Thursday, November 29, 2018

No-wise 489 - still misleading the Saints

Readers told me that Book of Mormon Central Censor (BOMCC) released a no-wise #489.

At first, I was inclined to ignore this no-wise. Readers of this blog surely recognize the logical and factual fallacies it contains because we've come to expect this from BOMCC.

However, I decided to comment on the no-wise because it is further evidence that M2C is the hand-in-the-glove that created the false historical narrative in the Saints book; i.e., the real-life people in Saints, according to the authors, never heard of the Hill Cumorah in New York.

Hand in the glove post:

https://saintsreview.blogspot.com/2018/10/m2c-and-saints-hand-in-glove.html

Historians admit creating a false historical narrative to convey a modern viewpoint among M2C intellectuals that we have no idea where Cumorah is, except that it couldn't possibly be in New York. I discussed that here:

https://saintsreview.blogspot.com/2018/10/the-historians-explain-censorship-in.html

This is the so-called "neutrality" position that I discussed here:

http://bookofmormonwars.blogspot.com/2018/11/non-neutral-neutrality-in-gospel-topics.html

No-wise #489 is an effort to bolster the phony historical narrative in Saints. It is a masterpiece of sophistry and misleading readers, all to promote M2C (the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory). I provided an analysis on my Book of Mormon Central America blog, here:

http://www.bookofmormoncentralamerica.com/2018/11/no-wise-489-where-is-hill-cumorah.html
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If I was a donor to BOMCC, I would be furious about this latest effort to justify the repudiation of the teachings of the prophets about Cumorah. But this is just the latest in a long history of the effort by the M2C intellectuals to persuade members of the Church that the prophets are wrong.

To be sure, all the M2C intellectuals are great people, faithful members of the Church, etc. I like every one of them personally. This is purely a discussion about ideas, about censorship, and about enabling members (and nonmembers) of the Church to make fully informed decisions.

I think the ongoing censorship, obfuscation, and sophistry should cease ASAP.

No-Wise #489 Where is the Hill Cumorah?

No-Wise #489 is a definite keeper. It exposes the paucity of evidence to support M2C's repudiation of the prophets. Let's take a look.

Here's the link. Here's the opening image:

They chose an image that makes the Hill Cumorah in New York appear insignificant, which supports their M2C narrative.

Notice how Book of Mormon Central Censor (BOMCC) superimposes their Mayan logo.

This is the logo that conveys their corporate mission to "to increase understanding of the Book of Mormon as an ancient Mesoamerican codex." 


The logo tells you everything you need to know about the content of no-wise #489. Like all the other no-wise articles published by BOMCC, this one promotes M2C.


BOMCC has zero interest in pursuing the truth, wherever it leads, because their main objective is to persuade members of the Church that the Book of Mormon is a Mesoamerican codex.

They take this objective so seriously that they repudiate the teachings of the prophets in its pursuit.

Let's observe how they do so in no-wise #489.
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Here's an extract from the no-wise in blue, along with my comments in red.

Not much is known about the land and hill Cumorah. 

To the contrary, quite a bit is known about the land and hill Cumorah. Prophets have described what they've seen from the top of the hill. Letter VII explains the facts of what happened there, including the final battles of the Jaredites and Nephites and the depository of Nephite records. Soon after he joined the Church, Heber C. Kimball visited the hill and observed the embankments that have since been plowed under. Joseph, Oliver and others visited the repository in the hill.

The only Book of Mormon authors to discuss the location were Mormon and Moroni. 

Plus Ether. We know from Ether 15 that Coriantumr's army pitched their tents by the hill, and that the final Jaredite war took place there, consisting of a few thousand followers of Coriantumr vs. a few thousand followers of Shiz. Extrapolating backward from the numbers Ether gave us, the total number of combatants was apparently fewer than 10,000, which corroborates Letter VII. 

Based on a statement given by Mormon, the land of Cumorah was “a land of many waters, rivers, and fountains” (Mormon 6:4). 

This is consistent with western New York, as I discussed here:

http://bookofmormonwars.blogspot.com/2018/01/getting-real-about-cumorah-part-3-many_26.html

Other geographical clues given in the Book of Mormon appear to situate Cumorah north of the narrow neck of land and near an eastern seacoast (cf. Mormon 2:3, 20, 29; Ether 9:3).1 

You can read these verses yourself and see they don't say what is claimed here. Mormon 2 doesn't even refer to the "narrow neck of land." That was a Jaredite term, found only in Ether 10:20. Mormon 2:29 refers to a "narrow passage." Conflating these different terms is one of the major logical fallacies behind M2C, along with the M2C assumption that the "land northward" is a proper noun instead of a relative term. Ether 9:3 says Ablom, not Cumorah, was by the seashore. 

The hill itself was tall enough that it could be used as a strategic defensive position as well as an observation point for surveillance of the surrounding countryside (Mormon 6:2, 7, 11).

Nothing in the texts suggests it was the height of Cumorah that made it a strategic defensive position, although we can't exclude that as a possibility. Alternatively, Mormon could have chosen it because he knew Coriantumr had constructed a fortress there. Maybe the embankments that Heber C. Kimball observed were originally constructed by the Jaredites, so Mormon could use or rebuild those. It's true that Mormon could see 20,000 of his dead people from the top, and presumably an equivalent number of Lamanites. The valley west of Cumorah can easily accommodate this many people. Thousands of visitors attend the pageant every year. Audiences of 5,000, including all their cars and buses and concession stands, don't fill even the area between the hill and the highway.
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Now, let's turn to the sophistry.

There is “no historical evidence that Moroni called the hill ‘Cumorah’ in 1823” during his first encounter with the Prophet Joseph Smith. 

