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.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Fun with volcanoes

Lava in Guatemala that doesn't exist if you're wearing Mesoamerican lenses

Today I want to have some fun with volcanoes.

There's another new translation of the Book of Mormon making the rounds--again. This one adds "volcanoes" to the text. You won't find this translation on lds.org, and the term is not found in any official version of the text, but you will find it in numerous "scholarly" articles and presentations by the usual suspects (the citation cartel). Like the Sorenson and other new translations, the "volcano" translation is produced by a new kind of seer; i.e., those who "see" or "find" Mesoamerica in the Book of Mormon.

Here's a good explanation, from BYU's Daily Universe of all places:

“There has been a shift more recently to finding Mesoamerica in the Book of Mormon instead of finding the Book of Mormon in Mesoamerica,” he said. “Once you start looking at the Book of Mormon through a Mesoamerican lens, you can’t unsee it.”

That last sentence pretty well explains the whole reason for this blog. Thanks to a historical mistake from 1842, millions of people have been indoctrinated to read the Book of Mormon through a Mesoamerican lens and now they "can't unsee it."

They're stuck.

And so they produce new translations that reflect what they "see" through the Mesoamerican lens. (Maybe we should go ahead and call it the Mesoamerican Urim and Thummim, because that's how authoritative these new translations have become.)

Here's the process by which these new translations are developed:

1. Assume a Mesoamerican setting because of the anonymous 1842 Times and Seasons articles.
2. Put on the Mesoamerican lens (or eyeglasses, or spectacles, or Urim and Thummim).
3. "See" a hill in Mesoamerica that "fits" the text. Reject the New York Cumorah (along with David Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery, and Joseph Smith, because they were merely relying on a folk tradition started by unknown Mormons, they were unreliable people anyway, and they didn't have the Mesoamerican lenses that would have given them the correct understanding that modern scholars have achieved.
4. "See" such things as headwaters, a narrow strip of mountainous wilderness, tapirs, jade, etc.
5. "See" volcanoes.

I'm going to stop at volcanoes today.

[BTW, I mentioned at the conference a few days ago that I have a manuscript titled "Because of This Theory" that I'll probably never publish, but I'm tempted. The title comes from Joseph Fielding Smith's apt observation about the two-Cumorah theory: "Because of this theory some members of the Church have become confused and greatly disturbed in their faith in the Book of Mormon." My manuscript is a collection of "greatest hits" from the citation cartel, but I suppose everyone who follows this topic has their own lists. There is no shortage of material. For example, look at FairMormon's treatment of President Smith's comment here. Maybe we'll have some fun with that one down the road.]

Okay, back to volcanoes.

For years, I've been told about volcanoes in the Book of Mormon. Here's the kind of question you get from CES people (or anyone indoctrinated by CES, BYU, etc.): "Where is the evidence of volcanic activity (3 Nephi 8) in the North American setting for the Book of Mormon?"

I always respond to this by asking where is the evidence of volcanic activity in the Book of Mormon? The people supposedly lived in Central America for 1,000 years and never once mentioned volcanoes?

Of course, when you're wearing Mesoamerican spectacles, you simply read the evidence into the text. You can't not see the volcanoes.

According to the Mesoamerican seers, if you don't see volcanoes in the text, you're wrong; you just need to put on the right spectacles.

I'm going to give some examples next, but first I want to emphasize what I've said from the outset: I know many of the Mesoamerican proponents, including some of the authors of the articles I cite in this post. I like every one of them on a personal level. I consider them brothers and sisters in the gospel. I intend no offense, and I don't criticize any of them. I'm focused solely on the words on the page, the evidence and arguments made, etc.  Whenever you read the ad hominem attacks in FARMS, Fairmormon, BMAF, the Interpreter, etc., I hope you chalk it up to desperation, as I do. The last resort of a losing argument is to attack others personally. I don't care who wrote any of these articles; actually, I wish they had left them anonymous the way Benjamin Winchester did in the Gospel Reflector and the Times and Seasons.


Here's a fun one to start with: Volcanism and Earthquakes in the Book of Mormon found here. Check out this quotation from the introduction: "The main reason for the article on the BMAF website is to show that the events that occurred throughout the Book of Mormon could not possibly have been located in the eastern half of North America."

I've pointed out before that BMAF is essentially a club for Mesoamerican seers; i.e., people who wear the Mesoamerican spectacles. They are only interested in archaeology, anthropology, etc., "within a Mesoamerican context." They don't even purport to be neutral, let alone objective. The organization exists to perpetuate the Mesoamerican setting. I have no problem with that; in fact, it's delightful, sort of like a Klingon fan club.

So this article fits right in. Most of it is quotations from others who wear the Mesoamerican lenses, so I'm only going to focus on the original material.

