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.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Accounts of the translation

Yesterday we discussed the implications of the new "seer stone in a hat" narrative as it applies to King Mosiah. Today we'll look at the accounts of the translaion.

Here's an image from a Church website that depicts the stone-in-a-hat scenario.


Look at this misleading statement (which is also in the Gospel Topics Essay) found in that web page:

"Joseph and his scribes wrote of two instruments used in translating the Book of Mormon."

This is misleading because Joseph never wrote of "two instruments." Nor did Oliver Cowdery.

In 1870, Martin Harris related an anecdote that claimed Joseph used both the Urim and Thummim and a seer stone, but he was referring to the dictation of the 116 pages, not today's Book of Mormon.

The only "scribe" who possibly wrote about "two instruments used in translating the Book of Mormon" was Emma Smith, and both accounts are problematic.

In 1870, Emma Smith wrote a letter to the wife of the RLDS pastor in Independence, Missouri, who had apparently asked about the translation. Emma wrote, "Now the first that my <husband> translated, was translated by the use of the Urim and Thummim, and that was the part that Martin Harris lost, after that he used a small stone, not exactly black, but was rather a dark color, I can not tell whether that account in the Times and Seasons is correct or not because some one stole <all> my books and I have none to refer to at present, if I can find one that has that account I will tell you what is true and what is not."

This statement is significant because it demonstrates that, as of 1870, the term "Urim and Thummim" was not used to refer to both the Nephite interpreters and the seer stone. Modern Church historians have invented a new definition of the term "Urim and Thummim" to include both the Nephite interpreters and the seer or "peep" stone Joseph found in a well, but that definition makes Emma's statement nonsense.

The statement is also significant because it is a direct contradiction of what Joseph and Oliver always taught, as well as Lucy Mack Smith's 1844-5 history. It also contradicts Martin's anecdote.

It is especially interesting that Emma could not remember the account published in the Times and Seasons (which published both Oliver Cowdery's Letter I and the History of Joseph Smith which is today's Joseph Smith--History in the Pearl of Great Price). We will never know whether she would have "remembered" things differently by referring to that account, but it's not a good sign when a witness forgets a more recent event (publication in the Times and Seasons) while claiming to remember an earlier event (the translation). Plus, her statement is ambiguous; she doesn't actually say Joseph translated today's Book of Mormon using the small stone.

By 1870, the issue had already become part of the controversy between the Utah Mormons (who accepted Brigham Young as prophet) and the other groups who claimed to be the rightful successors to Joseph Smith. Brigham Young and other members of the Quorum of the Twelve often reaffirmed Joseph's testimony that he translated the plates with the Urim and Thummim. Others claimed Joseph did not use the Urim and Thummim, but used a seer stone instead. This post is too short to get into the reasons, but the details are discussed in the new book, A Man that Can Translate.

In October 1879, a statement attributed to Emma was published the month after Orson Pratt gave two sermons in which he reaffirmed that Joseph translated the Book of Mormon by using the Urim and Thummim. Emma's alleged "Last Testimony" claimed Emma wrote while Joseph dictated with his face "buried in his hat, with the stone in it" but does not specify what part, if any, of today's Book of Mormon he dictated this way. Emma did not write this statement; her son, Joseph Smith III, President of the RLDS Church, published it as an interview several months after she died.

Contrary to the statement in the web page quoted above, neither Joseph nor any of his scribes wrote of two instruments used to translate the Book of Mormon.

Joseph and Oliver repeatedly testified Joseph used the Urim and Thummim. They never wrote or said anything about a second instrument.

Martin said nothing about the translation of the Book of Mormon we have today.

Emma's letter claimed Joseph did not use the Urim and Thummim after the 116 pages were lost, but she admitted she needed a copy of the Times and Seasons to tell what was true and what was not.

Emma's "Last Testimony" claims Joseph dictated with his face buried in a hat with a stone in it, but does not specify what parts, if any, of today's Book of Mormon he dictated this way.

The only unambiguous explanation for the translation of the Book of Mormon is the one Joseph and Oliver always gave. They said Joseph translated the engravings on the plates by using the Urim and Thummim that came with the plates.