This is a red herring. We know from Lucy Mack Smith that Joseph referred to the hill as Cumorah in 1827, before he obtained the plates (and well before he translated them). Whether he learned the name in 1823 or during any of the subsequent visits is immaterial.

The name Cumorah came into “common circulation [amongst Latter-day Saints] no earlier than the mid-1830s.”2 The first documented person to identify the drumlin hill3 in Manchester, New York where Joseph Smith received the plates with the hill Cumorah appears to have been William W. Phelps in 1833.4

Notice the sophistry here. No-wise #489 wants you to think Cumorah is not in New York because this 1833 publication is "late" and was published by Phelps.

The question is not when the name Cumorah was first published, but but when it was first known (which as we just saw was before Joseph even got the plates, and we'll discuss this more below). The no-wise is trying to get you to think past the sale; i.e., it wants you to think "common circulation" is relevant, when it's actually nothing more than a function of when members of the Church were able to publish a newspaper.


The term "common circulation" means something published. The first Church newspaper was The Evening and the Morning Star, published in Missouri by W.W. Phelps starting in June 1832. 


Not surprisingly, Phelps didn't publish everything in the first issue. He covered a variety of topics, including the Ten Tribes and the Resurrection, in the first issues. He also published the early revelations that were later published in the Book of Commandments and today's D&C.


Issue #8, January 1833, focused on the Book of Mormon. He published this:



But before the glorious and happy results of this book are set forth, it seems necessary to go back to the time it was brought forth. In the year one thousand eight hundred and twenty seven, the plates came forth from the hill Cumorah, which is in the county of Ontario, and state of New-York, by the power of God.

You can read this yourself here:

http://www.centerplace.org/history/ems/v1n08.htm


IOW, the very first LDS publication declared that Cumorah was in New York in its eighth issue. If Phelps had published it in the first issue, would that have made a difference? If he had waited until the 10th or 12th issue to focus on the Book of Mormon, would that have made a difference?

Book of Mormon Central Censor wants you to believe that Phelps unilaterally invented the New York Cumorah in 1833.


A more realistic way to consider this evidence is that the New York Cumorah was so well known among those who knew Joseph and Oliver that there was no urgency in announcing it sooner. Why? 


Notice that Phelps doesn't make a big deal about the New York Cumorah. He published it as a fact, not as speculation. He explains where Cumorah is, but doesn't feel any need to justify the name or explain why he calls it Cumorah. When you read the statement in context, you see that he is reporting to the world facts that were already well known to the Saints.


Phelps’s identification was later followed by Oliver Cowdery in 1835.5 

This is beautiful sophistry. 

Remember, Book of Mormon Central Censor wants you to believe that Phelps invented the New York Cumorah. Here, they suggest that Oliver Cowdery merely copied Phelps' lead. 


You have to go to the footnotes to see that the reference is to Letter VII. Then they give you a link to Book of Mormon Central Censor's own site, not to an original source (such as the Joseph Smith Papers). This allows BOMCC to editorialize through their "More Like This" to link to M2C-oriented material. 


This misleading link allows BOMCC to obscure the fact that Joseph had his scribes copy Letter VII into his own history, and that Joseph encouraged others to republish Letter VII, as we'll see next.


Probably due to the popularity and influence of these two early leaders’ writings, the identification of the hill in New York as same the hill Cumorah mentioned by Mormon in Book of Mormon became commonplace amongst early Latter-day Saints.6

Here, no-wise #489 glosses over a key fact that perceptive readers have already noticed. First, though, notice what they're trying to establish here. According to Book of Mormon Central Censor, the only reason people believed Cumorah was in New York is because a couple of obscure articles from 1833 and 1835 became "popular." 

BOMCC doesn't tell you that Phelps' article was so "popular" that it was never reprinted and had limited circulation in the first place. Instead, they try to persuade you that it "influenced" Oliver Cowdery.


So then we ask, why were Oliver's letters, including Letter VII, popular?


Here are some reasons that Book of Mormon Central Censor will never tell you. In fact, they removed from their archive a little book that explained all of this and instead issued another no-wise that tries to persuade Church members to disbelieve Letter VII.


1. Joseph Smith helped write the letters.
2. Oliver was the Assistant President of the Church when he wrote and published Letter VII. The entire First Presidency endorsed the letters, as did every member of the Twelve who ever commented on them (through the present day).
3. Joseph had his scribes copy the letters, including Letter VII, into his personal history, where you can read it today in the Joseph Smith Papers. See link here: http://www.lettervii.com/
4. Joseph authorized Benjamin Winchester to reprint the letters in the Gospel Reflector newspaper.
5. Joseph gave the letters to his brother Don Carlos to reprint in the Times and Seasons.
6. Joseph's brother William reprinted them in the New York City newspaper called The Prophet.
7. Parley P. Pratt reprinted them in the Millennial Star.
8. The letters were so popular in England that, in response to popular demand, they were compiled into a special pamphlet that sold thousands of copies.

As far as can be determined, the Prophet Joseph Smith himself only associated the hill in New York with the Cumorah in the Book of Mormon towards the end of his life.

This is outstanding sophistry and misdirection.

By using the passive voice--"as far as can be determined"--the anonymous author conveys the false message that no one can find anything to the contrary. 


Earlier in this post I pointed out the well-known statement from Lucy Mack Smith, where she specifically quoted Joseph referring to the hill as Cumorah in 1827 before he even got the plates. (We'll see how BOMCC deals with that in a moment.) 


Notice also the term "himself" in this sentence. That's there because Joseph expressly helped Oliver write the historical letters, including Letter VII. It's also there to exclude statements from everyone else, as we'll see.