The premise, of course, is that 3 Nephi describes volcanoes. Somehow Mormon supposedly described all the things a volcano did but didn't think to simply write, "Volcanoes erupted." That's no problem when you read the text with the Mesoamerican spectacles, though; the word is apparently on every page, invisible to anyone not wearing these specs.

To save time and space, I'll make interlinear notes.

Research has shown that there are no volcanoes east of the Rocky Mountains in North America, aside from four extremely ancient ones: one in Mississippi dating to 65 million years ago; two in New Hampshire that last erupted 400 million years ago, and one in Missouri, the last eruption of which was one-and-a-half billion years ago. [In other words, research has shown that North America, east of the Rocky Mountains, is just like the place the Book of Mormon text describes--no volcanoes in the time frame during which the Nephites and Lamanites inhabited the land.] 
Earthquakes, also, are extremely rare in the US heartland. Dr. Nibley mentioned the earthquake in 1811 of New Madrid, Missouri, down in the very southeast corner of the state. There have been no reports of any earth tremors since then 
[This BMAF article is so badly researched I'm surprised it didn't show up as a "peer-reviewed" article in the InterpreterThis section leads me to conclude that the Mesoamerican spectacles also serve as filters on Google (which actually explains an awful lot of the nonsense you read in Mesoamerican publications). In one minute on google, I discovered this:
Small earthquakes and tremors occur frequently in Missouri. Thousands of quakes have been noted in the state since 1795 and have been recorded since 1908. In recent times, earthquakes have been known to rock tall buildings and crack plaster in Missouri homes. Most were accompanied by numerous aftershocks, which are a series of successive quakes that can cause more damage than the initial shock.
In another minute, I found this:  

USGS increases earthquake risk along New Madrid Fault

Posted: Jul 22, 2014 3:34 PM MDTUpdated: Jul 22, 2014 3:36 PM MDT

Courtesy: USGSCourtesy: USGS
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The midwest region is preparing for earthquakes that are bigger and more powerful than ever believed imaginable.
The U.S. Geological Survey updated their seismic hazards map last week, and in it, Kentucky is listed as one of 16 states at highest risk of earthquakes.
USGS says the New Madrid Fault, which runs through a number of midwestern states, has been identified as an area that has potential for larger and more powerful quakes than previously thought.
But wait. There's more. The Central United States Earthquake Consortium is so concerned about future earthquakes that they are working with FEMA and the USGS to educate and prepare people. See here
I suggest BMAF loan some of their Mesoamerican spectacles to the Federal government to alleviate these concerns. 
Pay particular attention to the next part of the BMAF article:
and there appears to be no indication if there was any earthquake activity before 1811, especially around the time of Christ; 
Everyone who has followed the Mesoamerican theory knows the Mesoamerican spectacles filter out everything published by the Smithsonian, including its first publication (Squier and Davis). Here's another example. I took me another minute on google to find this:
"two decades ago, paleoseismology expert Martitia Tuttle and her colleagues began dissecting “sand blows” in the five states surrounding New Madrid. The sand blows were left by geysers when debris surged up through narrow dikes and landed in wide mounds. “Sand blows tell a dramatic story of the widespread shaking of these large earthquakes,” she says.
Tuttle’s team excavated potsherds, spear points and corn kernels and realized that many of the sand blows were more than 200 years old. “Some had archaeological sites on top of them with 2,000-year-old artifacts,” Tuttle says. “There’s no way the New Madrid earthquakes were a one-time freak event.” The Midwest had been slammed by violent quakes around A.D. 1450 and 900 and 2350 B.C.—and probably more often.
Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/the-great-midwest-earthquake-of-1811-46342/#pffkcYHByOxTZaZe.99

If a quick google search locates evidence of 2,000-year-old archaeological sites in the Midwestern U.S. on top of remains from earthquakes, what accounts for the claims in the BMAF article? I suggest two possibilities. One, the Mesoamerican spectacles blind the wearers to any evidence that contradicts their theory. Two, see number one.  
Or maybe an archaeological date 2,000 years ago is too inaccurate for BMAF. Maybe they think Christ visited the Nephites in 34 A.D., so the correct archaeological date should be 1,982 years ago, and the 18 year discrepancy excludes North America from consideration.
Now, here's more from the article.
whereas there are minor earthquakes that occur almost weekly and major ones that happen every few years in Mesoamerica. [Normally, the term "whereas" denotes a distinction, but here, the article is making a claim about Mesoamerica that is identical to what happens in the Midwestern U.S. Apparently those Mesoamerican spectacles also reveal Alice-in-Wonderland definitions of ordinary words.] 

