maya) baktun prophecies. 

This is classic M2C dogma. Notice the rhetoric: not we have "speculated" or "proposed," but we have known that Samuel's prophecy was an example of a Mesoamerican baktun prophecy.

This takes us far beyond a mere correspondence. Now, according to M2C, Samuel the Lamanite was actually a Mayan priest making a baktum prophecy!

Those of us who read the Bible and see more than merely a "correspondence" between the Bible and the Book of Mormon remember another 400 year prophecy. Here's the Hebrew explanation for the four hundred year prophecy in the Book of Mormon:

Genesis 15:13 And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years;

14 And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance.

There are several references in the Book of Mormon to the children of Israel being in bondage and being freed. I think it makes more sense for the Book of Mormon authors to look at the 400 year period in the context of Genesis than in the context of a Mayan culture they never mention.

Unless Samuel the Lamanite was also Samuel the Mayan priest.

A baktun is 20 katuns, 144,000 days or 400 years. Another clear example of a baktun prophecy is Alma 45:10. 

This is a "clear example" of a Mayan prophecy? Now Alma is also a Mayan priest

Here's an alternative explanation. Maybe Alma, too, was invoking the example, well-known among the Nephites, of the children of Israel in Egypt. Look at what Alma prophesied:

Alma 45:10 And these are the words: Behold, I perceive that this very people, the Nephites, according to the spirit of revelation which is in me, in four hundred years from the time that Jesus Christ shall manifest himself unto them, shall dwindle in unbelief.

I don't know of a single "quality" Mesoamerican scholar who has found anything remotely comparable to Alma's prophecy. 

The only similarity (correspondence) between the Mayan prophecies and Alma's (and Samuel's) is the 400 years. 

The 400-year prophecy involving the children of Israel in Egypt has far more in common with the Book of Mormon prophets than merely the duration of time. Both Joseph in Egypt and the children of Israel in Egypt were recurring themes in the Book of Mormon, used to teach gospel principles and the covenants of the Lord.  

Moroni reports baktun history in Mormon 8:6. 

Now, Moroni, too, is a Mayan? 

Actually, he merely reports the fulfillment of Alma's prophecy:

Mormon 8:6 Behold, four hundred years have passed away since the coming of our Lord and Savior.

Moroni was not unfamiliar with the history of the children of Israel in Egypt; he related the account of Joseph in Egypt in Ether 13:7. 

Then, to erase all doubt about the time reckoning system his culture used, Moroni ends his record by reporting one final katun history Moroni 10:1.

Now Moroni intended "to erase all doubt about the time reckoning system his culture used." If that was his intent, perhaps he should have written katun instead of years, but for an M2C scholar, that's Joseph's fault for mistranslating what is "obviously" a Mayan codex. 

Or, even worse, since the M2C scholars now don't believe Joseph actually translated the plates (i.e., he merely "transmitted" the words that appeared on the stone in the hat), the Lord Himself mistranslated Moroni's words.

What did Moroni write that was so convincing as to erase all doubt?

Moroni 10:1 Now I, Moroni, write somewhat as seemeth me good; and I write unto my brethren, the Lamanites; and I would that they should know that more than four hundred and twenty years have passed away since the sign was given of the coming of Christ.

There it is.

Moroni lived 20 years after he observed, in Mormon 8:6, that Alma's 400-year prophecy had been fulfilled. That makes Moroni a Mayan.

And thus we see the power of confirmation bias.

By this same M2C reasoning, Joseph Smith was also a Mayan. He claimed the First Vision occurred in 1820, a date divisible by 20. The 400 year period (baktun) fits easily, depending on when you start the clock. Either 200 BC or 200 AD will do.

Anything is feasible when you are confirming your bias. There is always a "correspondence" that you can use.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Dead Prophets?

Another awesome post from one of my favorite bloggers is titled Dead Prophets. It's definitely worth reading if you want to understand the M2C bubble. It's almost poetic the way it compresses so much M2C doctrine into a short blog post. Unpacking it gives us a great insight into the thought processes that perpetuate M2C.

The post is also a good example of the "quality" filter in operation. (The "quality" filter was described in another post on the same blog, which we discussed yesterday.)

