Saturday, February 29, 2020

Intended audience

This blog is not for everyone.

Specifically, it is not for advocates of M2C and SITH who are focused on confirming their biases and place more value on being right than on getting it right.

I don't understand why such people even read this blog in the first place, but apparently many of them do. Insecurity about their own beliefs seems to be a major factor for them. I embrace improvements and corrections; I'm thrilled when someone finds an error in what I've written so I can correct it. I'm continually updating my books and other materials based on reader feedback. But I'm uninterested in word salad, meaning the opinions of "experts" about what a word "should" mean. I'm also unimpressed by the credentials of self-appointed experts because their investment in their own theories makes them even more susceptible to bias confirmation than "ordinary" people.

For their own mental health, I recommend that advocates of M2C and SITH confine their reading to their own citation cartel (Book of Mormon Central, the Interpreter, FairMormon, BYU Studies, etc.) and remain happy confirming their own biases. That's what most people do anyway, every day of their lives.*

Therefore, to help M2C and SITH advocates avoid painful cognitive dissonance, let's review the intended audience for this blog. There are three main categories:

(i) Church members who still believe the teachings of the prophets about Cumorah, the Urim and Thummim, and related topics and who simply seek a better explanation that supports instead of repudiates those teachings;

(ii) Nonmembers who recognize the factual and logical fallacies of M2C and SITH and therefore reject the Restoration when they meet the missionaries (because they understandably attribute M2C and SITH to official Church positions); and

(iii) Church members who think there are no faithful alternatives to M2C and SITH and face a serious dilemma: do they continue to accept the Restoration and live with what they conclude is nonsense, or do they reject the Restoration?

I hear from readers in all three categories and I'm glad that, in some degree, they find helpful material here.

My critics (mostly M2C advocates and revisionist historians) will say category (i) above consists of people who are seeking to confirm their own biases, and I fully acknowledge that. I explain my own bias all the time; i.e., I still believe what the prophets have taught about Cumorah, the Urim and Thummim, etc. But this is not a blind belief; I believe what they have taught partly because of spiritual reasons but also because of all the evidence that corroborates these teachings--evidence that I didn't learn from the M2C citation cartel or CES, BYU, recent COB materials, etc.

Notice also,  I have not included Church members and nonmembers who are apathetic about these issues. 

It is an understatement to say that not everyone cares about these issues. Most people say issues of Church history and Book of Mormon historicity don't matter, whether it's because they inherently believe or inherently disbelieve in the Restoration.

Such people are satisfied with their positions and that's fine with me. They should continue to read whatever confirms their biases, not this blog.
_____

Bias confirmation. Most people, in most aspects of their lives, seek to confirm their biases. That's why two people can look at the exact same facts and derive opposite conclusions. Our minds filter out facts and logic that contradict our beliefs.

Psychologically, most people see only facts and understand only arguments that confirm their biases. That's how we end up with sharp divisions in politics, religion, and even science.

In extreme cases, such as M2C and SITH, advocates don't want other people to even know about inconvenient facts. They seem to feel their positions are so weak that they need the comfort of like-minded people to reassure them and to confirm their biases. That's what leads to "fake news" and censorship, and it is completely understandable from a psychological perspective.*

Bias confirmation is a protection against the existential threat of having to change one's mind.

We can't expect members of the M2C citation cartel to change their minds. We can't expect them to consider facts and logic that contradict M2C, engage in conversations about the topics, etc. We can't even expect them to stop censoring such facts and logic, to the extent they have power to do so.

Book of Mormon Central will continue to mislead Church leaders and members by pretending to be "neutral," when in reality the organization is merely a front for M2C advocacy.

But none of that matters to people in the three categories of the intended audience for this blog.

I started blogging years ago because I wanted my notes and thoughts easily accessible. By now, it is a helpful resource for me because I can easily access my notes and the related references from anywhere in the world. (The search function works great.)

Gradually other people noticed my posts. Some have reposted them or referred others, while others feed my posts into their own web pages or criticize everything I write.

All of that is fine with me, because I continue to learn more all the time and whether people agree or disagree is up to them.

But if you are apathetic about these issues, or you are obsessed with confirming your own biases, your own mental health would be better off to ignore what we discuss on this blog.

