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.

Monday, October 31, 2022

Another reason why U&T vs SITH matters

Critics continue to refreshen old arguments against the Restoration, such as the claim that Joseph plagiarized outside sources to produce the Book of Mormon and other scriptures/teachings. Their ongoing efforts suggest that they have some success in persuading some Latter-day Saints (and potential Latter-day Saints). 

Otherwise, they wouldn't waste their time/money, unless their respective followers continue to support them to confirm their own biases.

The plagiarism claim depends on the assumption that Joseph composed the text. 

If Joseph actually translated the text, as he (and Oliver and their successors) claimed, then the plagiarism claims are ridiculous, as we'll see below.

However, if we read the responses to the critics from the citation cartel (FAIRLDS, the Interpreter, BookofMormonCentral), they are not all that persuasive because they agree with the critics that Joseph didn't really translate the plates!

Here's an example from Royal Skousen, who openly teaches that Joseph was not the English-language translator.

Skousen and his followers teach that an unknown entity translated the Nephite plates, inexplicably relying on Early Modern English, and made the words appear on the stone in the hat (SITH). 

My term for this entity is the Mysterious Incognito Supernatural Translator (MIST).

The first obvious problem with the MIST is that people will have different ideas about the identity and motivations of the MIST. Faithful Latter-day Saints who accept SITH believe the MIST is divine. Others who reject the divinity of the Book of Mormon (but also accept SITH) claim the MIST is not divine but a deceiver, or merely the imagination of Joseph Smith.

Another obvious problem with the MIST is why the MIST would have incorporated the material cited by critics as evidence of plagiarism (i.e., composition).

When we realize that SITH constitutes an explicit repudiation of what Joseph and Oliver taught, it's understandable why so many Latter-day Saints are confused.

In my view, Joseph and Oliver taught unequivocally that Joseph translated the plates into English and thereby refuted any claim by critics of plagiarism. 

It is baffling why faithful Latter-day Saints would accept and promote SITH, except for one thing: they've been conditioned to repudiate other things Joseph and Oliver taught (such as the New York Cumorah).

Some people say it doesn't matter how Joseph Smith produced the Book of Mormon because they believe it's the word of God regardless. And that's perfectly fine with me. 

There are people in every religion who have innate faith. I've met innumerable such people around the world in all religions. Innate faith and belief explains why religions tend to be grouped geographically and along family lines. Many people naturally accept the the religion they inherited from their parents without questioning it. 

Nothing wrong with that. 

The Restoration is different, though, because it is a call to action for the entire world to abandon their traditions and embrace the restored, everlasting gospel.

And now, verily saith the Lord, that these things might be known among you, O inhabitants of the earth, I have sent forth mine angel flying through the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel, who hath appeared unto some and hath committed it unto man, who shall appear unto many that dwell on the earth.
And this gospel shall be preached unto every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people.
(Doctrine and Covenants 133:36–37)

One of the principal impediments to acceptance of the Restoration is the doubt cast by critics on the credibility of the Book of Mormon and the claims made by Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery regarding that book.

Although Joseph and Oliver claimed that Joseph translated the plates, critics insist that Joseph didn't translate anything. Some of them say Joseph composed the text or derived the text from a supernatural source. Hence, SITH.

Let's look at a recent example of critics who claim Joseph plagiarized sources available to him to compose the text that he dictated. The plagiarism claim has been repeated for decades. Recently, Mormon Discussion went through the issue in detail yet again.

They posted their outline here:

One of the common sources of plagiarism for college students is Chegg.com. It seems to be a source for Mormon Discussion as well. The bolded terms and phrases in their first sentence (as well as the rest of the post) are obviously plagiarized (using their methodology). 

Below is the outline for the video podcast that covers in depth Joseph Smith's Plagiarism of outside sources in order to create the standard works and Mormon Theology. 

Below the original is followed by the source of the plagiarism with the link underlined. 

Below is the outline

Video podcast

covers in depth


outside sources

in order to create

There are thousands of outside sources Mormon Discussion could have used in order to create its video and accompanying outline. Obviously, I can't prove that Mormon Discussion used Chegg for its plagiarism. 

But this brief exercise points out the absurdity of the plagiarism claim. The terms/phrases used in this example are common to the point of ubiquitous among English speakers. No one needs to plagiarize anything to employ this terminology because it is part of everyone's lexicon.

The same would be true for Joseph Smith--assuming that he translated the plates, as he claimed. He could hardly have translated the plates using anything other than his own lexicon, albeit guided/inspired in the process.

If Joseph did not translate the plates, however, we are left (thanks to our LDS scholars) to wonder why the MIST, who presumably had infinite knowledge and ability, would have made the word choices highlighted by Mormon Discussion and other critics.

As usual, Joseph's claims are by far the most credible and best supported by extrinsic evidence.

Friday, October 28, 2022

Mormon Stories, the Intepreter, Jonathan Edwards, etc.

People are asking about my response to the Interpreter article and the ensuing replies, but I still haven't had time to read them. I will soon, maybe even this weekend.


Last week I spoke twice at the Book of Mormon Evidence conference at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City. Lots of people asked for the presentations and we've sent them the link. If you didn't get the link, let me know at lostzarahemla@gmail.com.


From time to time I post comments on some of my lesser-known blogs.

MormonStories podcast continues to provide lots of inaccurate material. Here's my latest post:


Same with the Interpreter, here:



In a more positive vein, for those interested, I also occasionally add comments to the Jonathan Edwards blog, such as this one:


Tuesday, October 18, 2022

International Heartlanders

I haven't posted for a while because we've been traveling on a busy schedule, but I wanted readers to know that at the Book of Mormon Evidence conference in Salt Lake City later this week, I'll be discussing the international scope of the so-called "Heartlander theory." 