It's such a classic that I'll copy it here and provide interlinear comments in case the url gets lost. Original in blue, my comments in red.


Which "dead prophets" were the people
following when they rejected Noah?
Throughout history, most people have found it easier to follow dead prophets than God's living oracles. 

This is a cliché that may be rhetorically useful sometimes, but in light of the post on "quality" scholarship on the same blog, I'd like to see at least some "quality" evidence of this claim. Everyday experience informs us that most people in the world, especially "throughout history," haven't followed, and still don't follow, either the dead or the living prophets. [We can ask what it means to "follow" a prophet in the first place; e.g., is everyone who does not commit murder "following" Moses' 10 commandments?]

Among those who follow any prophets or spiritual leaders, what is the evidence that "most people" follow the dead ones but not the living ones? No such evidence is provided here.

The children of Israel struggled to follow Moses, 
Michelangelo's Moses

What prophets were the children of Israel following when they "struggled to follow" Moses? Setting aside the obvious point that, in fact, the children of Israel did follow Moses out of Egypt, no "dead prophets" I'm aware of taught them to worship a golden calf; certainly no prophet of God.

Many of the unpopular Old Testament prophets taught exactly the same things as their equally unpopular predecessors. Where's the evidence that the people accepted the teachings of the dead prophets but not the teachings of the living prophets? When the people were wicked, were they accepting the dead prophets? We should have "quality" citations for such a proposition.

Throughout the Book of Mormon, the righteous people kept the law of Moses and followed the living prophets. The wicked did neither. Here's a useful list of passages that explain how the prophets are rejected: https://www.lds.org/scriptures/tg/prophets-rejection-of?lang=eng

In many cases, it was those in power who resented being chastised by the prophets and therefore encouraged the people to reject the prophets.  

but by the time Christ came along, Moses was canonized and the Creator of the Universe had to deal with entrenched Moses mythology because most found it easier to follow the dead prophet than the living bread and water John 7:19, 22-23; John 9:28-29; 3 Nephi 15:2, 4, 8. 

Intellectuals who created "Moses mythology"
 "Moses mythology" was created by the intellectuals of the day, who interpreted the law of Moses and imposed their own rules. The New Testament shows that it was mainly the Jewish scholars and intellectuals, not the ordinary people, who rejected Christ. It was the popularity of Christ among the people that made the intellectuals resent and resist Christ and his message. John 7:31-32. 

For some relevant New Testament verses about Christ's popularity among the common people, see here

The Jewish intellectuals thought they, not the common people, should be the ones who interpreted the scriptures and told everyone else what to think and do.

Notice, the intellectuals in those days also censored opinions that contradicted their own interpretations, just the way the M2C intellectuals at Book of Mormon Central Censor are doing today: "the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that he was the Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue..." John 9:22.

(Of course, this is one of the reasons I find the title of the online journal The Interpreter so beautifully ironic. It's a member of the M2C citation cartel, publishing the work of M2C scholars presuming to interpret the scriptures for "ordinary" members of the Church; i.e., those without sufficient training for the ministry. I think it's great for scholars to have a forum to exchange ideas. It's only their arrogance and censorship that I oppose.)

There's another important point. For someone to follow the dead prophets but reject the living oracles, there would have to be a difference in teaching between the dead and the living prophets. Did Jeremiah teach something that contradicted Isaiah? Did Malachi say Jeremiah was merely expressing his opinion, which was wrong?

One of the hallmarks of true prophets is consistency. That's why we still use scriptures written hundreds and thousands of years ago.

Back to the post: what was easier for the people, to follow Christ, or the Mosaic law as interpreted by the scribes and Pharisees? Of course it was easier to follow Christ. That's why the intellectuals opposed Him. That's why Christianity expanded throughout the world, while the intellectuals who insisted on their own interpretation of the Mosaic law lost their influence, except over the diminishing numbers of people they could coerce. 

We can each draw our own conclusions about the parallels with M2C today. 

By the time Joseph Smith, Jr. (1805 - 1844) walked the earth, people called him a heretic and blasphemer.

This nonsequitur says nothing. Some people also called Joseph a prophet of God. All around the world, in all religious traditions, there are people described as leaders, heretics and blasphemers.  

You can proof text (selectively cherry pick), misunderstand, or re-arrange the words of a dead prophet and he will never chastise you for misquoting him. 