The no-wise next mentions D&C 128:20, Joseph's 1842 letter that refers to Cumorah. But then it tells us this:

Before then, Joseph left the name of the New York hill where Moroni gave him the plates unnamed in his accounts of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon.8 

I discussed this here:


https://saintsreview.blogspot.com/2018/10/the-hill-in-new-york-problem.html 


Now, notice this sentence:


Whether the Prophet arrived at this conclusion about the location of Cumorah by revelation, or by conforming to usage that had become common among the early members of the Church about Book of Mormon geography, or in some other way is historically unknown.9

Do you see how they are salting the earth here? They want members of the Church to believe that Joseph Smith misled the Church by "conforming" to a false "usage" created by unknown early members of the Church.

That assertion by M2C intellectuals is the first step toward their eventual repudiation of all the teachings of the prophets and apostles about the New York Cumorah. They actually expect you to believe that Joseph Smith adopted and endorsed a false tradition, and that this false tradition is now canonized in D&C 128.


Plus, as we've seen, it's not "historically unknown" that Joseph learned the name Cumorah before he even obtained the plates. Furthermore, David Whitmer learned the name Cumorah for the heavenly messenger who was taking the Harmony plates to Cumorah. 


But wait. It gets worse.


In the decades after Joseph Smith’s death, other prominent early Latter-day Saints, including Lucy Mack Smith,10 Parley P. Pratt,11 and David Whitmer,12 recounted earlier incidents in which the New York hill was identified as Cumorah by the angel Moroni and by Joseph Smith. Since these statements are somewhat late recollections, coming after the identity of Cumorah as a hill near Palmyra, New York, had become widespread, they should be used cautiously.13

Here, Book of Mormon Central Censor wants you to believe that Lucy, Parley, and David all lied about the New York Cumorah, and thereby, like Joseph, misled the Church. 

Furthermore, BOMCC wants you to believe that all subsequent prophets and apostles who have ever addressed the topic likewise misled the Church. 


The rest of the no-wise is a rehash of old material, and I've responded to all of it in detail. But I need to comment on two more passages.


However, most Church leaders have simply and accurately said that the geography of the Book of Mormon is not revealed.17 

Note 17 is one of my favorites. It consists of an obscure, out-of-context quotation by Harold B. Lee that is currently being used by people in the Correlation Department to screen out any material that contradicts M2C. It's also a favorite of Fairly Mormon. I've addressed it before here:

http://bookofmormonwars.blogspot.com/2017/10/fairmormons-famous-harold-b-lee.html


Notice how they quote their misleading excerpt from Elder Lee's 1966 comment, but they don't quote from President Marion G. Romney's 1975 General Conference address. They don't expect you to look that up. They also don't cite the other prophets who have corroborated the New York Cumorah. 

Their audacity knows no bounds.


In reality, every Church leader who has addressed the topic has affirmed the New York Cumorah. They have also affirmed the equally consistent and persistent teaching that we don't know for sure where the other events took place. This has been the case from the early days of the Church through the present, but Book of Mormon Central Censor and the rest of the M2C citation cartel constantly try to conflate the two separate issues to confuse and mislead members of the Church.


Additionally, several Latterday Saint scholars have questioned whether the hill in New York could feasibly be the hill Cumorah described in the Book of Mormon. 

Here it is. They want you to believe the scholars, not the prophets. They follow this with a long paragraph about how the prophets couldn't possibly be right, complete with a citation to the M2C Bible, Mormon's Codex, which declares that the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah are "manifestly absurd."

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When we read the polemical and agenda-drive no-wise such as #489, we are reminded of Orwell's NEWSPEAK and old Soviet Pravda articles. This no-wise is pure censorship, dressed up to look as if it is balanced or neutral. You have to read it carefully to detect what's going on, but the message is clear.

Book of Mormon Central Censor doesn't want you to know what the prophets have taught. 

They want you to believe the scholars, who, according to the M2C intellectuals, have been hired by the prophets to guide the Church.

I write all of this with the greatest respect and kind feelings toward the M2C intellectuals, their followers and their victims. I have no personal animosity toward any of them. I think they're all great people, faithful members of the Church, etc. I just wish they would at least inform members of the Church about all the facts and let us make informed decisions instead of engaging in this sophistry designed to persuade us to believe the scholars instead of the prophets.





Wednesday, November 28, 2018

M2C, Anarchy, and the Church's future

We've spent the last two days in La Reunion, a nearby island that is part of France and therefore subject to President Macron's new gas tax, imposed apparently to prevent climate change (another topic for another day). You may have seen the news reports from Paris of similar protests throughout France, such as this one: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-46356649.

When we were there, La Reunion was mostly shut down by protesters blocking the roads. I took these photos so you can see the large trucks and equipment blocking the freeways. The protesters wore the yellow jackets worn by police.

The protesters would let a few cars through every now and then. We had to drive slowly and carefully to negotiate the narrow passages they created through the parked trucks.

It is total anarchy. These protesters do whatever they want. They seemed to get a kick out of directing traffic as though they were the police.

On the smaller roads, the Yellow Jackets allowed their friends and family through, but everyone else had to wait until they got around to letting a car through. At one blockage, they let one car through every 4 minutes.

I took this picture when I was at the front of the line, waiting for the protester to open the gate so I could get through.


At one "blockage" I spoke with the protester in French. I asked why he was blocking me. He said he wasn't blocking me, but Macron was. It was a fascinating conversation about his perception of reality.

