Saturday, February 27, 2021

Come Follow Me 2021 and Intertextuality

This week's podcast and blog post discuss the topic of intertextuality. This is an exciting new approach to understanding the Book of Mormon (and the Restoration generally) as the fulfillment of centuries of Christian hopes and aspirations.

The podcast: comefollowme2021.com

The blog: http://comefollowme2021.org/

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Disinformation and the Mary Whitmer problem

A lot of what we think is a difference in opinions is really a difference in knowledge. People think their opinions are based on fact, but that's usually a delusion--especially when they don't have all the facts. 

And, as much as we wish it was not the case, we are not getting all the facts from current correlated Church history.


The Come Follow Me 2021 manual is the latest example, but that's because it is correlated with the Saints book.

In a way, this doesn't matter. It's funny, even, that our historians think they can mislead us this easily. Every member of the Church has responsibility to study these things and reach our own conclusions. Delegating our study to our historians, and then believing what they tell us, is a colossal mistake.

True, we should be able to trust them. But they have an agenda different from ours. They promote a version of Church history that they want us to believe. That's fine, but we don't have to take their word for it. 

Trust, but verify.

There are many Latter-day Saints who seek to understand Church history the way the people involved did; i.e., we want to understand Church history from the perspective of Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, and their associates.

And we're not reading that perspective in the Saints books and correlated materials based on Saints.

The millions of Latter-day Saints who read the Saints book in various languages around the world are reading disinformation designed to accommodate M2C (the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory). 

Even before the Saints book was published, Church historians knew they were misleading Church members, but they refused to change course. In the ensuing two plus years, they have refused to correct the record. We've had this discussion before, but I bring it up here because of the Come Follow Me 2021 manual.

The Saints book relies on the Lucy Mack Smith history over 100 times (129 times, according to my kindle version). But when it comes to Cumorah, the historians pretend that history doesn't exist.

Why?

We can't read minds, but not only did the historians refuse to correct Saints after I pointed out the obvious errors, one of the primary historians responsible for Saints is the editor of BYU Studies, which continues to promote M2C.

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One of the fundamental claims of those who believe M2C is that Joseph Smith never referred to the hill from which he got the plates as Cumorah.

Yet anyone can read his mother's description of what Moroni told Joseph the first time they met:

tell your father of this for he will believe every word you say the record is on a side hill on the Hill of Cumorah 3 miles from this place remove the Grass and moss and you will find a large flat stone pry that up and you will find the record under it laying on 4 pillars of cement— then the angel left him

https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/lucy-mack-smith-history-1844-1845/41

And later, in early 1827, before he even got the plates:

Presently he [Joseph] smiled, and said in a very calm tone, “I have taken the severest chastisement, that I have ever had in my life”. My husband, supposing it was from some of the neighbors, was quite angry; and observed, “I would like to know what business any body has to find fault with you.”

“Stop, father, Stop.” said Joseph, “it was the angel of the Lord— as I passed by the hill of Cumorah, where the plates are, the angel met me and said, that I had not been engaged enough in the work of the Lord; that the time had come for the record to be brought forth; and, that I must be up and doing, and set myself about the things which God had commanded me to do

https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/lucy-mack-smith-history-1845/111 

Here, we have Joseph's mother quoting him referring to Cumorah even before he obtained the plates. This identification is corroborated by Parley P. Pratt, David Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery and others. Yet these references were intentionally omitted from the Saints book and all of the correlated materials, including the Come Follow Me manual. 

Our M2C intellectuals reject Lucy Mack Smith's account about Cumorah not because she was not credible. If she was not credible, they wouldn't have cited her work 129 times.

Instead, they reject her account regarding Cumorah because they reject all the historical evidence regarding Cumorah.

Again, we ask, why?

Because they are convinced Cumorah is in Mexico, and they want all Latter-day Saints to accept their theory, to the point of actively promoting disinformation and censorship to achieve their goal.

_____

This is why we see millions of dollars promoting the Mark of M2C on so much content, including popular Come Follow Me podcasts and materials.

Look at the Mark of M2C at the top of this Come Follow Me page:



The strange persistence of the claim it was Moroni who showed the plates to Mary Whitmer is worth another look. 


The Come Follow Me 2021 manual repeats the Mary Whitmer story from the Saints book (volume 1). This ridiculous story has become so widely accepted that people call you an apostate for pointing out that it both

(i) contradicts the historical evidence and 

(ii) contradicts basic doctrine about the resurrection.

By now, readers here know that David Whitmer, the only person who described a personal encounter with both Moroni and the messenger who showed the plates to his mother, clearly distinguished between the two individuals. David further explained that Joseph Smith identified the messenger as one of the Nephites. Mary Whitmer herself said that the messenger identified himself as "Brother Nephi." It was her grandson who said she must have been mistaken because it was Moroni who had charge of the plates. 

As usual, our M2C scholars disregard historical evidence that contradicts their theories, as well as the statement of a woman (Mary Whitmer). In this case, they prefer the bizarre claim of her grandson over Mary's identification because it accommodates their M2C theory.

If we're going to change Church history by rejecting what David and Mary Whitmer said, it's time to revise the artwork based on the historical accounts. It's also time to re-write the scriptures.

This approach is consistent with the way our historians and M2C intellectuals are changing Church history and re-writing the scriptures on other topics, such as SITH.

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Let's start with re-writing Alma.

43 The spirit and the body shall be reunited again in its perfect form; both limb and joint shall be restored to its proper frame, even as we now are at this time, except that we can change our age, height, and appearance at will; and we shall be brought to stand before God, knowing even as we know now, and have a bright recollection of all our guilt. (Alma 11:43)

23 The soul shall be restored to the body, and the body to the soul; yea, and every limb and joint shall be restored to its body; yea, even a hair of the head shall not be lost, and we shall have power that we can change our age, height, and appearance at will; but otherwise all things shall be restored to their proper and perfect frame. (Alma 40:23)

Next, let's change the artwork.

OLD




NEW




OLD




NEW




Tuesday, February 23, 2021

The rising generation

People wonder why so many of our LDS intellectuals disbelieve what Joseph and Oliver taught about the Urim and Thummim, the New York Cumorah, the plains of the Nephites, etc.

Maybe a passage from the Book of Mormon helps us understand.

Now it came to pass that there were many of the rising generation that could not understand the words of king Benjamin, being little children at the time he spake unto his people; and they did not believe the tradition of their fathers.

