long ago ideas

“When we are tired, we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago." - Friedrich Nietzsche. Long ago, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery conquered false claims that the Book of Mormon was fiction or that it came through a stone in a hat. But these old claims have resurfaced in recent years. To conquer them again, we have to return to what Joseph and Oliver taught.

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Review of Moroni's America

My book Moroni's America was released several years ago. By discussing the scriptural basis for what is commonly referred to as the Heartland theory, it sets out one of the multiple working hypotheses for Book of Mormon geography.

The Mormon Book Reviews podcast recently released a review of Moroni's America that I highly recommend because the reviewer is an evangelical who has a much more objective approach to the topic than our LDS M2C community. I know other non-LDS Christians who say that, if the Book of Mormon is an authentic history, Cumorah has to be in New York if you believe Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery.

Here's the link:

Everyone who reads this blog should watch, like and share that review.

Readers here know that I've never said, nor do I believe, that Moroni's America is the correct interpretation. I offered it only because it makes the most sense to me. I'm completely fine with people who disagree. The concept of multiple working hypotheses is the only viable approach to a situation in which we have limited information. That's why I welcome alternative interpretations, as well as my critics (most of whom misrepresent what I think, but that's obvious to people who read what I write).

People should make informed decisions. 

When people are unable or unwilling to make informed decisions, they are susceptible to whichever purveyor of theories appeals to them for other reasons. Too often, faithful Latter-day Saints succumb to the CES Letter, Mormon Stories, or other sites that use the ignorance of the Latter-day Saints against them by purporting to show them "the truth." That appeal works because so many of our LDS scholars--especially the M2C apologists--have heavily censored information that contradicts M2C. 

The worst example, IMO, is Book of Mormon Central, whose very logo announces their closed-minded editorial policy. That policy works on lazy leaners who defer to self-anointed experts--but there are lots of those, especially because Latter-day Saints trust their teachers who, IMO, have violated their fiduciary responsibility toward their students in this area.

The M2C experts who insist on "M2C or bust" the way Book of Mormon Central does are wreaking havoc among Latter-day Saints.

Recently I saw an important tweet:

One of the keys to unlocking the #GoldenAge is losing our childlike, reflexive trust in experts and news reports. We're getting close.

That applies as well to Book of Mormon studies.

There is a parallel development in the area of environmental science and ethics (a topic I've taught for many years). 

An environmental activist recently started her article with this sentence:

What if you’d dedicated most of your life to trying to save the planet, but then you realised that you may have actually—potentially—made things worse?

In that case, the author recognized that by opposing nuclear energy, she had ("potentially") thwarted the most sound, scientific solution to the problem she thought she was addressing; i.e., climate change. 

Herein lies the rub. The very same groups that claim to fight for the wellbeing of our planet—the NRDC dubs itself “Earth’s best defense”—are pushing for and achieving policies that are actually the opposite to effective climate action. And because they are well established as “green” groups, they get a pass. They don’t get criticised. They get funded. It’s business as usual, for them. ...

I shudder to think of the damage this may have done to our planet. Misinformed beliefs have consequences.

The parallel to Book of Mormon issues is obvious: the academics who have pushed M2C since RLDS scholar L.E. Hills first came up with it in the early 1900s don't realize they have made things worse by promoting the idea that the prophets were wrong about the New York Cumorah.

By now, Book of Mormon Central spends millions of dollars to persuade Latter-day Saints (and the world at large) that the prophets (including Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery) were wrong about Cumorah. These scholars and their followers teach LDS students in CES and BYU that the prophets were wrong. 

It's easy to see how this line of reasoning makes things worse.

Those who engage in discussions about Book of Mormon geography quickly come to realize that those who believe the M2C scholars usually are uninformed about the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah, the external evidence that supports and corroborates those teachings, and the way the text of the Book of Mormon describes North America. Consequently, most M2C believers can't make informed choices. The M2C citation cartel keeps their readers ignorant by censoring alternative evidence and interpretations. 

By contrast, those who accept the Heartland/Moroni's America model are fully aware of the M2C arguments and evidence. On this blog, for example, we frequently refer readers directly to Book of Mormon Central and other members of the M2C citation cartel. We want people to have all the information so they can make informed decisions.

We encourage people to become engaged learners instead of lazy learners.

And, let me repeat, we're fine with people choosing to reject the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah. 

There are all kinds of ways that faithful, dedicated Latter-day Saints can rationalize that decision. What one chooses to believe about Cumorah has no bearing on one's devotion to Christ, one's activity in the Church, one's faith and testimony, etc. 