The blockage was so disruptive that we couldn't get to our hotel in the mountains. We ended up at an airbnb, which was fun anyway, but the entire island is basically shut down. Fortunately, the airport operated with only a few flights canceled so we were able to leave. We got to the airport early in the morning, before the "manifestations" started for the day, but we saw people hauling their luggage to and fro on foot because one of the biggest blockages was at the airport exits from the freeway.
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What does this have to do with M2C*?

M2C represents anarchy in the Church.

Thanks to M2C, we have BYU and CES teachers telling students that the prophets are wrong when they disagree with the intellectuals. 

We have one of the most influential BYU professors teaching his readers in Mormon's Codex that the teachings of the prophets and apostles about the New York Cumorah are "manifestly absurd." 

And we have a Gospel Topics Essay, written by M2C intellectuals, that links specifically to that book.

It's pretty easy to understand how chaotic it is for students to have their BYU and CES teachers telling them the prophets are wrong about the New York Cumorah. When these intellectuals repudiate the consistent and persistent teachings of the prophets and apostles, we have anarchy.

On this blog, I focus on the issue of the New York Cumorah, but that's just one example. The principle of intellectuals asserting superiority over the prophets is far more widespread.

The M2C intellectuals are the Yellow Jackets of the Church.

They have appointed themselves the gatekeepers of the Book of Mormon.

They created the citation cartel to enforce their views and make sure members of the Church learn only what they, the Yellow Jackets, deem is consistent with M2C.

They claim the "dead prophets," including Oliver Cowdery, Joseph Smith, and every prophet and apostle who has ever addressed the issue, including members of the First Presidency speaking in General Conference, was wrong about the New York Cumorah,

They claim the living prophets have hired them, the Yellow Jackets, to guide the Church.

They created Book of Mormon Central Censor as a repository and resource for all things M2C.

BYU Fantasy map that teaches students
 the prophets and apostles are wrong
about the New York Cumorah
(Lately some have taken exception to my observations here, but you can see this for yourself. I'm not naming any individuals; this is a question of what people are teaching. You can try it yourself. Ask a BYU or CES teacher about the New York Cumorah. He or she will tell you the prophets were wrong. Otherwise, they wouldn't use the fantasy map. Look at BYU Studies, FairlyMormon, the Interpreter, Book of Mormon Central Censor, or any of the other members of the M2C citation cartel. They all say the prophets were wrong. They have to. Otherwise, they'd have to accept the New York Cumorah instead of M2C.)

I think the Yellow Jackets of the Church--the M2C enforcers and their followers, including the censors at Book of Mormon Central Censor--are blocking the progress of the Church just as much as these protesters blocked the roads in La Reunion (and France).

We'll look at specific examples in upcoming posts.
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*M2C is the acronym for the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory that teaches the prophets were wrong about the New York Cumorah. Instead, according to M2C, the "real" Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 is somewhere in Southern Mexico. If you read their work, they tell each other that Cumorah is really a mountain, not a hill, and it's on the east coast of southern Mexico near the "hourglass" shape of the "narrow neck." This is how they portray it on the fantasy maps, too.



Monday, November 26, 2018

Reading Saints

Yesterday we were at Ile aux Cerfs and I brought along my copy of Saints.



It's a great book. It's just a tragedy that the authors created a false history to accommodate M2C.

https://saintsreview.blogspot.com/2018/10/the-historians-explain-censorship-in.html

November update on Early Modern English theory

This post was intended for another site, so I removed it from here.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Non-neutral "Neutrality" in Gospel Topics

Lately we've been hearing a lot about the Church's alleged position of "neutrality" about Book of Mormon geography and historicity.

For example, the editors of Saints invoked "neutrality" as a justification for the false narrative present they created in that book (i.e., supposedly accurate historical figures in Church history who never heard of Cumorah).

See my discussion here: https://saintsreview.blogspot.com/2018/10/the-historians-explain-censorship-in.html

Likewise, Book of Mormon Central Censor invokes the "neutrality" concept to justify its strong advocacy of M2C and its censorship of anything that contradicts M2C.

As used by these intellectuals, "neutrality" is a pretext for censoring and rejecting the teachings of the prophets.

Let's see how this works.
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The editors of Saints cited the "Gospel Topics Essay" on DNA. This is a favorite reference for Book of Mormon Central Censor, as well, along with the Encyclopedia of Mormonism.

Why?

Because these reference books were written by and cite only M2C advocates. There is nothing--absolutely nothing--neutral about them.

I've discussed the EoM before, so let's look at the Gospel Topics essay.
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Here's the link:

https://www.lds.org/topics/book-of-mormon-and-dna-studies?lang=eng

Because today's topic is the supposedly "neutral" position on geography, I won't discuss the DNA issue here.

Instead, I'll focus on three paragraphs, with their accompanying footnotes.

Two things to notice.

1. The essay never quotes the scriptures. Instead, it relies on inferences and commentary by M2C scholars.

2. I searched in my browser for the term "neu" as in neutral or neutrality, and nothing came up. Maybe my browser was having a bad day, but I didn't notice the term when I read the essay, either. If it is in there, email me and show me where.

Original in blue, my comments in red. I put the footnotes right after they are cited in the text. Quotes within quotations are in purple.