(Mosiah 26:1)

_____

The historical record is clear and unambiguous. Joseph learned the name of the hill where the plates were buried from Moroni himself during their first visit. He referred to the hill as Cumorah before he even got the plates. A divine messenger, whom Joseph identified as one of the Nephites, took the abridged plates from Harmony to Cumorah. Joseph and Oliver visited the depository of Nephite records in the Hill Cumorah at least three times. Joseph referred to the source of the Nephite plates as Cumorah in D&C 128:20. Oliver declared it was a fact that the hill in New York was the very hill Mormon referred to in Mormon 6:6. Joseph and Oliver consistently and persistently taught that Joseph translated the plates with the Urim and Thummim.

But many--apparently most--of our current LDS scholars (including historians) reject all of this in favor of the idea that the "real Cumorah" is in southern Mexico.

No wonder people, both inside and outside the Church, are confused and disturbed in their faith in the Book of Mormon.

Of course, we don't have to take the words of scholars as a given. 

We can all read the historical sources for ourselves. 

We can read the words of the prophets who have reiterated and reaffirmed these teachings over and over.

And we can make informed decisions for ourselves.

11 And also it is an imperative duty that we owe to all the rising generation, and to all the pure in heart—
12 For there are many yet on the earth among all sects, parties, and denominations, who are blinded by the subtle craftiness of men, whereby they lie in wait to deceive, and who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it—
13 Therefore, that we should waste and wear out our lives in bringing to light all the hidden things of darkness, wherein we know them; and they are truly manifest from heaven—
14 These should then be attended to with great earnestness.
(Doctrine and Covenants 123:11–14)

the end

Monday, February 22, 2021

Oliver, Joseph, and scribes and Pharisees

The question of Cumorah boils down to whether people believe what Joseph and Oliver said, or whether people believe our latter-day scribes and Pharisees. 

It's a clear choice. 

Once you decide whom to believe, you can confirm your choice with a corresponding interpretation of the scriptures and the relevant external evidence.

_____

In the conference last Saturday, I illustrated this point with two slides. (click to enlarge)


_____


Reasons to disbelieve Joseph and Oliver:

- The New York Cumorah contradicts the theories of intellectuals that the "real" Cumorah is somewhere in southern Mexico (although not yet located), because of their claim that the entire Book of Mormon took place in a limited area of Mesoamerica. 

- Everyone who said Cumorah was in New York was wrong. Credentialed modern scholars are more credible and reliable than eye-witnesses and angelic ministrations.

- There is no evidence that millions of Jaredites and/or hundreds of thousands of Nephites/Lamanites died around Cumorah.

Reasons to believe Joseph and Oliver:

- Moroni told Joseph the name of the hill on his first appearance to Joseph.

- Joseph referred to the hill as Cumorah even before he got the plates.

- According to David Whitmer, a divine messenger, whom Joseph identified as one of the Nephites, took the abridged plates from Harmony to Cumorah.

- Joseph and Oliver visited the depository of Nephite records in the hill Cumorah in New York at least three times.

- After Heber C. Kimball joined the Church in 1832 he visited Cumorah and observed the embankments still around the hill. Most have since been plowed under, but one small remnant remains. He also observed numerous hilltop fortifications.

- In the eight historical essays published in 1834-5, Oliver declared it was a fact that the mile-wide valley west of Cumorah in New York was the site of the final battles of the Jaredites and Nephites.

- Joseph helped write the essays, had them copied into his own history as part of his life story, and had them republished in the Gospel Reflector, the Times and Seasons, the Prophet, and the Millennial Star.

- All of Joseph's contemporaries and successors who ever discussed the topic reaffirmed what Joseph and Oliver taught.

- Physical evidence is consistent with expectations based on the text. Archaeologists have discovered Adena (Jaredite) and Hopewell (Nephite) sites in western New York, including hastily-constructed hilltop fortifications we would expect from the retreat of the Nephites to Cumorah.

- Farmers in western New York, including around Cumorah, have plowed up abundant arrowheads, stone axes, etc. They were so abundant around Cumorah that kids used them for skipping stones.

- Nowhere do the scriptures say millions, or even hundreds of thousands, of people died at Cumorah. Oliver wrote that only "thousands" of Jaredites (less than 10,000) and "tens of thousands" (not hundreds of thousands) of Nephites/Lamanites died in the valley west of Cumorah, which is consistent with the text. 

- The bodies in the battles were left unburied, meaning they would dissolve quickly, just like the bones of deer and other animals. Useful weapons or other materials would be taken by the victors and/or others who passed through the area over the centuries. Other famous battles in history, such as the Battle of Hastings that involved 10,000 people, have left no evidence after hundreds of years. 

_____

This brief overview supports whatever you want to believe, whether you believe or disbelieve Joseph and Oliver.


Friday, February 19, 2021

Reminder: conference tomorrow, February 20, 2021

I'm speaking at an online conference tomorrow, Saturday, February 20, 2021. Here's the link:

https://4mevents.org/

I'll be discussing the Cumorah issue along with other related topics, as well as responding to questions.

_____

Come Follow Me 2021

There are lots of online resources for Come Follow Me 2021. I've seen/read several, and they are fine. The most common thing I hear about them is that they mostly cover the same things you've heard a million times before. Again, that's fine. Repetition is important.

Readers here know that our podcast and blog covers faith-affirming aspects of the Doctrine and Covenants and related Church history that no one else seems to be addressing. For example, most of the other resources have fully embraced SITH and ignore the historical problems with that theory. 

Blog: http://comefollowme2021.org/

Podcast: comefollowme2021.com

We're getting some great questions and feedback from the podcast and my blog so we're incorporating those in future podcasts and blog posts.

_____

We've been adding more content to mobom lately.

We added a self-test quiz about the Book of Mormon to the mobom site (Museum of the Book of Mormon). Go to https://www.mobom.org/home and click on "BofM quiz" at the menu on the top of the page, or scroll down the home page to the link below the Questions or Feedback button.



Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Offensive logos

Offensive logos have been in the news lately. Logos are being changed and modified to promote greater unity in the world.

The same interest in unity should motivate our LDS scholars to replace their offensive logo, as we'll discuss below.

_____

A few days ago, Quaker Oats announced the new branding to replace the Aunt Jemima brand. 

That was one of several logos and brands that changed to respond to complaints they were offensive.


Among Latter-day Saints, there is a logo that many find offensive because it conveys the message that only one theory of Book of Mormon geography is acceptable. 

It is bad enough that this contradicts the Church's position of neutrality, but that's not all. It is a brand that actively censors, opposes, and attacks faithful Latter-day Saints who still believe what the prophets have taught about the New York Cumorah.



