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, November 29, 2022

Joseph Fielding Smith and SITH

 Nice graphic from https://www.missedinsunday.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Stone.jpg

One quotation is from an anonymous essay written by scholars who promoted their own theories and never bothered to quote what Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery said on the topic.

The other is from a President of the Church who served as an apostle for 62 years and 2 months, second only to David O. McKay (63 years and 9 months). He also served as Church historian for nearly 50 years.


Thursday, November 24, 2022

Thanksgiving message

Every year the Wall St. Journal publishes this Thanksgiving message.


The Desolate Wilderness

An account of the Pilgrims’ journey to Plymouth in 1620, as recorded by Nathaniel Morton.

Here beginneth the chronicle of those memorable circumstances of the year 1620, as recorded by Nathaniel Morton, keeper of the records of Plymouth Colony, based on the account of William Bradford, sometime governor thereof:

So they left that goodly and pleasant city of Leyden, which had been their resting-place for above eleven years, but they knew that they were pilgrims and strangers here below, and looked not much on these things, but lifted up their eyes to Heaven, their dearest country, where God hath prepared for them a city (Heb. XI, 16), and therein quieted their spirits.

When they came to Delfs-Haven they found the ship and all things ready, and such of their friends as could not come with them followed after them, and sundry came from Amsterdam to see them shipt, and to take their leaves of them. One night was spent with little sleep with the most, but with friendly entertainment and Christian discourse, and other real expressions of true Christian love.

The next day they went on board, and their friends with them, where truly doleful was the sight of that sad and mournful parting, to hear what sighs and sobs and prayers did sound amongst them; what tears did gush from every eye, and pithy speeches pierced each other’s heart, that sundry of the Dutch strangers that stood on the Key as spectators could not refrain from tears. But the tide (which stays for no man) calling them away, that were thus loath to depart, their Reverend Pastor, falling down on his knees, and they all with him, with watery cheeks commended them with the most fervent prayers unto the Lord and His blessing; and then with mutual embraces and many tears they took their leaves one of another, which proved to be the last leave to many of them.

Being now passed the vast ocean, and a sea of troubles before them in expectations, they had now no friends to welcome them, no inns to entertain or refresh them, no houses, or much less towns, to repair unto to seek for succour; and for the season it was winter, and they that know the winters of the country know them to be sharp and violent, subject to cruel and fierce storms, dangerous to travel to known places, much more to search unknown coasts.

Besides, what could they see but a hideous and desolate wilderness, full of wilde beasts and wilde men? and what multitudes of them there were, they then knew not: for which way soever they turned their eyes (save upward to Heaven) they could have but little solace or content in respect of any outward object; for summer being ended, all things stand in appearance with a weatherbeaten face, and the whole country, full of woods and thickets, represented a wild and savage hew.

If they looked behind them, there was a mighty ocean which they had passed, and was now as a main bar or gulph to separate them from all the civil parts of the world.

Monday, November 21, 2022

Progress on the geography issue

Congratulations to Gospel Tangents for another series of important interviews.

One of the best M2C scholars is Brant Gardner. He's a great guy, reasonable and open about his views. I like him personally and I respect his work. He recently did an interview with Gospel Tangents that may help everyone understand the issues better than before.

The interview is on youtube here:

During the interview, he discussed the Heartland approach to Book of Mormon geography. In doing so, he clarified the reasons why M2Cers disagree with Heartland ideas. 

The clarification is most welcome. I hope Brant's interview will lead to further dialog and respectful exchanges.

Here are some excerpts from the interview with time code and my commentary. 

Original in blue, my comments in red.


Brant: What I would say is Mesoamericanists don't look at the Book of Mormon, against Mesoamerica and try to justify it against somebody else's theory. We're not trying to say, "This is good, because it's better than that, they had a problem here. But we don't have that problem here." That's not what we're concerned with. What we're concerned with is saying, "Yeah, here's a geography. Once we have the geography, what else does that teach us?" And so we're very focused on learning that.

We start with a difference in terminology. Brant uses the perfectly legitimate term "Mesoamericanists." However, that term glides over the key differences in our approaches. That's why I use the term "M2Cers" to show it's not just "Mesoamerica" we're discussing, but the "Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs (M2C)" theory. Some M2Cers euphemistically refer to the "Mesoamerican/limited geography" model to avoid mentioning Cumorah. We'll discuss below why Cumorah is such a critical point. 

