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.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Breaching the dam: Proctors and Dehlin, variations on a theme

Rice paddies in the Philippines
When I was a kid, we lived in the Philippines. 

Rice paddies are a boy’s paradise. Different levels of water, separated by banks of earth—you can imagine how excitedly a thoughtless kid would punch a tiny hole in a dam and watch the water trickle out, erode the sides, and soon gush out.

Fortunately, the Filipino farmers chased us out before we damaged their fields. One time they seized my little brother and made threats that scared us enough to never return.

I'm glad they did that. We had no business messing with their dams.

In the Church today, certain intellectuals have punched what they thought was a tiny hole in the dam of faith. 

M2C is a breach in the dam of faith.* It teaches faithful members, and the world as a whole, that the founding prophets of the Restoration misled the Church when they taught that the Hill Cumorah is in western New York. 

Apparently the M2C intellectuals still think they can control the flow out of the breach, but the side banks are eroding and the result is entirely predictable.

And no one is chasing them away from the fields.

But you can.

Meridian Magazine, (aka “latterdaysaintmag.com”), is published by Scot and Maureen Proctor. It's a great magazine, full of useful news and inspirational articles. 

But they are deeply committed to M2C and promote M2C in conjunction with Book of Mormon Central, FairMormon, etc. That's why I refer to it as Meridian M2C Magazine.

They recently published a well-written, thoughtful article titled “It Wasn’t the Evidence that Broke Your Shelf.”

You can read it here:

The article is a fascinating discussion of John Dehlin’s Mormon Stories podcast and web page, which has had a significant impact on many LDS members and prospective members.** 

Along with the CES Letter, Mormon Stories has raised “historicity” concerns that have led many prospective members to reject the Restoration and have led many LDS members to cease activity in the Church or leave entirely. 

In some cases, the problems stem from misunderstanding, bias confirmation, and unrealistic expectations. In other cases, the problems are being addressed by certain LDS intellectuals who basically agree with the historicity concerns because of their ideology. 

There are good alternative explanations that many people don't know about because the intellectuals dominate the conversation and censor alternative views. We discuss those on another blog. Here, we focus on the M2C problem.

The article asserts that it is not “evidence” in the abstract that is the problem, but the subjective interpretation of the evidence that leads people to reach their conclusions.

That’s a valid point; by now we all know, or should know, that people don’t make decisions based on objective facts and sound logic. Otherwise, we’d all agree on matters of religion, politics, science, etc.

Instead, we select facts and reasons to justify the decisions we have already made for mostly emotional and social reasons.

Sometimes it's not even interpretation of evidence that is the problem; instead is the rejection of evidence.

When it comes to the Restoration, we have an example of rejecting important evidence.

We have faithful members who, because of their M2C ideology, actually agree with and support the critics who disbelieve the prophets. 

These two groups differ only in the extent to which they claim the prophets have misled the world.

To the Proctors and other M2C advocates, the difference between faith and disbelief depends not on whether the prophets have misled the world, but instead depends on how much and how often you think they have misled the world.

The "high-water mark of scholarship on the Book of Mormon," according to Terryl Givens, is Mormon's Codex. Here's what that book has to say about the teachings of the prophets regarding the New York Cumorah:

“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.

Every proponent of M2C agrees that the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah are wrong--"manifestly absurd" to be precise. 

Ask them and you'll see. 
Ask any of your friends that believe in M2C. 
Ask anyone at FairMormon, Book of Mormon Central, the Interpreter, BYU Studies, or Meridian Magazine
Ask your Seminary, Institute, or BYU teacher about the New York Cumorah and they will tell you the prophets are wrong because the "real" Hill Cumorah is in Mexico. 

Hence the breach in the dam.

The dark brown streak on the left side of the dam
near the gray bedrock is a leak.
M2C wasn't a significant problem, at first.
Think of the 1976 Teton Dam disaster as a metaphor* for what's happening right now.

M2C advocates take it as an article of faith that the prophets misled the world when they taught that the Hill Cumorah was in New York. 

They say that when Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith wrote Letter VII, declaring it is a fact that the Hill Cumorah is in New York, they were wrong.

