Friday, September 18, 2020

Constitution Day - the operating system for the U.S.

Yesterday, September 17, was Constitution Day in the United States. 

Years ago I won some prizes on a radio show because I was the first caller who knew the Constitution was signed on September 17, 1787. On that day, 39 of the 55 delegates from the States signed the Constitution. Some declined to sign because there was no bill of rights (later added by the first ten Amendments) and because the Constitution permitted slavery (later banned by the 13th Amendment). 

But those who did sign rejected the tyranny of the existing forms of government in most of the world, consisting of kings who were unaccountable, or barely accountable, to the people. The signers created the United States of America and set up an "operating system" that was sturdy and flexible enough to produce many future iterations, all leading toward "a more perfect union."

Would you have signed the Declaration of Independence and/or the Constitution? 

There's a cool webpage that let's you add your own signature. Go to 


In commemoration of Constitution Day, I'm speaking on the topic of "The Liberty of Righteousness" at an online forum tomorrow on the Title of Liberty.


The U.S. Constitution is the operating system for the federal government. Congress enacts apps (laws and regulations) to work on the operating system, but when they don't work, the Supreme Court declares them unconstitutional. 

The Constitution of the United States of America is the supreme law of the United States. Empowered with the sovereign authority of the people by the framers and the consent of the legislatures of the states, it is the source of all government powers, and also provides important limitations on the government that protect the fundamental rights of United States citizens.


Here is another way to look at an operating system for the country as a whole:

"Patriotic education" in schools is, in essence, the Operating System for the United States. You have to get the OS right to make any of the other apps operate.way to look at it is this: 

"Patriotic education" in schools is, in essence, the Operating System for the United States. You have to get the OS right to make any of the other apps operate.

Yesterday, President Trump announced a highly significant initiative - the 1776 Commission.

Trump discussed the “left-wing indoctrination” in many American schools as well as curriculum that “views every issue through the lens of race." The 1776 Commission will lead to “patriotic education,” in connection with a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities to develop a ”pro-American curriculum that celebrates the truth about our nation's great history."


This all leads me to wonder, what is the operating system for the Church? 

We'll discuss that more next week.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Rationalizing censorship: The authoritarian left never rests

Peter Hitchens, a former leftist revolutionary, explains in this video why he once sought to restrict the free speech of others and how the left has changed Western society.

Be sure to turn on CC (closed captions) to follow more easily.

The general left-wing belief which is held by the elites of most Western countries now is also a belief in their own virtue. And if you believe very strongly in your own virtue, and your virtue is based on, sort of a caricature of justification by faith alone, you are a good person because you hold certain opinions, therefore if  you hold other opinions you are a bad person. And I think that makes dialog pretty much impossible if you think your opponent is bad, not just wrong but bad, why should you listen to a word he says? Well, they don't...

The ideas of cultural, moral and social revolution not by violent overthrow, not through dictatorship of the proletariat, not even through seizure or sequestration of industries and banks but through the capture by the long march through the institutions of the television studio and the university and the newspaper office and the publishing house and the school, so that after 30 or 40 years of that you would control pretty much the public mind and you would be able to get pretty much what you wanted. It's clever, and you have to concede to these people some admiration for their endless determination, their deep belief in what they want and their subtle and clever organization to achieve. It has been very well exercised revolution.

This is a good explanation of the tactics of the academic cycle that promotes M2C, SITH, and other ideas that reject what the prophets have taught. By continuing to suppress alternative faithful ideas, the M2C citation cartel makes dialog impossible.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Swept off America

Yesterday we discussed one of the problems with using the fake fantasy maps from CES and BYU to teach the Book of Mormon. 

Ether 2:9 is meaningless if the land the Jaredites occupied is imaginary.

