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.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Getting real about Cumorah - Part 4c, what should happen at Seminary and Institute

This is part 4c in the series on "Getting real about Cumorah."  Part 4 looks at a few of the things that would happen if we all decided to get real about Cumorah and reject the entire M2C narrative (M2C stands for "Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs" theory).

Today we'll look at Seminary and Institute.

The Seminary manual on the Book of Mormon contains 160 lessons, most of which focus on one chapter from the text. They're great lessons.

Here's an example from Lesson 139, which covers Mormon 5-6.

This is good. The lesson points out that the Nephites gathered to the land of Cumorah and that Mormon hid the Nephite records in the Hill Cumorah.

What's even better, the manual encourages teachers to show students the Arnold Friberg painting of Mormon and Moroni together at the Hill Cumorah in New York.

I'm a little surprised the Curriculum Committee let this in.

This is the painting that was removed from the missionary edition of the Book of Mormon in 1981, to be replaced with the two-Cumorahs images of (i) Moroni alone at the New York hill and (ii) Christ ministering to Mayans in Central America.

At any rate, we're happy to see this painting in the Seminary manual. Friberg painted an oak leaf hanging from the enormous oak tree so there can be no mistake: this Cumorah is in New York.

However, the problem is not solved.

The very last item in the manual is titled "Possible Book of Mormon Sites (in Relation to Each Other)." When you turn to the page, you find this:

Yes, it's basically the BYU fantasy map!

Like the BYU map, this Seminary manual map incorporates the M2C interpretation of the text.

You've got the north-flowing River Sidon, the "Narrow Neck of Land" that conflates all the "narrow" features into one, etc.

A qualifier at the bottom of the map tries to save the day.

*Possible relationships of sites in the Book of Mormon, based on internal evidence. No effort should be made to identify points on this map with any existing geographical location. The map spans Jaredites and Nephite/Lamanite periods during which settlements changed over time.

Now, put yourself in the place of a Seminary student (or teacher). This fantasy map is "based on internal evidence," as if there is only one way to interpret the text. (This is the same unstated premise behind BYU's fancier fantasy map.)

But the real kicker is this: "No effort should be made to identify points on this map with any geographical location."

IOW, you have to learn the Book of Mormon by thinking of it in a fantasy land. And despite the Friberg painting of Cumorah, you must not think of Cumorah as being in New York.
The "land northward" in fantasyland

The manual goes to great pains to disavow the New York Cumorah.

To make sure no one could possibly entertain the idea that President Cowdery, Joseph Smith, David Whitmer, Brigham Young, etc. taught the truth about Cumorah, this map portrays a location for Cumorah that, just like the BYU fantasy map, resembles no place on planet Earth.
The "Hill Cumorah" in fantasyland

People often ask me how this type of thing occurs. I think it's the inevitable result of certain intellectuals pushing the M2C narrative for so long that it has become the de factor lens through which everyone, including staff at Church headquarters, interprets the text.

They "can't unsee Mesoamerica."

But, unlike BYU Studies, they try to follow a policy of neutrality, so they end up with maps such as this.

Now, imagine you're a Seminary student (or teacher, or parent) and a friend of yours says, "Hey, did you know the early Church leaders taught that Cumorah was in New York?"

Based on this manual, you'd have to say, "No. In fact, we aren't supposed to identify any Book of Mormon sites with any existing geographical location."

So the friend (or Internet search such as this http://www.utlm.org/onlineresources/cumorah.htm) shows you a quotation from, say, Orson Pratt, who explained there were two departments in the Hill Cumorah in New York: one for Mormon's depository (Mormon 6:6) and one for Moroni's stone box.

Or the friend reads the passage from James E. Talmage's Articles of Faith. Or from President Romney's General Conference address. Or from any of many other teachings of the prophets and apostles, including Letter VII.

Thanks to the BYU/CES curriculum, this will all be news to you.

And you will be in the position of trying to defend criticism when you have never been given the facts.

