Friday, September 20, 2019

Closing their eyes

There are many parallels in Church history for the current situation in the Church.

The Seer, a Church magazine from the 1800s, has a relevant article that I've excerpted below.

Right now, we have leading intellectuals in the Church, including those who manage Book of Mormon Central, who, because of their belief in M2C, look down upon and oppress those faithful members who still believe the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah.

Those of us who still believe the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah are happy to have other faithful members believe whatever they want. However, we think every member of the Church should be enabled to make informed decisions about these issues by being fully educated.

We encourage people to read what these intellectuals teach, but we also encourage them to read what the prophets have taught and to learn about the evidence that supports the teachings of the prophets.

We would like to see the New York Cumorah re-correlated, but the prophets have always taught that we should heed the teachings of the prophets, regardless of how intellectuals tell us to think.

The M2C intellectuals take a different approach.

Book of Mormon Central is spending millions of dollars to divert members of the Church away from the teachings of the prophets about Cumorah and toward their own theory that the "real" Cumorah is in southern Mexico (hence M2C: the Mesoamerican/two Cumorahs theory). Their database contains articles that attack those of us who still believe the prophets, and it has been purged of any material that explains why we still believe the prophets.

Book of Mormon Central uses their millions of dollars to:

1. Develop ScripturePlus, the app that teaches M2C exclusively and uses colorful graphics and videos to entice Church members away from the Gospel Library;

2. Promote M2C through social media advertising; and

3. Castigate fellow Church members on social media for still believing the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah.

By now, this is all well known and obvious to everyone who looks at the Book of Mormon website. What is less known is how the practices of the M2C intellectuals follow a pattern we've seen before in Church history.
_____

While working on another project, I came across this passage from The Seer, Vol. II, No. 1, January 1854. It reminded me of the way the M2C citation cartel treats those who still accept the New York Cumorah.

THE TREATMENT OF THE UNITED STATES TOWARDS THE SAINTS.

Question.—First, In what manner have the people of the United States treated the divine message contained in the Book of Mormon?

Answer.—They have closed their eyes, their ears, their hearts and their doors against it. They have laughed at, ridiculed, derided, and treated it with the utmost contempt. They have scorned, rejected, and hated the servants of God who were sent to bear testimony of it. They have invented the most abominable, wicked and malicious lies, and published the same against it. Their priests have hypocritically and piously read these lies from the pulpit, and warned their congregations from one end of the Union to the other, to neither hear, read, nor investigate it, nor any thing in favor of it. They have denounced it as “a most vile and wicked imposition;” “a horrid blasphemy;” “a soul-destroying and most damnable doctrine, emanating from the bowels of hell.” Their editors have for years reiterated, through the columns of their papers, these abusive unjust denunciations and vile falsehoods, without giving any chance in their columns for a reply or correction of these bare-faced and foul misrepresentations.
(Seer II.1:193 ¶2–3)

So long as Book of Mormon Central continues to push M2C exclusively, while simultaneously criticizing and censoring those faithful Church members who still believe the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah, "without giving any chance in their [web page] for a reply or correction," we will continue to see members of the Church being deprived of the chance to make informed decisions.


Thursday, September 19, 2019

highly educated = highly indoctrinated

I saw this tweet and I'm sharing it here because, based on my experience with M2C intellectuals over the last few years, it's more true than I could have imagined before.

If they are highly educated.. Chances are they are extremely indoctrinated. They don't question and they don't think outside the box. They follow, because they've been following for years to become highly educated. Highly educated = Highly indoctrinated

It remains puzzling to me why so many faithful LDS intellectuals reject the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah (and the translation of the plates with the Urim and Thummim that accompanied them). But this tweet explains it pretty well.
_____

The M2C intellectuals at Book of Mormon Central justify their position by saying that only the "dead prophets" taught the New York Cumorah, but they follow the "living prophets."

President Ivins
By this reasoning, they were bound by President Anthony W. Ivins' unequivocal teaching of the New York Cumorah until his death in 1934. 

But then other prophets reiterated the New York Cumorah, so they were bound again. For example, they were bound by President Marion G. Romney's unequivocal teaching of the New York Cumorah, but President Romney's death in 1988 liberated them to pursue their own theory of Cumorah in southern Mexico.

It's an irrational approach that engenders confusion, but this is what passes for faithful scholarship today.

Besides, not a single prophet or apostle has ever repudiated the New York Cumorah. This includes the living prophets today as well as the "dead" prophets.

A better approach might be to accept the consistent and persistent teachings of the prophets unless and until the living prophets specifically repudiate those teachings.
_____

These intellectuals have "outgrown" the teachings of the prophets and want everyone else in the Church to follow them instead.

Years ago, Elder Neal A. Maxwell made this observation:

No wonder, therefore, “to be learned is good if [we] hearken unto the counsels of God” instead of setting them aside as if we have somehow outgrown them (2 Nephi 9:29).

Our M2C intellectuals have "set aside" the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah. The intellectual ancestry of M2C demonstrates that it requires indoctrination to set aside these teachings in favor of M2C. 

This is how the academic cycle works.



Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Your daily Jonathan Edwards

I've started a new blog that offers a daily reading from Jonathan Edwards. Many readers already know why; I'll explain it more generally soon.

https://dailyjonathanedwards.blogspot.com/

Here is an example from his book The Great Awakening:

