Friday, October 29, 2021

BYU Studies strikes again-Part 2

 

There are many positive things to say about the article in BYU Studies titled "Book of Mormon Geographies." It's healthy to see the issue openly discussed. This is an important step toward laying out all the facts and then offering multiple working hypotheses.

Questions about Book of Mormon historicity are at the core of the "faith crisis" epidemic everyone is familiar with. 

Church leaders have long pointed out that the claims of the Church depend on the validity of the "keystone of our religion." Critics claim the book is fiction, and their arguments are bolstered when the faithful disagree among themselves about where the events took place. 

BYU and CES currently teach that the best way to understand the text is by reference to imaginary maps that have no connection to the real world. 

As a result, the debate has led even many faithful members to conclude the book is not an actual history but instead an inspirational parable of some sort, particularly when they're told the entire text came from words appearing supernaturally on a stone in the hat and that Joseph never even used the plates (to be discussed in Part 3). 

That's hardly a model for building faith. It impacts retention, reactivation, and conversion. Everyone can see the results in both statistics and personal experiences in our wards, families, and friends.

The article discusses the Cumorah question briefly, but evades the clear framing that is needed. The Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion, and Cumorah is the keystone of Book of Mormon historicity. It's an either/or question; either the prophets were correct about the New York Cumorah, or they were not. There is no middle ground. Obfuscating the issue prevents people from making informed decisions. 

Still, the article provides some important information that all Church members should know about. 

For example, the article quotes and cites Joseph Smith's 1834 letter to Emma about "wandering over the plains of the Nephites, recounting occasionaly [sic] the history of the Book of Mormon, roving over the mounds of that once beloved people of the Lord, picking up their skulls & their bones, as a proof of its divine authenticity."

It's awesome to see this reference in BYU Studies, finally. I did a search on the BYU Studies website for "roving over the mounds" and this article is the only result that comes up.  

Seriously? We're in volume 60 of BYU Studies and the journal has never before even quoted Joseph's letter to Emma during Zion's Camp? Apparently there is a gap in the database, because I know of at least one prior BYU Studies article that did quote the letter: "The Zelph Story," published in 1989 (discussed below). Readers of BYU Studies can decide for themselves whether they have been fully informed about this topic.  

I still remember reading that letter for the first time in Dean Jessee's book, Personal Writings of Joseph Smith. It was eye-opening. It was one of several specific moments when I realized how deeply I had been misled by my BYU/CES teachers and the FARMS scholars. Critics say these scholars (and, by extension, the Church) "hide" historical information they don't like. While I disagree with the critics on many of their assertions, it is undeniable that the M2C scholars and their citation cartel, including BYU Studies, have been far from forthright. 

It's also refreshing to see the "Limited Mesoamerican" (M2C) and "Heartland" models discussed on roughly comparable ground, something the M2C citation cartel has previously refused to do (and which Book of Mormon Central continues to refuse to do).

Kudos to Andy Hedges for this breakthrough.

And yet, despite the baby steps this article makes, serious problems remain. Assuming this article was "peer reviewed" in some sense, no one familiar with the Heartland model was involved.  

In Part 1, we focused on the article's claim that "the only firm link" between the real world and a Book of Mormon location in the New World is the site in New York where Moroni deposited the abridged plates that Joseph Smith found and translated. We reviewed how that "firm link" was provided by Oliver Cowdery's Letters IV, VII and VIII, and how M2C scholars arbitrarily and subjectively decide which parts of Oliver's letters should be accepted and which parts should be rejected.

Specifically, M2C scholars reject what Oliver (and Joseph, who helped write the letters) declared was a fact: that the hill in New York where Joseph found the plates was the same Hill Cumorah spoken of in Mormon 6:6, the scene of the final battles of the Nephites and Jaredites. These scholars also reject the consistent and persistent teachings of Joseph's successors on the topic, including members of the First Presidency speaking in General Conference, and then say the location of Cumorah is "yet to be revealed."

There is nothing inherently wrong with rejecting this basic teaching; we can all believe whatever we want, and M2C scholars have come up with what they consider to be good reasons for rejecting the New York Cumorah. But at a minimum, they should own their decision and not try to obfuscate by avoiding that discussion and pretending that the historical facts don't exist (the way the Saints book does). 

The BYU Studies article not only fails to make this point, but it ironically turns it on its head with this statement: "Like many other questions Latter-day Saints grapple with, this one has its basis in taking both Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon at their word." That's true, in the sense that everyone working on the geography issue relies on the premise that the book is an actual history. But it's not true in the sense that many working on the issue specifically reject what Joseph said about Cumorah. Worse, they deny he ever said anything about that topic, and they say everyone who quoted or relied on what he (and Oliver) said was wrong. If everyone took Joseph Smith at his word, all the theories would have one Cumorah in western New York and most of the debate would be over. 

The article recognizes the problem in this sentence: "The essence of the problem is the simple fact that, with a handful of notable exceptions—all of them, such as Jerusalem and the Red Sea, in the Middle East—none of the places mentioned in the Book of Mormon can reasonably be identified with real-world locations today at the exclusion of other possible locations" (emphasis in the original). Obviously, accepting the New York Cumorah as the Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 excludes other possible locations for Cumorah. That still leaves open the locations of other sites (a point the prophets have also made), but with the New York Cumorah as a pin in the map, we can interpret the text accordingly. 

Instead, we're faced with M2C scholars who use their private, subjective interpretations of the text to justify rejecting the teachings of the prophets. Hence, the confusion that reigns, and as the article says, "Remarkably, after years of research, discussion, and debate, the question of where the Book of Mormon played itself out is more wide open than it has ever been, with individuals from all walks of life and educational backgrounds weighing in on the topic."

The last point illustrates the implicit assumption the credentialed class always makes; i.e., that "education backgrounds" are relevant to accepting the teachings of the prophets. It's the age-old scholars vs. prophets issue. In this case, the problem is worse than usual because the M2C scholars have arranged a Potemkin village of interlocked publications that I call the "M2C citation cartel" that review one another's publications for M2C orthodoxy and they label their work "peer reviewed." 

