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, March 26, 2024

SITH in Church History Library

I've always enjoyed museums. I've visited hundreds of art, history, and science museums all around the world. They range from small local museum with irregular hours, staffed by volunteers, to professionally designed, elaborate, even overwhelming museums, such as the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia, the Caen Memorial – Battle of Normandy in France, and the Memorial Hall of the Victims in Nanjing Massacre by Japanese Invaders in Nanjing, China.

Some museums we've visited are fairly objective and informative, while others include subtle or overt propaganda. The museum in the "Hanoi Hilton" in Vietnam comes to mind.

Hoa Lo Prison (Hanoi Hilton) Museum
(click to enlarge)

Of course, one person's propaganda is another person's factual narrative.

The Hoa Lo Prison museum depicted how the Vietnamese government viewed America during the Vietnam War. I had learned a different perspective. I lived in the Philippines as a kid during the Vietnam war. We used to watch the B-52s take off for bombing missions. My step-father flew fighter planes in Vietnam. My father served as a military advisor in Saigon. We were indoctrinated to believe narrative of the domino effect of communism and the war to preserve democracy and freedom, just as the Vietnamese kids were indoctrinated to believe narrative of the oppressive American foreign invaders who wanted to kill them all.

It's always interesting to see different perspectives and how a museum can promote an agenda by curating exhibits and using artwork.


The Church has numerous museums and visitors centers around the world. We've visited many of them, such as the Pacific Church History Museum in Hamilton, New Zealand, the Hyde Park Chapel in London, and the Hill Cumorah visitors center in Palmyra. 

They are all professionally presented with important, useful information and artifacts. They are highlights of our trips. 

Then there are the museums and visitors centers in Salt Lake City. Also professionally presented with important, useful information and artifacts.

But also some inexplicable omissions.


Before it was torn down, the Visitors Center on Temple Square had a delightfully absurd display of M2C (the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory) that directly contradicted the Church's policy of neutrality on Book of Mormon geography.

2 Cumorahs on Temple Square
(click to enlarge)

Of course, the exhibit censored omitted all references to Cumorah from authentic Church history, the scriptures, and General Conference. 

Instead, it presented visitors with the M2C philosophies of men as set forth by BYU Professor John Sorenson and his followers at Book of Mormon Central (now Scripture Central), BYU Studies, the Interpreter, etc. 

It was always fun to take people to that exhibit and explain the source of M2C. Hopefully those days are behind us. The future replacement Visitors Center might even inform visitors about actual Church history and teachings regarding Cumorah. 

But we can't be confident about that. In fact, at this point we'd have to assume that it is unlikely.

Now we have a comparable exhibit to enjoy at the Church History Museum. For an overview, see 

KSL released a brief tour of the new exhibits.

The new exhibits have lots of wonderful exhibits of artifacts and documents that haven't been on display before. I'm eager to visit the next time I'm in Utah.

For example, they have letters from Joseph to Emma. 

But we can be sure they won't have the letter he wrote on 4 June 1834. In that letter, which he wrote during the Zion's Camp journey across Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, Joseph wrote, "The whole of our journey, in the midst of so large a company of social honest men and sincere men, wandering over the plains of the Nephites, recounting occasionaly [sic] the history of the Book of Mormon, roving over the mounds of that once beloved people of the Lord, picking up their skulls & their bones, as a proof of its divine authenticity."



Another new exhibit in the Museum discusses the translation of the Book of Mormon.

The exhibit includes the enigmatic "Caractors" document that so many people have "translated" with wildly divergent results. That's cool to see.

Ordinarily, if we were viewing a display about the translation of the Book of Mormon, we would expect the Church History Museum to at least include the explicit, published testimonies of Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery.

But based on what we see in the KSL report, it doesn't look like the museum presents any of that actual history. Instead, it is presenting a narrative. 

The SITH narrative. 

With a painting that directly contradicts what Joseph and Oliver always said.

Our historians in the Church History Department have gone full SITH (stone-in-the-hat).

Presenting the SITH narrative

I haven't visited these exhibits yet, but based on the past work of our Church historians, I'm confident visitors will not see what Joseph and Oliver said about the translation. 

For example, we should expect to see an original Times and Seasons containing the Wentworth letter, or the original copy of the Elders Journal, or Reuben Miller's journal quoting what Oliver Cowdery said, or even the Messenger and Advocate containing Oliver's letter I (now a note in JS-H).

E.g.: https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/elders-journal-july-1838/11

[BTW, If anyone reading this blog visits the museum and finds a display of what Joseph and Oliver taught, please take a photo and email it to me at lostzarahemla@gmail.com and I'll update this blog post.]

Let's be clear about this.

Instead of presenting visitors with the official, published, unambiguous statements from Joseph and Oliver, our historians are presenting visitors with an artist's depiction of the SITH narrative promoted by

- the first anti-Mormon book titled Mormonism Unvailed.

- David Whitmer in his pamphlet To All Believers in Christ, in which he denounced Joseph Smith as a fallen prophet.


- Emma Smith in her "Last Testimony," recorded shortly before her death, published months after she died, and which had so little credibility that her own son, Joseph Smith III who recorded her testimony, didn't even refer to it years later when he wrote an article concluding that David Whitmer's SITH statements were wrong and that his father actually used the Urim and Thummim to translate the plates.


Our Church historians are awesome.

Of course, if we were still believing Joseph and Oliver, we'd still see exhibits such as this instead of SITH.

We discussed all of this in our book, By Means of the Urim and Thummim: Restoring Translation to the Restoration.

1 comment:

  1. It is sad to continue to see Historians dictating our history about the stone in the hat. It is wrong in my opinion. There is not one scripture that says Joseph used a stone in a hat, only second hand witnesses who never saw the actual translation. Here is what I believe, "Also, that there were two stones in silver bows—and these stones, fastened to a breastplate, constituted what is called the Urim and Thummim—deposited with the plates; and the possession and use of these stones were what constituted “seers” in ancient or former times; and that God had prepared them for the purpose of translating the book." JSH 1:35 Here are the other scriptures historians should read. JSH 1:35, 52,62,75*; Mosiah 28:13, 20; Ether 3:22-23; 4:5; Alma 37:21, 24-25