Monday, June 14, 2021

Origins: M2C and COVID

Many Latter-day Saints (LDS) are surprised to learn about the origins of the Mesoamerican/Two Cumorahs theory (M2C.)

M2C originated in the "lab" of RLDS scholar L.E. Hills. Hills developed the theory about 100 years ago and published it in a book that included a map which our current M2C scholars have followed ever since.

M2C is a leak from that lab. But unless you're paying attention, you'd never know that because most modern LDS have been led to believe that M2C was developed by the credentialed class at BYU, the self-appointed "experts" on the Book of Mormon who knew more about the Book of Mormon than the rest of us. 

Actually, they claim they know more about the Book of Mormon than Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery did, to the point where our modern scholars reject what Joseph and Oliver said.

Such an origin story is not without parallels.


This week, the Wall St. Journal published an article about COVID origins that parallels the M2C origins.

A Scientist Who Said No to Covid Groupthink

Many experts aggressively denied a lab leak was possible and only now admit it. It took courage to make the case a year ago.

The article profiles Filippa Lentzos, who was one of a group of scientists who "asked these questions “not because we are conspiracy theorists. This is our profession,” Ms. Lentzos, 44, says in a video interview from her home in Switzerland. As the coronavirus and alarm about it spread, nonexperts started asking similar questions—only to be mocked or silenced by journalists, social-media companies and prominent scientists."

That "COVID cartel" has a parallel in the LDS community: the M2C citation cartel, consisting of Book of Mormon Central, the Interpreter, BYU Studies, etc. 

The M2C citation cartel does the same thing with alternatives to M2C. Lately, they've been deploying their followers on social media to promote M2C as well.

An excerpt from the article:

The most significant problem came from the scientific community. “Some of the scientists in this area very quickly closed ranks,” she says, and partisanship wasn’t their only motive: “Like most things in life, there are power plays. There are agendas that are part of the scientific community. Just like any other community, there are strong vested interests. There were people that did not talk about this, because they feared for their careers. They feared for their grants.”

Ms. Lentzos counsels against idealizing scientists and in favor of “seeing science and scientific activity, and how the community works, not as this inner sacred sanctum that’s devoid of any conflicts of interests, or agendas, or any of that stuff, but seeing it as also a social activity, where there are good players and bad players.”

Latter-day Saints who recognize what's going on with the M2C citation cartel also see how the community works.

Ms. Lentzos and her colleagues published an article that pointed out the circumstantial evidence about the lab-leak origins of COVID, but it got no traction because the COVID cartel controlled the narrative.

As the article points out:

That began to change early this year. Media outlets published articles considering the possibility of a lab leak. At least five of the Lancet signers have distanced themselves from the letter. Anthony Fauci and the World Health Organization’s Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus said the theory merits further study. President Biden ordered the intelligence community to investigate the question. Even Facebook reversed its ban.

Maybe in the LDS community we will reach a point where the narrative changes.

Maybe, just maybe, someday we will honor, respect, and even believe what Joseph and Oliver said about the Book of Mormon, the translation, the Hill Cumorah, etc.

Friday, June 11, 2021

The Witnesses movie, etc.

People are asking what I think of the Witnesses movie. Because it's not playing anywhere near where I live, I haven't seen it. 

I'm reserving judgment until I do (if I do).

Nevertheless, people tell me it heavily promotes the narrative from the 1834 book Mormonism Unvailed; i.e., the ideas that

(i) Joseph Smith didn't really translate anything; 

(ii) he didn't even use the plates or the Urim and Thummim, 

(iii) instead he merely read words that appeared on a stone in the hat (SITH).

IOW, the movie is assigning a belief in SITH to its viewers. 

I wrote about the psychology behind opinions and belief on my consensus blog, here:


If it's true that Witnesses teaches Mormonism Unvailed, I suppose we shouldn't be surprised. Dan the Interpreter insists that SITH (the stone-in-the-hat) is a feature, not a bug. 