(I offer numerous examples on a blog for peer reviews of the Interpreter that illustrate the groupthink nature of that front of the Potemkin village, here: http://interpreterpeerreviews.blogspot.com/)

The article turns to evidence here, starting with the letter we discussed at the outset of this post: "While many researchers have overlooked it, the earliest effort to identify a specific real-world location with the events mentioned in the Book of Mormon appears to be a June 4, 1834, letter to Joseph Smith’s wife, Emma, written from Pike County, Illinois, “on the banks of the Mississippi,” as Smith was traveling to Missouri with Zion’s Camp. Purporting to be a letter “dictate[d]” by Smith himself, the letter recounts how he and his companions had been “wandering over the plains of the Nephites, recounting occasionaly [sic] the history of the Book of Mormon, roving over the mounds of that once beloved people of the Lord, picking up their skulls & their bones, as a proof of its divine authenticity.”5 

The article cites Dean Jessee's now obscure source instead of the Joseph Smith Papers, so here's the link: https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/letter-to-emma-smith-4-june-1834/3

At that link, note 14 mentions the Zelph incident (which Hedges inexplicably omitted, possibly due to space constraints, which is another reason why referencing the JSP would be more useful). Note 14 references Ken Godfrey's BYU Studies article, "The Zelph Story," which you can read here: https://byustudies.byu.edu/article/the-zelph-story/. That's a fascinating topic both from the early accounts and from the way the scholars have treated it. For many events in early Church history, we have only Wilford Woodruff's account (such as the "most correct book" statement, which was Woodruff's summary of Joseph's teachings but was later transformed into a first-person quotation by Joseph Smith). Woodruff wrote about the Zelph incident, explaining that "zelph was a large thick set man and a man of god he was a warrior under the great prophet that was known from the hill cumorah to the rocky mountains the above knowledge joseph receieved in a vision." Normally, we cherish Joseph's visions. But not in this case, because Woodruff mentioned "Cumorah" in connection with "knowledge Joseph received in a vision." That cannot be, according to the M2C scholars, so in this instance, they equivocate and ultimately reject what Woodruff wrote. Some Latter-day Saints still accept this vision as reported by Woodruff, partly because it corroborates all the other teachings about Cumorah. It also happens to fit the archaeological finds from the mound, which is definitely Hopewell from Book of Mormon time frames with artifacts from throughout North America. M2C scholars reject this vision even though scientific evidence supports Joseph's claims.

The article next cites is Letter VII, which we discussed in part 1.

A letter written the same year by Oliver Cowdery to William W. Phelps similarly identifies a North American setting for at least some of what happened in the Book of Mormon—in this case, New York’s Hill Cumorah, where Smith reportedly found the gold plates, as the site of the final battles of the Jaredites and the Nephites.6 "

Note 6 inexplicably offers another obscure reference instead of the Joseph Smith papers, but it adds this comment: "Cowdery also identified this same hill as the site of the Jaredites’ final battles, as well as the place where other Nephite records, in addition to the Book of Mormon, had been buried (see Morm. 6:6)."

It's not clear why the note repeats the Jaredite point, but the mention of the "other Nephite records" should alert readers to what used to be taught in CES manuals: Joseph and Oliver visited the repository of Nephite records in the Hill Cumorah in New York on multiple occasions. 

The next evidence the article cites is the Stephens book about Central America and the speculation it engendered in the pages of the Times and Seasons. "These and other sources suggests that Smith and his contemporaries eventually came to see Central America as the center of Book of Mormon civilization, with sites in the Midwest and eastern United States coming into the picture toward the end of the narrative."

That's a fair characterization of the speculation that took place because none of Joseph's contemporaries or successors questioned the New York Cumorah, which was a given for them (even in Orson Pratt's 1879 footnotes, which acknowledged the speculative nature of other locations). However, Hedges doesn't mention the other alternative interpretation of the evidence, which is that Joseph never accepted the Central American theories and even tried to correct Orson Pratt in the Wentworth letter. 

The article reviews the development of the "limited geography" model based on M2C. "While some researchers continued to propound this model [the hemispheric model with Cumorah in New York] well into the twentieth century, others began to suggest the possibility that Book of Mormon lands were much more limited in extent. Although differing in the details of their respective models, proponents of the latter view believed that the events of the entire book, including the last battles at Cumorah, took place in a Central American context." 

What Hedges omits (due to space constraints?) are three significant facts. First, RLDS scholar L.E. Hills published the first M2C map in 1917. Leadership of the RLDS church distanced themselves from Hills' map and publications. LDS Church historian Joseph Fielding Smith objected to the idea of Cumorah in Mexico, which was contrary to the teachings of the Church and would "cause members of the Church to become confused and disturbed in their faith in the Book of Mormon." Nowhere does the article mention (or quote) teachings of the prophets about Cumorah. The article frames the entire discussion as a purely academic question.

The article proceeds to effectively review the development of M2C with David A. Palmer and John L. Sorenson as the "most articulate supporters" who decided Cumorah needed to be near the "narrow neck of land" that was in Mesoamerica, and that the New York Cumorah "does not match the text's description of the hill where the final battles took place." Everyone agrees it does not match Sorenson's interpretation of the text. But the text is not self-executing; it supports a variety of interpretations, including interpretations that corroborate the teachings of the prophets--unlike M2C.

The article also effectively outlines the arguments pro and con for the North American setting. 

"As strongly worded as the criticisms against this North American model have been, they have done little to dissuade its supporters. Led by Rod L. Meldrum, proponents of the “Heartland” model, as it has come to be called, have responded to the critics’ objections by willingly and creatively adjusting their proposed geography to better match the descriptions in the text."

Here, though, we see a thumb on the scale. The sentence makes a false implication because both M2C and Heartland proponents are "willingly and creatively adjusting their proposed geography to better match the descriptions in the text." That's the nature of this process.

Then we see this: "Less scrupulous about evidence than trained historians, scientists, and archaeologists might be, Meldrum draws on a variety of sources to offer real-world, visually compelling locations and remains for a variety of phenomena described in the Book of Mormon, including such traditional conundrums as elephants, horses, and Hebrew writing."

"Trained historians, scientists and archaeologists" can be "scrupulous about evidence," but only a member of the credentialed class would pretend they always are, or are at all when it comes to Book of Mormon geography, particularly the M2C model. For example, Mormon's Codex, the book cited in the article as the "ultimate expression" of M2C, is a hodgepodge of speculation about illusory "correspondences" that no mainstream historian, scientist or archaeologist finds in the least persuasive or even relevant. Had anyone actually familiar with the Heartland model been involved with peer review of this article, the voluminous citations in Heartland literature to non-LDS historians, scientists and archaeologists would have been featured, not ignored.  

This leads into the point we discussed in Part 1, that M2C "peer review" is merely "peer approval," despite the article's framing. "Sorenson, Palmer, and other proponents of a Mesoamerican geography have generally made their case in peer-reviewed journals and academic presentations, where they have directed their research toward university-trained specialists in history, archaeology, and anthropology."

