Monday, April 20, 2020

Reading afresh vs. M2C

Prior to General Conference, President Nelson encouraged us to prepare by "reading afresh Joseph Smith’s account of the First Vision as recorded in the Pearl of Great Price...." 

One reason why M2C persists is that Church members trust the M2C intellectuals' interpretations and theories. The academic commentaries are replete with impressive rhetoric, interpretation, circular references, etc.

And that's perfectly fine. We can all believe whatever we want. I don't write these blogs for M2C proponents, who will never change their minds anyway. The psychology of bias confirmation is far too strong for that.

But many people want to make informed choices, and to be informed, we need to know what the original sources say.

Let's look at Moroni's visit as an example.

Joseph Smith provided four separate accounts of the First Vision, as discussed in the Gospel Topics Essay. Those accounts also include accounts of Moroni's visit.

1832 written history.

1835 journal entry.

1838 history (published in the Times and Seasons in 1842).

1842 Wentworth letter (published in the Times and Seasons in 1842).

He also provided a brief response to a question about Moroni's visit in the 1838 Elders' Journal.

In 1834-5, Joseph assisted Oliver Cowdery in writing the eight Church history essays that included details of Moroni's visit (but not the First Vision). During Joseph's lifetime, these essays provided the best-known account of Moroni's visit. They were published and republished in the Messenger and Advocate, the Millennial Star, the Gospel Reflector, the Times and Seasons, The Prophet, and the Improvement Era. They were also copied into Joseph's personal history as part of his life story.

Let's look at these accounts chronologically to see what Moroni said. After each excerpt I put a link to the Joseph Smith Papers so you can read it for yourself.

In another post we'll look at what these accounts relate regarding the Urim and Thummim and the translation.

Hint: you will see nothing in these original sources that states, implies, or even supports either M2C or SITH. Both of those theories come from other sources as amplified by our LDS M2C and SITH intellectuals today.

Instead, Moroni used the terms "this country," "this continent" and "America" to describe where the events of the Book of Mormon took place.

In the work of modern intellectuals, you will see instead the term "the Americas" which does not appear in any of the original sources. That's their spin to accommodate M2C.

You can see for yourself that Moroni told Joseph Smith the book was:

"a history of the aborigines of this country,"

"the Indians were literal descendants of Abraham,"

it was "an account of the former inhabitants of this continent," 

"concerning the aboriginal inhabitants of this country,"

"the ancient prophets that had existed on this continent,"

"the history of ancient America,"

"We are informed by these records that America in ancient times has been inhabited by two distinct races of people," and

"the remnant are the Indians that now inhabit this country."
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1832 written history.

an angel of the Lord came and stood before me and it was by night and he called me by name and he said the Lord had forgiven me my sins and he revealed unto me that in the Town of Manchester Ontario County N.Y. there was plates of gold upon which there was engravings which was engraven by Maroni & his fathers the servants of the living God in ancient days



1835 essays.

there seemed to be an additional glory surrounding or accompanying this personage, which shone with an increased degree of brilliancy, of which he was in the midst; and though his countenance was as lightning, yet it was of a pleasing, inocent and glorious appearance, so much so, that every fear was banished from the heart, and nothing but calmness pervaded the soul.

It is no easy task to describe the appearance of a messenger from the skies... The stature of this personage was a little above the common size of men in this age; his garment was perfectly white, and had the appearance of being without seam....

He then proceeded and gave a general account of the promises made to the fathers, and also gave a history of the aborigenes of this country, and said they were literal descendants of Abraham. He represented them as once being an enlightned and intelligent people, possessing a correct knowledge of the gospel, and the plan of restoration and redemption. He said this history was written and deposited not far from that place, and that it was our brother’s privilege, if obedient to the commandments of the Lord, to obtain and translate the same by the means of the Urim and Thummim, which were deposited for that purpose with the record.

https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/history-1834-1836/67

1835 journal entry.

the room was iluminated above the brightness of the sun an angel appeared before me, his hands and feet were naked pure and white, and he stood between the floors of the room, clothed <​with​> in purity inexpressible, he said unto me I am a messenger sent from God, be faithful and keep his commandments in all things, he told me of a sacred record which was written on plates of gold, I saw in the vision the place where they were deposited, he said the indians, were the literal descendants of Abraham he explained many things of the prophesies to me


1838 Elders' Journal.

Question 4th. How, and where did you obtain the book of Mormon?

Answer. Moroni, the person who deposited the plates, from whence the book of Mormon was translated, in a hill in Manchester, Ontario County New York, being dead; and raised again therefrom, appeared unto me, and told me where they were; 

https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/elders-journal-july-1838/10

1838 history (published in the Times and Seasons in 1842, Joseph Smith--History).

He called me by name, and said unto me that he was a messenger sent from the presence of God to me, and that his name was Nephi; that God had a work for me to do; and that my name should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people.

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;


1842 Wentworth letter (published in the Times and Seasons in 1842).

In a moment a personage stood before me, surrounded with a glory yet greater than that with which I was already surrounded. This messenger proclaimed himself to be an angel of God, sent to bring the joyful tidings that the covenant which God made with ancient Israel was at hand to be fulfilled; that the preparatory work for the second coming of the Messiah was speedily to commence; that the time was at hand for the gospel in all its fulness to be preached in power unto all nations, that a people might be prepared for the millennial reign. I was informed that I was chosen to be an instrument in the hands of God to bring about some of His purposes in this glorious dispensation.

I was also informed concerning the aboriginal inhabitants of this country and shown who they were, and from whence they came; a brief sketch of their origin, progress, civilization, laws, governments, of their righteousness and iniquity, and the blessings of God being finally withdrawn from them as a people, was [also] made known unto me; I was also told where were deposited some plates on which were engraven an abridgment of the records of the ancient prophets that had existed on this continent... 