For me, the testimonies of Joseph and Oliver outweigh all the other statements by observers, but others are free to interpret the evidence however they see fit.

However, is it too much to ask to have accurate statements on the Church's website instead of misleading ones such as the one quoted above?

Here's the official account from the Pearl of Great Price. Note that none of these passages are quoted in the above website on the translation. Note also that the messenger referred to the stones in silver bows as the Urim and Thummim.

34 He said there was a book deposited, written upon gold plates, giving an account of the former inhabitants of this continent, and the source from whence they sprang. He also said that the fulness of the everlasting Gospel was contained in it, as delivered by the Savior to the ancient inhabitants;

35 Also, that there were two stones in silver bows—and these stones, fastened to a breastplate, constituted what is called the Urim and Thummim—deposited with the plates; and the possession and use of these stones were what constituted “seers” in ancient or former times; and that God had prepared them for the purpose of translating the book.

42 Again, he told me, that when I got those plates of which he had spoken—for the time that they should be obtained was not yet fulfilled—I should not show them to any person; neither the breastplate with the Urim and Thummim; only to those to whom I should be commanded to show them; if I did I should be destroyed.

52 Having removed the earth, I obtained a lever, which I got fixed under the edge of the stone, and with a little exertion raised it up. I looked in, and there indeed did I behold the plates, the Urim and Thummim, and the breastplate, as stated by the messenger.

Maybe someday soon we'll have the statements attributed to Emma Smith and Martin Harris and David Whitmer canonized. We shouldn't be surprised, I suppose. But until then, I stick with what Joseph and Oliver said.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Jonathan my friend (for I esteem you as such); based on your concluding statement I believe your cynicism is way over the top!
    You know that in order to canonize anything it will take the unanimous consent of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve. Do you really believe the Lord would allow these men to canonize something that was false??
    We may have to suffer reading such statements on the Church website and other publications for a time, but the Lord will eventually make things right. As you once pointed out, Pres. Benson said that God is allowing the wheat and tares to mature together before he purges the Church. The purge will eventually come and the truth will eventually come out. Be patient and don't lose hope.

  3. To both Brother Neville and KY:

    Perhaps the better question is: “Do you really believe the Lord would allow these men (First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve) to continually publish things that are false on the Church’s official website, in the curriculum of BYU and CES, in the Church’s visitor centers, in the Church’s publication “Saints,” in the “Ensign Magazine” and in artwork and video and then distribute all these to people all over the world?”

    I’ll watch carefully for your thoughtful response.

  4. Right back at you, FDH!
    Do you really think the Lord would allow these men (members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve) to claim the Cumorah in the BOM and the Cumorah in New York are one in the same if they aren’t??
    Do you really think the Lord would allow the 1st counselor in the First Presidency to make that claim in a general conference address and then TESTIFY in the Lord’s name that what he said was true if it wasn’t??
    Do you really think the Lord would allow the Assistant President of the Church to claim that it is a FACT that the final battles of both the Jaredite and Nephite civilizations took place in New York if they didn’t??
    Do you think the Lord would then allow the prophet and President of the Church to have that claim copied into his own journal and then published in multiple Church publications afterwards if it wasn’t a FACT??
    Do you think the Lord would allow that same claim to be published in the Improvement Era (forerunner to the Ensign) if it was false??
    Do you think the Lord would allow the President of the Church (Pres. Benson) to clearly state on multiple occasions including a general conference address that the Jaredites and Nephites lived here in America if they didn’t??
    Do you really think the Lord would allow an apostle, L. Tom Perry, to claim that the United States is the “promised land” as mentioned in the BOM if it wasn’t??
    Do you really think the Lord would allow the president of the Quorum of the Twelve and future President of the Church to state unequivocally that the “two Cumorah” theory is false and would ultimately cause the Saints to become disturbed in their faith if the theory was in reality true??

    I’ll watch carefully for your thoughtful response.

    In the meantime, I think the evidence is incontrovertible that prophets and apostles on multiple occasions have clearly stated that the "two Cumorah" theory is false, and that the Jaradites and Nephites met their demise near the actual Cumorah in New York; while the idea that those things occurred elsewhere is ONLY INFERRED by the fact that they have allowed contrary assumptions to be published in Church periodicals, curriculum, and visitor centers.

