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, March 22, 2024

Legacy Post: Very Simple (Cumorah and Lamanites)

Adapted from a 2019 post:

Conversations about the setting of the Book of Mormon revolve around a very simple concept. 

Cumorah is either (i) in New York as documented in Church history or (2) elsewhere. 

People should make informed decisions for themselves. a Simple concept.

Obviously, people need information to make informed decisions. That's why we have lots of resources, such as those compiled here:

People have different ideas about the historical sources, based on their respective assumptions, inferences, theories, etc. There's nothing wrong with that. Everyone can accept multiple working hypotheses because everyone's ideas can be supported by extrinsic evidence of archaeology, anthropology, geology, etc. 

However, one of the strangest arguments I hear to reject the New York Cumorah goes something like this:

"Church leaders have said the people living in Latin America have the blood of Lehi (or are Lamanites), so the Hill Cumorah cannot be in western New York."

The logical fallacies in that argument seem so obvious to me that I don't usually respond to it, but it remains one of the main justifications for M2C (the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory), so here goes.

It seems axiomatic that Lehi's descendants would have spread throughout the Americas regardless of  where Lehi landed around 580 BC.

Regardless of how many were in Lehi's landing party, or where Zarahemla, Bountiful, Cumorah, etc. were located, people migrate and intermarry. The Book of Mormon tells us less than 1% of the history. In 1,000 years of Nephite history, Lehi's descendants could have migrated throughout the Americas and beyond.

Even after the Nephite civilization was destroyed at Cumorah, 1400 years passed before Joseph obtained the plates. If Lehi's descendants hadn't migrated throughout the Americas before 400 A.D., they could have done so after 400 A.D.

The presence of Lehi's descendants throughout the Americas today has nothing to do with where the events in the Book of Mormon took place.

We're left with the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah, which, so far as I know, have never been questioned, repudiated, or replaced by any of the prophets. We're also left with the teachings of many of those same prophets that we don't know where the other events took place.

The recent Gospel Topics Essay says the Church takes no position on the location of Book of Mormon events. That's really the only possible position to take when there are so many different ideas among Church members. The key is, no one should claim prophetic or Church support for their personal views.

I focus on the Cumorah issue because of the teachings of the prophets, and because I think the scientific evidence supports those teachings. Other smart, faithful members of the Church don't believe those teachings, and/or disagree about the evidence, which is fine with me.

I support everything the Brethren have taught, from the beginning through the present.

I respect and admire LDS scholars and intellectuals who have worked on these issues, but I don't feel any obligation, duty, or even inclination to accept what they teach just because they claim expertise. A dose of rational thinking is useful to assess everyone's arguments.

Here's my basic idea. It not only incorporates documented Church history, the teachings of Church leaders, and the scriptures, but it is corroborated by extrinsic evidence from archaeology, anthropology, geology, etc.

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