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, January 25, 2024

Positive development from Scripture Central!

All the way down here in New Zealand I'm inundated with inquiries about a recent video from Scripture Central (fka Book of Mormon Central). Due to the interest in the topic, I'm addressing it here.


Kudos to Kirk Magleby of Book of Mormon Central and Scripture Central for giving a tour of Pinson mounds in Tennessee, which I wrote about years ago when I visited there.

It's awesome to see Scripture Central present a more open-minded approach to the setting of the Book of Mormon, but unfortunately, their obsession with M2C (Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory) has led them to make some easily avoidable blunders, as we see in this video.

Here's a link to Pinson Mounds State Park for more info:

Kirk's video omitted an obvious point: how does Pinson fit within the overall setting of the Book of Mormon? Obviously, it fits well with Cumorah in New York, but that topic apparently remains anathema to Scripture Central.

In the video, Kirk cited Ether instead of Alma regarding heaps of earth, which gave the critics an opening to point out the time discrepancies and other problems with Kirk's presentation. 

This link from the Pinson Mounds website shows the actual dating of the site:


Thirty-nine radiometric determinations are presented and discussed from Pinson Mounds in Madison and Chester Counties, western Tennessee. Calibrations and feature averages (where warranted) are provided. Comparisons to nearby sites in Mississippi with comparable ceramic assemblages - Bynum, Pharr, Ingomar, and Miller - indicate early (first- or second-century B.C.) ceremonial activity at Bynum followed several centuries later by intense Middle Woodland ritual activity in the uplands of western Tennessee and norther Mississippi during the second and third centuries A.D.

The Alma chapters referring to heaps of earth (fortifications) and bodies "moldering in heaps" fit within this time frame. That's why I proposed it as the site of Alma's Helam. The Ether references too much earlier in time to fit the archaeology in Pinson, as the critics point out.

But the critics themselves are either too ignorant or too cynical and ideological to admit that Pinson Mounds does fit right in Book of Mormon time frames and aligns with the setting based on Cumorah in New York as a pin in the map.

This is only one of the factual errors and ideological assumptions RFM and his friends rely upon to criticize Kirk's video:

I'm still waiting for a call from Scripture Central to help them navigate the North American setting and avoid these blunders....


At one point, Kirk reiterates the oft-stated M2C claim that 

33:38 The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has not ever once said North America, South America, Central America, this is where the book... The Lord I should say himself has never... no revealed geography for the book of Mormon. 
It has never been revealed to any of the prophets.
It is a little exasperating to see this oft-repeated refrain. It turns on a clever word play.

First, the refrain consolidates two separate topics: (i) the location of Cumorah and (ii) "geography" in a broader sense. When these two topics are separated, we can all see that Church leaders have always taught that (i) Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 is in western New York, and (ii) we don't know the location of other events in the New World. This makes sense because there are dozens or even hundreds of potential sites that align with the setting described in the Book of Mormon, including Pinson mounds, for which the archaeological and anthropological evidence remains spotty and vague, but the details we do have are consistent with the text of the Book of Mormon. I've spent a lot of time at Pinson and there are mounds there that have yet to be excavated. 

Second, the term "revealed" is a word play. Was it a "revelation" when John the Baptist restored the Priesthood? According to Joseph and Oliver, it was a physical experience, not a revelation. 

Likewise, Oliver described physically entering the repository of Nephite records in the hill in New York on multiple occasions. This required no "revelation" but gave him the knowledge he needed to declare it is a "fact" that the hill in New York is the same one described in Mormon 6:6. And the archaeological evidence is consistent with the way he and the text described those battles (not involving millions of people, or even hundreds of thousands, etc.).

Third, we do have accounts that Joseph learned the name and site of Cumorah by revelation, but the M2C scholars simply reject that evidence. Instead of claiming the evidence doesn't exist, they should acknowledge that they reject the evidence. Joseph's mother said Moroni identified the hill as Cumorah the first night he met Joseph Smith. Parley Pratt reported that it was Moroni himself who called the hill Cumorah anciently. Joseph's mother also related that Joseph and his family referred to the hill as Cumorah before Joseph even received the plates. Joseph himself corroborated this in D&C 128:20 when he wrote "Glad tidings from Cumorah! A book to be revealed." He learned the name Cumorah before he ever got the plates.