In this important and interesting book the history of ancient America is unfolded, from its first settlement by a colony that came from the Tower of Babel at the confusion of languages to the beginning of the fifth century of the Christian era. We are informed by these records that America in ancient times has been inhabited by two distinct races of people. The first were called Jaredites and came directly from the Tower of Babel. The second race came directly from the city of Jerusalem about six hundred years before Christ. They were principally Israelites of the descendants of Joseph. The Jaredites were destroyed about the time that the Israelites came from Jerusalem, who succeeded them in the inheritance of the country. The principal nation of the second race fell in battle towards the close of the fourth century. The remnant are the Indians that now inhabit this country. This book also tells us that our Savior made His appearance upon this continent after His Resurrection; that He planted the gospel here in all its fulness, and richness, and power, and blessing; that they had apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, and evangelists—the same order, the same priesthood, the same ordinances, gifts, powers, and blessings, as were enjoyed on the eastern continent; that the people were cut off in consequence of their transgressions; that the last of their prophets who existed among them was commanded to write an abridgment of their prophecies, history, etc., and to hide it up in the earth; and that it should come forth and be united with the Bible for the accomplishment of the purposes of God in the last days.

https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/church-history-1-march-1842/2

The end

Friday, April 17, 2020

The M2C triumvirate's model

Now is an ideal time to revisit the M2C model because, thanks to the corona virus models, people are learning what models are and what they are not. The constantly changing corona virus models are showing the public that these models are persuasion tools, not representations of reality. (See discussion below).

The M2C models are also persuasion tools, not representations of reality. The questions we discuss today are, what are they trying to persuade people to believe, and what are they actually persuading people to believe?
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Currently, the Church's seminary and institute programs teach over 700,000 LDS students in over 150 different countries. 

Students learn about the Book of Mormon by studying the map below titled "Possible Book of Mormon Sites in Relation to Each Other." You can see it here:

The map is based on the M2C model of Book of Mormon geography. Our M2C scholars, BYU professors, and CES educators claim this reflects the best interpretation of the text.

To be sure, these faithful LDS teachers are trying to persuade students to believe that the Book of Mormon is "internally consistent" because they can make sense of all the geography passages.

They are also trying to persuade students to believe M2C. If they come right out and say "the prophets were wrong about the New York Cumorah," at least a few students will resist. Instead, they teach this principle indirectly by portraying Cumorah in a place that is anything but New York.

And, of course, they are trying to indoctrinate students in the M2C interpretation so that students will embrace the M2C application to Mesoamerica taught by Book of Mormon Central and other members of the M2C citation cartel.

But what do these models actually persuade people to believe?

BYU fantasy map
You don't need more than a quick glance to realize these maps are ridiculous because it fits no place on earth. 

These maps lead to only two possible conclusions:

1. The model is wrong.

OR

2. The Book of Mormon is fiction.


Put yourself in the place of a faithful young LDS student. You attend seminary, institute, or a BYU campus. Your teachers present you with this map (or the even more ridiculous BYU map, below) to teach you how to understand the locations of the various sites in relation to each other.

If you're a typical student, you nod along and think, "Whatever." You're more interested in your friends, the coming weekend, sports, etc.

But the message will eventually sink in.

Your teachers are telling you that their best interpretation of the Book of Mormon describes a place that doesn't really exist.

Worse, it's a place that contradicts the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah.

Eventually, as you mature, you will reflect on this and the implications will dawn on you. Loss of faith in the Book of Mormon is one of the top reasons cited by members who leave the Church. This should be obvious by now. Joseph Fielding Smith warned about this problem nearly 100 years ago, when he declared that the two-Cumorahs theory would cause faithful members to become confused and disturbed in their faith in the Book of Mormon.

The tragedy is this: students are losing their faith because of a patently ridiculous model, not because of what the Book of Mormon says or what the prophets have taught.

The other tragedy is this: many Church members do not know, and will never learn, that there are interpretations of the text that not only corroborate and support what the prophets have taught about the New York Cumorah, but are also consistent with extrinsic evidence from archaeology, anthropology, geology, geography, etc.
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The CES and BYU fantasy maps were published only in the last few years. If Joseph Fielding Smith warned about them nearly 100 years ago, what was he concerned about?

The original M2C map was developed by an RLDS scholar named L.E. Hills, who published his version in 1917. 

Hills decided that the Hill Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 could not be located in New York because, according to him, the events of the Book of Mormon had to take place in Central America (Mesoamerica).




He moved Cumorah to southern Mexico, highlighted by the red circle.

It was this map and the associated analysis that led Joseph Fielding Smith to issue his warning. He repeated his warning when he was President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, but it didn't matter.

LDS scholars adopted Hill's M2C ideas anyway.

Probably the best-known version was created by Brother Sorenson, one of the M2C triumvirate. The other two members of the triumvirate endorsed the Sorenson map. 

When Brother Welch was Editor-in-Chief of BYU Studies, he put a link to this map right on the journal's home page. The new editor, also an M2C supporter, has retained the link, although he at least moved it off the home page. You can see it here.


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We can discuss the M2C model now because people are learning what models are and what they are not.

The news is full of public discussion about the corona virus models used by public health experts to influence public policy. The models projected millions of deaths and led government officials to lock down national economies around the world.

Now that the actual infection and death rates are well below the projections from the models, people are reaching two different conclusions based on the same facts (seeing two different movies on the same screen).

1. The models were wrong.

OR

2. The models were correct but mitigation flattened the curve to avoid the predicted disaster.

The situation is educating people about what these models are. They are not predictions of the future. Predicting the future is not possible, no matter how many variables, assumptions, and data you incorporate into a model. Models are merely mathematical representations of the experts' best guesses.

Experts create models primarily for persuasion. They know that the public (and therefore elected officials) will not act based on a mere recommendation. The experts create these models to convey a perception of reality, forcing government leaders to take the action the experts desire.

The corona virus models have changed dramatically in response to real-world data. This link discusses the difficulty of creating a model.

https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/why-its-so-freaking-hard-to-make-a-good-covid-19-model/

After persuading President Trump to shut down the economy by relying on early models, Dr. Fauci said recently, "I have always been and still am and will always be somewhat reserved and skeptical of models because models are only as good as the assumptions that you put into the models."

Public health is impacted by the virus, but also by shutting down the economy. Government leaders are struggling to find the optimum balance, relying on both public health models and economic models. But the models are best guesses, not the actual future. Eventually, there will be plenty of hindsight and blame to go around, and lots of people will claim credit for having warned against whatever bad outcomes materialize. 

No matter what happens, the public will shed its misplaced trust in the validity of mathematical models. Such models are fine for assessing policy alternatives, but we can all see now that they merely reflect the assumptions and preferences of the people who made the models.
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The M2C maps taught by CES and BYU also merely reflect the assumptions and preferences of the people who made the models.

These maps expressly repudiate the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah.

