Monday, August 31, 2020

Exceptionally stupid? Current LDS apologetics

Here are two suggestions for LDS apologetics:

1. Instead of ridiculing sincere objections and questions from those outside our faith, answer them accurately with equivalent sincerity and understanding.

2. Instead of repudiating and ridiculing the teachings of the prophets about such basics as the New York Cumorah and the translation with the Urim and Thummim, support and corroborate those teachings.
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What brought this to mind was a recent post by Dan the Interpreter.

People often send me links to blog posts by Dan the Interpreter, but they're usually just more of the usual braggadocio we've seen for decades so I ignore them.

This one, though was unusually arrogant, and because it typifies so much of current LDS apologetics, let's discuss it briefly.

[No doubt, Dan and his alter ego will react to this with another of their juvenile posts, but we're all used to that by now.]

This can be a little confusing, so let's unpack it this way:

1. In a blog post, Dan the Interpreter claimed someone made an "exceptionally stupid" argument against the Restoration.

2. Dan linked to another blog, scripturalmormonism, which quoted yet a third blog that discussed "one of the dumbest arguments ever raised!" The argument: that the authors of a book titled Who Really Wrote the Book of Mormon? were the Three Witnesses. Seriously, that's the "exceptionally stupid" argument according to Dan the Interpreter. But it's not even an argument. It's an obvious mistaken identification, accompanied by the serious argument that the Three Witnesses did leave the Church.

3. The scripturalmormonism post in turn linked to an article by Roper that criticized Who Really Wrote the Book of Mormon?

4. In his blog post, Dan added additional gratuitous and irrelevant ad hominem criticism of Who Really Wrote the Book of Mormon? while ignoring the substantive issues.
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Certainly the original blogger (quoted in red below) made a mistake by thinking the authors of the book referenced (Who Really Wrote the Book of Mormon,) were the Three Witnesses, but that's ignorance, not stupidity. The mistaken identity is not their argument, or their point, which is the question why the Three Witnesses left the Church. That's a factual, accurate, and valid point that people assessing the claims of the Restoration want to understand.

But instead of addressing the substantive point, Dan, as usual, ridicules the mistaken identity as "exceptionally stupid."

Finding fault over someone's simple mistake while obscuring the serious (and presumably sincere) point is the type of "apologetics" that has turned off so many people. It was this type of apologetics alerted me that something was fundamentally wrong with LDS apologetics, at least as practiced by the M2C citation cartel (FARMS, FairMormon, Book of Mormon Central, etc.).

But there's an even larger issue here. Dan, like other M2C promoters, has explicitly rejected the statements of all three of the Three Witnesses regarding the New York Cumorah.

M2C constitutes a repudiation of the teachings of the very Three Witnesses whose testimony accompanies every copy of the Book of Mormon. All three--David Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery, and Martin Harris--identified the "hill in New York" as Cumorah. One of Oliver's missionary companions, Parley P. Pratt, noted that it was Moroni himself who called that hill Cumorah anciently. And Joseph referred to the hill as Cumorah even before he got the plates.

According to Dan and the other M2C advocates, all of these people (as well as LDS Church leaders since) were wrong. They were victims of a false tradition that started even before the Book of Mormon was published.

And we're all supposed to believe Dan and the M2C scholars because... I suppose because if we don't, we're also "exceptionally stupid" to believe the teachings of the prophets.
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Here's a link to Dan's post:

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/danpeterson/2020/08/an-exceptionally-stupid-argument-against-the-restoration.html

Key excerpt:

our Irish friend Robert Boylan, who might understandably be more attentive to Catholic criticisms of Mormonism because of his location near Dublin, has located what surely has to rank as one of the most obviously laughable anti-Mormon arguments that I’ve ever seen, and it’s from a Catholic:
If you click on that link, you get this blog post:
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On a Catholic apologetics page, Mormonism and it's [sic] Mythology, we read the following question that is supposedly unanswerable for any Mormon:

Why did Smith's three main witnesses, Cowdrey, Davis and Scales write the book, "Who Really Wrote the Book of Mormon? (Vision House Publishers, 1977)? Why did they leave the Mormon Church, even though they claimed to have seen Smith’s tablets?

I am sorry, but this has got to be one of the dumbest arguments ever raised! Wayne L. Cowdery, Howard Davis, and Donald Scales were three authors of an anti-Mormon book released in the late 1970s; they were not the three witnesses of the gold plates and the angel Moroni! They were all born in the 20th century, well after the publication of the Book of Mormon and the time of Joseph Smith (d. 1844).

The actual three witnesses were Oliver Cowdery (d.1850), Martin Harris (d. 1875), and David Whitmer (d. 1888). For a scholarly discussion of the Three and Eight Witnesses, see Richard L. Anderson, Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1981).

For a review of the second edition of Who Really Wrote the Book of Mormon?, see Matthew P. Roper, The Mythical "Manuscript Found"
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In his post, Dan the Interpreter spends some time criticizing the book Who Really Wrote the Book of Mormon, with his usual ad hominem logical fallacies, such as this:

Incidentally, the Cowdrey, Davis, and Scales book to which Brother Boylan refers was pretty funny even back when it was published in 1977, both because it was deliciously awful and because Wayne Cowdrey was claiming to be a descendent of Oliver Cowdery. 

The otherwise omniscient Dan the Interpreter doesn't seem to realize that Wayne Cowdrey clarified that he is related to Oliver because Oliver's grandfather was Wayne's uncle, six times removed. Nevertheless, Dan embarks on a bizarre explanation of why Wayne could not be descended from Oliver, as if that has any relevance to the facts and argument Wayne has made. It's another typical diversion from the main points of the arguments raised by critics.

