This post is part 3 of a series to help you prepare.
As a review of my position, I applaud FairMormon's objective of answering questions about Church-related topics. They do a good job on many issues.
However, I deplore their editorial stance of promoting exclusively the Mesoamerican and two-Cumorahs theories. FairMormon and the rest of the Conclave* want people (both LDS and non-LDS) to believe that Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith were ignorant speculators who misled the Church about Cumorah being in New York.
They don't even want LDS members to know about alternative perspectives on Book of Mormon geography. They reject Letter VII and the other historical evidence that supports what Joseph and Oliver said. They not only cast doubt on the reliability and credibility of Joseph and Oliver, but they want people to disbelieve David Whitmer, Brigham Young, Wilford Woodruff, and others.
All because they are psychologically wedded to the Mesoamerican and two-Cumorahs theory.
I think the approach FairMormon takes is a major contributor to people questioning and leaving the Church. There are lots of leaders in the Church who are trying to put out fires, but they still don't realize who the arsonists are.
Some time ago I posted this graphic that depicts the issues that former Mormons say led them to leave the Church. Here's the post:
Notice four of the big issues (I can't address all 17 issues in this brief post, but I am doing so in a book to come out this fall). Because of what they teach about Letter VII and related Book of Mormon issues, FairMormon and the rest of the Conclave aggravate all four of the problems cited by former Mormons. In my experience, these 4 issues are pretty common among inactive LDS, former LDS, and investigators.
1. Book of Mormon not ancient.
2. Church lies about its history.
3. Poor apologetics backfire.
4. 19th century teachings have been silently abandoned.
Think of this from the perspective of an active, but curious, LDS youth. Or an active, but curious, LDS senior. Or an investigator. Or a missionary.
If you read LDS literature, you are inundated with Mesomania. Even the official edition of the Book of Mormon contains illustrations putting the Book of Mormon in Mesoamerica. You find the two-Cumorahs theory being explicitly taught on Temple Square.
Every one of these depictions is teaching that Joseph and Oliver were ignorant speculators who misled the Church because they stated it was a fact that Cumorah was in New York.
Joseph and Oliver unequivocally declared that Mormon's depository was in the same hill in New York where Joseph found the plates in Moroni's stone box. Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Wilford Woodruff and others backed this up. It has been taught in General Conference several times.
But the Conclave, including FairMormon, wants you to believe all the modern prophets and apostles who have spoken about Cumorah in New York were wrong.
That's why the Conclave suppresses Letter VII and related incidents of Church history. Their Mesoamerican and two-Cumorahs theories directly feed the four narratives listed above.
By contrast, if we accept and reaffirm the teachings of Letter VII and related historical events, we show that these four objections are misplaced. We are embracing Church history, not lying about it or silently abandoning it. We don't have to resort to backfiring apologetics by claiming that Joseph mistranslated the Book of Mormon by dictating "horse" instead of "tapir" and by forgetting to mention volcanoes, jungles, massive stone pyramids, and Mayans themselves. And we can see how the Book of Mormon text fits nicely in the historical context of the setting where Joseph and Oliver placed it.
Watch for these things if you attend or view the FairMormon conference.
Especially pay attention to the video-game map of the Book of Mormon that all BYU students are expected to learn now.
* The term "Conclave" refers to the LDS scholarly publications that promote the two-Cumorahs and Mesoamerican theories exclusively. This includes BYU Studies, Book of Mormon Central, BMAF.org, the Interpreter, Meridian Magazine, the Maxwell Institute, and other publications that cite these on the question of Book of Mormon geography and historicity. I used to use the term "citation cartel" but Conclave is a better shorthand name for this group of Mesomania-thinking publications. They have called themselves the Conclave, here and here, so I assume that term is acceptable.