This is an excellent and revealing explanation, by the Executive Director of Book of Mormon Central Censor, of the technique M2C intellectuals use when censorship fails. 

M2C thrives by censoring the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah. When censorship fails and people learn what the prophets actually taught, M2C intellectuals teach them to reject the prophets.

Perhaps the easiest and clearest example is the way the M2C intellectuals reject Letter VII; i.e., although President Cowdery declared it was a fact that the final battles took place in the mile-wide valley west of the hill Cumorah in New York, our M2C intellectuals teach that President Cowdery was merely expressing an opinion--and he was wrong. 

Joseph had Letter VII copied into his personal history and republished multiple times, including by both of his brothers who were editors of their respective newspapers. However, because they think they're smarter and better informed about the Book of Mormon than Joseph and Oliver, our M2C intellectuals teach that Joseph and Oliver were ignorant speculators who misled the Church about the New York Cumorah. The M2C intellectuals know that they can get away with this because Joseph and Oliver cannot chastise them for misquoting and misrepresenting their teachings.

Over time, powerful traditions build up around a dead prophet because large numbers of people are only exposed to the proof texted, misconstrued, or re-contextualized version of his words. 

This is a nice explanation of the way the M2C intellectuals exploit the academic cycle. You can read all their work and never learn what the prophets have actually taught about the New York Cumorah. 

While the prophets and apostles have consistently and persistently taught that Cumorah is in New York, the M2C intellectuals censor those teachings, paraphrase them, and re-frame them as "the opinions of men." 

That's why most members of the Church have no idea what the prophets and apostles have actually taught about the Hill Cumorah in New York--and they're certainly never going to learn about it from M2C scholars or from Book of Mormon Central Censor.   

People believe these traditions and think they understand the prophet behind the facade. Honest historians come along who challenge these time-honored traditions and people cry foul. How dare modern intellectuals revise the cozy folklore that has built up around a dead prophet of God? 

The lack of specifics makes this passage impossible to assess. It is word salad looks and sounds like sentences, but they mean nothing. This vague rhetoric is a classic straw man fallacy. But let's think of an example.

One time-honored tradition is the cozy folklore that Joseph learned about Book of Mormon geography from a popular travel book in 1842, which was so impressive that it caused him to rethink everything he had taught up to then. 

As evidence, the M2C intellectuals cite anonymous articles. But here's where the cozy folklore really takes over.

Not a single one of the anonymous articles relied on by the M2C intellectuals contradicts the unambiguous teaching about the New York Cumorah. 

In fact, Letter VII and its teaching about the New York Cumorah was published in New York City two days after Joseph's martyrdom by Joseph's own brother, William. It was ubiquitous among the Latter-day Saints when Joseph wrote the letter that became D&C 128, published in the Times and Seasons just 18 months after Letter VII itself was published in the same paper. 

The cozy M2C folklore arose around the 1920s, when scholars began claiming Cumorah could not be in New York. This tradition is now firmly rooted. The entire edifice of M2C is built on it. Anyone who challenges the tradition is censored. The M2C intellectuals cry foul. 

And now we know, right from the Executive Director of Book of Mormon Central Censor, why the tradition persists.

A living prophet comes along who makes some procedural changes, clarifies points, or teaches something more in step with modern thought and people cringe. How dare the current prophet question the mythology that has built up around one of his dead predecessors?

More word salad that amounts to another straw man fallacy. It's difficult to think of anything a living prophet has said that "questions the mythology" about "one of his dead predecessors," apart from the prophets and apostles who have specifically and publicly "questioned" the "mythology" of M2C. Actually, they've done more than that. They've directly rejected it--including members of the First Presidency speaking in General Conference. In so doing, they have clarified the points made by their predecessors.

To date, no prophet or apostle has ever repudiated or even questioned the consistent and persistent teachings by their predecessors about the New York Cumorah. Only the M2C intellectuals have done that.

[Joseph Smith's] contemporaries "knew" what a prophet was supposed to be like, and the very human Joseph did not fit their mental mold. 

This is the subject of Oliver's Letter II, an essay that I think every member of the Church today should be just as familiar with as were the Latter-day Saints during Joseph's lifetime. It addresses this exact point, and more familiarity with it would obviate a lot of the problems some people have with their perception of Joseph Smith.