Dan's argument boils down to this: "Sure, Joseph and Oliver said Joseph translated the plates, but we don't believe that any longer because other people said he merely read words that appeared on a stone in the hat. And we have really cool linguistic evidence that proves Joseph and Oliver misled everyone."

I've explained many times why I think the linguistic evidence he cites does not support the conclusions. The idea that a mysterious unknown supernatural translator (MUST) must have been the actual source of the Book of Mormon strikes me as ridiculous. 

Sure, it's one of multiple working hypotheses. I like having multiple working hypotheses to explain facts. Just because I find one to be ridiculous doesn't mean I think it should not be considered; it was by considering it that I reached my conclusion.

As we accumulate more data, we can add, delete, and modify the hypotheses accordingly. (This is why Book of Mormon Central needs to change its "only one hypothesis allowed" logo.)

If people want to believe that someone from the 16th century translated ancient buried records in America that weren't discovered until 1823, that's fine with me. People believe all kinds of things. 

In a sense, MUST is useful; it is a superficially sophisticated justification for SITH. But, as Mormonism Unvailed explained in 1834, if SITH is the explanation, the plates are meaningless because Joseph didn't translate them anyway. If anything, MUST makes the plates even more superfluous. 

Oliver and Joseph responded to the Mormonism Unvailed argument by specifically refuting SITH (see JS-H for example). 

The SITH question is what we lawyers call "asked and answered." The question was posed by Mormonism Unvailed in 1834, Joseph and Oliver answered it promptly and repeatedly thereafter, so the case should be closed.

But that doesn't matter to our modern scholars. They depend on ongoing controversy to generate donations for "scholarly research." Continually rehashing old debates is a dream job and assures employment security. It's much more profitable to reject what Joseph and Oliver said in favor of what Mormonism Unvailed says. 

Hence, we have the Witnesses movie teaching the world to believe Mormonism Unvailed instead of Joseph and Oliver (and the D&C).

But I'm reserving judgment. 

Maybe the people telling me about it are wrong and the Witnesses movie relates everything the witnesses said.

I can't wait to see.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Change the logo


SCIENCE: If you don't make mistakes, you're doing it wrong. If you don't correct those mistakes, you're doing it really wrong. If you can't accept that you're mistaken, you're not doing it at all.


Wednesday, June 9, 2021

More fun with the origins of M2C

Yesterday on eBay an 1892 edition of the Book of Mormon sold for $510.01. 

I didn't buy it, although I considered it. (I already have too many old books.) But this 1892 edition is special because it included an awesome map of Book of Mormon geography. 

It featured a version of the hemispheric model that shows the Jaredites crossing the Atlantic to the promised land, the way everyone does if they're coming from Europe, the Middle East, or Africa.

 Except is also shows the Mulekites and Lehites crossing the Pacific! 

That's the least feasible route to the New World, other than hiking across Antarctica.

Of course, our M2C friends still insist Lehi crossed the Pacific somehow. Which is fine; people can believe whatever they want.


On that topic, some people still think our LDS scholars came up with the "limited geography Mesoamerican model," featuring the "two-Cumorahs theory." This is the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory, or M2C, which teaches that the prophets were wrong about the New York Cumorah because, according to these scholars, the "real" Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 is in southern Mexico.

Readers of this blog are more informed than that. They know that M2C originated with RLDS scholar L.E. Hill over 100 years ago.

There's a great blog that features the development of the theory. You should check it out because it has lots of links to original material that anyone can read, share, etc.


Not to put too fine a point on it, but our friends at Book of Mormon Central still claim the Nephites were Mayans. Seriously, in June 2021 they still don't see the incongruity of keeping a Mayan glyph in their logo, juxtaposed with the definitely not Mayan writing on the plates?

And yet, supposedly the Book of Mormon is a Mayan codex.

We realize they are so deeply invested in M2C that they reject the Church's position of neutrality. They refuse to even inform their readers about alternatives to M2C based on the teachings of the prophets about Cumorah.

But how does it build faith to insist on an explanation of the Book of Mormon that their own webpage shows is ridiculous?