Kirk and the other M2Cers know all of this but the keep repeating their refrain as a mantra.

We're reminded of this passage from The Crown of a Life by Isa Blagden:

If a lie is only printed often enough, it becomes a quasi-truth, and if such a truth is repeated often enough, it becomes an article of belief, a dogma, and men will die for it.

Kirk continued the video by referring to the Gospel Topics entry on Geography, equating it to scripture, another M2C mantra that is belied by the introduction to those essays as I discussed here:

Here's how Kirk explained it:
33:57And that's why on the church's website today the gospel topics essay has two things that's all it says. these are the two things that we can depend on because this has come right from the prophet and the 12 apostles.
That's a patently false implication that these Church leaders wrote the essays. These anonymous essays were written by committees, including scholars who promote their own theories. They are "approved" by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve, but as we saw with the equally "approved" lesson manual for Come Follow Me in 2020, even members of the Twelve were surprised to discover what was in the manual after it was "approved," published, translated and printed in multiple languages. 

Furthermore, in this specific case, the entry on geography was changed just a few weeks after it was released. These essays are subject to change at any time.  

They are far, far from scriptural. But they do serve the purposes of the M2Cers, so they like to cite them as if they were scripture.
Number one the book is historical so those people are out there saying no Nephi was just a figment of somebody's imagination it's just a historical fiction okay uh they've got to deal with the fact that the prophet says no it was a historical happen... it's true these people were real... and then the second thing it says it happened somewhere in the Americas. 
The obvious inconsistency here is that the text itself never mentions the Americas. To conclude that the events happened "somewhere in the Americas" we have to take the word of Joseph and Oliver (and their contemporary Church leaders). But those same sources also taught it was a fact that Cumorah is in New York.

Here, it's important to note that neither Joseph nor Oliver ever taught a hemispheric model. In the Wentworth letter, Joseph expressly repudiated the Central American theory promoted by Orson Pratt, but Latter-day Saints don't realize that because the critical portion of the Wentworth letter was censored when it was published in Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith--specifically to accommodate M2C.

Kirk's next point is one I made years ago when addressing an audience of M2Cers.

now that's a beautiful thing. Suppose that you lived right here, we're in the Jackson ward in the Memphis North stake. That's where we're at today. Would this be cool that you could liken the scriptures unto yourselves? 
Say you know what, I've got some stuff in my backyard that seems to have some relevance to the Book of Mormon right now. If I was in the Los Altos loral Stake on the shores of lake tiaka in Bolivia and I've got this awesome site called tanako just down the road do you think the Lord intends me to liken this unto myself? I would hope so. Again this I think is a beautiful thing that so many people can say this is my book I feel comfortable here I belong here with this book.

When I made that argument years ago, it was in the context of recognizing that people can have faith in the Book of Mormon regardless of what they understand about its setting. That seems axiomatic--for some people. But for other people, a connection to reality is important. Joseph recognized that when he described crossing Ohio, Indiana and Illinois and finding ruins of the Nephites to prove the "divine authenticity" of the Book of Mormon.

In a sense, Kirk's argument is the same argument we make for the Bible. We don't have to live in Israel or Egypt or Jordan to have faith that the events took place there.  

But in another sense, that's an entirely different argument from the one Kirk is making because of his explicit conviction that the prophets have been wrong about Cumorah.

Kirk's argument when transferred to the Bible would be, "Look, we don't know where Jerusalem was, but it could have been anywhere on earth, and that doesn't matter. If you have an ancient stone wall in Cambodia, or Peru, or China, that could have been Jerusalem and you can liken it unto yourself."

Such an argument would undermine the credibility of everything in the Bible.

And the M2C argument that the prophets have been wrong also undermines everything in the Book of Mormon because if we can't rely on what Joseph and Oliver said about the origin and setting of the Book of Mormon, we can't rationally rely on anything else they said.

If Latter-day Saints all agreed to support and corroborate the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah, we could still "liken the scriptures" to ourselves regardless of where we live, just like we do with the Bible. 

Bottom line, we can all believe whatever we want. If we want to reject the teachings of the prophets about Cumorah, fine. But in the interests of clarity, charity and understanding (leading to no more contention), we expect everyone to be crystal clear about what they're saying.

Let's all hope this latest video is a step toward Scripture Central embracing the perspectives of all faithful Latter-day Saints, including those of us who still accept the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah.

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