Friday, June 28, 2019

Visit to the one and only Cumorah

We made a quick video tour of Cumorah in preparation for the next-to-last-pageant (2019).

See it here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3CWPTM0fivo

Learn what Heber C. Kimball and Oliver Cowdery said about Cumorah as I read their teachings on site.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Sacred places and other updates

This week we took some sunset photos at the Hill Cumorah. I used one to illustrate a post about sacred places, here: http://www.lettervii.com/2019/06/sacred-places.html

We think the M2C intellectuals should acknowledge and respect our beliefs about sacred places. 

They do so for adherents of all other religions.

The only ones whose beliefs they disrespect, denigrate, and attack, are those who still believe the teachings of the prophets and apostles about the New York Cumorah.

Next, we'll see employees of Book of Mormon Central on social media, saying I don't respect their beliefs. Anyone who reads this blog knows that I respect their beliefs; I even refer people to their sites to see for themselves. I respectfully disagree with their logic and interpretations of the text, sciences, and other facts, but I respect everyone involved with this discussion. I like them all personally. I love them as brothers and sisters.

What I oppose is the ongoing censorship by the M2C citation cartel that prevents members of the Church (and nonmembers) from knowing about alternative views and interpretations that support the teachings of the prophets.

I think most Church members would like to know that there is evidence that supports the prophets.

The M2C citation cartel should make this information available instead of insisting the prophets are wrong and M2C is the only explanation for the Book of Mormon and events in Church history.

We think the Church's position of neutrality requires openness and inclusiveness, but Book of Mormon Central and the rest of the M2C citation cartel refuse to allow readers to know about alternatives to M2C.
_____

People keep asking about the Interpreter article about Bayesian analysis of the Book of Mormon. I did mention it before, but my detailed review is here:


I've updated and revised that review.
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We'll have some fun news early next week. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

The article you've never seen

Our M2C intellectuals like to emphasize the anonymous editorials in the 1842 Times and Seasons that mention Central America. They claim Joseph Smith wrote, edited, or approved of these editorials.

I don't think he had anything to do with them, and there's plenty of evidence to support that. For example, it's true that Joseph was listed as the editor on the boilerplate at the end of each issue, but he was also listed as the printer. No one believes he actually operated the printing press, set type, etc.

There is no historical evidence that he Joseph printed or edited the newspaper.

Setting that aside, here's an article from the 1842 Times and Seasons you've never read before. When you read it, you'll see why our M2C citation cartel doesn't emphasize this one.
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EVIDENCES IN PROOF OF THE BOOK OF MORMON.

We have laying before us, a neat little work of 256 pages, 32 mo. entitled "Evidences in proof of the Book of Mormon" &c. By Charles Thompson, minister of the gospel; published at Batavia, N. Y. We are much pleased with the spirit manifested by the writer, and feel to commend him in his laudable undertaking.

We make the following extracts, commencing on the 97th page.

I will next introduce the description of some of these ancient fortifications and military works of defence [defense], as recorded in the American Antiquities, by Josiah Priest, and also introduce a history of the building of these fortifications and works of defence [defense], as recorded in the Book of Mormon; and I will here remark, that the Book of Mormon was published in A. D. 1830, and the American Antiquities, by Josiah Priest, was not published until A. D. 1833, three years after. 

This map shows the Newark earthworks.
It is the largest set of geometric earthworks ever built.

http://www.ohiohistorycentral.org/w/Newark_Earthworks
Antiquities, page 158 and 159, "Near Newark in the county of Licking, Ohio, is situated one of the immense works or fortifications of the ancient nations of America. It embraces in the whole, a circumferance [circumference] of about six hundred rods, or nearly two miles; a wall of earth about four hundred rods, is raised on the sides of this fort next to the small creek which comes down along its sides from the west and east. It would seem that the people who made this settlement, undertook to encompass, with a wall, as much land as would support its inhabitants, and also sufficient to build their dwellings on, with several fortifications arranged in a proper manner for its defence [defense]. 

There are within its ranges four of these forts, of different dimensions; one contains forty acres, with a wall of about ten feet high; another containing twenty-two acres, also walled, but in this fort is an elevated observatory, of sufficient height to overlook the whole country; a third fort, containing about twenty-six acres, having a wall around it thrown out of a deep ditch on the inside of the wall. This wall is now from twenty-five to thirty feet in height. A fourth fortification encloses twenty acres with a wall of about ten feet high."

[Note: archaeologists continue to study the sites in Ohio. There are a variety of opinions about dating, culture, purpose, etc., but most agree these were built and occupied during Book of Mormon time frames (100 B.C. to 4-500 A.C.). This fits if the Ohio area is the Book of Mormon Bountiful. Here is an introduction: https://www.ohiohistory.org/visit/museum-and-site-locator/newark-earthworks and here: http://www.ohiohistorycentral.org/w/Newark_Earthworks]

Book of Mormon, page 378, 2nd Ed., "Now it came to pass that while Amalickiah had thus been obtaining power by fraud and deceit, Moroni on the other hand, had been preparing the minds of the people to be faithful unto the Lord their God, yea, he had been strengthening the armies of the Nephites, and erecting small forts or places of resort, throwing up banks of earth round about to enclose his armies, and also building walls of stone to encircle them round about their cities and the borders of their lands."

Antiquities, page 160, "A second fort siuated [situated] southwesterly from the great works on the Licking, encloses about forty acres; its wall is entirely of stone
(page 640)




Antiquities, page 163, "At Circleville, Ohio, there is a circular fort surrounded by two walls with a deep ditch between them; also, a square foot about eighteen rods in circumference enclosed by a wall with a ditch."

Book of Mormon, page 382, "Now behold, the Lamanites could not get into their forts of security by any other way save by the entrance, because of the highness of the bank which had been thrown up and the depth of the ditch which had been dug round about, save it was by the entrance."

Antiquities, page 165, "Near the round fort at Circleville is another fort ninety feet high, and was doubtless erected to overlook the whole works of that enormous military establishment. That it was a military establishment is the decided opinion of the President of the Western Antiquarian Society, Mr. Atwater. 

