long ago ideas

“When we are tired, we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago." - Friedrich Nietzsche. Long ago, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery conquered false claims that the Book of Mormon was fiction or that it came through a stone in a hat. But these old claims have resurfaced in recent years. To conquer them again, we have to return to what Joseph and Oliver taught.

Friday, January 11, 2019

No-wise #497 The Land of Promise

People have asked me about another no-wise from Book of Mormon Central Censor (BOMCC).

BOMCC publishes short articles they call a "Kno-Why." I don't take the time to respond to these any more, partly because

(i) they merely rehash things the M2C citation cartel (M2C is the acronym for the Mesoamerican-two Cumorahs theory) have written over the years, which I've already responded to, and partly because

(ii) many of the Kno-Whys are not no-wise. Some are actually good, and some are great (as they should be, given the amount of money BOMCC spends to create them.)

The problem comes from the taint of M2C, which I call Mesomania. BOMCC is so determined to establish M2C in the minds of Church members that they continue to censor material that contradicts M2C. They continue to reject what the prophets have taught about the New York Cumorah, and they continue to resort to sophistry to confuse and mislead the Saints.

No-wise #497 is a good example. It's titled "Where is the Land of Promise?" It contains the same semantic arguments put forward by M2C proponents for decades.

I ignored it at first it because readers of this blog already understand the M2C tactics and dogma. But there are always new readers, and if you're not well-versed in the M2C problem, you probably won't understand what's wrong with no-wise #497.

Censorship is effective because readers don't know what has been censored. That's why the M2C employees get away with censoring and even changing the teachings of the prophets, as we've seen in the book ironically titled Saints: The Standard of Truth and the lesson manuals on the teachings of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young.

BTW, my comments on previous BOMCC no-wisees are here:


The title alone tells us No-wise #497 is going to be a problem.

"Where is the Land of Promise?"

It falsely implies there is one land of promise. The correct question would include a who and a when; i.e., the answer depends on whose land of promise we are considering and in what time frame. There is not one single "land of promise."

For Abraham, the "land of promise" was the area around modern-day Israel (Heb. 11:9).

For the Children of Israel, it was the same land (Joshua 23:5).

In Lehi's day, the "land or promise" was the land given to him for his posterity. (2 Nephi 1)

In the 1830s, the "land of promise" was designated as Missouri (D&C  57:2).

In our day, the "land of promise" is wherever righteous people live.

This is all made quite clear in the scriptures and by the modern prophets (some of whom the no-wise eventually cite, although they continue to censor and repudiate other teachings of the prophets).

Why did BOMCC publish this no-wise on the promised land??

No-wise #497 is part of their ongoing effort to get the Saints to believe M2C. IOW, BOMCC wants members of the Church to accept them, the scholars, whenever they disagree with the prophets. The people who write these no-wise actually claim they have been hired by the prophets to guide the Church.

And, ironically (but not surprisingly), as we'll see, the conclusion of this no-wise contradicts its own original premise. This is the problem the M2C intellectuals get into when they resort to convoluted sophistry to mislead members of the Church.

Here, I'll point out that the entire no-wise is an effort to deny the plain language contained in President Oliver Cowdery's letters. Letter IV describes Moroni's first visit to Joseph Smith:

He then proceeded and gave a general account of the promises made to the fathers, and also gave a history of the aborigenes of this country, and said they were literal descendants of Abraham. He represented them as once being an enlightned and intelligent people, possessing a correct knowledge of the gospel, and the plan of restoration and redemption. He said this history was written and deposited not far from that place, and that it was our brother’s privilege, if obedient to the commandments of the Lord, to obtain and translate the same by the means of the Urim and Thummim, which were deposited for that purpose with the record.

This paragraph alone should resolve the matter. The Book of Mormon is a history of the aborigines of the United States, circa 1823, and Mormon and Moroni wrote and deposited the record not far from Joseph's home; i.e., they lived in western New York when they abridged the Nephite records and they deposited both the original records and the abridgment in the hill Cumorah not far from Joseph's home.

Separately, Letter VII declares it is a fact that the hill Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 is the same hill from which Joseph obtained the plates.

But plain language, even from prophets, never stopped intellectuals from trying to persuade members of the Church that the prophets are wrong.

Hence, we have no-wise #497.

The no-wise begins by focusing on Lehi's land of promise. BOMCC offers this table:

The Book of Mormon describes the identity and importance of this “land of promise” in various ways. These include:

“a land which [the Lord has] prepared”
1 Nephi 2:20
“a land which is choice above all other lands”
2 Nephi 1:5
2 Nephi 1:10
“a land of thine inheritance”
2 Nephi 10:10
“a land of liberty”
2 Nephi 10:11
Ether 2:7

At first glance, the table looks impressive. But since this comes from Book of Mormon Central Censor, we have to suspect they're intentionally omitting something. (This is a rule of thumb that works every time when you read something from the M2C citation cartel.)