You will suddenly realize why so many people have been telling you the Church isn't open about its history. You will realize why so many people have been saying the Church changes its teachings, that the scholars don't believe the prophets, etc.

All because our LDS intellectuals have persuaded generations of Latter-day Saints that the prophets and apostles were wrong about the Hill Cumorah.

It's difficult to imagine a more senseless, yet devastating, teaching than M2C.

Rather than have students, missionaries, and ordinary members of the Church learn about the conflict between the prophets and the intellectuals from antagonistic (or sincerely puzzled) friends and associates (and web pages), we would do well to teach the people about Letter VII and the teachings of the prophets and apostles that corroborate the New York Cumorah.

Actually, I think we would do well to embrace the teachings of the prophets and apostles about the New York Cumorah. 

But apparently that's too much to ask right now.

M2C is subtle but present throughout Church media and curriculum. Look at the cover of the Seminary manual itself and notice the massive stone pyramid in the background.

Fortunately, it's relative muted, but it conveys a clear impression of Mayan culture.

Worse, the manual encourages teachers to show students the ubiquitous painting "Jesus Teaching in the Western Hemisphere," which you see in nearly every chapel around the world. (see below)

There's a long way to go before we get serious about Cumorah. Joseph and Oliver put us on a clear course. Joseph re-emphasized that course over and over while he was alive by having Letter VII reprinted in every outlet available to him. His successors kept us on the course for over 150 years.

But lately the intellectuals derailed us and now seem to have prevailed over the prophets and apostles.

But we don't have to let that continue.

In spite paintings such as this:

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Getting real about Cumorah - Part 4b, what should happen at BYU

This is part 4b in the series on "Getting real about Cumorah."  Part 4 looks at a few of the things that would happen if we all decided to get real about Cumorah and reject the entire M2C narrative (M2C stands for Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory).

Today we'll look at BYU itself.

There is one simple change that would solve the problems caused by M2C: make President Cowdery's eight historical letters required reading for all BYU students in Book of Mormon and Church History classes.

I say this not only because the Saints in Joseph Smith's day were all familiar with these letters, although that's an important point as well. These letters should be required reading because familiarity with them is critical for both Church History and Book of Mormon studies.

President Cowdery's letters, including Letter VII, were part of the "cultural literacy" of early members of the Church. If you were a member of the Church between 1835 and 1845, you would have been familiar with these important letters. These letters are part of the lens through which we should read and understand Church history as well as the Book of Mormon.
1844 Liverpool pamphlet

The letters were published in all the Church magazines: Messenger and Advocate (Kirtland), Millennial Star (England), Gospel Reflector (Philadelphia), Times and Seasons (Nauvoo), and The Prophet (New York City). Portions were translated into German, Dutch, and French. Thousands of copies were printed as a separate pamphlet in England.

The letters were not only the principal account of the critical historical events of the Restoration available during Joseph's lifetime, but they also addressed important issues of the times that remain relevant today. President Cowdery addressed anti-Mormon attacks, explored reasons why people accept or reject the gospel, explained that prophets and apostles are inspired--but not perfect--people, and provided a real-world context for the Book of Mormon and the plates from which it was translated.

Studying Church history without knowing President Cowdery's letters is like studying Shakespeare without knowing the Bible (because you'll never catch Shakespeare's biblical allusions).

For example, in D&C 128, Joseph Smith wrote, "Glad tidings from Cumorah!" D&C 128 is a letter Joseph wrote to the editor of the Times and Seasons on September 6, 1842. It was published in the Times and Seasons in October 1842. Some LDS scholars are unaware that a year earlier, the same Times and Seasons published Letter VII, which declares that Cumorah is in western New York. Because they don't understand this context, they have proposed that in D&C 128, Joseph was referring to a hill in Mexico!

Joseph didn't need to cite Letter VII, any more than Shakespeare had to cite chapter and verse for his biblical allusions. Joseph knew readers were fully aware that Cumorah is in New York because they had read Letter VII. It was part of the common understanding of the Saints in his day.

