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.

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Classic Post #2 - 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 New York Cumorah 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. 

This assumption is supported by these considerations. They knew because Moroni referred to it by name when he first visited Joseph Smith, because the divine messenger said he was taking the abridged plates from Harmony to Cumorah before giving Joseph the plates of Nephi in Fayette, and because Joseph and Oliver had visited the repository of Nephite records in the hill Cumorah multiple times. 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 New York Cumorah does not dictate the rest of the geography, but it is a pin in the map that any legitimate model must include.

The Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs (M2C) setting relies on a series of assumptions that you must accept to believe M2C.

1. Joseph Smith did not know where the hill Cumorah is. 
2. Joseph's mother Lucy Mack Smith related false memories when she explained that Moroni identified the hill as Cumorah when he first appeared to Joseph Smith and when she quoted Joseph referring to Cumorah in early 1827, before he had obtained the plates.
3. Oliver Cowdery did not know where the hill Cumorah is.
4. Oliver, Joseph, (or another unknown person) at some unspecified date started a folk tradition that Cumorah was in New York, based on an incorrect assumption.
5. Oliver misled David Whitmer, Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, and others when he told them he and Joseph had visited the repository of Nephite records.
6. When, as the Assistant President of the Church in 1835, Oliver misled everyone when he declared, in Letter VII, that it was a fact that the hill in New York where Joseph obtained the plates is the same hill Cumorah of Mormon 6:6; i.e., the scene of the final battles and the location of the repository of Nephite records. 
7. Joseph, for unexplained reasons, passively adopted Oliver's false speculation in Letter VII and had Letter VII copied into his own history as part of his life story, then approved repeated republication of Letter VII in Church publications and alluded to it when he wrote D&C 128:20.
8. Joseph, who wrote very little himself, nevertheless wrote a series of extensive articles in the Times and Seasons about Central America that he left anonymous for unknown reasons.
9. Although these anonymous articles don't mention Cumorah, by implication they repudiate Letter VII, even though Letter VII continued to be republished afterwards in Church publications.
10. David Whitmer conflated his own specific memory of the first time he heard the word "Cumorah" with Oliver's folk tradition.

11. All of Joseph's contemporaries and successors who reiterated the New York Cumorah were expressing personal opinions but were misled by what Joseph and Oliver taught.
12. Modern scholars have determined that the prophets were wrong because the New York Cumorah doesn't fit their interpretation of the text, which they claim can describe only a limited area in Mesoamerica.
13. Etc.

Which set of assumptions makes the most sense to you?

If you're not familiar with Letter VII, Lucy's statements, and the other teachings about Cumorah that are readily available in the Joseph Smith Papers, in General Conference reports, and in other sources, ask yourself why your sources have not informed you. 

Are they promoting or accommodating M2C instead of relating accurate Church history?


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

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