long ago ideas

“When we are tired, we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago." - Friedrich Nietzsche. Long ago, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery conquered false claims that the Book of Mormon was fiction or that it came through a stone in a hat. But these old claims have resurfaced in recent years. To conquer them again, we have to return to what Joseph and Oliver taught.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

M2C relies on fictional version of Church history

For our Thanksgiving enjoyment, Meridian Magazine, aka M2C magazine, published another delightfully fictitious version of "Church History" lately. We looked at the first one here.


Let's take a look at this second article now.

Here's the link: https://latterdaysaintmag.com/obtain-knowledge-of-countries-and-kingdoms/

Most readers of Meridian M2C Magazine are unaware of the magazine's editorial policy to promote M2C and mislead readers about the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah.

Long-time readers of this blog can readily spot the errors, of course, but it's always helpful to have a peer review.

Had the editors asked us for a peer review, this is what we would have offered. To do the peer review, we have to provide the full article (sans photos), which also shows we're not taking anything out of context, as the anonymous trolls sometimes claim we're doing. Original in blue, comments in red.

Plus, there's always the possibility that the editors of Meridian M2C Magazine will revise their editorial policy to accurately inform, rather than mislead, their readers. Hope springs eternal...


“Obtain knowledge of countries and kingdoms.”
By V. Garth Norman · November 26, 2019

Why is this misquote in quotation marks? The actual quotation is "obtain a knowledge of history, and of countries, and of kingdoms" 
(Doctrine and Covenants 93:53)

Ancient Migrations from Central America to North and South America

Many discoveries of antiquities throughout the Americas relating to the Middle East bring to mind a Biblical statement in Deuteronomy 28:64: “And the Lord shall scatter thee [Israelites] among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other.” This helps us realize that there were more than three migrations (Jaredite, Mulekite, Lehite) by ancient people from the Middle East to the Americas. Also, ancient Central American people traveled outside their principle cities and concourses, such as in the first century BC at the time of Hagoth’s shipping, as well as migrations on land to regions north and south (Alma 63: 4-9; Helaman 3: 3-14), taking with them the Maya Calendar and cubit measuring rods to measure art and architecture throughout the Americas (Norman: 2018 [4] 2015 [19]). [4] Ancient Migrations from Central America to all Americas.

This is a rehash of an article Meridian M2C Magazine published in 2010, also written by Brother Norman. It's found on the web page of the parent corporation of Book of Mormon Central, here:

This is a great example of bias confirmation because the "cubit" measurements are based on measurements from particular points, chosen because they are the right lengths. But there are always other points that could be measured that don't fit the cubit narrative.

Ironically, John Lloyd Stephens himself, who had also studied ancient Egypt, concluded that the Mesoamerican culture had no connections to ancient Egypt. But Brother Norman doesn't mention that. Wikipedia explains it this way: "As a result of their explorations, Stephens and Catherwood argued convincingly that the Mayans built the ancient Central American cities in contrast to the theory that ethnic groups from European or Asian civilizations had built them." 

John Lloyd Stephens and the Prophet Joseph Smith

A pioneering explorer in Central America was John Lloyd Stephens, born in 1805, the same year the prophet Joseph Smith, Jr. was born. Stephens was born in New Jersey, just southeast of New York, Joseph Smith was born in Vermont, just northeast east of New York. 

This is no kind of meaningful connection between these two men who never met.

Both were tutored in New York, Stephens at Columbia College in New York, Joseph Smith in Palmyra, New York where he was taught by his Heavenly Father and Savior, Jesus Christ, and numerous visitations from resurrected beings. 

Stephens graduated from Columbia at age 17 and became a lawyer in New York City. Joseph's educational experience was a little different from that.

Joseph studied the Bible diligently, and had scribes write as he translated words from gold plates of ancient American people—known as the Book of Mormon. Joseph wondered who the people were that he learned of in this Testament of Jesus Christ. 

The idea that Joseph "wondered who the people were" contradicts the previous paragraph and Joseph's own explanations. 

Joseph didn't wonder who the people were--he learned about them directly from Moroni and other divine messengers. His mother explained that he told his family about these ancient inhabitants even before he translated the plates. In the Wentworth letter, Joseph wrote, "I was also informed concerning the aboriginal inhabitants of this country and shown who they were, and from whence they came; a brief sketch of their origin, progress, civilization, laws, governments, of their righteousness and iniquity, and the blessings of God being finally withdrawn from them as a people, was [also] made known unto me."

