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, February 22, 2019

Great example of persuasion vs education

Some people wonder where M2C is being taught. They find it difficult to believe that employees at BYU, CES and COB (the Church Office Building) are actively teaching that the prophets were wrong about the New York Cumorah.

I agree, it's difficult to believe. But I'm not kidding about this. Nor am I trying to persuade. It's just a fact.

The real question should be, where is M2C not being taught?

Below I'll give a specific recent example of the M2C rationale, but the teaching that Joseph adopted a false tradition about Cumorah is implicit in every depiction of M2C.

It's very simple.

BYU's M2C fantasy map
If they didn't reject the teachings of the prophets and apostles about the New York Cumorah, the scholars and their followers would agree that the Hill Cumorah is in New York and depict it that way.

Instead, in their books, articles, blogs, and images, they depict Cumorah in Mesoamerica--or in the BYU/CES fantasy world designed to resemble Mesoamerica.

Participants in the M2C citation cartel explain M2C by claiming that Joseph Smith never referred to the hill as Cumorah until "late," meaning several years after his associates created the "false narrative" that the hill in New York is the same as the hill Cumorah of Mormon 6:6.

They claim that when Joseph did refer to Cumorah, such as in D&C 128:20, he was spreading a false tradition started by others.

Here's the recent example. It's from a blog post. I don't identify individuals on this blog because names are irrelevant and I don't want people coming to this blog by searching for names.

None of this is a personal issue; we're dealing with facts and reason in the context of persuasion vs. education. It doesn't matter who wrote it except that he's a well-known author and active member of the M2C citation cartel.

I'm going to take the time to point out the difference between persuasion and education because I think readers can use this example to analyze everything they read. 

There's a lot of detail in here, but sophistry is complex and unsuspecting readers don't recognize the difference between persuasion and education. This is why we have so much fake news and sharp divisions among people, everywhere in the world.

I think that if people were educated about facts vs. opinions and how to recognize logical fallacies, most people would tend to agree on issues (assuming they could overcome their bias confirmation). Most people don't want to take the time or make the effort; it's far easier and more comfortable to continue confirming one's biases.

Nevertheless, I think some Church members, at least, want to make informed decisions.

I re-emphasize that I don't care what anyone believes. I'm not trying to persuade anyone of anything. I just want everyone interested to make informed decisions, and that means people need to have all the facts and learn to distinguish between persuasion and education.

This M2C author was responding to a post about Letter VII, which he rejects. Original in blue, my comments in red.

Oliver is a second-hand witness. The one person who could have settled this completely, Joseph, did not (until a decade or more later). 

This is an example of persuasion, as opposed to education. Everyone can read, right in the Joseph Smith Papers, that Oliver Cowdery, while Assistant President of the Church, declared it was a fact that the "hill in New York" is the very Hill Cumorah of Mormon 6:6.   

Of course, the author cannot point to any factual evidence that Oliver did not know, first hand, that the hill in New York was the real Cumorah. There is zero evidence that Oliver ever expressed speculation, doubt or confusion about Cumorah. Nor did anyone else associated with Joseph or Oliver, including family members and both members and nonmembers of the Church who heard them speak and lived among them. 

All our M2C proponent can do is try to persuade people that President Cowdery was lying because he didn't explain, in Letter VII, how he knew it was a fact. That supposedly makes him a "second-hand witness."

However, it is a fact that David Whitmer, Brigham Young, Wilford Woodruff and Heber C. Kimball all explained that Oliver Cowdery said that on multiple occasions he (Oliver) and Joseph Smith entered the depository of records Mormon mentioned in Mormon 6:6. That alone makes Oliver a first-hand witness, but the M2C advocates also consider this testimony unreliable, so they relegate him to a "second-hand witness" based solely on their mind-reading.

It's also a fact that Joseph had Letter VII copied into his own history and had it republished multiple times in Church publications during his lifetime, but none of that, in the M2C view, means Joseph settled the matter. 

Needless to say, the author simply censors all these facts. 

We can't mind-read to know why he censors them, but we can see that the facts contradict they theory he is trying to persuade people to accept. That's the typical motivation of censors.

Surely he has come up with reasons for rejecting the facts, but it's easier to just censor them. To the extent he has reasons for rejecting the facts (he has articulated some elsewhere), the reasons are just as problematic as his characterization of Oliver Cowdery as a confused speculator who, as Assistant President of the Church, knowingly misled the Church. 

No matter what Oliver said, you have to deal with the two essential facts: 1) Joseph didn't make the claim, and adopted it only after it was in common usage, and 2) no leader of the church after Joseph ever suggested that the Book of Mormon lands had been located.

The author knows he is not relating facts; he's relating his subjective rejection of historical facts.

Readers here know that right in the Joseph Smith papers, we can read that Joseph's mother quoted Joseph referring to the hill as Cumorah even before he got the plates. When the messenger who had the Harmony plates said he was taking the plates to Cumorah, Joseph identified him as one of the Nephites. (At a minimum, Joseph learned about Cumorah on this occasion, if he didn't already know it.) Joseph related his experience with Cumorah to early members, such as Joseph Curtis, about which I posted here.