I say "so-called" because the term refers to Latter-day Saints who still believe what the prophets have always taught about the New York Cumorah. People who accept the New York Cumorah have a range of ideas about other geographical locations.

It's also interesting how those who accept the New York Cumorah tend to also believe what Joseph and Oliver taught about the translation of the plates.

We see that those who reject what Joseph and Oliver said about the New York Cumorah find it easier to also reject what they said about the translation of the plates with the Urim and Thummim that came with the plates. From there, it's easy for them to reject other revelations and teachings that contradict their theories (mainly the M2C and SITH theories). 


Here's an example of our trip. Within a few minutes, we went from sunny and warm to stormy and cold by ascending a mountain in Italy (click to enlarge).

Thursday, October 6, 2022

Already given: 116 pages and Cumorah

In the October 2022 General Conference, Elder Renlund reminded us of an important principle.

“When we ask for revelation about something God has already given clear direction, we open ourselves up to misinterpreting our feelings and hearing what we want to hear.”


In a courtroom setting, this is known as the "asked and answered" objection that is raised when the opposing attorney asks a question which has already been answered. The objection prevents attorneys from turning questions into argumentative rhetoric and from wasting time by hoping for a different answer; i.e., an answer they want instead of the answer already given.

In Church history, one of the best examples of this principle is the loss of the 116 pages. Joseph explained:

Some time after Mr Harris had began to write for me, he began to tease me to give him liberty to carry the writings home and shew them, and desired of me that I would enquire of the Lord through the Urim and Thummin if he might not do so. 

I did enquire, and the answer was that he must not. 

However he was not satisfied with this answer, and desired that I should enquire again. 

I did so, and the answer was as before. 

Still he could not be contented but insisted that I should enquire once more. after After much solicitation I again enquired of the Lord, and permission was granted him to have the writings on certain conditions...


A less well-known example involves the hill Cumorah and M2C (the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory).

Although the prophets have long identified the location of Cumorah, certain scholars "could not be contented" with that answer. Instead, they reject what the prophets have taught and have asked and asked again, never satisfied with the answer we've had from the first time Moroni met Joseph Smith.

Consequently, as Elder Renlund observed, they hear only what they want to hear. They teach their own theories as the only acceptable interpretation, using their fiduciary positions as teachers to undermine faith in the teachings of the prophets and in the historicity of the Book of Mormon.

Instead of accepting what the prophets have taught and interpreting the text of the Book of Mormon accordingly, they impose their own interpretations onto the teachings of the prophets.


The location of Cumorah was established the first time Moroni met with Joseph Smith. When questions arose about the historicity of the Book of Mormon, Joseph and Oliver responded by reiterating that it was a fact that the hill Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 is the same hill in New York where Moroni deposited the plates in the stone box. Joseph's contemporaries and successors have consistently reaffirmed the New York site of Cumorah.

In the early 1900s, however, some RLDS scholars questioned the New York setting. To make their theory of a limited geography in Mexico work, they decided that the "real" Cumorah had to be in southern Mexico. This was the origin of M2C.

Certain LDS scholars adopted the M2C theory. They knew that prophets and apostles had reaffirmed the New York Cumorah in General Conference, as recently as 1975 and 1978. Nevertheless, in 1979, Jack Welch and other scholars organized FARMS to develop and promote M2C. 

They trained generations of young LDS students at BYU to think M2C was the only viable interpretation of the Book of Mormon. They taught that the prophets were wrong about Cumorah. They created a logo featuring a Mayan glyph to represent the Book of Mormon.

When they created Book of Mormon Central to replace FARMS, they brought the M2C logo with them. They have spent millions of dollars to emblazon M2C on videos, books, websites, and articles throughout the Church. 

By now, they have largely obliterated the teachings of the prophets about Cumorah, to the point where their followers accuse fellow Latter-day Saints who still believe the teachings of the prophets as apostates.

One of their tactics is to claim there has never been any revelation about Cumorah and that everyone who spoke about the New York Cumorah was perpetrating a false tradition.

But everyone can see that it was Moroni himself who identified the hill in New York as Cumorah. We can all judge for ourselves whether what Moroni told Joseph Smith constitutes revelation.

Lucy Mack Smith related that Moroni told Joseph Smith:

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

Lucy's account was corroborated as early as 1830 by Oliver Cowdery and Parley P. Pratt during their mission to the Lamanites. 

In 1827, Joseph referred to the hill as Cumorah even before he got the plates. In 1829, David Whitmer first learned the name Cumorah from the divine messenger who took the abridged plates from Harmony to Cumorah before bringing the plates of Nephi to Fayette.

In 1835, after critics claimed the Book of Mormon was fiction, Oliver Cowdery explained it was a fact that the hill in New York was the very hill Mormon described in Mormon 6:6.

All of these references and many more are readily available from reliable original sources, including the Joseph Smith Papers and General Conference reports.

Nevertheless, our M2C scholars insist the prophets were wrong--and they've managed to convince many of their students to follow them.


We all want more information about the historicity of the Book of Mormon to better understand its context. But how can anyone expect the Lord to reveal more information when so many have outright rejected what the prophets have taught about Cumorah?


31 Who am I, saith the Lord, that have promised and have not fulfilled?

32 I command and men obey not; I revoke and they receive not the blessing.

33 Then they say in their hearts: This is not the work of the Lord, for his promises are not fulfilled. But wo unto such, for their reward lurketh beneath, and not from above.

(Doctrine and Covenants 58:31–33)