In addition to its offensive nature, the logo contradicts a basic principle of academia: the open mind. By incorporating M2C into the design, this logo forecloses multiple working hypotheses about Book of Mormon historicity.

The logo is used not only for Book of Mormon related topics. It has migrated to Come Follow Me, the Pearl of Great Price, and numerous publications.




I've previously proposed a modification that replaces the Mayan glyph with the actual language of the Book of Mormon:


From long experience, we cannot expect our M2C intellectuals to change their minds about M2C. We don't care if they do, actually; we think the approach of multiple working hypotheses is the best available option. 

But maybe, in the interest of unity in the Church (and academic integrity), they could at least change their logo to something more suitable and less offensive.




 









Friday, February 12, 2021

Simplicity again

I think it's healthy and productive to have discussions about Church history and Book of Mormon historicity because it can promote unity and understanding, even if we don't end up agreeing. 

Especially if we don't end up agreeing.

I take as a given--I stipulate--that everyone honestly believes what they say. Everyone has good intentions. Everyone wants to be helpful.

The more we can simplify the issues and clarify that, ultimately, our beliefs are a result of our choices, the easier it is to understand one another and accept the differences in complete harmony.

Harmony through diversity.

Some time ago I discussed the principle of simplicity as it relates to Book of Mormon historicity.*

Most debates merge toward two opposing sides, and in this case, the debate is between New York Cumorah vs. non-New York Cumorah. Usually this is framed as M2C vs Heartland.

Our M2C scholars honestly believe the prophets were wrong. The Heartlanders honestly believe they were correct. 

This is a very simple discussion. 

I don't discuss this as a right/wrong situation. It's a matter of personal preference. I hope we can all agree on that, at least.

_____

Below is a comparison diagram I'm going to discuss at a zoom conference on February 20th. It shows the interaction between the scriptures, the prophets and external evidence.

Everyone has access to the same sources. We can all read the text of the scriptures. We can all read the teachings of the prophets. And we can all read the external evidence, including anthropology, archaeology, geology, geography, etc.

People can disagree about all three components, of course. We can interpret the scriptures differently. We can emphasize some evidence instead of others, or interpret the same evidence differently. 

What we can't do is disagree about what the prophets have said about Cumorah. There, we can only accept or reject what they said.

The New York Cumorah is supported by all three components. Think of them as legs of a stool. It stands up, no problem.


The Mexican Cumorah (M2C) is supported only by two of the three components or legs. M2C proponents necessarily repudiate what the prophets have taught; otherwise, their approach doesn't work.

And that's fine. People can be faithful, thoughtful, dedicated Latter-day Saints while also believing the prophets were wrong about this issue.






_____

*original simplicity post, edited

Simplicity

William of  Ockham
The simplest explanation is usually the best, a principle often described as Occam's razor. "Among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected."

On the topic of Book of Mormon geography, which setting requires the fewest assumptions?

Which explanation is the simplest?

The North American setting has one assumption.

1. Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery knew that the Hill Cumorah in New York was the place where the Nephite and Jaredite civilizations were destroyed. Everything directly attributable to them is consistent with that setting. Contrary ideas are not directly attributable to them; therefore, these contrary ideas were produced by other people who didn't know what Joseph and Oliver knew.

The Mesoamerican setting relies on a series of assumptions:

1. Joseph Smith didn't know where the Book of Mormon events took place.
2. Oliver Cowdery (or another unknown person) at some unspecified date started a folk tradition that Cumorah was in New York, based on an incorrect assumption.
3. Joseph misled his wife Emma when he wrote to her about crossing the plains of the Nephites after he'd crossed Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois.
4. Oliver memorialized the incorrect folk tradition in Letter VII in 1835.
5. Joseph, for unexplained reasons, passively adopted Oliver's speculation and had it widely published.
6. Joseph, who wrote very little himself, nevertheless wrote a series of  articles in the Times and Seasons about Central America that he left anonymous for unknown reasons.
7. David Whitmer, late in life, conflated his own specific memory of the first time he heard the word "Cumorah" with Oliver's folk tradition.
8. Etc.

Which set of assumptions makes the most sense to you?

____________________________

Here are some relevant quotations about simplicity.

“If you can't explain it to a six year old, you don't understand it yourself.”
― Albert Einstein

To which Groucho Marx replied:

“A child of five could understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five.”
― Groucho Marx

“Truth is ever to be found in the simplicity, and not in the multiplicity and confusion of things.”
― Isaac Newton

“Why did they believe? Because they saw miracles. Things one man took as chance, a man of faith took as a sign. A loved one recovering from disease, a fortunate business deal, a chance meeting with a long lost friend. It wasn't the grand doctrines or the sweeping ideals that seemed to make believers out of men. It was the simple magic in the world around them.”
― Brandon Sanderson, The Hero of Ages

“People who pride themselves on their "complexity" and deride others for being "simplistic" should realize that the truth is often not very complicated. What gets complex is evading the truth.”
― Thomas Sowell, Barbarians inside the Gates and Other Controversial Essays

“..things are never as complicated as they seem. It is only our arrogance that prompts us to find unnecessarily complicated answers to simple problems.”
― Muhammad Yunus, Banker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty

“I am not a genius, I am just curious. I ask many questions. and when the answer is simple, then God is answering.”
― Albert Einstein

Friday, February 5, 2021

Multiple hypotheses-Cumorah

Because I keep getting requests for a succinct explanation of the issues, let's look at more specifics about multiple working hypotheses in an FAQ framework. (Frequently Asked Questions)

Today we'll discuss Cumorah (the Cumorah of Mormon 6:6). Later we'll discuss the translation, other geographical settings, and additional issues.

Let's consider why Cumorah is important, why the New York setting was taught in the first place, why scholars reject the New York setting, what the implications are, and what to do next.

At the outset, I emphasize once again that people can believe whatever they want. And it is axiomatic that people will find evidence to confirm their biases. That makes it a fool's errand to think that "the evidence" will lead to any particular conclusion.

For me, the questions are:

1. What does the Book of Mormon teach?

2. What have the prophets taught?

3. Is there external evidence to support what the prophets and scriptures have taught?

In my view, the answer to #3 is a clear yes. 

I also think it is counterproductive to interpret the text and evidence in such a way as to demonstrate the prophets were wrong. It's easy to do that--interpretations are ultimately subjective--but is it wise? Will that approach convert the world and bring people closer to Christ?

_____

Q. Why is Cumorah important?

A. Cumorah is a pivotal issue for understanding the historicity of the Book of Mormon and the credibility of Joseph, Oliver, and their contemporaries and successors. 