But if our belief is based on ignorance, we are vulnerable when we eventually discover that ignorance--especially when that ignorance was deliberately orchestrated by people we respect, such as the M2C scholars at Book of Mormon Central and the rest of the M2C citation cartel.*

Related to that, I posted a video on youtube over 4 years ago that a lot of people have watched. It's called scholars vs prophets. One of these days I'll update it, but it's a good introduction to the information that most M2C believers have never seen before.


*I repeatedly emphasize that I like and respect the scholars at Book of Mormon Central. They are wonderful Latter-day Saints, faithful, devoted, sincere, smart, etc. All I ask is that they offer multiple working hypotheses (and replace their M2C logo). For many years, I've tried to work with them, but they are completely intransigent. (For example, years ago I gave them my book Letter VII to publish for free on their site, which they did until it got too many views, so they removed it.) Their logo reflects their psychology: they are so deeply invested after decades of teaching M2C that they "cannot unsee" Mesoamerica when they interpret the Book of Mormon. 

It's a psychological barrier that I don't understand because I'm not an academic and neither my livelihood nor my self-image depend on protecting my theories. I suspect they are deeply entrenched because they recognize the problems with their approach and the weaknesses of their theories, but whether they recognize that, I can't say.   

People like the side-by-side comparisons I post from time to time. Here's one comparing some aspects of Moroni's America/1 Cumorah (MA1C) to the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs (M2C) model. Obviously, it's an abbreviated version.




Basic assumption

Prophets have been correct about NY Cumorah

Prophets have been wrong about NY Cumorah

Secondary assumption

JS and OC visited the repository in Cumorah and interacted with Moroni and Nephi (the messenger who took the plates from Harmony to Cumorah)

JS wrote or edited the anonymous editorials in the 1842 Times and Seasons

Key drivers of geography

Teachings of JS and OC that Cumorah is in New York, plains of the Nephites are in the American Midwest, and the Indians of Northeastern US are the Lamanites (e.g., D&C 28, 30, 32), plus scholarly interpretations of the text (e.g., lots of possible “narrow necks” according to common usage)

Anonymous editorials in the 1842 Times and Seasons that claimed ruins in Central America were left by the Nephites, so New York is too far away for Cumorah, plus scholarly interpretations of the text (e.g., “narrow neck of land” must be in Mesoamerica)

Counter point

JS didn’t write or edit anonymous editorials in the 1842 Times and Seasons, but even if he did, they didn’t mention Cumorah and referred to ruins that post-dated Book of Mormon times. Plus, in the Wentworth letter JS rejected Orson Pratt’s hemispheric theory.

Joseph and Oliver claimed no revelation on these topics and misled the Church by speculating about the geography, but by 1842 JS changed his mind and deferred to scholars. The Wentworth letter embraces the hemispheric theory because “country” means “hemisphere.”

Cumorah match

The NY Cumorah fits the text and external evidence once we recognize that “ten thousand” is a military unit, not a literal count, and only two units were visible from Cumorah

The NY Cumorah does not fit the text and external evidence because there must be evidence of at least 210,000 dead Nephites plus equivalent Lamanites


Jaredites = Adena

Nephites = Hopewell

Jaredites = Olmec

Nephites = Mayans


(Ether 15:2)

“two millions” refers to total war deaths in Jaredite history

“two millions” refers to war deaths at or near Cumorah


Numbered in tens of thousands; largest single army was 42,000

(Mormon 2:9)

Numbered in the millions; largest single army was 210,000

(Mormon 6)


No writing would survive because Lamanites sought to destroy Nephite records from Enos through Moroni. One carved stone (from Coriantumr) was so unusual it was described in an otherwise brief record (Omni).

Extensive written language should exist because Nephites and Lamanites corresponded in writing. One carved stone (from Coriantumr) was just an example of stella found throughout Mesoamerica (Omni).

Meaning of “head of the river”

Confluence (where Mississippi River meets Ohio River)

Source (highlands of Guatemala)

City of Zarahemla on Sidon

Sidon = Mississippi

Sidon = Usumacinta

Text requires a north-flowing river from land of Nephi to land of Zarahemla

Tennessee river (north from land of Nephi (Tennessee) to land of Zarahemla (Illinois);

Assumes a separate river from Sidon, which it meets at the head of Sidon (confluence).

Usumacinta (north from Guatemala to Gulf of Mexico);

Assumes only one river.

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