As more and more Church members learn what the prophets have taught, and how extrinsic evidence supports and corroborates those teachings, they, too, will shed their misplaced trust in the validity of the M2C model.





Monday, April 13, 2020

The M2C triumvirate and the fake Moroni-Mary Whitmer story, again

Yesterday, we studied the Come Follow Me lesson about Easter.

https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/come-follow-me-for-individuals-and-families-book-of-mormon-2020/14?lang=eng

Because the lesson focuses in part on the Resurrection, it reminded me of the post below that I wrote a while ago but didn't publish. I'm publishing it now because the fake Moroni-Mary Whitmer story contradicts the basic teachings of the resurrection, as we'll discuss below.

I was reminded of this quotation from Theodore Dalrymple I saw at the time.

When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. 

It may seem a small matter to be expected to believe it was Moroni who showed the plates to Mary Whitmer instead of Nephi. But this is such a blatant change to Church history, intended to accommodate if not promote M2C, that it undermines a host of other basic concepts.
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Mary Whitmer and Nephi,
one of the 3 Nephites,
falsely labeled Moroni
by the M2C intellectuals
What prompted my post was an article in BYU Studies that yet again perpetuated the fake story. As part of this disinformation campaign, Book of Mormon Central commissioned a beautiful painting of the messenger showing the plates to Mary Whitmer. Except they titled it "Mary Whitmer and Moroni."

See the article for yourself, here:

https://byustudies.byu.edu/content/mary-whitmer-and-moroni-experiences-artist-creating-historical-painting

We're not surprised to see this M2C-inspired phony story in BYU Studies, which continues to promote M2C even under the new editor (who was also involved with the Saints book, volume 1, that teaches the fake Moroni story to millions of Church members).

When I read this article in BYU Studies, I was impressed with the artist's detailed description of his work. It's a wonderful painting that seems historically accurate in every respect--except for its title. It is exceedingly unfortunate that the artist has been misled this way by the M2C intellectuals.
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We don't mind artists painting whatever they want. We don't even mind people claiming it was Moroni who showed the plates to Mary Whitmer.

What we object to is having such a fake story being taught as accurate Church history.

IOW, thanks to M2C, Church historians (in volume 1 of Saints and at historic sites) and the M2C citation cartel (BYU Studies, Book of Mormon Central, etc.) are teaching the world that resurrected beings can have multiple bodies.

People can believe whatever they want, of course. But it is (or should be) inexcusable for a theory of geography to cause Church historians to change history. And it's even worse for a theory of geography to change basic doctrine, such as the nature of a resurrected body.
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For some time now, I've discussed this point with several "seasoned" Church members, including employees of CES. When I point out the discrepancy between Joseph's description of Moroni and the description of the old man who showed the plates of Nephi to Lucy Whitmer, they usually shrug and say, "Well, I guess Moroni could appear as anyone he wants to be."

There are hundreds of thousands of Latter-day Saint youth being taught this new version of the resurrection in seminary and institute. There are millions of Church members who are learning this new doctrine by reading the Saints book and materials provided by the M2C citation cartel.

Compare this with the references in the Come Follow Me lesson regarding the resurrection, including these:

The spirit and the body shall be reunited again in its perfect form; both limb and joint shall be restored to its proper frame, even as we now are at this time...

Now, this restoration shall come to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, both the wicked and the righteous; and even there shall not so much as a hair of their heads be lost; but every thing shall be restored to its perfect frame, as it is now, or in the body... 

I say unto you that this mortal body is raised to an immortal body, that is from death, even from the first death unto life, that they can die no more; their spirits uniting with their bodies, never to be divided; thus the whole becoming spiritual and immortal, that they can no more see corruption.
(Alma 11:43-5)

The soul shall be restored to the body, and the body to the soul; yea, and every limb and joint shall be restored to its body; yea, even a hair of the head shall not be lost; but all things shall be restored to their proper and perfect frame, as it is now, or in the body....

I say unto you that this mortal body is raised to an immortal body, that is from death, even from the first death unto life, that they can die no more; their spirits uniting with their bodies, never to be divided.
(Alma 40:23, 25)

Notice how, in the painting, the old man with the plates appears somewhat short and stocky, with a heavy white beard. That fits the description by David Whitmer. But it flatly contradicts the description of Moroni given by Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery.

If the spirit unites with a resurrected body, never to be divided, how can that same spirit unite with a different body?

And yet, this is what our Church historians expect us to believe, all because of this fake Moroni-Mary Whitmer story.
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The doctrinal problem arises not only because of the obvious incongruity between Joseph's description of Moroni and David Whitmer's description of the messenger with the plates. The problem exists also because David explicitly stated that Joseph Smith identified the messenger was one of the Nephites.

In December 1877, Edward Stevenson visited David Whitmer. Here's what he wrote in his journal:

"I wish to mention an Item of conversation with David Whitmer in regard to Seeing one of the Nephites, Zina Young, Desired me to ask about it. David Said, Oliver, & The Prophet, & I were riding in a wagon, & an aged man about 5 feet 10, heavey Set & on his back, an old fashioned Armey knapsack Straped over his Shoulders & Something Square in it, & he walked alongside of the Wagon & Wiped the Sweat off his face, Smileing very Pleasant David asked him to ride and he replied I am going across to the hill Cumorah. Soon after they Passed they felt Strangeley and Stoped, but could see nothing of him all around was clean and they asked the Lord about it. He Said that the Prophet Looked as White as a Sheet & Said that it was one of the Nephites & that he had the plates."

As I've discussed before, it is significant that Zina Young asked Elder Stevenson to ask David about this event. Zina had met David Whitmer in 1835 when he and Hyrum were missionaries that baptized her family. There is no record of her having an association with David after that time, and certainly not after David left the Church in 1837-8. This suggests that Zina's question was prompted by her memory of what David told her back in 1835, possibly as part of his missionary message.

The key points from this interview:

1. Zina asked Stevenson to ask David about "seeing one of the Nephites."

2. David said "an aged man about 5 feet 10, heavy set" had a knapsack over his shoulders.

3. The man said "I am going across to the hill Cumorah."

4. Joseph "said that it was one of the Nephites  that he had the plates."

None of this says or implies that the "Nephite" was the resurrected Moroni. Nor does the account say or imply that the Nephite was going to Fayette.