Then, as academicians often do, we see a turn toward the "business" aspects, as if economics drives the discussion. Most participants in the discussions would agree they are motivated by the pursuit of truth and the desire to corroborate and support the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon. Nevertheless, economics is a factor.

"The result has been the development of two worldviews, essentially, whose ties to one of Mormonism’s foundational texts on the one hand and tourism industries on the other have moved the study of Book of Mormon geography into realms of faith, orthodoxy, and finances that transcend the mere differences of opinion or interpretation that characterize more abstract academic questions. One need only attend a conference put on by either camp or search the internet for “Tours of Book of Mormon Lands” to see how serious a business, both emotionally and financially, the whole thing has become for some."

A knowledgeable peer reviewer would have pointed out that the equivalence portrayed in that paragraph is hardly "scrupulous about evidence." 

Unreported here is that only one side has raised millions of dollars to promote its ideology. Book of Mormon Central (BMC) is the premiere fundraiser, persuading wealthy Latter-day Saints to fund its operations as it seeks to enshrine M2C as the de facto official position of the Church. 

BMC's employees patrol the Internet to aggressively attack criticism of its M2C (and SITH) ideologies, at one point insisting that any criticism of BMC's scholars constitutes criticism of Church leaders because Church leaders have hired these scholars to guide Church members. They regularly label those who don't accept M2C as "apostates." 

BMC has an M2C-driven scripture app (ScripturePlus) that directly competes with the Church's own Gospel Library app, using the donations from Latter-day Saints to lure unsuspecting Church members away from the Gospel Library by glamorizing M2C with attractive videos and links to its "Kno-Whys" that promote M2C. 

BMC's donors finance the M2C-promoting "Come Follow Me" series that features BYU professors and, in many wards around the Church, has become the curriculum for the Come Follow Me classes. People are watching these indoctrination videos instead of engaging in interpersonal, local involvement and discussion in families and wards. 

At fundraiser events, BMC staff wear name tags designed to look like Church missionary badges (albeit embossed with the BMC Mayan-themed logo) while touting BMC's status as an approved partner of the Church. 

The Interpreter Foundation and FairLatterdaysaints are also proficient fundraisers, working in tandem with BMC.

The article's conclusion reiterates and underscores the irrelevance of the teachings of the prophets, turning the conversation about Book of Mormon geography into a question of whether a "textual component" will be found. According to the text itself, from beginning to end, the Lamanites sought to destroy the Nephite records. Mormon moved them from Shim to Cumorah specifically to prevent the Lamanites from seizing and destroying them. It's unclear why we should expect something to have escaped and survived for 1700+ years, and why any such evidence could be "unambiguous," but if that's the standard, the more time that passes the less likely such an improbable discovery will be.

Even Biblical archaeology is debated, after all.

"Popular or not, the very fact that new ideas on the question are still being propounded underscores the basic problem that plagues all proposed Book of Mormon geographies, including those that can count hundreds or even thousands of supporters. For all the evidence that each may be able to marshal in support of its position, no one has yet found any remains outside the Middle East that can be definitively linked to the Book of Mormon. Such remains could take any number of forms, although at this point it seems that they would have to include some sort of textual component—some inscription or record found in situ, dating to Book of Mormon times, that makes an unambiguous allusion to a person, event, or location (and preferably all three) discussed in the book itself. Until such a “Welcome to Zarahemla” signpost is found, the geography of the Book of Mormon seems destined to remain more a topic for discussion and debate than a real-world location on the ground."

The alternative approach would be to accept the teachings of the prophets about Cumorah, interpret the text accordingly, and then seek extrinsic corroborating evidence. 

Readers of this blog know that's how I've approached these issues. That's what led me to reject M2C after decades of trusting the LDS scholars.    

As a result, I've found abundant corroborating evidence in the scientific (non-LDS) journals, in Church and general history, and at the sites.  

I'm fine with people believing whatever they want. Not everyone will reach the same conclusions even when looking at the same evidence. But it is inexcusable to hide, censor, or even obscure relevant evidence. 

The healthiest approach would be laying out all the facts and then offering multiple working hypotheses.

As I wrote at the outset, this article is a great first step in that direction. We can all hope that BYU Studies continues on this path with more welcoming of diverse opinions.

 

Thursday, October 28, 2021

BYU Studies strikes again-Part 1

From time to time, people ask why I include BYU Studies as part of the M2C/SITH citation cartel. Read the most recent issue and you'll see why. 

When I heard BYU Studies was going to do an issue on "Open Questions," I figured geography would be one of the topics. And it was. 

We can assume the editors thought they were being even-handed, maybe even objective, when they published articles about Book of Mormon geography and the translation. We welcome and want to encourage this direction toward more diversity and openness, but as we'll see, the implicit bias remains entrenched.

BYU Studies has long had its thumb pressed firmly on M2C (the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory of Book of Mormon Geography). The journal has published a steady stream of articles that take M2C for granted. 

This is no surprise, given that the long-time editor of BYU Studies has been an adamant proponent of M2C for decades. He co-founded Book of Mormon Central, which promotes M2C exclusively as the only acceptable interpretation of the text. The very logo of Book of Mormon Central precludes the possibility of any setting other than Mesoamerica.

The BYU Studies web page continues to feature the full depiction of M2C with no mention of alternatives, such as this map of "Plausible Locations of the Final Battles." 

https://byustudies.byu.edu/further-study-chart/159-plausible-locations-of-the-final-battles/

BYU Studies depicts the "real" Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 in southern Mexico, following the lead of RLDS scholar L.E. Hills' 1917 map that set out M2C.

(click to enlarge)

Here's the explanation of the map: "The hill Ramah/Cumorah, upon which both the Jaredites and Nephites fought their last battles (see Ether 15:11; Mormon 6:4–6), is shown here on the northwestern edge of the Tuxtla Mountains in Mexico, about ninety miles from a narrow pass (see Mormon 3:5). Other Jaredite locations, including Omer’s flight to Ramah (see Ether 9:3), are also shown here."

This map is part of a series of charts, all teaching M2C by proposing what is "plausible," implying alternatives (such as the New York Cumorah) are not plausible.

159 – Plausible Locations of the Final Battles

No other interpretations of the text are offered by BYU Studies.in this section on "Book of Mormon Lessons and Charts." Every Latter-day Saint who consults BYU Studies for personal study, help in preparing lessons, etc., is presented with M2C as the only acceptable interpretation.