There are two categories of working hypotheses for Cumorah.

(1) Cumorah is in New York.

(2) Cumorah is not in New York.

If the prophets were correct and Cumorah is in New York, that pin in the map guides the interpretation of the text and assessment of external evidence.

If the prophets were incorrect and Cumorah is not in New York, then Cumorah could be anywhere in the world, or it could be an allegory or parable.

Note 1: Some people say Cumorah is not in New York, but it is somewhere in the western hemisphere. However, the same prophets who declared the Book of Mormon took place in the western hemisphere also said Cumorah was in New York. If these prophets were wrong about the New York Cumorah, there is no reason to assume they were correct about other geographical information, including the hemisphere. The text says only that Jared, Lehi and Mulek crossed the "great waters," which we assume means the oceans, but the text says nothing about which ocean they crossed or where they landed. 

Note 2. The New York location of Cumorah does not determine the location of other events in the Book of Mormon. Even with the New York Cumorah, there are multiple operating hypotheses, ranging from a hemispheric setting to the local area of western New York.

_____

Q. Why have prophets taught that Cumorah is in New York?

A. Because Joseph and Oliver said Cumorah was in New York.

There are several historical sources for this teaching. Here are a few.

1. In early 1827, before Joseph obtained the plates, he referred to the hill as Cumorah, according to the way Moroni identified it. "as I passed by the hill of Cumorah, where the plates are, the angel of the Lord met me and said, that I had not been engaged enough in the work of the Lord..."

https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/lucy-mack-smith-history-1845/111

2. Joseph had learned the name from Moroni during Moroni's first visit. "To prevent you from keeping the commandments of God ​that you may not succeed in doing his work​ you must tell your father of this for he will believe every word you say the record is on a side hill on the Hill of Cumorah 3 miles from this place remove the Grass and moss and you will find a large flat stone pry that up and you will find the record under it laying on 4 pillars ​of cement​"

https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/lucy-mack-smith-history-1844-1845/41

3. When Joseph and Oliver were finishing the translation of the abridged plates in Harmony, Joseph received a commandment to write to David Whitmer and ask him to bring them to the Whitmer farm in Fayette. Before leaving Harmony, Joseph gave the plates to a messenger. On the road to Fayette, the group encountered the messenger. David offered to give him a ride but he declined, saying “No, I am going to Cumorah." David remembered this event, explaining "This name was something new to me, I did not know what Cumorah meant." 

David asked Joseph about the messenger. Joseph "said their visitor was one of the three Nephites to whom the Savior gave the promise of life on earth until He should come in power."

See references here: https://www.lettervii.com/p/trip-to-fayette-references.html

This encounter raises the question, why would the messenger take the abridged plates to Cumorah instead of directly to Fayette?   

4. During their mission to the Lamanites, Oliver Cowdery, Parley P. Pratt and others explained that Moroni had called the hill Cumorah anciently. "This Book, which contained these things, was hid in the earth by Moroni, in a hill called by him, Cumorah, which hill is now in the State of New York, near the village of Palmyra, in Ontario County."

Autobiography of Parley P. Pratthttp://www.gutenberg.org/files/44896/44896-h/44896-h.htm

5. With the assistance of Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery wrote the first published history of the Church in a series of eight essays originally published as letters in the Messenger and Advocate (a Church newspaper in Kirtland, Ohio). In Letter VII, he declared that it was a fact that final battles of the Jaredites and Nephites took place in the mile-wide valley west of the hill in New York where Joseph found the plates. Joseph had these essays copied into his own history as part of his life story, where you can read this passage here:

https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/history-1834-1836/90

Joseph approved of and directed the republication of these essays in the Times and Seasons, the Millennial Star, the Gospel Reflector, and The Prophet (a Mormon newspaper in New York City). All of Joseph's contemporaries were familiar with these essays. These are part of the context for all historical evidence during Joseph's lifetime.

For example, when Joseph wrote the letter that was published in the Times and Seasons in September 1842 (now D&C 128), his readers understood it in the context of Letter VII, which had been published in the Times and Seasons the year before. 

And again, what do we hear? Glad tidings from Cumorah! Moroni, an angel from heaven, declaring the fulfilment of the prophets—the book to be revealed. (Doctrine and Covenants 128:20)

This passage connecting Cumorah with Moroni is consistent with what Joseph's mother explained; i.e., that Joseph learned about the hill Cumorah directly from Moroni.

6. Joseph and Oliver had visited the repository of Nephite records, described in Mormon 6:6, in the hill in New York. Brigham Young explained:

 When Joseph got the plates, the angel instructed him to carry them back to the hill Cumorah, which he did. Oliver says that when Joseph and Oliver went there, the hill opened, and they walked into a cave, in which there was a large and spacious room. He says he did not think, at the time, whether they had the light of the sun or artificial light; but that it was just as light as day. They laid the plates on a table; it was a large table that stood in the room. Under this table there was a pile of plates as much as two feet high, and there were altogether in this room more plates than probably many wagon loads; they were piled up in the corners and along the walls. The first time they went there the sword of Laban hung upon the wall; but when they went again it had been taken down and laid upon the table across the gold plates; it was unsheathed, and on it was written these words: “This sword will never be sheathed again until the kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of our God and his Christ.”

I tell you this as coming not only from Oliver Cowdery, but others who were familiar with it, and who understood it just as well as we understand coming to this meeting, enjoying the day, and by and by we separate and go away, forgetting most of what is said, but remembering some things. So is it with other circumstances in life. I relate this to you, and I want you to understand it. I take this liberty of referring to those things so that they will not be forgotten and lost.

See full statement and other references at http://www.lettervii.com/p/byu-packet-on-cumorah.html

6. All of Joseph's contemporaries who ever addressed the topic reaffirmed that Cumorah was in New York.

Q. What evidence is there to support the teachings of the prophets that Cumorah is in New York?

A. The teachings of the prophets are corroborated by archaeology, anthropology, geology, geography, and other sciences. Ongoing research in all of these areas by non-LDS scientists expands our knowledge of the history of "the Indians that now inhabit this country" as Joseph Smith described the remnant of Lehi in the Wentworth letter (see below).

Corroboration is a simultaneous equation involving the interpretation of the text and the application of external evidence.  

The text of the Book of Mormon accommodates multiple working hypotheses. As does the external evidence. 

For example, when the text mentions a "city," is it like a biblical "city" of 2,000 inhabitants, or a metropolis of hundreds of thousands of people? 