But Saints teaches otherwise, using a fictitious quotation derived from a grandchild's belief that his grandmother, Mary Whitmer, was wrong when she said the messenger identified himself as "Brother Nephi."

You can read the rest of the analysis here:

https://saintsreview.blogspot.com/2018/09/the-mary-whitmer-problem.html
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People ask, why would the Church historians concoct the fake Moroni-Mary Whitmer story when the accounts are so plain?

The answer: they concocted this story to accommodate M2C. It's the same reason why they changed history by purging Cumorah from the historical record.

If you're a new reader on this blog, you may wonder, what does M2C have to do with it?

M2C insists the Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 is in Mexico, not New York. Therefore, it contradicts M2C to have one of the Three Nephites take the abridged plates to Cumorah in New York after Joseph had finished with them in Harmony, and then to have that same individual bring the original plates of Nephi to Fayette for Joseph to translate.

Rather than deal with the actual history, the M2C advocates simply changed the history by claiming instead it was Moroni who carried the plates directly to Fayette.

One member of the triumvirate, Brother Jack Welch, published a detailed account of the translation process from April through June, 1829. It is included in a chapter in the important book Opening the Heavens, which you can download for free at this link.

https://byustudies.byu.edu/content/opening-heavens-coming-forth-book-mormon-chapter-only

Incredibly, even in this otherwise detailed account, Brother Welch omitted the quotations from David Whitmer and created a false narrative to accommodate M2C.

I discussed this in detail here:

http://www.bookofmormoncentralamerica.com/2017/12/opening-heavens-but-censoring-history.html

In Opening the Heavens, Brother Welch wrote this footnote on page 108.

84. As reported by Joseph F. Smith, David Whitmer told him and Orson Pratt that Joseph prophesied to Oliver “a perfect description of what David did on the way” before David arrived. Joseph F. Smith, Statement, written April 25, 1918, typescript, 2, Church History Library, available on Church History Library, https://dcms.lds.org/delivery/DeliveryManagerServlet?dps_pid=IE4987096. They traveled on “an ordinary wagon with two long poles in it at each end across the end gates of the wagon box, and then two boards laid across that for seats on those hickory poles. Joseph and Emma were on the hind seat and Oliver and David on the front seat.” Joseph F. Smith, Statement, 2. The plates were carried to Fayette by Moroni in a bundle on his back. Joseph F. Smith, Statement, 3. “Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1844–1845,” book 8, p. 10, does not include Emma on this trip to Fayette (Waterloo). See also Cook, David Whitmer Interviews, 114–15, 197

Notice the reference Brother Welch cited. It's not a "statement" by Joseph F. Smith (JFS). It's a typescript of part of the minutes of an unspecified meeting dated April 25, 1918. JFS was relating what he told a Sunday School in Los Angeles, going by memory.

According to the typescript, in Los Angeles JFS related his recollection of his meeting with David Whitmer in 1878, 40 years earlier. The transcript has JFS saying this: "Joseph informed him [David] that the man was Moroni, and that the bundle on his back contained plates which Joseph had delivered to him before they departed from Harmony, Susquehanna County, and that he was taking them for safety, and would return them when he (Joseph) reached father Whitmer's house."

The problem: this unauthenticated typescript of JFS's recollection contradicts what JFS himself wrote in a letter to President John Taylor on Sept. 17, 1878, 10 days after me met with David Whitmer (on Sept. 7). You can see the letter here:

https://catalog.churchofjesuschrist.org/assets?id=dca15baa-a0ac-4fc1-b2ec-7f3cd75e4906&crate=0&index=38

Furthermore, JFS and his companion, Orson Pratt, wrote a formal report to President Taylor and the Quorum of the Twelve that is nearly identical to the letter, with the changes indicated below. (Wording from the original letter is in red, additions in the report are underlined.)

When I was returning to Fayette with Joseph and Oliver all of us riding in the wagon, Oliver and I on an old fashioned wooden spring seat and Joseph behind us, while traveling along in a clear open place [or prairie, we were suddenly approach by], a very pleasant, nice-looking old man suddenly appeared by the side of our wagon who saluted us with, “good morning, it is very warm,” at the same time wiping his face or forehead with his hand. We returned the salutation, and by a sign from Joseph I invited him to ride if he was going our way. But he said very pleasantly, “No, I am going to Cumorah.’ This name was something new to me, I did not know what Cumorah meant. [and] We all gazed at him and at each other, and as I looked round enquiringly of Joseph the old man instantly disappeared, so that I did not see him again.
J.F.S.—Did you notice his appearance?
D.W.—I should think I did, he was, I should think, about 5 feet 8 or 9 inches tall and heavy set, about such a man as James Vancleave there, but heavier, his face was as large, he was dressed in a suit of brown woolen clothes, his hair and beard were white like [bro.] Brother Pratt’s, but his beard was not so heavy. I also remember that he had on his back a sort of knapsack with something in, shaped like a book. It was the messenger who had the plates, who had taken them from Joseph just prior to our starting from Harmony.


We can infer that the changes were prompted by Orson Pratt's contribution, since the letter, written by JFS in his own handwriting, was the first draft of the report the two submitted to President Taylor. Thus the report was the product of both men.

Later in the same interview, David Whitmer said, "The three Nephites are at work among the lost tribes and elsewhere." This suggests that to David, the three Nephites were an integral part of the work.
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There are several points to consider here.

The contemporaneous accounts from JFS and Orson Pratt are consistent with Elder Stevenson's account of his interview with David Whitmer the year before. All of these accounts are consistent with Zina Young's request to Elder Stevenson before he left Utah to visit David.

None of these mention Moroni. Instead, they refer to a Nephite who took the plates to Cumorah. The Nephite was an "old man" who was heavy set and five feet, eight or nine inches tall. David said it was this same messenger who showed the plates to his mother Mary.

Mary Whitmer claimed the messenger called himself "Brother Nephi."

There are no statements attributed to David Whitmer or anyone else to the effect that the messenger was Moroni.
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To support the claim that it was Moroni who showed the plates to Mary Whitmer, the historians rely on Mary Whitmer's grandson, who thought his grandmother was confused or wrong, and on this typescript of meeting minutes.

The unauthenticated typescript that mentions Moroni could be accurate or not. It's possible that whoever typed it inferred that JFS meant to say Moroni when he said "the messenger" or even "the Nephite," just as Mary Whitmer's grandson inferred that she was wrong about how the messenger identified himself.