Steadily he became an avid reader of history, politics, novels, and poets as well as studying foreign languages, primarily Hebrew and German. 

There is historical evidence that Joseph studied foreign languages, but not that he became an "avid reader" of novels and poets. Notice the lack of a footnote to support such an idea. 

During 1839-1842, as the Saints were establishing the city of Nauvoo, the Prophet Joseph Smith led his people in business, church administration, temple building, and as newspaper editor. [11] 

Joseph's brother, Don Carlos, started and edited the Times and Seasons until his death in 1841. In 1842, Joseph became the nominal editor for a few months. His other activities precluded him from doing any actual editing; Wilford Woodruff noted that in 1842, Joseph barely had time to sign his name to important documents prepared for him.

John Lloyd Stephens practiced law until in 1834, when he traveled abroad to explore Europe, the Middle East, and Mediterranean countries. He wrote his own publications, including Incidents of Travel in Egypt, Arabia, Petraea, and the Holy Land (1835) [3] which was extremely popular. He explored the lands of the Bible, whereas Joseph studied the Bible diligently! When Stephens returned to the USA, in 1839, as a newly appointed United States Diplomat to Central America, he and his artist colleague, Frederick Catherwood combined government duties with exploration of ‘nearly three thousand miles in the interior of Central, America, Chiapas, and Yucatan,” traveling to some 50 ruined cities, making comparisons of Old World and New World antiquities.

He saw in Central America “plausible religious motivation in the monumental art and architecture in ruins choked by jungle growth”. [4] He stated: “With an interest perhaps stronger than we had ever felt in wandering among the ruins of Egypt, we followed our guide, who . . . conducted us through the thick forest, among half-buried fragments, to fourteen monuments of the same character and appearance, some with more elegant designs, and some in workmanship equal to the finest monuments of the Egyptians” [5] Stephens wondered who the people were who built the pyramids and antiquities of Central America. That knowledge was even lost among the dwellers of the ruins. [6] Frederick Catherwood’s drawings and lithographs (see below) show, without question, the Maya to have been the authors of some of the most artistic and intellectual works of pre-Columbian America.

As we noted above, John Lloyd Stephens concluded that the Mesoamerican culture had no connections to ancient Egypt or any other Asian civilization. 

Just 11 years after the Book of Mormon was published in New York, Stephens published his personal writings in the accounts of his travels in Central America in two volumes in Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan (1841 Harper & Brothers, New York). Through his explorations and writings, Stephens was recognized as the founder of American Archaeology.

This is an odd claim because Stephens himself was inspired by Alexander von Humboldt, who had traveled through the Americas and documented ancient ruins in Mesoamerica even before Stephens was born. The English translation of von Humboldt's book, which contained drawings of ruins similar to Catherwood's, was published in 1810 and widely available in New York, including in Palmyra. 

In 1839, in Nauvoo, Illinois, the leaders of the Church began publishing the Times and Seasons periodical (the same year that John Lloyd Stevens began his explorations in Mesoamerica). Its motto, “Truth will prevail,” expressed a goal to promote truth, and correct falsehoods, and was the main organ for publishing truths pertaining to the restored gospel to the Church members and the world. 

Among these truths were the 8 essays on Church history written by Oliver Cowdery, with the assistance of Joseph Smith, in 1834-5. Joseph gave the essays to his brother Don Carlos to publish in the Times and Seasons in 1840-41. Letter VII was published in the Times and Seasons in 1841, establishing "the fact, that here, between these hills, the entire power and national strength of both the Jaredites and Nephites were destroyed." 

Of course, Oliver was describing the Hill Cumorah in western New York, but neither Brother Norman nor Meridian M2C Magazine want their readers to know that. 

Letter VII was republished many times and was copied into Joseph's own journal, which you can read here.

Many of the Prophets revelations, and his Book of Abraham translation, for instance, appeared in print for the first time in the Times and Seasons. 

This is an interesting point. Letter VII also appeared in the Times and Seasons, but unlike the other materials, it also appeared in the Messenger and Advocate, the Gospel Reflector, the Millennial Star, and the Prophet (two days after Joseph was martyred in Carthage). 