Before Joseph translated the Book of Mormon, the existence of large civilizations throughout the Americas was well known. Images of ruins in Central America were published in a book by Alexander von Humboldt on sale in Palmyra in 1818-1820. However, people did not know much about the ancient civilizations in North America, apart from the existence of mounds and earthworks. 

Religious writers speculated that the Indians were descendants of the lost tribes of Israel. Others claimed the Indians crossed the Bering Strait from Asia. Some speculated that a more advanced group of Indians were overrun and destroyed by a savage group.

It wasn't until the late 19th century that the existence of two distinct civilizations in North America was discovered. One, called the Hopewell, dates to the same period as the Nephite/Lamanite civilization. The earlier, called the Adena, dates to the Jaredite era. Dating alone doesn't constitute conclusive evidence, of course, but it does (i) corroborate the teachings of the Book of Mormon and (ii) contradict the widespread beliefs of Joseph's era.

If we interpret the text to describe a massive civilization of millions of people, it fits Mesoamerica or other heavily populated ancient civilizations. If we interpret the text to involve thousands of people, it fits the Hopewell civilization. 

Several misconceptions have arisen about the Book of Mormon. For example, the claim that millions of people died at Cumorah is based on Coriantumr's remembrance in Ether 15:1–2:

1 And it came to pass when Coriantumr had recovered of his wounds, he began to remember the words which Ether had spoken unto him.

2 He saw that there had been slain by the sword already nearly two millions of his people, and he began to sorrow in his heart; yea, there had been slain two millions of mighty men, and also their wives and their children.

Obviously, this was long before the final battle at Cumorah. Between the time of this remembrance and Cumorah, several battles and long journeys took place. Consequently, there is no basis for assuming millions of people died at Cumorah. 

The text itself, if you extrapolate back from the specific numbers given (Ether 15:20-30) describes a war involving fewer than 10,000 people. Which is how Oliver Cowdery described it in Letter VII.

Look again at verse 2. It does not say that Coriantumr observed the death of two million men (which would be physically impossible anyway). Instead, he was reflecting on his memory of what Ether said.

What did Ether say? He related the entire history of the Jaredite nation.

they rejected all the words of Ether; for he truly told them of all things, from the beginning of man; and that after the waters had receded from off the face of this land it became a choice land above all other lands, a chosen land of the Lord; wherefore the Lord would have that all men should serve him who dwell upon the face thereof;
(Ether 13:2)

Coriantumr knew the history of his people and their wars. "And now Coriantumr, having studied, himself, in all the arts of war and all the cunning of the world." (Ether 13:16)

In my view, the most plausible interpretation of the text is that Coriantumr was reflecting on the history of his people, going back 33+ generations to Jared. Coriantumr had studied war. He knew the accumulated casualties over all those centuries. Two million men over, say, 1,000 years works out to about 2,000 men/year, on average. Surely they didn't have wars every year, but wars involving thousands are far more consistent with the physical evidence than wars involving hundreds of thousands or millions.

A similar analysis applies to the passages in Mormon 6 in which Mormon considers all the Nephites who died in the wars from the time he became the leader of their armies in his fifteenth year through the final battle at Cumorah decades later.

That's just one example of how the text can be interpreted to align with both the physical evidence and the teachings of the prophets (in this case, Oliver Cowdery).

A detailed list of the corroborating evidence is beyond the scope of this post, but I've provided much more information in my book, Between these Hills

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Q. Why do modern LDS scholars teach that Cumorah is not in New York?

A. Many modern LDS scholars teach that the Book of Mormon took place in a limited area of Mesoamerica (or elsewhere) and that New York is too far away from these locations to be credible.

For example, Book of Mormon Central, the most prominent advocacy group for the Mesoamerican theory, was founded by, and is currently operated by, followers of Dr. John Sorenson, who wrote this about the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah:

"There remain Latter-day Saints who insist that the final destruction of the Nephites took place in New York, but any such idea is manifestly absurd. Hundreds of thousands of Nephites traipsing across the Mississippi Valley to New York, pursued (why?) by hundred of thousands of Lamanites, is a scenario worthy only of a witless sci-fi movie, not of history." 

Mormon's Codex, p. 688.

Notice the underlying assumption (bias) at work here. The New York Cumorah may be "manifestly absurd" when viewed from the perspective of a believer in the Mesoamerican setting, but the Mesoamerican setting itself may be equally "manifestly absurd" when viewed from the perspective of the New York Cumorah. 

Q. How do modern LDS scholars treat the historical sources about the New York Cumorah?

A. LDS scholars who teach the limited Mesoamerican geography recognize the existence of the historical evidence listed above, but they claim the New York Cumorah was a false narrative based on speculation and retroactive memory. 

They explain the historical evidence with the "two Cumorahs" theory; i.e., they teach that the "real Cumorah" is in southern Mexico, but the "traditional Cumorah" in New York was the product of ignorant speculation on the part of early Latter-day Saints. 

Hence the acronym M2C (Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory), which applies to all the geographical models that put Cumorah somewhere other than in western New York.

M2C scholars teach:

-That Lucy Mack Smith retroactively inserted references to Cumorah instead of accurately reporting what Joseph actually said and what he actually told her. 

-That Parley P. Pratt was retroactively reporting the false narrative. 

-That Oliver Cowdery did not claim revelation for his declaration about the fact of the New York Cumorah and had no basis for making his claim except his pure speculation.

-That Joseph Smith's assistance in writing the historical essays, and his approval of their republication, shows he either accepted the false narrative about the New York Cumorah or did not realize what Oliver had written.  

-That David Whitmer's memory was wrong because it had been altered by the false Cumorah narrative. 

-That in D&C 128:20, Joseph either accepted the false narrative about the New York Cumorah, was referring to a hill in Mexico, or was using Cumorah as a metaphor.  

-That Brigham Young and the others (including David Whitmer, Heber C. Kimball, and Wilford Woodruff) who related what Oliver said about visiting the repository were describing a vision Oliver had of the "real Cumorah" in southern Mexico or elsewhere.

Q. What was the origin of M2C?

A. Early Mormon authors, including Parley P. Pratt, Orson Pratt, and Benjamin Winchester, claimed the Book of Mormon events took place throughout the western hemisphere. On March 1, 1842, when he published the Wentworth letter, Joseph Smith adapted a pamphlet written by Orson Pratt but specifically deleted Orson's references to Central America and replaced it with the declaration that "The remnant are the Indians that now inhabit this country."

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

Nevertheless, anonymous articles published later that year in the Times and Seasons linked the Book of Mormon to Central America. 