If the typescript is accurate, it shows JFS contradicting his 40-year-old contemporaneous account that was corroborated by Orson Pratt. It also shows JFS contradicting Elder Stevenson's contemporaneous account and Zina Young's contemporaneous question. Perhaps at some point JFS had heard an account from Mary Whitmer's descendants who claimed it was Moroni, and then JFS conflated the two in his memory.

Beyond the relative credibility and reliability of these accounts, we still have the problem of a shape-shifting resurrected being.

There is sound scriptural reason to believe David Whitmer's version. We know from 3 Nephi that the Lord promised the disciples that they would die at age 70, except for the three who would tarry. It seems logical that these three would be transformed at the age of 70 as well.

We don't know the names of those three, but among the twelve, the leader was named Nephi. The messenger identified himself to Mary Whitmer as "Brother Nephi," so at least Mary Whitmer's statement is consistent with what we know about the Three Nephites. And remember, she met the messenger before she had ever heard of Nephi. The 116 pages had been lost, the plates of Nephi had yet to be translated, and the yet-unpublished Harmony manuscript was in the possession of Joseph and Oliver.
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The totality of the evidence, especially when considered in light of the doctrine of the resurrection, does not support the idea that it was Moroni, as a short, old, fat man, who showed the plates to Mary Whitmer.

I propose that the fake story be replaced with the authentic historical record, even though it means teaching members of the Church that the messenger took the Harmony plates to Cumorah.

That's a feature, not a bug, of the original accounts.
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Summary:

Thanks to our M2C intellectuals and revisionist Church historians, the millions of people who have read, are reading, and will read Saints, Volume 1, learn a fake story about Moroni that is easily shown to be false. Missionaries are telling this phony story to visitors at the Fayette visitors center in New York. We members, including youth, as well as nonmembers are expected to believe this, but even cursory review of the original sources shows it was Nephi, not Moroni, who showed the plates to Mary Whitmer.

Moroni-a resurrected man
The M2C intellectuals don't want people to know it was Nephi, because that means it was also Nephi who took the Harmony plates to Cumorah before bringing the plates of Nephi to Fayette. That means the repository of Nephite records was actually in the Hill Cumorah in New York, as Oliver Cowdery reported. And that means M2C is a hoax.

The Mary Whitmer/Moroni narrative promoted by the M2C intellectuals frames Moroni as a shape-shifter. He appears to Joseph Smith as a glorious resurrected being, but appears to Mary Whitmer as a aged, portly, short man with a long beard in an old brown wool suit.

Item by item, these M2C intellectuals and the revisionist historians are making the story of the Restoration less and less credible.

Not only are they saying the prophets have been wrong about the New York Cumorah, but now they're saying that Joseph didn't translate the plates after all, that the words he read off a seer stone in a hat were composed by someone in the 1500s, and that we should rewrite what Joseph and Oliver wrote about the translation to conform to their theories.

The original accounts by Joseph, Oliver and their contemporaries are far more credible than the revisionist versions created in recent years.
_____

Postscript re Moroni and Nephi.

Aside from the M2C-inspired effort to change Church history regarding the messenger who took the plates to Cumorah, there is another lingering issue that confuses Moroni and Nephi.

When originally published in the Times and Seasons in 1842, Joseph Smith's history said that it was Nephi who first appeared to him in 1823 to tell him about the plates.

Church historians later edited the history so that it now read Moroni, but this detail has led critics to claim that Joseph couldn't get his story straight.

I see it differently.

First, there's no doubt the 1842 publication in the Times and Seasons was an error. Joseph had identified the messenger as Moroni in the Elders' Journal in 1838. Oliver Cowdery had done the same in 1835.

So how can we account for such an obvious error in the 1842 Times and Seasons?

First, the publication of the error is evidence that Joseph Smith, who was the named editor of the newspaper at the time, was merely the nominal editor. He didn't review the paper closely, or at all, prior to publication.

Second, the history published in the 1842 Times and Seasons was not written by, and probably not dictated by, Joseph Smith. Instead, it was compiled by his scribes beginning in 1838. Of course, this raises the question, why would the scribes think it was Nephi who first visited Joseph and not Moroni?

The answer could be that they knew Joseph had multiple encounters with both Moroni and Nephi.

Brigham Young explained in a letter to his son that "There is really no discrepancy in the history about these names. It was Moroni who delivered the sacred records and Urim and Thummim to Joseph, but Nephi also visited him."

https://catalog.churchofjesuschrist.org/assets?id=b3c72fee-6f44-4ce6-8a9f-5cf38b6153d1&crate=0&index=387




By changing the historical narrative to omit Nephi and insert Moroni into the account of the messenger who took the Harmony plates to Cumorah and showed the plates of Nephi to Mary Whitmer, our Church historians have compounded the confusion that long existed over the claim in the 1842 Times and Seasons that it was Nephi who first appeared to Joseph Smith.

The sooner we correct this detail in Church history, the better.

_____









Friday, April 10, 2020

FIRM Foundation Expo

People around the world who are staying home for public health reasons are spending a lot of time on the Internet. Some are learning new things and building their talent stacks.

Here's a suggestion. Spend some time learning more about the Book of Mormon and related topics.

Many readers of this blog are aware of the Expo, but there are always new readers here, so I'm bringing it to your attention.

Here's the link:

https://firmfoundationexpo.org/

Enjoy!


Friday, April 3, 2020

Read afresh: prophetic clarity vs. academic confusion

Tomorrow is General Conference. President Nelson asked us to prepare. You may wish to begin your preparation by reading afresh Joseph Smith’s account of the First Vision as recorded in the Pearl of Great Price.... 

Never has it been more important to "read afresh" the teachings of the prophets. There is more truth in one page of scripture than in 1,000 pages of academic commentary and interpretation.

The scriptures and the prophets are clear and direct. Academic commentary is confusing and indirect.

When they "analyze" the words of the prophets, the academics provide a steady stream of "yes, but" "maybe, but" and "that's their opinion, but."

Set aside the teachings of the scholars for a while. Focus on the teachings of the prophets instead.
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The scriptures and the prophets consistently and persistently teach two key elements of the Restoration.

1. Joseph Smith was a prophet who told the truth about what he experienced.

2. The Book of Mormon is an authentic history of real people who had the gospel of Jesus Christ.

No one leaves the Church when they believe these two things.
No one joins the Church unless they believe these two things.

