|We see only what confirms our beliefs|
In most cases, people will not change their opinions regardless of what facts and logical arguments are presented. Even if you show a fact that irrefutably and completely contradicts their opinions, they will not change their minds.
Our brains are wired to protect our mental health. No matter what evidence we observe, our brains filter it through bias confirmation so we either literally don't perceive it, or we explain it away as invalid, irrelevant, etc. Our brains protect us from threats to our opinions, which are the way we interpret the world.
Later in this post we'll look at how opinions are formed in the first place.
Among members of the Church, there are few examples more striking than M2C.
This is why the Church has no alternative but to take no position, as we saw in the Gospel Topics Essay on Book of Mormon Geography.
Should the Church take a position, regardless of what it is, and regardless of what facts are cited, thousands of members of the Church would suffer severe psychological pain.
Think about it. On what topic other than M2C does the Church condone outright censorship of historical documents?
Normally, it would be unthinkable for a Church lesson manual to censor the teachings of Joseph Smith, especially when he specifically asked that his teaching not be censored. Yet the Correlation Department blatantly censored his teachings in the Wentworth letter.
Normally, it would be unthinkable for a new official book on Church history to deliberately censor important information and create a false historical narrative. Yet they did just that in the Saints book.
Normally, it would be unthinkable for a detailed explanation of the timeline of the translation of the Book of Mormon to deliberately censor important information, but that's exactly what happened in a recent book titled Opening the Heavens and its associated presentation and BYU Studies article.
There is only one explanation for this censorship that makes sense.
The censors decided that censorship is preferable to causing psychological pain to Church members who have never learned what the prophets have taught about Cumorah because they've been taught M2C all their lives.
We ask ourselves, why are they doing this? These employees are good people with worthy motives: they want to bring people to Christ. They think promoting M2C is the best way to do this, even if it means censoring the teachings of the prophets, revising Church history narratives, and insisting on one interpretation of the text of the Book of Mormon.
In an upcoming post we'll examine the origins of the M2C hoax and discuss how the same factors that prompted the development of M2C remain so powerful today that employees at CES/BYU/COB still think censorship and misdirection is justified.
It's very rare to have unambiguous, clear, demonstrable facts that everyone can see for themselves. In this case, we do have such facts regarding what the prophets and apostles have taught about the New York Cumorah.
But these facts don't matter to M2C proponents.
As I showed in my video Watching General Conference with your BYU Professor, the psychology of cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias literally prevents M2C believers from processing what the prophets have taught.
Many readers of this blog have tried an experiment. They have shown Letter VII to their M2C-believing friends. Because their friends have been taught by CES/BYU, they have never seen it before but they don't want to admit that.
Their first response, perfectly normal, is usually to go blank. Cognitive dissonance kicks in. They don't have a response because their brains recognize a serious threat to their mental health. To see such a clear statement of fact about the New York Cumorah, declared in an official Church publication by President Oliver Cowdery, is a shock.
Once they recover, their second response is to disbelieve that Letter VII exists. They think it must be a fake because they've never heard of it before. When you show it to them in Joseph Smith's personal history, right in the Joseph Smith Papers, cognitive dissonance kicks back in and they go blank again.
Most of them won't know what to say. They will defer their response by saying they will "look into it" or "study it." At the earliest opportunity, they will consult the M2C citation cartel, usually FairMormon or Book of Mormon Central. Or maybe they will consult social media, where employees of the M2C citation cartel are actively promoting the hoax.
Your friends will find comfortable, reassuring explanations that boil down to this: who are you going to believe, the M2C intellectuals or your lying eyes?
Here is what the M2C intellectuals teach their followers to activate their bias confirmation filter: "Oliver Cowdery" (never "President Cowdery," the way Joseph Smith referred to him) was merely expressing his own personal opinion. And he was wrong, because, well, M2C.
Having done their research, your friends will come back to you with that M2C answer.
Then you show them what other prophets have taught, including members of the First Presidency speaking in General Conference. That causes more psychological pain, but they alleviate that pain by referring again to the M2C citation cartel, which assures them that all these prophets and apostles were merely expressing their personal opinions and they were wrong.
Next, you get into the sciences: archaeology, anthropology, geology, geography, etc., and show them things they've never known before. You'll get the same M2C responses.
No matter what evidence you provide, you will not change the mind of an M2C intellectual or follower. Change is too psychologically painful.
Of course, M2C advocates say the inverse.
The M2C citation cartel is frustrated because no matter what evidence they provide from Mesoamerica, they cannot persuade Church members who know what the prophets have taught about the New York Cumorah that the prophets are wrong.
It is this psychological reality that leads me to keep focusing on what the employees at CES/BYU/COB are doing.
Opinions are formed at young ages. " in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it." Proverbs 22:6.
By "young age" I include high school and college students. They typically believe their teachers and professors. Then, thanks to the Academic Cycle, these ideas are passed along to new generations.
Teachers and professors who promote M2C are not really teaching their students; they are assigning opinions through censorship and they are creating a specific bias.
These teachers know their students' psychology will confirm that bias no matter what they learn in the future.
Employees in the Church History and Correlation Departments are doing the same thing. By censoring the teachings of the prophets, these employees are making sure that future generations will resist those teachings if/when they learn about them later in life.*
It's easy to see how this works by posing a hypothetical.
Let's pretend that employees at CES/BYU/COB, instead of promoting M2C, were emphasizing Letter VII.
Let's pretend that Letter VII was published in official Church materials today as often as it was during Joseph Smith's lifetime.
Let's pretend that Letter VII was part of the CES/BYU curriculum.
Then let's pretend that Church publications and lesson manuals contained the teachings of all the prophets and apostles about the New York Cumorah.
Let's pretend that the Saints book was historically accurate, and that the Wentworth letter was not censored in the lesson manual.
Let's pretend that instead of using a map of Mesoamerica, or the fantasy/mythology map, CES and BYU teachers used a conceptual map that showed Cumorah in New York.
In this imaginary world, would any member of the Church still believe M2C when it was presented to them?
Of course not.
If members of the Church learned the teachings of the prophets at an early age, they would be inoculated against those who claim the prophets are wrong.
But we don't live in this hypothetical world.
Instead, we live in a world in which our youth are taught that the prophets are wrong.
And that's why it is almost impossible for M2C believers to change their opinions even when they finally learn what the prophets have taught, and even when they learn about the scientific evidence that supports the prophets.
*We emphasize again, these are good people with worthy motives. We'll look at these motives and see what, if anything, can be done to address them.