“And now, we can behold the decrees of God concerning this land, that it is a land of promise; and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall serve God, or they shall be swept off when the fulness of his wrath shall come upon them. And the fulness of his wrath cometh upon them when they are ripened in iniquity.” (Ether 2:9)

Portraying the Book of Mormon in a fictional setting hardly inspires confidence that the book Joseph translated is an authentic history. 

And yet, all LDS youth today are learning this fictional setting for the Book of Mormon in seminary, institute, and at BYU.

This fictional setting is based on the M2C premise that the prophets are wrong because the Hill Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 is in southern Mexico, not in New York. 

The M2C citation cartel has established its own M2C interpretation as the de facto official interpretation of the Book of Mormon. They are imprinting this fictional setting on the minds of LDS students around the world.

This is a slow-moving disaster. 

But there is an alternative.

There is a sound interpretation of the Book of Mormon that fits the real world and includes the Hill Cumorah in New York.

President Marion G. Romney showed a better way to teach Ether 2:9 when he spoke about America's Destiny many years ago in General Conference. 

You can read some of his talk here, but for some reason it is truncated.

You can read all of his talk here:

You can watch his talk here:


Among the questions frequently raised in connection with our upcoming national bicentennial is “Can we maintain our basic freedoms, peace, and prosperity for another 200 years?”

The answer to this question is yes, if we shall individually repent and conform to the laws of the God of this land, who is Jesus Christ....

It is my purpose in making these remarks to point out from the record of ancient inhabitants of America that the foregoing decrees have been carried out.

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....

As I contemplated this tragic scene from the crest of Cumorah and viewed the beautiful land of the Restoration as it appears today, I cried in my soul, “How could it have happened?”...

Pursuant to this decree concerning the land of America, the Jaredites were swept off in the manner we have reviewed, because, rebelling against the laws of Jesus Christ—the God of the land—they “ripened in iniquity.”

Nor were they the only people who anciently were divinely led to this choice land to grow in righteousness to be a mighty nation and then to deteriorate in wickedness until they ripened in iniquity and were, pursuant to God’s decree, swept off....

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’. From the account of their death struggle, I quote:

“And now,” says Mormon, their historian, “I finish my record concerning the destruction of my people, the Nephites. And it came to pass that we did march forth before the Lamanites … to the land of Cumorah. … And when … we had gathered in all the remainder of our people unto the land of Cumorah, … my people, with their wives and their children, did … behold the armies of the Lamanites marching towards them; and with that awful fear of death which fills the breasts of all the wicked, did they await to receive them....

The tragic fate of the Jaredite and the Nephite civilizations is proof positive that the Lord meant it when he said that this “is a land of promise; and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall serve God, or they shall be swept off when the fulness of his wrath shall come upon them. And the fulness of his wrath cometh upon them when they are ripened in iniquity.” (Ether 2:9.) ...

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

swept off what land?

The Book of Mormon gives us several warnings, such as this one:

“And now, we can behold the decrees of God concerning this land, that it is a land of promise; and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall serve God, or they shall be swept off when the fulness of his wrath shall come upon them. And the fulness of his wrath cometh upon them when they are ripened in iniquity.” (Ether 2:9)

But we're told by our M2C scholars that the Book of Mormon took place in an imaginary land:

Maybe people aren't repenting because there is no downside to being "swept off" a fantasy map?

For those of us who still believe what Joseph and Oliver taught, as well as what the prophets who reiterated those teachings taught, the warning about being swept off the land remains serious and all too real.

1975 President Marion G. Romney.
In the October 1975 General Conference, President Romney, then First Counselor in the First Presidency, gave a talk titled “America’s Destiny” that included these statements:

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.

You who are acquainted with the Book of Mormon will recall that during the final campaign of the fratricidal war between the armies led by Shiz and those led by Coriantumr “nearly two millions” of Coriantumr’s people had been slain by the sword; “two millions of mighty men, and also their wives and their children.” (Ether 15:2.)