In 1906, a book titled Cumorah Revisited was published by Charles Shook, claiming there was no archaeological evidence to support the hemispheric model of the Book of Mormon. 

In response, RLDS scholars (Stebbins and Hills, mainly) developed a model based on a limited geography in Mesoamerica. They said Cumorah could not be in New York and published a map in 1917 showing Cumorah in southern Mexico (about where modern LDS M2C scholars put it). 

Elder Joseph Fielding Smith pointed out that this model contradicted the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah and would cause members to become "confused and disturbed in their faith in the Book of Mormon." 

Nevertheless, LDS scholars gradually came to accept the RLDS model. They cited the anonymous 1842 Times and Seasons articles (which didn't mention Cumorah) as evidence that Joseph Smith had changed his mind about Cumorah. Through their positions of influence at BYU and CES, they imposed Mesoamerican culture and ideology on the text of the Book of Mormon to make it match archaeological and anthropological evidence.

Q. How is M2C being taught today?

A. M2C scholars have produced lists of "correspondences" between Mesoamerica and their interpretation of the text. Book of Mormon Central spends millions of dollars annually to promote M2C. Their employees are active on social media to promote M2C. They collaborate with other groups, such as Fair Mormon, BYU Studies, and the Interpreter Foundation, to establish M2C as the de facto "official" position.

BYU and CES have adopted M2C as well. Every young and new Latter-day Saint is being taught to understand the Book of Mormon through the M2C interpretation.

For example, here is the map that BYU students are taught:


This map puts Cumorah far from New York. In fact, it puts the Book of Mormon in a computer-generate fantasy world. Teaching LDS students that the best fit for the Book of Mormon is a fictional setting unavoidably contributes to a loss of faith in the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon.

Meanwhile, LDS students and new members are never taught (in Church) what the prophets have taught about Cumorah. Cumorah was censored from Volume 1 of the Saints book. The Wentworth letter was edited in the lesson manual on the teachings of Joseph Smith to delete his observations about the remnant of Lehi that we saw above. 

When Church members eventually learn on their own what the prophets have taught, they naturally wonder why their BYU/CES teachers never taught them this, and they also wonder how to reconcile M2C with the teachings of the prophets.

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Q. What are the implications of M2C?

A. It is common knowledge that many formerly faithful Latter-day Saints are leaving the Church. Few, if any, leave with an intact testimony of the Book of Mormon.

What causes people to lose faith in the Book of Mormon?

As Joseph Fielding Smith explained, the two-Cumorahs theory causes members to "become confused and disturbed in their faith in the Book of Mormon." 

The reason: it is difficult for people to reconcile the basic premise of M2C:

1. We should believe Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery as the founding prophets of the Restoration, the only witnesses to the restoration of the Priesthood and the temple keys, the principal witnesses of the translation, and the only ones who could authoritatively articulate the early history of the Church.

Except...

2. Joseph and Oliver were wrong about (i) the New York Cumorah and (ii) the translation with the Urim and Thummim.

For influential LDS scholars to teach this inherently contradictory set of beliefs can only undermine faith in the Restoration. They are trying to thread this needle solely to support their own academic theory of the Mesoamerican setting.

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Put yourself in the place of a missionary right now. Or in the place of the friends (investigators) they teach. 

Compare these two messages:

1. (based on scholars) "We want to share this book with you. We believe it is the word of God. Joseph Smith dictated it to a scribe as he read words that appeared on stone he put in a hat. Nearby, he had ancient metal plates covered with a cloth that he found after being directed by an angel, but he never actually used them to translate the book we have today.

The book tells the story of two great civilizations in the Americas, numbering in the millions, but we don't know where any of them lived. If you look on the Internet, you'll see that Joseph Smith and his contemporaries and successors said the civilizations fought a battle of extinction in New York, but our prophets were wrong about that. Instead, our scholars teach that they lived in a limited area of Mesoamerica. Non-LDS Mesoamerican scholars say that's ridiculous, but that's just their opinion. We want you to read this book and join our Church."

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2. (based on prophets) "We want to share this book with you. We believe it is the word of God. Joseph Smith dictated it to a scribe as he translated the engravings on ancient metal plates he found after being directed by an angel. 

The book tells the story of two great civilizations in America. We don't know the exact location of all the places named in the book, but if you look on the Internet, you'll see that Joseph Smith and his contemporaries and successors said the civilizations fought a battle of extinction in New York. There is abundant external evidence to support that claim. We want you to read this book and join our Church."

Certainly, both scenarios require an element of faith. 

But how does faith work when you are supposed to have faith in the prophets, except when scholars disagree with the prophets, in which case you're supposed to have faith in the scholars? 

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Q. What to do next?

A. If you believe in M2C or another theory that puts Cumorah somewhere besides in western New York, that's fine with me. People can be faithful Latter-day Saints regardless of their beliefs about geography, the translation, or anything else. 

Bias confirmation is powerful--probably too psychologically powerful for most people to overcome. That's why conversion is so difficult. The things we learn when we're young or new to a topic tend to stick with us, especially when we're taught by people we respect.

Consequently, faithful Latter-day Saints who believe M2C, or who believe the geography doesn't matter, have difficulty relating to those who don't share their biases.

Those of us who are faithful Latter-day Saints and who also still believe the teachings of the prophets about these things are also confirming our own biases. We readily acknowledge that.

We just think it's a step too far to expect people, whether LDS or not, to repudiate some of the teachings of the prophets while accepting others.

Regarding Cumorah and the translation, we're not talking about an isolated teaching of one prophet or apostle (such as Brigham Young's Adam-God theory). We're not even talking about a thread of teachings with a murky origin, such as the Priesthood restriction. 

We're dealing with unambiguous, declarative statements from Joseph and Oliver, all their contemporaries, and their successors. 

True, for the last two decades or so, Church leaders have been silent about Cumorah. I support the Brethren 100%. For example, the Gospel Topics entry on Book of Mormon Geography declares that the Church has no position on these issues, which is what I'm advocating: multiple operating hypotheses. 

Some M2C proponents claim that because the Brethren don't reiterate past teachings about Cumorah they have repudiated those teachings. That entry doesn't mention Cumorah. In no way does it repudiate the New York Cumorah. 

There could be many reasons or no reason why the entry omits Cumorah entirely. This is a matter of Church history, textual interpretation, and external evidence based on relevant science, all of which are the type of topic we can all study ourselves. Is the omission of Cumorah from the entry because the Brethren disagree with their predecessors, because they aren't sure whether or not to agree, because they have different views on the issue, or because scholars have used the academic cycle to persuade Church members to reject these teachings and the Brethren want to avoid stirring up the issue?