He says the round fort was picketed in, if we are to judge from the appearance of the ground on and about the walls. Half way up the outside of the inner wall, is a place distinctly to be seen, where a row of pickets once stood, and where it was placed when this work of defence [defense] was originally erected. These works have been examined by the first military men now living in the United States, and they have uniformly declared their opinion to be, that they were military works of defence [defense]."

Book of Mormon, page 383, 2nd Ed., "And now it came to pass that Moroni did not stop making preparation for war, or to defend his people against the Lamanites, for he caused that his armies should commence in the commencement of the twentieth year of the reign of the Judges, that they should commence in digging up heaps of earth round about all the cities throughout all the land which was possessed by the Nephites; and upon the top of the ridges of earth, he caused that there should be timbers, yea, works of timbers built up to the height of a man, round about the cities. And he caused that upon those works of timbers there should be a frame of pickets built upon the timbers, round about, and they were strong and high; and he caused towers to be erected that overlooked those works of pickets. And he caused places of security to be built upon those towers, that the stones and arrows of the Lamanites could not hurt them; and they were prepared, that they could cast stones from the top thereof, according to their pleasure and their strength, and slay him who should attempt to approach near the walls of the city. Thus Moroni did prepare strong holds against the coming of their enemies, round about every city in all the land.

The foregoing is but a few of the corresponding accounts of fortifications and works of defence [defense] there are to be found in the Book of Mormon and American Antiquities, but these are sufficient to show to the public that the people whose history is contained in the Book of Mormon, are the authors of these works.-

But again; as we trace the history of this people down through succeeding generations, we find that one Gadianton, a robber, rose up and organized a band to rob and plunder. These robbers prepared strong holds and secret places in the mountains, to which they could flee, and be secure when the armies of the Nephites pursued them. 

Some of these strong holds and secret places were discovered in 1832--two years after the Book of Mormon was published-by a Mr. Furguson, and communicated to the editor of the Christian Advocate and Journal. This account is recorded on page 169 of the American Antiquities. Mr. Furguson describes this discovery as follows:

"On a mountain called the Lookout Mountain, belonging to the vast Allegany [Allegheny] chain, running between the Tennessee and Coos rivers, rising about one thousand feet above the level of the surrounding valley. The top of the mountain is mostly level, but presents to the eve [eye?] an almost barren waste. On this range, notwithstanding its hieght [height], a river has its source and after traversing it for about seventy miles, plunges over a precipice. The rock from which the water falls, is circular, and juts over considerably. Immediately below the fall, on each side of the river, are bluffs, which rise about two hundred feet. Around one of these bluffs the river makes a bend which gives it the form of a peninsula. 

On the top of this are the remains of what is esteemed fortifications, which consist of a stone wall built on the very brow of this tremendous ledge. The whole length of the wall, following the very course of the brink of this precipice, is thirty seven rods and eight feet,
(page 641)




including about two acres of ground. The only descent from this place is between two rocks, for about thirty feet, when a bench of the ledge presents itself from two to five feet in width and ninety feet long. 

This bench is the only road or path up from the water's edge to the summit. But just at the foot of the two rocks where they reach this path and within thirty feet of the top of the rock, are five rooms, which have been formed by dint of labor. The entrance to these rooms is very small, but when within, they are found to communicate with each other by doors or appertures [apertures]."

Mr. Furguson thinks them to have been constructed during some dreadful war, and those who constructed them, to have acted on the defensive; and believes that twenty men could have withstood the whole army of Xerxes, as it was impossible for more than one to pass at a time, and might by the slightest push, be hurled at least an hundred and fifty feet down the rocks.

Book of Mormon, page 479, 2nd Ed., "And it came to pass that the ninety and third year (of the reign of the Judges over the people of Nephi) did also pass away in peace, save it was for the Gadianton robbers, who dwelt upon the Mountains, who did infest the land; for so strong were their holds and their secret places, that the people could not overpower them; therefore they did commit many murders, and did so much slaughter among the people." 

Again; Book of Mormon, page 481, "And it came to pass in the commencement of the fourteenth year, (form [from] the time the sign was given of the birth of Christ,) the war between the robbers and the people of Nephi did continue, and did become exceeding sore; nevertheless the people of Nephi did gain some advantage of the robbers, insomuch [inasmuch] that they did drive them back out of their land into the mountains and into their secret places." 

Again; Book of Mormon, page 485, 2nd Ed., "But it came to pass that in the latter end of the eighteenth year, those armies of robbers had prepared for battle and began to come down and to sally forth from the hills, and out of the mountains and the wilderness, and their strong holds and their secret places, and began to take possession of the lands." And on the 487 and 488 pages, we are informed how these robbers were finally destroyed; it was by a stratagem. A part of the Nephite armies getting between the robbers and their secret places and strong holds, by which they were cut off in their retreat.

This again, is evidence that the Book of Mormon is true, and that this band of robbers were the constructors of this strong hold and these secret rooms which Mr. Furguson has described; for mark! this discovery was not made untill [until] two years after the Book of Mormon was published, consequently the writer of the Book of Mormon could not have written this tale concerning the robbers, to account for the construction of those caverns, for it was not known that there was such a place in existence, until after the book was written and published. 

And thus we have abundance of proof from recent discoveries, American Antiquities and prophecy, that the history contained in the Book of Mormon is true.

Again; this history informs us that about four hundred years after Christ, this nation of Nephites were brought down and destroyed by the Lamanites; and this because they became proud and lifted up, practising [practicing] all manner of wickedness and abominations, and they refused to repent and turn again unto God; therefore because they were more wicked than the Lamanites, God stirred up the Lamanites to camp against them round about, and to raise forts against them with a mount, and thus they were brought down. 

But just before their final overthrow, a man by the names of Mormon took their record containing their history and sacred writings, from the time they left Jerusalem, (the city where David dwelt,) unto his days, and made an abridgement [abridgment] therefrom, and engraved it upon plates which he made out of ore. 

These plates, after Mormon's death, fell into the hands of Moroni, his son, who survived the entire destruction of the Nephites, finished the record, and deposited it in a stone box in the earth, that it might not be destroyed; to come forth in due time for a sign to Israel, that the time of their redemption had come. 

And also, in connection with the Bible, to be set up as an ensign for the nations; and thus, this nation of Nephites possessing the light of God's revelation, which constituted them Ariel, or Lion of God, and being "of the city
(page 642)




where David dwelt," (that is, having come out from Jerusalem,) was brought down and their words having been written and hid up in the earth and come forth again out of the earth, they "speak out of the ground and their voice whispers out of the dust."