And as such an extraordinary time as this does especially require of us the exercise of a great deal of forbearance, one towards another; so there is peculiarly requisite in God's people the exercise of great patience, in waiting on God, under any special difficulties and disadvantages they may be under, as to the means of grace. 
The beginning of a revival of religion will naturally and necessarily be attended with a great many difficulties of this nature; many parts of the reviving church will, for a while, be under great disadvantages, by reason of what remains of the old disease of a general corruption of the visible church. 
We can't expect that after a long time of degeneracy and depravity in the state of things in the church, things should all come to rights at once; it must be a work of time: and for God's people to be overhasty and violent in such a case, being resolved to have everything rectified at once, or else forcibly to deliver themselves by breaches and separations, is the way to hinder things coming to rights as they otherwise would, and to keep 'em back, and the way to break all in pieces. 
Not but that the case may be such, the difficulty may be so intolerable, as to allow of no delay, and God's people can't continue in the state wherein they were without violations of absolute commands of God. But otherwise, though the difficulty may be very great, another course should be taken. 
God's people should have their recourse directly to the throne of grace, to represent their difficulties before the great Shepherd of the sheep, that has the care of all the affairs of his church; and when they have done, they should wait patiently upon him. If they do so, they may expect that in his time, he will appear for their deliverance: but if instead of that, they are impatient, and take the work into their own hands, they will bewray their want of faith, and will dishonor God, and can't have such reason to hope that Christ will appear for them, as they have desired, but have reason to fear that he will leave 'em to manage their affairs for themselves as well as they can: when otherwise, if they had waited on Christ patiently continuing still instant in prayer, they might have had him appearing for them, much more effectually to deliver them. "He that believeth shall not make haste" [Isaiah 28:16]; and 'tis for those that are found patiently waiting on the Lord, under difficulties, he will especially appear, when he comes to do great things for his church, as is evident by Isaiah 30:18 and chap. Isaiah 40 at the latter end, and Isaiah 49:23, and Psalms 37:9, and many other places.
I have somewhere, not long since, met with an exposition of those words of the spouse that we have several times repeated in the Book of Canticles, "I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, that ye stir not up, nor awake my love, till he please," which is the only satisfying exposition that ever I met with; which was to this purpose, viz. that when the church of God is under great difficulties and in distress, and Christ don't appear for her help but seems to neglect her as though he were asleep, God's people, or the daughters of Jerusalem, in such a case should not shew an hasty spirit; and not having patience to wait for Christ to awake for their help till his time comes, take indirect courses for their own deliverance and use violent means for their escape, before Christ appears to open the door for them; and so as it were, stir up and awake Christ before his time. 
When the church is in distress, and God seems not to appear for her in his providence, he is very often represented in Scripture as being asleep; as Christ was asleep in the ship, when the disciples were tossed by the storm, and the ship covered with waves [Matthew 8:23–27]: and God's appearing afterwards for his people's help is represented as his awaking out of sleep. Psalms 7:6, and Psalms 35:23, and Psalms 44:23, and Psalms 59:4, and Psalms 73:20
Christ has an appointed time for his thus awaking out of sleep: and his people ought to wait upon him; and not, in an impatient fit, stir him up before his time. 
'Tis worthy to be observed how strict this charge is, given to the daughters of Jerusalem, which is repeated three times over in the Book of Canticles, chap. Canticles 2:7, and Canticles 3:5, and Canticles 8:4. In the Canticles 2 chapter and six first verses, is represented the supports Christ gives his church while she is in a suffering state, as the lily among thorns: in the Canticles 2:7 verse is represented her patience in waiting for Christ to appear for her deliverance, when she charges the daughters of Jerusalem not to stir up nor awake her love till he please, by the roes and the hinds of the field; which are creatures of a gentle, harmless nature, are not beasts of prey, do not devour one another, don't fight with their enemies, but fly from them; and are of a pleasant, loving nature, Proverbs 5:19. In the next verse [Canticles 2:8], we see the church's success, in this way of waiting under sufferings with meekness and patience; Christ soon awakes, speedily appears, and swiftly comes. "The voice of my beloved! Behold, he cometh, leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills!"

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Inventing M2C

People wonder why intellectuals invented M2C. I'll be discussing the intellectual ancestry of M2C in a couple of weeks, but there's another factor to consider.

M2C was developed to fill a void, a lack of information that was intolerable to many believers in the Book of Mormon.

Long ago, Hugh Nibley pointed out this psychological reality:

The penalty we pay for starving our minds is a phenomenon that is only too conspicuous at the BYU: Aristotle pointed out long ago that a shortage of knowledge is an intolerable state and so the mind will do anything to escape it; in particular, it will invent knowledge if it has to. 

Experimenters have found that "lack of information quickly breeds insecurity in a situation where any information is regarded as better than none." (11) In that atmosphere, false information flourishes and subjects in tests are "eager to listen to and believe any sort of preposterous nonsense.'' (12)

http://emp.byui.edu/ANDERSONKC/Zeal%20Without%20Knowledge.pdf

The early hemispheric model created by the Pratt Brothers, Benjamin Winchester, William Smith, etc., filled a gap in knowledge. Even after Joseph Smith tried to clarify the situation in the Wentworth letter, his associates insisted the ruins in Central America had to originate with the Nephites.

The anonymous articles in the 1842 Times and Seasons were absurd on their face, and in hindsight they are even worse because they describe ruins that postdated Book of Mormon time frames. Nevertheless, they constituted a "hook in the sky" upon which certain intellectuals, first in the RLDS church and then in the LDS church, could hang M2C.

By now, the M2C intellectuals have invented all kinds of knowledge about the Nephites that originated with Mesoamerican studies but not the text of the Book of Mormon. And their zeal knows no bounds; they'll spend every penny they raise from members of the Church and the Church itself to promote M2C to the world.

Just watch what happens with ScripturePlus as it replaces Gospel Library.

Watch all the internet ads.

And watch how the 2020 Come Follow Me curriculum fits like a glove over the hand of Book of Mormon Central.
_____

The tragedy of all of this is a little more patience would have let the intellectuals satisfy their thirst for knowledge by focusing on all the archaeological information coming out of the Midwestern United States.
_____

Brother Nibley made another insightful comment:

True knowledge never shuts the door on more knowledge, but zeal often does. One thinks of the dictum: "We are not seeking for truth at the BYU; we have the truth!" So did Adam and Abraham have the truth, far greater and more truth than what we have, and yet the particular genius of each was that he was constantly "seeking for greater light and knowledge."

Monday, September 16, 2019

Re-correlating Cumorah

Re-correlating the teachings of the prophets won't solve all the problems, but it makes no sense to avoid solving one problem just because the solution to that one problem doesn't solve all the problems.

M2C indoctrination from ScripturePlus
Let's get one thing right and then work on the next one.

Let's start with the New York Cumorah because it is about to become a more serious issue than ever before, thanks to the M2C editorial position of the ScripturePlus app brought to us by Book of Mormon Central.
_____

Many years ago. Joseph Fielding Smith warned that the idea of "two Cumorahs" would cause members of the Church to become confused and disturbed in their faith in the Book of Mormon. The fulfillment of that warning is all around us.

These intellectuals don't like it when I point out they are explicitly repudiating the teachings of the prophets, but rather than deal with the facts, they want their followers to remain ignorant of the facts.

Lately, some M2C intellectuals have been on social media claiming I'm lying and slandering people when I discuss the history of M2C. Of course, they never provide specifics. Some time ago, a well-known former Temple and Mission President sent an email to his friends claiming I was lying. (Fortunately, a couple of his friends were also my friends and forwarded the email to me.)

Well.

We are each entitled to make up our own minds about these issues. I'm not trying to persuade anyone here; I'm just discussing facts and explaining how I interpret them. We are all free to believe whatever we want. I just think it's important for people to make informed decisions.

The problem of censoring (or de-correlating) information is two-fold.

1. Our M2C intellectuals don't want people to be informed; they want people to take their word for it because of their credentials and positions of influence.

2. Our critics don't want people to be informed; they want people to be confused by (i) hearsay-based accounts of Church history and (ii) the M2C ideas that repudiate the prophets.

On one hand, it's true for most people that facts don't matter; bias confirmation is strong enough that most of us will filter out facts that contradict our biases and accept only facts that confirm our biases.

But on the other hand, many of us want to know the truth and we'll consider all relevant facts. In my view, the facts support the teachings of the prophets, starting with Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery.
_____

I've spelled out the facts before but there are a lot of new readers, so I'll summarize again.

Church leaders, starting with Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, have consistently and persistently taught that the Hill Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 was the same hill from which Joseph obtained the plates. You can read about it in Letter VII (http://www.lettervii.com/), which was republished multiple times during Joseph's lifetime, including by his two brothers Don Carlos Smith and William Smith. Joseph also had it copied into his own journal as part of his life history, where you can still read it in the Joseph Smith papers.

The New York Cumorah has been taught by members of the First Presidency speaking in General Conference, by other Apostles, and by books published by the Church including Talmage's Articles of Faith and LeGrand Richards' A Marvelous Work and a Wonder.