The Roper article titled "The Mythical 'Manuscript Found'" is cited by FARMS here:

https://www.fairmormon.org/answers/Criticism_of_Mormonism/Books/Who_Really_Wrote_the_Book_of_Mormon

You can also see that one here:

https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1616&context=msr

This is a useful article that also points out the contradictions of M2C.

On page 12, Roper accurately writes:

Leaders of the church at that time reacted to Mormonism Unvailed in several ways. First, they published in the Latter-day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate a series of letters on the history of Joseph Smith and his early prophetic experiences. These materials were intended as a rebuttal to the negative testimony published by Howe.

Here's the irony.

Two key assertions of Mormonism Unvailed were:

(i) Joseph translated with a "peep stone" and

(ii) the Book of Mormon was fiction, copied or adapted from the Solomon Spalding manuscript.

Regarding these two assertions, Roper, Dan the Interpreter, and every other member of, supporter of, employee of, and contributor to the M2C citation cartel have expressly rejected the defense to Mormonism Unvailed published by Joseph and Oliver.

They reject parts of Letter IV, most of Letter VII, and most of them even reject the part of Letter I that is canonized in the Pearl of Great Price because Oliver testified that Joseph translated the Book of Mormon with the Urim and Thummim.

By rejecting the defenses by Joseph and Oliver that were published and republished multiple times during Joseph's lifetime, our M2C scholars have not only undermined the credibility and reliability of Joseph and Oliver, but also the credibility and reliability of the LDS prophets and apostles who have reiterated those defenses ever since.
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The problems don't stop there.

The authors of Who Really Wrote the Book of Mormon published a follow-up that includes a 57-page response to Roper's article. If Roper addressed the points they raised, FairMormon hasn't included it.

Instead, FairMormon offers a stale response that is adequate for confirming the biases of believers who just want an answer (any answer will do), but does little to inspire confidence among those who seek clarification and resolution of the Spalding theory.

That's a topic for another day, but it is articles such as this from Dan the Interpreter and other LDS apologists that lead so many people to find better answers elsewhere. People don't want to read ad hominem attacks that skirt the issues.

Sadly, they end up consulting the CES Letter, Mormon Stories, etc.
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To reiterate, here are two suggestions for an alternative approach:

1. Instead of ridiculing sincere objections and questions from those outside our faith, answer them accurately with equivalent sincerity and understanding.

2. Instead of repudiating and ridiculing the teachings of the prophets about such basics as the New York Cumorah and the translation with the Urim and Thummim, support and corroborate those teachings.

Friday, August 28, 2020

The Liahona and crossing the Pacific?

In 1917, L.E. Hills, an RLDS researcher, offered his opinion on how the Liahona directed Lehi to the Promised Land.

He published a map that our current M2C friends have largely adopted.



Hills decided the LDS prophets were wrong about the New York Cumorah, so he put Cumorah in southern Mexico.

That's where our current LDS M2C scholars put it also.

As do our BYU/CES fantasy maps.






They expect us to believe that the Liahona directed Lehi and Nephi to sail east from the Arabian Peninsula to cross the vast Pacific Ocean to reach Central America.

Others say Lehi sailed around Africa but then also had to cross the south Atlantic and sail around South America to reach the west coast of Central America (or Chile, as others say).

Both alternatives are fine, if that's what you want to believe.

What more and more LDS are coming to realize, though, is there is another alternative.

The Liahona could have directed Lehi to take the safest, most logical route to the New World, the one also used by Mulek and the European explorers. They used this route because wind and ocean currents made it practical and relatively safe.

This means Lehi navigated around Africa, crossed the Atlantic, and landed in the southeastern U.S.

In recent years, this route has been replicated by the Phoenicia ship.



Here's a post I made in 2017 on the 100th anniversary of Hills' map that explains another reason why this route makes sense.

http://www.bookofmormoncentralamerica.com/2017/03/the-land-shadowing-with-wings.html

The land shadowing with wings

I've mentioned before that I think Nephi read Isaiah 18:1 and that's how he knew which direction he had to sail from the Arabian peninsula; i.e., "beyond the rivers of Ethiopia" according to the King James version, or "beyond the waters of Africa" as an alternate translation.

He knew he had to sail west, around Africa, and cross the Atlantic to America. It's pretty obvious for other reasons, as well, which I've discussed before.

Of course, such a crossing destroys the non-New York Cumorah theories (Mesoamerica, Panama, Chile, Baja, etc.), so proponents of those theories take the position that Nephi didn't know about Isaiah 18:1 or didn't refer to it as part of the process of sailing to the new world.
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I've also shown it was Benjamin Winchester who first came up with the idea that "the land shadowing with wings" refers to North and South America. He shared his interpretation with Hyrum Smith and published it in his Gospel Reflector. He followed up with additional analysis in his History of the Priesthood. Eventually it became mainstream.

Henry Caswall visited Nauvoo in 1842 and wrote a book about the experience titled The City of the Mormon, or Three days at Nauvoo. In his book, on page 25, he describes an encounter with a Church leader, presumably John Taylor. He records this conversation:

"...my host asked me to give my opinion of Nauvoo. I told him that it was certainly a remarkable place, and in a beautiful situation ; but that I considered it the offspring of a most astonishing and unaccountable delusion. He said that he admired my candour [sic], and was not surprised at my
unbelief, seeing that I was a stranger to the people and to the evidences of their faith. He then proceeded to inform me respecting these evidences. He assured me, in the first place, that America had been mentioned by the prophet Isaiah. I begged for the chapter and verse. He pointed to the sentence, — "Woe to the land shadowing with wings." Now to what land could this refer, but to North and South America, which stretched across the world with two great wings, like those of an eagle?

"Stop," I said; "does not the prophet describe the situation of the land? Observe that he says, ' it is beyond the rivers of Ethiopia.' "

"Well," said my host, " that may be true ; but is not America beyond Ethiopia?"