M2C is the de facto orthodox belief, and you can be accused of apostasy for rejecting M2C (as my critics regularly accuse me).

And, of course, the teachings of the prophets about Cumorah are never mentioned. Readers are assaulted with a steady stream of academic speculation instead. 

_____

Now we have the latest issue of BYU Studies with an article on Book of Mormon Geographies by Andrew H. Hedges, a long-time contributor and BYU Faculty member. He's a great guy, excellent scholar, and has offered some resistance to M2C in the past. For a member of the citation cartel, he's probably the best choice for writing this article. But he's definitely a "safe" choice for M2C.

Following the M2C citation cartel's pattern, in this article he cites himself (twice) and the usual suspects, including John L. Sorenson (4 citations), David Palmer (twice), John W. Welch, John E. Clark. 

Unintentionally emphasizing the cartel nature of the M2C proponents, he writes, "Sorenson, Palmer, and other proponents of a Mesoamerican geography have generally made their case in peer-reviewed journals and academic presentations, where they have directed their research toward university-trained specialists in history, archaeology, and anthropology."

The "peer-reviewed journals" consist of BYU Studies, the old FARMS journals and their latest incarnation, the Interpreter, the Maxwell Institute, and lately Book of Mormon Central. The "peer approval" conducted by these journals is mostly a sham because the process consists of "peer approval" by like-minded proponents of M2C to assure compliance with the M2C orthodoxy. The journals themselves have interlocking editorial input. (The exception may be the latest incarnation of the Maxwell Institute, which at least tries to remain somewhat objective.)

This article is a prime example of the M2C bias. Had it been reviewed by anyone actually familiar with the Heartland models, it would have provided a far more balanced and informative explanation.

To be sure, Sorenson, Welch, Clark and others have also published outside the M2C citation cartel, but not on their M2C theories. No "outside" archaeologist or expert in Mesoamerican studies gives credence to the Book of Mormon as a description of Mesoamerican culture, anthropology, or archaeology. M2C thrives only inside its own bubble, a completely inside game. 

Let's look at how the article frames the discussion.

First, the article appropriately distinguishes between known locations in the Old World (e.g., Jerusalem) and unknown locations in the New World. So far, so good.

But then it says this:

"The only firm link between a specific location on the ground today and the Book of Mormon is the stack of plates Joseph Smith obtained from the Hill Cumorah in upstate New York. At best, such a link tells us only where Moroni, the ancient Nephite prophet who buried the plates, spent some time at some point after his people had been destroyed. It tells us very little, however, about where he or his people had been prior to that."

The logical fallacy here should be obvious, but the author (and the editors) skipped right over it. Some might say this was intentional. I prefer to think it was merely a result of groupthink. The citation cartel doesn't even realize how deeply embedded their M2C mindset is (the same reason why Saints, Volume 1, portrays a false historical narrative present by misrepresenting what early Saints knew about Cumorah).

Obviously a survey article cannot get into a lot of detail, but that doesn't excuse misleading readers with statements such as this about "the only firm link." Another footnote or two could have given readers at least an opportunity to become more fully and accurately informed.

We will spend a moment on this point because it exemplifies the editorial bias of BYU Studies that continues to misled and misinform Latter-day Saints.

The "only firm link" claimed by the article consists of statements made by Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery about where Joseph found the plates. No third party observed Joseph obtain the plates. The text itself does not mention a location in modern terms. The stone box containing the plates is not extant. No one other than Joseph and Oliver described detailed personal knowledge of where Joseph obtained the plates. 

Yet the article ignores (and explicitly downplays) what Joseph and Oliver actually told us, which is far more than the location of the plates.

_____

In 1842, Joseph sent a letter to the actual editor of the Times and Seasons, which published the letter in September. The letter, now canonized as D&C 128, includes verse 20:

And again, what do we hear? Glad tidings from Cumorah! (Doctrine and Covenants 128:20)

Joseph's shorthand reference to Cumorah is obscure to most Latter-day Saints today because the New York Cumorah has been de-correlated in recent years. But readers in 1842 knew exactly what and where Cumorah was because the year before, in 1841, the Times and Seasons published a specific description of Cumorah. It was a republication of what is known today as Letter VII.

Key point: until Letter VII was published, the location and significance of Cumorah was well-known but undocumented.

Joseph's mother Lucy Mack Smith explained that Moroni told Joseph "the record is on a side hill on the Hill of Cumorah 3 miles from this place" (identifying the ancient name during his first encounter with Joseph), but a three-mile radius leaves lots of possible locations. Joseph wrote that "he revealed unto me that in the Town of Manchester Ontario County N.Y. there was plates of gold" but he didn't describe the location in more detail. Lucy reported that in early 1827, before he got the plates, Joseph met the angel when coming home from Manchester "as I passed by the hill of Cumorah, where the plates are." This narrowed the possible locations, but there are several hills in the area. Obviously, Joseph's family knew which one was Cumorah because Joseph referred to it by name without further description, but outside of his family, no one knew either the name or specific location until much later.

We know exactly where Joseph found the plates only because Oliver described the location in detail in Letter VII. 

Letter VII was one of a series of 8 essays on early Church history originally published as letters in the Messenger and Advocate (18/34-5). Oliver wrote them with the assistance of Joseph Smith. Joseph had them copied into his journal as part of his life history where we can read them in the Joseph Smith Papers. https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/history-1834-1836/48

Joseph approved their republication in the Times and Seasons and Gospel Reflector, both in 1841. The letters were republished as well in the Millennial Star (1841) and in The Prophet (1844), as well as in a special pamphlet in England that sold thousands of copies (1844). 

In Letter VII, Oliver described Cumorah in detail.

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

You are acquainted with the mail road from Palmyra, Wayne Co. to Canandaigua, Ontario Co. N.Y. and also, as you pass from the former to the latter place, before arriving at the little village of Manchester, say from three to four, or about four miles from Palmyra, you pass a large hill on the east side of the road. Why I say large, is because it is as large perhaps, as any in that country. To a person acquainted with this road, a description would be unnecessary, as it is the largest and rises the highest of any on that rout. The north end rises quite sudden until it assumes a level with the more southerly extremity, and I think I may say an elevation higher than at the south a short distance, say half or three fourths of a mile. As you pass toward canandaigua it lessens gradually until the surface assumes its common level, or is broken by other smaller hills or ridges, water courses and ravines. I think I am justified in saying that this is the highest hill for some distance round, and I am certain that its appearance, as it rises so suddenly from a plain on the north, must attract the notice of the traveller as he passes by.