This account also agrees with the Indian traditions which I have quoted in a former part of this work. It says, that their forefathers were once in possession of a sacred Book, which was handed down from generation to generation, and at last hid in the earth; but these oracles are to be restored to them again and then they shall triumph over their enemies and regain their ancient country.

But again, when this Book was taken from the place of its deposite [deposit], the words thereof were delivered to the learned Dr. Mitchel of New York, with a request that he should read them, but he could not; thus fulfilling the 11th verse of the 29th chapter of Isaiah, which says, the words of a book which is sealed men deliver to one that is learned, saying, read this I pray thee; and he saith I cannot for it is sealed. And the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying read this I pray thee; and he saith I am not learned. Wherefore the Lord said, forasmuch as this people, (the people of this generation,) draw near me with their mouths, and with their lips do honor me; but have removed their hearts far from me, and their fear towards me is taught by the psecepts [precepts] of men; therefore behold, I will proceed to do a marvelous work among this people, even a marvelous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, aud [and] the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid. And this he has done-

First; by inspiring the unlearned Joseph Smith, and giving him wisdom and power from on high, with the means which were before prepared, to read and translate the Book of Mormon, the words of which the learned Dr. Mitchel could not read; thus the wisdom of the wise has perished and the understanding of the prudent is hid.

Secondly.-By raising up and inspiring illiterate and unlearned men, and sending them forth with the Book of Mormon in connection with the Bible, as an ensign for the nations, to preach the fulness [fullness] of the gospel, and to build up the kingdom of God on the earth, in direct opposition to all the jarring systems of modern sectarianism, and giving them knowledge and wisdom from on high, insomuch [inasmuch] that they have been enabled to confound, astonish and bring to shame, confusion, and disgrace, every wise and learned man who has dared to oppose them by fair arguments or candid investigation.

Thirdly.-It is a marvel and a wonder to this generation that this work has spread so rapidly under the following circumstances: 

First, the men who were engaged in preaching this doctrine were men of no influence, being the poor, illiterate, and despised ones of the earth. 

Second,-they had not the advantages of education which the most of the preachers of the different denominations have. 

Third,-the advantages of that mighty engine, the press, which all the Christian world are so highly blessed with, they were almost wholly destitute of, while at the same time its power was put in requisition against them in all parts of the land. It is true, they undertook, and did publish a monthly periodical at diferent [different] times and places, but its circulation was very limited, and their office, press and type have been three times entirly [entirely] destroyed by mobs and incendiaries. 

Fourth,-they had to sustain the shock of an overwhelming religious influence opposed to them by the combined powers of every sect in America-they had to contend with the prejudices of the ignorant and the pen of the learned, together with all the lying slanders and misrepresentations which the devil and all his emissaries on earth could invent; while at the same time the combined powers of earth and hell were hurling a storm of persecution unparalelld [unparalleled] in the history of the world. They were insulted by mobs, their houses torn down or burned, their goods destroyed and fields of grain laid waste, some of them were cast into dungeons and there kept for months loaded with chains. Yea more-some of them were shot; others had their brains dashed out; others were whipped to death; others were cut in pieces with swords knives, corn-cutters, &c., while the whole society, at one time amounting to about 12 000 souls, were banished from the State of Missouri and driven two hundred miles from their lands, houses, homes and property, in the winter season, and this by the order of
(page 643)





the Executive of Missouri, one of the free and independent states of this boasted republic. 

And the blood of many of these people now stains the soil of Missouri because of their religious principles, in this their native land; the land of boasted liberty and equal rights, whose officers, both of the state and nation, have been deaf to the voice of innocence, imploring at their feet for justice and protection in the enjoyment of their rights as American citizens. 

And no doubt many of the instruments of these diabolical proceedings verily thought they were doing God service, being inspired by the press and pulpit, and encouraged by the officers of state; or what is still worse, by the personal example of both officers of state and professed preachers of the gospel, who were actually the leaders and abettors of all the above horrible deeds. 

But under all these conflicting circumstances, this work has spread and has penetrated every state in the Union from Maine to Missouri as well as the Canadies [Canada's?]. It has reacheed [reached] the islands of the sea-it has spread nearly all over England, and is now preached in Ireland, Scotland and Wales-all this in the short space of ten years. 

Churches are organized and conferences are held in all these regions, and the number of disciples who have already embraced this work is from an hundred to an hundred and twenty thousand. What but the arm of the Omnipotent could have moved it forward thus! 

Under the conflicting circumstances referred to above, surely it is a marvelous work and a wonder, causing the wisdom of the wise to perish and the understanding of the prudent to be hid. But again, another feature about this work which constitutes it marvelous and wonderful among the people of this generation is, these preachers profess no authority from antiquity to administer the gospel ordinances, but say that an angel has come down from the midst of heaven, and conferred on them the priesthood and authority to preach and administer the everlasting gospel unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, sayiug [saying] with a loud voice, fear God and give glory to him for the hour of his judgement [judgment] is come: and worship him that made heaven and earth and the sea and the fountains of waters. (See Revelations 14th chap. 6th and 7th verses.) 

And they profess to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, all inspired by the Holy Ghost, just like the ancient officers of the church and kingdom of God-(See Ephesions [Ephesians] 4th chap. 11th 12th and 13th verses.) 

Also the believers in this Book of Mormon, being baptized for the remission of sins and receiving the laying on of hands by these apostles and prophets, they speak with new tongues and prophesy, cast out devils, and sometimes lay hands on the sick and they recover, and thus one has given him by the Holy Ghost the word of wisdom, and another the word of knowledge, and another faith, and another the gifts of healing, and another the working of miracles, and another prophecy, and another the diserning [discerning] of spirits, and another divers kinds of tongues, and another the interpretation of tongues-just as was anciently given to the church of Christ. (See 1st Cor. 12th chap.) 

And in consequence of these gifts the blind are made to see, the deaf to hear, the meek increase and their joy is in the Lord, and the poor rejoice in the Holy One of Israel. Also, they that erred in spirit come to understanding, and they that murmured learn doctrine. 

