The bottom line: The Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs (M2C) theory is a hoax.
That's not to say there's anything wrong with people believing M2C. People believe all kinds of hoaxes. I speak from experience because for decades I, too, believed the M2C hoax.
In retrospect, it is apparent to me that I fell for it because I believed my CES/BYU teachers and didn't realize they were not giving me all the facts so I could make an informed decision. Most of them, probably, didn't know all the facts. Like me, they too had been trained by M2C promoters.
But intentionally or not, they were censoring material they didn't want me to consider because it contradicted their own belief in M2C.
And today, hundreds of thousands of LDS youth are being subjected to the same censorship tactic, except now it's even worse because they're learning the Book of Mormon in a setting of fantasy and mythology.
Today let's look at what people must do to believe M2C.
Every proponent of M2C has a serious responsibility. This includes:
1. the originators (the RLDS scholars who developed it in the late 19th century),
2. the early adopters (the LDS scholars who embraced it over the objection of LDS leaders),
3. the mainstreamers (the LDS scholars who took it mainstream in the 1980s)
4. the promoters (the M2C citation cartel and their employees)
5. the educators (the CES/BYU/COB employees who teach M2C with fantasy maps)
Every person in these categories is teaching people that the prophets were wrong.*
This is not a contentious or controversial statement. It's just a fact. The M2C proponents all admit it; how could they not? And as fellow members of the Church, we accept them as faithful, devoted Latter-day Saints who, like us, love the Lord and want to share his Gospel with the world. We don't have a problem with their beliefs and teachings because we believe anyone can believe and teach whatever they want.
We just object to their practice of not informing their students and followers of all the facts, including this point:
The foundation for M2C is the premise that the prophets are wrong about the New York Cumorah.
It's one thing for an academic to look at words on paper (or on a screen) and conclude that the author was wrong, based on the academic's expertise, experience, and the consensus of like-minded academics. Academics project their own thought processes on the historical documents. They apply their reasoning and their subjective interpretations, filtering history through their own confirmation bias.
But it's another thing to look at what those words represent.
The words that explain the New York Cumorah were not the product of people writing ignorantly, cavalierly, negligently, or deceitfully.
The people who wrote and spoke about the New York Cumorah were people who recognized the importance of what they wrote and said, who spoke from experience and acknowledged their duty to God and their own responsibility for what they wrote.
In the October 2009 General Conference, Elder Jeffery R. Holland discussed the Book of Mormon and made this declaration: "and if he or she leaves this Church, it must be done by crawling over or under or around the Book of Mormon to make that exit."
Let's paraphrase that and say, "and if he or she rejects the New York Cumorah, it must be done by crawling over or under or around the prophets and apostles to make that rejection."
|Lucy Mack Smith|
For over a decade, Lucy had responded to questions about her son Joseph Smith. When he was murdered, she dictated her account so it could be written for everyone to read. Today's historians, including the revisionist LDS historians, still rely on her account of Joseph Smith's early life as the most detailed we have.
They just censor parts they don't agree with.
The prime example of this is the Saints book. Below is a passage they censored. Actually, they edited around this passage.
[For those new to this blog, I posted a table of their editing tactics here:
In her account, Lucy explains that in early 1827, Joseph came home late from a trip to Manchester and rested a moment before explaining what happened.
This is obviously a big deal. Lucy quotes Joseph himself as identifying the hill as Cumorah even before he obtained the plates. He could only have learned this from Moroni, who was tutoring and preparing him.
Parley P. Pratt corroborated this teaching by writing in his Autobiography that it was Moroni who called that hill Cumorah anciently, but the M2C advocates and revisionist Church historians censor his statement, as well.
The M2C advocates and revisionist Church historians censor Lucy's account because they think Lucy was wrong.
They think she either made it up or confused it with a false tradition about Cumorah that arose later. A standard teaching of the M2C promoters is that Joseph Smith never identified the "hill in New York" as Cumorah. Instead, according to them, Joseph adopted a false tradition that was developed by unknown early Church members that assigned the name Cumorah to that hill.
Obviously, Lucy Mack Smith disagreed.
If she was telling the truth, the supposedly "false tradition" actually originated with Moroni, and Joseph expressed it before he had even seen the plates.
The M2C advocates and revisionist Church historians, including the editors of Saints, recognize the conflict between Lucy's testimony and their theory of Book of Mormon geography. They don't have an answer except to say Lucy was wrong.
And they don't want members of the Church to even know about what Lucy said.
