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.

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. 

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