All these things are marvelous to this generation because their fear towards God is taught by the precepts of men, and they know nothing of inspiration or the power of God, therefore they have a form of godliness but deny the power thereof. From such says Paul turn away. (See 2nd Timothy iii: 1-9.)

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The easiest source to read this is here: http://www.centerplace.org/history/ts/v3n05.htm

BYU also has it in their archives, but you have to click on the expand button and then scroll through to get to this article, which starts in p. 640.

https://contentdm.lib.byu.edu/digital/collection/NCMP1820-1846/id/9721/rec/6

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Writing off the next generation

Revisionist Church historians and M2C intellectuals keep erecting barriers to entry for nonmembers, youth, and less active members. Their theories make the Restoration less and less believable because they are embracing claims made by opponents to Joseph Smith in the 1830s.

We've seen how, as a result of these efforts, fewer and fewer Church members believe the Book of Mormon is an authentic history. Even some BYU professors don't believe the Book of Mormon is a real history. That trend is accelerating with younger generations, which is completely understandable given what they're being taught.

Maybe it's time to go ahead and write off the next generation completely?
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The latest barrier is the book Mormonism Unvailed, which some intellectuals have embraced as a more accurate account of what happened in the early days of the Church than the statements made by Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, and the revelations in the D&C.

We can show this as a chiasm.

A - Mormonism Unvailed (MA) published
      B - Oliver and Joseph refute MA with facts in 8 widely published essays (letters)
            C - LDS prophets and apostles reaffirm Oliver's response
                  D - LDS intellectuals are hired to guide the Church
            C1 - LDS intellectuals teach that the prophets merely express their own opinions
      B1 - LDS intellectuals say Oliver and Joseph were ignorant speculators
A1 - LDS intellectuals embrace Mormonism Unvailed

And now, we have the teachings of Mormonism Unvailed presented as the truth right on lds.org.

The irony, of course, is that the same intellectuals who are teaching from Mormonism Unvailed don't want members of the Church to even read the eight essays produced by Joseph and Oliver.

(Thanks to the direction of Joseph Smith, his scribes copied them into his personal history. You can read them in the Joseph Smith Papers. For more context, go here: http://www.lettervii.com/).
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The full title of the book explains its themes and why embracing it now is, let's say, not a positive development.

MORMONISM UNVAILED : OR,
A FAITHFUL ACCOUNT OF THAT SINGULAR IMPOSITION AND DELUSION FROM ITS RISE TO THE PRESENT TIME.
WITH SKETCHES OF THE CHARACTERS OF ITS PROPAGATORS, AND A FULL DETAIL OF THE MANNER IN WHICH THE FAMOUS GOLDEN BIBLE WAS BROUGHT BEFORE THE WORLD.
TO WHICH ARE ADDED, INQUIRIES INTO THE PROBABILITY THAT THE HISTORICAL PART OF THE SAID BIBLE WAS WRITTEN BY ONE SOLOMON SPALDING, MORE THAN TWENTY YEARS AGO, AND BY HIM INTENDED TO HAVE BEEN PUBLISHED AS A ROMANCE.

Mormonism Unvailed version of the translation
of the Book of Mormon, presented in the latest video
on lds.org
Watch this video, especially starting around 2:30.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=11&v=q1esI8cbCtc

This interpretation replaces a series of unambiguous statements from Joseph and Oliver (combined with specific revelations) with an derogatory narrative about the stone-in-a-hat, taken from the 1834 book Mormonism Unvailed.

Notice, the video doesn't even quote Joseph and Oliver:

Two days after the arrival of Mr. Cowdery (being the 7th of April) I commenced to translate the Book of Mormon, and he began to write for me. JS-H 1:67

Day after day I continued, uninterrupted, to write from his mouth, as he translated with the Urim and Thummim, or, as the Nephites would have said, ‘Interpreters,’ the history or record called ‘The Book of Mormon.’ (Note after JS-H 1:75, excepted from Letter I, Messenger and Advocate, vol. 1 (October 1834), pp. 14-16, also in History 1834-1836.

[Moroni] gave me directions how to obtain them. I obtained them, and the Urim and Thummim with them; by the means of which, I translated the plates; and thus came the book of Mormon. Joseph Smith, Elder's Journal, July 1838

With the records was found a curious instrument which the ancients called “Urim and Thummim,” which consisted of two transparent stones set in the rim of a bow fastened to a breastplate.

Through the medium of the Urim and Thummim I translated the record by the gift, and power of God. Joseph Smith, Church History, 1 March 1842, Times and Seasons


Here's a key point.

When Oliver wrote Letter I, quoted above, he was responding in part to Mormonism Unvailed, which made the claim that Joseph used a stone in a hat to find treasure and to translate the Book of Mormon without using the plates. Oliver emphasized that he was relying on facts to rebut false accusations.

Here are the passages from Mormonism Unvailed:

https://archive.org/details/mormonismunvaile00howe/page/12

and here:

https://archive.org/details/mormonismunvaile00howe/page/18

From Mormonism Unvailed: The translation finally commenced. They were found to contain a language not now known upon the earth which they termed "reformed Egyptian characters." The plates, therefore, which had been so much talked of, were found to be of no manner of use. After all, the Lord showed and communicated to him every word and letter of the Book. Instead of looking at the characters inscribed upon the plates, the prophet was obliged to resort to the old "peep stone," which he formerly used in money-digging. This he placed in a hat, or box, into which he also thrust his face. Through the stone he could then discover a single word at a time, which he repeated aloud to his amanuensis, who committed it to paper, when another word would immediately appear, and thus the performance continued to the end of the book.

Another account they give of the translation, is, that it was performed with the big spectacles before mentioned, and which were in fact, the identical Urim and Thumim mentioned in Exodus 28 - 30, and were brought away from Jerusalem by the heroes of the book, handed down from one generation to another, and finally buried up in Ontario county, some fifteen centuries since, to enable Smith to translate the plates without looking at them!

Mormonism Unvailed claimed Joseph used a peep stone in a hat, or alternatively he used the Nephite Urim and Thummim, without looking at the plates.

Oliver's first-person account, along with Joseph's first person accounts, rebutted the erroneous points in both of these claims by Mormonism Unvailed. Joseph, Oliver and the revelations in the D&C explained that Joseph translated the engravings on the plates using the Nephite interpreters, called by them the Urim and Thummim.