President Marion G. Romney
The Priesthood Correlation Department was created in 1972 (see history here:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Priesthood_Correlation_Program). Three years later, President Marion G. Romney spoke in General Conference about the New York Cumorah after visiting there on assignment, specifically reaffirming the long history of teaching about the New York Cumorah.
https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/1975/10/americas-destiny?lang=eng
In 1978 General Conference, Elder Mark E. Petersen also reaffirmed the New York Cumorah.In 1979, President Romney again referred to the Hill Cumorah in New York.

Beginning in the 1980s, the New York Cumorah was de-correlated.

Certain M2C scholars began teaching that every prophet and apostle who taught the New York Cumorah was wrong. They still claim the prophets and apostles were merely expressing their opinions and thereby misled the Church.

One of the most prominent examples is Mormon's Codex, which the Foreword describes as the high-water mark for Book of Mormon studies. The book includes M2C material dating back to the 1980s. In the book, the author wrote this about the teachings of the prophets:

“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.”

John Sorenson, Mormon’s Codex (Deseret Book, 2013), p. 688.

The M2C intellectuals don't like to be exposed as repudiating the teachings of the prophets, but they all claim the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah are "manifestly absurd." By definition, and in practice, they're all saying, "There remain Letter-day Saints who still believe the teachings of the prophets that the final destruction of the Nephites took place in New York, but any such idea is manifestly absurd."

You can ask any M2C believer and he/she will tell you he/she agrees with Brother Sorenson. They might say something such as "I think he could have said this better," or "I wouldn't have said 'manifestly absurd,' but the prophets were clearly wrong."

No matter how they frame this, they are directly and openly repudiating the prophets every time they teach M2C.

I've discussed how the New York Cumorah was de-correlated (meaning censored) from the Saints book, which the Church historians admitted. https://saintsreview.blogspot.com/2018/10/the-historians-explain-censorship-in.html

I've discussed other examples, but some readers want evidence of specific de-correlation.

To see this map, go to the 2017 seminary manual, here:

https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/book-of-mormon-seminary-teacher-manual-2017/introduction-to-the-book-of-alma/lesson-104-alma-56-58?lang=eng

Scroll down and you'll see the map in the materials.

Click on it to get a close-up.

Look for Cumorah in the "land northward" above the "narrow neck of land." It is just to the left of "Ablom."

You don't need to know much about geography to know this is not a map of western New York.

This map is a direct, open repudiation of the teachings of the prophets. It teaches that the "real" Cumorah is not in New York; i.e., that there are "two Cumorahs." According to this map, the prophets and apostles who have taught that Cumorah was in New York were wrong.

Furthermore, it incorporates the M2C interpretation of the text that precludes any possible interpretation of the text that supports the teachings of the prophets.

As this map depicts, the New York Cumorah has been completely de-correlated from Church media, curriculum, visitors centers, etc.

Instead, the New York Cumorah has been replaced with M2C, as this Seminary map illustrates. It's basically Mesoamerica turned 90 degrees clockwise.

A fun component of the map is the caption at the bottom: "*Possible relationships of sites in the Book of Mormon, based on internal evidence. No effort should be made to identify points on this map
with any existing geographical location. The map spans Jaredite and Nephite/Lamanite periods during which settlements changed over time."

First, the "internal evidence" does not drive this map; M2C does. There are lots of alternative interpretations of the "internal evidence" that describe features unlike this map--and even some that fit the New York Cumorah.

Second, "No effort should be made to identify points on this map with any existing geographical location" is a direct repudiation of the teachings of every prophet and apostle who has specifically identified the location of the Hill Cumorah in New York.

Third, the warning against comparing to "any existing geographical location" is an admission that the M2C interpretation doesn't fit anywhere in the real world, which naturally leads to the conclusion that the text is fiction. This is a major cause of the "faith crisis" that so many people talk about.

Millions of Latter-day Saints have been taught this map (and others like it such as the BYU fantasy map) over the last several years. As such, it has become the de facto interpretation of the text. Thanks to this M2C-accommodating curriculum, many if not most members of the Church cannot "unsee" the hourglass shaped geography of the Book of Mormon.
_____

Some people claim the curriculum, media and visitors centers are "neutral." We've discussed that before. http://www.bookofmormoncentralamerica.com/2018/11/non-neutral-in-gospel-topics.html

Mormon and Moroni at the ScripturesPlus
Cumorah in Mesoamerica

Any hint of "neutrality" has been entirely destroyed anyway by the actions of the Church-supported M2C organizations such as Book of Mormon Central. The new "scriptureplus" app explicitly teaches that the "real" Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 is in Mesoamerica. Book of Mormon Central is spending millions of dollars to spread its M2C message, using attractive videos and graphics, as well as links to its own M2C "Kno-Whys" and other resources.

_____

There's an easy solution to at least this one problem: re-correlating the New York Cumorah.

To reaffirm the New York Cumorah and all the prophets and apostles who unequivocally taught it for 150 years would go a long way to restoring faith in the teachings of the prophets and apostles. It would reverse the impact of M2C, which, as Joseph Fielding Smith warned long ago, causes members to become confused and disturbed in their faith in the Book of Mormon.
_____

Whether the New York Cumorah remains de-correlated or is re-correlated, no one is bound by the teachings of the M2C intellectuals or the teachings of employees, even the employees who prepared the M2C curriculum.

As I wrote at the outset, we are each entitled to make up our own minds about these issues. I'm not trying to persuade anyone here; I'm just explaining how I see the facts. You are free to believe whatever you want. I just want people to make informed decisions.

I've found that most Latter-day Saints, once they know what the prophets have taught, side with the prophets vs the intellectuals.

That's why de-correlating the New York Cumorah has been such a mistake, and why re-correlating Cumorah would be a simple step towards eliminating a major source of confusion in the Church.






Tuesday, September 10, 2019

2 levels of M2C

This is a long post that, hopefully, will clarify the M2C problem and put all my previous posts in context.

There are two levels of M2C to consider. One is harmless; the other is disastrous.

Level 1. There are lots of theories of Book of Mormon geography, and that's fine. People can believe whatever they want. So long as their belief in the Book of Mormon brings them closer to Christ, it doesn't matter what they think about the geographical setting and historicity. 

Level 1 is neutral. This is the position taken by the current iteration of the Gospel Topics Essay on Book of Mormon Geography. This is the level at which the geography "doesn't matter" to those who accept the Book of Mormon on faith.

All theories of Book of Mormon geography fall into one of two categories, and at Level 1 it doesn't matter which you believe:

1) The Hill Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 is in western New York.
2) The Hill Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 is not in western New York. (This category includes those who accept the Book of Mormon as metaphorical; i.e., not a real history of real people in a real setting.)

Faithful believers in the Book of Mormon can be found in both categories. At this level, M2C is harmless. It's just one of many theories that claim the Hill Cumorah is not in New York, along with Peru, Chile, Panama, Baja, and even theories in other parts of the world.

Alternatively, people can believe in the Heartland theory, or the New York theory, or any other theory that keeps Cumorah in New York. These are all faith-based theories, supported in some sense by extrinsic evidence but not driven by such evidence.

At level 1, there is no reason to debate the geography issues.

People can consider the evidence that supports the various theories and choose what makes sense for them. What matters is how the book changes their lives and brings them closer to Christ.
_____

Level 2. Level 2 involves physical evidence, textual interpretation, the teachings of the prophets, etc.