"Have you a map ?" I said.

"Yes," he replied, " here is my little girl's school atlas."

"Now tell me," I said, " where Isaiah wrote his book."

"In Palestine," he answered.

"Very well," I replied; " now tell me in what direction from Palestine is Ethiopia ?"

"South, by the map," was the reply.

"In what direction from Palestine is America ?"

"West," he answered.

"Now do you think that Isaiah, as a man of common sense, to say nothing of his prophetical character, would have described a country in the west, as lying beyond another which is due south ?"

He was silent for a moment, and then confessed that he had never thought of studying the Bible by the map; " but probably this map was wrong."
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Because he was a strong opponent of Mormonism, Caswall may have exaggerated about many of his observations, including this one. But I suspect he reported the conversation fairly accurately in terms of the content because this interpretation of Isaiah 18:1 became so commonplace once Winchester started it.

Today, we have a better sense of what Isaiah was referring to: i.e., the promised land of North America. (You have to read all of Isaiah 18 to see why.)

Anciently, Ethiopia was considered the land south of Egypt. From the perspective of a Jew living in Israel, Caswall's criticism would make sense; i.e., America is not beyond Ethiopia, which would be south, but it is west, beyond the Mediterranean ocean.

However, from the perspective of Nephi, who was staying along the southern coast of the Arabian peninsula with the family of his father Lehi, Isaiah's directions made sense. Nephi knew from Isaiah 18:1 that he'd have to sail around Africa before reaching the promised land.

There's nothing wrong with the map. But there is something wrong with the traditional interpretation that Benjamin Winchester left us.

We ought to embrace Isaiah 18:1 and how it helps us understand how Nephi would have known which way to sail.
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Our LDS scholars and educators who promote the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory will never accept the idea of Lehi crossing the mid-Atlantic because it doesn't fit M2C, but the rest of us should.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

The Liahona and EME

Now that the Ensign is being retired in favor of the Liahona, there are some details of "Liahona" you might find interesting. Today we'll look at how EME (Early Modern English) is implicated.
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One of the best sources of information about Book of Mormon terminology is the Book of Mormon Onomasticon. https://onoma.lib.byu.edu/index.php/Main_Page

If you look up "Liahona" you'll find an entry that has been edited a few times, with a significant change two years ago in the first paragraph under etymology.

Current
Original (pre-2018)
Directional device given to LEHI by the Lord, ca. 600 BC. It is described as a “ball” (1 Nephi 16:10), called a “director” (Mosiah 1:16) and a “compass” ( 1 Nephi 18:12), and only later in Alma 37:38 is the transliteration “LIAHONA” given.
Directional device given to LEHI by the Lord, ca. 600 BC. It is described as a “ball” (1 Nephi 16:10), called a “director” (Mosiah 1:16) and a “compass” ( 1 Nephi 18:12), and only later in Alma 37:38 is the transliteration “LIAHONA” given.
Alma 37:38 declares that LIAHONA by interpretation is a “compass.” The noun compass in Early Modern English means, to quote the OED, compass n.1 3.b., “a crafty contrivance or artifice.” This meaning does not continue into Modern English. Therefore, we can ignore the meanings mariner’s compass[1] and the mathematician’s compass both of which are attested in Modern English and Early Modern English.
Alma 37:38 declares that LIAHONA by interpretation is a “compass,” that is, an instrument for inscribing circles, or perhaps even a circle or globe itself. In a more general sense, LIAHONA might connote an aid to help find the desired direction.[1] Therefore, whatever etymology is proposed must not do violence to these meanings of the word “compass.”
 Footnote 1:  “Compass” should not be confused with the magnetic compass which first came into use in the West generally in the *Middle Ages. While it is possible that the magnetic compass was known in the East earlier, this cannot be assumed for the purpose of providing a denotation for the Book of Mormon name. It is however possible that the Plates might have used a word for some sort of path finder, in which case, the prophet Joseph Smith could have rendered the word loosely as “compass” in the sense of an instrument to help find the way.
 Footnote 1:  “Compass” should not be confused with the magnetic compass which first came into use in the West generally in the *Middle Ages. While it is possible that the magnetic compass was known in the East earlier, this cannot be assumed for the purpose of providing a denotation for the Book of Mormon name. It is however possible that the Plates might have used a word for some sort of path finder, in which case, the prophet Joseph Smith could have rendered the word loosely as “compass” in the sense of an instrument to help find the way.

As you can see, the 2018 change is clumsy at best. It appears to be an effort to incorporate the "Early Modern English" (EME) theory of Book of Mormon translation, promoted by Royal Skousen and Stanford Carmack, that Joseph didn't really translate the plates but instead read words off the stone in the hat (SITH) that were placed there by the mysterious unknown supernatural translator (MUST).

As EME, SITH and MUST continue to gain acceptance among LDS intellectuals, you will see more and more of this type of change.

Because I'm one of the heretics who still believes Joseph translated the plates, it makes more sense to me that Joseph used the ordinary sense of the term "compass" when he translated, as suggested in Footnote 1.
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One good thing about the Onomasticon is you can see the changes like on any wiki page. This is unlike the "Gospel Topics Essays" that are changed from time to time with no notice and no history.

Friday, August 21, 2020

Obvious hoaxes in public

Some of our M2C friends were upset a while back when I described M2C as a hoax. In fact, some of them responded by claiming the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah were a hoax.

Really?

On the one hand, we have the consistent and unambiguous teachings of the prophets.

On the other hand, we have the speculations of a handful of RLDS intellectuals who, just as the LDS leaders were planning to purchase and preserve the Hill Cumorah in New York about a hundred years ago, came up with an interpretation of the text of the Book of Mormon that put the "real Cumorah" in southern Mexico. This was M2C: the Mesoamerican/Two-Cumorahs theory.