In addition to his own accounts and the scriptures, Joseph Smith helped write Oliver's letters and specifically approved them by having them copied into his history as part of his life story and by having them republished by two of his brothers, as well as Parley P. Pratt and Benjamin Winchester.

Yet our revisionist LDS historians embrace the Mormonism Unvailed account instead and portrayed that in the video.
_____

Everyone can see there is a direct conflict between Mormonism Unvailed and the statements from Joseph, Oliver and the D&C. There are three ways to resolve the conflict.

1. Embrace Mormonism Unvailed. The revisionist Church historians have embraced the account in Mormonism Unvailed, which is what is depicted in this video. They have tried to reconcile the conflicts by applying an expanded definition of the term Urim and Thummim so it applies to both the peep stone and the Nephite interpreters. Then they ignore the verses that tell Joseph to translate the engravings on the plates, his own account of translating the characters he copied from the plates, his statement that the Title Page is a literal translation of the last leaf of the plates, etc.

We can stipulate that Joseph translated by the "gift and power of God." In that sense, reading words off a stone in a hat could be considered just as miraculous as translating ancient engravings with the use of specially prepared interpreters.

However, we learn from Joseph's writings and the D&C that for months before he began the dictation, he copied off the characters from the plates, studied them, and translated them with the Nephite interpreters. He had to study it out in his mind. Nowhere does Joseph, Oliver, or the revelations in the D&C suggest that all Joseph had to do was read words that appeared on a stone in a hat.

One big problem with the "stone-in-a-hat" scenario is that it renders pointless the work of the Nephite recordkeepers, the abridgment work of Mormon and Moroni, and all the efforts to keep the plates safe and secure. IOW, it undermines the credibility of Joseph's explanation of what happened, as well as the entire narrative of the Book of Mormon, which is exactly why Mormonism Unvailed pushed this narrative in the first place.

Most members of the Church today know people who lost their faith because of this narrative. More surely will. Again, Mormonism Unvailed promoted the stone-in-a-hat theory to prevent people from joining the Church and to persuade those who had joined to leave.

Now our own scholars are promoting this theory.

There are additional problems with the stone-in-the-hat theory, including the language of the text and the teachings of Church leaders over the years, that I don't have time to get into.

Of course, everyone is free to believe whatever they want. But the revisionist stone-in-a-hat framing is not the only possible explanation of the various accounts.

Any honest explanation of the translation should at least acknowledge the teachings of the prophets and explanations alternative to Mormonism Unvailed. We expect that of critics; we should also expect that from our own LDS scholars.
_____

2. Call everyone a liar. Some LDS authors choose to disbelieve the stone-in-a-hat statements, even though there were several witnesses including David Whitmer and Martin Harris. These authors claim all the accounts are lies, motivated by opposition to Joseph Smith.

Certainly, many of these statements were motivated by antipathy toward Joseph and the Book of Mormon, but to say everyone was lying strikes me as implausible. Not because Mormonism Unvailed was trustworthy, but because these accounts were repeated before and after that book was published.

True, there are inconsistencies among the accounts, but that's true of every eyewitness account. It is a weak defense to say that everyone who described what they saw was lying just because we don't like what they said.

Requiring people to choose between these alternatives is a false dilemma.

We don't have to choose between accepting Mormonism Unvailed as the official version of the translation on one hand, and claiming that everyone who said they saw Joseph dictate words from a stone in a hat was a liar on the other hand.

There is a third option that both reconciles the historical record and makes common sense.
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3. Demonstration vs translation. The obvious way to reconcile the accounts is that Joseph used the stone-in-a-hat to demonstrate how the translation worked, but that he did not allow people to observe the actual translation. He let people infer they were watching the translation, perhaps; some certainly took it that way.

Recall that Joseph had been strictly commanded not to show the Urim and Thummim, or the plates, to anyone except designated witnesses. He couldn't allow people to watch him actually translate the plates. And yet, he was under constant pressure from curious people. Providing demonstrations was a natural and relatively easy way to satisfy curiosity while leaving him and Oliver in relative peace to finish the actual translation.

Notice, none of the stone-in-a-hat witnesses related the actual words that Joseph dictated in their presence. None quoted Joseph as saying, "I am now translating the record" or any words to that effect. They simply reported what they observed.

The important point is that neither Joseph nor Oliver ever said Joseph merely read words that appeared on a peep stone (or seer stone) in a hat. They could have easily mitigated the persecution that arose from Mormonism Unvailed had they simply "admitted" the stone-in-a-hat scenario if that was the truth. But they didn't. Instead, they consistently taught that Joseph translated the plates using the Nephite Urim and Thummim.

I discussed this here:

http://www.bookofmormoncentralamerica.com/2019/06/m2c-impact-on-church-history.html

More detail is in my upcoming book for those interested.


Monday, June 24, 2019

"Neutrality at BMC"

Here's the dilemma: I fully share the objectives of Book of Mormon Central (BMC) in terms of sharing the Book of Mormon. I love all the people associated with BMC and its affiliates. They're all wonderful people.

I support about 90% of what they do and wish I could support the rest. However, I think their focus on M2C undermines their objectives for all the reasons I've explained.

At the very least, they should represent all faithful views and interpretations of the Book of Mormon, but they refuse. They have earned the nickname Book of Mormon Central America because that's the only theory of geography they permit on their web site. They continue to censor alternative faithful views.

Like its predecessor FARMS, BMC is the antithesis of diversity and neutrality, but for obvious reasons they want everyone to think they follow the Church's policy of neutrality on Book of Mormon geography issues, as well as the policy against contention.

Let's see what the reality is.

As always, I'm eager to correct any errors in this material, so if there are any, please let me know by email.
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First, let's review the history of M2C.

1917 map of M2C by L.E. Hills
M2C originated over 100 years ago with the work of RLDS scholars, including Stebbins and Hills. You can see the 1917 map by Hills to the left. Some details in the map are different from some modern M2C maps, but the Hills map clearly shows Cumorah/Ramah in Central America.

Cumorah was part of the contest between the RLDS and LDS, as I discussed in more detail here.