    If you know of ANY prophet or apostle who has specifically and clearly repudiated the “one Cumorah” claim, or taught clearly and unequivocally that the Nephites and Jaredites actually lived in Mesoamerica, please post those references here. I would love to see them.

    Look FDH, there is no question that these BOM questions can be confusing. I’ve often wondered why the brethren allow conflicting ideas to be published when only one can be correct. It has always bothered me.
    Nevertheless, until modern day prophets and apostles clearly repudiate what former day prophets and apostles have clearly taught---I will put my trust in stated principles rather than inferred principles.

    And as long as your side continues to suppress (and even misrepresent) what prophets and apostles have said, I’ll continue to look at their arguments and motives with suspicion.

    1. KY You didn't answer my question, you just skirted around it.

      You apparently assume I am on one "side" or the other of this Book of Mormon geography question, but you are mistaken since I have no opinion about the location of events described in the Book of Mormon. I know what Brother Neville and others like yourself say - and I have read with interest some authors who feel the book had a Mesoamerican setting. But the fact remains I have not formed an opinion about that question and frankly am not really interested in the subject. My interest is in its purpose - to testify of Jesus Christ - and to learn how its message can help me draw nearer to Him and become more like Him.

      I am amazed how much time and effort some members of the Church spend trying to defend a position they have staked out on questions of Book of Mormon geography - on one side or the other. It clearly represents a sizable investment on their part, but seems to ignore the counsel of todays Church leaders who remind us that “the Book of Mormon is not a textbook on topography. Speculation on the geography of the Book of Mormon may mislead instead of enlighten; such a study can be a distraction from its divine purpose.” (President M. Russell Ballard).

      President Nelson also spoke about the book's geography, saying: “Interesting as these matters may be, study of the Book of Mormon is most rewarding when one focuses on its primary purpose—to testify of Jesus Christ. By comparison, all other issues are incidental.”

      I have been reading Brother Neville's many blogs for the past year and although he seldom posts without reminding his readers what Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery are supposed to have believed about Book of Mormon geography he has never yet mentioned President Nelson or any of the First Presidency or other current members of the Quorum of the Twelve. Ever! How's that for helpful: tens of thousands of words and countless blog posts and books about Oliver Cowdery but no mention of Russell Nelson.

      For that matter, I'm still waiting for Brother Neville to even mention Jesus Christ in a meaningful and helpful way in one of his posts. So far the Savior is AWOL from the entire discussion on his blogs.

      Brother Neville also claimed in one of his blogs that current Church leaders are silent on the question of Book of Mormon geography - but that is not true. Speaking about Book of Mormon geography "and other such matters about which the Lord has not spoken...the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles urge leaders and members not to advocate those personal theories in any setting or manner that would imply either prophetic or Church support for those theories. All parties should strive to avoid contention on these matters."

      When Brother Neville or you advocate your personal theories of Book of Mormon geography ("about which the Lord has not spoken") in a public blog or printed book and imply prophetic support (Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, and others you mention in your comment) for those theories, you are going against the counsel of God's prophet on earth right now.

      Will you allow me to continue my thoughts in a follow-up comment?

    You and Brother Neville insist that no subsequent leader has "repudiated" the things Joseph and Oliver Cowdery supposedly taught, but in saying that you demonstrate a complete lack of understanding about how prophets in the Restoration deal with those whom God called before they were on the scene. There has never been a time in Restoration history when a Prophet of God has "repudiated" something a prior prophet has taught. It has never happened and it never will - because that's not how God does his work. Instead, He teaches His people through the current Prophet what they need to know to draw closer to Him...and that ends up being said in different ways ways from generation to generation. You can give up asking people to show you where today's prophets have repudiated what has been said in the past by prophets. Your argument shows little understanding of revelation.

    Which gets us back to the original question I posed to you and Brother Neville. By the way - thank you for responding, it shows you care and are committed to your beliefs. Brother Neville, who hasn't and probably won't respond - not so much!