Obviously, Brant is speaking for himself when he says he's not comparing models. Book of Mormon Central has an elaborate "test" that they use to evaluate pros and cons of alternative theories. In my view, their "test" is flawed because it is based on the assumptions implicit in their M2C models. As we'll see, Brant's views are also based on M2C-driven assumptions that are not unreasonable, but are nevertheless arbitrary and outcome oriented.

I completely agree with Brant when he says: "once we have the geography, what else does that teach us?" However, we have different views on what it teaches, as we'll see below.

They have a different purpose in mind, they have different interests. The few times that we have sort of
interacted and said, "Well, here are some of the things that we see as issues and problems with the geography you're putting forth." They're not very interested in them, and tend to dismiss them. 

Brant may be referring to something I'm unaware of, but I've engaged with all the issues and problems that M2Cers have identified to me. I think it's important for everyone to be crystal clear about the facts, assumptions, inferences, theories and hypotheses they use. If I haven't addressed any of the issues and problems that M2Cers have raised, I hope some M2Cers will let me know. My email for this topic is lostzarahemla@gmail.com.

So, if they're not interested in discussions on
that level, they can go build their models, and try to do what we're doing here. So, it isn't so much that we don't acknowledge them. We have tried. We do see some problems with the geography. But the focus isn't to try to diminish anything else in the Book of Mormon, if somebody else comes up with a good argument, yeah, that's wonderful. I haven't seen any that fit the detail and complexity that I see in Mesoamerica. So, I'd much rather spend my time on that than arguing with somebody else over geography. I'm not interested.

Another great point by Brant that I agree with to the extent he is arguing in favor of multiple working hypotheses. People can believe whatever they want, and if a particular theory works for someone, then great. We can have unity in diversity. 

That said, I don't find his point about "detail and complexity" very useful because that amounts to John Sorenson's "correspondences" approach. The M2Cers use one of two methodologies. First, they find elements of Mesoamerican culture that are fairly ubiquitous in human cultures (e.g., banners) and then claim it "corresponds" to something in the Book of Mormon. Second, they find an element of Mesoamerican culture and then read it into the text (e.g., volcanoes). These methodologies do generate some detail and complexity, but it's merely bias confirmation; i.e., as Brant says here, once they find the geography, what does that teach us? Naturally, every proposed setting can teach us something about the text; if we bend the text to fit the setting, we can find all kinds of details between the lines.

GT: Even though you're not interested, do you see any strengths and or weaknesses that you'd like to share with the Heartland theory?
Brant: The strengths and weaknesses of the Heartland theory? GT: Yes, of the Heartland theory. Brant: I think it has two strengths. One is it allows people the sort of culturally historical ties to the New York 
Hill as the Hill Cumorah. Without question, that was a theme in the early church, people believed that. And the fact that they make a geography that fits, that allows them to keep that, that's a strength. 

Here I don't disagree with what Brant says, but with what he doesn't say; i.e. what he omits. This is the censorship problem I have with M2Cers.

A basic premise of M2C is that Joseph Smith eventually (and ignorantly or speculatively) adopted a false tradition about Cumorah that originated with someone else. They say (condescendingly) that "people" in the "early church" believed the Hill Cumorah was in New York because of "culturally historical ties." I refer to this as the "erroneous speculation" narrative. 

While I appreciate their need to frame the Cumorah issue this way, and it makes sense for them to shift the focus away from the contrary evidence from Church history, Latter-day Saints would be much better informed if the M2Cers made their position clear instead of obscuring the issue the way Brant does here.

The M2C scholars have successfully used the "erroneous speculation" narrative to repudiate relevant Church history sources. I'll review a few here. Lucy Mack Smith reported that Moroni identified the hill as Cumorah the first time he met Joseph Smith, and that Joseph referred to the hill as Cumorah before he even got the plates. The M2Cers say Lucy was influenced by the "later" false tradition about Cumorah, but as early as 1830, Oliver Cowdery and Parley P. Pratt were teaching the Lamanites that the hill was named Cumorah anciently. Later, of course, as Assistant President of the Church, Oliver explicitly taught that the hill in New York is the very hill identified in the text as Cumorah and Ramah. He also described visiting the repository of Nephite records in the hill. David Whitmer reported that he first heard the name Cumorah in 1829 directly from the divine messenger who was taking the abridged plates from Harmony to Cumorah. There are additional references, and the New York Cumorah has been taught repeatedly, including by members of the First Presidency speaking in General Conference.