At about one mile west rises another ridge of less height, running parallel with the former, leaving a beautiful vale between. The soil is of the first quality for the country, and under a state of cultivation, which gives a prospect at once imposing, when one reflects on the fact, that here, between these hills, the entire power and national strength of both the Jaredites and Nephites were destroyed.

The last sentence, bolded here, explains why few living Latter-day Saints know anything about Letter VII. If you poll Latter-day Saints about how we know where Joseph found the plates, approximately zero can tell you because Letter VII has been suppressed by the M2C citation cartel. 

And this article, while mentioning "the only firm link," doesn't tell us the source of that firm link.

To its credit, this article does cite Letter VII. But look how dismissive the reference is, without acknowledging that "the only firm link" is Letter VII itself.

A letter written the same year by Oliver Cowdery to William W. Phelps similarly identifies a North American setting for at least some of what happened in the Book of Mormon—in this case, New York’s Hill Cumorah, where Smith reportedly found the gold plates, as the site of the final battles of the Jaredites and the Nephites.6 

An uninformed reader will see this glancing reference as a minor detail found in an obscure "letter" written "by Oliver Cowdery to William W. Phelps." There are many current Church leaders who know nothing more about Letter VII than this, and they won't be informed by this article or anything else BYU Studies publishes.

In a sense, the article relates an accurate statement. Oliver did write a letter to Phelps. But that's misrepresentation by omission because casual readers don't understand that this was President Oliver Cowdery, a member of the First Presidency, writing facts with the assistance of Joseph Smith to refute the anti-Mormon claims that the Book of Mormon was mere fiction. The "letter" was published in the official Church newspaper, and, as mentioned above, copied into Joseph's own history and repeatedly republished in official Church publications.

It was anything but mere private correspondence.

Not only was Letter VII written by a member of the First Presidency and approved by the rest of the First Presidency (Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, and Frederick G. Williams), but it has been reiterated by every prophet and apostle who has ever formally addressed the topic, including members of the Firs Presidency speaking in General Conference.

But readers of BYU Studies know none of this, and this article doesn't help by dismissing Letter VII as merely "a letter."  

Once we realize that "the only firm link" is Letter VII, there is no excuse for omitting--let alone rejecting--the rest of what Letter VII tells us. 

To those of us who accept the teachings of the prophets, Letter VII (and the subsequent teachings of the prophets reaffirming it) renders moot all discussion of Cumorah that proposes a location other than New York. 

Any legitimate discussion of Book of Mormon geography would make this point crystal clear. But this article does the opposite by derisively mentioning it in passing before devoting the bulk of the discussion (and citations) to M2C.

No one has to accept Letter VII and the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah. Plenty of LDS scholars have provided plenty of rationales for rejecting these teachings, with great success. We're all free to believe whatever we want. 

But BYU Studies and the rest of the M2C citation cartel continue to obfuscate the issue and deprive readers of the ability to make informed decisions.

_____

We'll discuss more aspects of the article in future posts, but here let's consider a few more details about Oliver's essays on Church history. 

Part of Letter I has been canonized in the Pearl of Great Price as the note to JS-H 1:71.  

Additional information from these essays:

Letter IV explains that Moroni told Joseph the records "were written and deposited not far from" Joseph's home. Thus, Mormon and Moroni spent enough time in the vicinity to write the record. 

Letter VIII describes in detail the location and construction of the stone box that contained the plates.   

_____

 




Wednesday, October 20, 2021

JS letter to OC, Oct 1829, and visiting with M2C/SITH scholars

The earliest extant sample of Joseph Smith's writing is a letter he wrote to Oliver Cowdery in October 1829. It includes this wonderful passage:

the people are all friendly to <​us​> except a few who are in opposition to evry thing unless it is something that is axactly like themselves

https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/letter-to-oliver-cowdery-22-october-1829/1

The passage reminds me of what it is like when I visit with M2C/SITH scholars. [BTW, if you're reading this post on Amazon, moronisamerica.com, or another site, you're missing the additional resources, including explanations of acronyms, on the original blog, here: 

http://www.bookofmormoncentralamerica.com/]

We all love our critics, but it's sad to see how they still resist new ideas--especially new faithful ideas. After all, their education was supposed to give them confidence and competence instead of defensiveness and intransigence. 

Serious scholars would readily and happily spell out all the facts and then compare multiple working hypotheses. But our M2C/SITH scholars continue to refuse to do that. Within the last month I met with several of them and the answer is still the same: no. 

They are obsessed with trying to persuade people to agree with their theories. The last thing they want is for Latter-day Saints to make fully informed decisions.

It's the same with CES Letter, John Dehlin, and other critics. They delude their followers by pretending to seek "the truth" when in reality they share the approach of our M2C/SITH scholars; i.e., they support their personal theories with selective quotations and logical and factual fallacies instead of putting out all the evidence and showing multiple working hypotheses so fully informed people can make good decisions.

Both sides rely on lazy learners who defer to their respective "expertise."

I prefer the approach President Nelson encourages. "Good inspiration is based upon good information." 

_____

The October 1829 letter obviously contradicts Emma's famous claim that Joseph couldn't write or dictate a letter (unless he attended an intense writing school during July-Sept 1829 when he was arranging the publication of the Book of Mormon).

The source note explains that this is a copy of the original letter, so it isn't necessarily an exact copy of Joseph's spelling. "JS, Letter, Harmony Township, Susquehanna Co., PA, to Oliver Cowdery, [Palmyra Township, NY], 22 Oct. 1829. Featured version copied [between ca. 27 Nov. 1832 and ca. Jan. 1833] in JS Letterbook 1, p. 9; handwriting of Frederick G. Williams; JS Collection, CHL."

_____

The letter also contains considerable non-biblical, non-Book of Mormon terminology and phrasing, another indication of the sources of Joseph's lexicon. I agree with those who still believe Joseph Smith translated the engravings on the plates "after the manner of his language."  

I've annotated the letter here:

https://www.mobom.org/annotated-js-letter-to-oc 


Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Midnight Mormons, Heartland, and the M2C citation cartel

Yesterday, Midnight Mormons discussed the Heartland theory of Book of Mormon geography/historicity.

https://youtu.be/KU3yaQEDhIE?t=420

The Midnight Mormons are good guys, trying to do something positive. We respect that. But they don't live up to their motto, as described on twitter:

We aren’t apologists, we are radio hosts who call out B.S. when we see it.