    In my question I simply asked how is it possible for a Church member to write every week on a blog, with a straight face, that the professors at BYU, the administrators in CES, the leadership and staff in the Church History Department, Missionary Department and Correlation Department, and everyone working in the Church Office Building (as Brother Neville put it) are engaged in a conspiracy and have formed a cabal or cartel to deceive, mislead, censor, revise history, teach false doctrine and publish misleading and inadequate materials (Saints, Ensign, manuals, videos, artwork, Gospel Topics, etc) that "repudiate the words of the prophets" all under the direct gaze of living prophets and apostles ... and as a result the youth are being misled, the missionaries are lying to investigators, and millennials are leaving the Church in droves; and all this time God is watching silently from His heavens and prophets are watching from who knows where and the Church and its members are being deceived on a gross scale - - - and no one but Jonathan Neville is doing anything about it?

    Give me a break.

    More to follow?


    KY, if you are telling me (as Jonathan Neville has already done) that 16,000,000 members of this Church have to carefully pick and choose among all the offerings on the Church's official website (ChurchofJesusChrist.org), and all the materials in the official Gospel Library, and the thousands of printed materials that are sent out worldwide from the Church Distribution Center and in the end we can't really be sure what is true or what is false - unless we tune in to Jonathan Neville to learn his take on the subject - and that the Gospel Topics articles on Book of Mormon Geography or Book of Mormon Translation or Book of Mormon DNA are just writings from a biased, anonymous committee composed of conspiring men who are intent on deceiving, misleading, censoring and spreading false information --- and god is just watching it all play out in slow motion?

    If that is your belief then you and I are following different prophets and worshiping different Gods.

    I'm not repudiating Joseph Smith or throwing him under the bus if I believe the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles today when they say that God has not spoken and the Church has not taken a position on the subject of Book of Mormon geography. Brother Neville claims the Church is "neutral" on the topic, but that is not true. The Church is not neutral on anything I can think of - and surely not this. The First Presidency said the Church "has not taken a position" on the subject. That's not neutrality. That's an affirmative statement. Which leads to the obvious question: If the Church has chosen not to take a position on Book of Mormon geography what would give you or Jonathan Neville the comfort to do so?

    You said: "I've often wondered why the brethren allow conflicting ideas to be published when only one can be correct. It has always bothered me."

    I can tell you that you don't need to be bothered. Just look at anything on the Church's website (instead of Jonathan Neville’s) or read any of the material prophets and apostles are sending throughout the world today and you won’t find any conflicting ideas. That conflict only comes when Brother Neville and a handful of others try to offer a "false choice." They say we have to believe Joseph and Oliver and other past leaders who commented on the subject unless their statements have been specifically repudiated. That's baloney and false logic. Our God and our prophets, including Joseph Smith, simply say: "follow the prophet today, he will not lead you wrong." And that prophet is Russell M. Nelson.

    In my original question I asked essentially whether or not you believe God will allow our current leaders to lead you astray - today? My answer will always be: NO!


    I want you to know that Brother Neville's writings in these blogs are seriously uninformed as to the actual workings of the current First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve. I know what I am talking about because since 1982 all of my Church callings and assignments have come directly at the hands of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve. That's 38 years! In those years I have had a variety of callings (many of them full-time) serving in the very Church departments Brother Neville maligns (Missionary, Correlation, Church History, etc) and I can tell you he doesn't know what he is talking about. Every manual, every handbook, every Ensign article, artwork, materials on the Church's website, curriculum, etc. has the stamp of approval from the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. When Brother Neville rages against these Church departments and their personnel, administrators, staff and work-product he is directly blasting the First Presidency and the Twelve. Jonathan Neville does not know how the First Presidency does their work … and I suspect they don't appreciate him telling them what they should be doing. Does he (or you) believe our Church leaders have no idea what Joseph said about Book of Mormon geography? Of course they do - they just aren't blogging about it incessantly.

    The fact is, if you and Brother Neville are wrong about where Cumorah is or if there were two sets of plates or if Joseph used a seer stone, etc. then you are both coming down on the wrong side of history and will end up being an object lesson in heterodoxy and a major distraction to those who are trying to study the Book of Mormon or live its precepts.

