There is always tension between the teachings of divine messengers vs. the philosophies of men, mingled with scripture. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the context of the question of Cumorah.
Divine messengers. We have a long history (starting in 1827) of prophetic teachings about Cumorah. For nearly 200 years, Church leaders have consistently and persistently taught that the Hill Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 is in western New York. It's the same hill where Joseph found the plates. Here are some examples: http://www.lettervii.com/p/byu-packet-on-cumorah.html. The New York Cumorah has always been an important evidence of the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon, which is why President Cowdery included it in Letter VII in the first place.
Philosophies of men, mingled with scripture. We have another history, not quite as long (starting in the late 1800s), of first RLDS scholars, then LDS scholars, teaching that the "real Cumorah" is in southern Mexico while the hill in New York where Joseph found the plates has nothing to do with the Book of Mormon events. This is M2C (the Mesoamerican/two Cumorahs theory), the position advocated by Book of Mormon Central, FairMormon, the Interpreter (with that awesomely arrogant name) and other organizations.
[Come to think of it, the Interpreter is the ideal name for a usurper of the prophets.]
Church members are free to choose either category of teachers to follow. But we should all fully understand what we are choosing to believe.
To make informed decisions about Cumorah, you must educate yourself. Today, you can easily find the philosophies of men, mingled with scripture. Just read Book of Mormon Central, the Interpreter, FairMormon, etc. But the teachings of the messengers (the prophets and apostles) are more difficult to find because they have been de-correlated.
This topic arose recently in the context of a new video from Book of Mormon Central.
Book of Mormon Central released a beautiful video about the Book of Mormon that firmly establishes the geography in Mesoamerica; i.e., M2C.
You need to watch it to understand the issue:
It's part of the ongoing effort to de-correlate the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah.
As we all know, Cumorah was censored from the Saints book, volume 1. It is censored from the 2020 Come Follow Me curriculum. And this video firmly establishes Cumorah in Mesoamerica. The video "interprets" the text by directly presenting the philosophies of men, mingled with scripture.
When considering messengers vs. philosophies of men, it is easy to tell which is which.
|Scholar trying to tell the prophets they are wrong|
You can read this in Joseph Smith's own history, here:
Alternatively, we have the philosophies of men, always mingled with scripture.
Mormon's Codex is probably the best-known example of the philosophies of men, mingled with scripture. Regarding the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah, the book has this to say:
“There remain Latter-day Saints who insist that the final destruction of the Nephites took place in New York, but any such idea is manifestly absurd. Hundreds of thousands of Nephites traipsing across the Mississippi Valley to New York, pursued (why?) by hundreds of thousands of Lamanites, is a scenario worthy only of a witless sci-fi movie, not of history.”
John Sorenson, Mormon’s Codex (Deseret Book, 2013), p. 688.
The philosophy expressed in Mormon's Codex--that the teachings of the prophets are "manifestly absurd"--as as pure a repudiation of those teachings as possible.
And every single proponent of M2C shares that philosophy.
That's perfectly fine, of course. We can each believe whatever we want.
The strange thing: many followers of the M2C scholars don't understand the implications of M2C because they don't realize what these scholars are actually teaching.
Some people believe the Mesoamerican setting but also believe Cumorah is in New York because they still believe the prophets. That's a reasonable position, but it is not what the M2C scholars teach.
In fact, the M2C scholars expressly reject that position.
If you look closely at the fantasy maps from BYU and CES, you see they put Cumorah squarely in Mesoamerica.
Therefore, it's important to clarify an important point:
If you accept M2C. you necessarily also believe:
(i) that the prophets are wrong and
(ii) that the prophets misled the Church for decades by testifying to the truthfulness of their incorrect opinions.
You can ask any M2C scholar or their followers and they will admit these two points, although sometimes reluctantly. The M2C proponents carefully mingle scriptures with their philosophies. A prime example is the BYU fantasy map, which claims to follow the text carefully and accurately.
Obviously, I'm no longer a follower of the M2C philosophy. I think the prophets taught the truth about the New York Cumorah. But I was just as faithful a member of the Church when I believed the M2C intellectuals as I am now. None of this is a test of faithfulness, commitment, intelligence, etc.
It is simply a choice. And often, it's an uninformed choice.
When I believed M2C I was just ignorant because I relied on their interpretations instead of the teachings of the prophets.
To be clear, I don't impose my views on anyone. I encourage people to learn for themselves from every source they can.
Each of us can believe whatever we want. We don't criticize those who follow the philosophies of men, mingled with scripture, if that works for them.
But we also want to make sure we don't delude ourselves into confusing (i) the teachings of the actual messengers. with (ii) the philosophies of men, mingled with scripture.