Here's my take. These are all fine young scholars, but they're employees. Book of Mormon Central is the most sophisticated and best-funded advocate of M2C the world has ever seen. They work hard to persuade their readers that the prophets are wrong about the New York Cumorah.
You're not going to change their minds.
Think of it this way. If you're interacting with an employee of the Republican National Committee, are you going to persuade him/her to support Speaker Nancy Pelosi? If you're interacting with an employee of the Democratic National Committee, are you going to persuade him/her to support President Trump?
That's the level of commitment and devotion you'll find among employees of Book of Mormon Central. Don't waste your time trying to change their minds. Facts are just as irrelevant to them as are the teachings of the prophets.
We love our M2C brothers and sisters. There is no need to contend about any of this. There no point to contending, anyway. From a purely intellectual perspective, we can all see that M2C is a hoax. They can't. And we can't expect them to. It's basic psychology 101.
Focus your efforts and conversations on simply sharing the teachings of the prophets with your friends, family, and associates, along with the evidence that supports those teachings. We are happy with whatever people want to believe. We just want them to be able to make informed decisions.
That's why I write this blog.
In 1990, the author of Mormon's Codex, Brother John Sorenson, wrote a book titled The Geography of Book of Mormon Events: A Source Book. It was published by FARMS with the M2C logo that Book of Mormon Central still uses (upper left corner).
You can read it here:
The Source Book contains much of the intellectual ancestry of M2C as set forth in Mormon's Codex.
A more accurate title would be: The M2C hoax: A Source Book, including methodology and dogma.
The introduction, page 2, claims "The first task I have set is to examine everything substantive that has been written by Latter-day Saints on the subject [of Book of Mormon geography]. There is no use 're-inventing the wheel.' If answers to questions of the geography of Book of Mormon events already have been found, we might as well acknowledge and take advantage of them. If reliable answers have not come forth, we at least need to know what ground has been plowed."
One would think that, because Joseph and Oliver had unambiguously established the New York Cumorah as a fact, and because all of their successors as prophets, seers and revelators have (so far) affirmed that teaching, the New York Cumorah is an "answer" that has already "been found," so there is "no use re-inventing the wheel" about the location of Cumorah.
Brother Sorenson, like the rest of the M2C citation cartel, doesn't even want readers to know "what ground has been plowed" if that ground involves the New York Cumorah.
While they acknowledge some of the teachings of the prophets, they ignore them. They characterize them as the uninformed and uninspired teachings of men.
The Source Book dismisses the teachings of the prophets, apparently because they are not "substantive." Instead, the Source Book relies only on the words of intellectuals, mingled with the infamous 1842 Times and Seasons articles and comments by Orson Pratt, who plays the role of the General Authority foil for the superior intellectuals.
The Source Book relegates to the Appendix some of the teachings contained in my proposed BYU Packet appear in the Source Book.
(BYU packet: http://www.lettervii.com/p/byu-packet-on-cumorah.html)
[Note: This section contains a lot of detail, so feel free to pass over it if you're in a hurry.]
If you look carefully at Appendix A, starting on p. 371, you notice some key omissions. And the way these statements are edited here evinces an effort to discredit them as confused, inconsistent speculation by uniformed and unqualified people.
For example, Brother Sorenson quotes part of Letter VII, but omits the key phrase "the fact that." The M2C citation cartel always frames Letter VII as the theory of an ignorant speculator, but President Cowdery stated it was a fact. (Oliver explained that all eight of the essays he and Joseph wrote were based on facts.)
To be fair, when Brother Sorenson wrote the Source Book in 1990, some of the material in my BYU Packet was unknown or difficult to access. For example, he didn't mention that Joseph had his scribes copy Letter VII into his personal history, but not a lot of people knew that back in 1990.
Yet that's no excuse for deleting "the fact that" from the excerpt.
Parley P. Pratt's statement that it was Moroni who anciently applied the name Cumorah to the hill in New York is missing.
Brother Sorenson provides this editorial comment to D&C 128:20: "It is clear that by the date of this revelation, Joseph Smith, and seemingly his readers generally, commonly recognized the term Cumorah to refer to the hill in New York."
Joseph's readers knew that the Hill Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 was the same one from which Joseph got the plates because the Times and Seasons republished Letter VII just a year before it published D&C 128:20.
The Source Book devotes considerable space to the infamous and anonymous 1842 Times and Seasons articles. It attributes these articles to John Taylor or Joseph Smith, neither of whom had anything to do with the articles.
(The M2C citation cartel attributes these articles to Joseph Smith not to support their accuracy or veracity, but to cast doubt on Joseph's other teachings; i.e., they say he changed his mind about Cumorah, even though the articles say nothing about Cumorah and were published in the same issue of the Times and Seasons that contained D&C 128:20.)
The Source Book includes a paraphrase of the early 1827 incident in Lucy Mack Smith's history when Joseph came home late and explained that as he was passing by the Hill Cumorah, the angel chastised him. But then it editorially refers to the 1878 statement of David Whitmer, "which seems contradictory."
On p. 384, when the Source Book provides the 1878 statement (the messenger taking the Harmony plates to Cumorah), Brother Sorenson inserts this bizarre editorial comment.
"If his mother's biography of Joseph is correct, the name Cumorah would not have been new to Joseph at this time. The two sources contradict each other enough that one wonders about the soundness of this detailed recollection after fifty years had passed and given Whitmer's advanced age. Of course, Lucy Mack Smith's statement was itself a recollection after eighteen years."
We can all read David Whitmer's statement for ourselves and see that this was David's statement, not Joseph's. The name Cumorah was new to David, not to Joseph. There is no contradiction between David's statement and Lucy's statement. To the contrary, the two statements corroborate one another.