    On the other hand, if you and Brother Neville are right about where Cumorah is or about those other things, then you need to ask yourselves: "Is it my right and responsibility to keep setting these truths before the prophets and the people?" Is it your job to turn heterodoxy into orthodoxy? I can tell you that the answer is a clear "NO." It is the First Presidency alone that has the right to decide when, where and how to make these things known to the world.

    If you are right and the First Presidency knows you are right then you and Jonathan Neville are getting in front of the prophets and steadying the ark. If you are right and the First Presidency doesn't know you are right then you are in trouble - because that would mean the prophets have been deceived and only Jonathan Neville and you and a few others know the truth. You probably recognize that as the main formula for apostasy - yours!

    You suggest that the evidence for 2 Cumorah's is incontrovertible. Perhaps it is, I wouldn't know. And apparently, by reading the statement from the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve they don't know it's incontrovertible either.

    So that is the thoughtful response you asked for. I have a suspicion Brother Neville will dismiss my thoughts the way he regularly does: he’ll brush it off as the comments of “Dan Peterson or one of his lapdogs.” Unfortunately, if he does that he's just trying to duck the questions I’m asking. I’m not Dan Peterson or one of his lapdogs or affiliated with M2C or those evil people at BOMC or Interpreter that he regularly attacks. What I am is a simple and humble disciple who is a witness of Jesus Christ. I won’t accept any other label.

    Perhaps you'e care to comment again - and I will gladly read whatever you have to say on my question or comments.

    I'll continue to keep watch for your thoughtful response.

  8. Bro. FDH,
    Thank you for your reply to my post and for knocking some of the bark off my attitude. Your reply was much more magnanimous than mine was to you, and I actually appreciate the censure. It was well deserved and accepted.
    I do, however, believe you’ve misjudged my feelings and the reason why I’m even here. Hopefully I can clear up any misconceptions.

    First off I want to make it crystal clear that NOTHING will ever persuade me to abandon the “good ship Zion”, nor will anyone or anything ever persuade me to turn against the Lord’s current or future prophet. I love Pres. Nelson every bit as much as I loved his predecessors and will love his successors. Many years ago while reading the D&C I came to the following: “The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the programme. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that, the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so He will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God and from their duty.”
    As the prophet Joseph said regarding James 1:5, “Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine. It seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart. I reflected on it again and again...”
    Thus it was with me. I knew by the power of the Holy Spirit that what Pres. Woodruff said was true. The truthfulness of his statement was figuratively burned into my bones.
    You wrote: “In my original question I asked essentially whether or not you believe God will allow our current leaders to lead you astray - today? My answer will always be: NO!”
    And I fervently concur.

    Now to explain the reason I’m here.
    I can assure you it isn’t to “advocate” a particular geography theory. I came for the same reason I visit many other sites, including those that push a Mesoamerican model. I came here to learn.
    You see, this whole Cumorah argument (along with all its appendages) isn’t an academic exercise for me. My reason for being here and trying to learn is because there are real people with real concerns who are losing their faith BECAUSE of this issue. Currently I am on the verge of losing a recent convert who has floated the idea of having his name removed from the records of the Church, and he isn’t the first one I’ve dealt with who is struggling with these same questions!
    These individuals embrace the gospel after meeting with the missionaries and having the doctrine confirmed by the Holy Spirit, but then as they begin to study on their own they discover these geography (along with other historical) discrepancies, which, as Pres. JF Smith warned, “will disturb the Saints in their faith”.
    And they most certainly have!

    Continued in next post.

  9. So please understand, I am not here to argue or debate the issue, even if, due to my ignorance, it appears that I have. I would be more than grateful if I never had to speak of it again, but due to my calling I currently do not enjoy that luxury. In order to effectively fulfill my calling I need more wisdom than I now possess, but considering the fact that wisdom is impossible without knowledge, I spend as much time as I can afford trying to acquire some.
    When an individual who is struggling with his/her faith approaches me and wants answers, I feel duty bound to do all that I can to give them answers rather than merely a “just have faith” and a wave of the hand.