Eventually, a handful of influential LDS intellectuals adopted the RLDS reasoning and began teaching M2C at BYU and CES, using bias confirmation and the M2C citation cartel to support their theories. Through the normal operation of the Academic Cycle, trusting students came to accept M2C and perpetuate it themselves, to the point where today, M2C is pervasive throughout the Church.
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I mention this today because last night, we had the candidate for President of the United States who currently leads in the polls deliberately and prominently repeat a hoax that a significant number of Americans actually believe because of deceptively edited video and accompanying commentary.

I usually avoid political commentary, but this is a remarkable development in the history of mass psychology, playing out where we can all see it.

This ongoing spectacle of the "fine people" hoax puts the M2C hoax in perspective. We see that it is possible for millions of Americans to believe an obvious lie if they are (i) primed to believe it, (ii) kept unaware of the contrary facts, and (iii) shown "correspondences" that confirm their bias.

If past patterns hold, we will see that many of my American critics who advocate M2C also believe the "fine people" hoax, or at least they will defend it. It's the same psychology.

To be clear, I think most people who believe M2C are sincere, awesome, faithful, and exemplary in every way. People can believe whatever they want; in the LDS context, what matters is whether people are committed to building up Zion and bringing people to Christ.

But M2C exalts scholarly interpretations and fundamentally teaches people to repudiate the teachings of the prophets on one specific topic, thereby establishing a framework for analysis of other topics that also prefers intellectuals over prophets.
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In case you don't know about the political "fine people" hoax to which I'm referring, here is how Joe Biden framed the hoax last night.

Just a week ago yesterday was the third anniversary of the events in Charlottesville. Close your eyes, remember what saw on television, and remember seeing those neo-Nazis and Klansmen and white supremacists, coming out of fields with lighted torches, veins bulging, spewing the same anti-Semitic bile heard across Europe in the ‘30s. Remember the violent clash that ensued between those spreading hate and those with the courage to stand against it.
Remember what the President said when asked, he said there were, quote, “very fine people on both sides.”  
https://www.npr.org/2020/08/20/901380014/fact-check-bidens-address-to-the-dnc-annotated

Politicians always portray their opponents as wrong on the issues. It's not even unusual for politicians to edit videos to convey false narratives. The "fine people" hoax was created by editing the President's comments to create a video that conveys exactly the opposite of what he actually said.

E.g., https://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2019/03/21/trump_didnt_call_neo-nazis_fine_people_heres_proof_139815.html

What's different about this hoax is the way it is being used to falsely divide Americans on an issue they actually agree on--the importance of equality and mutual respect--and the way it is being used to justify violence and destruction in our society, as we see daily.

Some twitter commentary:

@JoeBiden is still pushing the repulsive “Fine People Hoax” lives. The Hoax has been debunked. Thoroughly.He knows it’s a lie.

Biden runs on character and then tells the most divisive lie in American history (the Fine People Hoax) in his acceptance speech. 

Biden, again, went with the "Fine People on Both Sides Hoax", the most divisive hoax ever and is the source of much of the violence against Trump supporters.  Disqualifying!  He must never lead this nation.

I'm a Black man. President Trump never called Neo-Nazis or Klansmen "very fine people." Never. 
You've been lied to by a candidate who actually passed pro-segregation and anti-Black legislation. Joe Biden ain't with us.

Biden's spreading of the Fine People Hoax creates a real health risk for Trump supporters because his supporters believe it to be true. Twitter could protect the public by labeling tweets with that hoax as false. 

Biden has repeatedly cited the fine people hoax. He launched his campaign on it. Rewatch his launch video. But he will continue to use it because he has gotten away with it from the beginning.

Summary:




Wednesday, August 19, 2020

How to get along better

I'm writing this blog for those who don't accept M2C, who want to understand the faithful alternatives to M2C, and who want to understand why the M2C citation cartel does what it does.

I often point out that the M2C citation cartel refuses to compare M2C with the beliefs of those who still accept the New York Cumorah. I do so because their ongoing censorship is a missed opportunity for greater understanding and unity among members of the Church.

Faithful believers in the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon are happy to share their beliefs, compare them with alternatives in the pursuit of truth, and work together in harmony to build Zion regardless of any differences that linger.
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Apparently M2C believers continue to read this blog. That's fine, but from time to time I hear from M2C supporters who are upset. They tell me I'm calling them stupid or foolish, but I haven't done so  because I don't think that. They are apparently getting their information from Dan "the Interpreter" or his alter ego, the anonymous troll who resorts to ad hominem and other logical fallacies on his blog.

I've always said that I respect and personally like (and often rely upon the work of) the LDS historians and M2C scholars. Most of what they've done is excellent research and explanation. Having believed M2C for decades, I could state their positions clearly and even convincingly--so long as the audience is as uninformed as most M2C believers are.

This issue has nothing to do with intelligence, faithfulness, diligence, etc. When I believed M2C, I was operating in a bubble. An information silo. Because I trusted these M2C scholars, their employees and followers, I was kept uninformed of all the relevant facts. The M2C citation cartel has tight control on the LDS educational and publication world. That's how they have manged to successfully censor alternative faithful ideas.

As you encounter M2C believers, you will find they are usually defensive, antagonistic, and quick to anger. Case in point: Dan "the Interpreter" and his alter ego.

By contrast, those who accept the New York Cumorah are happy to discuss their reasoning and are confident, not defensive. We're fine with people believing whatever they want to believe, but we're concerned when faithful members of the Church are left ignorant of faith-affirming elements that corroborate the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon. We think "M2C or bust" is a counter-productive approach, just as we think the BYU fantasy map is a slow-moving disaster for the future.
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As wonderful and nice and faithful as M2C believers are, we all know from personal experience that they share one of three characteristics. They are

(i) uninformed about the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah, the interpretations of the text of the Book of Mormon that support those teachings, and the relevant extrinsic evidence that corroborates those teachings;
(ii) they are informed about these things but are so deeply invested in M2C that bias confirmation filters their perceptions (i.e., they cannot accurately explain how the New York Cumorah fits the evidence); or
(iii) they have decided to reject the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah (usually by framing those teachings as "incorrect personal opinions"), have decided that M2C is the best alternative, and use bias confirmation to justify their decisions.