The table omits a key description. It's laughable, really. Hopefully every reader is familiar enough with the Book of Mormon by now to recognize something is missing from this table.

Actually, the fine young scholars at BOMCC, aka NPCs,* who write these no-wise apparently don't even realize what they're doing. They've been conditioned to think M2C always and everywhere. Some of them literally "can't unsee" M2C when they read the text. That's the power of bias confirmation.

Sadly, most of their readers are also NPCs when it comes to M2C.
*An NPC is a "non-player character," explained here:
NPCs merely repeat the rote instructions they're programmed to repeat, as we see in the M2C no-wises.

Notice, the table quotes from 2 Nephi 1:5 and 1:10. What about the verses in between?

They censor those because they contradict M2C.

Look at the verses this no-wise omitted:

6 Wherefore, I, Lehi, prophesy according to the workings of the Spirit which is in me, that there shall none come into this land save they shall be brought by the hand of the Lord. [this would include the Jaredites, who occupied Lehi's promised land ("this north country") before his descendants did]

7 Wherefore, this land is consecrated unto him whom he shall bring. And if it so be that they shall serve him according to the commandments which he hath given, it shall be a land of liberty unto them; wherefore, they shall never be brought down into captivity; if so, it shall be because of iniquity; for if iniquity shall abound cursed shall be the land for their sakes, but unto the righteous it shall be blessed forever.

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.

9 Wherefore, I, Lehi, have obtained a promise, that inasmuch as those whom the Lord God shall bring out of the land of Jerusalem [i.e., Lehi's group as well as Mulek's] shall keep his commandments, they shall prosper upon the face of this land; and they shall be kept from all other nations, that they may possess this land unto themselves. And if it so be that they shall keep his commandments they shall be blessed upon the face of this land, and there shall be none to molest them, nor to take away the land of their inheritance; and they shall dwell safely forever.

Middle Preclassic (1000 BC–400 BC)

M2C teaches that Lehi (and Mulek) landed in Mesoamerica, an area that, by 600 BC (the "Middle Preclassic period), hosted extensive civilizations. See a short description here.

Depending on which version of M2C you're considering, the Nephites and people of Zarahemla were Mayans, or living among Mayans.

The M2C intellectuals want you to believe that Joseph Smith learned about all of this in 1841 from an illustrated travel book. They want you to believe that prior to that, Joseph was an ignorant speculator who misled the Church about the New York Cumorah. Plus, even after he learned the "truth" from the travel book, his contemporaries and successors continued to teach the false opinion about the New York Cumorah. Joseph's own brother, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, re-published Letter VII in 1844. Every prophet and apostle who has ever addressed the topic has reaffirmed the New York Cumorah.

Two things all M2C intellectuals agree upon.

1. All the prophets and apostles were wrong about the New York Cumorah.

2. The Nephites were not alone; they lived among other nations.

IOW, contrary to what Lehi was promised, according to M2C Lehi's family did not possess the land unto themselves and they were not kept from all other nations.

How do the NPC's at BOMCC deal with this problem?

They simply censor inconvenient scriptures, such as 2 Nephi 1:8-9, and move on.

If we are searching for a land that fits all of the descriptions of Lehi's promised land, we need to find a place that was not inhabited by nations around 600 B.C., such as the area now known as the southeastern United States.

Note that the Lord did not promise Lehi there would be no people in his promised land, but only that there would be no nations. This requirement is satisfied if Lehi's promised land was already occupied by small groups of hunter/gatherers, but not if it was already occupied by large organized human societies (governments) such as what was present in Mesoamerica.

If this no-wise was not trying to mislead and confuse members of the Church, it would have addressed this issue instead of simply censoring these important verses from 2 Nephi 1.

The no-wise next addresses the New Jerusalem:

The prophets Ether and Moroni prophesied that “a New Jerusalem” would be built in the land of promise (Ether 13:3–6, 9–10; cf. 3 Nephi 21:23–24). 

D&C 84:1-4 explains that the site for the New Jerusalem is in what is now known as Missouri (D&C  84:4).

4 Verily this is the word of the Lord, that the city New Jerusalem shall be built by the gathering of the saints, beginning at this place, even the place of the temple, which temple shall be reared in this generation.