Besides, the entry was modified after I pointed out obvious errors in the first iteration and it could be modified again at any time.

Regardless, each member of the Church is responsible to study these things individually.

What do you think?

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Multiple working hypotheses

The first fallacy of the academic approach to Book of Mormon historicity is the idea that a group of scholars can determine what the text means by consensus. This is especially problematic when the underlying premise of the academic approach is that the prophets were wrong, specifically about the New York Cumorah.

The second fallacy is imposing that academic consensus on everyone else. The text--especially the vague references to geography--is subject to a variety of interpretations. Any serious intellectual would recognize that and encourage the development of multiple hypotheses pending additional knowledge. 

Key point: it is even possible to interpret the text and the external evidence in such as way as to support and corroborate the teachings of the prophets, instead of insisting on an interpretation that repudiates the teaching of the prophets.  

But that possibility is not a requirement. People can believe whatever they want.

In my view, the only viable (and intellectual honest) approach is one of multiple working hypotheses. 

This approach recognizes that, in the absence of specific prophetic guidance that everyone can agree on, there are multiple ways of interpreting the text and the extrinsic evidence (as well as the teachings of the prophets). 

I emphasize repeatedly on this blog that I'm fine with people believing whatever they want. And certainly, basic human psychology enables people to find evidence to confirm whatever bias they have.

It's funny to me that I have critics who seem to think I don't understand or even know the arguments in favor of M2C. I accepted M2C for decades and I could make those same arguments as easily as anyone else. I changed my mind when I learned more about the topic and realized the teachings of the prophets make sense after all, but I don't mind if others wish to stick with M2C, Peru, Chile, Baja, Eritrea, or anywhere else.

This is why I favor the Church's policy of neutrality on these issues, which is basically a recognition of multiple working hypotheses. (It's significant that the Gospel Topics entry on Book of Mormon Geography doesn't mention Cumorah.)

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Here's a specific example. A serious academic organization would not have a logo that limits possible interpretations, the way this one does with its Mayan glyph representing the Book of Mormon:



A logo that depicts the actual language of the Book of Mormon--English--would reflect the open-minded and neutral approach any intellectually honest group would adopt.

Such a logo would reflect the Church's policy of neutrality.

________________

I discuss all of this in my book, Between these Hills. Here is an excerpt:


One of the main criticisms of the Book of Mormon by nonbelievers is the purported lack of evidence of the people and places it describes. Believers who reject the New York Cumorah similarly assert a lack of evidence based on their interpretations of the text.

Of course, there is abundant archaeological and anthropological evidence of ancient people living throughout the Western Hemisphere during Book of Mormon time frames. Connecting such evidence with the descriptions in the text is like solving simultaneous equations in algebra because there are unknown variables on both sides of the equation:

 

X external evidence = Y descriptions in the text

 

It is possible to interpret the text to support most theories of Book of Mormon geography based on external evidence from archaeology, anthropology, geology, etc. It is also possible to dispute every theory’s interpretation of the text and the evidence. This is why, pending more information, the approach of multiple working hypotheses makes the most sense.


Wednesday, February 3, 2021

The Urim and Thummim was necessary to translate the plates

Some classic teachings of Joseph's contemporaries.

I have read these things because I am fully aware that there are in the Church of Latter-day Saints many persons who are very careless about reading the “Book of Mormon.” It is one of the greatest treasures, so far as books are concerned, that has been given to mankind for almost 1,800 years. It contains the things of God in great plainness, so easy of comprehension that the child who reads can understand it. And yet, how many there are of the Latter-day Saints who suffer this book to remain upon their shelves, week after week, without ever reading a page of these precious things. 

I have also read these things for the benefit of strangers who may be present on this occasion. It is not to be expected that they will read it, for they do not believe it is a divine record; they do not believe that God has spoken, or that Joseph Smith was raised up to bring it forth to the children of men, by the power of the Urim and Thummim. It is not expected, therefore, that they will read a work that they have no faith in. They do not want to have faith in it, they do not consider it a matter of sufficient importance even to inquire of the Lord whether it is true or not. And yet, sometimes they may have, for a few moments, a feeling in their hearts that they would like to know what is contained in the “Book of Mormon;”

But we have every reason to believe that the time is not far distant, and that there are some living among the young now upon the earth, that will live to behold great numbers of revelations given, and will behold other books come forth and other records translated by the Urim and Thummim, that same instrument that Joseph Smith used in the translation of the “Book of Mormon,” which will again come forth and be revealed to the seer and revelator that God will raise up by which these ancient records will be brought to light. Then these great things will be known, then we shall rejoice in the greater fulness of knowledge and understanding, according to the promise; and when we rend that veil of unbelief, spoken of in the “Book of Mormon,” and when it is taken away from our midst, and we exercise faith in God, even as the ancient man of God, the brother of Jared, did, then will the Lord reveal to this people what was shown to this man. And if it were important for him, in the early ages, to understand the great things of the latter days, how much more important it is for us who are living, as it were, just preceding the coming of the Son of Man; and if ancient men of God were privileged and blessed in understanding the things of the future, how much greater blessing it will be to us, inasmuch as these things are at our doors.

...

That gives us a little more light upon the same subject. When that is brought forth, I expect that the same Urim and Thummim which the Lord gave to Joseph Smith will come forth with these plates, and they will be translated, but by whom I know not. Who will be the favored Seer and Revelator that will be raised up among this people to bring this revelation to light, is not revealed to me. And not only this revelation, but those twenty-four plates of gold which contain the doings of the old Jaredite nation that inhabited this North American continent; at present we have only an abridgment, not a hundredth part of their history. These plates of gold will come forth, as well as many other records kept by the first nation—the Jaredites, that came here; and I have no doubt that the Lord will give the Urim and Thummim to translate them. And not only these, but the Lord intends, in this dispensation in which you and I live, to overwhelm the whole earth with a flood of knowledge in regard to himself; in regard to his purposes and designs, and in regard to the future glories and blessings that are ordained for the Latter-day Saints, in regard to the preparation of the earth for the thousand years of righteousness to come.
(JD 19, OP King Limhi’s Enquiry, From the Book of Mormon • JD 19:217 col. b)
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For by faith Joseph Smith received the ministration of God out of heaven. By faith he received the records of Nephi, and translated them through the Urim and Thummim into our own language, and which have since been translated into many different languages. By faith he made the foundation of this Church and kingdom, just as much as Noah, by faith, built the ark, and received the fulness thereof. By faith he prophesied, leaving a record, a testament which has been given through his mouth to the inhabitants of the earth, and which contains the revelations of God yet to be fulfilled. 