They should change their logo to reflect the actual language of the Book of Mormon.

At the very least, they should use one of the characters that was apparently copied from the plates instead of a Mayan glyph.

If someone can explain how they retain a Mayan glyph, knowing that the characters on the plates were anything but Mayan, send me an email at lostzarahemla@gmail and I'll clear up the question on this blog.


Monday, June 7, 2021

Monday meme: The past keeps changing

Old Soviet joke: “The future is certain; but the past keeps changing.”

Summary of historical facts.

David Whitmer had conversations with both Moroni (as one of the Three Witnesses) and the divine messenger who took the abridged plates from Harmony to Cumorah before bringing the small plates of Nephi to Fayette. 

David said Joseph identified the messenger as one of the Three Nephites.

Joseph's contemporaries related that Joseph interacted with both Nephi and Moroni--two separate people.

David's mother Mary also had a conversation with the messenger, whom she called Brother Nephi.

The past keeps changing.

Mary's grandson assumed she was wrong. He surmised it must have been Moroni. 

The narrative changed.

Today, scholars who promote the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory (M2C) insist the prophets were wrong when they taught that Cumorah was in New York. 

Consequently, David Whitmer had to be wrong when he reported what the messenger told him. He was wrong when he reported what Joseph told him.

Mary Whitmer had to be wrong about the identity of the messenger. 

Oliver Cowdery had to be wrong about Cumorah.

Martin Harris had to be wrong about Cumorah.

Everyone who taught the New York Cumorah had to be wrong.


Friday, June 4, 2021

More on the Witnesses movie

Last week I mentioned the Witnesses movie, and there have been some reactions online. 

I'm sure the Witnesses movie is awesome. It must be, given the amount of publicity going on. As I wrote last week, I'm suspending judgment until I see it, if I do. (It won't be playing anywhere near where I live.)

To inoculate viewers, I'll offer some things to watch for. 

- Maybe the movie will show the important encounter between David Whitmer and the messenger taking the abridged plates from Harmony to Cumorah. 

- Maybe it will show Joseph translating the engravings on the plates with the Urim and Thummim. 

- Maybe it will show Joseph and Oliver visiting the repository of Nephite records in the Hill Cumorah in New York, about which both Oliver and David Whitmer testified.

- Maybe it will relate what Oliver wrote about Moroni's first visit (Letter IV) and the fact that the Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 is the hill in New York (Letter VII), which anyone can read in the Joseph Smith Papers (click on the links).

Because the movie comes from the Interpreter Foundation, though, I wasn't surprised to hear from some who have seen the film that instead of the above scenes, we can expect to see plenty of SITH (stone-in-the-hat), little of U&T (Urim and Thummim), and nothing about Cumorah.


As readers here know, there is no more delightful name for a group of self-appointed experts than the "Interpreter Foundation." It is the nature and disposition of almost all scholars, as soon as they get a few credentials, they will begin to interpret the scriptures for everyone else.

The Interpreter Foundation, along with the other structures in the Potemkin M2C village such as Book of Mormon Central, BYU Studies, and FairLDS, famously and completely reject what all three witnesses said about the New York Cumorah. 

Just yesterday, our favorite "Interpreter" republished an earlier article in which he wrote this:

The founding events of the Restoration took place in the literal material world. They were not metaphorical. They were not merely symbolic. Accordingly, they are of immense significance to all of humanity.

Oliver Cowdery’s unwavering eyewitness testimony of them, through persecution, suffering, illness, disappointment, anger and even excommunication, is powerful evidence of their reality. This book, “Oliver Cowdery: Scribe, Elder, Witness,” provides powerful scholarly evidence that his testimony can be trusted.

I agree with all of that. If only our scholars did...

Instead, Dan and the other M2C "interpreters" completely reject Oliver's testimony about the New York Cumorah. Most of them reject Oliver's testimony about the Urim and Thummim, preferring SITH.

For these "Interpreters," Oliver's testimony can be trusted only if it agrees with their theories. 

But let's suspend judgment. Maybe the movie will inform people about what the witnesses actually said about Cumorah and the translation.