Let me repeat, that's all fine with me. People can believe whatever they want, for whatever reasons they choose. But those who accept the NY Cumorah have a simpler profile.

They are:

(i) informed about and accept the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah, the interpretations of the text of the Book of Mormon that support those teachings, and the relevant extrinsic evidence that corroborates those teachings.

In deciding where we want to be, it is helpful for us all to understand how confirmation bias works in this arena.
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Confirmation bias is a phenomenon wherein decision makers have been shown to actively seek out and assign more weight to evidence that confirms their hypothesis, and ignore or underweigh evidence that could disconfirm their hypothesis.

Everyone resorts to bias confirmation in many aspects of their lives. M2C is just one example. And it's not a problem, really; people can be faithful believers in the Book of Mormon when they believe M2C, the BYU fantasy map, Peru, Baja, or whatever.

The problem arises when the M2C bubble bursts, but people have been conditioned by the M2C citation cartel to believe M2C is the only viable explanation for the Book of Mormon. 
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Let's look at a graphical representation of confirmation bias.

What you don't want is a situation in which your biases have no connection with relevant facts.
 Generally, the more your biases overlap with facts, the more confident you are.
 People often adjust their biases to fit the facts.
 In some areas, our biases make a nice fit with the facts.
Regarding the text of the Book of Mormon, believers have found interpretations of the text that support their biases, whether they believe in M2C or the NY Cumorah.
Believers in both M2C and the NY Cumorah can find support in the general teachings of the prophets regarding geography, the identify of the Lamanites, the promised land, etc. But there are also teachings that arguably contradict one side or the other.
Believers in both M2C and the NY Cumorah can find support in relevant sciences, as well. These "correspondences" are largely related to the respective interpretations of the text, and they are not universally accepted, which is why most people who don't accept the Book of Mormon don't see the extrinsic evidence the same way. IOW, there is no extrinsic, objective "proof" of the Book of Mormon, but there is plenty of evidence to support one's biases or beliefs.
The one area of stark difference involves the teachings of the prophets about the NY Cumorah. This is where a decision is required. The teachings exist. They are recorded, documented, and were once well known throughout the Church. No one is required to accept these teachings, of course. Everyone is free to reject or accept them. We can reject them explicitly, or we can reject them more subtly by framing them as incorrect personal opinions of the past.
Whatever your biases, you will find a way to confirm them.

There is no reason to be angry or antagonistic towards those who are confirming different biases. 

As we saw at the beginning of this post, faithful believers in the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon are happy to share their beliefs, compare them in the pursuit of truth, and work together to build Zion regardless of any differences that linger.


Friday, August 14, 2020

Why does BMC censor the North American setting?

People wonder why Book of Mormon Central (BMC) continues to censor information about the North American setting, with the Hill Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 in New York. 

Let me be clear, again: I strongly support 80-85% of what BMC does. I personally like and respect everyone involved with BMC. I don't think differences of opinion have anything to do with intelligence, faithfulness, niceness, etc. Furthermore, I use their resources all the time and I often refer others there, link to their site, etc. 

BMC has the potential to be a legitimate resource for everyone in the world. But I also think it is an inexcusable tragedy that they continue to mislead people by pushing "M2C or bust" when it comes to the Book of Mormon. 
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It has been suggested that "censorship" can only come from a governmental body (an official action), but that's a narrow definition. Any organization can censor ideas it disagrees with.

In his typically colorful way, Mark Twain explained censorship: “Censorship is telling a man he can't have a steak just because a baby can't chew it.”

It's very simple: BMC resorts to censorship because its leadership doesn't trust their readers to make informed decisions that agree with what BMC teaches. 

BMC knows that if it allowed content on their page that supports (instead of repudiates) the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah, many of its readers, followers, and donors would object because they have been indoctrinated into believing M2C or bust. 

On an emotional level, BMC leadership has invested time, money, careers and reputations into promoting M2C. They have developed the BYU fantasy map and persuaded CES to teach a version of it to Latter-day Saint youth throughout the Church. They cannot tolerate the possibility that M2C could be false; in fact, they prefer M2C over the teachings of the prophets.

All of this and more explains the ongoing censorship. But does it justify that censorship?
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BMC leadership could resolve the ongoing "Book of Mormon wars" in a nanosecond, simply by living up to its own professed objectives. BMC holds itself out as "a comprehensive digital repository of textual, visual, and audio resources relevant to the Book of Mormon."  BMC raises millions of dollars from faithful Latter-day Saints based on this representation. 

But we all know BMC is anything but "comprehensive" because it censors the ideas and beliefs of a growing number of faithful Latter-day Saints who still believe the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah, about Joseph translating the plates with the Urim and Thummim, and more.

The way to resolve the "Book of Mormon wars" is to make all the information available and let people make their own informed decisions. But BMC leadership refuses to do that.
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Most readers here know that I lived in China last year. Decades earlier I visited China often on business. I love the Chinese people and I'm very impressed with how their society functions, given the constraints the people live under. But I'm also pretty familiar with how censorship works there. I read ChinaDaily most days. You can read it here and see for yourself: http://global.chinadaily.com.cn/

It's full of news. It is a "comprehensive digital repository," just like BMC. Because of all the content, my students and business associates actually believed they were getting real news and the full story on the events of the day because it looked to them like they were. They thought their opinions were based on facts and informed decisions.