The testator is dead, but his testament is in force to all the world. 

(JD 19, Wilford Woodruff Faith • JD 19:357 col. b'–358 col. a)


Tuesday, February 2, 2021

The M2C/SITH continuum

Sometimes a graphic helps explain complex topics. Here's one that explains the continuum from what the prophets taught to what unbelievers teach.


(click to enlarge)

Once we understand that the Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion, it's easy to see how undermining faith in the prophets who brought forth the Book of Mormon leads to disbelief in the Book of Mormon itself.

To be clear: It is of course true that people can be faithful Latter-day Saints while still embracing M2C and SITH.*   

I don't write these blogs for people who believe M2C and SITH. I'm not trying to persuade them to change their beliefs because I don't think it's likely, or even possible, for them to do so.

In my view, accepting the teachings of the prophets and validating them with external evidence is far preferable to relying on scholarship by academics who reject the teachings of the prophets.

I write for people who still believe the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah and the translation of the Book of Mormon, and who want to understand how external evidence supports those teachings.

I also write for people who have trouble reconciling the positions that (i) the prophets were wrong (and modern scholars are correct) about the translation of the Book of Mormon and its setting, but (ii) we should believe the prophets about everything else.
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1. The first step to undermining the prophets was to repudiate the New York Cumorah. This started over 100 years ago when RLDS scholars decided Cumorah couldn't be in New York because they believed the Book of Mormon events took place in Central America.

Over the objection of LDS prophets, LDS scholars gradually adopted the RLDS position. They tried to soften the blow by framing it as a "two-Cumorahs" solution, claiming that Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith innocently (but ignorantly) misled the Church by speculating that the Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 was in New York, while assuring us that as credentialed scholars, they figured out that Cumorah was actually somewhere in southern Mexico.

Our current LDS M2C citation cartel, particularly Book of Mormon Central, now spends millions of dollars annually to enforce M2C, actively teaching LDS youth (and the entire world) that the prophets were wrong. M2C is embedded in their logo.



Despite their efforts, there are many Latter-day Saints who still believe the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah. How do we explain this?

Building on the teachings of the prophets, we interpret the text in light of external evidence including anthropology, archaeology, geology and geography to see how the New York Cumorah makes sense.

Notice: we don't reject any possibilities about Book of Mormon settings other than Cumorah because the prophets haven't identified any and the external evidence supports multiple working hypotheses. 

Even those LDS scholars (and their employees and followers) who reject the words of the prophets as inadequate or unreliable could do the same. But they won't, because they prefer to confirm their bias for M2C. And they will continue to prevent other people from making informed decisions for themselves by censoring Church history and the teachings of the prophets that contradict M2C.

2. The next step to undermining the prophets was to repudiate the Urim and Thummim. Although Joseph and Oliver consistently and repeatedly taught that Joseph translated with the Nephite interpreters that Moroni put in the stone box, LDS scholars have decided Joseph and Oliver misled the Church. 

Instead, our scholars are teaching the youth (and the entire world) that Joseph didn't use the Nephite interpreters. They say Joseph didn't even use the plates. Instead, they say Joseph merely read words that appeared on a seer stone he put in a hat. This is the stone-in-the-hat theory, or SITH.

SITH is based on historical accounts given by (or attributed to) David Whitmer and Emma Smith, long after Joseph and Oliver had died. Strangely, some of our scholars claim that when Joseph and Oliver used the term "Urim and Thummim" they really meant the seer stone Joseph found in a well. Of course, that contradicts the historical record--including the statements by David and Emma they cite to support SITH!

Despite their efforts, there are many Latter-day Saints who still believe the teachings of the prophets about the translation of the Book of Mormon with the Urim and Thummim (U&T). How do we explain the discrepancy between U&T and SITH?

Some say that everyone who taught SITH was a liar, but that's not a credible position. Plus, it characterizes important witnesses to other events, including David Whitmer, as a liar. There's a big difference between what someone says they observed vs what they inferred or interpreted based on what they observed. David could accurately report what he observed and simultaneously make erroneous inferences about what it meant.

An alternative explanation for SITH that reconciles all the accounts, and preserves the reliability and credibility of Joseph and Oliver, is that Joseph used a stone in a hat to demonstrate the process, and David, Emma and others referred to the demonstration to defeat the prevalent Solomon Spalding theory. 

SITH scholars (and their employees and followers) won't accept this explanation, and they will continue to prevent other people from making informed decisions for themselves.

But open-minded people can evaluate the evidence for themselves and reach their own conclusions.

3. The final step, once our LDS scholars have persuaded people to disbelieve the prophets about Cumorah and U&T, is for unbelievers to build on that process. 

It's easy for them.

All they have to do is tell faithful members of the Church that their own scholars have repudiated what Joseph and Oliver taught about the translation of the Book of Mormon and its setting in New York. 

These same scholars claim they've been hired by the modern prophets to "guide the Church" in these matters. Their theories permeate Church media, manuals, visitors centers, etc.

As if this wasn't bad enough, Book of Mormon Central now spends millions of dollars to promote "evidence" that the prophets were wrong.

Really, there's not much difference between what CES Letter and MormonStories say and what Book of Mormon Central and the Interpreter say. 

Both groups claim scholars are more reliable than prophets.

But if the Restoration boils down to which scholars are "right," is it likely that our M2C and SITH scholars will prevail?


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*People can believe whatever they want and thanks to the psychology of bias confirmation, people always find evidence to support whatever they believe. Every group (religious, political or otherwise) has a core of believers who are impervious to alternative evidence and arguments. 

The difference with the Restoration is that it's supposed to convince "Jew and Gentile" that Jesus is the Christ. If the Restoration devolves into a group of people who repudiate the teachings of the prophets about the translation and setting of the Book of Mormon in favor of the teachings of the scholars, it's not going to convince many people outside that bubble of anything--especially when scholars outside that bubble disagree with the scholars inside the bubble. Scholarship is a weak reed to support faith.




 

Monday, February 1, 2021

Monday memes - February 1, 2021

More Monday memes. 

Trigger warning: M2C/SITH believers should not read this post. These are just for fun. No offense intended. 

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Plato's allegory of the cave represents prisoners whose knowledge of the world is limited to shadows cast on the wall by priests. But a prisoner escapes to discover the real world.

Click to enlarge images.



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