Members of the Church read the scriptures, the Ensign (including Conference reports), the manuals, the Joseph Smith Papers, and all the rest.
And they reach different conclusions about some key issues.
With the 2020 Come, Follow Me curriculum focused on the Book of Mormon, there has been renewed interest in the translation of the Book of Mormon.
Many LDS still believe what Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery always taught; i.e., that Joseph translated the plates with the Urim and Thummim that Moroni put in the stone box.
Joseph's critics said he never had the Urim and Thummim and never translated anything. He just read words that appeared on a stone in a hat (or made it up as he went along).
Some years ago, LDS intellectuals started teaching that the critics were right and Joseph and Oliver were wrong. Their teachings now permeate lesson manuals, videos, and even the illustrations in the Ensign.
There are a lot of us Church members who don't buy the "new" Church history, which is really nothing new at all, but just a rehash of the claims that Joseph and Oliver tried so hard to refute with facts.
So how can Church members see two completely different explanations of the translation of the Book of Mormon?
The concept of "two movies on one screen" explains how two people can see the same facts yet reach completely different conclusions.
Look at the drawing to the left.
What do you see?
If everyone reading this blog could vote, we'd end up with about half the viewers saying one thing, and the other half saying another.
The point is, we bring something with us when we view art. We bring our past experiences. Maybe we have a left or right bias. Maybe we have a color bias. Maybe we want to know what others think before we give our opinion.
Maybe we think we're right and we cannot understand how someone else can see something different in the same image (the same screen).
In the Church, people see different movies on one screen all the time.
The text of the Book of Mormon is an obvious example. Everyone's reading the same text, but some people think it describes Mesoamerica. Others think it describes Chile, Peru, Panama, Baja, New York, or what is now the Midwest and Eastern U.S.
Church history has lots of examples. Everyone reads the same original material regarding the translation of the Book of Mormon (the peep stones-in-a-hat vs. the Urim and Thummim), but some believe in the peep stones while others believe in the Urim and Thummim.
Some people believe there was only one set of plates; i.e., that the plates of Nephi (D&C 10) were included in the abridged records written by Mormon and Moroni. Others believe there were two sets of plates and that Joseph didn't get the plates of Nephi until he arrived in Fayette.
Some people believe Oliver Cowdery, Joseph Smith, and others (presumably two of Joseph's brothers) visited the depository of Nephite records in the New York Cumorah (Mormon 6:6). Others believe that the accounts of these visits actually related visions Oliver had of a hill in Mexico.
You can think of more examples from your own experience.
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