You might be thinking of an isolated exception. If so, think it through again.
_____

Millions of people have declined to accept the missionaries' invitation because they do not accept these two elements. Thousands of people have left the Church because they come to reject these two elements.

Why does this happen?

There are as many reasons as there are individuals; every individual is unique. But there are common themes.

People gain testimonies when they read and hear the teachings of the prophets. The Holy Ghost testifies to them, in all the different ways Moroni explained in Moroni 10.

People lose testimonies when they read and hear the teachings of scholars, academics, and critics who reject the plain teachings of the prophets.
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After General Conference, you will probably want to learn more about what the prophets have taught.

You might have to do a little work to find the teachings of the prophets on these topics. Start with the scriptures. Read original sources in the Joseph Smith Papers. Read reports of General Conference.

Read books written by prophets and published by the Church, such as Elder Talmage's Jesus the Christ and the Articles of Faith (but not the recent manuals that edit out key passages because of an academic agenda).

[If you want to read what the prophets have taught about Cumorah, I've assembled a list here:
http://www.lettervii.com/p/byu-packet-on-cumorah.html]
_____

As you read afresh the teachings of the scriptures and the prophets, you will be able to discern the difference between those teachings and the following theories of men that swirl through the Church today:

1. Joseph Smith didn't really translate the Nephite plates. He didn't even use them.
2. Joseph Smith didn't really use the Urim and Thummim that Moroni provided with the plates. Instead, he simply read words that appeared on a seer stone he found in a well.
3. Joseph Smith couldn't have translated the Book of Mormon because the language is from an unknown translator from the 1500s.
4. Joseph Smith didn't know anything about the ancient Nephites.
5. Joseph Smith learned about the Nephite civilization from scholars and travel books.
6. The real Hill Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 is in southern Mexico, not in New York.
7. The Book of Mormon is a real history, but we know nothing about where any events took place.
8. The best way to teach the Book of Mormon is with a fantasy map based on an interpretation that repudiates the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah.
9. The Book of Mormon may not be an accurate translation because Joseph didn't know anything about Mayan culture.
10. The Book of Mormon teaches truth, but is not a real history. It's a work of 19th century fiction.
_____

Here's a thought exercise.

Read afresh the scriptures and the teachings of the prophets. Then read the anonymous Gospel Topics Essays. Those essays, in many cases, put more emphasis on the teachings of the scholars who wrote them than on the teachings of the prophets.

Read afresh what Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery wrote about translating the Book of Mormon with the Urim and Thummim. They were clear, direct, and consistent.

Now read what others claim about the translation, including the academic commentary covered at length in the Gospel Topics Essay (which doesn't quote or even cite much of what Joseph and Oliver taught). It is a mass of confusion.
_____

Keep in mind this distinction:

The scriptures and the prophets are clear and direct. Academic commentary is confusing and indirect.




Thursday, April 2, 2020

The M2C triumvirate: hallowed hands throwing Joseph under the bus

President Nelson has asked us all to prepare for General Conference. "What does that look like? You may wish to begin your preparation by reading afresh Joseph Smith’s account of the First Vision as recorded in the Pearl of Great Price....  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."

"Reading afresh Joseph Smith's account" of all of his experiences is an ideal way not only to prepare for General Conference but to understand the Restoration so we can all fulfill what President Nelson encouraged us to do. "God is trusting us, all of us, to play an important role in the Restoration of His gospel."

But if you "read afresh" Joseph Smith's accounts, you will discover that much of what he taught is missing from the M2C-inspired materials we see today. 

In his message, President Nelson quoted from the Wentworth letter. Another part of that letter provided the titles for the Saints books about Church history (discussed below): "the Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing."

We can all agree with Joseph's promise that "no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing."

But what about hallowed hands?

Today, we'll look at some of the ways in which the M2C triumvirate and their followers have managed to throw Joseph Smith under the bus.

[Note: there are several embedded links in this article if you'd like more information.]
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First, some brief history for context. Then we'll look at specific examples of throwing Joseph under the bus.

When the triumvirate set up F.A.R.M.S. at BYU in 1980, the group had a significant obstacle.

Committed to the M2C theory that the "real Cumorah" was in southern Mexico, they had to find a way to persuade Church members that the prophets were wrong about the New York Cumorah.

However, just two years before, in the October 1978 General Conference, Elder Mark E. Petersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles had reaffirmed what prior prophets had consistently taught about the New York Cumorah.

Moroni’s father was commander of the armies of this ancient people, known as Nephites. His name was Mormon. The war of which we speak took place here in America some four hundred years after Christ. (See Morm. 6.)

As the fighting neared its end, Mormon gathered the remnant of his forces about a hill which they called Cumorah, located in what is now the western part of the state of New York.

Their enemies, known as Lamanites, came against them on this hill....

When finished with the record, Moroni was to hide it up in that same Hill Cumorah which was their battlefield. It would come forth in modern times as the Book of Mormon, named after Moroni’s father, the historian who compiled it....

So this is the message of Moroni. He came back from the dead to deliver it—in these modern times.


His people were Americans, too. His words constituted a people-to-people message, ancient Americans speaking to modern Americans.

https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/1978/10/the-last-words-of-moroni?lang=eng

Three years previously, President Marion G. Romney had also testified about the New York Cumorah in the October 1975 General Conference.

In the western part of the state of New York near Palmyra is a prominent hill known as the “hill Cumorah.” (Morm. 6:6.) On July twenty-fifth of this year, as I stood on the crest of that hill admiring with awe the breathtaking panorama which stretched out before me on every hand, my mind reverted to the events which occurred in that vicinity some twenty-five centuries ago—events which brought to an end the great Jaredite nation.

This second civilization to which I refer, the Nephites, flourished in America between 600 B.C. and A.D. 400. Their civilization came to an end for the same reason, at the same place, and in the same manner as did the Jaredites’.
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How did the triumvirate overcome the teachings of the prophets, which stood as an obstacle to M2C?

They employed the academic cycle. 

The wikipedia article on F.A.R.M.S. frames it this way:

Scholars, such as John L. Sorenson, say that the publications of FARMS represented a new trend within Mormonism: the emergence of progressive forms of Mormon orthodoxy. While its scholars are committed to literal interpretations of Mormon faith claims, they are willing to rethink traditional understandings of those claims. For example, FARMS has published a limited geography model for the Book of Mormon. This suggests that the events chronicled in the Book of Mormon occurred in a much smaller region than the traditional understanding, which argues the same events occurred across the entire Western hemisphere.