:)
_____
* I empathize with M2C advocates because for decades, I thought the same way they did; i.e., I was persuaded by my CES and BYU teachers (and by FARMS, FairMormon and the rest) to accept M2C. I actually agreed with them that the prophets were wrong about the New York Cumorah, that the Book of Mormon should be continually re-interpreted to conform to the latest discoveries in Mesoamerica, etc.

But my empathy doesn't prevent me from writing what I discover and what think. 


Thursday, February 27, 2020

M2C, coronavirus, and Indoctrinated youth

M2C has made significant inroads.
Adapted for commentary from
https://www.toonsmag.com/corona-virus/
The corona virus (COVID 19) is a good metaphor for the way M2C has infected the Church.

[For those new here, M2C is the Mesoamerican/Two-Cumorahs theory promoted by certain intellectuals. The basic claims are that (i) the prophets have been wrong about the New York Cumorah, and (ii) the "real" Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 is somewhere in southern Mexico.]

Every time you read a story about the corona virus, consider how that story also applies to M2C. It is spread by close contact with infected people, and it is fatal for some individuals, but not everyone.

Many people are taking precautions by wearing masks, washing hands, etc. Some are buying provisions, taking inventory and rebuilding their food storage, etc.

What are you doing to protect yourself against the spread of M2C?

You can start by reviewing what the prophets have taught about Cumorah, such as the references here:

http://www.lettervii.com/p/byu-packet-on-cumorah.html
_____

Another aspect of M2C is reflected by this excerpt from an editorial in the WSJ:

An entire generation of American adults are too young to remember the suffering socialism caused during the 20th century. Collective historical ignorance is becoming a real threat. Those of us who remember have a responsibility to educate young Americans about the poverty and tyranny that inevitably follows socialism.

We can paraphrase that this way:


An entire generation of Latter-day Saint adults are too young to remember the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah. Collective historical ignorance is becoming a real threat.

Those of us who remember have a responsibility to educate young Latter-day Saints about the inevitable slide into believing the Book of Mormon is fiction that comes from learning the geography from the writings of the M2C intellectuals and the CES/BYU fantasy maps that put Cumorah somewhere in southern Mexico.

Friday, February 21, 2020

The Rise and Revenge of the SITH

Since January 3, I've been on 27 airline flights and visited 10 countries. I attended church and/or visited with members and missionaries in five of those countries. I regularly hear from members from around the world.

One issue that frequently arises is the nature of the translation of the Book of Mormon, especially with respect to the stone-in-the-hat vs. the Urim and Thummim. Because there are always new readers of this blog, I'm going to provide a brief overview today.

Here's my bias: I still believe what Joseph and Oliver taught. But apparently fewer and fewer other people do.
_____

The SITH (stone-in-the-hat theory) was set out in the book Mormonism Unvailed in 1834.

I call this the "Rise of the SITH."

The author of Mormonism Unvailed sought to discredit Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. I've discussed this book before, such as here.

Mormonism Unvailed explained that there were two alternative explanations for the translation of the Book of Mormon: SITH and the Urim and Thummim (U&T).

SITH. According to Mormonism Unvailed, one explanation was that Joseph Smith used a "peep" stone that he found in a well years before he obtained the plates from the hill in New York. Joseph placed the stone into a hat. Words appeared on the stone. He put his face in the hat to block the light and read the words to his scribes (primarily Martin Harris for the 116 pages and Oliver Cowdery for the Book of Mormon we have today).

U&T. According to Mormonism Unvailed, the alternative account held that Joseph Smith used the Urim and Thummim that Moroni provided along with the plates themselves in the stone box on the Hill Cumorah. This is the explanation that Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery gave. They set it out in a series of essays about Church history, published in response to Mormonism Unvailed as letters in 1834-5 and republished many times since. Portions of Letter I are contained in the Pearl of Great Price as a note to Joseph Smith-History. In that History, Joseph explains that he used the Urim and Thummim to translate (see the verses at the end of this post).

When Joseph wrote the Wentworth letter in 1842, he reiterated his testimony. "With the records was found a curious instrument, which the ancients called “Urim and Thummim,” which consisted of two transparent stones set in the rims of a bow fastened to a breastplate. Through the medium of the Urim and Thummim I translated the record by the gift and power of God."

When Oliver Cowdery rejoined the Church, he reiterated his witness and again refuted the teachings of Mormonism Unvailed, as quoted by President Hinckley in General Conference.