Maybe we'll have a sea change among the M2C Interpreters because of the new focus on the witnesses.


The rejection of what Joseph and Oliver said about the U&T* in favor of SITH has the obvious problem of rendering irrelevant the testimony of the witnesses anyway. 

Back in 1834, the book Mormonism Unvailed discussed the alternative explanations for the translation. The author had heard about both the "peep stones" and the Urim and Thummim. They were definitely not the same thing. Merging the two, the way our modern scholars do, produces exactly the problem Mormonism Unvailed identified all those years ago--a problem that Joseph and Oliver specifically resolved.

The author pointed out that "The plates, therefore, which had been so much talked of, were found to be of no manner of use. After all, the Lord showed and communicated to him every word and letter of the Book. Instead of looking at the characters inscribed upon the plates, the prophet was obliged to resort to the old "peep stone," which he formerly used in money-digging. 

[Note that contrary to the assertion in Mormonism Unvailed, Joseph explained he not only looked at the characters inscribed upon the plates, but he copied and translated them.] 

This [the "peep stone"] he placed in a hat, or box, into which he also thrust his face.... 

Another account they give of the transaction, is, that it was performed with the big spectacles before mentioned, and which were in fact, the identical Urim and Thummim mentioned in Exodus... and finally buried up in Ontario country, some fifteen centuries since, to enable Smith to translate the plates without looking at them!"

[Even by late May 1829, when Joseph and Oliver were finishing the translation of the abridged plates in Harmony, Joseph was looking on the plates with the Urim and Thummim. But we don't hear about that in SaintsOpening the Heavens, or other recent books by our scholars who are pushing SITH.] 


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. 

[That actually contradicts Smith's own story.]

Let us ask, what use have the plates been or the spectacles, so long as they have in no sense been used? or what does the testimony of Martin Harris, Oliver Cowdery, and David Whitmer amount to? They solemnly swear that they saw the plates, and that an angel showed them, and the engravings which were upon them. But if the plates were hid by the angel so that they have not been seen since, how do these witnesses know that when Smith translated out of a hat, with a peep-stone, that the contents of the plates were repeated and written down? neither of the witnesses pretend that they could read the hieroglyphics with or without the stone; and, therefore, are not competent testimony--nor can we see any use, either in finding the plates or the spectacles, nor of the exhibition of them.

Oliver Cowdery specifically responded to this commingling of translation instruments, and the argument that the Three Witnesses were not competent, by explaining that he "continued, uninterrupted, to write from his mouth, as he translated with the Urim and Thummim, or, as the Nephites would have said, ‘Interpreters,’ the history or record called ‘The Book of Mormon.’"

(Joseph Smith—History, Note, 1)

Joseph explained that he copied and translated the characters on the plates. The Lord instructed Joseph to "translate the engravings" on the plates. This is why the plates were so important. They were not merely a talisman that sat covered up while Joseph read words from a stone in a hat. Joseph and Oliver always said Joseph translated with the Urim and Thummim. They never said he used a seer stone without using the plates. Even when Oliver rejoined the Church, he reiterated this testimony about the Urim and Thummim. Despite having the seer stone in his possession on that occasion, he did not produce it or mention it.

Meanwhile, nowhere do the scriptures (Book of Mormon, D&C, Pearl of Great Price) describe Joseph producing the Book of Mormon by dictating words from a vision in a stone or hat. Joseph's contemporaries and successors consistently rejected SITH in favor of U&T. They taught about it in General Conference and elsewhere.

Why, then, did David and Emma describe SITH?

The simple explanation, supported by detailed historical analysis as I explained in A Man that Can Translate, is that Joseph translated the engravings on the plates by means of the Urim and Thummim, but he also conducted a demonstration in the Whitmer home using SITH. Those present inferred they were observing the translation, but the demonstration differed from the actual translation in several respects. Decades later, David Whitmer and Emma cited the demonstration to refute the Spalding theory.