But instead of teaching these historical letters at BYU, the faculty seeks to suppress them. If a student asks about them, faculty respond that the letters are just "Oliver Cowdery's opinion," that they are wrong and that they shouldn't be read.


Because they contain Letter VII, and Letter VII contradicts the M2C narrative that so many intellectuals in the Church, including BYU professors, continue to promote
BYU fantasy map based on
M2C interpretation of the text
One of the most obvious improvements we'd see at BYU is the elimination of the fantasy map of Book of Mormon geography that imprints a Mesoamerican setting on the minds of the students.

I won't belabor that here, since I addressed it recently here:


In my view, this fantasy map is the modern equivalent of Mormonism Unvailed, the 1835 anti-Mormon book that also taught the Book of Mormon was fictional.

Teaching Letter VII today would accomplish the same objective President Cowdery had in 1835; i.e., it would place the Book of Mormon firmly in the real world, taking it out of the realm of myth or fiction.

Obviously, knowing that there is one Hill Cumorah and it is in New York doesn't solve or even address the rest of Book of Mormon geography. Contemporaries of Joseph and Oliver, who all accepted their teaching about Cumorah in New York, nevertheless speculated wildly about the location of Zarahemla, Lehi's landing site, etc. (We'll discuss why that happened in a later installment in this series.)

But having one pin in the map--the New York Cumorah--informs our study of the historicity of the Book of Mormon. Bright, faithful students, unencumbered with the imprinted M2C interpretation of the text, could develop possible scenarios that would support, instead of repudiate, the teachings of the prophets and apostles.

The two departments at BYU that would modify their courses if BYU decided to get real about Cumorah are The Department of Ancient Scripture and the Department of Church History and Doctrine.

At the end of this post I list the departments and their course offerings, from this link:

While we're on this topic, the quality and extent of Book of Mormon studies was criticized by a BYU Professor a few years ago. His piece is titled "How BYU Destroyed Ancient Book of Mormon Studies."

You can read that here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/enigmaticmirror/2015/09/08/how-byu-destroyed-ancient-book-of-mormon-studies/#disqus_thread

I agree with his point that Book of Mormon studies at BYU are anemic, but not with his focus on M2C. Just have students and faculty learn Letter VII and see what happens when they learn how archaeology, anthropology, geology and geography vindicate the teachings of the prophets.

BYU offers three 2-hour courses on the Book of Mormon:

The first two are required classes. This means you can graduate from BYU having taken only 4 semester hours of coursework on the Book of Mormon. That means attending a 50-minute class twice a week for a total of 30 weeks (15 weeks per semester), which makes 60 class periods. 

This is a little more than studying the Book of Mormon in Sunday School for a year (48 class periods/year). Compare that against the 160 lessons in the Seminary manual (see the manual here). Rel A 275 is essentially the Institute class (see the manual here). You can read the expected learning outcomes here: 

These classes are wonderful and achieve their purpose. In addition, faculty throughout BYU incorporate the scriptures, including the Book of Mormon, into their secular classes whenever possible. We're not training ministers, after all.

But we are training lay leaders. 

Which is all the more reason to educate and prepare them at BYU to address issues of conversion, retention, and activity that they will face their entire lives. 

Last May I posted a discussion titled "Perspectives, inside and outside." 

There, I observed that people who have left the Church (as well as nonmembers) have objections that include these: "Book of Mormon not ancient," "Church lies about its history," "Prophet never speaks prophetically," and so on.  

Consider those issues in light of what's going on at BYU.

Using a fantasy map to teach the Book of Mormon--especially declaring it is the best fit to the text--cements the idea that the Book of Mormon did not take place in the real world, which of course also means it is not ancient. 

Suppressing and denigrating President Cowdery's letters, along with the teachings of other prophets and apostles about the New York Cumorah, cements the idea that the Church lies about its history and that prophets don't speak prophetically.