The Book of Mormon provides little direct information about cultural contact between the peoples it describes and others who may have lived nearby. 
But the direct information the text does provide explains there were no nations on the promised land where Lehi landed. 2 Nephi 1:8 "And behold, it is wisdom that this land should be kept as yet from the knowledge of other nations; for behold, many nations would overrun the land, that there would be no place for an inheritance."
Nephi also reports that they planted seeds and hunted animals when they landed; they faced no competition for farming or hunting resources. Of course, this doesn't preclude the possibility of "others who may have lived nearby." I actually think they did encounter people when they arrived, but I think, because of what Lehi said, these were not "nations" in the sense of large, organized civilizations. 
Consequently, most early Latter-day Saints assumed that Near Easterners or West Asians like Jared, Lehi, Mulek, and their companions were the first or the largest or even the only groups to settle the Americas. 
This is carefully crafted vague language, but what is the essay really saying? Simply that "most early Latter-day Saints" were wrong because they made false assumptions.
Did they make these assumptions out of thin air?
Of course not. Notice how the essay avoids informing readers what Joseph Smith explained in the Wentworth letter:
"In this important and interesting book the history of ancient America is unfolded, from its first settlement by a colony that came from the Tower of Babel at the confusion of languages to the beginning of the fifth century of the Christian era. 
"We are informed by these records that America in ancient times has been inhabited by two distinct races of people. The first were called Jaredites and came directly from the Tower of Babel. The second race came directly from the city of Jerusalem about six hundred years before Christ. They were principally Israelites of the descendants of Joseph. 
"The Jaredites were destroyed about the time that the Israelites came from Jerusalem, who succeeded them in the inheritance of the country. The principal nation of the second race fell in battle towards the close of the fourth century. The remnant are the Indians that now inhabit this country."
Modern Church members are unfamiliar with Joseph's teaching because this material was censored from the lesson manual Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith. Readers of this DNA essay likewise will not learn what Joseph taught. 
This DNA essay skirts the real reason why people want to know about the DNA issue. To be effective, this essay should help reconcile Joseph's teaching with the scientific evidence. Instead, this essay simply obscures Joseph's explanation and dismisses it as a false assumption. That's pure M2C ideology, not neutrality.

If the purpose of these Gospel Topics essays is to inform and educate, censoring and avoiding the teachings of the prophets is counterproductive. 
Building upon this assumption, critics insist that the Book of Mormon does not allow for the presence of other large populations in the Americas and that, therefore, Near Eastern DNA should be easily identifiable among modern native groups.
There are no citations here, so it's difficult to tell who the critics are and what they're actually insisting, but this strikes me as a bit of a straw man fallacy. Joseph never taught or endorsed a hemispheric geography; in fact, in the Wentworth letter, he deleted Orson Pratt's hemispheric ideas. If, as Joseph explained, the Book of Mormon described the history of the ancestors of the "Indians that now inhabit this country," it did not pertain to the inhabitants of Latin America--which is exactly what the DNA shows.

Critics who focus on early concepts of a hemispheric setting are focusing on what some of Joseph's contemporaries speculated, not on what Joseph actually taught. That should be made crystal clear in this DNA essay.
The Book of Mormon itself, however, does not claim that the peoples it describes were either the predominant or the exclusive inhabitants of the lands they occupied. In fact, cultural and demographic clues in its text hint at the presence of other groups.6
This paragraph avoids the problem of the Wentworth letter by referring to "the Book of Mormon itself." However, as previously noted, Lehi taught that other nations did not know about the land of his inheritance. Nephite kings and judges, as well as Lamanite kings, ruled entire territories, a claim that would not be credible if they were not the predominant or exclusive inhabitants of the lands they occupied.
What purpose does this paragraph serve? It accommodates the M2C theory.

M2C requires that the Nephites were a subset of a much larger, sophisticated culture, but neither Joseph Smith nor the Book of Mormon required or even implied such an idea.
6. John L. Sorenson, “When Lehi’s Party Arrived in the Land, Did They Find Others There?” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 1, no. 1 (Fall 1992): 1–34. These arguments were summarized more recently in John L. Sorenson, Mormon’s Codex: An Ancient American Book (Provo, UT: Neal A. Maxwell Institute, 2013). Sorenson suggests that indicators in the book’s text makes it “inescapable that there were substantial populations in the ‘promised land’ throughout the period of the Nephite record, and probably in the Jaredite era also” (“When Lehi’s Party Arrived,” 34). 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. See Book of Mormon Seminary Teacher Manual (2012): 196.
Notice the contrast between the "neutral" language of the note ("Sorenson suggests") and the decidedly not "neutral" language of the actual quotation from Brother Sorenson's article (inescapable that there were substantial populations"). 
Aside from the incongruity of quoting the scholars instead of the scriptures, careful readers observe how confident--even insistent--Brother Sorenson is that Lehi was wrong.
We have to admire the inclusion of this footnote for another reason. Recall that in Mormon's Codex, Brother Sorenson wrote, among others, these gems:
A large number of convergences or correspondences between the information from Mesoamerican studies and that from the Book of Mormon are presented in the following chapters. Their number and nature show beyond question that the Book of Mormon had to come from an ancient Mesoamerican document.
There remain Latter-day Saints who insist that the final destruction of the Nephites took place in New York, but any such idea is manifestly absurd. Hundreds of thousands of Nephites traipsing across the Mississippi Valley to New York, pursued (why?) by hundreds of thousands of Lamanites, is a scenario worthy only of a witless sci-fi movie, not of history. 
This supposedly "neutral" Gospel Topics essay cites the least-neutral book on the topic in existence. Mormon's Codex is a polemical book that excludes any other possible book of Mormon setting and frames the teachings of the prophets as "manifestly absurd."
Next, the essay offers this qualification:

"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."
The scholar the essay cited in the immediately preceding sentences categorically excludes any hypothesis other than his own as plausible

The essay never cites, acknowledges or even hints at alternative hypotheses, plausible or not. Instead, it cites a scholar who specifically repudiates and ridicules the consistent and persistent teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah.
True, the essay does not overtly declare that the prophets were wrong. Instead, it adopts the methodology practiced by M2C scholars and the Correlation Department, which is more subtle; i.e., they confuse readers by conflating the teachings of the prophets, the way this sentence in the essay does.
The essay conflates two clear and consistent teachings by the prophets and apostles:
1. The Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 is in New York.
2. We don't know for sure where any of the other events took place.
Technically, one can say "the Church" has no official position because it is only the prophets and apostles who have taught the New York Cumorah. I don't know how "the Church" has an official position on anything, except when there's a press release or statement about the position of "the Church" on a given topic. 