You can't call out B.S. from a position of ignorance. 

They need to up their game, because everyone can see that CESLetter and John Dehlin are lapping Midnight Mormons (and the M2C citation cartel*) when it comes to informed discussions of Church history, Book of Mormon historicity, and other issues. That explains the disparity in views and subscribers, not to mention outcomes. 

Faithful Latter-day Saints should be the best-informed people in the world on these issues, but that's impossible if they rely on the M2C citation cartel for their information. 

To his credit, at least Kwaku has a somewhat open mind and has looked into a few things. He explained that his M2C bias comes from his friends. The other two, not so much. 

Cardon Ellis asked "what was the narrow neck of land that shows up in like 20 different books." (Actually, it shows up only once, in Ether 10:20**). 

Brad Witbeck admitted he's not "super familiar" with the issues (as if that's a feature, not a bug) and yet he acted as the authority on the show, spouting the talking points he's learned from FairLatterdaysaints and the rest of the M2C citation cartel.

Before Midnight Mormons discuss the Book of Mormon, they need to graduate from elementary Letter VII school. They can start here:

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

Then they can attend Cumorah school, starting here:

http://www.lettervii.com/p/byu-packet-on-cumorah.html

Naturally, they'll consult their friends at Book of Mormon Central, FairLatterdaysaints, the Interpreter, and the rest of the M2C citation cartel. We'll save them some time, because the cartel has one answer:


Midnight Mormons' display of ignorance was shocking, but not surprising. The Midnight Mormons are victims of the M2C citation cartel that uses "disinformation by omission" to keep their readers, students, followers, and donors in ignorance. Midnight Mormons trotted out all the superficial caricatures that the M2C citation cartel has imprinted on the minds of their followers. 

Take Book of Mormon Central as an example. They continue to promote M2C as the only acceptable interpretation of the Book of Mormon. They expressly repudiate the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah, to the point where Midnight Mormons don't even mention Cumorah, which is the key the prophets have given to understand the setting of the Book of Mormon.

_____ 

This should be a wake-up call for anyone who still doesn't understand what is happening to the younger generations of the Church.

Thanks to the M2C citation cartel, they are dwindling in unbelief and ignorance. 

Or, as Paul explained, they are "Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth." (2 Timothy 3:7) Watch the way Midnight Mormons stumbled through various speculation about geography, focusing on the "narrow neck" and "snow" instead of the core Cumorah issue.

Let's liken the scriptures unto us, starting with Mosiah 26:1-2.

1 Now it came to pass that there were many of the rising generation that could not understand the words of Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, their contemporaries and successors, being little children at the time they spake unto their people; and they did not believe the tradition of their fathers.

 2 They did not believe what had been said concerning the New York Cumorah, neither did they believe concerning the translation of the Book of Mormon from the plates with the Urim and Thummim.

Those of us who are "seasoned" members of the Church are still familiar with the teachings of the prophets about Cumorah. They were in our Institute and Seminary manuals. We learned Church history before the New York Cumorah was "de-correlated" by the Saints book. We still read the original documents in the Joseph Smith Papers so we can see how the Saints book promoted a specific agenda instead of accurately representing what historical figures actually thought.

The M2C citation cartel has managed to create a situation in which faithful Latter-day Saints who want to know what the prophets have taught about Cumorah turn to critics of the Church such as CES Letter and MormonStories.

That should change. Immediately.

Midnight Mormons should help educate the "rising generation" instead of encouraging ignorance.

_____

*M2C = Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory, which teaches that Joseph and Oliver were ignorant speculators who misled everyone about the New York Cumorah until modern LDS scholars figured out that the "real" Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 is somewhere in southern Mexico.

**The "narrow neck of land" in Ether 10:20 is a reference from a different civilization and different time than the Nephite references to a different "small neck" and a "narrow neck" which, because it didn't mention land, was likely a waterway. M2C scholars conflate the three features to make their geography work. Common usage of the term "narrow neck" by early Americans, including George Washington, show that the term can apply to any number of ordinary geographical features.  



Friday, October 15, 2021

More disinformation from the Interpreter

For years, I've been advocating an approach to Church history and Book of Mormon historicity that focuses on established facts accompanied by multiple working hypotheses (interpretations) of those facts. This is a normal, expected academic/scientific approach to any topic. It leads to truth because everyone can see the facts for themselves and then follow the logic and assumptions of the alternative hypotheses. People can reach different conclusions, but at least everyone is making informed decisions.

To date, our M2C scholars and their citation cartel (Book of Mormon Central, FairLatterdaySaints, the Interpreter, BYU Studies, Meridian Magazine, etc.) have refused to agree with this approach. 

Instead, they deliberately keep their students and their followers (and donors) uninformed, misinformed, and disinformed. 

They don't want Latter-day Saints to even know what the prophets have taught about the New York Cumorah, let alone know about the extrinsic evidence that corroborates and supports what the prophets have taught. 

These scholars have invested their careers into M2C, and they fear most Latter-day Saints would reject M2C if they knew all the facts and compared M2C to the alternatives that vindicate the teachings of the prophets. 

IOW, they don't trust Latter-day Saints to make informed decisions because they know most informed Latter-day Saints would reject M2C.

It's a self-defeating approach because, thanks to the de-correlation of the New York Cumorah, more and more Latter-day Saints (and prospective Latter-day Saints) are learning what the prophets have taught from critical sources who frame the issue in a negative way that, as Joseph Fielding Smith predicted, causes members to "become confused and disturbed in their faith."

It would be far healthier and productive for Latter-day Saints to learn in Church and CES/BYU materials what the prophets have taught about the New York Cumorah. Back when the Church was growing rapidly, Seminary and Institute manuals did still teach what the prophets have taught.

Nevertheless, our M2C scholars persist in censoring the New York Cumorah. I've pointed out many examples of how the M2C citation cartel does this. Today we'll look at another one published recently in the Interpreter.

_____

Readers here will not be surprised to learn that the Interpreter continues to publish disinformation about Book of Mormon historicity/geography issues. I discussed a recent example here:

https://interpreterpeerreviews.blogspot.com/2021/10/the-bayesian-series-based-on-ignorance.html

Next week, we'll look at another example from the 2021 Joseph Smith Papers Conference.

When M2C scholars resort to disinformation to maintain the illusion that M2C makes sense, they expose their own insecurity.