IOW, BYU is currently teaching students exactly those ideas that the former Mormons and nonmembers cite as justifications for their rejection of the Church.

Ironically, these are all issues that President Cowdery specifically addressed in his letters. Students who study Letter II, for example, understand that prophets are not perfect men and never have been. Students who study Letter VII learn the depth of the temptations Joseph struggled with before he took possession of the plates. Moroni's teachings about the Old Testament are invaluable for understanding the Restoration in the context of ancient prophecy. And, of course, Letters VII and VIII establish the real-world reality of the Book of Mormon and the New York Cumorah.  

While we're discussing curriculum, look at Lesson 2 in the Institute manual for the Book of Mormon:


In case you can't read it, the Introduction says "The Book of Mormon teaches that those who heed these prophets are blessed, while those who oppose them
experience regret and sorrow."

And yet, the same BYU professors who teach this principle are the ones telling the students that the prophets and apostles were wrong when they taught that there is one Hill Cumorah and it is in New York.

Now, look at the cover of the manual. It's a wonderful painting, of course, but what is it teaching?

The debate over Cumorah boils down to palm trees vs pine trees. This painting chooses palm trees, imprinting that idea on the students.

I'm not saying Christ visited the Hill Cumorah, but this painting does convey a specific geographic area; i.e., Central America.

(Okay, it could be Florida or maybe California, but it's definitely not the Midwestern United States, which means it's not neutral on the geography question.)

 Do you see why students are confused? Do you see the fulfillment of Joseph Fielding Smith's prophetic warning that M2C would cause members to become confused and disturbed in their faith in the Book of Mormon?

On the topic of curriculum, I'll address the Seminary/Institute issues in a subsequent installment.

For this post, I just want to reiterate that it's time to take Cumorah seriously, and to accomplish that at BYU, President Cowdery's letters ought to be part of the curriculum of Church History and the Book of Mormon.


BYU religion courses:

Rel A - Ancient Scripture

Rel C - Church History and Doctrine

Monday, January 29, 2018

Getting real about Cumorah - Part 4a, what should happen at BYU Studies

People wonder what I think the outcome of "getting real about Cumorah" should be. It's an excellent point, so I'll list a few of the things that would happen if we all decided to get real about Cumorah and reject the entire M2C narrative (M2C stands for Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory).

In this post, we'll look at BYU Studies. It's a good place to start because BYU Studies not only promotes M2C, it doesn't even acknowledge alternative points of view. In fact, it rejects them out of hand.

This is an absurd approach for a supposedly academic journal to begin with, but it's even worse when the editorial point of view requires readers to reject the consistent and clear teachings of LDS prophets and apostles for over 150 years.

If we got real about Cumorah, BYU Studies would begin by changing its web page by removing maps of Mesoamerica showing "Cumorah" in southern Mexico as the "plausible" location. Look at this link:


We have to give them credit for clever semantics. Consider the heading:

Plausible Locations of the Final Battles

By implication, Cumorah locations other that those shown here, such as the New York Cumorah, are "not plausible." At a minimum, the title should read "Some Plausible Locations of the Final Battles once you reject Letter VII" or "Possible Locations of the Final Battles assuming LDS prophets and apostles are wrong."

At least those titles would explain in what sense the locations shown are "plausible." I think many, hopefully most, LDS would not agree with the premise that Letter VII is wrong. They would not consider these M2C locations plausible at all.

Nor should they.

The web page shows this map:

Here is the justification published along with the map, with the original in blue and my comments in red:

Though evidence from the Book of Mormon is not conclusive, (this is their nod to neutrality, but the rest of this sentence betrays them) final battles of the Nephites and the Jaredites probably took place not far north of the narrow neck of land. Basic M2C interpretation conflates "narrow neck" (Alma 63:5) with "small neck" (Alma 22), "narrow neck of land (Ether 10:20), and "narrow passage." (Mormon 2:29). Most students of the Book of Mormon find significance in the use of terminology. They wouldn't think of substituting words for what appears in the text, except maybe where explicit synonyms are explained, as when Nephi explained that Irreantum means both sea and many waters. But to make their geography theories work, M2C proponents such as BYU Studies have to assume these different terms all relate to the same geographic feature. Maybe they do. I won't exclude that as a possibility. But maybe they don't, and if your reason for rejecting Letter VII is that you conflate these terms as a given, then you need to rethink your approach. This is one of the reasons why I think the M2C promoters make such a hash out of Book of Mormon geography.