In the spring of 1842 (May 11), in consequence of too many errors appearing in print, the Prophet Joseph Smith took over the editorship and announced his personal responsibility for the contents of the paper. 

This is another reprint of the same error that appeared in Brother Norman's first article on this topic, so we'll repeat what we pointed out there.

Joseph's name first appeared as editor, printer and publisher in the Feb. 15, 1842 issue. After Don Carlos died in September 1841, his former business partner took over the paper. Benjamin Winchester, who had started his own Mormon newspaper in Philadelphia but ran out of money, moved to Nauvoo in October 1841 to work for the paper. The paper began publishing Winchester's articles anonymously. In January 1842, Winchester was rebuked and Joseph announced that the Quorum of the Twelve should take over the newspaper. 

The March 1, 1842, Times and Seasons (which contained the Wentworth letter) also contained this statement:

This paper commences my editorial career, I alone stand for it, and shall do for all papers having my signature henceforward. I am not responsible for the publication, or arrangement of the former paper; the matter did not come under my supervision. JOSEPH SMITH."

This statement, combined with the boilerplate, is the rationale for attributing to Joseph Smith everything that appeared in the newspaper between March 1 and October 1, 1842.

Historians have assumed that "my signature" referred to the boilerplate at the end of each paper, which stated the paper was "Printed, published and edited by Joseph Smith, Jr." Of course, no one claims that Joseph actually set type, operated the printing press, cleaned the equipment, etc. He was listed as printer in name only.

Likewise, there is no evidence that Joseph ever actually edited the paper. No journal entries, no observations by others, etc. But there is evidence that he did not know what was in the paper until he read it after it was printed. This evidence indicates that Joseph was merely the nominal editor, just as he was merely the nominal printer. 

Plus, there were errors in the paper that, if he was actually editing the paper, Joseph should have recognized and corrected. One error appears in Joseph's own history, which states that it was Nephi, not Moroni, who appeared to Joseph Smith in 1823.

There is also evidence that William Smith, Joseph's brother, who was editing the Wasp newspaper in Nauvoo that was printed on the same printing press as the Times and Seasons, was actually editing both papers, probably with the assistance of W.W. Phelps.

During the next six months he endeavored to raise the paper’s standard of excellence (May-Nov. 1842). One of the distinctive features of Joseph’s six-month editorial career was the attention given to antiquities as they might relate to the Book of Mormon. 

Such antiquities were discussed before and after Joseph's nominal editorship, both in the Times and Seasons and in other Church and private periodicals and books. Letter VII is the only authoritative publication about Book of Mormon geography, however; it was written by the Assistant President of the Church, with the assistance of the President and approval of the First and Second counselors in the First Presidency, and approved by every member of the Twelve who ever addressed the topic.

In the November 15, 1842 edition, he announced that Elder John Taylor should be the Editor to maintain the high quality of excellence that had developed.  [11]

Stephens’ Incidents of Travel (1841) taken to the Prophet Joseph Smith

Bishop John Bernhisel, in New York, had Wilford Woodruff, who was on his way home to Nauvoo from his mission in England, take copies of Stephens’ 1841 Volumes I & II to Joseph Smith in Nauvoo. 

This is accurate and explains why Woodruff wrote the thank-you note to Bernhisel.

After reading about and seeing the exquisite drawings by Frederick Catherwood of the magnificent ruins of Central American pyramids and stone monuments with hieroglyphic writings on them, Joseph had a new “vision” opened to him of the remains of large civilizations that fit the descriptions of the people in the Book of Mormon who had come to the Americas anciently from the Middle East.

This is fictional conjecture. Apart from the thank-you note, there is no evidence that Joseph every saw or read these books, and especially no evidence that he had a vision on the matter. 

The Prophet Joseph recorded in his personal journal the importance of these discoveries for the Book of Mormon.[12] 

This is demonstrably false, as we saw in the peer review of the previous article.

In the Nauvoo Times and Seasons Editorial of Oct. 1, 1842, titled “Zarahemla”, Joseph compared the ruins of Quirigua, Guatemala from Stephens’ writings, and stated: “The city of Zarahemla, burnt at the crucifixion of the Savior and rebuilt afterwards, stood upon this land.”[13] A year later, John Taylor wrote a similar editorial expounding the importance of Stephens’ books in the Times and Seasons. [14] Taylor also marveled that these magnificent ruins came to light so soon after the Book of Mormon was published in 1830, when there was no knowledge of American Archaeology and Geography to sustain it.