The graphic below explains that the difference between misinformation and disinformation is a matter of intention. (click to enlarge).

https://www.maltego.com/blog/infographic-misinformation-and-disinformation/

_____

The Interpreter article is part of a series of articles that purport to use sophisticated statistical analysis to support the Book of Mormon as an ancient text. It's a transparent exercise in confirmation bias, which is fine; people enjoy having their biases confirmed, regardless of the validity of the argument. 

This article focuses on the resolution of alleged anachronisms in the text, which is also fine.

The disinformation arises from the article's gratuitous and deceitful claim that a geography model based on what Joseph and Oliver taught about the New York Cumorah does not resolve the alleged anachronisms in the text. 

At first glance, readers might assume the claim was based on excusable (but regrettable) ignorance; i.e., misinformation. After all, anyone who relies on the Interpreter for information about Church history and Book of Mormon historicity gets a steady diet of biased disinformation about the New York Cumorah and related topics.

But because the claim is one of the major premises of the article, and because the author purports to be objective and fact-based, it's difficult to excuse the errors on mere mistake.  
_____

Here's an excerpt from my analysis of the Interpreter article, which refers to another article about anachronisms.

The article lists criticisms of the Book of Mormon based on alleged anachronisms, starting with those in Mormonism Unvailed. However, the anachronisms were a bit of a red herring. Even in the 1830s, people knew the Bible contained anachronisms (e.g., candles instead of lamps), but anachronisms that arise from translation are understandable, even expected. Translators use their own lexicon and culture to translate; otherwise, their work wouldn't be a translation. Anachronisms didn't prove the Bible was false.

The overriding objection to the Book of Mormon was that it was not a translation.

Which, perversely, is what LDS scholars are trying to prove today! 

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Inspiration for Dune and M2C


I didn't realize that Frank Herbert was inspired to write Dune after visiting the sand dunes on the Oregon coast near where I live. 

We've been there many times.

How ‘Dune’ was inspired by the Oregon coast, at the beautiful Oregon Dunes (msn.com)

Because while the world imagined in classic sci-fi novel “Dune” may be entirely alien, Pacific Northwest author Frank Herbert first dreamed it up on a visit to the Oregon Dunes just outside Florence.

Coincidentally, some of the Book of Mormon videos were filmed along the Oregon coast as well.


_____

Although there are still some Latter-day Saints who believe what the prophets have taught about the New York Cumorah, most Latter-day Saints have been taught to repudiate those teachings in favor of the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory (M2C), which claims the "real Cumorah" is somewhere in southern Mexico.


Just as Frank Herbert imagined an entire dune world based on his visit to the Oregon dunes, our friends who promote M2C have imagined an entire setting for the Book of Mormon in Mesoamerica, based on the ideas of L.E. Hills whose 1917 map generated the M2C theory.

Ever since, they've been reinterpreting the text of the Book of Mormon to conform to whatever discoveries are made about Mayan culture in Mesoamerica

_____

More recently, CES and BYU teachers have taught an even more fanciful setting for the Book of Mormon. 






Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Getting offended

Some of our M2C* and SITH** friends continue to get offended when we discuss the topics of Book of Mormon historicity and translation from a faithful perspective that supports and corroborates the teachings of Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, their contemporaries and successors, all of whom taught the New York Cumorah and the translation of the plates with the Nephite interpreters. 

Getting offended is an emotional approach that obscures and prevents rational analysis of facts, scriptures, teachings of the prophets, etc. It's far more productive to share views and information and let people make their own informed decisions.

Offended people get defensive and resort to logical and factual fallacies. 

We see frequent examples on the web sites of Fairlatterdaysaints, CESLetter, the InterpreterFoundation, mormonstories, and everyone else who accepts M2C and SITH. 

None of these organizations want people to make informed decisions. They all keep people focused on their M2C and SITH narratives because they know that once people understand there are alternatives, they will no longer depend on these organizations to tell them what to think.

Naval explained why people get offended when they confront alternatives to their worldview.

"You’re offended when you fear that it might be true."

@naval
_____* M2C = Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory that Joseph and Oliver misled everyone about the Hill Cumorah in New York.**SITH = stone-in-the-hat theory that Joseph and Oliver misled everyone because Joseph never really translated the plates and didn't use the Nephite interpreters

Monday, October 4, 2021

Temple in Madagascar

Yesterday, President Nelson announced a temple would be built in Antananarivo, Madagascar. We were particularly happy about that one because we lived in Mauritius and spent a week in Madagascar. The new temple will have a tremendous impact on the Latter-day Saints in that area, as well as on their friends, families and neighbors.

Plus, our new illustrated book about Church history from an African perspective is set in Madagascar. The artist is from Madagascar and currently lives in Mauritius. He's a well-known political cartoonist who is very talented, as you can see from the illustrations.

For today's post, we'll use images to tell the story. (click to enlarge)

BTW, this was the same trip during which we visited Moroni, the capital of Comoros, with two books I was working through at the time: Royal Skousen's book on the History of the Language and the Annotated Book of Mormon (see the last two photos).

 Back cover



















Front Cover


Explaining temples


In Madagascar










 Antananarivo, with the Mission Home in the distance




Lemurs like salt!

Lemur on the shoulder

 

Make Cumorah Great Again




Moroni, Comoros, with the Annotated Book of Mormon
Moroni, Comoros, with Royal Skousen's book




Friday, October 1, 2021

America's Destiny... and the Church's destiny?

In the General Conference prior to the U.S. 1976 Bicentennial celebration, President Marion G. Romney gave one of the all-time conference classics.

https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/1975/11/americas-destiny?lang=eng 

Reading it now, 45 years later, the message is even more impactful.

There is an annotated version of the video here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-63nlsdAPfo

President Romney said, 

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.

Within 25 years of President Romney's talk, the New York Cumorah was gradually de-correlated. Certain LDS scholars insisted that Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were merely ignorant speculators who misled the Church because, according to these scholars, the "real Cumorah" was somewhere in southern Mexico.

That began the gradual repudiation of other things Joseph and Oliver taught, such as their claim that Joseph translated the engravings on the plates by means of the Nephite interpreters.

Now we're at the point where the most prominent critics of the Church and the most prominent LDS scholars and apologists agree that Joseph and Oliver were wrong about the New York Cumorah and the translation, and that they misled the world about those two key elements of the Restoration.

Everyone can see the obvious results of rejecting what Joseph and Oliver taught. As Joseph Fielding Smith warned, Church members are confused and disturbed in their faith.

People can believe whatever they want, of course, but the healthiest approach would be recognizing that there are many faithful Latter-day Saints who still believe what Joseph and Oliver taught. 