In my view, the "erroneous speculation" narrative is irrational. The Book of Mormon text never mentions America or even the western hemisphere. The only reason why we focus on "the Americas" is because the same people who taught the New York Cumorah said the events took place "in this country" or "on this continent." There is no rational basis to reject what they taught about Cumorah while adhering to what they said about America.
Rather than reject the teachings of the prophets about Cumorah because those teachings contradict their own interpretation of the text, students of the Book of Mormon should incorporate the New York Cumorah into their interpretations of the text.  

It's a strength that it fits the
most common reading of certain prophecies about Promised Land.
I probably read those very differently, but they're very much in line with how they have been traditionally read. And I think that also is a strength. 

Here I agree with Brant that there are multiple ways to read those prophecies. At any rate, in our day the prophets have shifted the focus from specific gathering places in America to gathering places throughout the world; i.e., the stakes of Zion instead of a central gathering place. 

I think the weakness is everything else. Let me give you an example. The last time I
remember looking at the Mesoamerican [Heartland] geographic model, you have to find a narrow neck of land. Every Book of Mormon geographer knows you have to find a narrow neck of land. 

Here is one of the best examples of disagreements about the text. People frequently ask me, "Where is the narrow neck of land?" I always reply, "Ether 10:20." That is the only reference in the text to the narrow neck of land.

There are two other references geographical necks: a "narrow neck" (but not of land), and a "small neck of land." Many people infer that these different terms refer to the same feature. I agree that's a plausible reading, but it's not a mandatory reading or even the most logical reading. 

An alternative reading sees these as different features; hence, the different terms.

Additionally, in Joseph Smith's era, the term "narrow neck" was commonly used to refer to geographical features much smaller than on a hemispheric or continental scale. I've documented multiple uses of the term by George Washington and others during the Revolutionary War describing the locations of battles, troop movements, etc.  

And if I remember correctly, they were looking at
a narrow neck of land just north of like, Buffalo and the Great Lakes, there's a narrow neck that kind of leads up, fits narrow neck really, really well. It doesn't fit the Book of Mormon text, because that narrow neck is northwest of the Hill Cumorah in New York. And so that puts the Hill Cumorah to the
southeast of the narrow neck. In the text of the Book of Mormon, it says you have to go north of the narrow neck and then east in order to get to Cumorah. So, it's completely contrary, you've got got the wrong narrow neck, if that's your narrow neck. And I don't know where you're going to find a narrow neck anywhere south of that. So the narrow neck doesn't work. 

The idea of a single "narrow neck of land" connecting the land northward and the land southward relies on another premise; i.e., that the terms "northward" and "southward" are proper nouns instead of relative terms. In my view, those terms are obviously relative. Salt Lake City is "northward" if you're writing from Provo, but it's "southward" if you're writing from Ogden. The text gives us many proper nouns of particular locations, both cities and lands. The M2C assumption that Mormon used vague geographical directions to refer to specific, unchanging areas throughout the text introduces unnecessary ambiguity and confusion. It is much simpler and consistent with ordinary usage of language to interpret these terms as relative.

Distances have a problem. 

The text never delineates distances except as a function of time. There are no miles or kilometers. People have speculated a wide range of possible distances, such as "it was only the distance of a day and a half’s journey for a Nephite." (Alma 22:32)

Even in this passage, Mormon tells us nothing about the mode of travel, yet people have elaborated on this to derive precise distances.

There's no horses to ride on. So, you're on foot traffic. rivers, right?"
Yeah. And he does river travel. There was an article that I know about and will not mention until it's published, but I've read the draft. And it looks at the idea of river travel. And, absolutely, river traveled down river helps. Up river, it's faster to walk in many cases. So, the rivering idea is really good if you only have to move in one direction. So, if they're always going downstream, it works. As long as nobody ever goes in the other direction, it works. Except they always go in the other direction. So it's just not going to work in the article that will give the documentation on that--well, the way publication works, you won't see it for a year, but somewhere a year from now.