American Archaeology places the beginning of this science with Stephens’ discoveries. It can also be viewed as the birth of Book of Mormon Archaeology. 

Of course, in the previous peer review we saw that "the birth of Book of Mormon Archaeology" occurred when Joseph got the plates, when he and Oliver visited the depository of Nephite records inside the Hill Cumorah in New York, and during Zion's camp when Joseph's companions actually dug up Zelph's skeleton and artifacts. 

The lives of John Lloyd Stephens and Joseph Smith, who never met, paralleled each other in many ways. Consider the following:

Prophet Joseph Smith, Jr.
Explorer John Lloyd Stephens
1.Born 1805 in Vermont (by NY)
1.Born 1805 in New Jersey (by NY)
2.Bible Name-Joseph
2.Bible Name-John
3.Learned & Published in Palmyra, NY.

3.Student: Cambridge College, NY. Published in NY.

4.Studied the Bible (& edited it). Studied History, learned Hebrew & German, and other languages.
4.Explored Bible Lands, Middle East, Europe & published books about them.

5.Translated the Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ, published in N.Y. in 1830, and organized the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1830.
5.Explored Central America and saw antiquities of high civilizations with pyramids and stones with hieroglyphic writings; published  about Central America in 1841, N.Y.

6.1842: Read Stephens’ books of Central American discoveries & related them to Book of Mormon lands in Journals & 1842 Times & Seasons articles.
6.1841 Published: Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan (NY) taken in 1842 to Joseph Smith in Nauvoo.
7. Early death: Joseph Smith martyred at age 39, (1844) in Carthage, Illinois.
7. Early death: John Lloyd Stephens died at age 46 (1852) in N.Y. from diseases contracted in his Central American jungle travel.  

The irrelevance of these "parallels" is typical of the M2C "correspondences" we read in all the M2C literature.

Latter Day Prophets visit Central America

On August 24, 2019, President Russell M. Nelson arrived in Guatemala City to speak to the Latter-day Saints in “The Land of Eternal Spring.” Upon arrival he said “his thoughts were with the ancient civilizations whose ruins still define this nation.  The lands of Central America and South America are studded with ruins—remnants—of ancient civilizations. . . .One wonders what life must have been like among those people. . . .Add to that the message on the title page of the Book of Mormon, that it is ‘written to the Lamanites, who are a remnant of the house of Israel,’ [and] we . . . learn more about those ancient inhabitants.”[15] 

Aside from the punctuation errors here (you can see the original article here: https://www.thechurchnews.com/leaders-and-ministry/2019-08-24/latam-president-russell-m-nelson-guatemala-158124), this statement says nothing about the location of Book of Mormon events. 

The beginning of this article includes a map that shows purported migrations from Central America to North and South America. Of course, in reality people migrated both ways. DNA shows that the native people in Latin America have ancient origins in East Asia; they didn't originate in Central America and spread out from there. 

Moroni told Joseph Smith that the Book of Mormon related the history of the ancient inhabitants of "this country," a statement that Joseph reaffirmed in the Wentworth letter. It is perfectly consistent with the Book of Mormon that after Lehi landed in North America, his descendants migrated throughout the hemisphere and intermarried with the existing Asian inhabitants.

Speaking of temple dedications, though, the first temple dedicated in this dispensation was in Ohio. D&C 109 specifically speaks about the "remnants of Jacob" being converted. This reference to the American Indians is corroborated by passages in the Book of Mormon and the D&C. And the next temple dedicatory prayer to mention the Lamanites was in Cardston, Alberta.  

When President Gordon B. Hinckley dedicated the Guatemala City Temple in December, 1984, he observed that “three fourths of the people in attendance were descendants of father Lehi.” [16]

Again, this says nothing about the location of Book of Mormon events. 

Apostle Dieter F. Uchtdorf dedicated the Quetzaltenango, Guatemala Temple on Dec. 11, 2011. In the dedicatory prayer he stated: “Thou kind and gracious Father, our hearts are filled with gratitude for Thy remembrance of the sons and daughters of Lehi. Thou hast heard their cries and seen their tears. Thou hast accepted their righteous sacrifices.” [17]

Again, this says nothing about the location of Book of Mormon events.