Volcanoes are a way of life in Mesoamerica with at least two of them smoking all the time outside Antigua, Guatemala. At least two volcanoes erupted in Mesoamerica closely around the time of Christ’s crucifixion. [Here, the author makes my point; i.e., if the Nephites lived in Mesoamerica, how could they have avoided a single mention of this important "way of life" for 1,000 years? I've been to Antigua. I got a painting of the city with the volcano in the background. You can see it from miles around. But you can only see it in the text of the Book of Mormon if you're a Mesoamerican seer. On the point of the volcanoes erupting 2,000 years ago, assuming that is an accurate statement (unlike the other statements of fact in this article), it can mean only that Samuel the Lamanite was referring to far more than the local area when he made his predictions. 3 Nephi itself never mentions volcanoes.]
Some people make note of the multiple tornadoes that occur in the heartland of America (Tornado Alley), stating that one or more tornadoes would account for the destruction that has been mentioned. [Classic straw-man argument. I've read a lot of stuff on this topic, and I've yet to see a single claim that tornadoes alone would cause all the destruction in 3 Nephi.] Even half-a-dozen tornadoes occurring simultaneously, although causing much devastation, would not produce all the factors that are discussed in 3 Nephi, especially the poisonous gases that were developed. [Agreed, but this is an argument against a claim no one has made. Do the Mesoamerican lenses force the wearers to make logical fallacies? This sentence also provides another example of the Mesoamerican seers coming up with their own translation. Their 3 Nephi has "poisonous gases" arising. Maybe this is a good time to point out that, as always, I concede that Mesoamerica fits their new translations. That's axiomatic. If they would only take off their Mesoamerican lenses for a moment, though, they would see that Mesoamerica does not fit the text Joseph and Oliver translated.] Only a volcano could produce those effects. [Well, another ten seconds of google searching produces the accounts from the New Madrid earthquakes in which people describe conditions exactly like those described in 3 Nephi. E.g., https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1811%E2%80%9312_New_Madrid_earthquakes Notice that the New Madrid victims did not report volcanic eruptions--but neither does the Book of Mormon.]
Mention was also made of the possibility of a hurricane being involved in 3 Nephi. The only place in the western hemisphere where a hurricane, volcanic eruption, and a major earthquake happening at the same time is in Mesoamerica and the nearby Caribbean area. [So now we add "hurricane" to the text, on top of "volcanic eruption." Even during the decades when I accepted the Mesoamerican theory, I didn't see these words in the text. Maybe my professors forgot to give me a pair of specs so I could play along. I love this argument, though. "Mention was made" by other Mesoamerican seers, therefore we need to find a place where there are hurricanes and volcanic eruptions, and the only place is Mesoamerica. Do people really not see the Alice-in-Wonderland nature of these arguments?]

The next article to discuss is titled "“Thick Darkness”: Volcanoes and the Historicity of the Book of Mormon." It's found here.

While this article is as fun as the first one, it has a little more serious implications. The gist of the article is that Joseph Smith could not have been an eyewitness to a volcanic eruption, so he could not have described one "with such vividness and accuracy." Of course, the author is wearing the Mesoamerican spectacles; the text Joseph and Oliver translated doesn't mention volcanoes.

The reason I say it has serious implications is that what the text describes is fully consistent with the reports from the New Madrid earthquakes from 1811-1812. IOW, the BMAF argument folds back on itself; instead of proving Joseph couldn't have written 3 Nephi because he hadn't experienced a volcanic eruption, the article supports anti-Mormon arguments that Joseph could have been simply repeating what was known about the New Madrid events.

This is a typical outcome of articles written by the Mesoamerican seers. Their desperation to prop up an indefensible theory of geography leads them to make claims that undermine the text.

Here's an example from this article. "When readers truly understand the nature of massive volcanic eruptions, their evaluation of Joseph Smith in Palmyra, New York, in 1829 will be that the New World crucifixion-of-Christ events recorded in 3 Nephi 8 show, from a historicity perspective, that Joseph Smith translated, not merely authored, the Book of Mormon."

Arguments such as this are persuasive only to Mesoamerican seers; if you're not wearing the Mesoamerican lenses, then you can't see the term "volcano" anywhere in the Book of Mormon. Like other Mesoamerican arguments, this one boils down to the assertion that Joseph just didn't translate the text correctly, so we have to supply the terms he overlooked.

Here's another missing term supplied by the Mesoamerican Urim and Thummim: "That wording clearly suggests the presence of poisonous volcanic gases that are commonly associated with volcanic eruptions and that can be fatal to those who breathe the air filled with those gases."

The article goes on to cite Mount St. Helens and Vesuvius as examples of volcanoes that caused widespread destruction. I've visited both of those sites and a major feature of each is the volcanic ash. I know people in the military who spent months in Washington cleaning up the ash. Yet, unless you're wearing the Mesoamerican lenses, you can't find a single reference in the text to all this ash.