Why would Brother Sorenson make such an obvious mistake?
The M2C intellectuals recognize that David's encounter with the messenger going to Cumorah exposes the M2C hoax. Their treatment of the event demonstrates this.
Sometimes they simply censor it, the way the Saints book did.
Other times they falsely paraphrase it, as we see here:
The historical record shows that David Whitmer reported this incident multiple times. There is evidence that it was not a late recollection, as I discussed here.
When we look at the entire historical record, we see that Joseph gave the plates to the messenger before leaving Harmony. Joseph, David and Oliver met the messenger on the way to Fayette. The messenger explained he was going to Cumorah. Joseph said he was one of the Three Nephites. The messenger later brought the plates of Nephi to Fayette so Joseph and Oliver could translate them.
The accounts are completely consistent and authentic. They are additional corroboration of Letter VII.
Which is why the M2C intellectuals have to undermine, dismiss, and censor the account.
Back to the Appendix.
On p. 388, the Source Book cites President Ivins' General Conference address from April 1928, discussing the acquisition by the Church of the Hill Cumorah.
But it selectively edits his address to convey the impression that the teachings about the New York Cumorah are merely opinions. Anyone can read the full address and see that President Ivins was reaffirming the New York Cumorah as the same one Mormon refers to in Mormon 6:6.
The most blatant M2C editing, however, consists in the censorship of the General Conference addresses of President Marion G. Romney and Elder Mark E. Peterson in 1975 and 1978, respectively. Both leaders specifically and unambiguously reaffirmed the New York Cumorah. Yet they are omitted from the Source Book.
Orson Pratt appears prominently in the Source Book, but Brother Sorenson doesn't mention that Joseph edited out Orson Pratt's hemispheric theory when he composed the Wentworth letter and replaced it with the unambiguous statement that the remnant of Lehi's posterity are "the Indians that now inhabit this country."
To his credit, Brother Sorenson does include that key passage from the Wentworth letter in the Appendix. He just ignores it as irrelevant.
Censorship has become standard practice for the M2C citation cartel and their followers.
Here, we need to point out that some of the M2C citation cartel, such as FairMormon, do not completely censor the teachings of the prophets. Like the Source Book, they acknowledge some of those teachings.
They just ignore them and attribute them to the uninspired teachings of men.
With the teachings of the prophets censored or dismissed as irrelevant, the field is white and ready to harvest.
Page 3 summarizes the approach: "To anticipate my conclusion, the upshot is that the existing literature goes in so many directions that no solution stands out as sufficiently persuasive to rally consensus behind it. As a consequence I conclude (in Part 3) that the task must start over with the basics. The following parts then present a set of tools to move students toward a consensus."
From this we see how and why the M2C intellectuals veered so far off base.
Once you reject the teachings of the prophets as not substantive, not relevant, and incorrect anyway, you're free to promote whatever you want.
We'll look at more of the Source Book in upcoming posts, but for now I want to leave with this incredible piece of irony.
On page 10, Brother Sorenson explains why the early Saints, including Joseph, Oliver and their contemporaries, were so naive and ignorant.
This is a perfect description of today's M2C citation cartel.
Today, the M2C intellectuals are still few in number, all known personally to each other, and are concerned with unity, not alternative views.
Within their cartel, there is still no source of nor room for variant points of view, let alone criticism.
But there is one major difference between the early Saints and today's M2C intellectuals.
Among the early saints, "no one would have thought of questioning Joseph Smith."
Among today's M2C intellectuals, no one believes Joseph Smith.
The early Saints relied on what the prophets taught. They knew Joseph and Oliver personally. They knew these two men had personal experience with Moroni, the Three Nephites, and the depository of Nephite records in the Hill Cumorah in western New York.
The early Saints recognized that when he wrote Letter VII, Oliver Cowdery was the Assistant President of the Church. He was an ordained prophet, seer and revelator. He had the mantle. A few months later he, along with Joseph, received Priesthood keys in the Kirtland temple from Moses, Elijah, and Elias. The Savior Himself appeared to them and accepted their work.
Today's M2C intellectuals cavalierly teach that Oliver was ignorant, that his mantle was meaningless, and that he misled the Church about the New York Cumorah.
The early Saints recognized that Joseph Smith helped write the essays that were published as letters, including Letter VII. They knew Joseph fully endorsed Letter VII by having it copied into his personal history as part of his life story. They knew Joseph had encouraged, even directed, the republication of these essays in every Church-related newspaper during his lifetime.
They knew Letter VII was republished by Joseph's brother William in New York City just two days after the martyrdom.
And they knew that all of Joseph's contemporaries and successors endorsed Letter VII.
Most of the early Saints had never lived in western New York, but a few did. President Heber C. Kimball visited the Hill Cumorah. He reported that he observed the embankment around the hill still standing.
Today, it has been mostly plowed under, so our M2C intellectuals say it never existed.
We can't overemphasize this.
Brother Sorenson and the rest of the M2C citation cartel look at the early Saints with disdain partly because, as he wrote here, "no one would have thought of questioning Joseph Smith."
Today, all they do is question Joseph Smith.
And that's why the M2C intellectuals find it so hard to recognize, let alone admit, that M2C is a hoax.
The last section of that passage is a nice example of what passes as "scholarship" among the M2C intellectuals.
Notice how Brother Sorenson asserts his subjective interpretation of the Book of Mormon, derived from circular reasoning designed to support his M2C theory, makes a Missouri location for Manti "out of the question."
As we'll see in upcoming posts, the entire M2C hoax is based on the premise that what the prophets have taught is "out of the question."