Explorer Stephens, Seaman Maury, Smithsonian Institute’s Matthew Stirling

Exciting archaeological discoveries are continually coming forth that bear witness to the world of the authenticity of the Book of Mormon. Stephens’ 1841 (11 years after the Book of Mormon publication) publications opened the door to the vast antiquities of Central America where Joseph Smith directed us to search and study. 

The anonymous author of that editorial did not exclude the antiquities in North America. In fact, the only specific antiquities that Joseph Smith personally identified were those in the "plains of the Nephites" in Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois.

In 1847 (17 years after the Book of Mormon publication), seaman Lieutenant Matthew Fontaine Maury studied and began publishing “wind and current charts” of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. In 1855, Maury’s The Physical Geography of the Sea became the first standard oceanography text showing ocean currents that propelled ancient and modern vessels on “natural paths” across the seas. [18]

One hundred years after Stephens’ publications on Central America, the Smithsonian Institute’s Matthew Stirling (Director of the Bureau of American Ethology, and associate of the National Geographic Society) visited the ancient site of Izapa, Southern Mexico in 1941, where he photographed the “Tree of Life” monument from the right side. [19] In the 1960’s the New World Archaeological Foundation (NWAF) began archaeological excavations at the Izapa Temple Center. 

Even most M2C scholars agree that the Izapa stone has nothing to do with the Book of Mormon.

Many other American institutions began serious archaeology reconnaissance throughout Central America discovering ancient cities, pyramids, and monuments. Today, LiDar imaging from airplanes shows even greater antiquities (covered in jungle growth) in Central America: massive cities, roads, fortifications, animal corals, and pyramids in Guatemala and Mexico—to be shared in future articles.

Those Church members who still believe the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah are interested in the Mesoamerican discoveries, but they recognize that the more we learn about ancient Mayan culture, the less that culture has anything to do with the Book of Mormon.

At the same time, the more we discover about the ancient inhabitants of North America, especially the eastern U.S., the more we see how well the Book of Mormon describes those ancient societies. 

[1] John Lloyd Stephens, Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan. Volume 1. (1969    Reprint by Dover Publications, New York, of 1841 Edition by Harper & Brothers, New York). P. iv                (Hereinafter referred to as JLS-1.)
[2] Rachel Norman Williams – 2003 Drawing of the Prophet Joseph Smith.
[3] John Lloyd Stephens. Incidents of Travel in Egypt, Arabia, Petraea, and the Holy Land. New York.
[4] V. Garth Norman, Cubit Connection in Ancient World Migrations. (2018, Arconbooks, www.amazon.com) p. 86, 106.
[5]  Ibid. P. 86, 106.
[6] Unfortunately, because of the many wars, and massive movements within Central America, most written records of the ancient inhabitants were destroyed. Yet stone pyramids and stone   monuments with hieroglyphic writing on them, art and architecture remain today.
[7] JLS-1. P. 11.
[8] John Lloyd Stephens, Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan. Volume 2. (1969    Reprint by Dover Publications, New York, of 1841 Edition by Harper & Brothers, New York). P. iv (Hereinafter referred to as JLS-2) P. 420.
[9] JLS-1. P. 140.
[10] JLS-2. P. 435 
[11] History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Deseret Book, SLC. No. 9 Vol. III, p. 710.
[12] Dean C. Jessee, The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, revised edition, (Salt Lake City, Utah:             Deseret Book, 2002), 533.
[13] Times and Seasons. Joseph Smith, Jr.—Editor.  Oct. 1, 1842, Nauvoo, Illinois. P. 1.
[14] Times and Seasons. John Taylor—Editor. Oct. 1, 1843, Nauvoo, Illinois. P. 1.
]15] Deseret News, Church News Saturday, September 1, 2019. P. 3-5.
[16] Sheri L. Dew, Go Forward With Faith: The Biography of Gordon B. Hinckley. (Deseret Book, Salt Lake             City, Utah, 1996) P. 419.
[18] The Physical Geography of the Sea by Matthew Fontaine Maury. 1855  in Glyph Notes: A Book of      Mormon Report, Sept. 2019: 6.
[19] V. Garth Norman Izapa Sacred Space, Sculpture Calendar Codex. BYU Press, Provo, Ut. 2015, p.x.

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