In 2018 we have people who lionize Joseph Smith, proof texting, misrepresenting, and re-formatting his message to suit their pet notions. 

This is an interesting choice of terms. Lionize has a range of definitions, but this sentence gives no guidance to which the author intends. 

What we do have is a group of M2C intellectuals who teach that Joseph was ignorant, confused, and easily manipulated by others, including the travel book. They claim that the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah are "manifestly absurd" because said teachings contradict their pet notions.

No group demonstrates this approach more regularly than Book of Mormon Central Censor. 

Honest historians publish the Joseph Smith Papers and Saints, causing reactionaries among us to conjure up conspiracy theories to explain why certain content was or was not included in these official sources. 

Again, lack of specifics relegates this word salad to a straw man fallacy, leaving nothing to respond to.

There are people who liberally quote Joseph Fielding Smith (1876 - 1972) while they all but ignore the more international, culturally nuanced, scientifically sound teachings of Spencer Woolley Kimball (1895 - 1985), Howard William Hunter (1907 - 1995), Gordon Bitner Hinckley (1910 - 2008), Thomas Spencer Monson (1927 - 2018), and Russell Marion Nelson, Sr. 

More straw man arguments, but since I've already raised Cumorah, let's consider what these prophets have said. None of them have repudiated their predecessors' teachings about the New York Cumorah, so far as I know. I've asked M2C intellectuals for any teachings of any of the prophets and apostles that repudiate the New York Cumorah, but so far, no one has provided any.

Some of the prophets and apostles have referred to people in Latin America as descendants of Lehi, which of course makes sense regardless of where Cumorah is. The Book of Mormon ended around 400 A.D., and the subsequent centuries saw considerable migration and intermarriage throughout the hemisphere. 

The D&C identifies the Lamanites as the Indians living in New York, Ohio, and Missouri. Joseph himself said the remnant of Lehi's family are the Indians living in this country (the United States). No prophet or apostle has repudiated these teachings, but M2C employees in the Correlation Department did censor Joseph's teachings from the lesson manual, as we've discussed. 

Regarding the New York Cumorah, Presidents Benson, Hinckley and Monson personally and individually signed off on the most recent statement, included in a letter sent in 1990: 

"The Church has long maintained, as attested to by references in the writings of General Authorities,  that the Hill Cumorah in western New York state is the same as referenced in the Book of Mormon."

The fun thing about the M2C scholars is they reject both the dead and the living prophets!

It has always been so. 

Or not, as we discussed above.

Following a dead prophet does not require one to be humble, obedient, or thoughtful. 

This is news--and an astonishingly arrogant claim. I hope the author retracts at least this statement. As bad as M2C rhetoric is overall, this is an inexcusable assertion that I specifically and emphatically reject.

According to this M2C mindset, millions of Christians around the world today who strive to follow Christ and the other prophets and apostles in the Bible ("dead prophets" in the M2C mindset), as well as their ancestors who did the same for millennia, did not have to be "humble, obedient or thoughtful."

That's not only counterfactual, but challenges the very point of Book of Mormon scholarship. If one does not have to be "humble, obedient, or thoughtful" to follow "a dead prophet," why do we have Book of Mormon scholarship at all? The book is nothing but the teachings of dead prophets. Why do we read the book, if not to follow its precepts?

Oh, wait. Now I see. Sure, Joseph said abiding by the precepts of the Book of Mormon would bring a man closer to God. But Joseph himself is a "dead prophet," and according to our M2C intellectuals, one needn't be "thoughtful" to follow Joseph. 

Notice, this M2C mindset is not limited only to Christians. The billions of people who have sought to follow their spiritual leaders, Christian or not, have always sought to be humble, obedient and thoughtful--but not according to our M2C intellectuals. 

People in their hubris can selectively quote, misinterpret, and re-package a dead prophet to fit their pre-conceived ideas of who, what, where, or how they think he should have been.

If we're focusing on Latter-day Saints, the most prominent and influential people who, in their hubris, are selectively quoting, misinterpreting, and re-packaging the "dead prophets" are the M2C intellectuals who insist the prophets are wrong about the New York Cumorah.