The conflation of a "hemispheric model" with the New York Cumorah is a red herring. The prophets always taught two things: The Hill Cumorah is in New York, and we don't know where the rest of the events took place. Some leaders (but never Joseph Smith nor Oliver Cowdery) speculated about a hemispheric setting, but it was never taught as a fact the way the New York Cumorah has been.

[Key point: Joseph did identify specific burial sites in the Midwestern U.S. as Jaredite and Nephite, respectively, a topic we'll discuss below.]

I was a student at BYU in the 1970s. They put me in an "Honors" program, apparently because I was a National Merit semifinalist (the only LDS and only boy from my high school in Arizona).

Brother Sorenson taught a group of us about anthropology and the Book of Mormon, focusing on Mesoamerica with the "progressive" slant. I didn't realize it then, but in retrospect I realize I was being groomed to trust the scholars instead of the prophets.

I was a willing subject, of course. I was enthralled with the Mesoamerican setting. Years later a friend of mine was an archaeologist who did a peer review of Brother Sorenson's early draft of what became An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon. I still have a copy of that draft around here somewhere.

Like most LDS students today, I was dazzled by the credentials, confidence, and erudition of the M2C scholars. I was completely convinced by the M2C triumvirate, and F.A.R.M.S. in general, that they were right and the prophets were wrong.

Thanks to the academic cycle, M2C progressed right through the Church as we students entered the workforce and used our resources and abilities to further the work of the Restoration. We became leaders at various levels of the Church. We went out with the missionaries, we taught the youth, and we discussed all of these things with anyone who was interested.

Brother Sorenson published two articles in the Ensign about Mesoamerica. F.A.R.M.S. published numerous books, newsletters, and articles promoting M2C. Faculty at BYU and in CES taught it explicitly.

There was a bit of a setback in 1990. A ward member from Oklahoma wrote to President Hinckley, inquiring about the Hill Cumorah. Presumably he was trying to reconcile M2C with what he had always been taught.

In response, the Office of the First Presidency wrote this, dated October 16, 1990:

Dear Bishop ___: l have been asked to forward to you for acknowledgment and handling the enclosed copy of a letter to President Gordon B. Hinckley from Ronnie Sparks of your ward. Brother Sparks inquired about the location of the Hill Cumorah mentioned in the Book of Mormon, where the last battle between the Nephites and Lamanites took place. The Church has long maintained, as attested to by references in the writings of General Authorities, that the Hill Cumorah in western New York state is the same as referenced in the Book of Mormon. The Brethren appreciate your assistance in responding to this inquiry, and asked that you convey to Brother Sparks their commendation for his gospel study.  
Sincerely yours,

F. Michael Watson
Secretary to the First Presidency

The letter had been personally approved by each member of the First Presidency, consisting of Ezra Taft Benson, Gordon B. Hinckley, and Thomas S. Monson, with their personal stamps, before it was sent out.

Obviously, it was a personal letter not intended for widespread dissemination, but it is a simple statement of fact, easily verified by consulting conference reports and other materials.

Yet it didn't slow down F.A.R.M.S. or the triumvirate at all.

In 1991, Brother Welch became Editor-in-Chief of BYU Studies. From then until the present, the journal has promoted M2C, featuring the map I posted yesterday and lots of M2C articles, book reviews, etc.

Numerous Ensign covers and other artwork depict M2C. Even the North Visitors Center on Temple Square teaches M2C.

Over the years, there were occasional setbacks, such as the "shake-up" at the Mormon Studies Review, reported here:
https://archive.sltrib.com/article.php?id=54358137&itype=CMSID, and the eventual destruction of F.A.R.M.S., discussed here:
https://www.patheos.com/blogs/enigmaticmirror/2015/09/08/how-byu-destroyed-ancient-book-of-mormon-studies/

Despite the ups and downs, M2C has successfully indoctrinated millions of Latter-day Saints, few of whom even know what the prophets have taught on this subject.
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Here are some examples of what the M2C academic cycle has produced as M2C followers have assumed various responsibilities in the Church.

1. Joseph Smith Lesson Manual. Remember the Wentworth letter from the beginning of this post? President Nelson quoted it in his message. The Saints books are named after phrases from the letter.

You can find the Wentworth letter in the lesson manual titled Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith.

https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/teachings-joseph-smith/chapter-38?lang=eng

If you go there, you will see that Church employees edited Joseph's words to omit (censor) material that contradicts M2C.

Original letter in blue (with the omitted portions in red): 

"Through the medium of the Urim and Thummim I translated the record by the gift and power of God.

"In this important and interesting book the history of ancient America is unfolded, from its first settlement by a colony that came from the Tower of Babel at the confusion of languages to the beginning of the fifth century of the Christian era. We are informed by these records that America in ancient times has been inhabited by two distinct races of people. The first were called Jaredites and came directly from the Tower of Babel. The second race came directly from the city of Jerusalem about six hundred years before Christ. They were principally Israelites of the descendants of Joseph. The Jaredites were destroyed about the time that the Israelites came from Jerusalem, who succeeded them in the inheritance of the country. The principal nation of the second race fell in battle towards the close of the fourth century. The remnant are the Indians that now inhabit this country. This book also tells us that our Savior made His appearance upon this continent after His Resurrection;"

Because the employees deleted this important passage, very few members of the Church today know what Joseph Smith taught. 

True, you can find the original version of the Wentworth letter in the Joseph Smith Papers or in another (English) source, but the lesson manual is the principal source of Joseph's teachings for most members of the Church. It has been translated into most of the languages in the Church, including Spanish, French, Portuguese, Chinese, German, etc.

Church members speaking those languages have no other source for the Wentworth letter than this edited and censored source!

You might ask, how did M2C influence this censorship? In two ways.

First, the statement bolded above--The remnant are the Indians that now inhabit this country--teaches that the Indians in the United States are the descendants of Lehi. This is consistent with D&C 28, 30 and 32. It is consistent with everything Joseph told those Indian tribes directly about their ancestors. But it isn't consistent with M2C because the Indians in the northeastern U.S. differ genetically from the indigenous tribes of Latin America (which includes Mesoamerica).