Normally, we learn from what the prophets and apostles teach, and they have consistently and persistently taught that Cumorah is in New York. No prophet or apostle has ever modified, questioned, or repudiated these teachings. 
Nor has "the Church" modified, questioned, or repudiated the teachings about the New York Cumorah. Plus, official Church publications have included teachings about the New York Cumorah, including Letter VII, several times. 
Consequently, I don't believe this footnote in a Gospel Topics essay overrules decades of teachings by the prophets and apostles. I think it merely reaffirms the second component; i.e., that we don't know for sure where the other events took place.
Neverthelsss, I have to pay close attention to what this essay is saying. It encourages readers to go to Mormon's Codex, which expressly claims that the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah are "manifestly absurd." 
It is difficult for me to believe that our current prophets feel this way about the clear, consistent teachings of their predecessors, but this essay does tend to support those who make that claim. 
I encourage whoever is responsible for this essay to clarify the issue. If "the Church" is actually neutral on the question of Book of Mormon geography, it should not publish an essay that declares the teachings of the prophets to be "manifestly absurd." 
If "the Church" does think the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah are manifestly absurd, the essay should state it more directly.
Either way, as the essay now stands, it is definitely not neutral.
Even if it was neutral, how can one be "neutral" about whether or not the prophets teach the truth? If we're "neutral" about whether members of the First Presidency speaking in General Conference are teaching the truth, what are we doing?

This essay's approach sets a precedent for some future scholar to insert a footnote to the effect that "the Church" is "neutral" about any topic taught by the prophets that the particular scholar disagrees with.
At the April 1929 general conference, President Anthony W. Ivins of the First Presidency cautioned: “We must be careful in the conclusions that we reach. The Book of Mormon … does not tell us that there was no one here before them [the peoples it describes]. It does not tell us that people did not come after.”7
7. Anthony W. Ivins, in Conference Report, Apr. 1929, 15. 
This quotation is useful for the specific point that, consistent with what Joseph taught in the Wentworth letter, the Book of Mormon does not address the inhabitants of the entire American continent, North and South. However, President Ivins was not teaching that we know nothing about Book of Mormon geography. He was specifically referring to the location of the City of Zarahemla. Exactly one year earlier, in the April 1928 General Conference, President Ivins gave an address commemorating the Church's acquisition of the Hill Cumorah in New York. Among other things he stated that the "following facts" were firmly established:
That the hill Cumorah, and the hill Ramah are identical. 
That it was around this hill that the armies of both the Jaredites and Nephites fought their great last battles. 
That it was in this hill that Mormon deposited all of the sacred records which had been entrusted to his care by Ammaron, except the abridgment which he had made from the plates of Nephi, which were delivered into the hands of his son, Moroni.
We know positively that it was in this hill that Moroni deposited the abridgment made by his father, and his own abridgment of the record of the Jaredites, and that it was from this hill that Joseph Smith obtained possession of them.
I discussed this discourse here:
This all means that President Ivins, in two General Conference addresses, laid out the consistent, persistent teachings of the prophets that (i) Cumorah is in New York and (ii) we don't know where the other events took place. 

This DNA essay causes confusion by not informing readers of these two distinct and clear teachings. Instead, it conflates the two teachings, just as the M2C intellectuals have been doing for decades. 
Joseph Smith appears to have been open to the idea of migrations other than those described in the Book of Mormon,8 
This is pure mind reading. By omitting what Joseph actually wrote in the Wentworth letter, the essay leaves readers to wonder what, if anything, Joseph actually taught on this topic. 
8. “Facts Are Stubborn Things,” Times and Seasons 3 (Sept. 15, 1842): 922. This article is unattributed but was published under Joseph Smith’s editorship. See also Hugh Nibley, Lehi in the Desert, The World of the Jaredites, There Were Jaredites (Salt Lake City and Provo, UT: Deseret Book and Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1988): 250.
This is one of the anonymous Times and Seasons articles that laid the foundation for M2C; i.e., the M2C scholars claim Joseph was confused about Book of Mormon geography, speculated about the New York Cumorah, and misled the Church until he read about Mesoamerica in a travel book in Nauvoo, at which time he changed his mind because he was "open" to the scholars.

It's a transparent effort to exalt the scholars over the prophets.
Readers here know that I think the historical evidence demonstrates that Joseph was merely the nominal editor of the Times and Seasons, that he had nothing to do with editing or writing anything he didn't individually sign, and that he resigned as nominal editor after these anonymous Mesoamerican articles were published without his knowledge or approval. 

