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.

Friday, August 18, 2023

More on Brant Gardner, who is awesome

My comments on Brant Gardner's "SITH Unvailed" interview has generated a lot of page views and discussion. 

I reposted it to LDSHistoricalNarratives so it would be more accessible. It will be buried on this blog as we focus more on Cumorah in coming weeks leading up to the 200th anniversary of Moroni's visit.


I'm hopeful that the "SITH Unveiled" interview will "pull back the curtain" on all the shenanigans these scholars have employed over the years so we can have better scholarship in the pursuit of clarity, charity, and understanding.

IOW, no more contention.



Some people wonder why I discuss SITH on this site (www.bookofmormoncentralamerica.com) because they think questions about the origin of the Book of Mormon (SITH vs U&T) are not related to the setting of the Book of Mormon (M2C vs 1NYC).

1. One reason why I discuss SITH here is because the M2C scholars almost all promote SITH along with M2C. I posted an example yesterday. 


[SITH = stone-in-the-hat theory of the origin of the Book of Mormon.]

[M2C = Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory of the setting of the Book of Mormon.]

It's easy to see why these scholars link the two concepts.

Both SITH and M2C teach that Joseph and Oliver misled everyone.

Further, young Latter-day Saints who want to be scholars and/or apologists must defer to the conclusions of the scholars who are properly credentialed and affiliated with Book of Mormon Central and/or the Interpreter Foundation.

I'm fine with people believing whatever they want. We all have access to the identical facts. Different conclusions are driven by subjective assumptions, inferences, and theories. People rationalize their subjective choices all the time. That's natural. No problem at all.

What I'm not fine with is obfuscation, misdirection, and misrepresentation, all of which are endemic in the SITH/M2C scholarship (and among the critics).

Instead, I seek clarity, charity and understanding. When scholars and critics are clear about their assumptions, inferences, and theories, people can make informed decisions based on clarity.

Which leads directly to clarity about the foundations of M2C and SITH.

The fundamental "keystone" of M2C is that Cumorah/Ramah is not in New York. This means Joseph and Oliver were ignorant speculators who misled the Church when they taught that Cumorah/Ramah was in western New York. Instead, according to the M2C scholars, Oliver (despite being Assistant President of the Church) falsely claimed it was a fact that Cumorah/Ramah was the same hill where Joseph found the plates (Letter VII, etc.). According to the same scholars, Joseph didn't know anything about the setting of the Book of Mormon and relied on scholarship for answers (such as the Stephens/Catherwood books about ruins in Central America). In our day, the M2C scholars are so much smarter and better informed than Joseph and Oliver that they "know" the New York Cumorah was a false tradition (albeit perpetrated by prophets and apostles who succeeded Joseph and Oliver). 

The fundamental "keystone" of SITH is that Joseph did not use the plates or the Urim and Thummim to produce the Book of Mormon. This means that Joseph and Oliver deliberately misled everyone by claiming Joseph used the Urim and Thummim that came with the plates (the Nephite interpreters) to translate the engravings on the plates. Instead, according to our SITH scholars, Joseph didn't even use the U&T or the plates, and instead read words that appeared on a seer stone he put in a hat. Of course, this narrative is right out of Mormonism Unvailed, a book that Joseph and Oliver denounced but that our modern SITH scholars embrace.

Again, I'm fine with the M2C/SITH scholars teaching M2C and SITH, but only when they are clear about what they teach and don't use sophistry and misdirection to confuse their readers and viewers.

Which leads me to the second reason why I discuss SITH here.


2. The second reason I discuss SITH here along with M2C is because the methodology employed by the SITH and M2C scholars is the same.

The methodology consists of obfuscation, misdirection, and misrepresentation (i) to promote SITH and M2C and (ii) to suppress the alternatives to SITH and M2C.

Brant Gardner is a prime example. In my post on "SITH unveiled" we saw how Brant is a key player at Book of Mormon Central as well as at the Interpreter Foundation. Both of those organizations are advocacy groups for SITH and M2C.

I reiterate that I think Brant is awesome. He's a good guy, a careful scholar, and an effective writer.

But that doesn't make him immune from promoting false narratives to deter people from learning about alternatives to his SITH and M2C ideology.

Given his emphasis on good scholarship, it seems completely out of character for Brant to falsely claim, as he did in the "SITH Unvailed" interview, that I wrote my books with a predetermined conclusion and did poor research because I merely sought evidence to support my conclusions. As I showed in my post, his allegations are easily shown to be false because in the first editions of my book Whatever Happened to the Golden Plates? I had accepted SITH (at least in Fayette). 

I changed my mind about my published conclusions based on my own further detailed research that led me to reject those conclusions (which had been based largely on accepting the work of the SITH sayers).

It's the same approach I took toward M2C in the first place. I had accepted the FARMS narrative about M2C for decades, largely because I trusted such luminaries as Jack Welch, Dan Peterson, and John Sorenson. It was only after I did my own research on the Times and Seasons and related aspects of Church history, such as Letter VII, that I changed my mind about M2C (after consulting other Church history experts as a sanity check).

During this process, I also carefully considered the assertions by CES Letter, Dan Vogel, John Dehlin, etc., and found them to be as outcome-driven as the work of Welch, Peterson, et al.

I had never heard of or imagined the "two sets of plates" narrative until I researched the origin accounts in more detail and it became obvious. Same with the influence of Jonathan Edwards, the early childhood preparation of Joseph Smith to be a translator/prophet, and all the rest of the evidence that corroborates and supports what Joseph and Oliver said all along.

When I first got into these Church history topics, I actually thought Jack Welch and the other scholars would embrace new perspectives. I erred because I underestimated the emotional/reputational/financial investment these scholars had made. 

As a category, the historians seem more open-minded than the apologists at Book of Mormon Central and the Interpreter, but even the historians I spoke with privately didn't want to go on the record for a variety of reasons, which is fine.

Back to Brant Gardner.

Why would Brant lie about me that way? 

We can't read minds, but given his position at the Interpreter and Book of Mormon Central, we can reasonably infer that he, like the editorial boards of those organizations, cherish SITH and M2C so much that they don't want their readers (and donors) to even know there are faithful alternatives to SITH and M2C.

IOW, they don't want Latter-day Saints to learn that there are solid explanations of Church history that corroborate what Joseph and Oliver said all along. Latter-day Saints don't have to repudiate the teachings of Joseph and Oliver the way Jack Welch, Dan Peterson, and their followers do.

This is why Book of Mormon Central, the Interpreter, FairLDS, Meridian Magazine and their affiliates have adamantly refuse to tell their readers (and donors) the truth about the faithful alternatives to SITH and M2C.

Instead, as Brant Gardner has done, they tell their followers that Heartland ideas (essentially the New York Cumorah) are based on right-wing nationalism, racism, and anti-science. They tell people that anyone who supports what Joseph and Oliver said about the translation is not doing "good history" and is advancing an ideological agenda.

It's the antithesis of scholarship for Book of Mormon Central and the Interpreter Foundation to obsess with SITH and M2C to the point of depriving their readers, listeners and followers of the truth about alternative faithful interpretations of Church history and the origin and setting of the Book of Mormon.


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