As the conflict intensified, all the people who had not been slain—men “with their wives and their children” (Ether 15:15)—gathered about that hill Cumorah (see Ether 15:11)....
Thus perished at the foot of Cumorah the remnant of the once mighty Jaredite nation, of whom the Lord had said, “There shall be none greater … upon all the face of the earth.” (Ether 1:43.)

As I contemplated this tragic scene from the crest of Cumorah and viewed the beautiful land of the Restoration as it appears today, I cried in my soul, “How could it have happened?”
"The tragic fate of the Jaredite and the Nephite civilizations is proof positive that the Lord meant it when he said that this “is a land of promise; and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall serve God, or they shall be swept off when the fulness of his wrath shall come upon them. And the fulness of his wrath cometh upon them when they are ripened in iniquity.” (Ether 2:9.)"

Monday, September 14, 2020

Journalism vs advocacy

People everywhere in the world trust journalists less than ever before. I noticed this when I was working in China last year. China Daily is the official English-language newspaper approved by the government. We were allowed to use it with our students to help them learn English. In many respects, it provides useful news. 

But it is also strongly biased, and even our students could tell. Here are samples from China Daily.

Here in the U.S., Americans recognize that the major media sources have become activists instead of journalists. They make and frame the news instead of reporting it. 

Jonathan Turley wrote this article about how a Stanford journalism professor rejects objectivity even as a goal or ideal.

"It is now common to hear academics and reporters reject “both sideism” as a trap and even a form of racism. Even the publishing of opposing views is now considered dangerous."


Book of Mormon Central (BMC) has chosen this advocacy model. Instead of providing people interested in the Book of Mormon with a range of faithful perspectives, BMC continues to push M2C while censoring alternative faithful interpretations. 

BMC reminds me a lot of China Daily.

Friday, September 11, 2020

Firesides, presentations, FHEs, etc.

People are asking me to do more Zoom presentations. Most are private, but if you're interested, send me an email at and if the hosts have room, I'll be glad to give you a link so you can join in. Topics include Church history and Book of Mormon issues.

If you'd like a presentation or discussion for your own group, I'm happy to participate depending on timing. Just email me and we can try to set something up. 

I'll also have three presentations open to the public at the Book of Mormon Evidences conference later this month.  


I took this photo from the window at my home office last Wednesday. On 9/11, it's nice to remember how beautiful this planet is. 

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Fires and misc.

This is a little preview of something I'm going to write about next week involving change.

Many readers here know that my wife and I live on the Oregon coast. People are asking if we're okay with all the fires and smoke. The short answer is, we're fine.

We left last Friday, before the fires started in Oregon. 

Some friends who were visiting stayed at the house, though, and they experienced the smoke, red skies, and falling ash on Tuesday and Wednesday.

A fire started about 3 miles outside our town but was quickly controlled, fortunately. 

Lincoln City, a town about 40 miles north of us, was evacuated yesterday. We were in Lincoln City about 10 days ago and it is unimaginable how serious the situation is.

This photo is one of many on the Internet. It is not retouched, photoshopped, or shot with a filter.

The situation is the culmination of a "perfect storm" of conditions. Unusually strong easterly winds, like the ones that struck northern Utah this week, knocked down trees and power lines. 

The downed power lines started fires. 

Because it has been hot and dry all along the Pacific Coast recently, fires spread quickly.


I flew from Portland, the scene of over 100 days of sometimes violent demonstrations, to Rochester, NY. The night I arrived in Rochester was the second night of demonstrations that have continued through last night. Protesters have invaded restaurants and forced diners to leave, etc. The police chief and the rest of the police command staff have resigned.

After a few days in Palmyra, Harmony, Fayette and other places, I flew to Salt Lake City to see the destruction caused by the strong winds, including downed trees and people without electricity. 

These were the first flights I had been on since March. Airports are mostly deserted. The flights I was on (2 flights each way) were at about 50% or less capacity. This was a stark contrast to January-February, when we went on 27 flights among 10 countries in southeast Asia and Australia/NZ. 