This is another problem for M2C because they have both Ether and Moroni, who supposedly lived in Mesoamerica (specifically around the Hill Cumorah, which M2C claims is in southern Mexico) describing a location in Missouri, thousands of miles to the north.

Does the no-wise address this? No. Instead, it implies that maybe we don't know where the site for the New Jerusalem is because it "could only be built on the principles of righteousness," a bizarre non-sequitur. Here's how they confuse and mislead their readers (this paragraph appears after the BYU Fantasy map):

Related to the concept of the land of promise and the New Jerusalem is that of Zion. Modern revelation identifies Jackson County, Missouri as “the land which [the Lord has] appointed and consecrated for the gathering of the saints” as “the land of promise, and the place for the city of Zion” (Doctrine and Covenants 57:1–2). While this usage of Zion refers to a specific location (much like how Zion is identified with the Old World city of Jerusalem in the Hebrew Bible), the broader concept of Zion can take on multiple meanings depending on context. 5

This is an accurate quotation of D&C 57, and they do cite D&C 84 in the footnote, but note how specific D&C 84:4 is, and how they don't quote that one. Instead, they distract readers by conflating the concepts of the "land of promise," the "New Jerusalem," and "Zion."

[BTW, many Church members don't realize that some LDS intellectuals don't think the New Jerusalem will be built in Missouri. Some say the idea of a "New Jerusalem" is not limited to one site; some say the early Saints forfeited the Missouri site; and some question the reliability of the revelations in the D&C overall. That's a topic for another time.]

You can see why BOMCC wants to conflate the three separate topics when you read the next part of no-wise #497. My comments in red below. Original in blue.

NO-WISE #497

Going back to the first part of the no-wise, we read this reasonable (albeit grammatically awkward) statement:

Because the Book of Mormon does not specify where physically in the New World the “land of promise” was located, or its range or extent, interested readers of the book have tried to answer these questions. 

As we saw at the outset, BOMCC censors key descriptions of Lehi's "land of promise" because they think that what's left after their censorship describes Mesoamerica. But there is another important part of Lehi's prophecy in 2 Nephi 1 to consider:

10 But behold, when the time cometh that they shall dwindle in unbelief, after they have received so great blessings from the hand of the Lord—

11 Yea, he will bring other nations unto them, and he will give unto them power, and he will take away from them the lands of their possessions, and he will cause them to be scattered and smitten.

The Book of Mormon explains how Lehi's descendants ended up dwindling in unbelief. Consequently, we should look for a situation in which "other nations" came upon Lehi's descendants and took away the lands of their possessions, and caused them to be scattered and smitten.

The no-wise continues:

Historically, Latter-day Saint leaders have understood the land of promise given to Lehi and his descendants as encompassing the span of North and South America. 

I disagree with this framing of what "early Church leaders" taught for three reasons.

1. This was not what was taught by all LDS leaders.

2. Joseph Smith specifically refuted Orson Pratt's ideas, as I'll show below; and

3. Orson Pratt's theory contradicts the covenant Lehi described. IOW, if all of the Americas, meaning the continents of North America and South America, were the "promised land," how could anyone take away an entire hemisphere? And to where would Lehi's descendants be scattered if the entire hemisphere was their promised land? 

According to this hemispheric theory, Lehi's descendants would still be occupying their promised land even after it was taken away from them and even after they were scattered.

Now, let's look at the references they cite. They start with Orson Pratt.

For instance, Elder Orson Pratt, writing in 1840, taught that “the Lord gave unto [Lehi’s seed] the whole continent, for a land of promise, and he promised, that they, and their children after them, should inherit it, on condition of their obedience to his commandments.”2 

This is another example of subtle censorship. BOMCC cuts this quotation so it ends in mid-sentence. Here's the rest of Orson Pratt's sentence:

but if they were disobedient, they should be cut off from his presence.

As we just read in 2 Nephi 1:11, the covenant was that their land would be taken away and they would be scattered. Orson Pratt didn't address this part of the covenant because it doesn't fit his theory of the entire continent being the promised land.

Do you see the problem? Under the "whole continent" theory, Lehi's descendants would inherit the land of promise whether or not they were obedient to the commandments. The covenant was a nullity.

(BTW, when Pratt wrote the footnotes for the 1879 edition of the Book of Mormon, he specified that his hemispheric ideas were speculative. But he also specified that the New York Cumorah was a fact, not speculation. BOMCC never tells their readers about this distinction, either.) 

Here is the first part of footnote 2:

Orson Pratt, A[n] Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions (Edinburgh, Scotland: Ballantyne and Hughes, 1840): 17, online at josephsmithpapers.org.  