So far, no historian has come up with any evidence that Joseph was involved with any of these articles, apart from a "stylometry" analysis that is highly suspect at best because the authors refuse to make public their assumptions, database, or software. 
This leaves us with a contrast between Joseph's explicit statement in the Wentworth letter, quoted above, and the mind-reading assumptions of the M2C scholars. And yet this essay features the mind reading while omitting Joseph's actual statement. That's the opposite of neutrality.   
and many Latter-day Saint leaders and scholars over the past century have found the Book of Mormon account to be fully consistent with the presence of other established populations.9 
Here again, the essay cites scholars instead of prophets, although it may be alluding back to President Ivins. This is worded vaguely enough that it doesn't contradict Joseph's statement in the Wentworth letter. 
9. For a review of statements on this subject, see Matthew Roper, “Nephi’s Neighbors: Book of Mormon Peoples and Pre-Columbian Populations,” FARMS Review 15, no. 2 (2003): 91–128.
This is a fascinating citation. Brother Roper is one of the authors of the suspect "stylometry" study that confirmed his M2C bias. He's employed by Book of Mormon Central Censor to write articles that promote M2C and oppose alternatives, including the teachings of the prophets. He's one of the best-known advocate of M2C and he's anything but neutral.
For an analysis of the cited paper, see my post here:
The 2006 update to the introduction of the Book of Mormon reflects this understanding by stating that Book of Mormon peoples were “among the ancestors of the American Indians.”10
10. Introduction to the Book of Mormon, rev. ed. (New York: Doubleday, 2006). The introduction, which is not part of the text of the Book of Mormon, previously stated that the Lamanites were the “principal ancestors of the American Indians.” Even this statement, first published in 1981, implies the presence of others. (Introduction to the Book of Mormon, 1981 ed.) Early in the Book of Mormon, the name Lamanite refers to the descendants of Laman and Lemuel (see 2 Nephi 5:14 and Jacob 1:13). Hundreds of years later, it came to identify all those with a different political or religious affiliation than the keepers of the Book of Mormon plates (see Helaman 11:24 and 4 Nephi 1:20).
Notice that the original Introduction followed what Joseph wrote in the Wentworth letter in the section I quoted above in my comments. This is the same section that was censored from the lesson manual. 
In my view, there's nothing wrong with the original statement, provided it refers to the "Indians that live in this country," the way Joseph Smith described them.
They why make the change to the Introduction, and why all this explanation in this essay on DNA?
The simple reason is that M2C requires it.
If the Nephites lived in what is now the United States and never ventured south of, say, Texas, then Joseph's statement in the Wentworth letter and the original Introduction make sense. It's only when we claim the Nephites lived in Mesoamerica that we have to change the introduction and censor Joseph's teachings. 
Nothing is known about the extent of intermarriage and genetic mixing between Book of Mormon peoples or their descendants and other inhabitants of the Americas, though some mixing appears evident, even during the period covered by the book’s text.11
11. John L. Sorenson, “When Lehi’s Party Arrived,” 5–12.
This is a fair statement. In fact, it's important to recognize the widespread intermarriage and migrations that took place after the Nephites were destroyed around 400 A.D. To the extent the blood of Lehi survives in some sense among the indigenous people of Latin America, it can be attributed to these later migrations. The presence of Lehi's descendants in Latin America or elsewhere has nothing to do with the location of the events in the Book of Mormon.
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Bottom line:

If this Gospel Topics essay is intended to reflect a position of "neutrality" regarding Book of Mormon geography, it needs to be revised to eliminate or at least mitigate the uniform and strong M2C orientation it currently has.
If the Church is officially repudiating the teachings of past prophets and apostles regarding the New York Cumorah, the essay should make that explicit. As it currently reads, this essay causes great confusion among members of the Church as well as nonmembers.
At a minimum, the essay should explain and reconcile the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah and Joseph's teachings in the Wentworth letter. 

Monday, November 19, 2018

President Nelson, good information, and M2C

I have a new blog that considers the teachings of President Russell M. Nelson.

My latest post is here:

https://presidentnelsonspeaks.blogspot.com/2018/11/good-inspiration-and-good-information.html

You should subscribe to it because I'm going to spend more time over there than here.

The reason is that by now, everyone knows the issue of Book of Mormon geography boils down to a simple choice:

1. You accept the teachings of the prophets that Cumorah is in New York; 

or

2. You accept the teachings of the M2C intellectuals that the prophets are wrong.

There is no middle ground. 
There is no alternative. 

If you think there is an alternative, you are trying to avoid the cognitive dissonance that this choice presents. You want to believe the prophets, but you also want to believe M2C.

M2C intellectuals confront Letter VII's New York Cumorah
M2C intellectuals and their followers try to escape their cognitive dissonance by saying that the prophets were merely expressing their own opinions, so it doesn't matter that they were wrong. But that's what everyone says when they disagrees with the prophets about any topic.

Here's a key point: the New York Cumorah does not determine any other geographical issues.

While the prophets have consistently taught that Cumorah is in New York, they've just as consistently taught that we don't know where the other events took place.

You can accept the New York Cumorah and still believe in a Mesoamerican setting for the other events. A lot of people do. I have no problem with that.

But I have a major problem with M2C (Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory) because the foundation of M2C--the sole reason for its existence--is the teaching that the prophets are wrong about the New York Cumorah. (This is the same problem for those who advocate Cumorah is in Baja, Panama, Peru, Chile, etc.)
_____

The M2C intellectuals invented the idea of "two Cumorahs" because they recognize that Joseph Smith and his contemporaries and successors all taught that the hill Cumorah (Mormon 6:6) is in New York. But the way these intellectuals interpret the text requires that the "real" Cumorah be located in southern Mexico. Therefore, they conclude the prophets must be wrong.

Most active members of the Church don't think the prophets are wrong; otherwise, they wouldn't be active members of the Church.

Hence, the dilemma for M2C.

The M2C intellectuals know the only way they can perpetuate M2C is by censoring the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah and all the information that corroborates those teachings.

The M2C citation cartel uses censorship and obfuscation to prevent members of the Church (as well as nonmembers) from making informed decisions about what to believe regarding the Book of Mormon.
_____

For me, this is an easy choice, really.