Truth claims are different from beliefs based on faith. 

Most people in the world don't accept the Book of Mormon on faith. As Moroni 10 teaches, great faith is only one gift of the Spirit. Most active members of the Church, by definition, have great faith. But there are other ways the Spirit can manifest the truth to us, and some of these involve wisdom and knowledge.

In other words, it is appropriate to consider extrinsic evidence in assessing the Book of Mormon. For those without the spiritual gift of great faith, such evidence is essential.

(And those who have the spiritual gift of great faith should never judge or denigrate those who have a different gift, as we should have learned long ago from 1 Cor. 12:21.)

We could say that Level 1 is mostly faith-based, while Level 2 is mostly evidence-based.

At Level 2, M2C is a disaster because it expressly and openly repudiates the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah. This takes it out of the realm of just another theory.

M2C asserts, as a fact, that the prophets are wrong.

(M2C intellectuals like to frame this more smoothly by saying the prophets were merely expressing their private opinions so the fact that they were wrong doesn't impact their prophetic mantle. They apply this framing even to members of the First Presidency speaking in General Conference. Of course, that same reasoning can apply to everything the prophets teach, so while the "opinion" argument may appear more palatable, it teaches the same bottom line; i.e. that the prophets are wrong.)

As Joseph Fielding Smith warned long ago, M2C causes members of the Church to become confused and disturbed in their faith in the Book of Mormon.

In our day, the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah have been "de-correlated," meaning they have been largely censored. The Saints book, for example, censored the term Cumorah to accommodate M2C by creating a false historical narrative. The 2020 Come Follow Me manual also censors Cumorah.

Anyone who learns Church history by reading Saints or the Come Follow Me manual will never know what the prophets have taught about the New York Cumorah and why it was such a central point for Church members during the lifetime of Joseph Smith.

But those who study Church history on their own will learn the truth. They will wonder why the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah have been "de-correlated." In many cases, they will first learn the truth from critics of the Church who pose these obvious questions to missionaries and members.

De-correlating the teachings of the prophets to accommodate M2C is an unmitigated disaster.

M2C is also a disaster at Level 2 because it has become the de facto position of the Church, despite the announced position of neutrality.

M2C on display at Temple Sq
M2C is on explicit display in the Visitors Center on Temple Square. It is being explicitly taught by Book of Mormon Central, FairMormon, and other Church-sponsored organizations.

M2C is portrayed in Church media and manuals, including the illustrations in the 2020 Come Follow Me curriculum.

As we just discussed, M2C is accommodated in the Saints book which de-correlated the term Cumorah from Church history.


ScripturePlus replaces Gospel Library
ScripturePlus, the new app from Book of Mormon Central that uses the official scriptures licensed from the Church, teaches M2C expressly and exclusively. ScripturePlus is designed to entice Church members away from the Church's Gospel Library, which is (relatively) neutral on the question of Book of Mormon geography.

Soon, even more than it is already, M2C will be enshrined as the only "acceptable" explanation for the Book of Mormon.

Students throughout the Church are being taught the M2C interpretation of the text by the use of so-called "abstract" maps, which are nothing less than fantasy maps. This practice imprints the M2C interpretation as the only "approved" interpretation.

At level 2, M2C presents a "take it or leave it" approach to the Book of Mormon. 

For years, Book of Mormon Central and the rest of the M2C citation cartel have framed M2C as the only plausible and acceptable theory of Book of Mormon geography. That's why they censor alternative views and evidences, including the teachings of the prophets.

If you don't accept M2C, you're not welcome at Book of Mormon Central, or FairMormon, or the Interpreter, or Meridian Magazine, or even BYU Studies.

Not only are you not welcome, but employees and followers of the M2C citation cartel will ostracize you and criticize you on social media and in person.

Now that M2C has infiltrated Church media, manuals, and visitors centers as the only acceptable interpretation, the M2C message is expanding beyond the M2C citation cartel to the Church as a whole. I've received reports from faithful Church members being openly criticized and ostracized at Church meetings solely because they don't accept M2C.

That alone would make M2C a disaster.

But that is not the only reason why Level 2 M2C is a disaster.
_____

At Level 2, when M2C is presented as the only acceptable setting for the Book of Mormon, M2C invites close scrutiny.

For those outside the M2C bubble, whether inside or outside of the Church, such scrutiny exposes M2C as a hoax.

At Level 1, we don't care whether M2C is a hoax because it's just another faith-based theory that works for some people. Facts and evidence are irrelevant; people believe the Book of Mormon is true purely because they received a spiritual witness. And that's wonderful.

But at Level 2, now that M2C has become the quasi-official position of the Church, it matters a great deal that M2C is a hoax.

Before discussing the hoax problem, let's look at a fundamental theological problem with M2C.

Once M2C is established as the only acceptable setting for the Book of Mormon, one's faith in the Book of Mormon requires one to accept three premises that many members of the Church find unacceptable.

Premise 1: the prophets who taught the New York Cumorah misled the Church.
Premise 2: there is only one way to interpret the text, and that is to make it fit M2C.
Premise 3: the extrinsic evidence supports only M2C.

Premise 1. The problems with Premise 1 should be obvious. We already saw how M2C has led to the de-correlation of the teachings of the prophets, but that's not the only, or even the most serious, impact.

Once the M2C intellectuals persuade Church members (and nonmembers) that Church leaders misled the Church about the New York Cumorah, it is easy to persuade people that the prophets could be wrong about lots of things.

Currently, the most glaring ramification of repudiating the prophets is the peep stone-in-a-hat narrative, which, like M2C, claims that Joseph, Oliver and all their successors misled Church members. In this case, the intellectuals say Joseph and Oliver were wrong about the translation of the Book of Mormon.

Now we're expected to believe that, instead of translating the engravings on the plates with the Urim and Thummim that came with the plates, Joseph simply read words that appeared on a peep stone he put in a hat. The words were provided by an unknown "intermediate translator" and the peep stone acted as a metaphysical teleprompter. Joseph didn't even use the plates. When he and Oliver consistently said that Joseph used the plates and the Urim and Thummim that came with the plates, they misled the Church, just like they did with the New York Cumorah.

The peep stone theory originated in the early 1830s and was expressly contradicted by Joseph and Oliver, but, as with M2C, certain intellectuals in the Church have persuaded people to accept the peep stone theory anyway.

For many faithful Church members, this is a big problem. For others, it's not a problem because their spiritual testimony trumps everything else; they put questions "on a shelf" and proceed as if the questions didn't exist. And that's fine. That's the same approach taken by most people in the world who adhere to their beliefs. But fewer and fewer people (especially younger generations) are satisfied with putting obvious questions "on a shelf" to be ignored.

For skeptical Church members (as well as almost all non-members) the peep stone theory requires an enormous leap of faith that few are willing to make. The peep stone theory is, in a word, unbelievable. It undermines everything the scriptures teach about the importance of the plates and introduces this mysterious "intermediate translator" that supplants Joseph Smith as translator.

Premise 1 of M2C has other ramifications that we'll discuss in upcoming posts.

Premise 2. The M2C claim that there is only one way to interpret the text is absurd on its face. Biblical students have long known there are many ways to interpret passages of text. The legal system daily confronts different interpretations of statutes and regulations. Interpersonal communications are complicated by misunderstandings of common language.

