It's not a question of faith and dedication to the gospel. All the individuals I've met who contribute to and manage FairMormon are nice, sincere, and dedicated to supporting the Church and the prophets and apostles, with one exception. They are disbelievers when it comes to what Joseph, Oliver, David, Brigham, all their contemporaries and successors taught about the Hill Cumorah in New York (and related matters).
The FairMormon organization actually believes they are building faith by attacking the credibility and reliability of Joseph, Oliver, David, etc.
You can see how it's not a question of faith or dedication. In their minds, they are doing the right thing.
Instead, it's a question of obsession with Mesoamerica, which I label Mesomania.
I'm hearing that people associated with FairMormon are upset at my criticism, but in my view, they're not upset enough because they continue to refuse to follow the Church policy of neutrality on Book of Mormon geography.
On their web page and in their conferences and books, they present only carefully edited material designed to promote their Mesomania. They refuse to present alternative ideas. Most importantly, they refuse any information that supports what Joseph and Oliver taught about the one Cumorah in New York.
We all know why FairMormon won't adopt the Church policy of neutrality. We and they know that very few Church members would accept the Mesoamerican and two-Cumorahs theories if they had all the facts. That's why FairMormon (and the rest of the Conclave) suppress and ridicule what Joseph and Oliver taught about Cumorah in Letter VII and other places.
The evidence of how deeply FairMormon has misled the membership of the Church is abundant. I'll share another example at the end of this post. I'm sure if you ask around, you'll quickly find people whose faith in Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, Brigham Young and others has been diminished because of what FairMormon teaches.
I've even had investigators print off some of the FairMormon and FARMS nonsense and ask me to explain it.
For that matter, FairMormon is diminishing faith in the Book of Mormon itself by rationalizing that Mormon was exaggerating, that some of the words Joseph used in the translation were wrong, etc.
It's not only Letter VII that they actively oppose, as you know if you've been reading their web page along with this and other blogs. But I focus on Letter VII because it is a simple binary choice.
You either accept and believe Letter VII or you reject and disbelieve it.
Well, it's simple if you accept it. Then everything else in Church history and the scriptures makes sense and is consistent with what Joseph and Oliver taught..
But if you reject what Joseph and Oliver taught in Letter VII, it's not so simple.
Let me qualify that. Our LDS scholars and educators think it's simple as this cartoon illustrates:
|BYU professor reacts to Letter VII - h/t to Scott Adams
There is a lot packed into the claim that Joseph and Oliver were wrong.
Below is a partial list of what you have to also believe if you reject Letter VII.
This same list is what BYU and Institute and Seminary students will be taught from now on (unless something changes):
1. Our modern LDS scholars and educators know more about the Hill Cumorah than Joseph and Oliver did.
Think about that one a moment before moving on.
2. As Assistant President of the Church, Oliver Cowdery lied when he wrote it was a fact that the final battles took place in the mile-wide valley west of the Hill Cumorah in New York.
3. Joseph Smith adopted a false tradition about Cumorah and spread it throughout the Church.
7. David Whitmer was making things up (or confused) when he repeatedly explained that the first time he heard the word "Cumorah" was when he was taking Joseph and Oliver to Fayette and encountered the messenger to whom Joseph had given the plates before leaving Harmony, and who was taking the plates to Cumorah.
8. Brigham Young was either confused, lying or misleading the people when he taught that Oliver and Joseph and others had been inside Mormon's depository in the Hill Cumorah in New York.
9. All of Joseph's contemporaries and successors who corroborated and sustained what Joseph and Oliver taught about Cumorah were wrong, even when they spoke in General Conference.
I could go on, but you get the point.
To FairMormon and the scholars who contribute material, each of these nine elements are obvious. They've talked themselves into these beliefs because each one of the 9 is essential to believing the Mesoamerican setting and the two-Cumorahs theory on which it depends.
IOW, if Joseph and Oliver were correct in Letter VII, then everything these scholars and educators have taught for the last 40+ years about Book of Mormon geography is false.
Hence my illustration above.
Now, some might think FairMormon's material is harmless because geography doesn't matter. The thinking goes like this: So what if investigators, missionaries, and members become confused and disturbed in their faith? They need to get on board with the scholars--the real experts on the scriptures. When the Brethren have questions, they call the BYU professors. Anyone who doesn't accept the two-Cumorahs and Mesoamerican theories is ignorant, if not delusional. FairMormon embraces the idea that what Joseph and Oliver taught is "manifestly absurd."
In fact, the idea that Cumorah is in New York is not only "manifestly absurd," it is dangerous and must be suppressed and attacked at every opportunity. Information that supports and corroborates what Joseph and Oliver taught must be censored, to the extent possible, and suppressed whenever it slips through.
Whatever else happens, we can't let BYU students, or any CES students for that matter, read and discuss Letter VII, especially not in its historical context and in light of archaeology, anthropology, geology, geography, etc.
To make sure they never accept what Joseph and Oliver taught, we need to inoculate them with phony "requirements" for Book of Mormon lands, fantasy maps, and a quasi-canonized interpretation of the text that all point to Mesoamerica.
I hope it's obvious now that the FairMormon approach directly contradicts the Church's desire to be more open about its history. And yet, the Mesoamerican proponents still want to make sure that Letter VII is the last "secret" in Church history.
As I mentioned, there are abundant examples of the way FairMormon and its collaborators have imposed Mesomania on the membership of the Church. Here's an example from a recent writing (name, identifying terms, and source redacted) that shows the typical mindset of those who refer to FairMormon and believe what they read there. It doesn't really matter who wrote this particular piece; I've received lots of emails and comments along these lines over the years, and I hear these same arguments whenever I talk with a Mesomaniac. I'm only using it here to show that I'm not making this up. FairMormon is causing serious problems for investigators and members of the Church.
On one hand, Joseph, Oliver, and all of their associates and successors taught that Cumorah was in New York. On the other, "modern scholarship" that relies on circular reasoning based on concocted "requirements" designed to support the Mesoamerican theory teaches that Cumorah is in Mexico.]
If you are interested in utilizing the sorts of approaches I have tried to describe here, I can introduce you to some of the scholarship that has shaped my thinking.