Here's one of my favorite lines from the article: "The singular, most remarkable thing about 3 Nephi 8 is that it is obviously an eyewitness account of the events that commonly take place during certain kinds of massive volcanic eruptions." 

I can't wait to see an actual, detailed account of a "massive volcanic eruption" that doesn't mention either the volcano or the ash (let alone the lava). The author provides no such account as an example--except for the account in the Book of Mormon itself.

The author cites Payson Sheets' account of a volcanic eruption in Central America in the second century A.D. Here's what Sheets also had to say: "After the eruption, the area could not sustain its entire population and there­fore groups of Protoclassic people emigrated to sites where they might hope to establish new homes."

By contrast, what does the Book of Mormon say? Instead of abandoning the land, as the people in Central America and Pompeii did and the people in Washington would have but for modern mechanized equipment, the Book of Mormon people rebuilt the cities, including Zarahemla. The land was not covered with thick ash.

In most cases, when you remove the Mesoamerican lenses, you realize that the arguments made by the Mesoamerican seers disproves their own theory. Here, the claim that 3 Nephi describes massive volcanic eruptions is contradicted by the text itself.

IOW, not only does the otherwise detailed account in 3 Nephi never once mention volcanoes or volcanic ash, the Nephites immediately rebuilt the cities, which would have been impossible if they had been buried in volcanic ash.

Here's another fun quotation: "Kowallis also says that “Central American volcanoes are so explosive that liquid lava is rarely erupted. Instead, almost all (99 percent) of the magma erupted out of Central American volcanoes is in the form of ash and pumice. This would perhaps explain why there is no mention in the 3 Nephi account of anything that sounds like lava flows.”

Juxtapose this with another quotation from the article: "A “great mountain” took the place of the city of Moronihah, and hills and valleys took the place of other cities. The Book of Mormon wording for these events describes aptly the city of Paricutin, Mexico, west of Mexico City. In the 1940s, a volcanic eruption caused the earth to cover the entire village. Thereafter, the only visible evidence of the village is the Catholic church steeple that pokes up through the lava."

So first the text never mentions lava because Mesoamerican volcanoes don't produce lava, but then the text specifically describes lava as the "great mountain" that "took the place of the city of Moronihah." The proof is that a city in Mexico was completely covered with lava except for the steeple of a Catholic church.

You need to wear Mesoamerican lenses to think this is a coherent argument.

Finally, I'll just note what the official text says. Readers should remove their Mesoamerican spectacles for a moment, if possible.

3 Nephi 8:10 And the earth was carried up upon the city of Moronihah, that in the place of the city there became a great mountain.

How is earth "carried up upon" a city? I'll leave it to you to figure that one out, although it's pretty simple if you aren't wearing Mesoamerican lenses.

Hint: It's not a lava flow...



  1. It's remarkable how the supposition -- "if we presume a Mesoamerican setting for the Book of Mormon, the destruction described in 3 Nephi 8 can be understood as massive volcanic activity" -- became the inverse fact -- "the Book of Mormon *must* have taken place in Mesoamerica because that's the only setting that allows for massive volcanic activity."

    Well, okay, but what if the destruction described in that chapter *isn't* massive volcanic activity? The way the destruction is described seems to be an allusion to 1 Kings 19:11-12 -- after the wind, earthquake, and fire, the Lord is found in a still small voice. And it also resembles the same sort of destruction recorded in the Gospels (see Matt. 27:51-54; Luke 23:44-45), just far more acute and much longer in duration. I don't know of many volcanoes in and around Jerusalem (and Mt. Horeb's location is disputed).

  2. I've also been told that the destruction *has* to be volcanic because the cities catch fire. Which tells me that *maybe* the has-to-be volcanoes crowd doesn't closely read the Book of Mormon. The text appears to tell us specifically what caused the fire: "exceedingly sharp lightnings" (3 Nephi 8:7-8). The Nephites built their cities almost exclusively of wood (according to the text) -- including Zarahemla and even Noah's palace -- not stone. Wood can catch fire fairly easily (lightning storms have been known to cause forest fires). It doesn't have to be lava flows or cinder bombs raining down from heaven for wooden cities to catch fire.

    1. Well done!

      The imaginary volcanoes are a staple of the Mesoamerican theory, visible only when you wear their special lenses. As are their imaginary cement cities and so much more.

  3. I was embarrassed for the writers of both FAIR and BMAF. And to think I have friends in both.

    And just the other day my friend from within the FAIR organization was comparing Jonathan and other Heartlander presenters at the recent Prepper's conference (I didn't attend, too far away for me) as "snake oil salesmen" and as practitioners of "priestcraft." Gee, it's not too difficult to figure out who's actually wearing the habiliments of a false priesthood and are peddling their "charms."