Friday, November 22, 2019

Singapore, and then more M2C sophistry

We've been away for a few days because we went to Singapore. I wrote about one specific event during the trip in another blog, here:


I would much rather focus on President Nelson's message in Singapore than write about M2C, but I'll discuss those teachings in the other blog in the next few days.

In this blog, we offer an alternative to M2C (the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory of the Book of Mormon). We also alert readers to the tactics and methodology of M2C intellectuals so they can make informed decisions and help others do likewise. In our view, there is abundant evidence for the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon, but not in Mesoamerica.

I emphasize, as always, that we're all free to believe whatever we want. We can be faithful Latter-day Saints regardless of what we believe about Book of Mormon historicity, geography, the teachings of the prophets, etc.

However, there are many people who think M2C is the quasi-official position of the Church. It's easy to see why. M2C intellectuals continue to enforce censorship of competing ideas. Their peers in the Church History Department have de-correlated the New York Cumorah to accommodate M2C, as we've seen in the Saints book, Volume 1, as well as the Joseph Smith and Brigham Young lesson manuals, the CES manuals, etc.

We have groups such as Book of Mormon Central, the Interpreter, FairMormon, etc. that are spending millions of dollars to promote M2C while simultaneously censoring and repudiating the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah.

This leaves many people with the mistaken impression that you have to accept M2C to believe the Book of Mormon is a real history. Because M2C is implausible to many members of the Church (and even less plausible to nonmembers), M2C can cause people to become confused and disturbed in their faith.

When we understand the M2C techniques, we can better help those who seek alternatives to M2C so they can retain and strengthen their faith.

Today's topic was prompted by another reader inquiry. It involves yet another Interpreter article, this one an excerpt from a book.

The author is a well-known M2C proponent, as you will see. I like much of his work, but his obsession with M2C undermines his objectivity and even credibility, IMO.

For example, in this chapter, the author writes, "Books have been written to examine the geography and history described in the Book of Mormon. This isn’t one of those books." But as a dedicated M2C advocate, he inserts M2C anyway. In fact, starting on page 39 he delves into one of the "correspondences" that, IMO, are pure bias confirmation; i.e., "it is important to note that this method of recording annalistic history was part of the cultures of Mesoamerica, which I consider the most plausible location of the Book of Mormon events. Perhaps the change to the way time was recorded was influenced by the introduction of the long count among the Maya." He spends a few pages comparing Mayan annals to the Book of Mormon text.

My reaction to such "correspondences" is to consider whether they have any relevance or are merely examples of Loserthink bias confirmation and pattern recognition.

Image result for ancient annalsAnnals are ubiquitous on human history. The history of China includes "The Basic Annals" dating to around 2853 B.C. Ancient Roman and Christian annals were well known by the time Joseph translated the Book of Mormon, as were the Chaldean annals, the Phoenician annals, and others. Josephus discussed the annals of the Tyrians.

It may be more difficult to find an ancient civilization that did not keep annals than to find one that did. The Nephites and the Mayans were no exception, but that doesn't make the Nephites Mayans.

But you're free to take these correspondences as facts if you want to.

Getting back to the reader's inquiry... It involves footnote 5, which you can read here:

First, here's the paragraph from the article that establishes M2C:

Mormon’s writing career was bracketed by plates buried in a hill. The same plates Mormon removed from the hill Shim at the beginning of his writing career (Mormon 1:3, 4:23), he interred in the hill Cumorah at the end (Mormon 6:6). In the intervening years, Mormon’s relationship to those plates shifted from recorder of events to interpreter of events. Mormon buried the Nephite archive in the hill Cumorah to preserve it, but he gave Moroni a more important set of plates to preserve. Those were later buried in a hill. 5 (emphasis added)

This is a clever way to frame the issue. He contrasts "the hill Cumorah" with "a hill."

Readers here know that M2C is the acronym for the "Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs" theory. M2C intellectuals and their followers claim that the "hill in New York" where Joseph found the plates has nothing to do with the Cumorah of Mormon 6:6.

Instead, these M2C intellectuals claim that
(i) the "real Hill Cumorah" is in southern Mexico and
(ii) all the prophets who taught about the New York Cumorah misled the Church with their false personal opinions.

The author is clever because the paragraph does not overtly declare M2C. We have to read the footnote for that.

Here's the footnote:

5. Mormon tells us that he buried plates in Cumorah but that they were not those on which the Book of Mormon was written. Perhaps he returned to Cumorah, but that is speculation. All the text tells us for certain is that the Book of Mormon plates were not buried in Cumorah, although others were. (emphasis added)

This is a patently false claim. It's true that the text does not tell us where Moroni hid up (buried) the abridged plates, but it never says the abridged plates were not buried in Cumorah.

Orson Pratt explained there were two departments in the hill Cumorah in New York, one for the depository and one for the abridgment. Nothing in the text contradicts that scenario. Letter VII establishes it as a fact.

The footnote then quotes Mormon 6:6.

And it came to pass that when we had gathered in all our people in one to the land of Cumorah, behold I, Mormon, began to be old; and knowing it to be the last struggle of my people, and having been commanded of the Lord that I should not suffer the records which had been handed down by our fathers, which were sacred, to fall into the hands of the Lamanites, (for the Lamanites would destroy them) therefore I made this record out of the plates of Nephi, and hid up in the hill Cumorah all the records which had been entrusted to me by the hand of the Lord, save it were these few plates which I gave unto my son Moroni.” (Mormon 6:6)

Mormon never states or implies that he ever left Cumorah. He gathered his people there for the "last struggle." After describing the final battle, he explained that he hid up in the hill Cumorah all these records. He never says he left the area before he died.

Perhaps the footnote meant to say it was Moroni who returned to Cumorah, but if so, that's not a matter of speculation because Moroni himself identified the "hill in New York" as Cumorah and we know from Letter VII that the hill where Joseph found the plates was also the setting for the final battles and the depository of Nephite records.

Nowhere in the text does Moroni say where he buried the abridgment, but he never says he did not bury them in Cumorah. In Mormon 8:4, Moroni says "I will write and hide up the records in the earth, and whither I go it mattereth not."

The Introduction explains it this way:

After Mormon completed his writings, he delivered the account to his son Moroni, who added a few words of his own and hid up the plates in the Hill Cumorah. On September 21, 1823, the same Moroni, then a glorified, resurrected being, appeared to the Prophet Joseph Smith and instructed him relative to the ancient record and its destined translation into the English language.
(Introduction, 4)

Although inconsistent with M2C, the Introduction is consistent with the historical record. Joseph learned the name Cumorah from Moroni before he even obtained the plates. Letter VII establishes the location of the Hill Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 as a fact.

Readers are susceptible to M2C if they are unaware of the historical accounts, the teachings of the prophets, and the abundant corroborative evidence from archaeology, anthropology, geology, geography, etc.

Of course, we are all free to believe whatever we want. 

We just need to make sure we're making informed decisions, which means we can't simply read and accept whatever the M2C intellectuals write--even when they slip it into a footnote in a book on a supposedly unrelated topic.

1 comment:

  1. You noted, "Nowhere in the text does Moroni say where he buried the abridgment." That is precisely what I said. Any further argument comes from modern readers, and that is a very different question. I think it is important to note that we agree on this essential baseline. The Book of Mormon text doesn't say where Moroni buried the plates. It says that when Mormon buried plates in Cumorah, that the plates Moroni had were not with them. That is the only time that the Book of Mormon mentions burying the plates in Cumorah. It is interesting that you suggest I must be wrong, even though you say the very same thing. Brant Gardner