Obviously we'll have to wait for the article, but the text tells us the Nephites sent for much timber "by the way of shipping" and that Mormon didn't have time/space to explain "their shipping and building of ships."  

We can speculate why Mormon didn't take the time to explain their shipping and building of ships, but we can't legitimately infer they did not build ships or engage in shipping. The idea that such shipping could only occur in one direction strikes me as preposterous. Who would go to the trouble of building a ship for a single downriver voyage?

Certainly the Native Americans used the rivers in both directions. Actually, if rivers were useful only for downriver traffic, everyone would end up at the sea. Lewis and Clark took their keelboat and other vessels upstream all the way from St. Louis to modern day Montana. They navigated with oars, sails, poles and towlines. 

I've agreed with M2Cers that there is a north-flowing river from the land of Nephi to the land of Zarahemla. For a long time I was told there are no such rivers in North America, but everyone forgot about the Tennessee River, which flows northward from the Chattanooga area (Nephi) to southern Illinois (land of Zarahemla--but not the city of Zarahemla). 

In response, I've had people tell me that's not possible because the Tennessee River has some drop offs that a canoe couldn't navigate. Then it's a question not only of the river's geology 2,000 years ago, but also of portage.

I look forward to engaging the topic of rivers in the Book of Mormon. Hopefully we can all reach a point where we agree on baseline facts. Then we can make our assumptions clear, set out our inferences, theories and hypotheses, and present multiple working hypotheses for everyone to consider.


Let's return to the point about Cumorah.

The Cumorah issue implicates not only the proper interpretation of the text, but the credibility and reliability of the prophets as well as the historicity of the Book of Mormon.

I've pointed out before that rejecting what Joseph and Oliver taught about the New York Cumorah created a precedent for rejecting other things they taught, including the translation of the plates with the Nephite interpreters that accompanied the plates.

In my view, untethering the Book of Mormon from the New York Cumorah untethers it from history. That's how we've ended up with BYU and CES teaching fantasy map versions of Book of Mormon geography that show Cumorah anywhere but New York. 

Repudiating the prophets in favor of the theories of scholars, especially when those scholars' best explanation for Book of Mormon geography is a fantasy land, corrodes confidence in the teachings of the prophets generally, but also supports the narrative that the Book of Mormon is fiction.

A return to the teachings of the prophets about Cumorah offers the potential for greater unity in the Church, greater confidence in all the teachings of the prophets, and greater understanding of the text itself.

Saturday, November 19, 2022

BofM Geography Theory Survey

There's a survey and discussion going on here:


(click to enlarge)

It's another fascinating discussion that highlights the confusion brought on by ignoring the teachings of the prophets.

As usual, the discussion skirts the simple reality that the first time he met Joseph Smith, Moroni identified the hill where the records were buried as "Cumorah." Lucy Mack Smith recorded that and Oliver Cowdery and Parley P. Pratt taught it during their mission to the Lamanites in 1830. David Whitmer first heard the name "Cumorah" in 1829 from the divine messenger who took the abridged plates from Harmony to Cumorah before taking the plates of Nephi to Fayette.

Any lingering questions about Cumorah were resolved when Oliver Cowdery, as Assistant President of the Church, explained it was a fact that this Cumorah in New York is the same place where the final battles took place among the Jaredites and Lamanites/Nephites.

Subsequent prophets reiterated this basic fact, including members of the First Presidency speaking in General Conference.

All of this is public knowledge, easily accessible in the Joseph Smith Papers and General Conference reports. It's difficult to imagine how it could be any more clear.


Nevertheless, certain RLDS and LDS scholars decided Joseph and Oliver (and Moroni), as well as their successors, were wrong, based on these scholars' own subjective interpretations of the text. Untethered by the New York Cumorah, they debate about what the text means, where the events described could possibly have taken place, etc. 

The ensuring confusion endures to the present, as the discussion about this survey demonstrates.

The musings of these scholars and their followers remind me of the confusion Paul faced on Mars Hill in Athens.