Some of us can still read and accept what President Romney taught, as well.

_____

While America has had a unique and critical role to play in the Restoration, it is no longer the sole gathering place for the Saints.

Modern prophets have explained this quite clearly. 

This gathering of Israel and this building of Zion in the last days occurs in stages. The early part of the work, which involved gathering to the United States and building stakes of Zion in North America, has already been accomplished. We are now engaged in gathering Israel within the various nations of the earth and in establishing stakes of Zion at the ends of the earth. This is the work that is now going forward in all of the nations of South America and of which I shall now speak.

As is well known, ancient Israel was scattered among all the nations of the earth because they forsook the Lord and worshipped false gods. As is also well known, the gathering of Israel consists of receiving the truth, gaining again a true knowledge of the Redeemer, and coming back into the true fold of the Good Shepherd. In the language of the Book of Mormon, it consists of being “restored to the true church and fold of God,” and then being “gathered” and “established” in various “lands of promise.” (2 Ne. 9:2.) “When they shall come to the knowledge of their Redeemer, they shall be gathered together again to the lands of their inheritance.” (2 Ne. 6:11.)

Two things are accomplished by the gathering of Israel: First, those who have thus chosen Christ as their Shepherd; those who have taken upon themselves his name in the waters of baptism; those who are seeking to enjoy his Spirit here and now and to be inheritors of eternal life hereafter—such people need to be gathered together to strengthen each other and to help one another perfect their lives.

And second, those who are seeking the highest rewards in eternity need to be where they can receive the blessings of the house of the Lord, both for themselves and for their ancestors in Israel who died without a knowledge of the gospel, but who would have received it with all their heart had opportunity afforded.

Manifestly in the early days of this dispensation, this meant gathering to the mountain of the Lord’s house in the tops of the mountains of North America. There alone were congregations strong enough for the Saints to strengthen each other. There alone were the temples of the Most High where the fulness of the ordinances of exaltation are performed.

However, in the providences of Him who knoweth all things, in the providences of Him who scattered Israel and who is now gathering that favored people again, the day has now come when the fold of Christ is reaching out to the ends of the earth. We are not established in all nations, but we surely shall be before the second coming of the Son of Man.

As the Book of Mormon says, in the last days, “the saints of God” shall be found “upon all the face of the earth.” Also: “The saints of the church of the Lamb and … the covenant people of the Lord”—scattered as they are “upon all the face of the earth”—shall be “armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory.” (1 Ne. 14:12, 14.)

We are living in a new day. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is fast becoming a worldwide church. Congregations of Saints are now, or soon will be, strong enough to support and sustain their members no matter where they reside. Temples are being built wherever the need justifies. We can foresee many temples in South America in process of time.

Stakes of Zion are also being organized at the ends of the earth. In this connection, let us ponder these truths: A stake of Zion is a part of Zion. You cannot create a stake of Zion without creating a part of Zion. Zion is the pure in heart; we gain purity of heart by baptism and by obedience. A stake has geographical boundaries. To create a stake is like founding a City of Holiness. Every stake on earth is the gathering place for the lost sheep of Israel who live in its area.

The gathering place for Peruvians is in the stakes of Zion in Peru, or in the places which soon will become stakes. The gathering place for Chileans is in Chile; for Bolivians it is in Bolivia; for Koreans it is in Korea; and so it goes through all the length and breadth of the earth. Scattered Israel in every nation is called to gather to the fold of Christ, to the stakes of Zion, as such are established in their nations.

Isaiah prophesied that the Lord “shall cause them that come of Jacob to take root; Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit.” The Lord’s promise is: “Ye shall be gathered one by one, O ye children of Israel.” (Isa. 27:6, 12.)

That is to say—Israel shall be gathered one by one, family by family, unto the stakes of Zion established in all parts of the earth so that the whole earth shall be blessed with the fruits of the gospel.

This then is the counsel of the Brethren: Build up Zion, but build it up in the area where God has given you birth and nationality. Build it up where he has given you citizenship, family, and friends. Zion is here in South America and the Saints who comprise this part of Zion are and should be a leavening influence for good in all these nations.

And know this: God will bless that nation which so orders its affairs as to further his work.

(1977, April, Bruce R. McConkie, Come: Let Israel Build Zion, ¶21 • CR)

The choice to come unto Christ is not a matter of physical location; it is a matter of individual commitment. People can be “brought to the knowledge of the Lord” without leaving their homelands. True, in the early days of the Church, conversion often meant emigration as well. But now the gathering takes place in each nation. The Lord has decreed the establishment of Zion in each realm where He has given His Saints their birth and nationality. Scripture foretells that the people “shall be gathered home to the lands of their inheritance, and shall be established in all their lands of promise.” “Every nation is the gathering place for its own people.” The place of gathering for Brazilian Saints is in Brazil; the place of gathering for Nigerian Saints is in Nigeria; the place of gathering for Korean Saints is in Korea; and so forth. Zion is “the pure in heart.” Zion is wherever righteous Saints are. Publications, communications, and congregations are now such that nearly all members have access to the doctrines, keys, ordinances, and blessings of the gospel, regardless of their location.

Spiritual security will always depend upon how one lives, not where one lives. Saints in every land have equal claim upon the blessings of the Lord.

(2006, October, Russell M. Nelson, The Gathering of Scattered…, ¶38–39 • CR)

There is much said in the scriptures about the gathering of the Saints. In the early days, the call went out to converts all over the world to gather to Zion. And they came, first as a trickle, and then as a stream. The Zion to which they came was under terrible persecution and was greatly strengthened by their very numbers.
...
In an area conference held in Mexico City in 1972, Bruce R. McConkie said: “[The] revealed words speak of … there being congregations of … covenant people of the Lord in every nation, speaking every tongue, and among every people when the Lord comes again. …

“The place of gathering for the Mexican Saints is in Mexico; the place of gathering for the Guatemalan Saints is in Guatemala; the place of gathering for the Brazilian Saints is in Brazil; and so it goes throughout the length and breadth of the whole earth. … Every nation is the gathering place for its own people.” (Mexico and Central America Area Conference, 26 Aug. 1972, p. 45.)

The following April, President Harold B. Lee quoted those words in general conference, and, in effect, announced that the pioneering phase of gathering was now over. The gathering is now to be out of the world into the Church in every nation. (See Conference Report, Apr. 1973, p. 7.)

(1992, October, Boyd K. Packer, “To Be Learned Is Good If …”, ¶11–16 • CR)