In the late 1800s, the President of the RLDS Church was Joseph Smith III, the son of Joseph Smith Jr. RLDS missionaries were coming to Utah and converting LDS members to their church. By one count, 3,000 LDS in Utah converted to the RLDS church.

In response, Brigham Young called Joseph F. Smith, the 27-year-old son of Hyrum Smith, to the First Presidency, where he served the remainder of his life.

Joseph Smith III and Joseph F. Smith were first cousins. Their rivalry was partly doctrinal but also familial.

RLDS scholars developed M2C about the time that LDS President Joseph F. Smith focused on the New York Cumorah. As editor of the Improvement Era in 1899, President Smith republished Letter VII, reaffirming President Cowdery's declaration that it was a fact that the hill Cumorah in New York was the scene of the final battles of the Nephites and Jaredites, as well as the location of Mormon's depository of Nephite records.

After he became President of the Church, Joseph F. Smith wanted to purchase the Hill Cumorah in New York. RLDS scholars were saying, in effect, "go ahead, but the real Cumorah is in Mexico."

Over the objections of LDS Church leaders such as Joseph Fielding Smith, LDS scholars adopted the RLDS theory. Today's M2C is the result.
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The clearest statement of the philosophical basis for M2C was provided by Dr. John Sorenson, author of Mormon's Codex and other M2C books and articles found in BMC's archive. Original in blue, my comments in red.

What may startle some about this situation is that most of what Joseph Smith said or implied about geography indicates that he did not understand or was ambiguous about the fact, as it turns out, that Mesoamerica was the particular setting for Nephite history. 

Notice: Brother Sorenson announces that the Mesoamerican setting is a fact. 

That is how M2C intellectuals define "neutrality," and that's what "neutrality" means to their followers, employees, and donors. They are "neutral" only about where in Mesoamerica the Book of Mormon took place, but they insist it could have taken place only somewhere in Mesoamerica.

Continuing:

Until he encountered the Stephens’s book, Joseph gave no hint that he was aware that such a limited area with a distinctive civilized culture even existed in the Americas. Even with Stephens’s material in mind, he made no more than a passing attempt to relate the Book of Mormon’s story to the newly-found ruins. And in the long run, the little blip on the Latter-day Saints’ mental screen caused by the explorer’s book faded as the mistaken folk view reasserted its dominance.

Notice what he's saying here. All the prophets and apostles who declared and affirmed that Cumorah was in New York were misleading members of the Church with a "mistaken folk view."

That's the essence of M2C. You can ask anyone associated with Book of Mormon Central what they think about the teachings of the prophets about Cumorah. After trying to evade the question, they will eventually admit they agree with Brother Sorenson.

They might try to persuade you that they are "neutral" because they disagree with Brother Sorenson about which river is Sidon, or exactly where in Mesoamerica a particular city or feature is located, but they agree with everything he wrote in the quotation above. That's the essence of M2C.

(For the Sorenson reference and other commentary, go to http://mormonmesomania.blogspot.com/2018/05/what-may-startle-somenoel-reynolds.html  )
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Now, let's look at the logo.





We have Hebrew (Old Testament).
We have Egyptian (Book of Abraham)
We have Greek (New Testament).
And we have Mayan (Book of Mormon).

That's as non-neutral as it gets. The logo is a carryover from the old FARMS, which was also 100% M2C, as discussed below.

This logo, heavily promoted with millions of dollars, announces to the world that there is no room for an interpretation of the Book of Mormon outside Mesoamerica.
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Now, the people involved.


We love all these brothers and sisters. They are all wonderful, faithful, smart, etc. But they all have one thing in common: complete fidelity to M2C. Some of them are active in social media, pushing M2C aggressively. Maybe we'll look at some examples of their work, but anyone following this topic knows what I'm referring to.

It is difficult to find more dogmatic groupthink than what exists among the BMC staff. 

I tried really hard, though, and came across this group. 

Actually, there was more "neutrality" about President Trump among the Democrats at Jim Clyburn's recent fish fry than there is "neutrality" about Book of Mormon geography at BMC.
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The BMC editorial position, demonstrated in their archive as well as their regular Kno-Why series, focuses purely on M2C. 

They oppose the New York Cumorah at every opportunity because they equate M2C with the authenticity of the Book of Mormon. It's M2C or bust. This explains why they think the stakes are so high, and why M2C promoters have such an emotional attachment to M2C. 

This also explains why so many people (including BYU professors) lose their faith in the historicity of the Book of Mormon when they realize M2C is based on circular reasoning and illusory evidence (as well as the repudiation of the teachings of the prophets). 

Long ago, Joseph Fielding Smith warned that M2C would cause members of the Church to become confused and disturbed in their faith in the Book of Mormon. BMC rejects his warning, along with the teachings of all the prophets and apostles who have taught that the Hill Cumorah is in New York.

BMC coordinates its M2C messages with several affiliates who also promote the same M2C message, including Fairmormon and the Interpreter.


The M2C editorial position is at the core of their approach to the Book of Mormon. BMC and the Interpreter had their origins in FARMS, an organization that was known for its dogmatism and aggressive apologetics. The BMC archive contains some of the FARMS material.

Let's look at how M2C is incorporated in BMC's official policies.
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This is from the BMC web page (https://bookofmormoncentral.org/about)

The legal organization behind Book of Mormon Central is the Book of Mormon Archaeological Forum, Inc., a 501 (c) 3 non-profit public charity chartered in the state of Utah in 2004.

When people donate to BMC, they are really donating to BMAF. BMC donors are supporting the dissemination of M2C, as we discussed here

And that's perfectly fine, so long as they know what they're doing.

For decades, BMAF's mission statement read:

If you can't read it, it says:

The Book of Mormon Archaeological Forum (BMAF) is a 501(c)(3) not for profit organization dedicated as an open forum for presentation, dissemination, and discussion of research and evidences regarding Book of Mormon archaeology, anthropology, geography and culture within a Mesoamerican context.  Our goals are (1) to increase understanding of the Book of Mormon as an ancient Mesoamerican codex, (2) to correlate and publish works of LDS and CofC scholars, (3) to help promote unity and cooperation among scholars and students of the Book of Mormon, and (4) to provide a forum where responsible scholars can present current ideas and discoveries.