But those who used vpns to access the outside world discovered that the "news" they were getting was heavily censored and tailored to lead readers to a pre-determined outcome. The opinions of the Chinese people are assigned to them by their leaders, and the people don't even realize it.

BMC is the LDS version of ChinaDaily, and for the same reasons. BMC leadership doesn't trust its readers to make informed decisions.
_____

Here's an example. Years ago I gave BMC the rights to put the first edition of my book Letter VII on their web page. Anyone who wanted to could read it for free.

(The current edition is on Kindle unlimited, so it's still free to subscribers.)

BMC used to rank their materials by popularity. The Letter VII book was often ranked highly on this list. BMC removed it so people could not access it any longer. They told me they removed it because a few people were accessing it frequently, which caused the rankings to stay high. That was a bogus excuse, of course; they discontinued the ranking system anyway.

You can go to the BMC Archive and read all kinds of articles attacking the "Heartland" ideas, but zero defending or even explaining them. The Kno-Whys uniformly support M2C and attack alternatives to or critiques of M2C.
_____

I've shown plenty of examples of this over the years on this blog. 

Below is a link to a comparison chart. It accurately represents both sides' positions on the New York Cumorah; at least, no one has told me otherwise, and I've used sources from both sides. 

Comparison charts such as this let people make informed decisions. I have no problem with people learning about M2C; in fact, I encourage people to learn about it. And I have no problem with people believing M2C so long as they do so after making informed decisions.

Take a look and see what you think.




 

Thursday, August 13, 2020

2020 Art Contest

Book of Mormon Central recently announced the results of its 2020 Art Contest. You can see the paintings here:

https://bookofmormoncentral.org/events/art-contest-2020

It's awesome that Book of Mormon Central is sponsoring art contests. This is the type of activity that makes me wish I could support them. And I would, wholeheartedly, if they weren't continually promoting M2C while censoring and suppressing alternative faithful interpretations of the Book of Mormon and the teachings of the prophets.

I had two favorite paintings.

One is Gary Kapp's beautiful painting titled He Healed Them All, Every One, which won Second Place.


https://archive.bookofmormoncentral.org/content/he-healed-them-all-every-one

It's refreshing to see a portrayal of Christ with the Nephites without a Mayan temple in the background. This nod toward neutrality would be even more welcome if it didn't mask the ongoing editorial M2C policies of Book of Mormon Central.

My other favorite is The Lord Will Carry Us Forth by Kristen Openshaw. The colors and design are delightful.


https://archive.bookofmormoncentral.org/content/lord-will-carry-us-forth

I encourage everyone to enjoy these and other paintings in the competition.
______

You'll notice lots of M2C themes, of course. Chichen Itza features prominently in several paintings.


This is an example of the influence of such artwork as the following once ubiquitous painting, which fortunately was recently banned from chapel foyers.




BTW, although the painting by John Scott has been named as "Jesus Christ Visits the Americas," look at the URL to see how this painting is really known:

https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/media/image/christ-teaching-nephites-11c829d?lang=eng

It would be one thing if the painting represented one of Christ's many visits throughout the world. It's quite another to declare that this painting depicts Christ visiting the Nephites, with Chichen Itza in the background.

But the painting has indelibly imprinted M2C on the minds of millions of Latter-day Saints, as some of the artwork in the contest demonstrate.

It's on the cover of the unbelievably M2C-promoting Book of Mormon for Young Readers:


Commentators have used the painting to attack the credibility of the Book of Mormon. E.g.,
https://ancientamericasappropriated.net/john-walter-scott-jesus-christ-visits-the-americas-1969/

At least we have the slightly less blatantly M2C depiction here:

https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/manual/book-of-mormon-stories/chapter-43-jesus-christ-appears-to-the-nephites?lang=eng
_____

People have asked about John Scott. Here are two bio pages:

https://www.pulpartists.com/ScottJW.html

https://harryandersonart.com/john-scott-art/


Monday, August 10, 2020

Earthquake in North Carolina

Yesterday there was an earthquake in North Carolina that surprised a lot of people.

https://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/article244834477.html

It reminded me that a lot of people don't realize that the Midwestern United States has significant earthquake potential.


The area of eastern Tennessee, which I think is the land of Nephi, and the Mississippi River valley where the Ohio River converges are both earthquake zones. This encompasses the areas I consider to be the land of Zarahemla and the land Bountiful.





Speaking of earthquakes, the other day I visited the construction zone on Temple Square in Salt Lake City.

They are reinforcing the temple for better earthquake protection.

If you're in Salt Lake, it's worth a visit.



It

Friday, August 7, 2020

M2C in Meridian Magazine--as usual

Readers have asked about the latest M2C-promotion from Meridian Magazine, a member of the M2C citation cartel. We don't mind that people believe in M2C. People can believe whatever they want, and pointing out factual and logical fallacies usually only makes the M2C'ers angry and upset.

But because this article links to an even more misleading article, I'll discuss both articles later in this post.

TRIGGER WARNING FOR M2C READERS: If you believe M2C, you shouldn't read the rest of this blog because it may cause you to become emotionally upset, angry, or otherwise disturbed.
_____

I don't spend much time on Book of Mormon geography any longer for two reasons.

1. People will believe whatever they want to believe. Then they confirm that bias by searching for facts and reasons that rationalize their beliefs.

2. The issue is settled. I say "settled" because it's a simple choice between two beliefs.

You either believe the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah, or you don't.* 

If you don't believe the prophets, then the entire world is your playground. Actually, not just the world; you can invent abstract maps, as BYU and CES have done. Because the text of the Book of Mormon is subject to myriad interpretations, you can "find" Book of Mormon lands anywhere on earth you want. I discussed this in a 2017 post on abstract maps, here:
http://www.bookofmormoncentralamerica.com/2017/04/update-on-abstract-maps.html

M2C is the most popular of the theories because it has a lot of money behind it, but it far from the only theory that rejects the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah. People have proposed settings in Baja, Panama, Peru, Malaysia, Eritrea, etc. Once you repudiate the prophets, there are no limits to the imagination.