As shown, the Nephites marched from Angola, through David, and eventually came to the city of Joshua (see Mormon 2:4–6). Nephite defense lines lay in Joshua for fourteen years; finally they collapsed, and Nephites retreated across the narrow neck of land, fleeing to various sites (see Mormon 2:16). You can read Mormon 2 as many times as you want but you won't find a reference to the "narrow neck of land." The only reference in the entire text to that feature is Ether 10:20. It was a Jaredite term. Of course, BYU Studies wants people to think the "narrow neck of land" is the 137-mile wide, 120-mile long Isthmus of Tehuantepec. This is the kind of evidence that, shall we say, falls a wee bit short of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. When you rely on this sort of flimsy evidence as the reason why you reject the prophets and apostles, it appears you're trying extra hard to reject the prophets and apostles.

The hill Ramah/Cumorah, upon which both the Jaredites and Nephites fought their last battles (see Ether 15:11; Mormon 6:4–6), is shown here on the northwestern edge of the Tuxtla Mountains in Mexico, about ninety miles from a narrow pass (see Mormon 3:5). Other Jaredite locations, including Omer's flight to Ramah (see Ether 9:3), are also shown here. Again, these locations are plausible, but not definite. These locations are only "plausible" once you reject the prophets and apostles. For that reason, if we're going to get real about Cumorah, BYU Studies needs to remove these maps and everything else on its page that reflects M2C.

There is an alternative that BYU Studies could consider. If they want to align with the Church's neutrality policy (whatever that really means), they could include the New York Cumorah as an alternative to their M2C theory.

IOW, they could let their readers know that maybe, just maybe, there's a teeny tiny outside chance that Letter VII and all the prophets and apostles who have affirmed the New York Cumorah had it right after all.

Actually, I'd like to see this dual approach displayed not only at BYU Studies but throughout the world of LDS intellectuals. Let the people see that there are two choices about Cumorah. Either it's in New York as the prophets and apostles have said, or it's somewhere else.

In my view, if it's somewhere else, it doesn't really matter where that somewhere else is, but I recognize that many people have other settings for Cumorah that are important to them.

I won't take the time to examine the editorial slant in the content of BYU Studies, but you can peruse it and see for yourself whether it supports or opposes the prophets and apostles on the Cumorah question.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Getting real about Cumorah - Part 3, many waters

Because many of our LDS intellectuals at BYU are teaching their students that President Cowdery was wrong when he declared it was a fact that the final battles of the Nephites and Jaredites took place at the Hill Cumorah in western New York, we're going to look at some evidence.

As you consider the evidence, recall that these intellectuals are telling their students, and members of the Church generally, to disbelieve all the prophets and apostles who have reiterated what President Cowdery wrote about the New York Cumorah. This is the editorial position at BookofMormonCentral, the InterpreterBYU Studies, and other promoters of the M2C (Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs) ideology. You can go to these links and see who is involved:
https://bookofmormoncentral.org/directory and http://interpreterfoundation.org/foundation/

For these groups, it doesn't matter that the New York Cumorah was taught in General Conference by members of the First Presidency. These intellectuals insist all the prophets and apostles who have spoken about Cumorah were wrong.

I think it is the M2C intellectuals who are wrong. In my view, the textual and physical evidence vindicates the prophets and apostles, not the other way around.

In fact, this isn't even a close case.

And even if it was, the intellectuals should be held to a high standard of proof to justify their rejection of the prophets and apostles. In legal terms, they need to produce proof beyond a reasonable doubt before they teach people that the prophets and apostles are wrong. 