Second, the manual was published about the time when the DNA controversy surfaced. DNA demonstrates that the indigenous inhabitants of Latin America have Asian ancestry. (We'll save the discussion of DNA for another time.) Obviously, that discovery contradicted the claim that all the indigenous people of Latin America were Lamanites.

IOW, the manual omitted Joseph Smith's teachings because M2C-believing employees thought that science contradicted Joseph's teachings.

But as we just saw, the Indians Joseph identified as Lamanites--the Indians the Lord identified as Lamanites in D&C 28, 30 and 32--are distinct genetically from the indigenous people in Latin America.

It turns out that Joseph's teaching here was prophetic. At the time, no one knew there were two distinct ancient civilizations in what is now the United States. People knew there were mounds everywhere; hundreds of thousands of them were raided for treasure and plowed up for farmland. 

It wasn't until decades later that archaeologists and anthropologists determined there were two distinct civilizations. The older one, now called Adena, corresponds with Jaredite time frames. The less old one, now called Hopewell, corresponds with Nephite time frames.

Furthermore, on other occasions Joseph Smith personally identified burial ruins of what we now know as Hopewell as Nephites. He also personally identified burial ruins of what we now know as Adena as Jaredites.

To reiterate: long before archaeologists did, Joseph Smith distinguished between the two civilizations that lived anciently in what is now the Central and Eastern United States, and he specifically identified their bones as Jaredite and Nephite/Lamanite.

He taught this concisely and clearly in the Wentworth letter, but few Church members know it because the M2C censors edited Joseph's teachings out of the manual.

2. Saints book, volume 1.

By now, readers here are familiar with the censorship of Cumorah from the Saints book, volume 1.

The historians have admitted they changed Church history to accommodate modern concepts of historicity and geography, a euphemism for M2C. I've discussed all of this here:

https://saintsreview.blogspot.com/2018/10/the-historians-explain-censorship-in.html

The censorship of Cumorah is not the only M2C-driven change to Church history. I've described others in that blog, such as the fake story that it was Moroni who showed the plates to Mary Whitmer (It was one of the Three Nephites, and he called himself Nephi. Presumably this is the same Nephi who met with Joseph Smith numerous times, another topic for another day.)

Like the Joseph Smith manual, Saints has been translated into dozens of languages and is the only practical source of Church history for current and future generations.

Within a few years, no members of the Church will know anything about what the prophets have taught regarding the Hill Cumorah, except the historians and M2C scholars who have already censored it everywhere they can.

Well, there is an exception.

Many members of the Church learn what the prophets have taught from critics such as the CES Letter, Mormon Stories, the Tanners, various Christian ministries, etc.

Imagine being a youth, missionary, or ordinary member of the Church and learning for the first time from a critic of the Church what the prophets have taught about the New York Cumorah. Not exactly a faith-promoting scenario.

It's difficult to see how teaching "revisionist" Church history that omits these teachings because the M2C scholars disagree with them is preferable to teaching and embracing these teachings.

3. Saints book, volume 2. 

As I've pointed out, volume 2 of Saints is much better than volume 1.

https://saintsreview.blogspot.com/2019/06/saints-volume-2-looks-great.html

However, there are obvious omissions driven by M2C that people should be aware of. I've discussed a couple here:

https://saintsreview.blogspot.com/2020/04/saints-vol-2-omitting-cumorah-from.html

https://saintsreview.blogspot.com/2020/04/saints-vol-2-omitting-cumorah-from-jfs.html
_____

Long-time readers here know there are many other examples, including the fantasy maps used by BYU and CES.

We haven't even discussed SITH (stone-in-the-hat) and all the ramifications of that. We now have faithful scholars in the Church teaching that Joseph Smith didn't translate the plates. They say he didn't even use the plates. Others claim he used both the Urim and Thummim and the SITH, a claim that is unsupported by the sources. Still others support SITH by changing the meaning of the words Joseph used.

Of course, the SITH narrative contradicts the consistent and persistent teachings of the prophets over decades, just like M2C does.

I'll summarize the SITH issue with a table from my latest book, A Man That Can Translate:

There is another approach that is not purely historical in nature. It is the hierarchy of reliability, based on theological considerations. The following table categorizes the major witnesses/observers in descending order of reliability.

Evidence ranked by reliability
translation of 116 pages
translation of BofM

SS
UT
SS
UT
Moroni (Ether, JS-H, Letter IV, etc.)




D&C (Sections 3, 6, 7, 10, 11, 14, 17)




Joseph Smith, Jr.




Oliver Cowdery




Lucy Mack Smith




Martin Harris




David Whitmer




Emma Smith




Mormonism Unvailed statements




Elizabeth Cowdery




William E. McLellin





Those who accept the scriptures as divine would by definition consider them reliable. Next would be Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, the principle participants in the translation.

The table shows that the most reliable evidence concurred that the Urim and Thummim—the Nephite interpreters—were provided by the Lord specifically for the purpose of translating the plates. They also concur that Joseph used the Urim and Thummim to translate the plates.
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We'll continue this series next week, but in the meantime, I hope everyone takes the advice of President Nelson to read afresh the accounts of Joseph Smith.

Notice: President Nelson did not encourage us to read the commentaries. He did not encourage us to read scholarly interpretations.

He encouraged us to read the originals.

The originals contain the "good information" that leads to "good inspiration."

Read the account in the Pearl of Great Price (Joseph Smith--History). 

[Whatever you do, don't get distracted by the Gospel Topics Essay on Translation of the Book of Mormon that omits most of what Joseph said on the topic, including the relevant passages from Joseph Smith--History.\

Read what Joseph wrote in the Wentworth letter. 

[Just don't read the version in the manual. Read the original, entire and unedited (as Joseph specifically requested).]

You can still find a complete version in an old Ensign, here:
https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/2002/07/the-wentworth-letter?lang=eng

For the earliest detailed history of Joseph's experiences, read the eight essays he helped Oliver Cowdery write. You can find them in the Times and Seasons, the Messenger and Advocate, the Improvement Era, the Gospel Reflector, the Prophet, and the Millennial Star.

Notice: you won't find them in the Ensign. Yet.

But it's probably easiest to read them right in Joseph's own history, starting here:

https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/history-1834-1836/48

Although they didn't discuss the First Vision in these essays, they did discuss the events leading up to Moroni's first visit through the restoration of the Priesthood, providing important details that are unfamiliar to many Church members.
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