The M2C citation cartel raises and spends millions of dollars each year to persuade people to reject the teachings of the prophets and accept, instead, the idea that the "real Cumorah" is in Mexico. They confirm this bias with voluminous compilations of "correspondences" from Mayan society.

It's easy to confirm your bias, especially when you rely on "correspondences" that are ubiquitous characteristics of human societies everywhere.

For example, ancient warfare is ubiquitous. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_warfare

BYU fantasy map rejects
both NY Cumorah and
"the Americas"
The most obvious fallacy of M2C is the assumption that the events of the Book of Mormon took place in "the Americas" (a term that appears nowhere in Church history but was adopted recently to cloud the issue).

I give BYU and CES props for at least being consistent: they reject the New York Cumorah, so they are consistent in also rejecting the "Americas" assumption by teaching their fantasy maps instead.

The reason the "Americas" assumption is a fallacy, when used by M2C, is that the assumption arises from the teachings of Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, who related what Moroni told Joseph and what they learned themselves. But Moroni also explained that the Hill Cumorah in New York is the same as the one in Mormon 6:6, and Joseph and Oliver knew it was because they personally visited the repository of Nephite records in that hill.

The same M2C scholars who accept their teachings about "the Americas" reject their teachings about the New York Cumorah. It's transparently outcome-oriented, perhaps the worst case of bias confirmation you'll find anywhere.

The biggest problem is the "M2C or bust" attitude of the M2C scholars, their employees and followers. They keep M2C afloat by spending millions of dollars on persuasion and by censoring alternative interpretations. Contrary to what they want you to believe, you don't have to accept M2C to be a fully active, believing, faithful, participating member of the Church.

And if you think M2C is a hoax, you definitely should not reject the Book of Mormon on that basis because there are good alternatives--such as accepting the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah.
_____

If you do believe the prophets, there are many possible settings, consistent with the New York Cumorah, supported by science. I don't even exclude Central America as a possibility, although I think it's less feasible than settings based on North America. (And yes, I realize that technically Central America is in North America, but it's called Central America for a reason.)

In my view, the teachings of the prophets are fully corroborated and vindicated by the descriptions in the text of the Book of Mormon and the the archaeology, anthropology, geography and geology of North America, as I described originally in Moroni's America.

You can see some of the maps at the link below. They are based on the text of the Book of Mormon (contrary to what the Meridian article says, as we'll discuss below).

http://www.moronisamerica.com/maps/

Much has happened since that book came out a few years ago. In a few months, I'm publishing a companion to Moroni's America that focuses on the scientific corroboration, including peer-reviewed, non-LDS articles.

Nothing can penetrate the bias confirmation of our M2C intellectuals, their employees and followers, but more and more Church members are seeing through the M2C ruse, and these members deserve to know that there is solid corroboration of the teachings of the prophets.
_____

Now to the Meridian article. You can see it here:

https://latterdaysaintmag.com/lidar-imaging-reveals-mayan-antiquities-of-waring-people-and-fortifications-in-jungles-of-guatemala/

Meridian, as readers here know, is part of the M2C citation cartel. The editors of Meridian are adamant M2C advocates. They refuse to publish anything other than M2C, misleading their readers into thinking there are no alternatives. They epitomize the "M2C or bust" approach.**

Readers of this blog could easily spot the logical and factual fallacies in this article, so I won't take the time to go through them all. Let's look at two examples:

As you have read the Book of Mormon, have you ever wondered why so many people got “lost in the wilderness” as mentioned in Mosiah 7: 4; and Mosiah 8: 7-8?  

It is typical of M2C authors to rewrite the text to suit their theories. Not a lot of people "got lost," but some did. Some got lost even when they were chasing large groups of people through what, according to M2C'ers, was a jungle wilderness.

Let's look at the actual text cited by the article.

And now, they knew not the course they should travel in the wilderness to go up to the land of Lehi-Nephi; therefore they wandered many days in the wilderness, even aforty days did they wander.

This doesn't say they got lost. It says they didn't know the course they should take. In Moroni's America, I explain that one reason why people don't know the "course" they should take is because they are on rivers, trying to decide which tributary is the one they're supposed to follow to get to a destination. If you haven't been in a boat searching for the correct route up a river with multiple tributaries, you might not relate to this, but it's a common experience. 


And the king said unto him: Being grieved for the afflictions of my people, I caused that aforty and three of my people should take a journey into the wilderness, that thereby they might find the land of Zarahemla, that we might appeal unto our brethren to deliver us out of bondage.
And they were lost in the wilderness for the space of amany days, yet they were diligent, and found not the land of Zarahemla but returned to this land, having traveled in a land among many waters, having discovered a land which was covered with bbones of men, and of beasts, and was also covered with ruins of buildings of every kind, having discovered a land which had been peopled with a people who were as numerous as the hosts of Israel. 

Here they were "lost in the wilderness." But they knew the land of Zarahemla was downriver from where the people of Limhi lived, didn't they? One of the major premises of M2C is that people went downriver--and northward--from Nephi to Zarahemla and therefore the Sidon river must flow northward.

In Moroni's America, I agree with the point that the Nephites went north, and downriver, from Nephi to Zarahemla. IOW, I agree there was a north-flowing river from the highlands of Nephi to the lower land of Zarahemla. [Notice, we're dealing here with the land of Zarahemla, not the city of Zarahemla, which isn't mentioned until Alma.]