We all know how much life has changed during the COVID 19 outbreak. People are moving out of cities for more rural areas. Where we live in Oregon, there is a lively real estate market with lots of homes for sale and lots being bought. I checked last night. There is only one house for sale, plus two new homes under construction listed. Those who live in Utah know how active the housing market is. We're getting cold calls from agents asking if we'd consider selling our home in Salt Lake.

Many more changes are imminent. In the U.S., we have a lively election underway. Big changes are happening all around the world, including political, economic, and social changes. Individually, people everywhere are reassessing their priorities and futures. 

This is a tremendous opportunity for the spread of the Gospel and the establishment of Zion. However, there is also a "perfect storm" of conditions that impede progress.

We'll discuss that more in upcoming days.


Thursday, September 3, 2020

The M2C citation cartel endures

Apparently some of the members of the M2C citation cartel continue to read this blog. They consider the acronym "M2C" pejorative, and they think the term "citation cartel" invokes images of drug cartels in Latin America.

Such paranoia is a good example of how members (and employees) of a citation cartel think and operate. The credentialed class all too often take personal offense to differences of opinion, resort to academic bullying, and employ censorship to protect their intellectual cartels.

I personally like every LDS scholar I've met, regardless of any disagreements I have with them over specific issues. They're all great people. I don't take such disagreements personally and I'm always eager to change my mind when presented with better, more complete facts and logical arguments.

Furthermore, I respect everyone who engages in discussions about LDS issues, regardless of their point of view or agenda.

My objection to the M2C citation cartel is based on their ongoing censorship of alternative ideas, perspectives, and approaches to the issues. Their censorship represents an intellectual elitism that I consider indefensible and counterproductive, but it is hardly unique to M2C (see below). And, more importantly, that doesn't mean the members of the cartel are not smart, faithful, thoughtful, and awesome people. 

M2C is merely descriptive. I coined the acronym M2C to avoid having to retype the term "Mesoamerican/Two-Cumorahs" every time I refer to the theory that the events of the Book of Mormon in the New World took place within a "limited geography" confined to Mesoamerica, with the Hill Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 found somewhere in Southern Mexico.

M2C is not pejorative unless the Mesoamerican/Two-Cumorahs theory itself is problematic. 

And notice: the acronym is M2C, not M. Some of my critics are confused by this. I've always said Mesoamerica is on the table; it's the 2C (2 Cumorahs) that I don't consider viable. While I think it is difficult to justify a limited Mesoamerican geography, I don't say it is impossible.

For branding, M2C is important to help readers know the editorial bias of a particular publication or article.

No one who reads BYU Studies, for example, should be unaware of the editors' bias in favor of M2C. Only readers who understand the M2C bias can make a fair assessment of the credibility and reliability of the publication.

It's the same with the Saints books. Readers who are unaware of the bias of the editors in favor of accommodating M2C will not recognize, let alone understand, the censorship of references to Cumorah.

Everyone who reads or donates to Book of Mormon Central also needs to understand the M2C bias. The organization is a subsidiary of Book of Mormon Archaeological Forum, a long-time advocate of M2C.

As I often say, these and other members of the M2C citation cartel provide high-quality, useful materials. I refer to them often and encourage others to do so as well. The sad reality, though, is that they are all controlled by an interlocking network of M2C advocates who continue to censor alternative ideas.

Which leads to the meaning of "citation cartel."

I didn't coin the term "citation cartel." It is a common term for a well-known tendency in academic publications.

The term "cartel" has a simple definition. "A cartel is a group of independent market participants who collude with each other in order to improve their profits and dominate the market. Cartels are usually associations in the same sphere of business, and thus an alliance of rivals. Most jurisdictions consider it anti-competitive behavior."

If there's a better term to describe the interlocked LDS publications and web sites I've identified as part of the M2C citation cartel, I'd be happy to adopt it.

Here are some examples of the application of the term outside of the M2C context.