There are always multiple interpretations of a text. I've written this long post to clarify my previous writings and to put them in context, but surely some critics will take even this post out of context or interpret it to mean something other than what I've intended.

While the M2C proponents claim there is only one way to interpret the text (i.e., to make it fit Mesoamerica), they also claim the "intermediate translator" made mistakes by Americanizing the original Mayan references. That's why the text refers to horses instead of tapirs, for example, and towers built in a day instead of massive stone pyramids. The "intermediate translator" also forgot to mention volcanoes, jungles, jaguars, and jade.

Not to mention the Mayans themselves.

And yet, the M2C proponents claim the "intermediate translator" was perfect when it came to references about geography that (they claim) describe Mesoamerica. Except that he/she made a mistake by using different terms for the same feature; i.e., there was only one "narrow neck of land" even though the text refers to a narrow neck, a small neck, and a narrow neck of land in different places.

When you read a book such as Mormon's Codex, the contorted M2C interpretations are all too apparent to anyone outside the M2C bubble. The book is riddled with logical fallacies as well, and yet the Foreword was written by one of the most famous intellectuals in the Church today, who claimed this book represented the high water mark for Book of Mormon studies.

Sadly, he was correct.

M2C has become the de facto position of the Church only because the M2C intellectuals, their employees and their followers, have persuaded so many Church members that there is only one way to interpret the text, and that interpretation fits only M2C. It's circular reasoning at its worst, reinforced by Church media, manuals and Visitors Centers (not to mention the Saints book and Come Follow Me manual that de-correlated Cumorah completely).

Those of us outside the M2C bubble are not saying the M2C interpretation is irrational or insupportable.

We're saying it's not the only, or even the best, possible interpretation.

We're saying that the M2C intellectuals should stop censoring other ideas about Book of Mormon geography and historicity.

We're saying that the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah should be re-correlated in Church media, manuals and visitors centers.

We're saying that M2C should not be established as the de facto position of the Church.

Otherwise, those who reject M2C will tend to also reject the Book of Mormon and the Church itself, as we'll see below. That's a worst-case scenario that is already playing out, and will become even worse the more entrenched M2C becomes.

The Church's policy of neutrality is the only one that makes sense at the present time, but it is not being followed by Church employees, or else we wouldn't see the teachings of the prophets being de-correlated, M2C presented in the manuals, media and visitors centers, M2C taught in the Church Educational System, etc.

Premise 3. M2C intellectuals claim the extrinsic evidence (archaeology, anthropology, geology, geography, etc.) leads only to the Mesoamerican setting for the Book of Mormon. Then they rationalize that Mesoamerica is too far from New York for the Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 to be located in New York, so the "real" Cumorah must be in southern Mexico, contrary to the teachings of the prophets.

Re-read that last paragraph and you'll see how nonsensical the whole M2C idea is. It's nothing but a hoax.

Not long ago I spoke with a well-known General Authority about this. He told me his own brother, who is an actual expert in Mayan studies, left the Church over this issue because he knew there was nothing in Mayan culture that even resembled the Book of Mormon, but the Church teaches M2C so therefore it couldn't be true.

I replied that his brother was correct about the first two points, but not the final conclusion.

There is nothing in Mayan culture that fits the text of the Book of Mormon. It is only the M2C interpretation of the text that fits. Because that interpretation is driven by the prior assumption that the text must describe Mesoamerica, it is pure circular reasoning.

This brother's belief that the Church teaches M2C is a rational conclusion based on the manuals, media, and visitors centers, as well as the de-correlation of the actual teachings of the prophets about Cumorah.

But this brother's conclusion about the truthfulness of the Church was not correct because (at least so far) M2C has never been taught in General Conference or explicitly by any of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve. Instead, every one of them who has addressed the issue has reaffirmed that the Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 is in western New York.

(Teachings that current inhabitants of Latin America have Lamanite ancestry are irrelevant to the Book of Mormon setting because of migrations post 400 AD).

This example is one of many we could cite of people who have become confused and disturbed in their faith in the Book of Mormon because of M2C, just as Joseph Fielding Smith warned.

Hence, the disaster of establishing M2C as the de facto position of the Church on a take-it-or-leave-it basis, as Book of Mormon Central has done.

Most people in the world, and more and more people in the Church, are being driven away because, on a Level 2 basis, they don't accept M2C.

Hence, M2C is a disaster at Level 2.
_____

Now, let's discuss how M2C is a hoax.

In the early days of the Church, everyone knew the Hill Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 was in western New York because of Letter VII and other teachings, such as Oliver's account of multiple visits to the depository of Nephite records inside the hill Cumorah in New York.

Some early Mormon writers assumed that any evidence of ancient civilizations in the Western Hemisphere was evidence of the Book of Mormon.

For example, a popular book by Alexander von Humboldt, published in English in 1806, referred to Panama as a "neck of land." Naturally, early Church members (but never Joseph Smith or Oliver Cowdery) equated Panama with the "neck of land" mentioned in the Book of Mormon.

Orson Pratt spent several pages of his 1840 missionary pamphlet describing how the native people in Central and South America were Lamanites. When Joseph wrote the Wentworth letter, he borrowed from this pamphlet, but when he came to Orson's description of the Lamanites, Joseph replaced it with the statement that "The remnant are the Indians that now inhabit this country."

(This passage was de-correlated (censored) in the Joseph Smith manual because it contradicts M2C, especially when we compare it to the Orson Pratt pamphlet. See http://www.bookofmormoncentralamerica.com/2017/07/editing-wentworth-letter.html)

It's easy to see why early members jumped to their conclusions. They had no idea that many of the ruins in Central America that they claimed were "Nephite" actually dated to well after 400 AD. They also had no idea about the sophistication of the earthworks created by the Adena and Hopewell Indians in North America. They didn't even know there were two separate ancient civilizations in North America that corresponded in time and space to the Jaredites and Nephites. Those distinct civilizations wouldn't be identified until decades after the Book of Mormon was published.

Throughout the 1800s, there were lots of opinions about Book of Mormon geography, but everyone admitted they were speculative with the exception of one spot: the Hill Ramah/Cumorah in western New York. Everyone agreed on that point. Heber C. Kimball even visited the site after he joined the Church and reported he could still see the embankments at the hill.

M2C originated with RLDS scholars in the late 1800s. Coincidentally, President Joseph F. Smith at the time was seeking to purchase the Hill Cumorah in New York. The RLDS were in an ongoing theological battle with the LDS in Utah over polygamy and other issues. The Cumorah issue was one of several sources of conflict.

M2C proponents relied on anonymous 1842 articles in the Times and Seasons, while they completely ignored Letter VII, which was first published in 1836 and republished at the direction of Joseph Smith in all LDS and LDS-related newspapers through 1844--including the Times and Seasons. It was intellectually dishonest to suppress Letter VII while promoting the anonymous articles that didn't even mention Cumorah, but their tactics were successful.

These RLDS scholars moved Cumorah from New York to southern Mexico.

In the early to mid 1900s, LDS scholars began accepting the RLDS ideas about M2C, despite the objections of LDS leaders including Joseph Fielding Smith, James E. Talmage, and LeGrand Richards. The debates continued throughout the 1900s. In the 1970s, President Marion G. Romney and Elder Mark E. Peterson reaffirmed the New York Cumorah in General Conference, just as LDS intellectuals were becoming more vocal about M2C.

