I continue to hear regularly from Latter-day Saints who have, or encounter other Church members who have, strong opinions about M2C and SITH, expressed in a variety of ways.
[Some people don't like these acronyms, and I'm happy to consider alternatives, but for now, M2C = Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory; SITH = stone-in-the-hat theory.]
These topics raise the question, how do we handle disagreements?
Strong opinions are fine--people can believe whatever they want, as we've all agreed (presumably) in Article of Faith 11.
It should be easy for all Latter-day Saints to respect other perspectives, interpretations, beliefs, etc. None of us are bound to believe what someone else believes. We can each seek our own spiritual guidance, read the scriptures, study the teachings of the prophets, examine authentic historical records, etc., for ourselves.
We are not asked or expected to defer to or simply adopt the speculations and theories of others, regardless of their credentials, status, or positions of influence. We are free to discuss the pros and cons of various ideas and make our own decisions. No one needs academic credentials to understand and live the Gospel.
We can serve one another and enjoy the blessings of the Gospel regardless of what we believe about M2C or SITH.
On my consensus blog, I posted a video about disagreeing charitably by Sean McDowell.
He also gave these useful tips that I really like, particularly 4, 6 and 9.
Sean McDowell commonly posts tips to help others in Christian Apologetics. He wants to help others to defend the faith more effectively. He recently posted a blog where he outlined his top 10 tips to other Christian Apologists. Many of these tips come from his own life experiences in the Christian Apologetics ministry. Here are the top 10 tips he gave to be more effective in apologetics:
- "Remember, the Bible doesn’t approve of everything it records."
- "Speak truth with gentleness. Avoid the temptation to compromise truth or speak harshly (Col. 4:6)."
- "You don’t have to have all the answers. Admit if you don’t know an answer, but then go find it."
- "Don’t merely make the case that Christianity is true. Make the case that it is good and beautiful."
- "We are called to make good arguments, but not be argumentative (1 Peter 3:15)."
- "You may disagree with others, but remember, people hold views for reasons they perceive as good."
- "Approach others with the idea that you may have something to learn from them."
- "Tolerance is no longer agreeing to disagree but the silencing of seemingly offensive views."
- "Interpret your experience in light of Scripture, rather than Scripture in light of your experience."
- "Make good arguments and defend truth, but remember, the deepest need of the human heart is for love."
For a long time now, I've been advocating the concept of multiple working hypotheses (some call it MWH). The MWH approach lays out all the sources (historical, scriptural, etc.) and then offers a variety of interpretations for people to consider.
I trust people to make good decisions when they have all the information. As President Nelson has taught, "Good inspiration is based upon good information."
I don't mind in the least that people still believe M2C or SITH, and I don't mind that they feel strongly about those beliefs.
My disagreement with SITH sayers and M2Cers is not that they interpret sources differently than I do. I'm fine with people believing whatever they want.
M2C and SITH are problematic because they are both based on the premise that Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were ignorant, naive, or deceitful when they taught about the New York Cumorah and the translation of the Book of Mormon with the Urim and Thummim that Joseph obtained with the plates.
My disagreement with the SITH sayers and M2Cers is the way the citation cartel obscures and censors sources so that people cannot make informed decisions.
Almost always, these M2C/SITH believing Church members have never heard of Letter VII and don't know what Joseph and Oliver actually taught about the translation of the Book of Mormon. But those who are fully informed yet continue to accept M2C and SITH are free to do so. It doesn't bother me at all.
In my experience, Heartlanders in general are tolerant about others' beliefs. They're happy to let people make informed decisions.
If the M2C/SITH citation cartel felt the same way, they'd be willing and even eager to lay out all the information and help people make informed choices among multiple working hypotheses.
One example is the Gospel Topics Essay on Book of Mormon Translation, which doesn't live up to the stated purpose for the essays because it doesn't even quote (or cite) what Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery said about the translation, apart from a misleadingly truncated excerpt or two.
[See my analysis here: http://www.ldshistoricalnarratives.com/2022/09/analysis-gospel-topics-essay-on-book-of.html]