“My name is Cowdery—Oliver Cowdery. In the history of the Church I stood … in her councils. Not because I was better than other men was I called … to fill the purposes of God. He called me to a high and holy calling. I wrote with my own pen the entire Book of Mormon (save a few pages) as it fell from the lips of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and he translated it by the power and gift of God, by means of the Urim and Thummim, or as it is called by that book, ‘Holy Interpreter.
“I beheld with my eyes and handled with my hands, the gold plates from which it was translated. … That book is true, Sidney Rigdon did not write it; Mr. Spaulding did not write it; I wrote it myself as it fell from the lips of the Prophet. …

(1989, April, Gordon B. Hinckley, ‘Magnify Your Calling,’ Ensign, May 1989, ¶ 26–27)

The clear, unambiguous teachings of Joseph and Oliver were, as Oliver explained, based on fact. The translation with the Urim and Thummim was taught and re-taught in General Conference and throughout the Church.

Historians and Church leaders were well aware of the claims made in Mormonism Unvailed and other sources, including the "Last Testimony" attributed to Emma Smith and the statements of David Whitmer.

Nevertheless, Church leaders repeatedly reaffirmed the testimonies of Joseph and Oliver.

For over 150 years, LDS Church leaders reaffirmed what Joseph and Oliver taught, over and over.

Until recently.
_____

In recent years, SITH has made a comeback.

We can think of it as "The revenge of the SITH." Why?

Back in 1834, Mormonism Unvailed used SITH as a tool to oppose and defeat Joseph Smith. 

The SITH has the same impact today.

The slowing growth of the Church in recent years is well known. The decline started in the late 1990s, but has gotten worse since about 2003.

There are many factors to consider, but one of the most obvious is the Revenge of the SITH. After all, if people can be convinced that Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery misled the world about the translation of the Book of Mormon (as well as the location of Cumorah), how credible are the rest of their claims?
Revenge of the SITH: Church growth vs world population growth


Remember the essays, published as letters in 1834-5, that Oliver and Joseph wrote in response to Mormonism Unvailed?

Today, those essays are largely unknown to members of the Church. They are disbelieved by our revisionist Church historians and M2C intellectuals.

Groups such as Book of Mormon Central actively teach Church members to disregard the essays.
_____

We can't say we have not been warned about the Revenge of the SITH.

In October General Conference in 2003, Elder Robert D. Hales reaffirmed the testimony of Joseph and Oliver, referring to Joseph Smith-History 1:66-67.

After four years of continued obedience, Joseph received the plates on September 22, 1827, at the age of 21. He also received an ancient instrument for translating them, called the Urim and Thummim. Using this sacred interpreter, along with the Holy Ghost, Joseph began the work of translation in December of that year. In time he was joined by a schoolteacher named Oliver Cowdery, who acted as his scribe.
(2003, October, Robert D. Hales, ‘Receiving a Testimony of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ,’ Ensign, November 2003, ¶ 22)
South Park introduces SITH
The next month, on November 19, 2003, an episode of South Park brought SITH to the attention of the world.

Had Church members heeded what Elder Hales taught, they would not have been misled by South Park.
_____

In April 2007, Elder L. Tom Perry reaffirmed the testimony once again.

Oliver wrote of this remarkable experience: “These were days never to be forgotten—to sit under the sound of a voice dictated by the inspiration of heaven, awakened the utmost gratitude of this bosom! Day after day I continued, uninterrupted, to write from his mouth, as he translated, with the Urim and Thummim … the history, or record, called ‘The book of Mormon’” (Messenger and Advocate, Oct. 1834, 14; see also Joseph Smith—History 1:71, note).
(2007, April, L. Tom Perry, ‘The Message of the Restoration,’ Ensign, May 2007, ¶ 28)

Later that year, Richard Bushman published Rough Stone Rolling, which established SITH as a historical fact, contrary to what Joseph and Oliver taught.

"When Cowdery took up the job of scribe, he and Joseph translated in the same room where Emma was working. Joseph looked in the seerstone, and the plates lay covered on the table." RSR, p. 71.
_____

Since 2007, the testimony of Joseph and Oliver about the Urim and Thummim has never been reaffirmed in General Conference. 

Their testimonies have been replaced by a confusing mixture of the two alternatives set forth in Mormonism Unvailed

The book Saints, Volume 1, put it this way.