What our M2C friends forgot is that in North America, there is a major north-flowing river. The Tennessee River flows north from the Chattanooga area (land of Nephi) to Illinois (land of Zarahemla). Once you understand that, it's easy to see why Limhi's explorers got lost on the river. 

To get to Zarahemla, particularly the area that became the city of Zarahemla (in Alma), the explorers had to go north on the Tennessee River to the Ohio River, then north on the Mississippi River. Instead, when they reached the Ohio River, they turned north there, which took them into the northeastern part of what is now the U.S. Thus, they didn't find Zarahemla but they found the remains of the Jaredite civilization. 

The article continues:

Could there be a massive “wilderness” area in the Americas where travelers would get lost?

Later, in this same article, the author writes "He marveled that the entire face of the earth was covered with cities from sea to sea (Mormon 1: 6-7)." Again, that's not what the text says. But we wonder, which is it? 

Was the land "covered with cities," or full of wilderness so dense people got lost in it?

It obviously cannot be both, but the article claims both.

If we look at the actual text, in the framework of North America, it makes sense. 


And it came to pass that I, being eleven years old, was carried by my father into the land southward, even to the land of Zarahemla.
The whole face of the land had become covered with buildings, and the people were as numerous almost, as it were the sand of the sea.
In Moroni's America, I explain that this passage describes a river journey from New York to Illinois along the Ohio River. You can read the detailed explanation there, but from the perspective of an 11-year old boy in a boat on a river, the "face of the land" would be covered with buildings (not cities), with innumerable people. Anciently, all along the Ohio river there were earthworks. You can still see some today; I've visited many of them, on both sides of the river. The common term for the people who created these mounds is "mound builders." Anything that is "built" is by definition a building.  
The article has no explanation for the inherent contradiction between a land "covered with cities," and a land full of wilderness so dense people got lost in it.

Let's look at this passage in context:

Mormon grew up in the Land Northward and traveled in his youth with his father, Mormon into the land Southward to Zarahemla. He marveled that the entire face of the earth was covered with cities from sea to sea (Mormon 1: 6-7). Central America, to my knowledge, is the only place in the Americas that ideally fits this description.

Again, if the land was "covered with cities from sea to sea," how did people get lost in the wilderness? How did armies pursue one another for days through the wilderness? How did they even grow food? 

Next, we read this:

 (See John Pratt article for extensive Book of Mormon geography requirements that are not found in the eastern USA: 
http://johnpratt.com/items/docs/2020/heartland.html

The Pratt article is a compilation of logical and factual fallacies the likes of which we rarely see. It starts with an awesome series of assumptions:

Closer study revealed that the entire Book of Mormon narrative took place in an area no more than a few hundred miles across. 

This "close study" assumes no water travel, despite Mormon's explanation that he didn't bother explaining their "shipping, and their building of ships." Ancient people naturally used waterways. When you assume they didn't, as M2C does, you need to make that clear so people can assess the plausibility of your assumptions.  

Combining that with the prophet Mormon's statement that they were almost entirely surrounded by water, led to the Mesoamerican model, a name coined to refer to southern Mexico and northern Central America.


What "led to the Mesoamerican model" was a focus on Central America by early authors including Benjamin Winchester and the Pratt brothers, followed by a rejection of the New York Cumorah by RLDS intellectuals, followed by a handful of LDS intellectuals agreeing with the RLDS.

Anyone can look at a map and see that Mesoamerica is not "nearly surrounded by water," especially if you assume "water" is the same as "ocean" or "sea" and if you look at more than just the carefully cropped map Pratt uses. 

Mesoamerica has coasts, but land extends in both directions. The "Land Northward" (which is actually westward) grows into Mexico. 

Pratt then delves into the interminable debate between "The Grijalva and the Usumacinta" rivers.  

Next, he develops one of the most basic fallacies--the straw man fallacy.

I attended one of their large conferences where the lead speaker began by stating that attempting to use the map given in the Book of Mormon has only led to confusion, so this new approach is to ignore Mormon's map and just look where the archaeology is good.

Maybe there are some people who ignore "Mormon's map," but I'm not aware of them. That's assuming, of course, that the Book of Mormon is "Mormon's map," instead of adopting the M2C interpretation of the Book of Mormon as "Mormon's map."

But, predictably, Pratt insists his M2C interpretation is "Mormon's map."  

Later in his article, Pratt lists 9 ways in which North America "abandons Mormon's map almost entirely."

As well it should. 

Pratt's list is pure circular reasoning based on his assumption that the prophets are wrong about the New York Cumorah and that the RLDS interpretation leading to Mesoamerica is correct.  

I've addressed each of his points in Moroni's America and the blogs, and I encourage everyone to compare the different approaches.

But you will find, after you read the text, interpret it however you want, and assess the relevant extrinsic evidence, that you will reach a conclusion based on this choice:

You either believe the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah, or you don't.

_____

*Yes, I realize the Gospel Topics entry on Book of Mormon Geography purports to take a neutral stance, but it doesn't, really. Just notice how that entry avoids the issue of Cumorah completely. The entry completely ignores what the prophets have taught--for obvious reasons.

In practice, "neutrality" means only there is no official position on where in Central America the events took place, because the videos, displays, artwork, etc. are uniformly Mesoamerican.

The entry was changed shortly after it was originally released and can (and should) be changed again, if only to eliminate the inaccuracies it contains.

https://presidentnelsonspeaks.blogspot.com/2019/02/

**The foundational belief of M2C is that the prophets were wrong about the New York Cumorah. They acknowledge that during Joseph Smith's lifetime, the Latter-day Saints all believed the Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 was in western New York. However, our M2C'ers claim this was a false tradition that Joseph passively accepted and that Joseph's successors continued to teach, thereby misleading Church members for 150+ years.

[For a list of the Cumorah teachings that M2C'ers claim are false, see http://www.lettervii.com/p/byu-packet-on-cumorah.html]