I recognize there is plausible scientific (archaeology, anthropology, geography, geology, etc.) evidence for M2C. After all, I thoughtfully accepted M2C for decades. There is plausible scientific evidence for every theory that I've seen so far. Those who say otherwise are merely expressing their own confirmation bias.

When exposed to someone else's point of view, many people are blinded by their cognitive dissonance. Their minds literally prevent them from seeing evidence that contradicts their own beliefs. When they can see the evidence, they interpret it in a way that confirms their biases.

Scientific evidence doesn't exist in a vacuum, of course. It's always subject to interpretation--interpretation of the text as well as interpretation of the relevant facts. That's why I think it's funny that Brother John Sorenson wrote, in Mormon's Codex,

A large number of convergences or correspondences between the information from Mesoamerican studies and that from the Book of Mormon are presented in the following chapters. Their number and nature show beyond question that the Book of Mormon had to come from an ancient Mesoamerican document.

It's anti-science so claim such a theory is "beyond question."

M2C depends on a delusion of infallibility.

The M2C citation cartel exists because its members actually believe their ideas are beyond question!

What makes Brother Sorenson's delusion a matter of public comment is the sad reality that many members of the Church share the same delusion about M2C--because they are intentionally kept ignorant of alternatives, including the teachings of the prophets.
_____

One of my favorite aspects of M2C is how its proponents claim they apply scientific principles. Yet the vast majority of Mesoamerican scholars think M2C is unscientific. It is only a handful of Mesoamerican scholars, mostly at BYU, who insist their M2C theory is "beyond question."

This anti-science approach is why M2C is not credible to anyone who doesn't already share the M2C bias.

Then why do so many Church members seem to accept M2C?

Simply because they don't know any better. The M2C citation cartel prevents members of the Church from making informed decisions. Tomorrow we'll see an example from the Gospel Topics essays.

Normally, we expect academics to oppose censorship, but the M2C intellectuals depend on censorship.

On what basis does the M2C citation cartel justify censoring and opposing the teachings of the prophets?

Why would M2C intellectuals take the anti-science position that their theory is "beyond question?"

They need their followers to believe that M2C is the only credible explanation for the Book of Mormon because otherwise, people will look around and discover there is plenty of scientific evidence that supports the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah.

Censorship is only way the M2C citation cartel can deal with its members' (and followers') cognitive dissonance. This explains the editorial positions taken by the members of the M2C citation cartel (Book of Mormon Central Censor, BYU Studies, the Interpreter, FairlyMormon, Meridian Magazine, etc.).
_____

Now, you can be sure that these LDS scholars are not comfortable with people knowing they have repudiated the teachings of the prophets. Let's look at how they obfuscate their position to confuse members (and leaders) of the Church.

When I returned from my first mission (to France), the first General Conference I watched was October, 1975. You can see the entire conference report here:

https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1975/10?lang=eng

The first three sessions were opened by members of the First Presidency:

Friday morning: President Spencer W. Kimball
Friday afternoon: President N. Eldon Tanner
Saturday morning: President Marion G. Romney

President Romney's talk, titled "America's Destiny," declared in no uncertain terms that the hill in New York where Joseph found the plates is, in reality, the hill Cumorah where the final battles of the Jaredites and Nephites took place. You can read or watch it here:

https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1975/10/americas-destiny?lang=eng

Three years later, another Apostle speaking in General Conference reaffirmed the New York Cumorah yet again.

These two conference addresses were part of a long line of consistent and persistent teachings by the prophets about the New York Cumorah.

No prophet or apostle has ever modified or questioned these teachings, let alone repudiated them.

So how do our M2C scholars justify their rejection of this teaching?

They claim these prophets were merely speaking as men, and they were wrong.

Obviously, that doesn't go over well with most members of the Church--especially those who don't  already share their M2C infallibility delusion.

The fallback M2C position is to claim equivalence; i.e., sure, maybe they, as scholars, are not infallible, but the prophets aren't infallible, either.

To confirm their bias, the M2C intellectuals go through and deconstruct every one of the historical accounts that corroborate Letter VII and the subsequent teachings of the prophets. They then proceed to do the same with all the scientific evidence that corroborates the teachings of the prophets.

Which leaves us back at the beginning: do we choose to believe the prophets or the scholars?
_____

Another fallback position taken by the M2C intellectuals is to cite the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, which includes a hilariously self-serving entry on Cumorah, written by David Palmer, who cites only his own book. I've discussed EoM and Palmer in detail on this blog before. I included links on my PresidentNelsonSpeaks blog, referenced at the beginning of this post.
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Bottom line, members of the Church are free to believe whatever they want, as our Articles of Faith explain.

I don't care what anyone else thinks. I'm fine with M2C scholars thinking the prophets are wrong. That's their choice.

BYU fantasy map that teaches LDS students
the prophets are wrong about the New York Cumorah
I'm not as fine with them teaching all the youth in the Church that the prophets are wrong, but I'd be okay even with that if they would also at least inform students what the prophets have actually taught. That would let the students make informed decisions.

But instead, the M2C intellectuals and their followers inflict their own cognitive dissonance onto their students by using fantasy M2C maps, without informing them what the prophets have taught.

This is a short-sighted, tragic approach because eventually, most members of the Church will discover what the prophets have taught about the New York Cumorah.
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As I wrote at the outset, I think the M2C intellectuals know the only way they can perpetuate M2C is by censoring the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah and all the information that corroborates those teachings.

Censorship creates darkness. 

And to paraphrase the Washington Post, Truth Dies in Darkness.