"These so-called citation cartels have been around for decades, as the publishing consultant Phil Davis has pointed out. Thomson Reuters, which until recently owned the Impact Factor for ranking journals, has even sanctioned periodicals for evidence of cartel behavior.... For authors, the payoff is clear: The more citations your articles generate, the more influential they appear. And journals have similar incentives: Encourage authors to cite papers that appear in your pages and you’ve created the illusion that your journal is highly influential."

Here's an explanation that I think applies directly to the M2C citation cartel:

In our experience, a citation cartel differs from the ordinary in that it usually involves one or more or all of the following: i) a small number, often just two or three, journals are involved; ii) similarly, the diversity of authors involved is small, i.e., smaller as one would expect for a healthy research community; iii) often there is a large overlap of editors in the journals that sustain a particular cartel.

One more example. 

"In this perspective, our goal is to present and elucidate a thus far largely overlooked problem that is arising in scientific publishing, namely the identification and discovery of citation cartels in citation networks. Taking from the well-known definition of a community in the realm of network science, namely that people within a community share significantly more links with each other as they do outside of this community, we propose that citation cartels are defined as groups of authors that cite each other disproportionately more than they do other groups of authors that work on the same subject."

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Fragility of Goodness, Church history, and M2C

Butterfly theory
It's interesting to look back at history and see inflection points, tipping points, butterfly wings flapping, and the fragility of goodness.

What made me think of this was yesterday, the Utah Jazz of the NBA (National Basketball Association) lost the seventh game in a best-of-seven playoff series by 2 points. A last-second shot by Mike Conley would have won the game but the ball rimmed out.
A terrific article by Andy Larsen discussed the game with a philosophical bent:

One inch, maybe two, determines whether that Mike Conley 3-point shot goes down.

If it does fall through the net: it’s ecstasy.... Since it didn’t: The Jazz blew a 3-1 series lead.

Of course, it’s not just Conley’s shot. If the Jazz shoot more than 23% from deep in Game 7, after absolutely setting the nets on fire for the rest of the series, they win. If they get one more foul on a Mitchell drive, the game likely goes to overtime. If Juwan Morgan, of all people, makes his free-throws they win. If Jokic misses one more moonbeam of a shot. If a foul is called on the shot pictured above. If the Jazz lose their focus defensively on one fewer possession in the first half. You can do this kind of thing all night. Quin Snyder will.

But we’re all living small margins away from disaster....

There’s a phrase that I like for this idea in modern philosophy: The Fragility of Goodness. I’ve thought about it a lot over the last six months, as our world has become unfamiliar and difficult due to small things ballooning into big things. What happens if one random bat’s coronavirus doesn’t jump to one human? It wasn’t inevitable. 


The concept of the Fragility of Goodness seems related to the Butterfly Effect, described this way:

In chaos theory, the butterfly effect is the sensitive dependence on initial conditions in which a small change in one state of a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state.

Think about what initial conditions--what butterfly wings flapping--have led to the larger, difference today when we have LDS scholars who directly and openly repudiate the teachings of the prophets about such basics as the New York Cumorah and the translation of the plates with the Urim and Thummim.

1. One was Joseph's decision to not record a history until 1832, and then only an abbreviated history. Joseph's contemporaries who heard him speak and who succeeded him in the leadership of the Church all believed and taught the basics about the New York Cumorah and the Urim and Thummim, but by not making it explicit enough, Joseph and Oliver and the others left the door open just enough that these teachings have now been de-correlated and replaced by the theories of intellectuals (M2C and SITH).

2. Another butterfly was the decision to publish speculative articles in the 1842 Times and Seasons about Book of Mormon geography anonymously. Had William Smith and/or W.W. Phelps identified the author instead of merely writing "Ed" at the end of the article, we would know whether it was Joseph Smith or Benjamin Winchester (or someone else) who wrote these articles that led believers to look to Mayan ruins in Central America for evidence of the Book of Mormon. Instead, we're left with assumptions, comparisons, phony wordprint analysis, and similar speculations.