While the Athenians were speculating about the Unknown God they worshipped, Paul declared the true God unto the people.

Likewise, while scholars speculate about Book of Mormon geography, Moroni declared the true location of Cumorah, which Oliver Cowdery reiterated was a fact.

Why should the Lord reveal any more about Book of Mormon geography when most Church members have rejected and repudiated what He already revealed?

The next step, of course, is to interpret the text in light of the New York Cumorah instead of making up our own interpretations to reject the New York Cumorah.


16 ¶ Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry.

17 Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him.

 18 Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks, encountered him. And some said, What will this babbler say? other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection.

19 And they took him, and brought him unto Areopagus, saying, May we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest, is?

 20 For thou bringest certain strange things to our ears: we would know therefore what these things mean.

21 (For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.)

22 ¶ Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious.

23 For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, To the Unknown God. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.

24 God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands;

25 Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things;

26 And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation;

27 That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us:

28 For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.

29 Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device.

30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:

31 Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.

(Acts 17:16–31)


Friday, November 18, 2022

Critics, Gatekeepers, etc.

In my previous post, I mentioned my interview with Mormon Book Reviews, which has now been posted  here:


During the interview, we discussed gatekeepers. Another term I've used for certain LDS gatekeepers is the "SITH/M2C citation cartel." (SITH = stone-in-the-hat theory, M2C = Mesoamerican/2 Cumorahs theory). See list of acronyms here: https://www.bookofmormoncentralamerica.com/p/acronyms-used-in-this-blog.html

At the outset, I emphasize that these LDS scholars are fine people, faithful Latter-day Saints, etc. Their followers are likewise. They've done some wonderful research to help us all better understand the scriptures, etc.

My objection is (i) the way they insist everyone must agree with their interpretations, and (ii) the way they suppress and censor the teachings of the prophets to persuade people to follow their theories.

This diagram shows how the most prominent LDS gatekeepers operate with respect to the hill Cumorah. They follow the same pattern regarding the translation of the plates.

(click to enlarge)

As I've pointed out many times, the gatekeepers (citation cartel) work hard to prevent Latter-day Saints from the first step; i.e., they prevent us from even reading the teachings of the prophets.

The Gospel Topics Essay on Book of Mormon Translation is a prime example. It doesn't even quote what Joseph and Oliver taught, but instead focuses on the theories of the scholars who wrote the essay.


BTW, it's interesting to review the history of the Gospel Topics Essays. 

In June 2013 John Dehlin and others wrote a Faith Crisis Report.

The report was an effort to understand and respond to the individual faith crises that were becoming more prevalent with the advent of the Internet. The report was apparently a factor leading to the creation and publication of the Gospel Topics Essays as discussed below. You can read the entire report here:


Page 31 features this graphic:

(click to enlarge)

By far, the top four reasons respondents gave for their loss of belief were they ceased to believe the doctrine/theology, they studied Church history and lost their belief, they lost faith in Joseph Smith, and they lost faith in the Book of Mormon.

(click to enlarge)

Those reasons are axiomatic, really; few people leave the faith while still believing that Joseph Smith actually translated an authentic ancient record. 

Instead, those who leave have concluded that Joseph did not translate any ancient plates. 

And yet, some of our leading LDS scholars are spending millions of dollars to convince everyone that Joseph didn't actually translate the plates, but instead employed SITH. 

The scriptures have long warned about the dangers of building on a sandy foundation. There can hardly be a more sandy foundation than SITH and M2C, as we see in the survey in the Faith Crisis report.

The progression away from the teachings of the prophets looks like this:

First, the scholars say Joseph and Oliver were wrong about Cumorah being in New York. This, despite the historical record showing that it was Moroni who identified the hill as Cumorah the first time he met Joseph Smith. 

The scholars unilaterally decided that the "real Cumorah" must be in Mexico (M2C for the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory). A few claim other versions of M2C, such as Cumorah in Baja, Panama, Chile, etc.; anywhere else other than western New York. The M2Cers teach that Joseph and Oliver were ignorantly speculating about Cumorah. They also teach that all of their successors who reiterated their teachings about Cumorah, including members of the First Presidency speaking in General Conference, were wrong.