Here's a preview of my conclusion:

Your BYU/CES intellectuals are trying to persuade you to disbelieve the prophets and apostles because they insist that a site in Mesoamerica is such a better fit with the text--so much more of a land among seas and a land of seas--than western New York is, that President Cowdery could not possibly have been telling the truth.

See what you think.

There is a remarkable sentence in 1 Nephi 17:5: "And we beheld the sea, which we called Irreantum, which, being interpreted, is many waters."

This tells us that sea = Irreantum = many waters.

There are 11 verses in the Book of Mormon that refer to "many waters" and 81 that refer to "sea."

I don't know why these terms were used in these frequencies,* but they were used interchangeably as synonyms.

Nephi called the sea they crossed Irreantum or many waters, while the Lamanites believed "they were also wronged while crossing the sea" (Mosiah 10:12). The brother of Jared asked the Lord to touch the stones that "we may have light while we shall cross the sea" (Ether 3:4) and the Jaredites "did build barges, in which they did cross many waters" (Ether 2:6).

Because they are synonyms, conceptually we could replace instances of sea and many waters with Irreantum throughout the text. Or we could change many waters to sea. The point here is that many waters is a specific term, a synonym for sea.

Let's see how this relates to Cumorah.

One caveat. On principle, I don't like semantic arguments because words can be easily redefined to confirm whatever bias one has. Just look at the M2C sophistry about what is a promised land, a country, and a great nation. Semantic arguments boil down to whether you agree with or oppose the bias being confirmed.

But I think this is an exception because Nephi himself gave us specific definitions, and the M2C intellectuals are insisting their case is so strong that it justifies disbelieving our prophets and apostles.

We have one description of Cumorah that specifically mentions many waters: Mormon 6:4.

4 And it came to pass that we did march forth to the land of Cumorah, and we did pitch our tents around about the hill Cumorah; and it was in a land of many waters, rivers, and fountains; and here we had hope to gain advantage over the Lamanites.

We have another likely reference to the land of Cumorah that also uses the term: Mosiah 8:8.

8 And they were lost in the wilderness for the space of many days, yet they were diligent, and found not the land of Zarahemla but returned to this land, having traveled in a land among many waters, having discovered a land which was covered with bones of men, and of beasts, and was also covered with ruins of buildings of every kind, having discovered a land which had been peopled with a people who were as numerous as the hosts of Israel.

If we use the synonym, we get these descriptions:

- a land of seas, rivers and fountains

- a land among seas

The 1828 Webster's dictionary defines "among" this way: "In a general or primitive sense, mixed or mingled with; as tares among wheat."

Where in the Americas is there a land that is mixed or mingled with seas?

Let's compare western New York with Mesoamerica and see.

The New York Cumorah is literally surrounded by seas. Lake Erie and Lake Ontario are most obvious, but the finger lakes also qualify as seas.

It's difficult to tell on this map how large the finger lakes are, so look at the close-up below.

The Sea of Galilee in Israel is 64 square miles. Lake Seneca is 67 square miles. Cayuga Lake is 66 square miles. Oneida Lake (upper right) is 80 square miles. Even Canandaigua Lake is 17 square miles.

The Hill Cumorah is located near the "E" in FINGER. 
Of course, all the land within the area of the Great Lakes could be called "a land among seas" and "a land of seas." We know this because we look at satellite photos and maps derived from them.

But for someone on the ground, especially ancient explorers new to the area, the Great Lakes are much too vast for exploration. The shoreline of Lake Erie alone is 871 miles, so you're not going to travel all the way around that in a few days. The shoreline of Lake Superior is 2,726 miles. Limhi's explorers could not possibly have explored the entire Great Lakes, let alone Lake Erie.