The leak grows and mud gushes out.
General Authorities reaffirm the NY Cumorah,
but the intellectuals and their followers reject them.
They say that when Joseph and Oliver wrote that the final battles of the Nephites and Jaredites took place in western New York, they were merely expressing ignorant speculation and they were wrong. 

They say that all the Church leaders who have taught that Cumorah is in New York were also expressing their personal opinions and were wrong. Numerous articles in Meridian Magazine have asserted this claim.


Because, according to the M2C intellectuals, the "real" Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 is somewhere in southern Mexico.

Consequently, all the prophets and apostles who reaffirmed the New York Cumorah, including 
The dam nears collapse.
Peep stones replace the Urim and Thummim.
members of the First Presidency speaking in General Conference, misled the Church by teaching and testifying to the truthfulness of their own private, incorrect opinions.

Most M2C advocates also embrace the teaching of the revisionist historians that Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery misled the world when they said Joseph translated the engravings on the plates by using the Urim and Thummim that Moroni provided for that purpose. 

According to these intellectuals, Joseph didn’t even use the plates. He didn’t use the Urim and Thummim. Instead, he simply read words that appeared on a peep stone he put in a hat. According to them, all the prophets and apostles who said otherwise simply misled the Church.

For the Proctors and other M2C advocates, being a faithful member of the Church means accepting these two errors, but not other errors.

Mormon Stories and CES Letter agree with the Proctors

They also tell their followers to start with M2C and peep stones. But while the M2C advocates ask their followers to stop there, the critics encourage their followers to proceed from there. 

Then, once you add up enough errors, you can conclude that the entire traditional narrative of LDS history is false; therefore, the Book of Mormon is fiction, the divine interventions never happened, and Church leaders have misled the world ever since.

Teton dam disaster
IOW, the only difference between the M2C/peep stone “faithful” narrative and the M2C/peep stone “critical” narrative is telling yourself to stop inquiring beyond the M2C/peep stone.

That’s like telling the water, after the dam breaks, to stop midstream on its own.

The alternative, of course, is to not break the dam in the first place.

In my view, there is abundant evidence that corroborates the teachings of the prophets, including the New York Cumorah and the Urim and Thummim translation. 

It’s not a question of “uncovering” evidence. It’s not a question of exposure to “uncorrelated information."

It’s a question of accepting the teachings of the prophets and then examining the evidence that supports those teachings.

The Proctors and other M2C/peep stone advocates reject the evidence that supports the teachings of the prophets. That’s why they think the prophets misled the Church about these two matters.

The M2C intellectuals have broken the dam, the water’s rushing out, and now it’s just a question of whether anyone is going to repair the dam, and if so, when.

The answer, of course, is to fortify your own faith and then help others as you can.

President Eyring discussed an important lesson from the Teton Dam disaster that applies as well to the current situation.

I have seen that faith and courage many times when believing Latter-day Saints have faced fearsome trials. For one example, I was in Idaho when the Teton Dam broke on June 5, 1976. A wall of water came down. Thousands fled from their homes. Thousands of homes and businesses were destroyed. Miraculously, fewer than 15 people were killed.
What I saw there, I have seen whenever Latter-day Saints stand firmly on the rock of a testimony of Jesus Christ. Because they have no doubt He watches over them, they become fearless. They ignore their own trials to go to the relief of others. And they do so out of love for the Lord, asking no recompense.
For example, when the Teton Dam broke, a Latter-day Saint couple was traveling, miles away from their home. As soon as they heard the news on the radio, they hurried back to Rexburg. Rather than going to their own home to see if it was destroyed, they went looking for their bishop. He was in a building that was being used as the recovery center. He was helping to direct the thousands of volunteers who were arriving in yellow school buses.
The couple walked up to the bishop and said, “We just got back. Bishop, where can we go to help?” He gave them the names of a family. That couple stayed mucking out mud and water in one home after another. They worked from dawn to dark for days. They finally took a break to go see about their own home. It was gone in the flood, leaving nothing to clean up. So they turned around quickly to go back to their bishop. They asked, “Bishop, do you have someone for us to help?”

*Metaphors can help explain things because of similarities and patterns. They are not the thing being explained. 

**The article features the inevitable references to Terryl and Fiona Givens, a couple of staunch M2C promoters. (Terryl wrote the Foreword to Mormon’s Codex.) I’ll comment on the Givens excerpts separately.

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