In 1990, the First Presidency reaffirmed the New York Cumorah in a letter written to a Bishop who had raised the question, but M2C intellectuals continued to assert M2C through the Church Educational System.

The tipping point was in the early 1980s when M2C was published in the Ensign and more M2C books appeared. Over the next 40 years, LDS students throughout the Church have been taught to understand the Book of Mormon through the M2C lens.

Once M2C has been imprinted on a person's mind, especially in the context of the Church Educational System, that person is inside the M2C bubble. He/she has difficulty interpreting the text and the evidence in any way contrary to the M2C interpretation.

I know because I was inside that bubble for decades myself.

This ad from Book of Mormon Central exposes the M2C bubble.

It features the Mayan logo, conveying the message that you have to believe M2C. It claims the "evidences are clear and convincing," yet the evidences for M2C are neither clear nor convincing to anyone outside the M2C bubble.

To adherents of every religion, the evidences are "clear and convincing" or they wouldn't adhere to their religion. It's a nonsense claim to anyone who doesn't already accept the belief.

Worse, the slogan make a promise that M2C can't keep.

Instead, the M2C evidences are transparent circular reasoning, based on tortured interpretations of a text that is anything but Mayan in nature. The M2C evidences aren't even convincing to many who believe the Book of Mormon is an actual history. These evidences are completely unconvincing to actual Mayan experts or the world at large who can compare Mayan civilization to the descriptions in the text.

Outside the M2C bubble, the extrinsic evidence points to anything but M2C.
_____

We would like to leave M2C alone. At Level 1, we would ignore it and let people believe whatever they want, no problem.

But at Level 2, now that M2C is entrenched and ScripturePlus is about to supplant the Church's own Gospel Library, and with the ongoing de-correlation of the teachings of the prophets about Cumorah, it is important for those who cannot accept M2C to know there is an alternative.

Those who see the logical and factual fallacies of M2C should not reject the Book of Mormon or the Church on that basis.

Whether you are inside or outside of the Church, you don't have to accept M2C to accept the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon. 

There are many of us who accept the Book of Mormon but reject M2C.

I've discussed the M2C evidence in some detail before, and we'll do so again, but as long as M2C continues to be the default take-it-or-leave-it position of the Church, we can expect to see more of what Joseph Fielding Smith warned: Saints will become confused and disturbed in their faith.

And the rest of the world will find the Book of Mormon less and less credible.


Monday, September 9, 2019

Overseas perspective

Last fall we lived in Africa. Now we're living in Asia. Both are far removed from Utah in terms of culture, beliefs, social organization, etc. For most people around the world, living conditions have never been better. There is more peace and prosperity than ever before in world history.

As I write this, I'm looking out at a city of over 8 million residents (about the same as New York City). The sky above the tall, modern buildings is blue and cloudy. There are trees everywhere. People ride electric vehicles, use fast public transportation, and walk, staring constantly at their smart phones.

Everything is awesome.

Except...
_____

Last year, Elder Pearson said at the FairMormon conference that only about 1 billion out of the 7.5 billion people on Earth have ever heard of the Church.

This is fortunate, IMO, because there is a lot of confusion and discord in the Church today that needs to be resolved before the people of the world can take the truth claims seriously.

Certain intellectuals in the Church are rewriting Church history to satisfy critics and repudiate the teachings of the prophets. In so doing, they are replacing a firm foundation with one built on sand.

Other intellectuals, congregated at Book of Mormon Central, are spending millions of dollars to promote both the revisionist Church history and the inherently dubious theory that the "real" Hill Cumorah is somewhere in southern Mexico and that the events of the Book of Mormon took place in Mesoamerica.

Elder Pearson noted that about half of the people who have heard of the Church have favorable impressions. This means 500 million people in the world have favorable impressions of the Church, yet baptisms continue to decline and we all hear about people leaving the Church because of the revisionist Church history and M2C theory.

I had hoped to take 10 months off from discussing Church history and Book of Mormon historicity. I have other projects to work on, completely unrelated to Church topics.

Plus, I wanted to observe, from a distance, the imminent disaster of ScripturePlus, the new app from Book of Mormon Central designed to entice Church members away from the Gospel Library to imprint revisionist Church history and M2C on the minds of the Saints, starting at a young age.

Book of Mormon Central is embarking on a fascinating social experiment. It seems obvious to me that embracing the ideas of William E. McLellin instead of the teachings of Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery will cause people to become confused and disturbed in their faith in the Book of Mormon.

The intellectuals at Book of Mormon Central justify their experiment because they live in a bubble of delusion that causes them to read M2C into the text of the scriptures, to the point that they expressly reject not only the teachings of those they refer to as the "dead prophets" but also the Church's policy of neutrality as expressed in the odd, anonymous Gospel Topics Essay on Book of Mormon Geography.

With this in mind, I figured that, 10 months from now, we'd see how well the revisionist Church history and M2C are working out. The final Hill Cumorah pageant next summer, along with the remodeled Visitors Center there, would pretty well erase all remnants of what Joseph and Oliver taught, except for what remains in the never-cited Letter VII and other early Church documents.

But then, in my first Sunday meetings here, people discussed how close family members have left the Church. One person described how many former Church members were encountered while on a mission to Idaho. Plus, I still get emails from people relating these experiences.

And, I have a lot of material I've never posted or published.

I'll post probably once a week.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

More posts after all

It turns out I can continue to post new material so long as I use a VPN, so I might post the 147 drafts I've accumulated, along with some new observations, in the near future.

People are sending me a lot of material, and Book of Mormon Central continues to publish no-wise, so there's lots to discuss.

Stay tuned.


Friday, August 30, 2019

The De-correlation Department

I'm optimistic about the future. Things always get better.

That said, I think many of our intellectuals have been carried off to Babylon to promote their theories in a manner pleasing to the world (i.e., they agree with the critics), but I think that will prove temporary. Eventually they will return to the teachings of the prophets.

Maybe it will happen in the next 10 months.*

Or maybe the problems will have to get much worse first. We'll see. But I wanted my final pre-hiatus post to summarize one of the most serious problems we face.
_____

For some time now, I've documented specific examples of what I used to call revisionist Church historians creating false historical narratives and deleting certain events, terminology and teachings from the current narratives. We've looked at how the M2C citation cartel censors the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah, etc.

The effort is coordinated across many departments and groups. I'm lumping them all together as the "De-Correlation Department."

The De-Correlation Department decides what information and teachings from Church history need to be featured, emphasized, and promoted, and what information and teachings need to be to suppressed, ignored, and rationalized away.

To the extent they engage in this activity, the M2C citation cartel is part of the De-Correlation Department. The revisionist Church historians are part of the De-Correlation Department. The creators of media, visitors center displays, lesson manuals, web pages, and the Gospel Topics Essays are part of the De-Correlation Department.

I posted the latest example to my Saintsreview blog, here:

https://saintsreview.blogspot.com/2019/08/rewriting-d-28-30-32.html

New readers here may be unaware of how effective the De-Correlation Department has been. For example, have you heard of Letter VII or the rest of the first published history of the Church, written by Oliver Cowdery?

Probably not, if you rely on the De-Correlation Department. See http://www.lettervii.com/.