After I publicized this mission statement, they changed the statement to what it currently reads:

MISSION STATEMENT

The Book of Mormon Archaeological Forum (BMAF) is a 501(c)(3) not for profit organization dedicated as an open forum for presentation, dissemination, and discussion of research and evidences regarding Book of Mormon archaeology, anthropology, geography and culture within Mesoamerican and other ancient contexts.
Even when they made this change, they could not bring themselves to endorse neutrality. The "other ancient contexts" they refer to here are in the Old World. They are not referring to anywhere in the Americas other than Mesoamerica. This is evident in all their work. Anyone can see it for themselves.

BMC continues "to increase understanding of the Book of Mormon as an ancient Mesoamerican codex." You can see it in the archive, their Kno-Whys, their social media work, their firesides, their coordinated efforts with other members of the M2C citation cartel, etc.

I've mentioned a few examples previously in this blog, which you can see by searching for "KnowWhy," "Kno-Why" or "no-wise" in the search box. For example:

http://www.bookofmormoncentralamerica.com/2018/01/no-wise-395-on-david-whitmer.html
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Here's another official statement from BMC

Book of Mormon Central Policy on Book of Mormon Geography – June 2016

Book of Mormon Central at this time is officially geography neutral. We seek deep understanding of the Book of Mormon text. We hope diligent students work together to achieve working consensus on the geographic correlation issue. Until that happens, our selection of exegetical material is guided by these principles:
  • In our hierarchy of evidence, the text itself is primary because it is closest to the divine.
  • If profound and compelling location-specific insights shed light on the text, we highlight these regardless of their geographic provenience.
  • We favor authors with credentials in their areas of interest.
  • We favor formally published works from reputable presses.
We welcome good work from any geographic persuasion that is responsive to these principles.
This is all window-dressing for Church leaders and donors. I've discussed the implementation here:

http://www.bookofmormoncentralamerica.com/2016/04/book-of-mormon-central-america-sigh.html
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I'll conclude this post with another official statement and its implementation by a BMC employee who demonstrates the deep emotional attachment BMC has with M2C.

Book of Mormon Central Social Media Policy

Joseph Smith emphatically taught, "Friendship is one of the grand fundamental principles of Mormonism. [It is designed] to revolutionize and civilize the world, and cause wars and contentions to cease and men to become friends and brothers" (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 316).  At Book of Mormon Central we strive to represent the very best of professional and personal characteristics in our private and public lives.  The message of the Book of Mormon is so compelling and transformative that we have no need to engage in any form of negative public discourse, including in our professional and private social media accounts.  Our tremendous work is our defense.  We let it speak for itself.  Diligently pursuing our mission is the most powerful and convincing way we can answer any contrary individuals or organizations.

To see how that policy is implemented, look at the following social media post by a BMC employee, one that Dan Peterson at the Interpreter endorses. (We aren't putting any of Dan's posts here because, technically, he's not listed under BMC's directory.)

You have abundantly proven that you are not somebody who can have a rational argument in good faith with an “M2C intellectual.” You have, repeatedly, demonized and belittled and cast aspersion on anybody who doesn’t accept your dogmatic interpretation of early Mormon historical sources relevant to Book of Mormon geography. This isn’t just a matter of having differences of opinion. As your blog posts have more than demonstrated, you have a personal vendetta against the “citation cartel” (which is, in reality, peer reviewed academic scholarship, as opposed to your own brand of trashy Internet pseudo-scholarship) and anybody who is out of step with your narrow and uncompromising Heartland apologetics.
I suspect I know why you are so personally angry and upset at “M2C intellectuals.” It must be very frustrating that your pseudo-scholarship which you’ve invested so much time and energy into is not making mainstream inroads in Mormon studies. It must be frustrating to be a laughingstock at the Church History Department and amongst BYU faculty. It must be frustrating that the best you can do is publish semi-coherent ramblings on obscure personal blogs or with no-name presses. But just know that it isn’t anything personal: it’s because both your Mormon history and your Book of Mormon geography are nonsense and you’re a deeply unpleasant person to interact with..
I don’t know why you have chosen to become such a fanatic over this one issue, but I will say that it is genuinely sad that your testimony is so fragile that even the slightest contradiction of your pet theory causes your cognitive dissonance to flair up like lights on a Christmas tree.
I am content with what I wrote in my post and in the KnoWhy, and I’ll allow readers to decide for themselves which explanation they find more persuasive. I will not, however, waste further time or attention on your shenanigans. Like I said, since you refuse to engage people who disagree with you in good faith, and since you’re a close-minded fanatic, it would be utterly pointless for me to engage you any further.
I will just say this one thing: for all of your self-righteous preening about how you accept the apostles and the prophets, and how “M2C intellectuals” are subversive apostates, it is breathtakingly hypocritical for you to lambast the Church History Department and BYU faculty and Seminaries & Institutes faculty for not kowtowing to your theories, since all of them are ultimately hired by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve. It is astoundingly hypocritical for you to criticize the “Correlation Department” of the Church, which approves “M2C” artwork and videos and articles in Church publications, when, again, the First Presidency and the Twelve are a part of Correlation. It is monstrously hypocritical of you to accuse Saints of being “revisionist history” attempting to deceive people about Book of Mormon geography when Saints has been authorized, reviewed, and approved by the First Presidency and the Twelve.
So please, Jonathan, spare us all the self-righteous BS about how “M2C intellectuals” are trying to get people to disbelieve the prophets and apostles.
Because guess what: as long as you keep doing what you’re doing, you are, in fact, doing the exact same thing. As long as you keep screaming about “M2C intellectuals” ruining the Church, you’re actually telling people to disbelieve the modern prophets and apostles who keep hiring them to work for the Church and guide the Church’s membership in intellectual and historical matters.
“Physician, heal thyself!”
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That last sentence is good advice for everyone.


Sunday, June 23, 2019

Working with M2C believers

Working with M2C believers

There is a contest of opinions going around that I'd like to help resolve through greater understanding. If you know any believers in M2C (the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory), ask them one question:

I accept the teachings of the prophets and apostles about the New York Cumorah. Can you help me understand why you disagree?

CAUTION: Usually, they will become defensive. If they work for the M2C citation cartel, they will become angry. You will see their response boils down to #3 below, but they resist this reality as long as they can.