Sometimes Joseph translated by looking through the interpreters and reading in English the characters on the plates. Often he found a single seer stone to be more convenient. He would put the seer stone in his hat, place his face into the hat to block out the light, and peer at the stone. Light from the stone would shine in the darkness, revealing words that Joseph dictated as Oliver rapidly copied them down.

The Come Follow Me manual describes it like this:

How was the Book of Mormon translated?
The Book of Mormon was translated “by the gift and power of God.” We don’t know many details about the miraculous translation process, but we do know that Joseph Smith was a seer, aided by instruments that God had prepared: two transparent stones called the Urim and Thummim and another stone called a seer stone. Joseph saw in these stones the English interpretation of the characters on the plates, and he read the translation aloud while a scribe recorded it. Each of Joseph’s scribes testified that God’s power was manifest in the translation of this sacred work.

The January Ensign says this:

The “interpreters” used by Joseph during the translation process included the “two stones in
silver bows” that were deposited by Moroni with the plates (see Joseph Smith—History 1:35.) In
addition to these two seer stones, Joseph used at least one other seer stone that the Lord had
provided. 

My favorite explanation, in terms of obfuscation, is in the Gospel Topics Essay on Book of Mormon Translation.

Apparently for convenience, Joseph often translated with the single seer stone rather than the two stones bound together to form the interpreters. These two instruments—the interpreters and the seer stone—were apparently interchangeable and worked in much the same way such that, in the course of time, Joseph Smith and his associates often used the term “Urim and Thummim” to refer to the single stone as well as the interpreters.21 ... Latter-day Saints later understood the term “Urim and Thummim” to refer exclusively to the interpreters. Joseph Smith and others, however, seem to have understood the term more as a descriptive category of instruments for obtaining divine revelations and less as the name of a specific instrument.

Of course, we can all read what Joseph and Oliver taught and see for ourselves that they never said anything like this. They always said Joseph translated with the Urim and Thummim. So did their peers and successors, all of whom were perfectly familiar with Mormonism Unvailed.

The mixture of the two theories makes no sense because those who claimed Joseph used SITH also said he never used the Urim and Thummim after the 116 pages were lost.

Even Mormonism Unvailed recognized that the two theories were alternative explanations.

_____

We all recognize that there are historical accounts by others to the effect that Joseph used SITH instead of the Urim and Thummim.

One book by Church historians, titled From Darkness unto Light, sought to reconcile the accounts by claiming that when Joseph and Oliver used the term "Urim and Thummim" they actually meant the seer stone. That's the claim of the Gospel Topics Essay. Of course, that claim flatly ignores the historical context and the distinction made in Mormonism Unvailed. Unsuspecting readers don't know that, however, because the authors simply omitted facts that contradicted their theory.

Another way to reconcile the accounts is my proposal that Joseph conducted demonstrations with the seer stone because Moroni had forbidden him from showing the plates and the Urim and Thummim to anyone. I explained this in detail in my book, A Man that Can Translate.

Others think there is no need to reconcile the accounts because one or the other is simply a lie.
_____

Many members think that, because of the lesson manuals and other materials, we're supposed to believe SITH instead of what Joseph and Oliver taught.

We're all free to believe whatever we want. As the data above shows, though, it seems that the adoption of SITH, along with the adoption of M2C, are not leading to growth of the Church.

Fortunately, the prophets teach us to rely on the scriptures, not the lesson manuals and the speculations of historians and M2C intellectuals.

Let's review what the scriptures say. Especially when read together with the other testimonies provided by Joseph and Oliver, it is difficult to imagine how Joseph could have been more clear about this.

Joseph Smith—History 1:35 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.
59 At length the time arrived for obtaining the plates, the Urim and Thummim, and the breastplate. 
62 By this timely aid was I enabled to reach the place of my destination in Pennsylvania; and immediately after my arrival there I commenced copying the characters off the plates. I copied a considerable number of them, and by means of the Urim and Thummim I translated some of them, which I did between the time I arrived at the house of my wife’s father, in the month of December, and the February following.

