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.

Thursday, July 20, 2023

Intransigent M2C scholars at Book of Mormon Central

People often ask why Book of Mormon Central (BMC) betrays its mission and misleads its donors by focusing on M2C (the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory) to the exclusion of other faithful concepts about the origin and setting of the Book of Mormon and in defiance of the Church's policy of neutrality on that issue. 

The short answer is because John W. (Jack) Welch insists that BMC promote M2C exclusively. He could single-handedly change the organization into a legitimate scholarly resource that accommodates the full spectrum of faithful Latter-day Saints, but he refuses to do so.

In the interest of clarity, charity and understanding, let's discuss this important question.


Q1. Does BMC teach M2C as the only acceptable setting? 

A1. Yes. One look at their Spanish-language website clarifies their position:


A closer look at the BMC site shows how they attack alternative faithful settings. I won't provide the links, but they are easily searchable here: https://bookofmormoncentral.org/


Q2. Why does BMC teach M2C as the only acceptable setting?

A2. Because of their "scholarly consensus."

When we ask these scholars why they fight against the Church's policy of neutrality on the setting of the Book of Mormon, the common answer is that there is a scholarly consensus about M2C; i.e., according to the scholars at Book of Mormon Central, all the relevant, credentialed scholars agree that the prophets were wrong about the New York Cumorh, so their focus on M2C is justified.


Q3. Why would legitimate scholars at BMC censor alternative faithful viewpoints?

A3. Censorship is based on insecurity, fear and mistrust. Censors are insecure about their own beliefs/positions, they fear openness and comparison to alternatives, and they mistrust their followers (and donors) who might reject the censors if they could make fully informed decisions. 

All of the people at BMC are undoubtedly awesome, smart, educated, faithful, etc. But they do share this intransigence about M2C, apparently as a condition of employment/affiliation.

In the academic world, a heightened concern about reputation and legacy also plays an important role that often outweighs the fundamental principle of legitimate scholarship: clarity and openness. 

BMCs refusal to engage in clarity and openness undermines the credibility of the organization. BMC is an M2C advocacy group, not a legitimate scholarly organization.

Clarity. When we understand the history of BMC, their M2C advocacy makes sense (sort of). BMC is a subsidiary of BMAF (Book of Mormon Archaeological Forum, http://bmaf.org/) which was a long-time M2C advocacy group founded in 2004. BMAF published harsh attacks on alternatives to M2C and touts its M2C advocacy in its logo and on its website (http://bmaf.org/about/why_mesoamerica).

Well before BMAF was organized, Jack Welch founded FARMS in 1979. He adopted a logo that taught M2C and, in collaboration with John Sorenson and many others, has promoted M2C for decades. (For an overview, see https://www.templestudy.com/2012/06/25/rise-fall-farms/).

Charity. Everyone can understand the deep psychological investment in M2C that arises from teaching M2C to thousands of faithful Latter-day Saints over 4 decades. We are empathetic with such an investment.

Understanding. Understanding why BMC does what it does helps us appreciate the dynamics of BMCs ongoing censorship and opposition to basic principles of legitimate scholarship. But we have to ask, do those reasons justify exclusion of alternative faithful views from what is supposed to be Book of Mormon Central?

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