But our modern scholars nevertheless "interpret" the historical evidence the same way Mormonism Unvailed did, thereby rejecting what Joseph and Oliver and the scriptures say about the translation, the same way these "interpreters" reject what the witnesses said about the New York Cumorah.

Nevertheless, we can remain optimistic that someday, even the Interpreter Foundation may change course and actually accept what the witnesses said. 

We'll see.

 *Notice that the Gospel Topics Essay on Book of Mormon Translation never even quotes what Joseph and Oliver taught. It certainly doesn't reaffirm what they taught. Some revisionist scholars say SITH and U&T were the same thing; i.e., they claim that when Joseph and Oliver wrote about the Urim and Thummim, which the Nephites called interpreters, they were really referring to a seer stone (or "peep" stone) that Joseph found in a well years before he dictated the Book of Mormon. 

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

The Worlds of Joseph Smith updated

Six years ago today I posted comments about The Worlds of Joseph Smith on one of my old blogs. This was an important conference held at the Library of Congress in 2005. Leading scholars, LDS and non-LDS, presented Joseph Smith to the world.

Not surprisingly, given the organizers and participants, they portrayed the Book of Mormon as a Mesoamerican document, thereby framing Joseph Smith and his associates as ignorant speculators who misled the Church, and the world as a whole, about such teachings as (i) Cumorah is in New York, (ii) the Indians of this country are Lamanites, and (iii) the midwestern United States are the "plains of the Nephites." 

In the ensuing six years, there have been hundreds of thousands of page views of my blogs, so for all those new readers, I'm updating and reposting that piece today.


The Worlds of Joseph Smith

In 2005, BYU Studies published The Worlds of Joseph Smith: A Bicentennial Conference at the Library of Congress. [All page references here are to BYU Studies Vol. 44, No. 4 2005.] There are some excellent articles, of course, but there is also one by John E. Clark titled "Archaeological Trends and the Book of Mormon" that I want to review here. Brother Clark is one of the principal promoters and defenders of M2C, along with the usual suspects (Welch, Peterson, Sorenson, et al.), all of whom are fine scholars, exemplary people, etc.

Before doing so, I point out the volume contains a "Gallery Display" of items that were "mounted in the foyer and display cases of the Coolidge Auditorium by the Library's Exhibition Office." p. 119. Here are some of the items on display reproduced in BYU Studies:

p. 130: Page of the Original (Dictation) Manuscript of the Book of Mormon, 1829.
p. 131: Diary of William Wines Phelps, Containing a Transcription of Moses 1, 1835.
p. 132: A Page from John Lloyd Stephens, Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas, and Yucatan (New York, 1841).
p. 133: "Zarahemla," Times and Seasons (October 1, 1842, p. 927).

The next time some M2C proponent tells you the 1842 Times and Seasons article isn't really all that important, ask why it was put on display in the Smithsonian along with the original manuscript of the Book of Mormon. Ask why they displayed the illustration from Stephens' book instead of Letter VII.

Far better would have been to display something Joseph actually wrote, such as the Wentworth letter, or Joseph's letter to Emma during the Zion's Camp march, than to display an article Joseph didn't even claim.


Clark's article starts on page 83. I'm not going to reproduce the whole thing here, just a few sections in blue that I'll comment on in red. Bolded emphasis is mine.

p. 85: Most Mormons fall into a more subtle error that also inflates Joseph's talents; they confuse translation with authorship. They presume that Joseph Smith knew the contents of the book as if he were its real author, and they accord him perfect knowledge of the text. This presumption removes from discussion the most compelling evidence of the book's authenticity--Joseph's unfamiliarity with its contents. To put the matter clearly: Joseph Smith did not fully understand the Book of Mormon. I propose that he transmitted to readers an ancient book that he neither imagined nor wrote. 

This paragraph is full of logical fallacies and fact avoidance. 

Let's start with the first sentence which claims that Mormons are falling into "a more subtle error" when they "confuse translation with authorship." A translator has to understand the original source well enough to restate it in the target language (in this case English). While it's true that many M2C promoters don't believe Joseph translated the text--they're adopting SITH instead--those who still believe what Joseph and Oliver taught reject the idea that Joseph authored the Book of Mormon. That position is the opposite of confusing translation with authorship.