    Even two of my own recently returned missionary sons are questioning these theories. I am not worried that it will ultimately “disturb their faith” as they are both exceptionally solid, but what do you tell the youth of the Church who read one thing in a Church publication and then read something that contradicts the first in another?? These kids want solid truths to hang their faith on, so when they’re told that something they were taught and believed to be true isn’t true anymore it’s no wonder they struggle! Many of them don’t even believe the BOM is actual history anymore, and as Jonathan points out (correctly, in my estimation), why should they when they are being taught in seminary and institute that the events recounted in the BOM occurred in a land represented by a fantasy map that bears no resemblance to anywhere on earth!
    That is why I believe the “pin in the map” (Cumorah in New York) is so vital! If we can give them that solid truth, then it’s not a problem when we tell them we don’t know where everything else took place. Having a lot of experience with many of our youth I can testify that this is true!

    You quoted the current Church position as follows: "Individuals may have their own opinions regarding Book of Mormon geography and other such matters about which the Lord has not spoken. However, the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles urge leaders and members not to advocate those personal theories in any setting or manner that would imply either prophetic or Church support for those theories.”

    My question is this: if I direct someone to a conference talk by a member of the First Presidency, which clearly stipulates that the Jaredites and Nephites met their demise in New York, am I then advocating a particular BOM geographic theory? Would I be in violation of the edict not to “imply either prophetic or Church support for that theory”??
    If your answer is “yes”, then I am at a loss for words.

    In regards to Bro. Neville’s blog being seriously uninformed you wrote, “I know what I am talking about because since 1982 all of my Church callings and assignments have come directly at the hands of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve.”

    I’m going to assume, then, that you are much higher on the totem pole than I am, and as such I’m not inclined to dismiss anything you say. But I would just ask that you consider what I’ve written and understand that this issue is real and is affecting real people. It isn’t just an issue of academics. If it was I wouldn’t be here and you wouldn’t have to suffer through one of my posts.
    As a matter of fact, you won’t have to do that again anyway because I’ve decided not to comment anymore. Nothing I can say is worth the contention, and if I have violated a First Presidency directive by doing so I am not the least bit interested in doing it again.

    Thank you for your time and your thoughts. They are much appreciated.

  10. Dearest KY,

    You have such a sweet, gentle and humble way that I wish we had been friends before. Your faith, motives and actions show exactly where you are coming from. I don’t know if I am high enough on the right totem pole to help you in your search for ways to support those whose faith is waning, but I will share a few things that make a difference for me.

    My life-experiences as as member of this Church, and to some extent as a priesthood leader for the last 50 years, suggest that the biggest problem faced by those having a crisis of faith (for any reason) is that they took their eyes off the ball. The Gospel of Jesus Christ was engineered and designed by the Creator Himself to perform properly for any 8 year-old. The problem is, we don’t stay 8 very long, and as my English grandmother used to say: “There’s none so deaf as them that don’t want to hear.”

    At it’s heart what you (and those you seek to help) need to remember is that truth is not an abstract idea…it is a Person, who said: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” A real search for truth, whether it is Jonathan Neville or one of your new converts doing the searching, always begins and ends with Jesus Christ. Any effort to find truth in the ideas that are batted back and forth by warring Book of Mormon combatants is futile - and as President Ballard said speculation on that subject “may mislead instead of enlighten.” Wow! Did he ever call that one!

    I believe it is impossible for you to help those you serve by immersing yourself (or them) in the war of words and tumult of opinion that emerges from these BoM wars. Brother Neville thinks the solution is to get away from corrupting M2C ideas and proclaim the “truth” in order to stop the confusion, keep millennials in the Church and prop up convert baptisms. That’s bonkers with a capital B unless you really believe the cure for a hangover is a hair of the dog that bit you.

    You asked: “If I direct someone to a conference talk by a member of the First Presidency, which clearly stipulates that the Jaredites and Nephites met their demise in New York then am I advocating a particular BoM geographic theory?” Why in the world would you refer someone with a faith crisis to a talk in an ancient General Conference (it has to be ancient because the word Cumorah hasn’t appeared in General Conference in the last 30 years) - and why would you refer anyone to a talk that deals with a contentious geography issue rather than to a statement explaining what prophets today are saying on the subject.

    Your friend’s confusion about Cumorah is only a symptom of the illness - not the illness itself. The illness is a lack of faith in modern prophets and a correct understanding of revelation - and that’s what you should address.