The next step was to say Joseph and Oliver were wrong about the translation as well. Instead of Joseph translating the plates with the Urim and Thummim that came with the plates as he claimed, the SITH scholars say Joseph and Oliver misled everyone because Joseph never used the U&T or the plates and never really translated anything. They redefine the term "translate" to mean "read words off a stone in the hat."

Then, using the teachings of the SITH/M2C citation cartel, critics such as CES Letter and Mormon Stories persuade people that Joseph and Oliver were liars and therefore the Restoration is a fraud.

Our SITH/M2C scholars respond that although Joseph and Oliver misled people about some things, including Cumorah and the translation, they were honest about other things.

No wonder so many people are confused.


John Dehlin's Faith Crisis Study prompted the development of the Gospel Topics Essays, which were never intended to replace the Standard Works and teachings of the prophets. These essays were written by the same scholars who were promoting M2C and SITH.

The purpose, supposedly, was to inoculate Latter-day Saints before they were exposed to the teachings of the critics.

Instead of inoculating, these essays inadvertently infected Latter-day Saints by disregarding the teachings of the prophets in favor of the theories of the scholars who wrote them.

Now, with the Gospel Topics essays validating his approach to Church history and doctrine, John Dehlin generates more individual faith crises.

Not only that, but the scholars who wrote the Gospel Topics essays cite their own work as official doctrine.

It's an amazing accomplishment on John Dehlin's part.

Anyone who pays attention to General Conference knows that Church leaders continually admonish us to study the scriptures and the teachings of the prophets, including authentic Church history. They don't ask us to rely upon or defer to the theories of the intellectuals in the citation cartel.

Everyone can read all of these things and make their own informed decisions.


According to the scriptures, there is only one legitimate gatekeeper.

41 O then, my beloved brethren, come unto the Lord, the Holy One. Remember that his paths are righteous. Behold, the way for man is narrow, but it lieth in a straight course before him, and the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there; and there is none other way save it be by the gate; for he cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name.

(2 Nephi 9:41)

13 ¶ But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.
(Matthew 23:13)

the end

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

More on the Joseph Smith Papers and the Interpreter

I finally took the time to write another response to the Interpreter reviews of my books A Man that Can Translate and Infinite Goodness.

For those interested, I posted it today, here:


I also did a podcast interview on the topic. I'll post that link when it goes live later this week.


One of the points discussed is what Joseph meant when he published this in the Elders' Journal of July 1838:

"I obtained them [the plates], and the Urim and Thummim with them; by the means of which, I translated the plates; and thus came the book of Mormon."

Pause and think. Would you agree that most readers find this a clear, concise, unambiguous explanation? 

To use Joseph's expression "or in other words," the sentence explains that Joseph translated the plates by means of the Urim and Thummim that he obtained with the plates.

Seems clear, doesn't it?

But no, if that's how you understand Joseph's simple declaration, you have it wrong, according to some of our leading LDS scholars and the critics who agree with them, as discussed below.


You can see Joseph's statement in context in the Joseph Smith Papers here:


You can also find it here, where the editors isolated the section and added "notes."


The "notes" are awesome. The editors of the Joseph Smith Papers know these notes are false because there is an 1832 reference to Orson Hyde referring to the Urim and Thummim, but the editors are promoting the SITH narrative so they won't change these notes.

(click to enlarge)


According to our leading LDS scholars, joined by critics such as John Dehlin, RFM, the CES Letter, etc., Joseph did not mean what he wrote.

Naturally, because of their credentials, they are entitled to "interpret" what Joseph actually meant and then impose their interpretation on the rest of us. 

This table shows how it works. 

Joseph Smith, Elders’ Journal, July 1838

The “real meaning” of Joseph’s statement, according to the Interpreter, FairLDS, CES Letter, Mormon Stories, Book of Mormon Central, Meridian Magazine, RFM, LDS Discussions, the Joseph Smith Papers editors, etc.

"I obtained them [the plates], and the Urim and Thummim with them; by the means of which, I translated the plates; and thus came the book of Mormon."

"I obtained them [the plates], and the Urim and Thummim with them; but I didn’t use the Urim and Thummim or the plates. Instead, I took a stone I found in a well years earlier, put it in a hat, and then read words that appeared on the stone; and thus came the book of Mormon."