Next, Clark accuses these hypothetical Mormons of presuming "Joseph knew the contents of the book and had a perfect knowledge of the text." 

That accusation reflects Clark's own confusion of translation with authorship. Any translator necessarily knows the contents of the book he/she translates. How could they translate if they didn't know the contents of the book they are translating?

As for Joseph's knowledge of the text, Joseph re-read the text many times and made thousands of corrections for the 1837 and 1840 editions. In 1842, he re-read it again (I think because Benjamin Winchester was challenging it), yet he made no corrections at that point. Modern scholars like to think they are more familiar with the contents than Joseph Smith was, presumably because they have analytical software that does word counts and finds Early Modern English artifacts, but not one of them can authoritatively make corrections to the text based on their understanding of what was on the plates the way Joseph did.  

There is zero historical evidence that Joseph was unfamiliar with its contents. No one surprised him by quoting a passage he didn't know about; no one educated him on the doctrine in the text; no one corrected him when he explained the text. Instead, what Joseph was unfamiliar with is the theoretical Mesoamerican setting the M2C scholars impose on the text. This is why Clark and other M2C proponents insist Joseph didn't understand the book. 

Prior to even beginning the translation, Joseph was taught by Moroni and Nephi. Joseph wrote: "I was also informed concerning the aboriginal inhabitants of this country, and shown who they were, and from whence they came; a brief sketch of their origin, progress, civilization, laws, governments, of their righteousness and iniquity, and the blessings of God being finally withdrawn from them as a people was made known unto me." Joseph knew far more about the cultural context than the book itself reveals. These M2C scholars are stuck with the text Joseph translated. Joseph wasn't that limited.

It is a logical fallacy to assert that because Joseph transmitted an ancient book he neither imagined nor wrote, he therefore could not understand the book. The assertion that one can only understand a book one writes is not just nonsensical; it defies the very purpose for writing.  

Clark wrote his article to convey his understanding of the topic. His argument would mean that because his readers did not write his article, they cannot understand it. This argument is akin to that made by the old Catholic priests who didn't want people having access to the Bible because they could never understand it, when the reality was they didn't want people reading the Bible because they would understand it differently from what the Catholic priests wanted them to.   

The M2C scholars set themselves up as the "Interpreters" specifically because ordinary people who read the text don't see anything having to do with Mesoamerica, but a lot having to do with the ancient people of North America--the moundbuilders whose ruins were identified by Joseph as both Nephites and Jaredites.

One thing all readers share with Joseph is a partial understanding of the book's complexities. Indeed, many things about the book were simply unknowable in 1830. Over the last sixty years, Hugh Nibley, John Sorenson, and other scholars have shown the Book of Mormon to be "truer" than Joseph Smith or any of his contemporaries could know. Consequently, what Joseph Smith knew and understood about the book ought to be research questions rather than presumptions. Thanks in large part to his critics, it is becoming clear that Joseph Smith did not fully understand the geography, scope, historical scale, literary form, or cultural content of the book. 

This is a euphemism for repudiating what Joseph taught. It's the premise for M2C; i.e., the prophets were wrong about the New York Cumorah because they were ignorant speculators, including members of the First Presidency speaking in General Conference.

There's nothing an academic likes more than "research questions" (aka, "employment security"). 

Far from "becoming clear," Clark's assertion is contrary to the evidence. One must reject what Joseph himself said about the tutoring he received to accept Clark's claim that Joseph didn't understand the geography, scope, etc. 

That said, it does make sense that Joseph didn't understand the literary form (i.e., chiasmus and Hebrew parallelisms). That is one area Joseph never identified as a topic of his training by Moroni. 

But Moroni did specifically train Joseph about the setting and culture. He told Joseph during his first visit in 1823 that the record had been "written and deposited not far from" Joseph's home near Palmyra, that it related the history of the aboriginal inhabitants of "this country," and that the name of the hill where the records were located was Cumorah.