I say the M2C advocates and revisionist Church historians should let members of the Church make an informed decision for themselves instead of simply censoring historical evidence they disagree with.
You'll see this censorship everywhere. It's not limited to the M2C citation cartel.
M2C has become so ubiquitous you can't trust anything you read, apart from the actual historical documents.
Censorship is one of the tragedies of the Saints book, but that's not the only example.
Even the wonderful book Rough Stone Rolling, the most influential biography of Joseph Smith which supposedly is fact-based and relies to a great extent on Lucy's history, censors her passage above.
First, the book accommodates the M2C "false tradition" narrative by stating that the hill was called "Cumorah" later, "from a name in the Book of Mormon."
"The hill where the plates were supposed to be buried stood about three miles south and east of the Smith farm and just a few hundred feet to the east of the main road between Palmyra and Canandaigua. Later it was called "Cumorah," from a name in the Book of Mormon."
Richard Lyman Bushman, Rough Stone Rolling, p. 45.
This is written in the passive voice--"it was called"--to avoid attributing the identification of Cumorah to Joseph Smith (or Moroni).
Here's how the book handles Lucy's passage. Notice what is quoted and what is paraphrased.
When it grew dark and Joseph was still not back, the parents started to fret. At last an exhausted Joseph came through the door and dropped into a chair. For a long time he sat silent while his father plied him with questions. Lucy held back. "The fact was," she said, "I had learned to be a little cautious about matters with regard to Joseph, for I was accustomed to see him look as he did on that occasion, and I could not easily mistake the cause thereof." Finally Joseph said quietly, "I have taken the severest chastisement that I have ever had in my life." The angel had met Joseph on the road near Cumorah and warned him that he "had not been engaged enough in the work of the Lord; that the time had come for the Record to be brought forth; and that I must be up and doing and set myself about the things which God had commanded me to do." Joseph appeared calm. "I now know the course that I am to pursue, so all will be well."
The censorship is astonishing. Few readers of the book notice the subtle accommodation of M2C. I'm sure long-time readers of this blog see what's happening, but I'll spell it out for new readers.
Instead of Lucy's account, which has Joseph, in early 1827 and in his own words, saying "as I passed by the hill of Cumorah, where the plates are," Rough Stone Rolling paraphrases the passage by saying, "The angel had met Joseph on the road near Cumorah."
This vague, paraphrased version supports the M2C version that the naming of Cumorah was a false tradition that arose "later," a false tradition that both Lucy and Joseph passively adopted well after the fact.
My critics will claim that I'm blind to errors in Lucy's account. My answer is, she's like any other witness. We have to consider her credibility based on all the typical factors, including her capacity to observe the events she describes. In some cases, she relates things she heard from others, or makes assumptions about events she didn't personally observe.
In this case, though, she was present when Joseph returned from Manchester. She even remembered the look on his face (read the entire account in context). She didn't paraphrase what he said; she quoted him. These are all strong indicia of veracity.
There is no reason to reject her account except for an ideological agenda.
And there is certainly no reason to censor her account except for an ideological agenda; i.e., to promote, or accommodate, M2C.
Now, let's think about the responsibility involved with those who reject and/or censor Lucy's account.
In my view, Lucy deserves deference. Her account is not mere academic words on a page, the way it is treated by those who don't want to accept what she wrote.
When you study her life history, the sacrifices she made, and her devotion to the Restoration and the Savior Himself, it is inexcusable to reject her testimony for purely ideological reasons.
I ask every M2C proponent and revisionist Church historian to carefully consider what Lucy wrote at the conclusion of her history.
I shall leave the world to judge concerning what I have written as seemeth them good. But this much I will say, that the testimony which I have given, is true; and will stand forever.
And the same will be my testimony in the day of God Almighty; when I shall meet them, concerning whom I have testified, before angles and <the> spirits of the just made perfect; before Arch-angles and Seraphims; Cherubims and Gods; where the brief authority of the— unjust man will shrink to nothingness before him, who is the Lords of Lords, and God of Gods.
*Some readers might think the Gospel Topics Essay on Book of Mormon Geography settles this matter--i.e., that it announces that the prophets are wrong--but read it again. The essay simply lets people believe whatever they want, which is basic doctrine established a long time ago in the Articles of Faith. And notice that the essay asks Church members not to claim prophetic or Church support for their theories. I'm not claiming any prophetic or Church support for what I'm writing here. Quite the opposite: I'm seeking to support the prophets, not the other way around. I'm not asking for donations by claiming the Church supports my ideas, the way FairMormon, the Interpreter, and Book of Mormon