IMPORTANT: Do not ask the question to start an argument.

Ask because you are genuinely curious. If you just want to argue, don't ask the question.

Emphasize you are not accusing them of anything. These are wonderful brothers and sisters with whom we share the most important beliefs about the gospel. We want to know why people think the things they do because we want to improve understanding and facilitate cordial relationships.

We're not criticizing them for their beliefs or saying they're wrong. (Many people feel personally attacked when their beliefs are questioned. This is especially true of M2C employees. Be sensitive and empathetic if they get emotional. Use your judgment. It may take a while to get past the emotions.)

Emphasize that we have no problem with people having different opinions.

We just want to know if they've made an informed decision. If so, fantastic. We don't expect everyone to think alike. In fact, you should have an open mind as well. Maybe they will tell you something you didn't know before. If you haven't ever changed your mind on this topic and you're convinced you're right, realize that they think the same way.

In almost every case, you'll see they have been trained by BYU/CES to think only of M2C and have not made an informed decision. They have never thought this through.

I can relate to them because I, too, trusted my M2C professors at BYU. I trusted FARMS, etc.

I wish someone had asked me that question 30 years ago. I wouldn't have spent decades believing M2C myself.
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Here are the responses you'll get, depending on how well trained they are.

1. "The prophets have never said Cumorah is in New York."

Notice: no prophet or apostle has ever questioned, let alone repudiated, the teachings of his predecessors about the New York Cumorah. This is not "Mormon Chess" in which people can find contradictory quotes by prophets and apostles to support their positions.

Because the M2C citation cartel censors teachings that contradict M2C, most members of the Church today have never heard of Letter VII, President Romney's talk, etc. Refer them to the BYU packet here: http://www.lettervii.com/p/byu-packet-on-cumorah.html

In most cases, they will be surprised. In many cases, they will say, "How come I've never heard about this?" In some cases, they'll say, "I need to study this." A few will even accept these teachings and wonder why they believed the M2C intellectuals and their employees in the first place.

Those who have been well trained by the M2C citation cartel will say, "Those were merely the opinions of men. They were not speaking as prophets and apostles."

Besides being disrespectful of the prophets and apostles, this answer contradicts the statements themselves, but don't argue about that. Notice: their response was not a response to the question. Pace them and ask, "then why do you reject their opinions?"

If they start talking about evidence, skip to #3 below.

2. "The Church has no position on Book of Mormon geography." 

This is a dodge they resort to because they are uncomfortable with the real answer.

They will refer to the anonymous Gospel Topics Essay which is not an answer to the question.

The essay has been changed once and can change again at any moment without notice.

Contrast this with the specific and clear teachings by well-known prophets and apostles contained in the Joseph Smith Papers, the General Conference reports, and books published by the Church including Jesus the Christ and A Marvelous Work and a Wonder. Not to mention prior statements that say the Church has always taught that Cumorah is in New York.

Here's the key point: the essay allows members to believe whatever they want. It says nothing about Cumorah and simply restates long-held positions about Book of Mormon settings other than Cumorah.

What the essay does not do is give a reason for rejecting what the prophets and apostles have taught about the New York Cumorah.

When M2C intellectuals and their employees, followers, and donors cite the essay, just respond by repeating the question, "Fine, but why do you reject the teachings of the prophets and apostles about the New York Cumorah?"

They won't want to tell you their reason. They will do almost anything to avoid answering. But eventually they will get around to it.

3. "Because the New York Cumorah doesn't fit my interpretation of the text."

This is the real reason, and the only reason, why the M2C intellectuals, their followers, employees and donors, reject the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah. 

This is not criticism.

This is just reality.

Once everyone understands this, there will be no more "contests of opinions" because we can all agree on our respective biases and leave peacefully together.

They will undoubtedly say they reject the teachings of the prophets and apostles about the New York Cumorah because of "evidence," but that's a pretext and a delusion. The "evidence" they site is post hoc rationalization to support their interpretation of the text.

None of the typical reasons they cite (anonymous 1842 Times and Seasons articles, statements by prophets and apostles about Lamanites in Latin America, the location of Zion, etc.) has anything to do with the New York Cumorah--except as it relates to the M2C interpretation of the text.

In fact, there is nothing necessarily inconsistent between a Mesoamerican setting and a New York Cumorah except for the M2C interpretation of the text.

While I happen to think the North American setting makes more sense than any Mesoamerican setting, I'm open to all ideas. Until the prophets and apostles speak about these issues, I rely on what they've said in the past. And they have consistently and persistently taught that Cumorah is in New York.

One thing I'm not open to is devaluing and repudiating the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah just because some academic interprets the text to fit his/her preferred geography. That approach leads to confusion and doubt about everything the prophets have taught.
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Separately, I've explained how the entire M2C interpretation of the text is based on a false premise (that Joseph couldn't have known about ancient civilizations in Central America) supported by circular reasoning and illusory evidence.

I've also explained how the scientific evidence supports the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah.

By now, we all know that people confirm their biases by interpreting "evidence" to fit their preconceptions. The facts don't matter. This should be especially obvious to every member of the Church who accepts the Book of Mormon. We know that at least a billion people have looked at the same evidence that we think supports the Book of Mormon, but they have rejected it.

(BTW, this is why Book of Mormon Central's marketing campaign is so ridiculous. If the evidence they offer was "clear and convincing" we wouldn't have 99% of the people who look at that evidence rejecting it. Somebody needs to do some A/B testing outside the M2C bubble.)

I freely admit my bias is to accept the teachings of the prophets and apostles.

If your M2C friends are self-aware and honest, they will admit that their bias is to favor the theories of intellectuals over the teachings of the prophets and apostles. 

It's a simple choice. Nothing to argue about.

So long as people are making informed choices, we're happy with whatever they decide for themselves.
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Finally, you should be able to answer the inverse question. They will ask something such as this"

"I think the Book of Mormon took place in a limited geography of Mesoamerica. Can you help me understand why you disagree?"

By now, I'm sure you can answer easily and lovingly.
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Hopefully, you can have a productive discussion with your friends. You're not trying to persuade them or change their minds. You're honestly curious about what they think, how they arrived at their conclusions, etc.

All you want to do is encourage them to make informed decisions.

Regardless of what they decide, move forward with faith and love together.