Every prophet and apostle who has ever formally addressed the issue has affirmed that Cumorah is in New York, including members of the First Presidency speaking in General Conference. 

But, because of M2C, this author rejects all of these facts, as well as Letter VII. He not only rejects the teachings of the prophets and apostles; in this post he insists they never even said what the Conference Reports and other materials document. That is pure persuasion.

There is no question that Joseph retrieved the plates from a hill that later came to be known as Cumorah.

See? Because he rejects Lucy Mack Smith's account, he censors it as if it didn't exist and claims the hill "later came to be known as Cumorah." 

It appears historically likely that Oliver was the one to make that association, just as W.W. Phelps was responsible for the shift from seer stone/interpreters to urim and thummin. 

Here is a delightful compound persuasion technique. First, he has Oliver making "that association" based on no evidence, contrary to the evidence we do have about Moroni and the divine messenger taking the Harmony plates to Cumorah. Then he claims Phelps was the one who "was responsible" for the term urim and thummim, which is a common interpretation of an article Phelps wrote but not a fact.

It is also quite clear that Oliver believed that the NY Cumorah was the Book of Mormon Cumorah, so it is unsurprising that anything he said would reflect that belief. Since we are dealing with second-hand information at best, and filtered through Oliver's understanding, his statement makes sense--without making it true.

Here, he reads President Cowdery's mind to frame him as a liar because when President Cowdery wrote in Letter VII that it was a fact, he knew it was really only a belief, based on "second-hand information at best." Do you see how persuasion relies not on facts, but on mind-reading, inference, and unstated rejection of facts?

You will see these same tactics on display throughout the M2C literature.


If feels as though you are not aware of what a second-hand witness is. It means someone who heard the information from someone else. 

One hallmark of persuasion is the persuader gets confused. He's claiming that Oliver was a "second-hand witness." Here, he says a "second-hand witness" is "Someone who heard the information from someone else." 

By this logic, Oliver heard Cumorah from someone else, but the M2C author doesn't suggest from whom Oliver could have heard it. It's easy to see why. From whom could Oliver have heard it from if not from Joseph, Moroni, the Lord, or the messenger taking the plates to Cumorah? He doesn't offer an alternative. He either doesn't recognize he's tied his argument into a knot, or he hopes readers don't realize what just happened here.  

That doesn't make them unreliable. It means that we usually have to do some verification. If they are generally a good source, they can be accepted for what they are saying. However, if there is evidence that contradicts what they are suggesting, then the strong possibility is that in that thing where we have contradictory evidence, the second-hand witness is not as strong as we would like.

This is all persuasion-speak for saying that President Cowdery was unreliable. As a faithful Latter-day Saint, he knows that's problematic. After all, President Cowdery was the only witness other than Joseph to the restoration of the Priesthood, the restoration of keys in the Kirtland temple, most of the Book of Mormon translation, and much more. M2C scholars realize they can't directly call the Three Witnesses liars without undermining the entire foundation of the Restoration, so they couch it in this type of word salad, using terms such as "strong possibility," "not as strong as we would like," etc. 

The case for Oliver and the naming of the NY hill as Cumorah is one of those cases. We have it early from Oliver, but not from Joseph--even when Joseph is talking about the same hill. 

See? He keeps censoring Lucy's account because it contradicts his theory. Persuasion, not education.

That happens for close to a decade, where Joseph didn't use Cumorah, but Oliver (and increasingly the whole of the community) began using Cumorah. 

This is a very important persuasion technique. He writes "Joseph didn't use Cumorah" as if that's a fact, but of course it's not. It's pure opinion. The most he can accurately state is "we don't have a written record of Joseph using the word Cumorah for close to a decade." 

Here are facts (education) instead of persuasion: (i) Joseph wrote little, (ii) we don't even have everything Joseph wrote, (iii) very few of Joseph's words were recorded, and even fewer were recorded verbatim, (iv) some of his words that were recorded identify the hill in New York as Cumorah, (v) Joseph's associates taught things they learned from Joseph, even when we don't have Joseph's words themselves recorded. 

Among these facts are those I related above (Lucy Mack Smith, Brigham Young, etc.) and Letter VII itself.

Another fascinating thing about this argument is that, by this definition, Joseph didn't "use" the Book of Mormon itself. Oliver wrote it down. So far as we know, Joseph rarely quoted from the text. The only proper nouns found in the Book of Mormon that appear in Joseph's writings that we do have are Cumorah (in the letter that became D&C 128:20) and Nephites (in his letter to Emma about the plains of the Nephites), although he dictated a few proper nouns in the revelations in the D&C. 

While we don't have evidence that Joseph dictated Oliver's eight historical letters, we do have evidence that Joseph helped write them, had them copied into his own history as part of his life story, and had them republished in official Church publications (including by his own brothers William and Don Carlos). 

