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, December 12, 2023

M2C and SITH: Wrong road, wrong destination

Tomorrow I'll announce a new project about LDS scholarship, which is a fascinating topic, particularly as it relates to M2C and SITH. 

We will discuss the intellectual ancestry of M2C and SITH, as well as the way scholars have transformed the historical narrative to essentially remove Joseph and Oliver, all under the pretext of "science" and "credentials."

The M2C and SITH scholars are awesome people. Some are active LDS, some are former LDS, and some are never LDS, but one thing they have in common is they disbelieve what Joseph and Oliver claimed about the origin and setting of the Book of Mormon.

Years ago, President Oaks said this in General Conference: "If we choose the wrong road, we choose the wrong destination."

When considering the origin and setting of the Book of Mormon, what destination are we choosing? Are we seeking to corroborate Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, or are we seeking to repudiate them? 

What might be the wrong vs the right road?

For those who believe what Joseph and Oliver claimed and taught, the choice should be easy. 

Joseph Smith on origin

Mormonism Unvailed and Modern SITH scholars

"How and when did you obtain the Book of Mormon?

Answer. Moroni, the person who deposited the plates, from which the Book of Mormon was translated, in a hill in Manchester, Ontario County, New York, being dead, and raised again therefrom, appeared unto me, and told me where they were; and gave me directions how to obtain them. I obtained them, and the Urim and Thummim with them, by the means of which I translated the plates, and thus came the Book of Mormon."

Joseph didn't really translate the engravings, and he didn't use the Urim and Thummim that came with the plates. Instead, he read words that appeared supernaturally on a seer stone he put in a hat.

Mormonism Unvailed: “We are informed that Smith used a stone in a hat, for the purpose of translating the plates. The spectacles and plates were found together, but were taken from him and hid up again before he had translated one word, and he has never seen them since—this is Smith's own story.”* 

Oliver Cowdery on setting

Modern M2C scholars

“I must now give you some description of the place where, and the manner in which these records were deposited.

You are acquainted with the mail road from Palmyra, Wayne Co. to Canandaigua, Ontario Co. N.Y. and also, as you pass from the former to the latter place, before arriving at the little village of Manchester, say from three to four, or about four miles from Palmyra, you pass a large hill on the east side of the road….

At about one mile west rises another ridge of less height, running parallel with the former, leaving a beautiful vale between. The soil is of the first quality for the country, and under a state of cultivation, which gives a prospect at once imposing, when one reflects on the fact, that here, between these hills, the entire power and national strength of both the Jaredites and Nephites were destroyed…. This hill, by the Jaredites, was called Ramah: by it, or around it pitched the famous army of Coriantumr their tents.”

Oliver Cowdery was wrong about Cumorah, but he didn’t lie when he said it was a fact. He was merely mistaken. (An audacious euphemism!)

Brigham Young and other Church leaders were mistaken when they related what Oliver said about entering the repository of records in the Hill Cumorah.

Orson Pratt was wrong when he said the repository was in another department of the same hill as Moroni’s stone box.

Lucy Mack Smith was wrong when she said Moroni identified the hill as Cumorah the first time he met Joseph Smith.

David Whitmer was wrong when he said the messenger who had the abridged plates was going to Cumorah before going to Fayette.


Among other oddities, the same scholars who complain that Oliver and Joseph didn't publish the account about Cumorah until 1835 think it's fine that Joseph didn't publish an account of the First Vision until 1842 (even though that account varies considerably from earlier informal accounts). 

They claim that Lucy Mack Smith's history, first recorded by scribes in 1844-5 although she had related it repeatedly before that, is credible for most things except regarding M2C and SITH. 

They even claim that, in D&C 128:20 where Joseph Smith validated his mother's account of him learning the name of Cumorah from Moroni before getting the plates, Joseph himself was adopting a false tradition about Cumorah!

Like me, many people are astonished to see how M2C and SITH got started and how they are being perpetuated today.


*this refers to the Hadley account, which is featured in the books by MacKay and Dirkmaat, as discussed here:


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