During Joseph Smith's lifetime, he made sure that all the members had access to Letter VII and the other essays on Church history. Now you can read them in Joseph's own journal in the Joseph Smith Papers. Here is where Moroni told Joseph that the record was written and deposited not far from his house:

https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/history-1834-1836/69

These essays were published in the Gospel Reflector, the Times and Seasons, the Millennial Star, the Prophet, and the Improvement Era. But they have never been published in the Ensign. The rising generation will never heard about them.

Just as readers of Saints never learned about the New York Cumorah, the mission to the Lamanites, etc.

It would be wonderful if the De-Correlation Department decided to "re-correlate" these important teachings. But I suspect a lot more people will become confused about Church history and Book of Mormon historicity before the De-Correlation Department returns to the teachings of the prophets.

(My team may publish some of my legacy posts and previously unpublished posts while I'm gone.)

_____

* As many readers know, I've accepted an assignment outside the U.S. and won't be blogging for 10 months, although there are plenty of legacy blogs to recycle and nearly 150 I've written but never posted.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Peep stones - part 8 - "de-correlated information"

Most people today are naturally skeptical of any information that is carefully controlled ("correlated" is a euphemism for "controlled," "censored," etc.), whether it comes from government, from a politician, from a business, from an academic institution, or from a church. We all recognize that organizations are self-serving; they have to be. We get that.

That doesn't mean their information is false, of course. We are willing believe what they say, but we follow the adage, "Trust, but verify."

Some people, including critics and LDS intellectuals, apply that adage only to information provided by the Church. 

I apply it to the teachings of LDS intellectuals and find that in most cases, the teachings of the prophets make much more sense and are better supported by the evidence than the teachings of the intellectuals.

We have to give the intellectuals credit for being clever and persistent. The M2C citation cartel and the revisionist Church historians have been successful, in a sense.

Lately, we have a new tactic to consider. We are seeing a process of "de-correlation."
_____

The other day I mentioned the "Faith Crisis" study from 2013 that contributed to the development of the Gospel Topics Essays. Here is a summary found on page 13 of the study.

PRIMARY FACTORS DRIVING FAITH CRISIS 

Understanding the disruptive technology that facilitates Faith Crisis is valuable prior to analyzing this document’s specific Faith Crisis data. Our research team identified four primary factors that drive Faith Crisis: 

1) Unprecedented Access To Uncorrelated Information 

2) Continual Access to Uncorrelated Information 

3) Unprecedented Content Creation and Consumption 

4) The Mormon Moment 

Following a description of these factors, a Faith Crisis example is provided to illustrate the speed and ease in which many of our members are exposed to uncorrelated information that can trigger a Faith Crisis. 

We could spend an entire post just discussing those factors, but by now, six years after the report was submitted, these factors seem self-evident. Everyone knows what "uncorrelated information" is and where you can find it.

But in a strange twist, today "uncorrelated information" includes some of the basic teachings of Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery!

I call this "de-correlated information."

One example of "de-correlated information" is the Wentworth letter. Many readers here will find this unbelievable, but it's true.

Joseph Smith wrote the Wentworth letter in 1842 to summarize the origins of the Church, the Book of Mormon, etc. The letter contains the 13 Articles of Faith. Joseph asked Mr. Wentworth to publish it complete. But Joseph didn't need to worry about Mr. Wentworth. He needed to worry about the Correlation Department.

The Correlation Department censored part of the Wentworth letter in the lesson manual, Teachings of the Prophets: Joseph Smith, discussed here:

http://www.bookofmormoncentralamerica.com/2017/07/editing-wentworth-letter.html

Of course, the censorship was driven by the desire to accommodate M2C. That was the same rational the Church History Department used to "de-correlate information" about the New York Cumorah from Saints, Volume 1, discussed here:

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

It's astonishing that the well-known New York Cumorah and important parts of the Wentworth letter are "uncorrelated information" today, but that's the reality.

A third category of "de-correlated information" today is what Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery taught about the translation of the Book of Mormon.
_____

The term "disruptive technology" in the Faith Crisis study is borrowed from Clayton Christensen's book, The Innovator’s Dilemma, which the study discusses on p. 12, including the following excerpt: 

Although the Church is—in many defining ways—clearly differentiated from a business, it also has numerous parallels to a large, well-run corporation. While this provides the membership (and the world) many needed benefits, it also results in a Church structure that is slow to change. 

For the first time in our history, the Church can no longer control its own message—and, therefore, its own narrative—to its membership. For a religion focused so heavily on its history, the uncorrelated presentation of Church history via the Internet and social media are proving to be a “disruption”for today’s Church. 

Considering the parallels the institutional Church has with a highly structured and efficient business organization (which comes with inherent resistance to change) combined with the disruption caused by an uncorrelated history on the Internet and Social Media, our Faith Crisis research team believes the long-term health and vitality of the institutional Church are at risk. Immediate, bold, and innovative action is needed to address the threat posed by Faith Crisis. [emphasis added]

The Gospel Topics Essays were one example of this "bold and innovative action."
_____

I suppose everyone agrees that it was important for the Church to provide reference pages for members to consult when they encounter "uncorrelated information" on the Internet or from friends and family. The challenge is deciding what such reference pages should contain.

In retrospect, it seems obvious that these essays have caused many people to lose their faith.

IOW, the Gospel Topics essays have contributed to the "faith crisis." 

Was it because of the "uncorrelated information" the essays contained, or was it because of the approach and framing used in the essays to "de-correlate" the teachings of the prophets?

What do you think?

Most of us who are faithful, believing Latter-day Saints have long known about all the "uncorrelated information" that exists. It strikes me as incredibly naive for the scholars who wrote this study to say "for the first time in our history, the Church can no longer control its own message." Did they never hear of Mormonism Unvailed, published in 1834?

Long before the Internet, you would have to be living in a cave to be unaware of anti-Mormon arguments and information. Much of Church-related literature (not to mention General Conference addresses) involved responses to critics.

This is why I say,

The Internet is not the problem.* 

The problem is the way LDS intellectuals have embraced the arguments of the critics and rejected the teachings of the prophets, and then used the Academic Cycle so that their theories have permeated LDS culture.
_____

It's very simple.

The table below sets out two scenarios, A and B.

For about 150 years, Church leaders taught Scenario A, with full knowledge of all the information behind Scenario B (which had been set out in the 1834 book Mormonism Unvailed and promoted by critics ever since). In the 1980s, though, Scenario B began to be taught by LDS intellectuals.

Now the information that supports Scenario A has been largely "de-correlated" in favor of the information that supports scenario B. Scenario B is being taught throughout the Church in preference to scenario A, as exemplified by the Gospel Topics Essay.

Which scenario is more believable, A or B?

A. What Joseph and Oliver taught
B. What others taught
Joseph Smith translated the characters on the plates using the Nephite interpreters that had been prepared for that purpose and placed with the plates in the stone box. 

Joseph Smith didn't use the plates or the Nephite interpreters but instead read words that appeared on a stone he found in a well, which he placed into a hat to block the light. He didn't use the plates, which were under a cloth or outside the entire time.
Moroni said the record had been "written and deposited not far from" Joseph's home in Palmyra and that in was Joseph’s privilege, if obedient, “to obtain and translate the same by the means of the Urim and Thummim, which were deposited for that purpose with the record.”