IOW, these scholars and critics agree that Joseph's statement here actually means that Joseph used multiple instruments to "translate" the Book of Mormon, including the seer stone that he did not obtain with the plates. Actually, that's too generous. These same groups further claim that Joseph didn't really translate the plates after all, at least not in any ordinary sense of the term "translate," but merely read words that appeared on the seer stone.

Kraus and his collaborators are merely the latest to make this claim in his review of my books.

It's bad enough that the "Interpreter" asserts authority to interpret the scriptures and Church history and doctrine for the rest of us, citing their status as the credentialed class for their authority.

But insisting that we believe them instead of our own eyes is laughable.


Friday, November 11, 2022

The Friend magazine - October and November 2022

The Friend magazine continues the de-correlation of the Urim and Thummim, but also features Lebanon, so it's a mixed bag.

I was happy to see a feature on Lebanon in the November 2022 Friend magazine.

(click to enlarge)

Lebanon is one of my favorite countries, partly because they speak French (or did when I visited), partly because of its importance in the Bible, and partly because the people and food and scenery are all awesome.

Some years ago I spent a couple of weeks there with a Lebanese archaeologist. This was after the Lebanese civil war that ended in 1990. Beirut was badly damaged. There was only one functioning stoplight in the entire city. 

The country was under Syrian occupation, and the State Department had warned us not to go, but we flew in from the UK and had no problems. I was doing a filming project and also working with some computer animators I had trained in the U.S. We stayed with people we knew and some of their friends as we traveled around. One night we stayed in the Beka'a Valley. Syrian troops were everywhere, and our hosts made a point of not telling anyone we were Americans. 

At one inland site, on the top of a high rocky hill, we collected fossils of sea shells along with shrapnel from the Israeli bombs that had dislodged the fossils. We visited some of the few remaining stands of the cedars of Lebanon in the mountains, as well as Baalbeck and other sites, including Sidon. 

Sidon, of course, is the named river in the Book of Mormon. Many of us think the name originated with the Phoenicians who sailed Mulek's group to America. The onomasticon includes this possiblity.

Other references make a more direct link between SIDON and hunting/fishing.

I look forward to the day when the situation in Lebanon returns to its more peaceful status as the Switzerland of the Middle-East. I'm eager to return there!

Then there is the Friend for October 2022, teaching SITH to the children.

(click to enlarge)


Back in 2004, at least they told the kids about the Urim and Thummim... sort of.

Thursday, November 10, 2022

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Interfaith vs Intrafaith dialog

Interfaith dialog continues to make progress. But we don't see the same progress among leading LDS intellectual groups, particularly the M2C/SITH citation cartel of Book of Mormon Central, FAIRLDS, and the Interpreter Foundation.


For example, I blogged about an interfaith program that took place last Sunday at the Lake Oswego Stake Center here in Oregon.


It's wonderful to see people who have a variety of faiths come together with mutual respect. It's not merely tolerance; instead, they demonstrate engagement and interaction and understanding.

Unity in diversity.

One of the slides from the presentation explains this well.

Compare that to the intransigent, intolerant editorial approach from the M2C/SITH citation cartel. They refuse to acknowledge, let alone ask questions and listen, to fellow Latter-day Saints who still believe the teachings of the prophets about Cumorah and the translation of the Book of Mormon.

Imagine how much more healthy and productive these organizations would be if they decided to become legitimate academic organizations that desired to grow relationships instead of dogmatically defend their own ideology?

The principal roadblocks to greater unity among Latter-day Saints are Jack Welch (Book of Mormon Central), Dan Peterson (Interpreter Foundation), and Scott Gordon (FAIRLDS). All three are awesome, faithful Latter-day Saints. But all three of them grasp firmly onto their M2C and SITH beliefs, which are the interpolations of men. 

Any one of them could break the logjam by embracing the ideals set out in the "Grow relationships" slide. Their followers would do the same, and we would see unprecedented unity in the Church as these thought leaders exemplify the principle of unity through diversity.


Recently I discussed the progress of Intrafaith dialog among Latter-day Saints. I showed how the Maxwell Institute has shed the M2C agenda it inherited from FARMS in favor of a more open, inquisitive approach designed to grow relationships.