Readers need to weigh this evidence against zero evidence that Joseph ever disputed, questioned, or rejected the New York Cumorah.   

Since there is no evidence that Oliver received revelation on the topic, we have to look at who his source might have been. The only one who could declare the name from revelation was Joseph--but that would be hard to conclude since Joseph himself didn't use that name.

More careful persuasion. The author wants readers to think past the sale; i.e., to think that revelation is the only way Oliver could have learned that the hill in New York was the Hill Cumorah of Mormon 6:6, which of course is untrue.  

This argument is like saying that Oliver never had a revelation that Joseph dictated the Book of Mormon. Of course, Oliver didn't need such a revelation--he experienced it.

We have evidence from credible witnesses that Oliver told people he had been inside the repository of Nephite records in that hill. Personal experience works as well as revelation.

There's another "think past the sale" persuasion argument here; i.e., the argument that only Joseph could declare the name from revelation. But we already saw evidence that Oliver heard about Cumorah from the divine messenger taking the plates to Cumorah. Oliver also met Moroni during the Three Witnesses experience. We don't have a record of what Moroni told the witnesses, but both Oliver and David Whitmer taught that the hill in New York was the Hill Cumorah of Mormon 6:6. 

And, of course, the lack of a written record of other revelation doesn't mean Oliver didn't receive other revelation, especially when we know he and Joseph had revelations they didn't record. JS-H 1:73. Plus, Oliver explained that he wrote the letters using documents then in their possession which we no longer have. 

IOW, we have evidence of Oliver receiving revelations for which we have no records, and of Oliver using records we no longer have. Yet this M2C author contradicts that evidence by citing... no evidence! 

So, you are incorrect that I am discounting the validity of everything that Oliver said. 

Finally, a logical, factual statement (assuming that's what the other author actually wrote). But, if the other author was referring to what Oliver wrote and said about Cumorah, then this M2C author is, actually, "discounting the validity of everything that Oliver said" on that topic.

I am saying that he didn't get the information from Moroni, and the case for getting it from Joseph is contradicted by Joseph's avoidance of the name when discussing the hill.

It's difficult to find a better example of pure persuasion vs. education than this. He's stating as fact both (i) his inference from a lack of evidence about Moroni (i.e., his own imagination) and (ii) his own rejection of the available facts (i.e., the evidence from when Joseph did use the name)! 

Yes, Oliver said it was Cumorah. No, that doesn't mean that Joseph did, and the evidence is that he didn't.

One effective persuasion technique is to combine something that looks logical, but is actually a fallacy, while characterizing a subjective opinion as a fact.

The first part of the sentence looks logical; i.e., it's true that Oliver saying it was Cumorah doesn't mean that Joseph did. But it also doesn't mean that Joseph did not say it was Cumorah! 

It is persuasion to make bare conclusions by simply citing the term "evidence," (especially after censoring relevant evidence).

It is education to provide the facts, in context, and then assess probabilities based on those facts.

In every other case of Oliver's writing about facts, he related either 
(i) his own personal experiences or 
(ii) what he learned from Joseph Smith--including in these eight historical essays both before and after Letter VII, including Moroni's visit, Joseph's first trip to the hill Cumorah, and the contents of Moroni's stone box. Those are facts from which we can draw one of two inferences:

1. Like everything else in these letters, Oliver learned the facts about Cumorah from Joseph Smith or his own personal experience.


2. Unlike everything else in these letters, Oliver speculated about Cumorah and falsely claimed it was a fact.

Now, the second part of the sentence is pure opinion, not fact: "the evidence is that he didn't." 

There is no evidence that Joseph never called the hill Cumorah, as we saw above. 

But there is evidence that Joseph called it Cumorah before he even got the plates, that he and Oliver visited the depository in the hill. that the messenger took the Harmony plates to Cumorah, that he taught others that the hill was named Cumorah (Joseph Curtis).

In terms of publications, we have Letter VII, republished multiple times in official and unofficial Church publications, including the Times and Seasons.

Opposed to this evidence is the fact that the hill was left unnamed in a history compiled by Joseph's scribes that was intended for non-members (now JS-H). This history was published once in the Times and Seasons and it contained a serious mistake (substituting Nephi for Moroni), but the M2C advocates consider it so important that it outweighs all the other evidence.

Therefore, it seems to be a name that Oliver applied, and it was picked up. Citing Oliver on the topic does not establish that the hill was Cumorah, only that Oliver called it that by the time he wrote those letters (and I suspect earlier).

After censoring all the evidence that contradicts his theory, this M2C advocate seeks to persuade his readers that Oliver was a liar. 

I hope this has been a helpful exercise to see the difference between persuasion and education. You can do the same exercise whenever you read material published by the M2C citation cartel.

Here are more examples of M2C in print. They all teach that Cumorah cannot be in New York.
M2C map of Mesoamerica

M2C book

M2C book

M2C book

M2C painting

M2C book

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