These were days never to be forgotten—to sit under the sound of a voice dictated by the inspiration of heaven, awakened the utmost gratitude of this bosom! Day after day I continued, uninterrupted, to write from his mouth, as he translated with the Urim and Thummim, or, as the Nephites would have said, ‘Interpreters,’ the history or record called ‘The Book of Mormon.’
(Joseph Smith—History, Note, 1)

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton

Some people have wondered why I'm not posting as often lately. We've been traveling for six weeks and have more places to go. Hardly enough time to get on the Internet, let alone write blog posts.

We have lots to discuss here once we settle down, though. Plus,, while driving through the outback in Australia, we recorded some videos that we'll post on youtube soon.

_____

One place we visited in January was Hanoi, Vietnam.

The Hanoi Hilton, as it's commonly called (real name Maison Centrale), was a prison originally built by the French to detain and punish Vietnamese rebels against French rule.

During the Vietnam war, the Vietnamese used it as a prison for Americans.

The perspectives of the Vietnamese are quite different from the perspectives of most Americans who lived during that war. (I was a kid in the Philippines who watched B-52s take off every day on bombing missions to Vietnam.)

From the perspective of many (if not most) Vietnamese, they fought any foreign invader that wanted to control their country, whether it was the French or the Americans.

From the perspective of many Americans (unknown how many were for or against the war), they fought that war to prevent the spread of Communism.

Your opinion about the Vietnam war is mostly a function of what you choose to read, watch, and listen to. There are no objective facts that lead to only one "correct" opinion. It's all a matter of interpretation of the facts, which usually includes selective acceptance of certain facts and rejection of others.

Our guide told us that most Vietnamese have no idea of the difference between communism and capitalism. They just want to make a living for their families and live in peace.

The Hanoi Hilton is a dramatic example of how the same sets of facts can lead to different conclusions. This produces what some call "two movies on one screen."
_____

We have a similar situation with the Book of Mormon.

Most people have no idea what the issues are with respect to Book of Mormon historicity, the location of Cumorah, or even what the prophets have taught. They just want to make a living for their families and live in peace. They seek validation for their beliefs, whatever they are (whether they are LDS or not, active or not, etc.).

Some active, faithful LDS look at the facts and see Book of Mormon events taking place in a limited area within Mesoamerica. Others look at the same facts and see Book of Mormon events taking place in North America, essentially east of the Mississippi.* Others see the events taking place in Panama, or Chile, or Peru, or in Africa or Southeast Asia.

Some former LDS and critics look at the same facts and see the Book of Mormon as fiction. Even some active LDS see the Book of Mormon as fiction.

After all, BYU and CES are teaching the Book of Mormon to students using fantasy maps that portray the Book of Mormon in a fictional setting.

The point to consider is that we each think our beliefs are "correct." Otherwise, we'd change them to adopt another belief.

This is why, IMO, it is so foolish for Book of Mormon Central, FairMormon, the Interpreter, and the other M2C advocates to insist that only M2C is a valid option for believers.

I'm still hopeful that the day will come when they will adopt the Church's policy of neutrality and embrace, or at least accommodate, the beliefs of those members of the Church who still believe the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah.

Maybe they'll even accommodate the beliefs of those members of the Church who still believe Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon...

Based on my years of experience with the LDS M2C intellectuals, I doubt they will ever embrace neutrality, let alone change their minds.

But we are each responsible for our own beliefs, and we are all free to believe whatever we want. I find that most people, when given a choice, seek to make informed decisions.

And most people who make informed decisions about Book of Mormon historicity choose to accept what the prophets have taught about the New York Cumorah.

We'll be discussing the implications of all of this in upcoming posts.
_____

*Ignore those M2C proponents who try to confuse the issue by saying Mesoamerica is in North America because all of "Central America" is technically in North America. We call the theory M2C-the Mesoamerican/Two-Cumorahs theory because the issue is really about the location of Cumorah. It's either in New York as the prophets have taught, or its in southern Mexico as certain intellectuals have taught.
_____

More of my photos from the Hanoi Hilton:










Thursday, February 6, 2020

Did Joseph and Oliver tell the truth?

We're spending some time in Western Australia, golfing and writing. The Church is awesome here; there's a temple in Perth and about 15,000 members in this area (out of a population of 2.4 million.

Perth is the an international city; about 40% of the residents are not native Australians. People come from the UK, India, Malaysia, South Africa, and other countries around the Indian Ocean.

According to census records, the largest religious affiliation is none, followed by Roman Catholic, Anglican, Buddhism, Islam, and Hinduism.