I showed how BYU Studies has made similar progress, once Jack Welch was no longer editor, by publishing an article that respectfully acknowledged the Heartland ideas. 

I suggested that even the Interpreter Foundation has its toe on the line of becoming legitimate. 

It remains to be seen what will happen next.


Here are some of the slides I used in my presentation at the Book of Mormon Evidence conference at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City in October.

Monday, November 7, 2022

Misunderstandings which have gone abroad

Some years ago I attended a session on early Church history at BYU Education Week. During hsi presentation on promoting the SITH narrative, the speaker acknowledged that Joseph Smith said the Title Page was "a literal translation taken from the last leaf of the plates." 

Then the speaker actually, said, "We don't know how Joseph knew that because he didn't use the plates."

IOW, the speaker thought the SITH narrative was more relevant and authoritative than what Joseph Smith himself said.

This is a common problem for the SITH sayers. But their problem is even worse when we read what Joseph said in context.

Joseph Smith discussed the Title Page "in order to correct a misunderstanding which has gone abroad." The "misunderstanding" was the idea that the Title Page was a modern composition.

That misunderstanding naturally persists among critics because they don't believe Joseph Smith.

But among faithful Latter-day Saints who are SITH sayers, such as Royal Skousen and his followers in the citation cartel, another misunderstanding is "going abroad." They claim that Joseph Smith didn't really translate anything, but instead merely read words off a stone in a hat, which words were generated by the Mysterious Incognito Supernatural Translator (MIST), who inexplicably used Early Modern English.

Let's look at how Joseph dealt with such "misunderstandings."

Mean time our translation drawing to a close, we went to Palmyra, and agreed there <​with Mr​> Egbert Granden [Grandin] to print and publish it five thousand <​copies​> for three thousand Dollars, and about this time secured the copy right. I would mention here also in order to correct a misunderstanding, which has gone abroad concerning the title page of the Book of Mormon, that it is not a composition of mine or of any other man’s who has lived or does live in this generation, but that it is a literal translation taken from the last leaf of the plates, on the left hand side of the collection of plates, the language running same as the <​all​> Hebrew <​wr[i]ting​> language <​in general​>. And that no error can henceforth possibly exist I give here the Title so far as it is a translation.

(click to enlarge)
handwriting of 

Friday, November 4, 2022

What is "manifestly absurd?"

In his book Mormon's Codex, John Sorenson promoted M2C. 

Popular LDS scholar Terryl Givens wrote the foreword for Mormon's Codex, claiming the book is "the high-water mark of scholarship on the Book of Mormon." Foreword, Mormon's Codex, p. xvi. 

Givens was correct about that--in the sense that, for many LDS intellectuals, repudiation of the prophets constitutes "scholarship on the Book of Mormon."

The intellectuals in the M2C citation cartel, including Book of Mormon Central, FAIRLDS, and the Interpreter, continue to promote M2C, just as Mormon's Codex does.

The book includes this comment regarding the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah:

“There remain Latter-day Saints who insist that the final destruction of the Nephites took place in New York, but any such idea is manifestly absurd. Hundreds of thousands of Nephites traipsing across the Mississippi Valley to New York, pursued (why?) by hundreds of thousands of Lamanites, is a scenario worthy only of a witless sci-fi movie, not of history.

John Sorenson, Mormon’s Codex (Deseret Book, 2013), p. 688.

I suppose most people find it difficult to believe that hundreds of thousands of Lamanites would "traipse" from Mesoamerica all the way to western New York. It's axiomatic that the fake scenario Sorenson set out is "manifestly absurd."

Even RLDS scholar L.E. Hills, who developed the M2C map that many LDS scholars continue to promote today, thought it was "useless" to show the final battles of the Jaredites in New York State.

(click to enlarge)

But here's the irony: it is the fake M2C scenario that Hills developed and Sorenson copied that is "manifestly absurd." 

By repudiating the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah, the M2C intellectuals have conjured up an interpretation of the Book of Mormon that fits nowhere in the real world. Instead, they give us fantasy maps such as the one taught at BYU.

A far more productive approach is accepting the teachings of the prophets about Cumorah and interpreting the text accordingly.