    But to answer the question you did ask…if you implied that Cumorah is in NY by appealing to prophetic or Church authority of any kind: yes, you would be going against the very thing President Nelson is asking you NOT to do.

    On the First Presidency website there is a quote by President Uchtdorf that says: “Because Heavenly Father loves His children, He has not left them to walk through this mortal life without direction and guidance. That is why He pleads so earnestly with us through His prophets. Just as we want what is best for our loved ones, Heavenly Father wants what is best for us.”

    It’s a typical Heartland ploy to insist we look to dead prophets and apostles for help today…especially when living prophets don’t seem to be saying anything helpful to us. That’s a false choice and that’s not the way the Lord works. We need to look FIRST to the living prophets for our help and guidance and “truth.” If Lehi had looked to Jeremiah for help navigating the Arabian desert, he’d still be wandering in the wilderness. What he needed was provided by the Lord in real-time. That’s exactly how it works today.

    (there’s more)

  11. KY: Before I forget, I think one of the best explanations of how to comprehend and help those with a crisis of faith (for any reason) is found in Elder Larry Corbridge’s BYU Devotional address (“Stand Forever”) given on January 24, 2019. If I had a loved-one whose faith was thinning because of “misinformation” I would head to Elder Corbridge’s talk to see better what is really going on.

    So…back to your concern. When we make covenants with Jesus Christ, He promises to help us safely through this life…and HE IS the truth. One of the ways he guides us safely through mortality is through “messengers” from our Father. These prophets are “truth-tellers” and when we disregard the guidance of God’s current prophet we end up living in the wilderness, and we only make progress when we comply with God’s instructions…and that appears as counsel from the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the Holy Ghost. That’s a nutshell of what’s happening to those who are in faith crisis.

    Some things to consider:
    “A prophet is a prophet only when he was acting as such.” (Joseph Smith). That means prophets are not speaking for the Lord every minute of every day.
    “There have been times when members or leaders in the Church have simply made mistakes. There may have been things said or done that were not in harmony with our values, principles or doctrine.” (President Uchtdorf)

    The leaders God calls in His Church have different personalities and inclinations that end up shaping their service - and God is good with that.

    We could ask “who is right, Joseph Smith or Russell Nelson” but that would be a less-effective way to look at it. The right question might be: “who has God called to lead His church today?” We need to remember our task is to accept that a living God (the Truth) actively chooses and authorizes messengers to represent the needs of the people in a particular generation.

    “It should be remembered that not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. It is commonly understood in the Church that a statement made by one leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, note meant to be official or binding for the whole Church.” (Elder D. Todd Christofferson)

    KY, the straightest line to find the truth of any gospel matter is to remember that Jesus Christ IS Truth; that He stands alone at the head of His Church; that he has sent true messengers to His people today; and as His people listen and follow those true messengers they will be safe. There is no guaranty of safety extended to those who insist on following dead prophets rather than seek out the counsel of living ones. Brother Neville and his fellow Heartlanders have almost all missed that truth.

    When the Savior said the Roman could be healed by bathing in the river seven times - that must have appeared foolish. In the same vein, the best way to help someone in a crisis of faith is not to work through the imponderables of Church history that seem to be a burr under their saddle. The real solution is to bath in the river 7 times (follow whatever the living prophet tells them to do - even if it has nothing to do with the problem at hand). To do that a person must look to Russell Nelson - not Joseph Smith.

    I know these issues are real and affecting real people, and that it’s not just academics. I wish I could give you a silver bullet for helping those we love whose faith is in meltdown - but I can’t - other than helping them look to the Savior, strengthen faith in Him, draw close to Him, and follow the counsel of living prophets. Letter VII is powerless to help anybody alive today. I also suggest you distance yourself from anybody or any group who insists the answer is available by listening to those who are dead. God is alive - and so are those who can be of help to us.

    God bless you for your goodness,
    Your friend,

  12. Brother FDH,
    Thank you for your kind words, and thank you especially for helping me see things from a different (and better) perspective. It will make a great deal of difference in how I deal with these issues going forward.

    The Church is true; the Savior is at the helm; and all these issues and questions will be resolved in his own due time.
    Thanks for helping me remember that.

    God bless you for your goodness also.
    Your friend,