Moroni never said what Joseph and Oliver claimed he said. This statement was Oliver speculating and Joseph accepting that speculation.
The record was actually written in Mesoamerica, thousands of miles away from Joseph’s home in Palmyra. Joseph did obtain the record but he didn’t translate it with the Urim and Thummim that were deposited with the record.
For 1,000 years, Nephite prophets had carefully written and preserved their history. Jaredite prophets had kept their record before that. Mormon abridged the Nephite history and gave the abridgment to Moroni, who added the Jaredite abridgment and his own writings.

For 1,000 years, Nephite prophets had carefully written and preserved their history. Jaredite prophets had kept their record before that. Mormon abridged the Nephite history and gave the abridgment to Moroni, who added the Jaredite abridgment and his own writings.

They did all of this so the future prophet could translate their engravings into English.
They did all of this so the future prophet could use the plates as a talisman while he read words off the stone he found in a well.
Moroni deposited the abridged record in the hill Cumorah near Joseph's home.
Moroni hauled the plates, along with the sword of Laban, the Liahona, and the breastplate and Nephite interpreters, thousands of miles from Central America to an obscure, nameless hill in western New York.
Joseph showed the plates he had translated to the witnesses as proof that he actually translated ancient engravings. 
Joseph showed the plates he never used to the witnesses as proof that what he read off the stone in a hat was true. 

Scenario A
This is where the framing is so important.

We all recognize that there is historical data to support both scenarios. But the historical information also shows that these were alternative scenarios, not different ways of saying the same thing.**

Today, our intellectuals (mainly the M2C citation cartel and the revisionist historians) are trying to persuade people to replace Scenario A with Scenario B.




The youth in the Church, as well as the world at large, are being taught Scenario B. Thanks to "de-correlation" of the New York Cumorah and the Urim and Thummim, younger generations will never even learn scenario A.
Scenario B

Long experience has shown that those who accepted scenario B tended to be critics from outside the Church. That seems natural to me; scenario B is simply unbelievable. Plus, it has the added feature of casting doubt on the teachings of the prophets, starting with Joseph and Oliver.

Do I have to spell out where all of this is headed?

_____

The Gospel Topics Essay on Book of Mormon Translation is a fascinating document. People ask about it all the time. I have an entire chapter on it in my upcoming book.

Two features of the Gospel Topics Essays stand out:

1. These essays are all anonymous.

2. They are subject to change without notice and without an edit record so readers can see what was changed and when.)

The most striking thing about the translation essay is the absence of what Joseph and Oliver claimed. Their teachings have been largely "de-correlated."

Look at this paragraph:

Latter-day Saints later understood the term “Urim and Thummim” to refer exclusively to the interpreters. Joseph Smith and others, however, seem to have understood the term more as a descriptive category of instruments for obtaining divine revelations and less as the name of a specific instrument.

"Latter-day Saints later understood?" From the outset, Joseph and Oliver consistently described the Urim and Thummim as the Nephite interpreters that came with the plates. They never once referred to any seer stone Joseph found in a well.

Instead, they consistently and persistently said Joseph translated with the specific Urim and Thummim.

But this is now "de-correlated information."

Consider this: the Gospel Topics Essay on Translation cites Joseph Smith—History exactly once!

And it cites verses 33–34 (see note 3).

Any guess what is found in verse 35?

Yep. the "de-correlated" verse 35 explains Scenario A and contradicts Scenario B.

35 Also, that there were two stones in silver bows—and these stones, fastened to a breastplate, constituted what is called the Urim and Thummim—deposited with the plates; and the possession and use of these stones were what constituted “seers” in ancient or former times; and that God had prepared them for the purpose of translating the book.

This verse is never quoted in the essay. One would think that in a Gospel Topics Essay on Translation, published on the Church's website, we would see Joseph Smith-History not only cited in a footnote, but quoted prominently.

But we don't.

Here are some more verses that were "de-correlated" (censored) from the essay. Each of these is highly relevant to the question of translation and making sense of all the evidence.

42 Again, he told me, that when I got those plates of which he had spoken—for the time that they should be obtained was not yet fulfilled—I should not show them to any person; neither the breastplate with the Urim and Thummim; only to those to whom I should be commanded to show them; if I did I should be destroyed.

52 Having removed the earth, I obtained a lever, which I got fixed under the edge of the stone, and with a little exertion raised it up. I looked in, and there indeed did I behold the plates, the Urim and Thummim, and the breastplate, as stated by the messenger.

62 By this timely aid was I enabled to reach the place of my destination in Pennsylvania; and immediately after my arrival there I commenced copying the characters off the plates. I copied a considerable number of them, and by means of the Urim and Thummim I translated some of them, which I did between the time I arrived at the house of my wife’s father, in the month of December, and the February following.

Oliver Cowdery describes these events thus: “These were days never to be forgotten—to sit under the sound of a voice dictated by the inspiration of heaven, awakened the utmost gratitude of this bosom! Day after day I continued, uninterrupted, to write from his mouth, as he translated with the Urim and Thummim, or, as the Nephites would have said, ‘Interpreters,’ the history or record called ‘The Book of Mormon.

Why do you think the essay de-correlates these verses from the Pearl of Great Price? Why do you think the essay fails to quote or even cite any of the teachings of the prophets that support Scenario A?

Why do you think the essay instead quotes extensively from Emma Smith's "Last Testimony" and from various writings of the intellectuals who are pushing Scenario B?
_____

Here's another example. The Elders' Journal published this Q&A.

Question 4th. How, and where did you obtain the book of Mormon?

Answer. Moroni, the person who deposited the plates, from whence the book of Mormon was translated, in a hill in Manchester, Ontario County New York, being dead; and raised again therefrom, appeared unto me, and told me where they were; and gave me directions how to obtain them. I obtained them, and the Urim and Thummim with them; by the means of which, I translated the plates; and thus came the book of Mormon.

(Joseph Smith, Elders’ Journal 1 (July 1838): 42-43, The Joseph Smith Papers,
https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/elders-journal-july-1838/10

The essay doesn't provide this quotation, or even a reference to it, but it does cite the Elders' Journal on the topic of treasure seeking (note 19).

Joseph's statement here has been "de-correlated."

I could go on, but you can do your own research and see what's going on here.
_____

Let's summarize.

The Internet is not the problem.

"Uncorrelated information" is not the problem.

The problem is "de-correlated information" and the promotion of the theories of intellectuals instead of the teachings of the prophets.

_____

*If the "Faith Crisis" study is correct--if the Internet has had this dramatic impact--there must have been a lot of Church members who, prior to the Internet, never considered religious material outside of what the Church and its affiliates produced.

How can such an attitude constitute a search for truth?

Come to think of it, I encounter such Church members even today. They typically believe M2C and have no idea what the prophets have taught because M2C intellectuals carefully control and correlate their materials, censoring information that contradicts M2C.

Eventually, though, most people discover "uncorrelated information" on their own, including the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah and the translation of the Book of Mormon.

** The obvious explanation for the two scenarios is that Joseph and Oliver described the translation, while the others described demonstrations of the technique. Joseph couldn't show anyone the plates or the Urim and Thummim, but to satisfy curiosity, he used the stone in a hat to convey the concept. People inferred they were watching the actual translation.