3. Another butterfly wing flapping was Joseph Smith's decision to omit "New York" and "ancient" from the letter he wrote, first published in the 1842 Times and Seasons and later canonized as D&C 128:20.

20 And again, what do we hear? Glad tidings from [ancient] Cumorah [in New York]! Moroni, an angel from heaven, declaring the fulfilment of the prophets—the book to be revealed. A voice of the Lord in the wilderness of Fayette, Seneca county, declaring the three witnesses to bear record of the book! The voice of Michael on the banks of the Susquehanna, detecting the devil when he appeared as an angel of light! The voice of Peter, James, and John in the wilderness between Harmony, Susquehanna county, and Colesville, Broome county, on the Susquehanna river, declaring themselves as possessing the keys of the kingdom, and of the dispensation of the fulness of times!
(Doctrine and Covenants 128:20)

All of his readers knew the Cumorah he referred to was the Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 near Palmyra, NY. Letter VII had been republished in the 1841 Times and Seasons (as well as the Millennial Star, Gospel Reflector, and Messenger and Advocate). But because Joseph did not reiterate the common knowledge, modern-day intellectuals rationalize away what he wrote as either a reference to a false tradition that Joseph embraced or a reference to an unknown hill in Southern Mexico.

4. In 1834, Joseph and Oliver published a declaration that Joseph translated the Book of Mormon with the Urim and Thummim, a refutation of the claim that Joseph used a peep stone. But because of the butterfly wing that they did not specifically also say he did not use the peep stone, they left open the door for modern LDS scholars to teach that Joseph didn't actually use the Urim and Thummim after all, but instead used a peep stone. 


Tuesday, September 1, 2020

A Hill Becomes Cumorah

There are a lot of new readers here, many of them are faithful, active LDS who find the persistence of M2C puzzling. We've discussed it a lot on this blog, but we'll review it briefly again, with links for more information at the end.

We wonder, why would LDS intellectuals reject the consistent, persistent teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah? Why would they insist that the events in the Book of Mormon took place in the confined area of Mesoamerica? Why would they teach their students and followers that the Nephites were Mayans, that the Book of Mormon describes Mayan culture, and that Joseph Smith didn't translate the book correctly because he was unfamiliar with Mayan culture?

On this blog and in my books, especially Mesomania, we've discussed these issues but today I'd like to mention one particularly influential explanation. This is the idea that the New York Cumorah, along with the Urim and Thummim and other elements of early Church history, were invented communal stories that early LDS created to understand their world.

Brant A. Gardner, a thoughtful scholar and faithful LDS who is a great guy, is deeply committed to M2C. He is one of the more influential M2C promoters due to his involvement with the M2C citation cartel and his activity on the Internet. He curates comments at the Interpreter and has written several M2C-promoting books and articles.

The basic premise of M2C is that the "real" Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 is in southern Mexico. This means that the Three Witnesses, each of whom identified the "hill in New York" as Cumorah, were mistaken.

Not only them, but Joseph Smith (as related by others, and D&C 128:20), as well as all the LDS Church leaders who reiterated the teaching about the NY Cumorah, were expressing personal opinions based on a false tradition and they were wrong.

That sounds incredible to many faithful LDS, but you can ask any M2C believer and see for yourself. Usually, they will try to avoid the question. Most CES and BYU teachers, for example, have been told to say something such as "I don't care about the geography, because the purpose of the book is to testify of Christ."

No faithful person disagrees with that, of course; it's a red herring fallacy, sometimes used to imply that anyone who does care about the setting of the Book of Mormon is unfaithful, belligerent, contentious, or naive. And yet, we have a long list of prophets who have taught that Cumorah was in New York. It was a key defense of the Restoration in Oliver Cowdery's letters IV, VII and VIII.