However, the finger lakes are close together. It's only 9 miles from Cumorah to Canandaigua Lake, and about 15 miles from Cumorah to Seneca Lake. Those two lakes are 13.5 miles apart, and it's only another ten miles from Seneca Lake to Cayuga Lake. These are relatively short distances that Limhi's explorers could have easily covered. From their respective shores, you can see the finger lakes are distinct and have natural boundaries. Because they are larger than the Sea of Galilee, they qualify as seas, or many waters. (Canandaigua Lake, at only 17 square miles, might not technically qualify as a sea, but unless you circumnavigate it, you can't tell how big it is.)

This means that when you are at Cumorah, you have major seas on the north (Lake Ontario, 17 miles away), west (Lake Erie, 80 miles away), east (Oneida Lake, 60 miles away), and south (Lakes Seneca, Cayuga, and Canandaigua). By any measure, this is a land among seas and a land of seas, just as the Book of Mormon describes.

Now, let's look at Mesoamerica. Remember, this has to be such a perfect fit for the text of the Book of Mormon that we're supposed to disbelieve our prophets and apostles who teach that Cumorah is in New York. We've already seen that New York perfectly matches the description in the text. Mesoamerica must be an even more perfect fit.

The red circle is the exact same size, on the exact same scale, as the map of New York above. This is the proposed M2C location for Cumorah, according to BYU Studies and the other M2C theories.

You have a sea to the north, for sure; it's part of the Gulf of Mexico. But then what?

Is this location a land among seas and a land of seas as the Book of Mormon describes?

Let's look closer. Here, we see there is, in fact, a body of water near the Mesoamerican "Cumorah." It's called Lago or Laguna Catemaco. It's surface area is 28 square miles, about the same as Lake Canandaigua (which I suggested might not even qualify as a sea).

Catemaco's water level is controlled by dams, yet it is still shallow, averaging 25 feet deep. (Lake Canandaigua has an average depth of 127 feet, with a maximum depth of 276 feet.)

Let's say Catemaco qualifies as a sea despite its size and depth. Does that put this M2C Cumorah in a land among seas and a land of seas? It would qualify as a land on the seashore, or a land near the sea, but I don't see any way, using plain English, that it qualifies as either a land among seas or a land of seas. 

It's merely a coastal location with one lake. If this is a land among seas and a land of seas, then every site along a coastline is also. Such an interpretation means the terms are not only not descriptive, but they are meaningless.

And yet based on this, our intellectuals expect us to reject the prophets and apostles.


BTW, there is a body of water to the southwest, next to the mountains. This is 85 miles away, but that doesn't matter because it was formed in 1954 by the construction of a dam.

Here's the main point.

Your BYU/CES intellectuals are trying to persuade you to disbelieve the prophets and apostles because they insist this site in Mesoamerica is such a better fit with the text--so much more of a land among seas and a land of seas--than western New York that President Cowdery could not possibly have been telling the truth.

In fact, according to the intellectuals, this site in Mexico is so much better than western New York that you have to disbelieve not only President Cowdery, but also Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Wilford Woodruff, Orson Pratt, Parley P. Pratt, Joseph Fielding Smith, James E. Talmage, Anthony Ivins, LeGrand Richards, Marion G. Romney, Mark E. Petersen, etc.

In my view, our intellectuals have it completely backwards.

I think the maps demonstrate that President Cowdery and all the other prophets and apostles somehow (presumably by luck according to our intellectuals) happened to identify the single best location in the western hemisphere, if not the world, that qualifies as a land among seas and a land of seas, especially from the perspective of people living between 200 BC and 400 AD.

Without even referencing these details about the seas, President Cowdery and the prophets and apostles who believed him have authenticated the historicity of the Book of Mormon in a real-world setting.

But because our BYU/CES intellectuals have persuaded so many LDS to disbelieve the prophets and apostles, they are looking for Cumorah in the wrong place.

And our own visitors centers are depicting this Mexican "Cumorah" to millions of people every year.

* People have published articles on the etymology of Irreantum, but I'm not aware of anyone who has suggested an explanation for the relative frequency of these terms.