It is possible that Joseph could not figure out Mormon's geography descriptions; i.e., he knew where the Book of Mormon events took place because he recognized them during his travels (having been shown them by Moroni), but he didn't see how the text described them because he was not familiar with Hebrew literary forms.  

For example, early Mormons believed Book of Mormon lands stretched throughout all of North and South America, a presumption clearly at odd with the book itself (fig 1a). 

This is one of the most important points of all because it attributes to Joseph Smith the opposite of what he actually taught. 

Joseph adapted the Wentworth letter from Orson Pratt's prior 1840 pamphlet. Pratt had detailed the hemispheric model Clark refers to here. Pratt went on for five pages explaining his theory about Lamanites in South America, Nephites in North America, the last battle starting in Panama, etc. Joseph deleted all of that and wrote, simply, "The remnant are the Indians that now inhabit this country." 

IOW, Joseph expressly repudiated the prevailing hemispheric model. He established a "limited geography" before anyone else did--but he didn't place it in Mesoamerica! Instead, he placed it in the Midwestern United States, with Cumorah in New York. 

And, it turns out, the text describes this area very well. (See Moroni's America as an example.) 

[Note. Fig 1 in the article compares two maps: "Traditional 19th century Book of Mormon geography" with "Joseph Smith's 1842 Speculation of Book of Mormon Geography." The first map shows all of North and South America, shaded. The second shows Sorenson's Mesoamerican setting shaded.] 

The book speaks specifically only of a limited land about the size of Pennsylvania. 

Of course, the text "specifically speaks" of no such thing. Clark here is making inferences based on his guestimates of how far people could travel in Central American jungles and swamps (none of which the text ever mentions). Once we realize that ancient people used rivers for transportation, the scope of the events expands. Once we realize that "sea" means not only "ocean" but any large body of water, and that the terms "narrow neck," "small neck," and "narrow neck of land" refer to three different locations,  the geography descriptions in the text describe North America--with Cumorah in New York. 

In 1842, after reading about ancient cities in Central America, Joseph speculated that Book of Mormon lands were located there (fig. 1b). 

This is another critical mistake in Church history.

The only evidence that Joseph ever read these books is a polite, generalized thank-you note to Dr. Bernhisel, written (not in Joseph's handwriting) just a few days after Joseph could have (but may not have) received these two books totaling over 900 pages.

The only person who discussed having read these books was Wilford Woodruff, who picked them up from Dr. Bernhisel in New York and read them during the long journey to Nauvoo. (Bernhisel bought the books for Joseph Smith after receiving a visit from Benjamin Winchester.) 

The first time Woodruff mentions meeting Joseph was October 31, 1841. The letter to Bernhisel was written a few days later. No one mentioned Joseph having read the books, even if he had the time to do so. The letter uses words and phrases common to Woodruff. I've written an entire chapter about this in The Editors: Joseph, William, and Don Carlos Smith.

Another point: even if Joseph dictated the Bernhisel letter (instead of directing that Woodruff send a thank-you note), he wrote the Wentworth letter afterward, and the Wentworth letter expressly rejects the hemispheric model (including Mesoamerica). 

As I've shown elsewhere, Joseph did not speculate about Mesoamerica. The "Zarahemla" article in the Times and Seasons featured in The Worlds of Joseph Smith was not written by him. In fact, it would be a bigger problem if Joseph had written it; the article is nonsensical (what was "found" between September 15 and October 1, 1842?) and counterfactual (the Stephens ruins don't date to Book of Mormon times). 

M2C proponents want Church members to believe not only that Joseph Smith was speculating, but that he was factually wrong. Is there a single M2C proponent who believes Zarahemla is in Quirigua? How does a River Sidon flow past Quirigua? I've examined all of this elsewhere, but anyone reading these ridiculous articles can see the problems. 

I derive two lessons from his speculation: First, Joseph did not know exactly where Book of Mormon lands were; second, he considered their location an important question addressable through scholarship. 