When we attended President Nelson's visit to Singapore a few months ago, he mentioned that President Benson had said Singapore would be a center for taking the Gospel to other countries in the area. With its international character, Perth could provide a similar introduction to the Gospel.

However, that's not exactly happening.

In the census records, LDS come in 26th place, at 0.3%.

Members here tell me the same thing I hear everywhere I go; i.e., people aren't joining the Church or staying active because their lives are so good they don't need religion.

That may be true in many cases (a topic for another day), but it seems to me there is a more fundamental problem.
_____

Everyone has implicit faith in his/her own beliefs. That's axiomatic, because otherwise they would change those beliefs. In most cases, people inherit the beliefs of their parents, peers, and society. Facts don't matter. It's basic psychology that people filter out facts that contradict their beliefs.

That's why the Restoration required something different. It required evidence of God's involvement, which came through the Book of Mormon, an ancient text about real people that was translated into English by the gift and power of God.

The fundamental premises for the Restoration rely on the testimonies of two men, primarily: Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. They were the principals involved with the translation of the Book of Mormon, the restoration of the Priesthood, and the committing of the keys of the gathering and temple work.

Ultimately, this is a question for everyone in the Church and everyone in the world:

Did Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery tell the truth?

My answer is yes.

But I keep being told, even by members of the Church, that the answer is really no regarding some key points.
_____

President Nelson extended an invitation to all members of the Church for 2020 that included this paragraph:

Select your own questions. Design your own plan. Act on any of these invitations to prepare yourself for sharing the important messages of the ongoing Restoration. As you seek Jesus Christ in these efforts, God will prepare you to receive further light. It is your personal preparation that will help April’s general conference become for you not only memorable but unforgettable. The time to act is now. This is a hinge point in the history of the Church, and your part is vital. 

For the last few years, I've selected several questions and designed my own plan to better understand the ongoing Restoration. I've shared some of the answers on this and other blogs, in my books, and in various presentations.

I've been surprised at some of the answers. They've fortified my faith and confidence in what Joseph and Oliver claimed.

I've also been surprised at some of the opposition certain intellectuals and their employees and followers have expressed.

Because of my interest in how the Restoration is rolling forth outside the U.S., I'll explain it again.
_____

Basically, I believe Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery told the truth. In some intellectual circles in the Church today, that amounts to heresy.

I believe Joseph and Oliver told the truth about the translation; i.e., that Joseph translated the plates using the Urim and Thummim that Moroni provided with the original set of plates.

I believe Joseph and Oliver told the truth about the New York Cumorah; i.e., that the hill near Palmyra where Joseph found the plates was also the Hill Cumorah of Mormon 6:6, the scene of the final battles of the Jaredites and the Nephites, and the location of the repository of Nephite records.

I don't believe Joseph and Oliver misled the Church (or the world) about either of these topics.

But apparently I'm supposed to believe they did, according to certain intellectuals, lesson manuals, articles, and other materials.

It's difficult to imagine a more confusing and unbelievable way to present the Restoration than the way it is being presented in these materials.
_____

The stone-in-a-hat narrative from the Ensign
For example, I'm being told I should believe Joseph Smith produced the Book of Mormon by reading words that appeared on a stone he found in a well and then put into a hat.

See https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/2020/01/the-translation-of-the-book-of-mormon-a-marvel-and-a-wonder?lang=eng

I'm supposed to believe it wasn't really a translation process at all. It was merely a reading and dictation process.

I'm supposed to believe Joseph didn't even use the plates because they were covered with a cloth throughout the dictation process.

And why am I supposed to believe this?

Because David Whitmer said so in a pamphlet he wrote to persuade people to believe that (i) the Book of Mormon is true but also that (ii) Joseph Smith fell into serious errors after he dictated the Book of Mormon and (iii) the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants are false.

The pamphlet is cited in footnote 8 in the Ensign article.

Anyone who accepts the Whitmer quotation in the Ensign as an accurate first-hand account should at least read it in context by reading Whitmer's entire pamphlet, here:

https://archive.org/details/addresstoallbeli00whit/page/12/mode/2up

Now, imagine you're a investigator (friend) meeting with missionaries. They give you the Ensign (or the Saints book, volume 1, or the Gospel Topics Essays, all of which approvingly and uncritically quote David Whitmer's pamphlet). As a serious investigator, you look up the references. You read Whitmer's pamphlet.