Both CES and BYU use an M2C-inspired fantasy map to teach the Book of Mormon, so their protestations that geography doesn't matter ring hollow. If you persist in seeking their explanation for their belief in M2C, it will come down to their conviction that the prophets were wrong.

And so we wonder, why do they think the prophets were wrong?

One reason is the rationale offered in Brant's book, The Gift and Power: Translating the Book of Mormon. Published in 2011, the book is divided into three parts that explain Brant's views on

(i) the translation process,

(ii) what kind of translation the Book of Mormon is, and

(iii) how Joseph translated with a seer stone.

Sample chapters include:
Understanding Joseph: Magician or Prophet?
What is a Magic Worldview?
Joseph's Two Palmyras:
  Christianity and Christian Magic in Joseph's Palmyra
  The English Heritage of American Magic
Magic in Palmyra: Divining Rods and Seer Stones

and, finally:

Important Stories, Told Importantly
  A Transcript Becomes a Sealed Book
  Interpreters Become the Urim and Thummim
  A Hill Becomes Cumorah
  Indians Become Lamanites
  Reformed Egyptian Becomes Hebrew

Like many other LDS historians, Brant proposes that the accounts of early Church events were the product of a process of creating a communal story.

The process of working out the communal story explains a number of items from the early Church histories. Theirs was a living community that was building its self-identity in the face of strong persecutions. Their stories helped make sense of their present community, even though they were stories told of previous times. This is simply a normal process of memory. As Michael Schudson... explains, "Memory selects and distorts in the service of present interests..."

The second explanation is how the Saints constructed their past. It was a manipulation intended to make sense of the present.

In the section titled "A Transcript Becomes a Sealed Book," Brant explains that when Martin Harris visited Professor Anthon, Martin "had to recall something fairly close to the reported phrase [from Isaiah] or he and Joseph would not have so completely connected the Anthon incident with the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy... After studying Isaiah further, the association was made complete and the remember phrase became precise. From that point on, the Book of Mormon became important as a sealed book. The internal references to a spiritual sealing were transformed into  physically sealed portion."

In "Interpreters Become the Urim and Thummim," Brant says that "The communal association of Urim and Thummim with any of the instruments used in the translation became such a common description that it fed into Joseph Smith's vocabulary and descriptions. Not only did the community use that description, but Joseph, who certainly knew what a seer stone was called, eventually used the terms Urim and Thummim for them as well. That name for the interpreters or seer stones was inserted into sections of the Doctrine and Covenants instead of other possible names."

In "A Hill Becomes Cumorah," Brant explains the origin of the supposedly false tradition of the New York Cumorah. He writes, "Joseph's use of the term [Cumorah] in 1842 is similar to his use of Urim and Thummim for the interpreters and the seer stones. Although he was in a perfect position to know a different name and to correct the Saints, what we see is that the Saints' communal interpretation of history also fed Joseph's vocabulary and therefore influenced descriptions of that history. Joseph not only allowed the communal creation of the Church's history; he embraced it. The sacralization of the New York hill by association with Cumorah tapped into the miraculous nature of the discovery and translation of the plates. Nevertheless, the connection appears to have been made upon a misreading of the text."

Brant doesn't address Letter VII or the teachings of the prophets, but he does mention David Whitmer's statement about the messenger who took the Harmony plates to Cumorah. Here is his explanation:

"This report would be much more conclusive had it not been recorded nearly fifty years later. The passage of time and the accepted designation of 'Cumorah' as the name of the New York hill by the time of the recollection argues against this second-hand report from Whitmer as being a definitive statement."

Although this account was provided nearly fifty years later, the specificity of David's recollection--that this was the first time he heard the word Cumorah--is a strong indicator of accuracy and veracity. Besides, there is evidence David was relating this incident on the road to Fayette as early as 1832. We discussed that before here:

There are numerous other accounts from early Church history about Cumorah, including one that Lucy Mack Smith quoted Joseph saying in early 1827 before he even got the plates. For more info, see