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, October 10, 2017

Why don't the Brethren just...

One of the most common questions people ask is "Why don't the Brethren just resolve the question of Book of Mormon geography?"

There are several ways to answer that.

First, no one can speak on behalf of Church leaders. We can only go by what they've previously said and by what is in the scriptures.

Second,  the problem of Book of Mormon geography was created by the intellectuals and they're the ones that need to change course. Why should we expect the Brethren to single them out for correction?

The Brethren have always taught us to follow the Brethren. If we do, then we don't listen to the intellectuals who are trying to persuade us not to believe the ordained leaders of the Church.

If we've fallen into the trap of listening to the intellectuals who promote the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory, that's on us. We need to change course whether the intellectuals do or not. 

We shouldn't need the Brethren to itemize each specific item about which the intellectuals (and others) disagree with the Brethren. There are innumerable examples, of which Cumorah is only one.

Follow the Brethren.

Third, to resolve the question of Book of Mormon geography implicates two distinct elements.

     Element A. Do we have any pins in the map, meaning any locations we are sure about?

     Element B. If we do have a pin in the map, do we know for sure about other locations?


Regarding Element A, we do have a pin in the map. It is the Hill Cumorah in New York. Every prophet and apostle who has spoken officially about Cumorah has affirmed that it is in New York, including members of the First Presidency speaking in General Conference. No prophet or apostle has taught otherwise.

[NOTE: FairMormon and other proponents of the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory have tried to persuade people that Harold B. Lee said we have no idea where Cumorah is. See my analysis of that FairMormon claim here:

Why should we expect the Brethren today to reiterate what has been consistently and repeatedly taught on such a basic point?

Another way of looking at it is, how many times do Church leaders have to repeat the teaching from Oliver and Joseph that Cumorah was in New York before our LDS intellectuals will accept it?

If you read FairMormon, BYU Studies, the Interpreter, Meridian Magazine, Book of Mormon Central, etc., or if you attend BYU/CES classes on the Book of Mormon, you'll find persistent rejection of what the Brethren have taught about Cumorah. 

What more do you need to know? 

Regarding Element B, we don't have any official statements beyond Cumorah.

Why should we expect more clarity on this issue when our LDS intellectuals have persuaded so many member of the Church not to believe the prophets and apostles about Element A?

In my opinion, unless and until we reject the intellectuals and return to the teachings of the prophets and apostles about Cumorah, we're never going to receive more direction on Element B.

That said, each of us can take our own initiative to see what makes sense, starting with the New York Cumorah. That's what I've done with Moroni's America. Others have proposed different models based on the New York Cumorah.

Some of the Brethren in the 1800s speculated about the location of Zarahemla, the land southward, the land northward, etc., but they specified that they were speculating. They didn't know and they didn't claim to know. Unlike the New York location of Cumorah, the location of other sites was (and is) an open question.

The best-known example is probably Orson Pratt, who wrote a pamphlet in 1840 that speculated about Book of Mormon places and people in Central and South America. When Joseph Smith wrote the Wentworth* letter in 1842, he apparently borrowed some of Orson's material from the pamphlet, but he completely deleted all the speculation about Central and South America. Instead, he declared that "The remnant are the Indians that now inhabit this country."

Orson Pratt ignored the correction Joseph made to his hemispheric theory.

But he didn't ignore Joseph's teaching about Cumorah.

Pratt later divided the Book of Mormon into the chapters and verses we have today, which were first published in the 1879 edition. He included footnotes about geography. The notes qualified his ideas about Central and South America ("it is believed that"), but with respect to Cumorah, he made the declarative, unambiguous and unqualified statement that the Hill Cumorah is in New York.

The New York Cumorah has been taught in General Conference by members of the First Presidency. It was taught by Joseph and Oliver in Letter VII.

That's good enough for me.

Especially now that we can see how the text describes North America with Cumorah in New York.

*You can see the Wentworth letter in full here: https://www.lds.org/ensign/2002/07/the-wentworth-letter?lang=eng. Don't use the one in the manual Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith because the curriculum committee, influence by the intellectuals who promote the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory, edited out key portions of it, including Joseph's statement that I quoted above. You can see it here: https://www.lds.org/manual/teachings-joseph-smith/chapter-38?lang=eng.

No comments:

Post a Comment