Here is the crux of the M2C argument. Aside from deriving lessons from an article Joseph didn't write or even approve of, Clark here rejects Joseph's claim about revelation regarding these matters in favor of "scholarship," presumably scholarship of the type Clark engages in.  

These two "lessons" are another call for employment security. Scholars always insist people (taxpayers or tithing payers) fund more "scholarship," in this case about a topic Joseph Smith resolved a long time ago.

The book makes hundreds of claims about ancient peoples in the Americas. It has always been clear to people on both sides of the controversy that antiquities could be, and should be, used to corroborate or destroy the book's pedigree. 

This is a fair point. The problem is, Clark rejects the antiquities and locations Joseph actually invoked in favor for his own theory of Mesoamerica. Next we'll look at examples of how he does this. 

p. 89: These highly credible Book of Mormon lands are tucked away where Joseph Smith never saw them and would never have found them. Contrary to Reverend Lamb and subsequent critics, the Book of Mormon does have a place in the Americas--just not a place in Joseph Smith's experience. Book of Mormon geography fits a corner of the Americas Joseph did not know. Therefore, the book's geography could not have derived from his personal experience. It follows that he dictated a book with complexities beyond his own comprehension. 

This is a fascinating argument. Clark makes a valid point, but not the one he thinks he's making. The only places Joseph had seen before he translated the Book of Mormon were Vermont, Massachusetts, upstate New York, and upper Pennsylvania. Within that area, he did specifically identify the Hill Cumorah, but that's the only Book of Mormon reference to the area he was familiar with. It was not until years later that he moved to Ohio and then crossed the Midwest to Missouri and it was not until Zion's Camp that he recognized the "plains of the Nephites." 

Clark is right that "Book of Mormon geography fits a corner of the Americas Joseph did not know" when he translated the book. But when he saw it later, in Ohio and Indiana and Illinois and Missouri, he recognized it and identified it as such. 

Clark's argument here is akin to what I think motivated Winchester, John Page, and William Smith; i.e., they wanted to distance the Book of Mormon from the anti-Mormon claims that Joseph copied it from Ethan Smith and/or Solomon Spaulding. [Note: I address this point in detail in Moroni's History, to be published in 2021.] 

p. 90. As the consummate recordkeepers in Mesoamerica, the Maya erected numerous stone monuments in their cities that recorded the time elapsed since 3114 BC, their year zero. Maya calculations were based on counting by twenties instead of our practice of counting by tens. The major cycle of Maya time was a four-hundred-year period called a baktun. The Book of Mormon records several references to a significant four-hundred-year prophecy, [footnote 19 here says "See Alma 45:10, Helaman 13:9, 2 Nephi 26:9-10, Mormon 8:6, and Moroni 10:1]  consistent with this idosyncratic Mesoamerican calendar practice. 

This claim that a four-hundred year prophecy is evidence of a Mesoamerican connection is not only highly speculative, but it destroys the spiritual significance of the 400 year period. Four hundred years is an important date in Genesis 15:13-14: "And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that they seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; and also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance." 

The Children of Israel were in bondage for 400 years and delivered by Moses as the type for Christ. E.g., see 1 Nephi 17:24. Then the Book of Mormon people were delivered by Christ but after 400 years fell into bondage of sin. There are lots of interesting parallels here, but solely to justify the Mesoamerican geography, Clark replaces these important parallels and lessons from Genesis and the Egyptian bondage with a purported reference to Mayan calendars. 

I don't have time right now to go through the rest of Clark's article, but at least I've shown three things:

1) how central the Times and Seasons articles are to the Mesoamerican theory;

2) the need for Mesoamerican advocates to undermine Joseph's knowledge of the Book of Mormon and his explicit rejection of the hemispheric and Mesoamerican models; and 

3) the irrationality of replacing Old Testament references with allusions to Mayan culture. 

On this last point, the Mesoamerican advocates also de-emphasize the Nephite observance of the Law of Moses, to the point that they claim the Nephites sacrificed rodents instead of lambs!