What are you going to conclude?
_____

The logical conclusion of David Whitmer's version
By now, we all know the answer provided by certain intellectuals in the Church. They say Joseph and Oliver used substitute words.

When they wrote about the Urim and Thummim that Moroni provided with the plates, they actually meant the peep stone Joseph found in a well years earlier.

When they wrote "translation" they didn't really mean translation; instead, they meant that Joseph merely read English words that appeared on the stone in a hat.

When they wrote about the engravings on the plates, they really meant Joseph didn't use the plates at all.

When Joseph said the Title Page was a literal translation of the last leaf of the plates, we don't know how he knew that because he didn't use the plates.

And now some of them are saying that the text itself was composed by an unknown author/translator in the 1500s. 

Everyone is entitled to his/her opinion about all of this, of course. But is it intellectually honest to revise the testimonies of Joseph and Oliver to fit what David Whitmer said?

Most readers here know that I think David Whitmer was relating his experience with a demonstration that Joseph conducted. I wrote a book about it.

My point in this post is that it is unrealistic to expect investigators (and youth) to believe one paragraph out of Whitmer's pamphlet while rejecting the rest--especially when that one paragraph contradicts everything else Joseph and Oliver said about the coming forth of the Book of Mormon.
_____

I'm also being told I should believe that Oliver Cowdery, Brigham Young, Wilford Woodruff, Heber C. Kimball, Lucy Mack Smith, Parley P. Pratt and others misled the Church by teaching that the Hill Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 is in western New York.

[See my summary here: http://www.lettervii.com/p/byu-packet-on-cumorah.html]

I'm supposed to believe that all the prophets and apostles who have reaffirmed the New York Cumorah were wrong. I'm supposed to believe that even members of the First Presidency, speaking in General Conference, misled the Church by expressing their own private incorrect opinions and testifying to their truth.

Why am I supposed to believe this?

Because a handful of LDS intellectuals embraced the so-called Two Cumorahs theory developed by RLDS scholars in the late 1800s. They taught this for decades until by 2020, most members of the Church have accepted it.

I'm supposed to believe these intellectuals because they are the "experts" hired by the prophets to guide the Church.

I'm supposed to trust these intellectuals and their employees and followers because they have advanced degrees and therefore are the only ones who can correctly interpret the scriptures.

I'm supposed to passively accept their sophistry and manipulation of the text of the Book of Mormon as they try to impose a Mesoamerican setting as the only "correct" interpretation of the text.

(I call this M2C for the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory.)

And I'm supposed to donate money to Book of Mormon Central to add to the millions of dollars they are spending to promote these ideas throughout the world.
______

Fortunately we still have an Article of Faith that allows us to each follow the dictates of our own conscience.

No one is obligated to accept M2C. We are all free to choose instead to believe the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah. 

But M2C is specifically depicted in the Visitors Centers. CES and BYU teach the Book of Mormon to LDS youth by using maps that depict M2C. Church historians changed Church history in the Saints book to accommodate M2C by censoring the New York Cumorah.

What are investigators (and youth in the Church) supposed to conclude when they learn how the prophets, starting with Joseph and Oliver, misled the Church about the one specific touchstone between the Book of Mormon and the real world?
_____

I think we'd all be much better off to stick with the scriptures and the teachings of the prophets, including Joseph Smith--History, instead of relying on David Whitmer's pamphlet and the efforts of intellectuals to conform the scriptures to match what David wrote.

I also think that we'd be much better off to accept and corroborate the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah instead of promoting M2C.

But I'm just an ordinary member of the Church. I'm not trying to persuade anyone about anything, except I encourage everyone to make informed decisions about these issues.




Saturday, February 1, 2020

update on Phoenicia

Many readers of this blog know about the Phoenicia expedition, but for those who don't, here is an important press release:

https://docs.google.com/document/u/0/d/1F2igPkE5Wmas04uaRGD5eJqzNCV6ESOVavzXv0bBMUM/mobilebasic?usp=gmail

Long-time readers know about Isaiah 18, 1 Nephi 18, and all the facts and circumstances that support the narrative of Lehi crossing the Atlantic to reach the promised land. I won't rehash that all now, but it's fascinating on many levels.

For more info, see: https://www.mobom.org/lehi-cross-ocean