Let's look at this 1840 pamphlet a moment.

The first thing to notice is that Orson included quotations from Letter IV, one of President Oliver Cowdery's eight letters on Church history and the restoration of the Priesthood. It was in Letter IV that President Cowdery explained explained what Moroni told Joseph, as we saw above:

He then proceeded and gave a general account of the promises made to the fathers, and also gave a history of the aborigenes of this country, and said they were literal descendants of Abraham. He represented them as once being an enlightned and intelligent people, possessing a correct knowledge of the gospel, and the plan of restoration and redemption. He said this history was written and deposited not far from that place, and that it was our brother’s privilege, if obedient to the commandments of the Lord, to obtain and translate the same by the means of the Urim and Thummim, which were deposited for that purpose with the record.

Orson didn't quote this specific passage. Instead, he paraphrased part of it and wrote "After giving him many instructions concerning things past and to come, which would be foreign to our purpose to mention here, he [the angel] disappeared." Nevertheless, Orson's use of Letter VII shows how it was  considered authoritative. (You can read it in Joseph's personal history here: 

What does Letter IV tell us?

First, Letter IV explains that the Book of Mormon is the history of the aborigines of this country. Later, the no-wise cites Webster's 1828 dictionary, so let's see how the dictionary defines the term country. I won't list the entire long definition, but you can see it here:

Webster's: The kingdom , state or territory in which one is born; the land of nativity; or the particular district indefinitely in which one is born. America is my country or Connecticut is my country

The concept of hemisphere or continent doesn't come within any definition of country. This is why BOMCC wants Church members to disbelieve President Cowdery's letters, even though their own source (Orson Pratt) quoted from them. (It's possible that Pratt recognized this problem and that's why he didn't quote what Moroni told Joseph, but Joseph himself corrected Pratt as we'll see below.)

If we believe President Cowdery (who wrote these letters with the assistance of Joseph Smith, who later personally approved of them on multiple occasions), Moroni explained that the Nephites were the aborigines of the country where Joseph lived. These Native Americans are genetically, culturally, and linguistically distinct from those in Mesoamerica.

Second, Letter IV teaches us that Moroni told Joseph the record was "written and deposited not far from" Joseph's home. This can only mean that Mormon and Moroni wrote the record in western New York. 

In any other situation, Letter IV would resolve the Cumorah issue once and for all. It originated with the President and Assistant President of the Church, was approved by both counselors in the First Presidency, and was approved by every member of the Twelve who ever discussed the topic of Cumorah, down through the present day.

But M2C advocates insist all these Church leaders are wrong.

There's more to consider about the 1840 pamphlet.

Orson goes on to quote from Letters VII and VIII regarding Cumorah. Because he is focusing on the "Late Discovery of Ancient American Records," Orson doesn't get into the Book of Mormon narrative at this point, so he omits President Cowdery's discussion of Cumorah in the context of Mormon 6:6. But again, he quoted President Cowdery's letters as authoritative regarding the description of Cumorah.

Sometimes people wonder why the 1840 pamphlet is included in the Joseph Smith Papers. The Historical Introduction says, "Interesting Account is not a JS document, because JS did not write it, assign it, or supervise its creation. However, two JS documents in this volume, “Church History” and “Latter Day Saints” (a later version of “Church History”), quote extensively from Pratt’s pamphlet."

This becomes relevant when we read the balance of footnote 2 in the no-wise.

Elder Pratt, in the same publication (pp. 16, 21), understood that the Book of Mormon describes Lehi’s colony as landing in South America, and that centuries later “the Lamanites . . . dwelt in South America, and the Nephites in North America,” making it clear that Pratt had a hemispheric New World geography in mind with his comments. This makes sense in light of how contemporary nineteenth century American English defined the concept of the “American continent.” See “America,” in American Dictionary of the English Language, online at webstersdictionary1828.com.

Notice, BOMCC cites Webster's for America but not for country

More important, though, is how Joseph changed Orson Pratt's language when he wrote the Wentworth letter. Interested readers can see my detailed explanation in my book Brought to Light

Here, I'll just quote from a previous post on this point:

Joseph wrote the Wentworth letter by referring to Oliver's eight historical letters and Orson Pratt's pamphlet, "A Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions." Orson Pratt spent several pages discussing his hemispheric model, including Central and South America. In the Wentworth letter, Joseph deleted Orson's speculation and instead declared that the remnant of Lehi's people "are the Indians that now inhabit this country."

[Note: You can read the entire Wentworth letter in the Ensign here. However, the influence of the M2C intellectuals is so pervasive that the lesson manual, Teaching of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, actually deleted this critical passage from the chapter on the Wentworth Letter. Joseph had been concerned that Mr. Wentworth might not publish his article entire, but he didn't need to worry about Mr. Wentworth; he needed to worry about the Curriculum Department that is dominated by people who believe M2C (the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory).]

Joseph's contemporaries accepted the New York Cumorah, but they were enthusiastic about the ruins in Central America so they disregarded his declaration about the Indians in the United States. They disregarded the revelations (D&C 28, 30, 32) that identified the Lamanites as the tribes living in the United States. Benjamin Winchester, William Smith, and the Pratt brothers, all close friends and missionary companions who wrote and published profusely, shared a missionary zeal for linking the Book of Mormon to exciting finds in Central America. But Joseph never once shared their enthusiasm and the idea that he did has led intellectuals to reject what Joseph and Oliver actually taught about the Hill Cumorah.

This is a tragic mistake that can be easily rectified by returning to the teachings of the prophets and apostles about Cumorah.

[Note: If you want to know more detail about all of this, you can read my detailed blog posts here:

You can read how the employees in the Correlation Department promote M2C here: 

No-wise #497 continues.

Elder B. H. Roberts similarly stated, “The Book of Mormon teaches that the two American continents [North and South America] are a promised land, consecrated to righteousness and to liberty, and especially dedicated to the seed of the Patriarch Joseph, son of Jacob, of Bible fame, and to the Gentile races, who shall in the last days be gathered to the land as well as the descendants of Joseph.”3 In 1968 President Alvin R. Dyer likewise taught, “America, or the continent of America, is the promised and choice land, choice above all other lands.”4

The first thing to note is that this quotation contradicts the premise for this no-wise. Recall this statement in the opening paragraphs:

Because the Book of Mormon does not specify where physically in the New World the “land of promise” was located, or its range or extent, interested readers of the book have tried to answer these questions. [emphasis added]

Elder Roberts was controversial for several reasons, but surely BOMCC doesn't take his statement here to be literal because they started out by explaining that the Book of Mormon doesn't specify where the land of promise is. As we've seen, it's irrational to apply 2 Nephi 1 to the entire hemisphere because (i) there were already nations in the hemisphere when Lehi landed and (ii) because there would be no place for Lehi's descendants to be scattered if the entire hemisphere was their promised land.

That said, Elder Roberts makes a valid point when he says the entire hemisphere is dedicated to the gathering of Israel. 

Of course, that's also true of every spec of land on earth, as the modern prophets have explained.

Do you see how this works? The no-wise relies on Elder Pratt, who specifically admitted his ideas were speculative, and Elder Roberts, who made a statement even BOMCC doesn't agree with (although Elder Roberts also made a separate statement about the gathering that the modern prophets have affirmed).

The larger point is that BOMCC repudiates the consistent and persistent teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah, and cites isolated statements of Church leaders solely to sow confusion so they can persuade Church members to accept M2C.

Imagined map of the Book of Mormon Lands
by Tyler Griffin, Taylor Halverson, and
Seth Holladay, BYU
Next, no-wise #497 gives us the BYU fantasy map that teaches students

(i) the prophets are wrong about the New York Cumorah and

(ii) the Book of Mormon is best understood in a fictional setting.

Both of these teachings are deplorable, but that's a topic for another day.


Next, BOMCC has a paragraph on Zion that has nothing to do with the promised land and misquotes the tenth Article of Faith, but readers already know those fallacies.

Finally, the "Why" of the no-wise mingles the M2C philosophy of men with the teachings of the prophets. Here's what it says:

So while the Book of Mormon teaches that what is now called the American continent was a “land of promise” to Lehi’s seed, and that later events on this land of promise would play a central role in the restoration of the gospel, the ideals and blessings of Zion are universal, and apply to men and women in all lands or countries who covenant to serve the Lord and do his will.

The last part of this sentence is great. It's what the prophets have taught. I agree 100%. 

But the first part of the sentence is M2C rhetoric that contradicts the entire premise for no-wise #497; i.e., "the Book of Mormon does not specify where physically in the New World the “land of promise” was located, or its range or extent."

I hope by now that you can see how, to promote M2C, BOMCC leads their readers down a path of confusion and disbelief in the teachings of the prophets. Mingling the M2C dogma with selected teachings of the prophets makes it all sound acceptable. A spoonful of sugar, etc. 

Everything in this no-wise would be clear and understandable if BOMCC would simply heed and accept all the teachings of all the prophets, instead of repudiating (and censoring) what the prophets have taught about the New York Cumorah and related issues.

That's why they continue to be Book of Mormon Central Censor.

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